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Cowboys and journalists

“I want to have a cow in my front yard,” I informed my photographer, Kelley, as we got ready to go on a newspaper assignment together.”Please don’t have a cow in your front yard right now,” Kelley pleaded. “It’s not very professional. And your neighbors probably won’t appreciate it, either.”But we were on our way to do a feature story on a cattle roundup being done by some local ranchers as they moved their herds down from the summer grazing range in the mountains back to the ranches for the winter.”No, I mean I LIKE cows,” I explained to Kelley. “I just want to have one standing in my front yard where it could hang out.”Kelley raised an eyebrow and looked at me sideways with concern.We drove past farms and pastures and cows as we made our way to our destination.”See? Aren’t they adorable?” I said as we passed one cow after another along the road.”Yes. And they taste good, too,” Kelley said, sighing. “Now tell me you brought the directions to the ranch.””No, I forgot,” I admitted. “But just follow the scent of cow dung. I’m sure that will take us where we’re supposed to go.”And eventually it did – but not without a little work involved.We found the ranch but were told we needed to hike through a pasture and down a cliff to get to our location.”You know, I’m glad the company we work for provides health insurance,” I said, as we skidded sideways down the soft dirt on the steep mountainside.”Just shut up and follow my footsteps,” Kelley advised. “But if you fall, you’re on your own. Do not hang on to me.”In the distance, we could hear the bawling of some cows and calves as they came down the mountain, lined up in single file on the side of the road like a bunch of grade school kids coming in from recess.”How do they know where to go?” I asked Kelley. “And why do they walk so slowly in a single-file line?””Because they know that eventually they’ll end up on the McDonald’s menu – and they’re not in a big hurry to get there,” Kelley patiently explained. We stood behind a barbed-wire fence to watch the roundup, where Kelley could get photos while I interviewed one of the cowboys helping to herd the animals in the proper direction.But even being shielded behind the fence, a few of the cows strayed awfully close to where we were standing, which made me nervous.”Just stand over here next to the sagebrush,” Kelly instructed. “They never go near the sagebrush.”Yeah, right.While standing on my side of the barbed wire fence – right NEXT to the sagebrush, I might add – I was in the middle of a question with the cowboy when I suddenly looked up. Heading straight for me was another cowboy on horseback riding at a high speed. And in front of the cowboy, traveling even faster, was the biggest, blackest cow I have ever seen – about to run me right over.Let’s just say that the word which flew out of my mouth began with an “S” and ended with a “T” as I jumped out of the way in the nick of time as the cow ran into and over the barbed wire fence right where I’d been standing.”That’s called a ‘wreck,'” the cowboy I was talking to informed me after the incident. “And if your horse bucks you off, that’s called a ‘big wreck.'”In my mind, it was called a near-heart attack.”Yeah, they NEVER go near the sagebrush,” I hissed to Kelley, after seeing my life flash before my eyes. “Thanks, pal.””Well, you know you shouldn’t be wearing a red shirt with a bunch of bulls running around,” Kelley said defensively.”Sorry, I didn’t think we were in Spain,” I muttered, still getting my breath.That evening, husband-head asked how my day at the ranch had gone.”Oh, it was great,” I assured him. “I had a nice interview, and I think Kelley got some great pictures. Although, there was one point when I was pretty sure I was going to end up being the steak.””What do you mean?” husband-head asked.”Well, you know how I always said I wanted a cow in the front yard?” I reminded him. “I don’t think I want one anymore. I’ll settle for a plastic pink flamingo.”Heidi Rice is a staff reporter for the Citizen Telegram. Her column appears every Thursday in the Telegram. Visit her Web site at http://www.heidirice.com.Heidi Rice is a staff reporter for the Citizen Telegram. Her column appears every Thursday in the Telegram. Visit her Web site at http://www.heidirice.com.


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