Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cowgirl Sass and Savvy

Cowboys and ATVs

by Julie Carter
For 150 years, cowboys have ridden horses. It didn't always turn out well, but generally it has been the perfect combination for the job.

Then along came the motorized "horse" in various versions of wheel count - two, three and four.
Dirt bikes, the rugged slower model of motorcycle, made a stab at offering an easy "saddle up" for the cowboy along with the promise of covering lots of country in a short amount of time.

Hunkered over his iron steed, hat pulled down tight, the cowboy did indeed find he could take the outside circle, bring the cattle at a high trot from the farthest corners and never have to let his "horse" have a breather.

If he could still walk at sundown, he might make mention how that bike like to have beat him to death on the rough terrain.

But as is his way, he would cowboy-up and do it again the next day.

Like with great bronc stories, this screaming machine created many a tale.

"Man, you shoulda seen it. I was watching ole Roy headed down the top of the ridge when all of a sudden he just disappeared! He flat just dropped out of sight."

The storyteller, who happened to be proudly mounted on a real horse, would then tell about loping over to find Roy and his iron mount at the bottom of a sink hole. Roy and "Trigger" were in need of some serious help that would come only with a rope and a pull from a real horse.

Then along came the three-wheeled ATV followed by the somewhat more stable four-wheeler.
There are cowboys in cowboy country that will tell you, "Give a cowboy an ATV and in a year, you will have a dead cowboy." It sounds harsh, but the phrase was born from a sad truth.

For every comical tale about the new generation of motorized cow herders, there are twice as many proving the danger of the machines.

While accidents happen and accidents are accidents, there is something menacing about mixing the wild-side nature of the cowboy with something mechanical.

They truly cannot resist pushing the limits, testing the parameters and making every effort to prove something that never needed proven.

If fast is good, faster is better. If gradual is safe, straight up or down and all out is better. "Hey Maw, watch me rope that sick yearling, dally to the tool box and turn off hard enough to bring him to Jesus."

Convenient, step-saver, fuel-saver, time-saver and man's best tool when conditions warrant it, the ATV has unequivocally become standard equipment for ranches and farms.

There isn't anything better for the job when you need it. Handy as a pocket on a shirt and likely to be around just as long, but still very dangerous.

I had a teenage cowboy in the house who ended up sporting a neon-orange leg cast. His recipe for a wreck that could have been oh-so-much worse was a rope and four-wheeler.

He was headed out to rope something -- the rope coils thrown over his shoulder while he moseyed the four-wheeler to the corral. The tail of the rope got hung up in the rear axle and in a flash, the rope cinched down tight around the lad's shoulder and arm. He was jerked off the seat, slammed to the ground and drug a short way until the machine came to a stop.

There was a lot that could have happened but thanks only to God, it didn't. He was uncomfortable and inconvenienced for a few weeks but he soon was up and running again.

I wanted to hope that he became a little wiser because of the event, but then again he was 13-years-old and a cowboy. I realized the futility of my thoughts.

Julie can be reached for comment at

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