Will you come see me show my sheep at the fair this summer?” asked one of my younger friends earlier this year. She was excited about entering the Rio Blanco County Fair and wanted to be sure that her efforts were recognized. While teaching I always had a few students who made sure I knew when they would be showing their prize pigs, sheep, rabbits, chickens and steers. It was as important as attending a sporting event, play or art show. The following “encore” column has been printed once again in honor of all the children who dedicate their summers to preparing for the county fair. A few yee-haws would have come in handy. Following the herd, critter or human, no matter how small, has never been a habit of mine. So when I walked out of church on Sunday and faced a local family’s 4-H project on the loose, I almost turned tail to and ran. The family appeared to be gone but the metal gate on the animals’ pen was ajar and the cattle trio skedaddled across the street to graze on the neighbor’s lush green grass. Never tempted to sign up for the dude-for-the-day vacation trips, I was a little hesitant to round up the strays. Yet, I felt compelled to try and move them back across the street. I watched the biggest one attempt to push down the pesky pickets of the neat white fence. Soon another erstwhile wannabe cow herder appeared. We got on either side of the hoofed trio, thinking that they return to the safety of their pen. Our assumption appeared to be correct, as this encouraged them to trot back across the street toward their pen. A few yards away from the gate, the leader of the bovine bandits bolted. While the other two kept trotting toward the open gate, he headed toward the front of the house. He munched on a few clumps of grass before licking one of the front window sills. He was awfully close to giving the glass a sloppy once-over with his big pink tongue when he noticed two women in their Sunday clothes closing in on him. He jerked his head up and put his bulky body into reverse, then stopped to survey the situation. Dolefully chewing, he watched as the two of us corralled his companions. Then h began to inch his way forward, veering to the left a bit to reach the bales of hay stacked outside the pen. Its lucky neither of us fancied ourselves true women of the west, as he simply wasn’t budging. Searching for something with which to urge him forward, we each picked up the handiest tools available. My friend flicked the cow’s flanks with a red switch and I waved a leaf rake behind his backside. He humored us by moving toward the direction of the gate, stopping every few minutes to let us know who was in charge of this impromptu cattle drive. There is no doubt we would have lost the cowgirl-of-the-day award if there had been one. I considered moseying down the trail without driving the stubborn steer back into his pen. The thought of the young owner’s disappointment at fair time banished those thoughts. No sooner had I given up control of his progress, then he trotted back into his pen where the other two were waiting. As I walked away, I heard a voice calling, “Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell. Get away from there.” Looking up to see if Wendy or Peter Pan had appeared, I saw a man heading toward the fenced corral to fetch his dog. These stray days of summer could be made into a great western version of the old tale.
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