My Dad and my Granddad sat their mounts and watched as I went for the willow trees clumped along the river. Apprehension welled in my Dad’s throat. I was riding Fooler. He didn’t come by that name by accident, but accident could have been his surname. He was by all accounts, a cowboy’s horse. Tall, gathered for speed and tough enough to make it from “can see” to “can’t see”. When you let your lariat down, he was all business with his ears laid flat. These were his good points.
I roped and doctored two calves. The ground was wet from a chilling March rain. Wild geese knifed along the river on the dense, turbulent air. The smell of wet willow bark and decomposing flat grass hung low in the drifting fog. We came to a long stretch of open meadow where a fence-line paralleled the river. A fat, weeks old calf rose and walked behind its mother. He was scouring. I knew as much as I knew anything that the cardinal rule was about to be broken. Any calf fit enough to stand a chance of outrunning a saddle horse was considered well enough to be left alone. Fooler pranced lightly in place while I shook out my rope.
As expected, the calf charged down the fence line, his shimmering black hair bristling with storm static while his legs pistoned franticly. He was outdistancing us but then Fooler changed gears and the race was on.