Good stories and bad knees
The knees are often the result of that aggressive nature and the stories most assuredly are.
One can quickly spot the cowboys without bad knees. As a rule, they are still attending high school classes. Through the years, their path can be traced through a number of orthopedic offices, culminating in the bionic replacement of body parts in later years.
That is where the stories come in.
The gimping cowboy will willingly impart the story about that sun fishing son-of-a-gun that finally got the best of him and busted up that knee.
A few of the more honest ones will admit to the limp originating with a football injury, even if that sometimes meant he fell out of the stands while watching.
Others will confess to less cowboy-like activities such as water or snow skiing or even a friendly game of Budweiser-fueled volleyball at a family reunion.
Cowboys with a horse- or cow-related limp will scoff at those embarrassing injuries and say with disdain, "It serves them right."
One particular cowboy I know has cured the limp he acquired as a young cowboy and subsequently nursed all through his adult years as a cattleman. Then he became a cowboy again and took to team roping full time. The only benefit he can get from his limp now is bragging rights to the story.
He was day-working his way through college gathering cattle in the South Texas brasada. On the day of the legendary injury, he was assigned with a corrida of vaqueros to gather a bunch of snaky brush cattle.
They had spent the long, hot day in brush that consisted mostly of stickers and close-quartered oak and mesquite trees. Just as the cattle were finally gathered up and headed to the pens, one of the bulls decided he'd rather be where he had been rather than where he was.
The cowboy in this story and one of his partners got the signal to go bring him back. The race was on. Both horses were fast and both men were hard riders. The brush was heavy and the bull thought his tail was on fire.
Our cowboy was in the lead to rope when the bull cut between two fair-size oaks. He calculated he had the one on the left cleared, shifted in the saddle to miss the one on the right.
However, the bull, the horse or the tree moved. It was never determined exactly which, and the cowboy hit the oak square on his knee. Of course, this happened as he was traveling at approximately the speed of light.
Nothing to say except in language for print "Dang, that will hurt a feller."
After the knee healed up as good as it was ever going to, what hurt the most for a long time was that the other cowboy got to rope the bull. However, the now-gimpy cowboy had a wild tale he could tell for years.
That almost made up for the bad knee.
Almost, except on cold mornings, long days in the saddle, long drives and worse yet, when there was no one around to hear the tale.
Julie can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org