Sunday, March 05, 2017

Bulls and Regulations

Chaos before Calm
Bulls and Regulations
Up close and personal
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

             There is a passage from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians that could have been written yesterday.
            At issue was the apostle’s questioning why the faithful remained harnessed to legalisms and doctrines of men when all that had been erased. “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle” were the tedious regulations and the doctrines of societal hierarchy.
“These things have the appearance of wisdom in self imposed, false humility, but have no value for the real benefits to man”, he warned.
In other words, governance will stack endless regulatory burdens, but the outcome has little to do with the wellbeing of mankind. Only biblical principals remain lasting, just, and self sustaining.
Bulls and Regulations
 Is anybody keeping score on the executive orders reversing the suffocating deluge from the departed administration?
There are some, but not as many as the campaign promised. The Trans Pacific Partnership is history. The WOTUS expansion from non-navigable back to navigable waters has been tackled, and there appears to be a clean pass for pipeline construction with American labor and American material. There is also the welcome requirement to remove two regulations for every new one written, but there is little to suggest a complete reversal of the litany of legalisms and doctrines that so burden us. From afar, some likely appeared reasonable, but, up close and personal, they are massive, powerful, and nasty beasts.
The metaphor of dangerous beasts is interesting. It reminds me of a visit years ago to that enclave of pompous sophistication, La Jolla. We were there for a function and had time to kill. We were in the village sitting at a street side pub watching people. There had been the bizarre street scenes complete with a little gold convertible with a golden bikini clad woman driving. In the back seat sat an ancient, shriveled little man wearing only a golden suntan and a pair of black Speedos. Over his left shoulder and sitting above the back seat and on the edge of the trunk was another blond prom queen clad in her own gold colored bikini. With no expression at all, they cruised up and down the street in near nudity with the only contrast from gold being the black Speedos.
It occurred to me La Jolla needed a jolt of reality. That could be accomplished with a gooseneck load of bulls. Packed tight and juicy, the caravan with that little convertible would have stopped at the stoplight whereby the bulls would be turned loose to do their duty, running and frolicking with those sun loving sophisticates.
Uncle Tom knew more than his 14 years would suggest when he heard bulls fighting high in the timber on the south face of Sacaton sometime about 1894. He discovered one of them was the big maverick bull that was known to run high in Minton Canyon. He had been run numerous times, but no cowboy had been able to turn him much less get a rope on him. With some finesse, horse, rider and bulls started off the slope. It didn’t take long, though, for the maverick to try to turn back. Tom thought he’d better try to rope him, but he ran into a tree and came close to being knocked off. He tied his rope back on his saddle and redoubled his efforts to keep the bull moving off slope.
In his account years later, Tom described how he drove the bull to an opening “just the other side of the PIT Ranch” which would have been on the mesa miles from where he first jumped the bulls. It was there he built a loop and roped the five year old maverick only to break his rope trying to wrap him around a tree. He built another loop and roped him again, but this time his rope was too short to get him tripped so he just stayed with him keeping him choked down until the bull was out of air. He had him tied down as three other cowboys appeared.
In the custom of the range, no animal was supposed to be branded unless it was done under the supervision of the cow boss when the herd was worked. Tom knew the cowboys would report what they had seen to the boss, Jim Windham, but he wasn’t about to turn that bull loose before he was branded. He built him a fire and put a 916 on him right there.
Windham never said a word to him about it. Any cowboy who was good enough to put an iron on that bull earned the right.
There was a similar bull that was caught at the Rock Springs trap (my memory of the verbal story came from a differing Rice version, but the Shelley version is in print so it is historical record).
Wild cattle were often caught in what became known as “triggers” which were devices built in entrances to fenced enclosures known as traps. Cattle could push their way in, but they were prevented from leaving. In the case of the Rock Springs bull, he had proven to be easy to catch but keeping him in the trap until he was worked had been impossible. He wasn’t just powerful he was mean and he would come to you with the deadly intentions. On one occasion, he ran Tom Shelley up the mountainside until Tom’s horse was winded and he survived only by emptying his .45 into him.
The day they roped him Tom was there with three of his sons, Edwin, Bill, and Lawrence. “You boys keep your ropes off that bull now if he runs off,” Tom had yelled as the boys entered the trap.
That was like telling those boys not to shoot a big buck the opening morning of deer season. It was Lawrence who got the first loop on him as he charged him as Lawrence sat astride his horse in an opening, anticipating turning him. He got him “forked” around a tree as the other boys got ropes on him. When Tom got to them fuming they had not followed his orders and put themselves in great jeopardy, they had the bull tied with his head tied down with the intention of limiting his ability to move when they turned him loose. They then sawed his horns off to limit any damage and started off with him. When he broke into a run Tom yelled, “Let him go!”
Bawling like a banshee he crashed through the brush on a straight line to a sheer 500’ drop, and never stopped bawling all the way to the bottom. He remained a maverick to the moment of his death.
Dusty was at his wits end trying to gather all the maverick bulls on an allotment he had purchased. He was down to the final bulls and intent on finishing the nasty and dangerous work, but the last was proving to be impossible. Finally, his cowboy proposed a Mexican remedy for the really bad one.
“Shoot him in a foot with your pistol,” he suggested.
With no reasonable alternatives and near death experiences each and every time they fooled with that bull, that is what he did. How he got him shot between the cloven hooves in a wild melee in thick brush is a good story in itself, but the deed was done. In four days, he drove like a lamb. When he got him delivered with three other similar bulls, the buyer noted that “one of them was a little gimpy, but he was okay”.
“Really?” Dusty noted with incredulity as he folded his check and put it in his pocket.
On another little soiree, Terrell had over 30 similar bulls gathered and ready to ship. Trying to keep them in the corral as they loaded was proving difficult. He had the younger fellows in there trying to load as he supervised from horseback outside the pens. He told me had to stay horseback, swinging a big loop and beating them over the head every time they tried to jump out, but they finally got them loaded.
We finally killed one of the last really bad bulls in a month long campaign ridding feral cattle out of the Basin. We had once penned him along with two other bulls at Alamo only to lose them before we got them loaded. The next time he was with a bunch of cows and I had had enough.
“Shoot him where he stands,” was the order.
Before it was over, though, a near disaster took place. Hearts were racing and everybody there that day will remember it forever.
Another day, Chris exposed himself to a bull in the gate to get him to come to a good pipe corral. I was horseback with him, but the bull was only getting hotter. When he saw Chris, he charged all high in front end bawling with his hair standing on end.  As an amputee, Chris ran like the track star he once was!
Dudley did the same thing years ago with a big crossbred bull with horns like “baseball bats”. They had nearly run out of rocks trying to get him loaded when Dudley had had enough. He had shouted instructions to close gates behind him when he got him started. He climbed in and stood in the chute in the bull’s view. Immediately, both of them were running up into the bobtail with Dudley swinging up over the cab through the pipe bars covering the truck’s bed. The bull followed him wedging himself with his head and front quarters over the top of the truck cab. It was there he rode in grandeur the 45 miles to the sales ring.
Relating the scene at the auction, the auctioneer was chanting “And, here comes another one of those good Williams bulls” as they opened both entry and exit gates, simultaneously. Like a tracer streak, the bull raced across the sales rings bellowing and looking for somebody to kill on his way.
Yes, sir! Bulls have a ways to teach you lessons not often learned in the other world. Like so many regulations they are innocuous until you have to face them up close and personal.
Then, they can become dangerous, seething monsters.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The peace and understanding after resolution with both bulls and regulations is immense.”

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