Current Progressive Cattle digital edition


Read online content from popular Progressive Cattle columnists including Paul Marchant (Irons in the fire), Baxter Black (On the edge of common sense) and Yevet Tenney (Just dropping by), plus comments from Progressive Cattle editors.


Each day on the way to work, I drive across a bridge. It’s an impressive structure standing 486 feet high above a scenic canyon gorge with a winding green river.

But what’s most peculiar about this bridge is how, when the season’s right, you’re bound to see people hurl themselves over it.

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People who have seen me ride aren’t going to believe this, but I’ve never had an equitation lesson in my life. I just climbed aboard one day and let my feet dangle over the side.

One of the greatest pleasures of my life has been polishing my pants on a saddle attached to a horse.

It was those horses that taught me to ride, not some riding academy teacher or professor at an exclusive private school for rich city kids back east.

I’ll admit, I’ve always felt inferior around the horsey set that ride flat saddles and jump fences. They look impressive posting up and down like an oil well, but I’ve never managed to get on the right beat without bruising my backside.

Besides, I look stupid in jodhpurs, crash helmet and tall boots. I mean, even more stupid than usual.

I started riding before I was one year old and I have a photo of me as a baby sitting astride my grandpa’s horse at a rodeo he produced that I’d share with you if not for the fact that it looks like I’m wearing what appears to be a dress.

My first teacher was a saddle sitting on a sawhorse in a room my grandpa called his “bunkhouse.”

It was that bunkhouse saddle that taught me to keep my heels down and my back erect and I’m proud to say that I was never bucked off by that saw horse, even though there were some close calls when someone would open the door and a wind gust would test my mettle. By burying my spurs in the cinch, I managed to stay on top.

I’m not saying I can ride anything that wears hair, wool or feathers, but my grandpa always said I should ride like I was a part of the horse and I must say, with all humility, that I must have been successful at it, because I’ve been accused of being part of a horse’s anatomy many times by folks who’ve read my column.

In high school I worked part-time on a ranch and the first day the manager assigned me a horse and said that even though I didn’t own him, he was mine and no one else could ride him.

At the time I didn’t know that he meant that literally. Since I’d never ridden before, I guess he thought he should give me a horse that had never been ridden before either.I should have quit when he said the horse’s name was Buck.

Buck was a horse who didn’t like the sensation of anything on his back and the first thing he taught me was to never, ever, climb aboard a horse named Buck, Maneater or Grave Digger.

It was Buck who taught me tricks folks back home are still talking about, such as riding under the horse, hanging onto his tail and riding backwards with both knees in the saddle.

All at full speed. Although I’ve never been able to recreate these tricks on other horses, I have come close.

The other thing Buck taught me was how to “grab the horn, hunt for leather, reach for the apple, sound the horn, squeeze the biscuit and shake hands with Grandma.”

All euphemisms for using the saddle horn for what it was intended for. No, not roping, but for hanging on for dear life.

The last thing Buck taught me was that the secret to not being thrown off was to not get on in the first place.

Another teacher of mine was my horse Gentleman. Now, old-timers will tell you to never buy a horse that is smarter than you, but I disagree, for it was important for at least one of us to know what we were doing.

Usually it was Gentleman who decided where we went. Although Gentleman was generally well behaved, he kept me honest and I never did forget how to get bucked off properly.

After a day spent riding Gentleman, my back ached from carrying him around on my spurs all day.

Although he was only slightly more effective than being afoot, and it took him two weeks to “spin” 360 degrees, I did teach some nieces, nephews and neighbors how to ride on Gentleman.

Which reminds me of the story of the 5-year-old little darling who, when asked why she was holding on so tightly to her father in front of her on the saddle, said, “So he won’t fall off.”

Sometimes I need someone like that.  end_mark

June was taking a renegade bull with a tendency to “wander” to the sale barn in Dodge City. Her son helped her load the beast into their stock trailer.

It was an authentic ranch trailer with lights that worked intermittently, gates that swung almost even, tires that didn’t match and compressed rubber floor-planks whose 99-year warranty had expired!

A few miles outside of Dodge, June heard and felt a thump, crack and crunch loud enough to be heard above George Strait on KBUF.

In her rear-view mirror she watched a dark object helicopter out from under the second axle!

She swerved to the right and stopped on a slant in the bar ditch. Upon examination, she found a hole in the floor of the front compartment of the trailer.

The bull, butt to the front, was eyeing the hole nervously. “Simple,” she surmised, “I’ll just open the divider gate and move him into the rear compartment and be on my way.”

She unlatched the gate and swung it open. The bull was coaxed around the hole to the rear and June hurried around to close the divider.

It was on a good slant. She pushed it closed and raced back around to latch it … BUT, not in time! It swung back open. Three times she attempted the maneuver, when she heard someone say, “Can I help you?”

A handsome, strong Kansas State trooper smiled.

June left him to push and hold while she went around to catch and latch.

When the divider banged closed, it spooked the bull who tried to climb over the back gate, slid to the down side and spooked the trooper, who fell back writhing in agony!

He was on the ground grasping his knee! She reached to help him. “No,” he groaned, “I can do it!” He keyed his collar mike, “Officer down! Officer down! I’ve been injured and need assistance!”

Within five minutes the horizon in all directions was filled with red and blue flashing lights and sirens blaring!

They closed Hwy 400. Well, nobody could get around all the Dodge City Police cars, Ford County Sheriff deputy pickups, the ambulance, fire trucks, tow truck, first responders and one Wildlife and Park Service utility vehicle.

After a thorough questioning, they realized the truth. The upset June told them she thought they were going to handcuff her and leave her in the ditch while they searched her rig for contraband!

One big burly officer laughed and said, “Yeah, but if we’d done that, you could’ve told ’em it took six of us to get the job done, and you put one of us in the hospital!”  end_mark

I wonder if he starts at the head?

I mean, to sculpt a horse that will one day stand in front of the stockyard gate. Or does he picture in his mind the kind of horse it will be? Would he start at the hooves instead, one leg at a time, stroking, flexing, molding, making the limb yield to him until it feels just right?

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There has been a marked increase in trust funds for pets after the “Queen of Mean,” Leona Helmsley, died and left a $12 million trust fund for her Maltese poodle and Florida heiress Gail Posner left her $8.3 million Miami mansion, plus $3 million in cash, in trust for her Chihuahua, Conchita.

Proving once again that some people have way too much money, more and more people are including the long-term care of their dogs, cats, snakes and even mules as part of their estate planning.

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If you’ve spent any time engaging in a discussion that promotes your beef product, you’ll eventually come to talking about what your cattle eat.

And today, that probably makes you well versed in the debate over grain-fed vs. grass-fed beef.

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