Saturday, December 6, 2008

City slicker

By Darren Handschuh
I have never felt more like a city slicker in my life.
I grew up in a rural area with hills to climb and creeks to fish in, but after spending four days at a real working ranch, I realized I am seriously out of place on a real, working ranch.
We were visiting relatives who owned the ranch which was a fair drive down a winding, forest-lined road.
The ranch house was an amazing log home, and the 400 acres came with a full compliment of ranch-type critters.
We arrived in a mini-van loaded with people pulling a tent trailer loaded with stuff.
We don’t visit, we invade.
Working on one of the corral fences when we pulled up, was a cousin who was in amazing shape. He had spent the last few years working hard at the physical job and it showed. I am not gay or anything, but damn….
He, of course, was shirtless and I figured the only way I would take off my shirt was if it was on fire. And even then I would try to roll around and put it out first, lest the people and animals be frightened by my pasty white complexion and hard-earned layer of flab.
We said hello to everyone and set up our trailer before exploring the wonderful world of ranching.
Among their stock were a few cows, a bull, seven big dogs and a quite a few horses.
On the second day of our visit, there was a commotion near the barn. One of the horses had gotten out of his stall and was having words with another male horse.
The alpha mail horse – the one who got out – was not taking kindly to this upstart pony trying to muscle in on his ladies, and he was not shy about letting his feelings be known.
He was huffing and puffing and clomping his feet on the ground while the other, and somewhat smaller horse, did the same in an effort to save face in front of the girls.
If it came down to a good old fashioned horse brawl, I had my money on the alpha male.
The ranch hand cousin then stepped into the middle of the melee and tried to herd alpha male back to his coral.
Being all worked up, Alf, as I started calling him, was not interested in being confined and trotted around in a show of horse defiance.
We were asked to stand between two fences with our arms outstretched to make a human fence, while Cuz’ tried to move the beast into his pen.
For a brief moment Alf ran straight at me. This was the biggest horse I had ever seen and I figured if it got any closer, I would keep my arms outstretched, point to the wide open hills behind me and say, “There you go” while stepping to the side to make room for him.
However, he decided to go back into his coral, only to escape again a couple hours later. It would seem Alf had figured out how to undo the latch on the gate. Smart horse.
The latch problem was soon solved, but my personal interaction with ranch animals was far from over.
The next day I was walking with my 10-year-old niece when I noticed the bull had gotten out of his pen.
“What is with animals getting out of their confines around here? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of a lock?”
Anyway, I was looking at this bull and he was looking at me. The day prior, I had pulled a muscle in leg and could barely walk let alone run, so I calmly said to my niece to slowly move to a nearby fence, crawl through it and we would be safe.
Just as I said the word “safe,” I looked over to see a trail of dust as my niece sprinted for the house faster than Elvis heading to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
This got the bull’s attention and left me and the beast in a classic stare down. Let’s just say I blinked first and hobbled to the fence as fast as I could while he strutted over to check me out.
Safely behind the fence, I felt a surge of courage, and besides, the ranch hand cousin had shown up on his horse and all his bulging muscles and was moving the bull back to the coral.
In both cases, I felt rather inadequate and thought maybe the ranch life wasn’t for me, at least not a ranch that has animals on it.
I don’t even know if I could handle an ant farm.

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