The rescue that wasn't

Tom came riding on the gray gelding, who bears the ridiculous name of Mr. Beepers. "Catch up a horse and let's ride out back and see if we can find that little cow of yours."

By "out back" he meant the big cattle ranch that adjoins our land and by "little cow" he menat my heifer Cressie. Cressie is so named because she is marked with a perfect crescent moon on her forehead. She is black and white and not very big. Some time ago she had escaped from her own pasture and joined a herd of heifers on the big ranch. I had ridden after her several times and had no luck in getting her home.For one thing, Cressie is opinionated; furthermore, due to an old injury, she sees out of only one eye. If you ride up on her blind side and try to turn her toward her seeing side she is very likely to almost bump into your horse. Such a beast is difficult to handle. But with two of us perhaps we could persuade her to come home. First we had to find her, and since this perticular cattle range stretches clear to the next small town it might take a lot of riding before we could locate her.

The day was of the strange kind that happens when the calendar states that it is fall. There will be a few brisk days; sandwiched among them will be a hot summer day or two. This day happened to be of the summer persuasion. The look of the land was of fall.

The large herd of grazing cattle had broken into many small groups, perhaps anywhere from 10 to 20 in each bunch. We kept looking for whichever herd Cressie might have joined. We followed rough cow trails up and down hills, through rocky canyons, among groves of live oaks. We glimpsed three deer and two coyotes.We saw may head of cattle, but no Cressie.

We descended to a lower meadow, crossed it, decided, while we were so near, to go admire the Zuni tree. That oak is the biggest of all, both in girth and in height. It towers above its neighbors and perhaps it would take 10 humans, arms outstretched, to circle it. Probably it is as old as any redwood. The mystery is who, many years back, carved a word deep into its bark. The word ZUNIC.

Back up in a somewhat hidden meadow there was Cressie with her friends. I called her name, she raised her head, then went on enjoying the dry yellow grass.There was no possible way to get her home by cutting her out from the others and trying to drive her alone. the only way was to get her going along with a few other head, and this we did, until we were nearly home. Though we thought we were alerted to what might happen, Cressie and another bunch-quitter took off, down a draw filled with boulders, brush and unyielding oaks. Tom and Mr. Beepers went charging after them while my horse Paco and I strove valiantly to keep the others from deserting. Somehow Tom, yelling loud insults at Cressie , got her and her fellow delinquent back with the others.

I rode ahead to open a gate while Tom crashed through some brush to head off determined escapees. It was a great achievement when the gate was closed behind tails. Cressie was so tired of us and so mad that, had we tried to move her over to the corral then, she would not have been cooperative. She would become more reasonable after she cooled down.

The neighbor's cattle started brazing and Cressie went to sleep under a tree. All that Tom and I asked of life was to sit on the shaded kitchen porch steps and drink anything with ice in it. I unsaddled Paco and turned him free. Since Cressie was resting away from the others, Tom decided to run them back out to their own pasture. When he returned he unsaddled Mr. Beepers, put a halter on him and tied him to a tree. While we were still hot and thirsty Cressie stood up, looked around, headed briskly back the way she had come.

Tom jumped on Mr. Beepers bareback, and with only a halter rope for control, tried to head Cressie off. She crashed through the closed gate and vanished. Tom and Mr. Beepers reappeared, Mr. Beepers running wild. Tom managed to slow him and then he started whirling. I would have thought that Tom was coming in for a crash landing except that he seemed firmly attached to Mr. Beepers. As it was, Tom made a perfect two-point landing on the soles of both boots.

It was too late in the day now to argue further with Cressie. I remarked that, frustrated as I felt, I still admired Cressie's determination and strength of character.

"That cow," said Tom, "is foolish in the head. I never want to see her again."

I said that of course he'd see her again. We'd get her home sometime.

However, Cressie continues to stand up for her rights, and so far we haven't won her over to our way of thinking.

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