August 2014 – Not your grandpa’s cattle rustlers

As a student of history, like all Americans, I get my information from watching TV shows and movies. Fortunately, I have lived during the era of “THE WESTERN” when all the history of the western United States was readily available utilizing both the big and the little screens. John Wayne still lived, as did Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and who could forget James Arness as Matt Dillon.

Besides general history, I also know a lot about specifics like cattle rustling. TV cowboys, like Clint Eastwood, who is still alive regardless of how he looks, played Rowdy Yates on the wonderful history show “Rawhide.” I can still sing the theme song, “Head ’em up, round ’em up, run ’em in, do ’em in, RAWHIDE!” or something like that.

Anyway, Rowdy Yates was forever keeping those free-range cattle together and away from rustlers, led by Bruce Dern. This caused a great amount of riding around and shooting until everybody got tired and headed out on the nearest cattle trail toward a railhead where they would ship the cattle east.

We can’t do this anymore because our cattle trails have been absorbed into a spider web of interstate highway systems that makes it too dangerous. Picture it. You’re on cruise control, 20 mph over the speed limit, when out of a dust cloud on the other side of the overpass emerges a young and buff Clint Eastwood chewing a toothpick and wearing a serape. I’d be skittering all over the road to get a good look at that tall drink of water. Which explains why we have big rig trucks instead.

Today, rustlers back trailers up to a cut fence and entice the cows with clover-flavored cattle treats to get in the truck. The idea is the owner won’t miss them, because who counts their cattle every day? And they all look alike anyway. Pick up a couple here, there, maybe a lone cow having some Mommy-time and then as Senator Everett Dirksen once said back in the 1960s, “you’re talking real money.” And a lot of it.

Rustling is not, however, for everyone. Three men in Malaysia used their very small car, a Proton, because they didn’t have a big truck. A blowpipe filled with tranquilizers helped (don’t ask) and so three cows went into the back seat. Lack of legroom caused a cramp, and one cow ended up wedged between the front seats. No. 4 cow went in the trunk. Not manufactured for hauling bovines, the Proton buckled under the weight. Since pushing a broken car full of cows ain’t easy, the rustlers abandoned their vehicle. The cows were rescued by townsfolk who had a devil of a time getting them out of the car, mostly because they were still drowsy.

The American version of this involved three men and an equally small Honda Civic. A single calf sharing the back seat with one of the rustlers ruined this heist. That and the cop who refused to believe the calf really was a new breed of dog that RESEMBLED a calf. Of course, the fact that Ralph the “dog” couldn’t quite bark right, didn’t help either.

The point is always come properly equipped. Don’t bring a fleet of mini-Coopers to snatch cows. And a car called a “Proton,” named after a subatomic particle found inside an ATOM just screams TINY. A U-Haul truck, the size going for $19.95 per day is better. Capacity? Oh, 20 cows, at least. More if you stack ’em.

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