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By Staff | Oct 16, 2015

I grew up at a time when there were exactly three channels available on TV. Approximately 75 percent of the televised content we received were westerns with the balance made up of commercials.

We baby boomers were fed a viewing diet that consisted of “Gunsmoke” and “Rawhide” and “Maverick and Ringo’s Excellent Big Valley Wagon Train Adventure.”

I don’t like to brag, but our family invented the term “spaghetti western” due to our ritual of eating pasta while watching “Bonanza.”

It should come as no surprise that I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up.

Being a cowboy, I imagined, was a manly way to live, involving squinting and spitting and uttering such pithy phrases as “Get along little doggies,” and “Head ’em off at the pass,” and “That’ll teach him to squat while wearing his Sunday spurs.”

Ours was a dairy farm, so we were already theoretical cowboys since we owned cows. But you can’t be a real cowboy without a trusty steed from the back of which a guy could whoop and holler, “Move ’em out.”

I begged Dad for a horse, employing my best kid-based logic.

“We could use a horse to chase the cows in when they break out,” I said. “And if the bus can’t get through because of snow, I could ride the horse to school.”

That last statement was a real whopper.

Dad knew that I detested school. Sooner or later, even the best salesman will take things a bit too far.

My sister Di shared my feelings regarding horses. We agreed that we would be sorely deprived if we didn’t have our own Mister Ed to chat with.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Since we couldn’t have a horse, we opted to break a couple of our cows to ride.

Ever notice how circuses have trick ponies, but never trick cows? There’s a reason for this.

I’m not saying that cows are stupider than horses; I’m just pointing out a relevant fact.

Di chose to tame a Holstein she named Betsy and I chose a white-faced cow called Daisy.

Using blatant bovine bribery – cows love to be hand-fed grain – we soon had our animals tamed to the point where they no longer bucked when we stealthily climbed aboard their backs.

Once mounted, we had no choice but to sit and admire the view until the cow decided to move.

Cattle are not particularly adept at following commands such as “Giddy up,” or “Turn,” or “No, the other way,” or “Look out, Those tree branches are… Ow.”

When we finally got our bossies to trot, we discovered another reason why people don’t ride dairy cows: their backbones are bony.

Riding a running Holstein is like jouncing around on an ax blade.

I had a neighborhood pal named Bobby. I thought he was the luckiest boy in the world because he had a Shetland pony named Lucky.

One fall day I convinced Bobby to ride Lucky the two miles from his farm to ours.

This was part of my plan to convince Dad that a horse – nay, a mere pony – would be an invaluable addition to our dairy operation.

Bobby and Lucky came clip-clipping down our driveway. My siblings and I gathered around Lucky, petting him and marveling at how velvety soft his muzzle was compared to the cold, damp snout of a cow.

I was surprised that Bobby wasn’t jealous of all the attention being lavished on Lucky.

I glanced at Bobby. An unspoken question hung in the air.

“You can ride him if you want,” he offered.

I didn’t have to be offered twice. With a little help from Bobby, I was at last seated astride an epic equine ungulate.

Bobby took a few moments to familiarize me with the operation of the reins and the concept of stirrups.

He then instructed me to nudge him (Lucky) in the ribs and we trotted majestically off into the sunset.

I quickly learned that Lucky’s saddle was defective. My butt bounced upon it with such speed that it felt as if I were being spanked by a paint shaker.

My spine telescoped several inches inward.

Shouting that you want off this crazy thing while riding a trotting Shetland pony isn’t an option; a guy would literally bite his tongue.

I suddenly understood why cowboys are so taciturn.

After circling our farmstead, I’d had enough. I pulled Lucky to a stop and gingerly dismounted.

“That was some fancy riding,” Bobby gushed. “You were leaning so far over, I thought you would fall off.”

Squinting in pain, I replied “Thanks. Lucky is a nice hoss, but I think I’ll stick with good old Daisy.”

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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