Sunday, January 22, 2017
Baxter Black - High wire act
One slow summer afternoon I was down at the calving shed near the river. For two months each spring it was like salmon spawning at rush hour! Hundreds of heifers, covies of calves, never ending nights, dozens of days, aches, dings, scratches, sutures, sleeves, scours, shots, dry eyes, chapped hands and sticky stuff in the hair on your arms. But that was last spring.
Now I was puttering around in the quiet barn. I was picking up empty bottles and trash, straightening the corner room with its heater and cot. The sun’s ray sliced through the cracks in the wall and spotlighted dust motes floating around.
I was trying to free up the tailgate on the squeeze chute when Dale’s shadow filled the door.
“What’s up, Doc?” he asked, not for the first time in my life. “I was passin’ by and saw yer pickup. Need some help?”
Dale was a good cowboy who ran one of the outer ranch operations. My friend, but one of those fellers who is plagued by the angel of Bad Luck, Saint Misfortune. Gremlins followed him around dropping rocks on his toe, slipping ropes underneath his horse’s tail, and laying banana peels in his path.
He strode over my way and walked right into a tight wire we had stretched, hat high, across the barn. It knocked his sombrero in the dirt! He reached up and grabbed the wire. “What the (expletive deleted) is this doin’ here!” He pulled on it a couple times like he was trying to stop a train.
It was #9 wire. It was wound around two 16 penny nails we’d drove in the rafter plates. It took fencing pliers to twist it. Stout wire.