Years ago, a rodeo cowboy from the Midwest had a fine calf ropin’ and bulldoggin’ horse named Lightning.
The roan gelding’s exceptional ability kept him in popular demand on the rodeo circuit, for cowboys were often eager to “rent” a good horse for their runs down the arena. The extra cash helped pay for travel expenses, so his owner was happy to share Lightning’s talents.
Lightning, however, took a different view. “For a long time he did awfully well,” recalls lifelong horse trader Verne Upmier. “Until he must have decided he’d had enough. During steer wrestling events, he took to kicking at both the steers and the cowboys who bailed off, and that pretty much ended his rodeo career.”
Verne, not intending to do any steer wrestling, bought Lightning and found the horse fun to ride. “He could turn so fast that you had trouble staying on,” Verne says.
One day, Verne got a phone call. A man had purchased four wild cattle from a ranch the previous fall, and the cows had almost immediately escaped their pasture. Three had been captured after months of effort, but one still ran wild. Could Verne come and try to catch her? It was an opportunity to use Lightning!
Verne promptly agreed.
“That cow was crafty,” he says with a grin, “and she was fast. I tied my rope to the saddle horn and took out after her, but we didn’t catch up until we got to the far end of a field.”
Vern sent his loop sailing, and it settled over her neck just as she jumped a creek. “Old Lightning slammed on the brakes on one side of the creek, and that cow hit the end of the rope on the opposite bank. Lightning refused to budge, and the cow was just as determined. The cow’s owner thought it was hilarious.”
“It took a while, but Lightning and I finally dragged her back through the creek. I learned a little about roping–and life in general–that day,” Vern adds. “It always pays to look ahead. Especially if you’re going have something big and stubborn on the end of your rope!”