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Irons in the fire: Duck your head and keep your dally

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 August 2017

I jumped the little roan, the last of five horses, in the trailer. He’s a good one to put on the back because he loads easy, and he fits nice and snug into the corner of the trailer.

I closed and fastened the trailer door and made my way to the front of the trailer. I ducked my head as I slipped under the overshot of the trailer and dropped the tailgate of the pickup so the dogs could jump in.

As I slammed the tailgate shut, I raised my head, ever so slightly – but ever so slightly too much. My head smacked the diagonal crossbeam on the underside of the gooseneck trailer, knocking my hat down over my eyes, giving me a knot on my head and somehow causing me to bite my lower lip, which left me with a nasty-looking little gash that resembled a cold sore for several days after the little mishap, lending a little rugged to my already borderline good looks.

Under my breath, I muttered – or screamed, if it’s possible to silently scream under your breath – a cuss word or two. I’d done the same routine a half gazillion times. You’d think I’d be able to do it without concussing myself.

There was a slight variation in the routine this time which heightened my usual ineptitude. You see, I had the beat-up old 16-foot trailer as opposed to the other beat-up old 16-foot white trailer, hooked up to the 2001 white pickup. This particular trailer is usually partnered with the 2002 brown pickup. So you can easily see how I might have a little trouble.

It reminded me of several years back when I first started using my new custom-built Severe saddle. (That’s a shameless plug for the saddle-making Severes of my hometown.) 16-inch seat, 4.5-inch cantle, three-quarter, flat plate rigged with a 4-inch cap post horn on a Wade tree, it is probably my favorite earthly possession that isn’t a living thing.

I’d originally ordered a 15½-inch seat, but Bob Severe convinced me my aging girth might one day require all of the 16 inches. To this day, Bob’s admonition and my determination to prove him wrong are perhaps the driving forces that urge me to try to keep in a little better shape than the average middle-aged fat guy.

Anyway, the first time I roped a yearling, using my new saddle, I smacked the horn with my middle finger when I dallied. My fingernail turned black, and I whined about it for a good 10 days. It took a little while, but I eventually got used to the nuances of the new saddle.

I think a few conclusions can be drawn and lessons learned from my less-than-epic battles with inanimate farm and ranch equipment. We must, of course, factor in the possibility that the subject in these instances may, at times, be a bit more dim-witted than the average reader.

Nevertheless, you can still learn from a slow learner. After all, Jonah’s biblical tale is more than a mere fish story.

In regards to my confrontations with the stock trailer and the saddle horn, I had become so accustomed to and comfortable with the way things were, that when I was presented with a slight and subtle change in the routine, my resulting reactions were relatively catastrophic. It makes it easy to understand why the drinking or texting and driving thing is discouraged.

Beyond that, I think there are other parallels to life’s road bumps, challenges and misfires. Crud happens in life. Changes, subtle or huge, tend to upset the balance.

Whether it’s a drought, a fire, a drop in the price of six weights on the day you sell your calves, a broken-down swather or a gate that got left open, you can pick yourself up, adjust your compass and get on with life – even if it isn’t easy. Just keep your head low and swing your dally wide.  end mark

Paul Marchant
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