By Baxter Black, DVM
There is a common belief among many urban folks that a cowboy rides around all day and sings to cows. John Wayne and Tom Mix added "Drifting Ranch Saver" to their résumé. "Don't worry, Nell, Black Bart will never get your ranch as long as Silver and I remain compassionate!" Marlboro turned him into a person who chases horses all over the place and relaxes around the chuckwagon in a yellow slicker. We cowboy poets have augmented the picture of the cowboy as a Shakespearian throwback with green stuff wedged between his heel and sole.
And though these portrayals are not all that bad, they miss the point. My favorite description that defines a cowboy is someone who can replace a uterine prolapse in a 1000 lb cow on the open range armed with nothin' but a rope and a horse.
The combination of skills required to accomplish that feat speaks volumes about a real all-around cowboy.
Of course, the kind of cowboyin' required depends on the job. Gatherin' wild cattle in Arizona is as different from checkin' feedlot pens in Nebraska as drivin' a Nascar entry is from operating a backhoe. But if a cowboy can rope and ride and knows cattle, they could soon learn each other's job.
By the end of the Rancher - Sodbuster Wars, the cowboy often found himself in the employ of farmers. As soon as diesel replaced alfalfa as fuel, farmers eliminated horses from their livestock operations. Squeeze chutes, calf tables, pens, aluminum gates, 4-wheelers and semi's took the place of the cowboy, his rope and his horse.
And the farmer cowman conversion is still occurring. A rancher in Saskatchewan invented "The Mobile Cow Catcher". It is an amazing piece of winter shop time genius. The Mobile Cow Catcher attaches to the side of a pickup. It looks like a prop from the movie Waterworld. If you didn't see that, it might be best described as a ‘swing set, orthopedic hospital bed and supermarket automatic door-opener’ combination.
You run the cow down with yer pickup, capture it like pickin' up a winrow, then leap out and attend to her problem.
The rancher, Mr. Halyung of Robsart, Saskatchewan, figured his invention would save a lot of cow wrecks, especially for those cow people who aren't too handy with a rope and a horse.
And he may be right. Someday we may see Batman in a movie sayin', "Don't worry, Nell, I'll catch yer cow and replace that prolapse. Robin, fire up the Mobile Cow Catcher ... We've got to remain compassionate!"