When I Die I May Not Go to Heaven
"Jake Laughlin's Second Bath in the Same Year" is a study in cowboy humor as well as an amusing tale of a middle aged cowboy's reversal of fortune set in the late 1800's. Jake is a crusty, middle-aged cowboy, content with his life except for having to deal with an old mossy-horned, red-eyed, ornery, bent on destruction Longhorn cow. Through a series of unexpected events, Jake ends up with the ability to fulfill all the dreams of his youth at a time when he, in his maturity, can truly appreciate it. He just has to deal with the Longhorn cow known as "Bad Bertha" once and for all.
Everybody said Jake Laughlin was a weird bird, real anti-social. But that just wasn't so - he was very social. He just didn't much like people. Jake didn't like water much either, except to wash down grub or whiskey. Most of the cowboys washed up daily, and took a bath once a month whether they needed it or not. Not Jake though, once a year was plenty for him. And it was usually in a water tank fully clothed, except for his hat and boots.
Even though he shied away from most folks, turn him loose with a bunch of critters, and he was right at home. Take his horse as an example; Dusty was never once bothered by Jake, or visa versa. And neither was Dog, his trusty mongrel, or any of the cattle or horses they worked with on a daily basis. The fact that they all kind of smelled alike probably didn't hurt anything, but it was much more than that. They understood each other.
The cattle were obstinate at times, but between Dusty, Dog and Jake they would fall into line soon enough. Except for one old mossy-backed, broken horned, red-eyed, sore footed, Longhorn mama cow. Fortunately for the trio, she spent nearly all year out in the deep brush, only coming in to find a bull during her season or get rid of her calves when they were ready to be weaned.
"Bad Bertha", as she was called by the rest of the cowboys, just hated doing any more than getting a calf up big enough to wean, finding a bull, getting it over with, then heading out into the deep brush again. It was during the times she showed up that most of the trouble on the place occurred. If there wasn't something already broken, she'd see to it that changed. And if it was broken, she'd make sure it wasn't repairable, ever. That had included four cowboys since Jake first rode onto the place with Dusty and Dog six years past.
They had their time with Bertha early on, which is how she got the broken horn. And she never seemed to forget it. It all started their second day on the place; a day the trio wouldn't soon forget either. Bertha was being her usual self, knocking down a new catch pen fence in the making, when Jake decided to let Dusty have a tug at her. He dropped a loop, but she tossed her head and the lariat only stayed on one horn. He dallied anyway, not knowing what was about to happen. Still unawares, since Bertha was shocked that there was still a cowboy alive that would challenge her and hadn't cut loose yet, Jake sent Dog to heel her just to help her along some.
That's when the proverbial fit hit the shan. She sent all 65 pounds of Dog flying thirty feet with the quickest side kick either Dog or Jake had ever seen. It was the first time Dog had ever been connected on; all the other kicks had been grazes or complete misses. He was mad. But he also had three broken ribs and a front shoulder that he couldn't move. He couldn't even get off the ground to take her on again, more cautiously of course. Until she started his direction, then he was up and out of there on three legs. He headed for the place that had always been a safe haven, directly under Dusty.
Dusty was a stud, and big horse by any standards. He stood just over sixteen hands, and weighed in around fifteen hundred pounds of solid bone and muscle. But this thing Jake had tied on to was like no other cow he had ever experienced. He had handled some of the biggest bulls around, but this she-devil liked to pull him over when she lit out toward Dog. Still, he wasn't about to let her get the best of him, or them.
He cut back against the rope intending to get her off balance, but she was fast. It was like she saw his move coming, and charged him. Dog got out of the way, still on three legs, but lickety-split he was well behind her as she bore down on Dusty and Jake. Dusty jumped out of the way in the nick of time, and Jake spun him around one of the corner posts, slipped the dally, and simultaneously dropped the rope around the post in a loop intended to hold her securely. He dallied up again, then started Dusty backing, spooling out the lariat just far enough to get out of her reach. It was a good plan. It just didn't work like he thought it would.
Bertha kept coming, and she only slowed down when she hit the end of that rope. Jake kicked Dusty into high gear back around that post, staying just ahead of Bertha. For every wrap he put on the post, she made a lap unwrapping it, and he and Dusty were losing ground fast.
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