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I got to thinking
(a dangerous function in the first place),
that not too many people today can picture
or understand the mechanics of a stampede.
Even the new generation of kids growing up
on ranches today don't understand or know
what to do.

A stampede of today’s fat and lazy beef cattle
is nowhere near the wild and wooly runs of a
half-wild bunch of Texas longhorns of yesteryear.

We were moving about 400 head of steers that
weighed just over 900 pounds each toward the
shipping corrals.

They were in a holding pasture that is about a
mile cross from east to west and a mile and a half
from north to south.

The corrals are at the east side of the pasture.

As we approached the corrals, one of the steers
smelled a rat. All of these critters had arrived
at this pasture by truck and were unloaded, branded,
ear tagged and vaccinated in these corrals.

None of these operations are pleasant for a
critter and the thing they seem to dislike most
is ear tagging.

Well, anyway, this critter sees the corrals, and
says, "been there, done that", and throws his tail
in the air and heads west at a high lope, and the
rest of the herd says,

"Hey, this looks like fun!", and the run is on!

Now six riders have no way of flat stopping 400
head of critters. The only thing you can do is
turn the leaders, and gradually force them to
circle back into the herd.

As one rider turns the leaders, the other riders
try to catch up and form a line and keep the
critters circling until they run out of steam and
calm down.

Then you start over.

This bunch wouldn't circle. If you turned the lead,
a new leader would break out behind you and away
they would go again.
We were plumb outgunned.

We finally let them go west until they hit the
fence and stopped. We let them calm down a while
and started over.

We had not gone far when the same steer gets a
wild look in his eyes and takes off again, this
time headed south; and it was on again.

This time I was in the lead and trying to turn
the critters.

This is a dangerous and scary game.

You and 400 critters are charging
across the prairie.
They are running blindly and will stop at nothing.

My job is to stay in front of them and try to
createenough noise or spectacle to get their
attention and cause them to change direction.

I am watching the cattle beside and behind me.

I am depending on my horse to watch the ground
and take care of any obstacles that come up.

He is depending on me to not
send him into something he can't handle.

He is running flat out and jumping trails,
and swerving around things, while I am yelling,
waving my hat, and looking backwards.

This can lead to some real sudden surprises and
severe jolts and jerks, and on some occasions it
can lead to a fatal wreck.

More than one cowboy and his horse has been
turned into pudding, when they fell in front
of a running herd.

I finally got the herd to turn toward a corner
of the pasture. The herd stopped and the other
riders began to regain control of them.
The crazy one that had started all of this would
not stop or turn for any reason.

He was so hot and tired that his tongue was
hanging out, and could hardly run, but he would
not go anywhere but straight south.

My horse was as tired as he was, finally
things just fizzled to a stop. I let him stand
and breathe,and this also let my horse catch
his wind too.

We stood there glaring at each other
for about ten minutes.

After a little bit, when I could see that the
rest of the herd had settled down, I decided
to see if this critter was ready to quit.
I rode toward him, and he charged my horse.

Well, the trucks were waiting. This had
been going on for over 45 minutes, and I wasn't
having fun anymore.

Time for an attitude adjustment session.

When I tried again, he charged again. I roped
him around the neck. The loop of the rope goes
around the steer's neck.

The rope is 25 feet long and the other end is
dallied around the saddle horn.

I threw the slack over the steer's back and it
slid down along his right side and near his legs.
I then spurred my horse forward past the steer.

When the slack went out of the rope, it jerked
his rear legs out from under him and caused him
to do a horizontal, backwards somersault.

(The old timers call this a "Hoolihan".)

When the Critter hits the ground, it knocks the
wind out of him and you can jump off your horse
(the horse is trained to continue to pull on the
rope and keep the steer from being able to get up)
and you can grab his legs and tie him up before
he can recover.

I didn't get off the horse. I let the steer get
up and busted him again; and when he got up, I
did it again.
This time he just laid there.

I got off the horse, took the rope off of his head,
and he offered no resistance.
I let him get his breath and then kicked him in
the nose and he got up and went meekly back
to the herd.

We were able to get the herd moved the mile back
to the corrals and into them
without further incident.

The steer was satisfied to stay hidden in the
middle of the bunch until it was his turn to
climb on the truck, which he did without protest.

I don't know how much money that steer cost us,
but he shore ran a lot of pounds of beef off of
that herd, and a bunch off of my horse and even
a few from me.

Oh, the glorious life of a cowboy.

Those beautiful sunsets
that you and your exhausted horse stagger toward
on the way home;
the dust and dirt that you ate,

the bruises on your legs and other places from
hitting the saddle horn when your horse jumped
down off that bank you never saw.

Well, you get the picture.

And all of this so that some
kid somewhere will be able to eat
a double-beef



See ya down the trail..

Chip Harding


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