Bad Day for Bourbon
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives
Bad Day for Bourbon
We have mentioned in passing some of the horses Baby Jim has had the pleasure of knowing in his younger days.
One of those horses was a big sorrel appendix gelding named Bourbon. He was a big rascal, well over 16 hands and 1400 lbs. He was speedy and smart and sound as a dollar and a good riding horse. In the three years Baby Jim spent with Bourbon, he never knew the big horse to not show up for work and give it all he had.
Bourbon did have one little idiosyncrasy that is worthy of note. He had learned somewhere in his past that he did not have to stay tied. He was big enough to make it true. He had learned that if he put his weight into a good pull backwards something was going to pop and he could go graze. He just sort of felt like he was wasting his time standing around tied to a corral or post.
He pretty quickly tore up two or three bridles and a couple of halters. He was stout enough that he could lay back on a heavy nylon halter and pull and shake a couple of times and something was going to pop. Either the buckle or the snap or the rope or the post he was tied to. He was big enough to know he could break something. Our hero suspected that he did it for entertainment. Sort of like a big strong redneck kid saying “Hey yall, watch this!”
Our hero had a fix for him though. He made up a neck rope out of 5/8-inch diameter polyethylene rope with a heavy duty snap and two steel “O” rings. Then to tie the horse he would put the neck rope around his neck and run the shank through the halter to keep the alignment. This configuration took the stress off the hardware and put it onto the horse. As a finishing touch he tied up an automobile tire inner tube to a really stout place and tied old Bourbon off to the inner tube to let him bust that.
Well Bourbon gave it a try. He gave it a real good try. Baby Jim feared for a few moments that he might actually bust it. He flailed and he jumped and he pulled and finally he eased up and stepped up and looked at Baby Jim with a quizzical look that all but said, “How did you do that?”. It became standard practice for a while to carry the inner tube and the neck rope on the saddle when riding Bourbon, cause you never knew when you might have to dismount to attend to something and have to tie him up. After a few months he was making good progress and standing tied fairly well and the inner tube could be left behind and Bourbon would stand tied with just the neck rope.
Baby Jim was feeling real cocky about the improvement. All this is a bit of background for an event, which happened probably a couple of years later.
Now this farm had a cow that Baby Jim will remember to his last days. She was a big cow. She was a beautiful cow. She had raised show winning progeny. She was a valuable cow. She had a couple of little idiosyncrancies of her own. For one thing she was in heat every three weeks year round, even when she was pregnant. We do not know how many times the vet pregnancy examined her and she was a good breeder but she had regular heat cycles just the same. Boss would see her being ridden and tell Baby Jim that there was a cow in heat in the bred cow pasture and Baby Jim would go check it out, and it would be her. We put her on the preg check list every time the vet came and finally Baby Jim just left her out of the bred cow pasture until breeding season was over. By and by the boss came to accept that she was a little unique and quit telling Baby Jim that he had messed up again.
The other thing about this little 1600 lb maiden is that when she had a calf, she had the sweet disposition of a tiger with a toothache. Usually only lasted a couple of days but during that first day or two she was tough. Baby Jim and Bourbon learned this the hard way during Baby Jim’s second calving season on this farm.
It was early spring and a group of cows were calving on a hillside pasture just above the house where Baby Jim lived. This was a pretty step hillside of about twenty-five or thirty acres and it had a couple of big hedgerows that served well as wind breaks for the cows and the new calves. The field also had some contour strips that ran around the hillside to prevent erosion. While it was accessible by truck, when it was damp it was steep enough that the truck would tear up the pasture so Baby Jim made as many cattle checking trips through the field as possible on horseback rather than driving.
Checking meant that the hedgerows had to be checked and all the corners and little dales where a cow might hide to calve. One spring morning just after daylight Our Hero was checking this pasture and he came around one end of the hedgerow and started up the hill checking the other side. Two contour ditches up and about fifty feet out from the hedgerow was the above mentioned cow standing placidly and chewing her cud. She looked normal and Baby Jim did not pay her much attention. He figured to ride behind her as he went up the hill and was intent on looking into the hedgerow for any calves that might be scoured or distressed in any way.
Just before the horse and rider got to that second contour furrow the cow so placid a moment ago bawled like she was being attacked and charged into Bourbon hitting him square in the shoulder and horse and rider went down in a heap. Unfortunately Baby Jim was thrown clear. This was indeed unfortunate because Bourbon quickly leapt to his feet and abandoned the area at full speed.
This left Baby Jim on his hands and knees in the field with no means of protection when he spied a black spot lying in the contour furrow. This old gal had calved and was in maternal protection mode. Baby Jim looked around and spied a rock about the size of an orange and a small stick about two feet long. He crawled backwards and picked em both up just as the cow charged again. He hurled the rock with all his might and fortune was with him as he managed to catch her right in the middle of the forehead and stunned her a bit. He ran at her with the stick screaming and kicking and managed to buffalo her away from him.
He saw that the calf had raised it’s head and then tried to hide from the commotion in the safety of the furrow. Since all was okay he decide to let the pair alone and would tend to the calf when they made the truck run through the field. He then walked a circle around the cow and went down to the barn where Bourbon was pacing back and forth in front of the gate wanting to go back to the safety of his stall.
Baby Jim checked out the big horse and he appeared to be unhurt but well rattled. Baby Jim gathered the reins and stepped back up to finish checking the field. This was more difficult than expected because Bourbon wanted nothing more to do with cows. He would not go near one and any cow that raised her head to look at him was cause for an about face and hasty retreat.
This generally is not a good attitude for a cow horse to have and it took a lot miles and hours over the summer to restore Bourbons confidence that he could drive cows. It took nearly a year to get him to handle a charging cow again.
Time passed and another year rolled around. Bourbon had made great progress in the tying department and we routinely used the neck rope and he would stand quietly almost anywhere with it. He had made great progress in regaining his confidence and was once again the mainstay of the cavvy.
Another spring day and it was time for a gather and to do a vet check on a good size group of cows. Baby Jim and Delmonte went into the rougher end of the field to move the herd out of the woods and over the rough country and Curly and a couple of other boys checked the other end of the field with the truck. As they brought the main body of the herd up to the gate into the catch pen, Baby Jim saw Curly and the other boys pushing a calf and trying to back down a cow walking backwards and on the prod. Baby Jim immediately recognized the same old proddy cow with another new calf. Delmonte was mounted on Bourbon and our hero cautioned him not to go near the cow on that horse. Did not want to set back a years worth of work. Baby Jim yelled at Curly to watch her, but there were three guys and they had her under control and one of them was driving the truck so they had a place to escape to if necessary, and Curly was a good hand.
One of the farm crew happened to be on hand for some reason. This fellow was a mechanic and machinery operator in the cropping crew. He was also a fellow who had some swagger and macho to him. He made a comment about Curly having a hard time with the cow and Baby Jim looked at him as said “Well that cow will just gitcha and curly is doing alright with her.” Baby Jim and Delmonte took the horses into the barn and tied em up in the usual place and about that time the boss rolled up and the vet was right behind him. Baby Jim went out to report on progress and to get the plan of work from the boss.
Suddenly from in the barn there came a commotion and yelling and Baby Jim sprinted in to see what was up. Don’t know how it started but Macho Man was running through the barn with his hand on the cows head and about every third step she encouraged him along with a butt square in the fanny. We must confess that he was amazingly nimble and agile to keep his feet and stay ahead of her. But as they made a pass through the barn, it was just too much for Bourbon to bear. His old nemesis on the prod again scared him and he reverted to his old self and gave a good tug on the tie rope.
There was a creaking sound and Baby Jim feared for a moment that the barn would come down But the twelve foot section of two by six lumber that Bourbon was tied to came loose and he bolted from the barn with it waving in the air like a balloon on a string. Right behind them Macho Man and the cow went out the door with him still just a half step ahead of her with his hand on her poll.
Took ten minutes to catch Bourbon and he had to start tying training with the tube all over again.
Boss wanted to know if all this excitement was really necessary. Baby Jim at that time had yet to learn that discretion was the better part of valor……..a lesson still not absolutely learned by our hero…….and he quipped back, “No it ain’t absolutely necessary, but it sure does make the days more interesting, don’t it?”