I’m not going to be modest and suggest I’m a stranger to physical triumph. My natural athletic abilities have gained many trophies, championship rings and shoulder-rides out of the stadium into the locker room after the Big Win.
Remember that time I was named “alternate” to my high school track team’s winning regional 4×8 team? I can’t dismiss that stack of Varsity letters for cheer squad. And what about that time in the fifth grade when I was called into the library because NO ONE ELSE IN THE SCHOOL had the dexterity, determination or complete lack of arm girth to reach into the copy machine and pull out the wooden bookmark some punk kid had jammed in there? Who got the prize box that day, biyatches?
Yes, my name is synonymous with strength, agility and stamina. I should be used to it. Yet occasionally I’ll surprise myself here on the farm.
I have a flighty heifer. (Not some new band or cocktail, you weirdos. It’s what they call a girl cow. A scared one.) She’s only 3 months old and already just half a foot shy of her 900-pound mama cow. She is a beefy beast and stubborn and hell-bent on getting smashed by a car or farm truck, free-range Peking duck-style.
This baby calf is damn near stronger than me, but usually I tie her to a sturdy post so she doesn’t know that. At least until Maybel startles her as we’re voyaging toward a new pasture, and she jerks and the lead rope slips out of my hand and she’s gone. Forever.
But guess what happened next? Layla ran toward safety. She ran back toward the far end of the property, where no dangers exist; cars, neighbors, angry bulldogs were a distant memory. But it turns out this was just so she could get a half mile running start hurling herself toward death. She turned around and ran for the road with a gallop fit for the Preakness. Construction traffic is all over the place. I’m screwed. The only thing between her and the inevitable liability insurance nightmare was, well. Me. Me and my … jazz hands? Spirit fingers?
Anyway I had to grab her lead rope and stop her. I had eighteen seconds to think about how I’d do that. I don’t know if there could ever be enough set-up here to describe the fool’s dream of nabbing a muddy lead rope dragging the ground as the calf wooshes by, but I think it would kind of be like using your arm as a restraint for your passenger during a car accident. In theory, it sounds totally doable. In practice, physics complicates the reflex.
So I watched as she ran toward me. She was gaining speed. Too much speed. Too much cow. There’s no way. And as she drew closer I jumped and she startled and stopped and weaved and with a laser focus on that pink rope, I capitalized on her pause and dove head first on the ground and grabbed a hold of that slippery rope and she took off and the damn thing slid through my hands and burned a few inches of my palm off but somehow? I hung on. It was some serious Indiana Jones shit. I couldn’t believe it. I climbed up the rope to her halter and the crowd went wild.
And that is the closest I will ever come to knowing what it is like to play in the NFL.
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