When I was a kid we had what we called the ‘bull rider’s limp.’ If you were entered up the Saturday before, you could develop a limp and make it last for a week! When a good lookin’ sweetheart asked what happened, you kinda shuffled and shrugged it off. “Got hurt,” you’d say. “How?” she’d ask on cue. “Ridin’ bulls,” you’d explain nonchalantly.
Images of John Wayne, stoic and brave, filled the air. The dragon slayer uninjured saving the damsel. The concerned female dabbin’ peroxide in the bullet wound creasing your shoulder. “It’s nuthin’,” you’d say, wincing in pain. If only you had a saber slash across the cheek.
I remember when George and I went to the Bare Ranch for a week. We worked and sorted the cows. Checked the bulls and helped the crew finish up the fall work. On the last night George was injured in the line of duty. He wore a cast for weeks, explaining every time he was asked that he’d hurt himself working cows. When pressed for details he’d finally admit he’d broken his ankle when he fell off the cookhouse steps!
Jess’s injury was not as glamorous and harder to explain. It looked like he’d been snorting raspberries! His nose was the size and color of a ripe plum.
“Lissadig to hib xplane id, id wass hart to keeb a strate fase.”
He’d picked up a bale of hay to feed the heifers. With the practiced motion of experience he hefted the bale and dropped it over his upraised knee. But here the story takes a different twist. The baling wire broke! It struck like a snake, whipped around and bit his nose!
The end of the wire penetrated the meaty part of his proboscis on the left side, drilling through the nasal septum and exiting his right nostril! With a climatic flourish, it wound a dally around the other end of the wire!
His daughter and wife looked on dumbstruck! Jess grasped the wire and cautiously moved it side to side. His head flopped back and forth like a hypnotized chicken! While his daughter ran to the shed to get some sidecutters, his wife Shalah, unwound the wrap and tried easing it back through the entry hole. He stood like a twitched horse getting his mane roached.
It came smoothly except for the little rusty curl right on the end. She laid him over a bale, straddled his chest and wound out the wire like she was backin’ out a brace and bit.
He stayed out on the ranch for quite a while, tryin’ not to blow his nose and packin’ it with ice in the evenings. However, even in their remote ranch country word spread. They had a steady procession of neighbors coming by to offer sympathy and get a first hand report. That way they’d have credibility when they told the story over and over and over...
Baxter Black is a renowned cowboy humorist and national columniss. Visit him at baxterblack.com.