We sweated in the dust, mopping our brows with dirty red bandanas. The bull calves didn’t like what we were doing, but we had to do it. We wrestled them to the ground, us wranglers, hog-tying their feet before de-horning them and branding them in a cloud of smoke. Burnt flesh smells filled the air. Then it was out with a sharp, clean knife and off with their nuts, deftly. Yep, we castrated ’em. The royal ‘we’ mind you, they wouldn’t let a rank amateur like me do that. Lastly we injected them, and then we untied ’em.
They didn’t like it. They stood shakily, wondering what the HELL had happened (now, if you tell anyone I wrote about a bull calf’s feelings I’ll deny it. Us cowboys don’t do emotion, but I’m setting it down for the record, see). Earlier that day they had been romping in the pastures without a care in the world, and now WHAM! No horns, no nuts, and pain in three places!
That evening we gathered in the barn out near the Hrbacek’s place (near Boone, I think, west or SW of town) for a mountain oyster fry. Copious amounts of beer washed down the delicious deep-fried and battered ‘oystures’, round, oval and all sizes from marble-sized to about a No. 8 pool ball size. Those last calves had obviously been born early – well before the roundup.
At least we were discreet. In Texas the sign where a church was holding a mountain oyster fry shouted: “COME HAVE A BALL WITH JESUS” !
Another cowboy day out on the range was horseback riding with Jim Patterson and his Dad Buck Patterson. Everybody had to call him Buck, nothing but Buck. A bit like my gran in Harrismith was Annie, nothing else. But I called him Granpa Buck and he allowed me to!
I wrote home that I was kitted out with horse, hat, boots, cattle and dust; we rounded up the cattle, corralled them, separated Jim’s from Buck’s, then the calves from their mamas. They’d been on the wheat fields, so they had the runs and I got cow poo everywhere, even in my hair. Got home half an hour before I had to present a talk. Made it!