Crazy Kit Meets Crazy Steer
- June 25, 2023
- Jan Swan Wood
The steers had blown through a fence, laying down hundreds of yards of woven wire, breaking off posts and braces, and had ended up on a creek bottom a mile or more away from their pasture. We had gotten the fence fixed and had the steers gathered and trailing back to their pasture. They were a bunch of high headed, wringy steers at best, and were still pretty stirred up two days after their big run. We were handling them with kid gloves, as they say.
As usual, the four cowdogs were along to help. They consisted of Border Collies, Reba and Jessie, and catch dogs of mixed breed, Toot and Kit. Toot was Kit’s mother. Kit, at two years old, was wound like an eight day clock and would rag on the other dogs endlessly and wear them out. I had started our ride off by putting Kit’s front leg through her collar. It kept her from being quite as obnoxious and the other dogs all appreciated it greatly. Every so often I’d swap legs in her collar, and usually, after two or three hours, she could be trusted with all four on the ground.
Kit was a squirrel, to say the least. Not only a high energy dog, but double, dirty tough as a catch dog, when she chose to work. When she worked, it was full bore, take no hostages, mayhem at times. Her dear mother was such a solid dog, that we had high hopes that with maturity, Kit would be too, so we kept her. Also, she was our little son’s dog, and she loved him, and that had also kept her from the rockpile graveyard. That and the fact that neither of us packed a gun while riding.
We had started on the east end and were gathering steers as we rode west. Kit and Toot were with me, and wouldn’t be used unless needed. Reba and Jessie were helping move the steers along and working with my husband. The steers were a little trotty, but were going in the right direction, so we just drifted quietly along with them, following the big meadow between the creek and the fenceline, headed west.
For no apparent reason, a Hereford looking steer suddenly left the bunch and took off to the north at a lope. He was headed for the fence, all alone, with no one bothering him. I didn’t try to intervene, hoping he’d turn west and stay on our side, or better yet, return to the bunch. There wasn’t a gate for a long way if he went over the fence, so my hopes were high that he wouldn’t. Kit, however, didn’t share my hopes and decided that things needed to be handled immediately. Away she went on three legs, deaf as a post in full pursuit, after the runaway steer. The steer saw her coming and grabbed another gear, headed straight for the fence. Kit was overtaking him like a cheetah when he reached the fence, which was woven wire with two strands of barb on top and tight. The steer and Kit cleared the fence side by side, and hit the ground running. Just a few strides from the fence, Kit got ahead and grabbed his face. I couldn’t see if it was nose, eyelid or what, but it made the steer beller loudly. Nearly flipping over with the dog on his head, the steer set the brakes, spun around and Kit lost her grip, rolling as she landed. She came up mad, and built to the steer again, and he suddenly remembered the warmth and security he’d felt with all of his friends in the bunch across the fence and was running back toward them. Kit bit him on the hip as they cleared the fence on the return, as she hadn’t quite caught up
to his head. When he hit the ground on the right side of the fence, he made a beeline for the middle of the bunch of steers, of course, stirring them into a lope in the process.
I had finally gotten Kit stopped and she came back to me, tongue hanging and a happy expression on her face. I didn’t know whether to beat her or praise her. What a nut, but, she’d gotten the job done without any damage to the fence, which wasn’t always the case when she got her throttle stuck. The steer never quit a bunch of cattle again while in our care.
I credit the fact that she was running on three legs that the steer was ever seen again, or if seen, still alive. Crazy Kit and a crazy steer, what a combination. The outcome was unbelievable, and I promise you, not all of her moments of unauthorized cattle handling were that successful.
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....