ON THE EDGE OF COMMON SENSE
by Baxter Black
The Chain Gang
Most would admit it was an unusual location to put a chain in the first place. Not that it didn’t look at home amongst the rotting posts and rusty headgate, but there it was.
Miles and his wife decided their little place could carry a few more cows. It was a good year on the Montana high line but bred heifers were high. So they agreed that buyin’ yearlin’ heifers would be the ticket. They could select a good sire, synchronize the heat cycle and breed them artificially. They bought forty head of light heifers. They secured the Synchromate B and scheduled a breeding date. Miles had intentions to reinforce and repair his corral. Maybe replace some posts in the workin’ alley and bend the chute handles so they worked smooth. But…he got busy with other things. So when the neighbors showed up to help implant the Synchromate, his workin’ facilities still looked like the deck of an abandoned trawler. Running forty head through the chute sounds like a fairly simple task. But, so does changin’ a flat, unless all you have is a crescent wrench and one glove.
They corralled the heifers and started ‘em up the crowdin’ alley toward the chute. Bein’ smallish heifers, a pair could stand side by side in the alley and still have six hooves on the ground. The crew actually managed to get twenty-four head loaded at one time before the inside wall broke and fell over with a thud.
The heifers trompled over the downed boards and escaped back in to the corral. Ingenious fellow that he was, Miles grabbed a chunk of tow chain from his pickup bed. With the neighbor’s help, he pushed the side of the alley upright and secured it across the top with the chain. It held while they ran the heifers back through and applied the Synchromate B implants.
Nine days later Miles enlisted the help of his long suffering wife Linda to remove the implant pellets. She was workin’ the headgate. He was often forced to get behind the heifers in the valley and push’em up. Linda, ever vigilant for his welfare, constantly reminded him about the chain. By the time they were down to the last two heifers, Linda was workin’ at the head end with a flashlight. Miles had meant to get the floodlight fixed too, but every time he thought of it, it was broad daylight.
The last heifer turned around in the chute and ran back over the top of Miles…for the second time. He ran after her cursing and chased her back up the alley screaming and whackin’ at her with a flat stick. He reared back with his arm at a full gallop, just as Linda said, “What out for the …!” Miles hit the chain just about pencil pocket high. His feet shot straight out! His chin hooked the chain. He stopped short of makin’ a complete counter-clockwise revolution when gravity overcame velocity, and he dropped from the air like a hog carcass from a C47. Whop! The heifer whirled and galloped over him like a footlog.
Two years have passed. Miles still has good intentions but a lot of cows have passed under that chain since then. And every time he thinks about fixin’ it, somethin’ else comes up.