“That red brangus is out again. I tried to get her but she’s in the Johnson grass,” the rural route mail lady called to tell us last Tuesday. I swore and growled and, despite my tendency toward non-violence, visions of brangus burgers danced in my head. That rotten heifer was why Chap and I had spent the past two days lugging around a big heavy fence-stretcher, working our way around the breaks that heifer made in the fenceline.
Chap didn’t even blink. He simply shucked off his leather gloves as we headed back to the truck to go search for the rogue cow.
She’s not our cow–we have short, stocky black angus– this long-legged, lanky, red she-beast belongs to Chap’s brother, but since she’s boarding with us, she’s our responsibility.
We knew right where to look–this isn’t the first time the heifer’s jumped the fence, and we found her right where we knew she’d be–across the busy highway in a stand of tall Johnson grass, gazing doe-eyed and moon-pied at the neighboring rancher’s enormous longhorn. I can’t blame her. He is a beautiful bull and I’ve been known to gaze at him myself.
I scooted into the driver’s seat as Chap got down out of the truck and moved toward the heifer, speaking low, soothing words as he smoothed his bare hand over her cheek and led her, with no rope, prod or any other poking device, back to the front gate, where she followed him like a well-trained dog.
It never ceases to amaze me, the way animals, big, small, tame or wild, practically purr around Chap. And it never ceases to amaze me how gentle he can be. Especially since he spends a good part of autumn togged in camoflague and toting a rifle, lying in wait for the deer he feeds all year long.
I sit with him sometimes in the deer stand–why he wants me there I have no idea–I won’t let him shoot anything while I’m sitting with him, and without a book, I bore very easily and tend to fidget.
“Shh,” he told me on one cold, still November morning. “Watch.”
And I quieted and watched, and to my amazement, a rare, endangered golden-cheeked warbler cocked his head looking at us, perched on a prickly branch of a cedar tree. The little bird hopped down one limb, cocking his head as he watched us, and then he hopped again and dropped right down, landing on the barrel of Chap’s gun.
I held my breath and watched in wonder as the bird inched up the barrel of the gun, studying us, and apparently satisfied with whatever it was he saw, he fluttered off, into the clearing.
I didn’t need to be hushed. I was speechless.