This appeared in the Norman Transcript, an Oklahoma newspaper:
There’s a tenet in the cowboy mentality that takes pride in doin’ what needs to be done, even if you have to do it yourself.
The common cowboy answer to “How did you… 1) get that lump? 2) lose your eyebrow? 3) get that scar? or 4) tear off your pantleg?” usually begins with “I was by myself when…”
Fence stretchers, 4×8 sheets of plywood, twitches, a handyman jack or squeeze chute are often accomplices in the injury. In ol’ Bud’s case it was an aging Isuzu pickup. A relic of the occupation of Japan, some might guess. It was your typical Nevada ranch truck; a diesel with dents in the fenders, a crack in the windshield and a deer guard on the grill. The bed carried a saddle, rope, plastic bucket full of shoein’ tools, a pile of wadded up baler and twine, as well as oats sprouting in the corner.
Bud had some cows on a little place at the north end of the Washoe Valley. Almost every day he drove out to check them. The starter on his truck was acting up, but he knew that the morning he headed out. “No sweat,” he thought, “I’ll just leave it running all the time I’m checkin’ the cows and doin’ the chores.”
Shurnuf, as soon as he pulled up to the corrals, he shut off the key…” Dagnabbit!” he said in this G-Rated column. It was just habit, I’m sure. “No problem,” he kept repeating to himself after cranking the ignition. He went over and retrieved the backhoe from the shed. He drove behind the stalled Isuzu and nudged up to its bumper with the loader bucket. Then he dismounted, put the Isuzu in neutral and turned the key to the on position. You can see his plan, of course; a brilliant way to single-handedly save the day.
Back in the tractor seat he started pushing the pickup. But not so fast that he couldn’t set the throttle, jump out, catch the pickup, and pop the clutch. Which he did. Nothing happened except he bent the tailgate.
“Not fast enough,” he concluded, jumped out, ran back to the tractor, advanced the throttle, picked up speed, jumped out of the tractor, raced back to the pickup, put it in second gear, dumped the clutch and it started.
Pleased with himself, he parked the truck off the side, out of the way and debouched to catch the backhoe, which had hit a dirt mound and was now bearing down on the Isuzu. It all seemed to proceed in a slow motion as Bud watched the impending collision thinking, “I wonder which one I should…?” But by then it was too late.
He walked up to the neighbor’s house sweating and breathing hard. The brim of his hat was hanging down around his neck and an odd scrape ran across the side of his face.
“How did you…?” asked the neighbor.
Baxter Black, author, cowboy poet and former large animal veterinarian, lives in Benson, Ariz.