The Horribull Experience
- June 16, 2023
- Jan Swan Wood
The drought had hung on for several years and every dam, creek and natural watering hole had been dry for most of it. Few water lines had been run at that time, so vast stretches of country were without water. Summer pasture with water was a rare thing and at a premium. I had finally located a pasture that was quite large, hadn’t been grazed for the previous season due to dry dams, but had one solitary water tank on a pipeline from a deep well. It would be adequate for the size of the bunch of cows I needed to pasture, providing the water kept running every day. The owner, an older guy with not much to do since retirement, assured me that he would check that tank and waterline daily.
The next pasture to the south, on the same pipeline, had some yearlings in it, so checking both was on his schedule. With ample misgivings on my part, since the cows would be 40 miles of bad road from home, they were hauled out to pasture. There had been just enough rain to grow some grass, so the cows and calves had plenty to eat. The pasture had high buttes, deep valleys, some breaks, and the tank was about in the center. I had hauled bulls out and put them in and everything looked good. My cows tended to stay together pretty well, so riding on them was a fairly simple deal in spite of the size of the pasture. Of course, having one water source meant that they all were at the same spot every day.
One fine day, about two weeks after the bulls had been put with them, I went out to ride through everything. I’d hauled out there at daylight, so it was fairly cool yet when I unloaded my pet saddle horse Lily. I saw a few cows off to the southwest so I headed over to them. As I got closer, I saw that there were some extra cattle in with them. My cows were straight black so the little white ones showed up like turds in a punch bowl. There were about a dozen head of the dinky little things, mostly what appeared to be
yearling heifers, plus some dry cows and a couple of pairs. They all showed a dwarfy look and appeared to be of White Park breeding. They are white with black points on their ears, eyes, muzzles, feet and tails. I’ve never been impressed with them as they are more of a hobby breed, but I was plumb disgusted that they were in there with my bulls and cows without anything being said. Having my bulls breeding these dwarfy knotheads made my blood simmer.
I took a tally of my cows and came up short. I recounted. Sure enough, I was short two pairs. That was odd. So, I started looking for them. I rode for a long time as there were so many places two cows could be hidden in that pasture. Finally, on the east side in a series of little buttes and swales, I came upon my two pairs. They were laying down, chewing their cuds. With them was a dwarfy, barrel headed, sorry Park bull. When I saw him, my simmering blood came to a boil.
I was sitting on the best horse I had and that bull looked to weight about 700 lbs at most. The longing to rope and castrate the nasty thing was strong, especially as his cod sack was flopped out on the ground behind his scrawny haunches as he laid their looking at me. It was so tempting.
He stood up and stretched to all his dwarfy glory. His head outweighed his entire hind quarters, even taking in the largest scrotum I’d seen on a bull in quite some time. He was pot gutted and had big knees that were a little bowed, which is a trait of dwarfism in cattle. There was not a redeeming feature about him.
A younger, bolder me would have roped and cut him in a heartbeat, but, Lily and I were both recovering from being laid up. She was overcoming the effects of a stroke that made turning to the right a little difficult, and I’d just had hip surgery earlier in the summer. Not wanting to get either of us hurt handling the bull, I gathered up my two pairs and trailed them back across the pasture to the tank. The bull, not knowing how bad I was seething, foolishly followed along.
It’s still a mystery to me how that dink had gotten two cows herded away from the rest with my bulls in the bunch. The fact that my bulls were yearlings and the dink was probably five or six is the only reasonable explanation. But, I stayed boiling hot all the way back across. The worst part of the whole deal is that one of the cows was my supreme cow maker cow. I had kept every heifer she’d ever had, as I had for generations of her cow family. I figured it would be just my luck that the dwarfy bull would have found a rock to stand on to breed her.
As I got to the tank, the rest of the cows were coming in to water, but more importantly, here came the ranch owner in his little pickup. I waited until he got out then I asked him, with more control than I thought possible, what the heck those other cattle were doing in there with mine. He grinned real big and said that he’d just bought them and he was sure proud of them. I wanted to hit him.
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....