Sunday, August 30, 2009
We Got Skillz
When you live in rugged country like ours, ranching and farming, you develop a very particular set of skills. Around here, these are the techniques that make life easier. Or at least survivable: 1. The Knee Buckle--the fields around here are littered with rocks and holes. Big holes. Holes six inches around and three feet deep, dug by industrious badgers in pursuit of juicy gophers. In summer, the grass grows up and hides these ankle-breaking booby traps. Which is why your knees develop the instinctive ability to buckle when your brain realizes that you've just stepped in the wrong place, pitching you onto your face but saving your ankle from sure destruction. Skinned up knees and hands are painful, but rarely require casting or reconstructive surgery. 2. The Quick Feet Shuffle--primarily implemented around hooved animals, especially those with evil intentions. It involves keeping your feet in constant motion, thereby making it more difficult for said hooves to smash tender toes. 3. The Grunt-Heave--a cold weather special, the grunt-heave is an integral part of mounting a horse while wearing five layers of insulated clothing and packing that extra ten pounds you put on between Thanksgiving and Easter. Pretty self explanatory: lever leg up and into stirrup, grunt, and heave with all your might to drag yourself into the saddle. 4. Synchronized Door Opening--we get some wind. Okay, a lot of wind. On breezy days, opening both doors of the pickup at the same time is an excellent way to rid the cab of excess clutter. Like the mail. And your paycheck. After a few mad scrambles across the grocery store parking lot culminating in a flying tackle of your bank statement, you learn to take turns getting out of the car. 5. The Reverse Pysch and Snag--a homegrown technique developed in response to a herd of roan Hancock horses too ornery and too wise for our own good. The procedure involves a bucket of grain and a halter cannily concealed inside your coat. Hold out the bucket of grain. Shake it a few times. Stand like a statue while the horse you are attempting to capture sidles up, stops a few feet short, and stretches its nose as far as possible to get a bite. Implement the quick foot shuffle as the two other horses that you have no interest in catching walk right up, shove you aside and bury their heads in the bucket. Wrestle the bucket away from them. Turn your back on the target horse. Maybe throw in a casual whistle. Not interested in catching you. Nope. Not one bit. Wait for the horse to give in, ease up and stick his head in the bucket. Make a premature grab, at which the horse will bolt, spill the grain, and run to other side of the pasture. Retrieve the bucket, go back to the barn for more grain. Repeat all steps above, but force yourself to wait until the perfect moment to make your move. Throw an arm around the horse's neck, yank the halter from under your coat, and slap it on. Pray that one of the other horses don't bite him on the butt just as you're about to fasten the buckle. There are, of course, dozens of other special skills and techniques we've developed over the years. But it's Sunday, and there's fresh huckleberry pie calling my name from the kitchen. I'm sure the rest of you have skills of your own. Feel free to share. Especially if you've got a better way to catch a Hancock.