Bull Tales

Sep 17, 2010
Mixed signals

Ever notice how some days seem to go sideways?

Recently, we had a range fire kick up about 25 miles from our place. It was far enough from our ranch not to be of immediate concern, but close enough that we wanted to pay attention. I headed out looking for information and ready to give assistance.

Following the dirt road into the bottom of a ravine, I spotted a small white SUV sitting off to the side. The sign on the vehicle proclaimed a local television station. Standing in the dirt road was an attractive young blond woman. She’d been sent to report on our fire wearing a blue cotton blouse, short white skirt and a light pair of pumps—the kind you’d expect to see on someone at a shopping mall.

“Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “a TV reporter lady, a real talking head.”

Apparently, she’d spotted some cattle at the bottom of the ravine and wanted to get a shot with her camera. She jammed on the brakes, tossed the SUV into reverse and backed one tire over the edge of a washout—she was stuck.

I glanced around and there were a half dozen Angus cross cows poking their heads above the sage. They were watching the commotion on the road.

“I have a problem,” were the first words out of her mouth.

That’s when the breeze started. She was batting her eyelashes at me as fast as she could. I looked away and back a couple of times—each time, the eyelashes started up again.

“Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “I have a problem, too.”

Maybe I’m not the sharpest stick at the wiener roast, but I’m never sure exactly what to do in this situation. We were standing in the middle of the desert and she was staring at me. Her eyes had all the sincerity of a coyote coaxing a lamb out into the open—for the lamb’s own good, of course.

I didn’t say much and started unhooking my winch to pull her out of the ditch. A quick yank and all four tires were sitting square in the road.

“Thank you,” she smiled at me.

It was a dazzling display of dental handiwork. The last time I saw that many teeth—so maximally white—was in the back of a pickup with a strange stock dog snarling at me.

It was her eyes, however, that brought me up short.

Anyone who’s ever been around strange livestock knows to watch the body language and eyes of livestock before approaching.

If I’d walked into a corral with a strange mare that had the same look—there’s no way I’d relax or turn my back. A quick exit would be foremost in my mind.

The TV lady had dropped all pretense of appreciation and was back to business as usual.

She grabbed her camera and got the footage of those confused cows standing eyeball deep in the sage. I suspect they were still wondering what was happening on the road.

I don’t feel like it’s necessary to thank me for giving a hand to someone in trouble. That’s not why I do it.

And, frankly speaking, I don’t regret stopping to help the TV reporter lady.

But I think I’d rather fight a wind-driven range fire than work with someone like that—the work is dirty and hard, but there’s fewer mixed signals. — D. “Bing” Bingham

[Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. To him, the TV reporter lady looks very sincere when she’s reading the news. If you have a story to pass along, contact him at bing@ bingbingham.com.]