The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Jest Rider On In Home

By Samuel E. Tanner © 1991

Issue: June, 1991

Uncle George went off to Michigan and left us an old milk cow to watch after. This cow was more Holstein than anything else, but she had a little Jersey in too. Uncle George had named her Sal.

Sal was a good milk cow, but about two or three times a week she would get out of the pasture, go over the hill, and down to Viston Erving's barn lot. We would never know she was out till milking time, then one of us would have to go to Viston's place and lead her back home. This got old after awhile and kept us from getting our work done.

Grandpap told me, "If you jest rider on in home you won't have to worry about her leaving anymore." Well, this stuck with me.

One Saturday afternoon in early Spring I went off over to Erin and met up with Harry Lee Lovelady and two or three more good old boys. We drank a few beers and a little white-lightin' before I had to get back home to do the evening work.

After I had my fun over in town, I took off walking down Lime Kill Holler heading for home. It had been raining and all of the creeks were up and running full force. This caused me to have to go pass Viston Erving's barn lot, where sure enough, old Sal was standing. Seeing Sal there caused me to remember what Grandpap had told me.

I decided right then and there, that was as gooder a time as any to try and "jest rider on in home."

I jest wished I could've started in a better place than that lot. Viston never did keep a blue ribbon barn lot. The fences were weak and there was always manure lying about knee deep to a Tom turkey. When you added all that manure and the rain together it sure made one heck of a mess.

I looked all over that barn lot for something to tie around Sal so I could rider home. But, all I found was a little piece of rope jest big enough for a hand hold. I tied it off around the stubs she had for horns. Then I jumped on her back, held the rope with my left hand, reached back with my right hand, grabbed that old cow's tail and pulled it up and over my back. About the time I got her tail up she took off bucking through the barn hall and around and around the barn lot. I couldn't stop Sal and she broke down Viston's lot gate and headed for home with me on her back.

Every time Sal's front feet hit the ground I would holler. Down Lewis Branch I went jest as fast as that old milk cow could buck, jump and run. It didn't take long to reach MaGoam Ford, the first of two low water crossings on the way home. Any other time this wouldn't have been a problem, but the creeks were up and running from all the spring rain.

When we got up to the creek bank, Sal sailed right off in without even stopping. I thought we were goners for sure, drowned before we got halfway home. The water was so cold that I let out a blood curdling yell that could be heard all the way up and down Lewis Branch. But we came up out of Lewis Branch creek, with Sal blowing and snorting something furious and me hanging on for dear life. Them cows can ride easy when they're in that long lope. But, don't get in the water with one because they lie down on their side and swim.

We made the crossing in one piece, but we still had Tom Cook ford to get across. Tom Cook ford was narrower, but the water was swifter. Sal sailed off in this ford jest like she did the othern. I let out another yell when we hit the cold water. This crossing wasn't as easy as the othern. When we hit the water the current carried us down the creek and into a Sycamore treetop. Good thing that treetop was there. If it hadn't Grandpap would have found us somewhere down on White Oak Creek. But, Sal and I hung in there and came out of it jest fine.

I guess that cold water had an effect on Sal because she started to buck, jump and run harder than she had before. This caused me a might-bit discomfort in the rear-end, and my yelling got louder and my language jest a bit away from the Sunday School teachings.

Grandpap, Mom, Dad and all the youngins must have heard me yelling 'cause when Sal rounded the bend close to home I could see all of them outside. They were out there trying to figure out what all the commotion was about.

As Sal got closer to the house, she didn't slow up at all. I pulled on the rope. No effect. I pulled harder on her tail. Still no effect. I started to yell Saal Sal, Sal Sa-al. (sa-al is cow talk for stop.) Then she jumped the fence in front of the house, but I stayed with her.

Jest as Sal got in front of Grandpap I hollered Saal one more time. Well, this time it worked. She locked all four legs at once and stopped. I couldn't stay with her though. I went flying over Sal's head, end over end. After flying and rolling might near fifty feet, I stopped in front of the pumphouse.

When I got up I was trembling like a leaf. Sal was doing the same. So was Grandpap, but he was shaking from laughing so hard. It really got to Grandpap's funny bone something terrible. He got to laughing so hard he had to get down on his hands and knees to support himself.

For a long time after that ride Grandpap would look at me and holler sa-al Sal and then bust out laughing. This amused Grandpap for a long time.