Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write something AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL (10/02/14)
TITLE: The Last Roundup
By Virgil Youngblood
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Little Ben, his friends called him, was a small man and all cowboy. He was tanned and wrinkled-leather looking from a lifetime of ranching. He could roll a Bull Durham cigarette with one hand with practiced ease. Plucking the cloth tobacco pouch from his shirt pocket, he would fish out a cigarette paper, open the draw-string with his teeth and, holding the pouch in his mouth, roll the cigarette into a smoke with a thumb and fingers. When he wasn’t showing off, he used both hands.
Much fun was had with those empty cloth Bull Durham sacks. Filled with creek-bed sand they could make a small fortress wall, or thrown like a beanbag at the enemy, usually a cousin. Their use was limited only by imagination.
The native-stone covered home was nestled in a small valley surrounded by mountains perpetually extending a climbing invitation. On the mountain tops Indians had chipped arrowheads and club heads from flint stones and left some for me to find. Clear creeks in canyon bottoms begged to be fished; their deep azure pools welcomed swimmers.
Showing off will invariably get a person into trouble. No doubt it was the audience of cousins that prompted me to race them to the bottom of a mountain. The grade was steeper than I realized and I was soon running faster than my legs could keep up. I took a terrible headlong dive. Fortunately, I was wearing a leather Lindbergh style aviator cap with side flaps and it absorbed most of the punishment from the rocks and gravel that I plowed up. Why I didn’t break my neck I’ll never know. My beloved cap was ruined.
The ranch house obtained water from a small spring about a quarter of a mile away. Mother said when she was a girl it was fetched in a bucket. By the time I knew anything about it a “Popping Johnny” gasoline powered pump had been installed. Later it was converted to an electric pump to furnish water to the kitchen sink.
Not too far from the house, a clear stream deepened into a small pool with a huge flattop boulder hugging one side. What fun it was to catch some grasshoppers for bait and fish from the top of that rock. Lying down I would swing the tip of my pole over the water and let the hopper sink down beside the boulder. Many perch and catfish eagerly snatched their last meal.
When I took them to the house to be cleaned and cooked, Grandpa showed me a trick to hasten the catfish’s demise. Catfish can live for a long time out of water. He used the point of his pocketknife to cut a small slit down the center of the catfish’s head. Then he pushed a broom straw through the slit into the fish’s brain. The fish quickly died and could be cleaned.
Grandpa had a horse named Paint that was eighteen years old and a Collie dog named Polly. Polly could round up sheep or cattle and put them in a pen by herself when he gave her a command.
One day I was riding Paint up the side of a mountain and heard a tinkling bell. Exploring the source of the sound Paint led me over a ridge to a small herd of goats. What I didn’t know, but quickly discovered, Paint was a well trained cutting-horse. When I neck-reined her toward the woolies to look them over her ears perked up and she started cutting one out. I had never ridden a horse. The unexpected wheeling right and left on slanted terrain almost unhitched me from the saddle. When I realized what Paint was doing, I jerked her around and headed to the ranch house convinced, almost, that I wasn’t cowboy material.
Any lingering doubt was removed the next day when I expertly swirled my lariat over the horns of a calf in the corral. It bolted. I was too stubborn to turn loose the rope until that doggie plowed me halfway around the corral, face down, through the sandy-soil and fresh manure. Shoot! I wasn’t going to do anything with that calf after I roped it. I was just practicing cowboy skills.
‘Podner, I ain’t a cowboy.
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