“The world needs more cowboys.” A year or two ago, this little axiom was making its way around the social media circuit: TWNMC. And, of course, since my social media circuit primarily runs round and round in the ag sector circles, I was exposed to it – in its various iterations – on approximately 1,627 occasions in a period of a month or two. Since the dawn of the social media age I’ve noticed that, even though the available avenues for expression are infinitely more accessible than at any other time in human history, original thought seems to be a commodity that’s rarer than I ever remember.

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Paul Marchant is a rancher and freelance writer in southern Idaho. Follow Paul Marchant on X (@pm...

Don’t misunderstand me. I was on the "more cowboys" bandwagon just like you were. It was catchy, and we could slip it into just about any agenda we had. And, even though the throngs of folks that make up the fan bases of 31 NFL teams may have had to suppress their natural gag reflex, don’t think for a minute that the University of Wyoming and Oklahoma State weren’t all over it. If they hadn’t been, they’d have missed a golden opportunity. For myriad reasons, I think TWNMC served us well, as we rode that horse till it dropped. These days, you need to cap that bottle as quickly as you can when the lightning strikes because, although it may burn bright and hot, it burns out quickly. So, original or not, the phrase was claimed over and over and over again.

Well, I don’t really know if the world is actually in dire need of more cowboys or not, what with the rapid advancement of technology and production efficiencies, coupled with the decline in cattle numbers, but I am pretty sure that some of us, at least in these parts, could use more cowboys with a tick of cow savvy around calving time.

I was reminded of this the other day when I stopped at the home of my neighbor Broden to drop off a heifer of his that I’d retrieved from across the valley. He was just getting into the thick of calving a couple hundred heifers, and it seemed as if nature was truly conspiring against him. He and his kids and wife were spread pretty thin and, among other things, he was lamenting not only the taxing expense of constant fatigue and emotional stress but the literal monetary expense of hiring enough good hands to help him get through the abyss of calving season. It’s not always easy to find good help for bad jobs.

It seems an event or two from the first week of calving were harbingers of things to come. It was a Friday afternoon and Kinslee, his daughter, who also happens to be an all-star level freshman point guard on my JV high school basketball team, was her dad’s crew for the shift. A little black heifer was trying to calve out in the brush. She was in obvious need of some assistance. They got the chains and the puller attached without a hitch, but when the serious pulling started and the calf’s shoulders slipped out, the reluctant mother sprang to her feet and started spinning in circles like a wounded Apache helicopter. Chains were flying as 6 feet of calf and puller whirled around, unapologetically smacking anything in their erratic path. Kinslee ducked under the free-range calf puller as it spun around. Her once and still (in his mind) athletic father stealthily sidestepped the rampant bar but tripped over and through and into a big pile of brush. After a minute or two of intense negotiations, the heifer ceased her protest and allowed the parturition to continue. Miraculously, the new mama mothered up to the baby, and all participants “moved on to the next one,” as it were.


About two weeks later, I noticed Broden’s conspicuous absence at one of our last home games. Even if it was only for the last quarter, he was a regular at his daughter’s ball games. He was usually easy to spot, sitting beneath either his brown buckaroo flat hat or his floppy earflap winter cap. When I asked Kinslee about her dad, she whipped out her phone to proudly show me emergency room pictures of the results of her dad’s latest calving wreck from earlier that day. A big purple bruise on his busted-up cheekbone was the most visible remnant of the battle, but she also told me he was dragging a leg and nursing cracked ribs and a sore elbow, as well.

Broden had found a little relief in the form of three or four consecutive rare, warm, sunny days the last week in January. He was out among the cows, looking for new babies to tag. He came upon an old brockle-faced cow with a freshly cleaned calf, just fixing to latch on and grab its first swallow of colostrum. With tagger in hand, Broden stepped out of his pickup and snatched the calf by the flank. Before he had a chance to utter one cuss word, mama blew some snot and slobber and slammed him in the chest, smacking his face with the top of her head as she mowed him down. Once she had him on the ground, she danced the bovine version of “The Griddy” on top of him for nearly half a minute. She stopped long enough to turn back to find her calf, and her victim ran, but mostly staggered, the 30 feet back to his truck. After a quick self-examination to make sure all his parts were somewhat intact, he made it back to the house. From there, his wife, Angie, carted him off to the ER. She was a bit on the cautious side on account of the broken neck her husband suffered from another calving wreck a few years earlier.

When I got home from the game, I texted Broden just to see if there was anything I could help him with. His response: “I’ve got a calf that needs tagged ...”