I Rode a Wild Heifer One Spring

by Alice Kanewischer, 5th in our I-Alice series of stories.

We stood by the knoll and watched the new-born calf struggle to stand on its wobbly legs. Bessi, Number 39, had decided to give birth to her first calf at the farthest corner of the pasture. She appeared weak from the trauma, but that seemed to change the moment she laid eyes on us; she became hostile.

She rose to her feet and in the same moment pawed the loose dirt by the ravine letting us know we were intruding on her territory. Edwin edged close enough to sweep the newborn off its feet and headed for the truck. We wanted to bring them to the yard to give mother and baby their usual tender care.

My attention returned to the pawing, snorting heifer. Suddenly a roar of anger came from Bessi and as I looked, I saw Fido bouncing joyfully towards em. “Fido get in the truck!” I screamed but he was so overjoyed to have found us, he came to me ignoring my command.

This was more than Bessi could tolerate so she rushed towards Fido. Fido in turn ran towards me. Without any fanfare she picked me up with her long down-turned horns and tossed me up and over her broad shoulder immediately twisting and brawling, trying her best to shake me loose. There was no crowd cheering me on (like they do at the stampede corrals); my only encourager was the dog nipping at her hocks. Over all the commotion I could hear Edwin scream, “Hand on! Hang on!”

“Hand on to what?” I was already clinging for life facing her messy hind quarter. You see, I was facing North and Bessi’s twisting and jumping was heading South.

“Stop!” I screamed. She must have understood the command. Bessi stopped short and over her neck and long horns I sailed, my butt landing on the spongy gumbo mud a few feet in front of that enraged heifer. She was over me, brawling furiously, her slobbering tongue dripping.

Edwin caught up to us and with all his strength gave Bessi a blow with a tamarack fencepost, knocking her out cold. I lifted myself up out of the muddy waterhole, the dripping mud from my hair entwined with my tears.

Bessi and her newborn remained in the South Field that day three miles from home. We never did give her and the newborn the pampering we set out to do. Trembling, I climbed into the cab next to Edwin, Fido followed and laid his muddied face on my lap looking to me for answers. He was supposed to stay home.

A few months later I was hanging the weekly laundry on the wash line when suddenly I heard Fido yelping. A herd of range cattle came barging into our yard for water. I looked up and there she was, Bessi with her Number 39 eartag clearly visible. The very moment I saw Bessi, Bessi saw me; her head dropped low and once again she was geared-up to charge.

I ran to the porch, jumped up the three steps with Bessi chasing me, scarcely a breath away. I heard a crunch and it was on the step that Bessi came to a sudden unintentional stop. The dried-out old wood had given way with her weight and her front leg was caught. I slammed the door leaving her to struggle her way out of the entrapment. Finally she freed herself, headed for the wash line and took her fury out on the laundry basket. Safely I watched the drama unfold from the porch window.

My heart leaped to see Edwin and the neighbor enter the yard with a load of fresh-mown hay. They must have surmised what went on because without much hesitation they backed the three-ton to the loading dock and laid their trap to catch Bessi with the sweet-smelling hay. Unsuspecting, Bessi headed into the corral with the other cattle. I watched as the Hereford cows were let out one at a time, all but Bessi. Promptly she was loaded onto the truck where she was jumping and bellowing and desperate to scale the sides of the truck box.

Tears of relief rolled down my cheeks as I watched the truck roll down the road, turn left and head south toward the city and the auction block there. Relief washed over me knowing I no longer had to fear Bessi, with the eartag, 39.

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