Double Whammy at the Double F

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When it came time to wean calves from their mothers, several things happened. First, you separated the bull calves from the heifers. The bulls were castrated. The calves were marked and branded and then put together in another pasture behind the cow pen.

The cows were turned out into the main pasture, and there were two fences between the calves and their mothers. It took from daylight to almost dark, plus five cowboys to get this done. As assistant manager of the Double F, it was my job to see the calves and cows stayed apart until they got over being weaned.

I got up early the next morning and went over to the ranch — I lived about half a mile away. When I got to the cow pens, I saw a bunch of calves headed my way. They had gotten through the first fence and were headed to the next one in stampede mode.

I hurried back to the horse barn to saddle a horse so I could head the calves off from the cows. There were three horses in the stalls. I picked the one I thought could do the best job, a black mustang named Nick.

In my haste, I forgot Nick was a little cold-backed, which meant you needed to warm him up a little before you stuck the spurs to him. To make matters worse, I was in a hurry, and I didn't cinch the girth up tight. I had barely enough time to head the calves off before they went through the fence and back with their mothers.

I had to spur Nick just to get ahead of the calves. Just as I got the calves turned back, Nick decided he was being mistreated and proceeded to buck me off. The saddle, not being tight, didn't help things, and I just looked for a place to land. Nick had thrown me so high that when I hit the ground, I landed on my head. It knocked me a little crazy, and it made me mad at Nick.

The calves had headed back to the cow pen, so I decided I'd take the time to teach "ole Nick" a lesson. He had run off into the main pasture, and I went back to the horse barn and saddled a little mare. Nick, at about 950 pounds, was big. Susie — the mare — was about 650 pounds. I jumped on Susie and took off after Nick. He had made a big circle and was headed back to the horse barn. We were on a clay road, and just before we got to the lane I made a throw with my lariat. My loop landed on Nick's head but didn't go over his nose. I jerked the rope back with the intention of making another throw, but the loop caught the saddle horn instead.

This was the worst thing that could happen.

Nick had a dead pull on us, and I was tied hard and fast to the saddle I was on. Little Susie was getting tired of being pulled, and she decided to sit down in the clay road. And then, everything happened at once. Nick jerked the saddle I was in out over Susie's head, and I landed in the road in front of her. Next thing I knew, she was on top of me. It seemed like 10 minutes before she got off. I just knew I had broken every bone in my body. I could barely move.

The ranch boss got out there about that time and wanted to take me the 20 miles to the hospital in Ocala. I said if he'd just take me home and take care of the horses, I'd just go to bed.

The next day, I had changed color. I was black, blue and yellow, but I had the satisfaction of "teaching Nick a lesson."