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When last we left our fearless buckaroos, I was sitting tall on the “friendly” calf I had selected, anticipating my maiden voyage on the back of a cow.
“Grab a handful of hair on his neck, and I’ll let go,” said Mr. Mike.
I did just what Mr. Mike instructed and nothing happened for a few seconds, then I thought I was sitting on top of a tornado. That nice little calf was jumping and bucking like he didn’t like me sitting on him, and before I knew it I was face down in the corral getting my first taste of dried cow manure. I came up spitting to several smiling faces and Rick and Wayne laughing at me.
“He sure is a friendly one,” said Dad. “Want to try it again?”
Determined not to be outdone by a cow, I said I would. Mr. Mike once again rounded up the calf, and I climbed back on.
I lasted a lot longer the second time because I knew what to expect and held on with both hands twisted in the calf’s hair along with the rope end. Alas, the end result was the same: one six-year-old covered in dirt and dried cow patties, and the calf bucking and frolicking around the corral. Rick and Wayne took their turns with different calves, but with the same outcome as I’d had.
Slim and Mike let us ride as much as we wanted and we spent one glorious afternoon pretending we were cowboys out on the range with a herd. At the end of the day, we returned to Heise Station tired and dirty but elated with our newly learned bucking-calf skills. We all had a great time telling the rest of the family all about our grand adventure.
“It was so fun!” I exulted. “Slim and Mr. Mike said we could come back and they’d show us how to bulldog and tie rodeo knots on the calves. Can we go, Dad?”
“Sure, but right now I think a bath might be a better idea. You guys smell like the Chicago stockyards.”
“Aw, Dad, you sound like Uncle Pete.” One of my grandfather’s paisans in Detroit was a real funny guy and liked to say when he shook your hand: “I heard you got more bullshit than the Chicago stockyards!” He said it every time he shook your hand, and then he would laugh like crazy and thought it was great fun every time.
NEXT WEEK: EXPLORING IMPERIAL VALLEY AND CATCHING A “BIG ONE.”