Ernie’s an artist. He’s a rawhide man. He plaits California vaquero style headstalls, romals, reins, reatas and other fancy stuff. When you ride with Ernie you always feel like yer in a parade.
But like any artist who is self-unemployed, he has plenty of time to kill. He told me he was settin’ in the sale barn one mornin’ visitin’ with the geezers and watchin’ Noah’s Ark run through the ring.
They ran the assorted single lambs, odd hogs, box of baby chicks and day-old Holstein calves through and had moved on to the beef cows and calves.
Ernie kept his eye on E.B., the local order buyer, to learn some tricks of the trade. E.B. sorted through the lots of killer cows, gummer pairs and shiny lookin’ weaners. Ernie sat on his hands.
E.B. noticed Ernie’s lack of participation. In came a shaggy lookin’ something-or-other cross. The digital scale read-out showed 205 counting the tags and mud ball on his tail. A leepie, obviously, with a big belly and a muzzle like a leaf rake. And to top it off he was swayback!
The auctioneer got him up to twenty cents a pound. E.B. acknowledged the bid but stated loud enough for the curious to hear, “I’m buying him for Ernie!”
After the sale Ernie paid for the calf but cornered E.B., “Thanks, E.B., but what did you see in that steer, or what didn’t you see that the rest of us missed!”
“Son,” said E.B. “You bring him back through the sale this spring and see what he brings. He’ll make you money.” Ernie had respect for E.B.’s opinion and took “ol’ Buddy” home.
Buddy ate like a span of Belgians. Although he didn’t get much taller, he developed an impressive rumen capacity. Somewhere around four hundred pounds he prolapsed. Ernie replaced it. He prolapsed three more times until at last Ernie administered the humane 22 caliber pain killer. Buddy became rawhide. Ernie made several scarf slides from Buddy. Buttons he called them.
At the sale that spring he caught E.B. in the cafe and showed him what ol’ Buddy had become. “You wanna buy one of these buttons?” he asked E.B.
“Sure. How much?”
“Tell ya what,” says E.B. “I’ll give ya five bucks each and buy ‘em all.”
Ernie thought it over, dug six more buttons out of his pocket and said, “It’s a deal.”
“See there,” said E.B., “I told ya he make you money when you brought him back!”
“Yup,” said Ernie, “Yer sure right. If his tail had been just a little longer I’da broke even.”
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. As he puts it, “he has a narrow following, but it’s deep!” He resides in Benson, Arizona. Additional information about him can be found at baxterblack.com.