Bull Tales

May 15, 2010
Some things can’t be measured

What are your friends and neighbors worth?

Jeff was not raised by his parents to be rude. That’s why he was surprised when his neighbors told him—in no uncertain terms—it wasn’t necessary to thank them for helping him after he was injured riding a young colt.

Jeff and his wife, Brenda, were about two weeks into calving when he spotted a cow hiding in the corner of the field. Thinking a breach birth was imminent, he headed for the barn, threw a saddle on a black colt, and went out for a closer look.

Jeff knew the black colt was excitable and bucked once in a while, but he was a half-brother to some excellent ranch horses he’d known. He figured a little extra time polishing the rough edges of the young horse would be worth the effort.

Shutting the gate, he headed out. Horse and rider settled into an easy rhythm. He concentrated on finding the hurting cow.

That’s when Jeff relaxed.

Jeff has no idea what set off the young colt. He remembers launching straight into the air and then dropping out of the sky. The next thing he recalls is curling up on the ground in blinding pain.

At the time, Jeff lived a long way from civilization. As luck would have it, an EMT-trained neighbor arrived in 15 minutes. The hour and a half ambulance trip over wintry roads to the nearest emergency room is something he’d like to forget.

It was a couple of days before Jeff fully understood he had shattered everything between the knee and ankle in his left leg, broken his collar bone and two ribs. However, the news which bothered him most was when the doctors didn’t know how long he’d be off his feet—a tough situation on a mom ’n pop ranch.

Jeff hadn’t heard the good news yet.

When Brenda got home from the hospital, the voice mail was full—to capacity—with offers of help from friends and neighbors. The women had a hot dinner ready and the men had chores completed. Before they were finished that evening, eight ranch neighbors had set up a rotational feeding and calving schedule among themselves.

For a couple months, Jeff and Brenda saw a lot of their neighbors. As the weather warmed and the grass turned green, their neighbors weren’t around as often.

That’s when Jeff got in trouble.

It was spring and he was restless. He’d go outside, but there wasn’t much he could do. Rather than let cabin fever drive him—and Brenda—crazy, he kept himself occupied. Sitting down, he wrote a thank you note to everyone who came to their assistance during that tough winter.

Within 24 hours, he had three replies saying “Thank You” notes were unnecessary. They went on to explain that “helping neigh bors is the way it’s done in ranch country—no thanks were needed!” Relative newcomers to the neighborhood, Jeff and Brenda weren’t sure how to respond. They understood and appreciated the sentiments of their neighbors. Still, not thanking people who had been so important to them left them with a feeling of a job unfinished.

They talked late into the evening and decided that if Jeff was injured again, they would honor people’s wishes and not mention the rendered assistance. But, in their hearts, it wouldn’t stop them from appreciating friends and neighbors.

Postscript: The cow which started the whole mess showed up the next morning with a healthy calf by her side. The black colt got a chance to do what he does best—on a bucking string. Jeff and Brenda had an excellent calf crop that year, thanks to friends and neighbors. — D. “Bing” Bingham [Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. If you have a story to pass along, contact him at bing@bingbingham.com]