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Irons in the fire: Perspective

Paul Marchant Published on 30 September 2013

We were living on a ranch in White Pine County, Nevada, nearly 60 miles from Ely the summer our first daughter was born. My wife and I were wise and seasoned parents at that time, with a 2½-year-old son.

We didn’t have any family close by, but my wife had a great-aunt who lived in Delta, Utah, home of the nearest hospital to the east. A week or so before the baby was due, I drove my wife to Delta so she could stay with her relatives and be close to the hospital when the baby came.

The plan was for her to call me when she went into labor and I would rush back to Delta to be there for the delivery. Our 2-year-old stayed with me for a couple of days before I drove to Wells to meet my parents, who came down from Idaho to keep him until we got home and settled with mama and the new baby.

It was really a pretty good plan, in theory. The best laid plans can quickly go awry, however, when a few cows are thrown into the mix.

The day before I was to take Tyrell (so named because his mother loved the Louis L’Amour Sackett books) to meet my folks, I got word from the BLM office that a bunch of our cattle had wandered onto the wrong unit of the allotment.

I spent the better part of a day and well into that night gathering them up and getting them on water away from the road where they would at least be less conspicuous. It was quite a chore, since I was alone except for my horse, my dog and my toddler.

Though he grew into a pretty good hand in later years, Tyrell wasn’t much more help on that day than the witless dog was. He rode on the front of the saddle for a while, and when he got tired, he slept on the seat of the pickup.

I’d push the cows for a while, then leapfrog back and get the pickup and hope he was still asleep. I probably won’t get a commendation from Parenting magazine, but he somehow survived.

I got home at around midnight and had to get up early the next morning to get chores done and take Tyrell to meet his grandparents.

I made the trip to Wells and got home in the early evening, fairly proud of myself for having finished my assignment. Shortly after sundown, the phone rang.

I was expecting my wife, but it was the dispatcher from the sheriff’s office, calling to tell me that a bull was stuck in a cattle guard on the highway, 25 miles from the house.

By the time I got to the scene of the crime, two deputies and a highway patrolman were already there. They hadn’t gotten the yearling bull out of his predicament but had succeeded in getting him fairly stirred up.

After I got the would-be rescuers away from the goofy critter, he calmed down. He had his front leg stuck between two slats of the cattle guard. He was standing up on his hind legs and half lying down on his chest because his leg had slipped past his knee into the cattle guard.

My solution was to cut the cattle guard slat with the acetylene torch I had brought from the ranch, but the state trooper, being the ever-vigilant guardian of the highway that he was, forbade such wanton destruction of state property.

We ended up radioing for a tow truck from Ely. We were able to lift the bull out of the cattle guard with minimal damage to the critter, leaving the precious cattle guard intact.

The bull trotted off, and as far as I know, never tried to cross a cattle guard again. The bill for the wrecker was probably more than the salvage value of the idiot bull.

I got home at about 3 a.m. As soon as I walked through the door, the phone rang. It was my wife, calling from the hospital in Delta. She was just a tad perturbed that I hadn’t answered the phone any of the previous 20 times she’d called.

She sweetly requested that I get myself (my words, not hers) to Delta – now. I asked her if I could please sleep for just 15 minutes. She allowed me that but threatened unspeakable things if I slept for 16 minutes.

I ended up sleeping for 40 minutes. When I woke up, I knew I was in trouble, but I jumped in my ’69 Mustang (my first and coolest car) and sped across the desert to witness the birth of my little Elise.

As I recall, my wife was in labor for all of 10 minutes. She didn’t seem to appreciate my perspective. She seemed to think that her labor lasted for several hours. She had a front row seat on the 50-yard line.

I was listening to the highlights on an AM radio. The whole experience taught me a lesson that has served me well but is rarely easy to handle. Truth is absolute, but not everyone sees it from the same vantage point.

A state trooper views a bull in a cattle guard much differently than a cowboy does – just like the neighbor in town who seems to place a different emphasis on the horses that got out and ran across his lawn.

It’s a tenet that’s much easier to preach than it is to live, but before we make a judgment on someone, we should always consider walking a mile in his boots. A different perspective won’t change the truth, but it’ll make it easier to understand.  FG