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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 90

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Of course, as the tenderfoot, I was given the shortest ride to the appointed roundup site. As the men spread out, or “ sprangled ” as it was called, Bud and I started straight ahead and loafed along for hours, gathering in any cow and her calf we saw. The babies had been born since the cows had been turned out in the fall, and the cute little white- faced creatures showed their astonishment and concern at the appearance of this strange beast, a man on a horse, something unmistakably new to their experience. Blatting a rhythmic “ bla- ah- ah- ah” in time with their own hoof beats, they tagged along beside their blasé mothers. Arriving at the roundup spot long before anyone else, Bud and I sat our horses and took in the scene, new and delightful to me, although old- hat to Bud. Soon in the distance, too far away to be anything but a drifting blur, little trickles of a moving brown mass began to appear over every hilltop. Like blobs of molasses, the huddled cattle trickled down the sides of the hills to combine into larger streams, all flowing toward the roundup spot. Looking like sprites, the cowboys dashed around, the faint coyote- like “ yip” of the men blending at last with the bawling of the cattle as the mass resolved itself into individual animals. By midafternoon we were all met, sitting our horses in a huge ring, heads toward center to keep the cattle inside. Every so often, some unresigned steer bolted the herd; the nearest cowboy dashed after him, lariat swinging and horse a gallop, to bring the creature to a sudden halt, jolted head over heels by the rope on neck or foot. I was sorry for the poor beasts taking that terrible jolt at full tilt, and said so. One of the boys looked over at me and answered sympathetically, “ You’re telling me?” Bud laughed. “ He played football in high school. He knows how it feels.” About four o’clock, strung out in a wide back line, we began the trek home, driving the cattle ahead of us, seven hundred, eight hundred, maybe more. By sundown we rode into the lower corral, then trudged slowly back to the ranch house across the meadow. Oh, how every bone and muscle in my body ached! At the end of that first day I was crippled. On the second day I thought the only thing to do was to die. I was so done in that my friends were concerned, but by the morning of the third I had recovered, and from then on the tensions within me began to loosen. Every day brought some new experience - for instance, two bullfights. As the cattle came down the hillside to join the mass, there was a sudden disturbance in parts of the herd. The bulls had caught the odor of one another! The cows milled around as the bulls began to paw the ground. Throwing great clouds of dust over their backs, they moved slowly but inexorably through the tightly



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