Roping a Badger
- July 24, 2023
- Jan Swan Wood
My Dad was an all business sort of guy in my growing up years, and certainly didn’t indulge in wild cowboy stunts. So, when he roped a badger, it was for a very good reason, which was to rid the ranch of a badger that had been digging up fence posts and making dangerous holes in the pasture.
The fact that he was riding a powder keg of a horse named Rusty should have made him pause, but, when he saw that badger, he decided that there was no time like the present to get rid of him. His rope was his only tool to do it with. There was seldom a pickup with a rifle in that pasture which was far from home, so that wasn’t an option either. Besides, no one ever sees a badger when they have the right tool to dispatch it with, right? Rusty was hair triggered, hot, flighty, a bit green, very watchy on the ground and with a rope. Seems perfect for roping a badger. The badger took off and Dad built a loop and went after him. It took a little convincing to get Rusty to track up on the badger, who would turn and take a run at him every so often.
Though Rusty wasn’t an enthusiastic partner, Dad still managed to get a loop on the badger, which went over its head with one front leg in it. No way to choke the badger that way, which was a problem. The next problem was that when roped, the badger decided it was time to fight and charged right at Rusty, who, being an intelligent survivor, sold out at a dead run, attached to the badger with 30 feet of rope. Now, Dad could still have pitched his rope at this point, even though he was tied on hard and fast, as was his habit. But, just keeping with Rusty was taking up quite a bit of his time. Every so often, that badger would catch briefly on something and fly through the air toward them, which made Rusty grab yet another gear, when it seemed that there were no more to be grabbed. The pasture was rough with rocks everywhere and, of course, scattered badger holes from you-know-who. Rusty was a cat on his feet, even at Mach 1 speed and one eye on the badger, which is what kept he and Dad from a wreck.
Needless to say, this was all happening very quickly, and Dad was trying his best to get the runaway under control. Finally, after running for a long ways in a big loop on the north half of the pasture, Dad got Rusty to gear down. The badger was not moving quite as quickly by this point, though maintaining his fury and snarling loudly, and Dad was finally down to a lope on Rusty. In the wild race parallel to the north fence, he had somehow taken note of a post that had a forked Y on top of it. He guided Rusty back to this post after a while, and when they were slowed down to a trot, he flipped the slack of his rope into
the fork on that post and actually got Rusty stopped as the badger went up the post.
The badger, still very much alive and ready to fight, was dangling from the top of the post. Dad finally got his rope off the horn and tied it to a post in the fenceline, not trusting Rusty to hold the badger in place while Dad disposed of it. He kept a good hold on Rusty’s reins and, using the abundant rocks, he proceeded to try to kill the badger. Each time he threw a rock, Rusty would run backwards, dragging Dad several long strides. The cussing must have been really something, knowing Dad.
In spite of this, Dad was at last successful in killing the badger with several solid blows to the head. I’m sure he was also ready to kill Rusty with a rock by this time, but Dad hated walking and it was a long way home. Poor Rusty had about all the adventure he could stand, I’m sure. None of this episode solidified the partnership between Dad and Rusty, and Rusty may have doubted Dad’s good judgement thereafter.
Having heard this story and Dad’s warnings, I’ve never been, and will never be, tempted to rope a badger. It’s my understanding that they will never give the rope back even when you’re done fooling around. So, if you’re ever riding with me and get the yen to rope a badger, don’t expect me to help you get your rope back.
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....