There is a battle raging on our ranch right now. It’s been escalating for years, the turf war between my husband and the badgers, but the past few months it has reached epic proportions.
We've always had badgers. We've always had badger holes. A daily annoyance like foxtails in your socks and that damn west wind. But they went too far with the new corral posts.
Dad and Greg sweated all one afternoon, digging and setting and tamping eight foot railroad ties until they stood in a perfectly straight row. But the next morning when they went out to hang the gates, one of the posts was leaning like a drunk soldier. During the night, a badger had burrowed down beside it and all but uprooted the post. Irritated, the guys straightened it out and tamped it back into place. The next morning they arrived to find not one but two posts excavated with what appeared to be heavy equipment, leaving a four foot pit around each. The badger was nowhere to be seen, but I assume he was hunkered in a burrow across the coulee, laughing as they shoveled and tamped and swore.
That’s when we got the badger traps.
Trapping badgers is tricky, and requires a lot more strategy than stuffing a trap into a hole. In the beginning, they dug around and under the traps, tossed them out like they were no more than chunks of rusty barbed wire, all the while chuckling their evil little badger chuckles.
Time for the trapper to learn a few tricks of his own.
I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail in case you just had dinner, but suffice to say my nine year old boy can describe exactly how to extract urine from a freshly killed badger...and why. And last week my husband casually said, “Oh, by the way, my badger bait rots better out in the sun, so I wouldn’t open any of those plastic tubs in the back of the red pickup if I were you.”
It would be simpler if badgers were the only occupants of our pastures. Our trapper takes great care to shove his traps far down the holes, but one can never underestimate how far a cow will go to get into what she shouldn’t.
Which is how we ended up with a cow with a badger trap stuck on her nose.
To fully appreciate her predicament, I need to explain that the trap was attached to a length of wire wrapped around a four foot chunk of fence post, designed to keep a badger from dragging the trap deep underground. Along comes the cow, innocently shoving her face down a hole for reasons comprehensible only in her little cow brain and WHAM. She fell back, trying to shake off whatever had clamped onto her face, and got the post stuck behind her back feet.
So now she’s got a trap on her face and her head snubbed down between her knees, held tight by wire and the fence post wedged behind her hocks. In other words, this was not a happy cow.
There was nothing to do but rope her. Considering she couldn’t run, it should’ve been simple. Except Greg and my brother in law Richard were both mounted horses that hadn’t done much pasture roping and neither horse had ever seen a cow packing quite that much hardware. After no more than half an hour of kicking and sweating and swearing, Richard got Bailey close enough to toss a loop around the cow’s neck.
But now she was really irritated. Every time Greg got close to the heels the cow would kick and the chunk of post would fly up, and his horse would jump halfway to the next county. Plus how in the heck do you heel a cow with a post in the way?
Finally, she gave a mighty kick, snapped the wire and sent the post flying. Greg rode in and snagged both heels. Richard tightened up his end of the rope and hopped off to remove the trap. Bailey, being new at this and not particularly loyal to begin with, took Richard’s dismount as a sign it was time to go home, but when he turned to leave the rope touched his butt and he blew up and went to bucking around in a circle at the end of the rope. Richard had to dive for cover or be clothes-lined. Greg’s horse whirled and tried to bolt, but Greg held tight to his dallies, managing to stay a jump ahead of the bouncing, snapping rope attached to Bailey's saddle. And somehow, in the midst of the wreck, the neck rope snagged on the trap and popped it off the cow’s face.
The cow stopped bellering. Bailey stopped bucking. Richard climbed to his feet, dusted himself off and got his rope off the cow’s neck. Greg released the heel loop. They all watched her wander off, shaking her head as the horses and men gathered up their gear and frayed end of their nerves.
“Well,” Richard said. “I guess that’s one way of doing it.”