A dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do.
He’ll work overtime.
He’ll grill in the rain.
He’ll even wrestle a steer in the dust and blood of a Mooresville drive-through zoo if he needs to.
It’s not a story I like to tell. John Wayne doesn’t rehash. I did what any dad would do when his family finds its minivan in the crosshairs of a renegade bovine bent on folding your vehicle in half like an empty can of Lonestar beer.
Anyone who’s seen the damage – the crunched-in door, the handle held by bungee-cords and iron-clad will – will want to know what happened that fateful day at Lazy 5 Ranch.
When the longhorn throws down the challenge
Turns out, when a Texas longhorn’s head meets the metal of a Ford Windstar sliding door, it makes a wicked noise.
The first impact took the family by surprise – the sound of metal crinkled, tires skidded against their tread. My eyes, though, narrowed, my head drifted back, because I knew. I knew a challenge had just been thrown down.
As the dust blew by like turning pages, I turned left, and saw him. I saw a glimmer of green paint on the furrowed uni-brow of a Texas longhorn who’d just barked up the wrong tree.
A second time he charged the van, leaving his hooved feet to achieve maximum impact.
The van rocked.
The steer circled back.
Time for a little Chicano justice.
Only two things come out of Texas
Over my shoulder, I could see the damaged door, and three sets of frightened eyes cowering behind the juice-box stained bucket seat. By my sights were set on the steer before me.
“Only two things come out of Texas,” I said, probably in Spanish, through gritted teeth from a grizzled face with at least two days worth of 5 o’clock shadow. “And I see you have horns.”
A snort. A hoof pawed on the dry, barren earth in reply.
His eyes shone red at the moment he pushed off for his next charge. The muscles of his haunches constricted, setting into motion an angry longhorn’s ill-advised third stab at a fresh new hell.
I dropped my half-drunk bottle of Coke Zero, wiped the Nilla wafers crumbs from my chin, and. turned my Colorado Rockies cap backward.
And, pushing off on my own considerable haunches and Target brand sneakers, engaged a clash of titans that would leave one of us in a Texas-sized world of hurt.
Today, my back still aches a little.
The van? It’s been recycled into paper clips or keys or little dashboard crucifixes. It carries the spirit of the steer and the backache of the dad and the bungee cord that held together the aftermath.
A Texas longhorn, it turns out, makes a tasty steak. Its horns, a head-turning hood ornament. And his hide, a fashionable jacket and stylish belt, once he’s been properly body-slammed and dressed.
And that, friends, is the story of how dad fixed that runaway cow.
“Are you writing the story about when you crunched up our van that time?”
“I, um, yeah, I’m telling the story…”
“Don’t forget to tell them you got too close to the giraffe cage and couldn’t drive away without crunching up the door on my side!”
“Isn’t it past your bedtime?”
“Say how Uncle Guy and Uncle Tony had to bend the door back so we could even close it!”
“Honey, you were too young to remember what daddy had to do that day to protect you and your mom and your sisters. How I had to take matters in my own hands. You know how it went.”
“I do remember something like that, daddy.”
“Yeah. Sometimes a daddy has to show nature who’s boss.”
“Like you did at the seafood restaurant afterward?”
”Yes, lovey. If you squint real hard, a flounder’s a lot like a Texas longhorn. And I don’t even remember a giraffe … ”