Confessions of a Cowdog: Part Two
It’s me again, Hank the Cowdog. I keep getting into trouble around here. I don’t know what’s wrong. I try to run this ranch the way it ought to be run, but I don’t get much cooperation.
Take the boss as an example. He ain’t what you’d call fond of dogs. First thing in the morning he’ll come walking down to the corral. Most of the time I’m already down there, checking things out. I’m in charge of ranch security, don’t you see, and that’s such an important job, I like to get out early and make my morning rounds.
So into the corral walks the boss with a scowl on his face. I come up to him, wagging my tail and grinning and trying to be about half-friendly. What does he do? He gives me this greeting: “Go on, dog, git outa here.”
Every day it’s the same. I don’t have to do anything wrong. He just looks at me and those words come to his lips. I don’t understand it.
Well, all right, maybe I do, just a little bit. I’ve made a few mistakes, but they were honest mistakes, nothing he should hold a grudge about.
I guess my troubles with the boss go back to that day last summer. I got myself locked in the saddle shed. Drover, my running buddy, had told me that there was a mouse in there, and as head of ranch security, I figured it was my duty to go in and check it out. Pete the cat is supposed to be in charge of mice, but you can’t depend on a danged cat for anything.
So I was in there sniffing in a comer, and the next thing I knew, the cowboys turned out the light and locked the door. That was a bad deal, me locked up and night coming on and no one out there to guard the ranch.
I knew Drover couldn’t handle it by himself. He’s pretty tough as long as I’m out front doing the fighting and the dirty work, but when I’m not around, he goes up and hides in the machine shed. He won’t even bark at the mailman in broad daylight unless I’m there.
Well, I got in a big sweat worrying about it. What if robbers came in the night? What if the steers came up around the house and started rubbing on Sally May’s evergreen trees? Suppose the coons pulled a sneak attack, or the coyotes came up around the house and woke up High Loper? When Loper misses his sleep, he ain’t fit to live with.
I had to get out of there, that was all there was to it. The ranch was in danger. I reviewed the situation and decided there was only one way out: I would have to chew a hole in the door.
I went right to work. I chewed and I chewed and I spit out pieces of wood and I got a splinter in my gum and it took me an hour to get it out. And then I chewed some more.
About daylight, I had a fair-sized hole built in the door, but it wasn’t quite big enough. Then I heard a pickup outside. Someone got out and coughed. I said to myself, “Ah ha, they’ve missed me and they’ve come to let me out.”
The door opened and there was the boss. He looked down at my work and looked at me. His face went red and he roared, “Dang-it-to-heck, you’re eatin’ the door off the saddle shed, get outa here!” That’s the thanks I got for trying to do my job. Did he think I chewed up the door just because I like the taste of wood?
He took off his hat and started swinging it at me. “Go on, git outa here!” I would have been glad to get out. I had spent all night trying to get out. But since he was standing in the door and swatting at me with his hat, I couldn’t get out.
That just made him madder. I dashed around the saddle shed, knocked a saddle off the rack and spilled a can of neat’s foot oil. At last, I ran between his legs and escaped. He throwed a hoof pick at me but missed.
Well, that got his nose out of joint, and he stayed mad for the rest of the morning. We might have patched things up, but we got into another wreck that afternoon.
The boss and High Loper were sorting cows in the front lot after dinner. I was lying outside the corral, taking a little snooze in the sun and catching up on all the sleep I’d missed the night before.
Pete, the barn cat, came up and started playing with my tail. I raised my head and told him to buzz off. He kept it up. He was swatting my tail with his paws.
It didn’t hurt and I tried to ignore it. But then he sank his claws in and struck a nerve.
I can get along with anybody’s cat as long as he knows his place. His place, as far as I’m concerned, is either out of my sight or up a tree. My second-most important job on this outfit, after ranch security, is keeping the cats humble and in their place. I don’t take no trash off a cat.
I growled and gave Pete fair warning. “Best leave my tail alone, son. Run along and play. I’ve got important things to do.”
He looked at me and kind of cocked his head to the side. Then, out of sheer spite, he slapped my tail again.
Drover had been watching from under the pickup, and he came galloping up. His hair was bristled up on the back of his neck and he was showing his fangs. “Get lost, squirt, or we’ll …”
Bam! Before Drover could finish his sentence, Pete slapped him across the chops. He yelped and moved out of range.
“You’re just lucky I didn’t pull off one of your legs and beat you to death with it,” said Drover. Pete yawned. “Look at him, Hank, see what he did? He’s got no respect for a cowdog.”
Ordinarily I would have just whipped the cat and got it over with, but I needed some sleep. I laid my head back down and fell right to sleep. I was twitching and rolling my eyes and having a wonderful dream, when I felt a sharp pain in my tail.
Drover was right there, whispering in my ear. “It was the cat again, Hank, I seen him. He was playing with your tail, after you told him not to.”
“Will you shut up? I know what he did.” I stood up and went nose-to-nose with Pete. “Cat, you’re fixing to get yourself into a storm.”
“Git, ’im, Hank, git ’im!”
“I done told you to lay off the tail and buzz off. Now, are you gonna buzz or do I need to give you your daily whipping?”
“You tell him, Hankie, preach that hot gospel!” I looked back at Drover, who was jumping up and down in excitement. “Will you just shut your little trap and let me handle this?” Back to the cat. “What’s it gonna be, son? Peace and quiet or blood and guts?”
Pete throwed a hump into his back and hissed, right in my face, which is one of about twenty-three things I don’t allow a cat to get by with. Then he popped me on the nose, and the fight was on.
I lit right in the middle of him and had him buried, but he squirmed out and somehow popped me on the nose again. It made my eyes water, it stung so bad.
Drover was jumping around in circles. “Git ’im, Hankie, tear him up!”
Couldn’t quite get a handle on the squirmy little son of a gun. I chased him around the pickup once, then he ducked under the fence and ran into the front lot where the cowboys were sorting cattle. I was in hot pursuit.
Well, one thing led to another. I ran right in front of this snorty old cow, don’t you see, and the next thing I knew, she was blowing hot air on the back of my neck and shaking her horns at me. It sort of took my mind off the cat.
I ran for the nearest cover, which happened to be the boss, and you might say that he got plastered. The old cow took aim for me and got the boss instead. Bedded him down slick as a whistle.
Then I did my duty as a loyal cowdog. I rushed to his side and licked him in the face. He turned red and screeched, “Dang-it-to-heck, git outa here!”
I can take a hint. I know when I’m not welcome. I got the heck out of there.
Who do you reckon got the blame for this? Pete, who started the whole thing? The cow, who did the actual damage? No, no. Good old easy-going, fun-loving, hard-working Hank.
And ever since that time, when me and the boss run into each other, he don’t say howdy or good morning. It’s “Go on, dog, git outa here.”
It’s hard, being a cowdog. You’ve got to take trash off the cats and abuse from the cattle, and you get no thanks, no respect from the boss. I guess that’s why they keep me around this ranch, so that any time somebody fouls up, they can call in old Hank and pin the blame on him. It’s a cruel old world.