Back in Timber’s youth, he got a job helpin’ gather wild cattle out of the fields of an Arizona cotton farmer. He and his pardner, Jessie, tried roping them, but they were unsuccessful. Number One, the cows only came into the field at night along with the native deer; and Number Two, the horses were not nocturnally-trained and wouldn’t get within a rope’s length of the stealthy beasts!
Plan Two involved the use of a tranquilizer gun. The second night our boys arrived "loaded for bear," as they say, and began stalking their prey. Jesse had taped a flashlight to his dart gun and Timber carried a tie-down rope, a flashlight and was wearing a miner’s helmet with a light. I admit I can sort of picture this cowboy-thought process: combining the skills of a spelunker, a mountain climber and a referee at a blindfolded sword fight!
After two misses, Jesse pulled down on a long-yearlin’ Hereford-cross bull and fired. Right on target! The chase began, but the bull quickly showed signs of impaired ambulation (walking like a drunken sailor). They watched him stop. Then drop to the ground.
Timber was on him like a coon dog on a ham sandwich! He rolled the bull on his side, gathered up three feet and hog-tied him. The bull began to struggle and pushed back. Timber tried to hold his ground thinking, surely the tranquilizer will take effect?...but the opposite was happening!
The bull seemed to be gaining his balance and strength back. Timber was whacking him with his flashlight, his miner’s lamp bouncing crazily in the dark! From a distance, all Jesse could see were two beams of light jerkily writing on the earth and the sky. It looked like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Slim Jaywalker going at it with lightsabers.
As the bull stumbled to his feet, Timber was still draped over his back. Our cowboy had managed to hang on to his flashlight in the scuffle. Again, from Jesse’s seat in the bleachers, they might have been two inebriated friends who had lost their car keys. Then the bull’s head cleared and he shook Timber off. Jesse heard a thud!
Timber’s flashlight broke, but, to his credit, he still clung to the tie-rope with one hand and was being dragged behind the escaping bull. Finally the bull stopped and looked around. There on the ground lay a wild, night-crawling predator-creature with one bright-shining cycloptic eye in the middle of his head. The bull did what any slightly-drugged 950 lb King-of-the-Hill, Top-of-the-Heap, Testosterone Toro would do when challenged…he charged!
Jesse saw it all. The one beam of light danced and banged and flipped and flew in a firecracker ballet until it finally lay, still shining, a lone beacon in the night sky.
Jesse ran to the light.
"Over here," said Timber, 10 feet away from the luminous ray. "Did you see where he went?"
"South," said Jesse, "Towards Mexico."
"Good, maybe I’ll meet him again someday," said Timber, "in a taco."
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.