#behind the lines: You a real cowboy or did you just find the hat?

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    Tonight’s Ranch Rodeo is the highlight of the evening events at the Fremont County Fair in my opinion. Yes, I enjoy the Wind River Rodeo Roundup, but comparing a PRCA rodeo with contestants traveling thousands of miles to compete to the ranch rodeo which has cowboys and cowgirls who live next door to us, or perhaps in the case of a few teams that come down from Big Horn and Hot Springs County or over the pass from Sublette County, is like watching an NFL game when there is a great high school team just down the road.

    I’ll take the high school football team, and the local cowboys and cowgirls every time.


    The interesting thing about many of the contestants on these teams is that they were great athletes in other sports just a few years ago, with a few of the younger ones still competing at the high school level in Fremont County.

    You’ll find a lot of wrestlers, some football players, a few basketball players, and a smattering of track athletes doing their best as ranch hands on one of the Ranch Rodeo teams. You don’t see many swimmers, cross country runners, or soccer players out there playing with the cows, steers, and horses.

    The hands on these rodeo teams are working cowboys and cowgirls. Many of them are said to have been born on a horse, though that’s an exaggeration, I’ve seen many of them on horseback when they were toddlers.

    Aside from other sports, rodeo contestants are athletes. They have strength, balance, agility, and controlled power, if there are other attributes for an athlete I’m all ears.


    Most of the kids I’ve coached whether in Lusk, Shoshoni, or Wyoming Indian were at home on a horse, and if not, they were driving a tractor before all their baby teeth came out.

    My only rodeo experience came at 17 in Pavillion when our team won $35 in a wild cow milking contest. Since I’d worked on dairies, I was the one that had to get four ounces of milk in a cup from a rangy, angry half-wild cow just off summer pasture. My buddies mugged, and I milked. I was only kicked twice, which was the big risk in this event.

    A couple of years ago we had a cow with an extended tongue, that was drooling. She couldn’t be one of the docile bovines that are standard on our place, no she was a wild one, prone to breaking down pole fences, climbing over panels, or snapping barbwire like sewing thread.


    We trapped her in the corral, but when we backed up the trailer, she went wild, broke down a couple of poles, and escaped into the big pasture. Another problem was that she was about eight months pregnant.

    It was mid-May and the cowboys and cowgirls across the road at the old Central Wyoming College Equine Center were packing their bags, horses, and gear for the trip back home for the summer.

    I noticed a couple of horse trailers left in the lot, so I walked over and asked my friend, Mike Donelson, who managed the facility, if there were any real cowboys left.


    I explained my predicament to Mike, and he told me he had a couple of guys who might get the job done.

    The boys were both 20 years old, one from Montana and the other headed back home to Western Idaho.

    “You guys want to do a little cowboying?” I asked.

    They both grinned and quickly said yes.

    I gave them a few moments to saddle up and they trotted their horses the short distance across Gasser Road to my pasture.

    The cow was standing alone in the middle of the five-acre patch, with a wary eye, and that same worrisome drooling.

    One of the cowboys said, “Go get your trailer and wait for the signal.”

    I walked to the house, pulled the 24-foot stock trailer down our back entrance, and drove down to the center gate.

    With the skill of an Olympic archer the hand from Montana caught her neck with a quick twist of the wrist, but he didn’t tighten the rope.

    His buddy from Idaho whirled behind the cow as she started to charge the first cowboy and just as deftly landed a perfect lasso around her neck.

    “Move the trailer ahead of her and back up,” one of them said.

    I did and they backed their horses up to hold the now enraged cow tightly between them.

    “Back your trailer up to her,” they said. “Open the gate first.”

    With the rear gate swinging lightly I backed up to about 10 feet from the cow.

    “Grab this and run it through a stanchion,” one said.

    I took his rope, worked it around the stanchions from outside until I reached the front of the trailer then passed the rope back to him. He dallied up, and I repeated the process with the other rope.

    They held the cow fast and I slowly backed the trailer up. She still didn’t want to load but by now was getting short of breath and stumbled into the trailer. I slammed the door shut, they let off the tension and as she took her feet, they worked their ropes loose.

    That was some impressive cowboying in my book, but to them, it was old hat.

    I asked if $20 was enough and they said sure. I gave them each a fresh Andrew Jackson and they were surprised.

    “We thought you meant $20 total, $20 each is great,” they said.

    They rode away, went back home later that day and I never saw them again.

    A quick trip to G Bar G Veterinary for a few days of treatment for “wood tongue” and she was good as new. Three weeks later she had a healthy black baldy heifer calf. She had four more calves for us in the following years.

    Athletes are where you find them, and I was glad to find these two young men.


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