Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

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By Dick Geary
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High-headed creatures


Last updated 1/14/2020 at 4:48pm

My father and two of his brothers spent their entire lives on the ranch. Two served in WWII, but the other never left the property. They were adequate when working cattle, but never had any experience on other ranches to see how they handled cows. And they never had any decent horses.

In the 1930's, I think, my grandfather owned a big Shire stallion, and used his offspring on the ranch. His practice was to ride them until they got too big, then put them in a harness.

Every horse on the ranch had feet like volleyballs and a head the size of small sheep. I knew a number of the Shire's descendants, and don't think that any of them ever saw a cow. They were high-headed animals that never walked, preferring to chop and toss their ugly heads. All day.

My father told me of the years they trailed their yearling steers the 22 miles to Drummond, a drive of two days. When they delivered the herd on the second day, they turned around and rode back to Helmville, arriving late in the evening.

He told me that a horse he rode one year never walked, either when he was trailing the cattle or heading home. He said the horse always traveled sideways when being used. He always chopped and tossed his head. He would be totally lathered from the time he was saddled until he was turned out. They needed stamina in those days, I guess.

My dad could walk about any type of cow into a corral. He was a master at it, but when it came to getting western, all three of the boys bailed out. My grandfather was something like the horse I mentioned above, and I think he broke an egg in his sons. He was fast and furious – often the latter.

My father was very empathetic toward all animals, and was quick to think a cow was being abused if she had to be roped or something. One night during calving I found a cow that needed help. It took an hour to herd her into the corrals with my pickup, but when I stepped into the pen, she put me back on the fence. I didn't take her seriously until she started running the fence, trying to get at me.

I saw I couldn't handle her alone, so I drove to my father's for help. He had company – a neighbor and a capable cowhand.

I explained the situation, and when we got back we decided to take my pickup into the corral and rope her from the bed. I managed to get a rope on her and wrap on the trailer hitch. Our neighbor got her hind feet and I helped my dad with the head while he tied his foot rope off and pulled the calf.

We had her down and the calf out when my father said, "Aw gee, fellas, she's choking. I'm going to let her up." I warned him strongly that the cow was bad and would kill all of us if she got up before we were ready. But he couldn't stand it, and turned loose of the rope.

The cow was on top of both of us in one jump. My father put a dent in my pickup with his shoulder (which later was found to be broken). I hid under the truck until she ran to fight our neighbor who was on the fence by then.

I told my father to get in the back until we had her under control, but he wouldn't listen and stayed on the ground. I don't know what he thought that cow was, but he stood there until she came back knocked him down again.

It took some machinations, but we got my father in the pickup and the pickup out of the corral. The cow started mothering the calf as soon as we left them.

The broken shoulder bothered him for quite a while, and I never took the dent out of the vehicle. Every chance I got I mentioned that he shouldn't have turned the cow loose.

I knew she was bad, but every time he talked about the incident he alleged that at heart she was really a kind and generous cow – a pet. She never would have hurt him if the neighbor and I hadn't been so cruel as to treat her like a savage animal and tie her down with a dirty old lasso.

He could walk high-headed heifers for miles without a struggle, so, who knows? He might have been able to sweet talk the cow into a chute, but I wouldn't want to watch.


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