Fulfilling occupations involve risk

Baxter Black

Joe Camacho is a cage fighter. Can you imagine his mother saying, as he goes off to fight the front line of the Oakland Raiders, “Be careful, Joey, and don’t get hurt.”

I caught myself giving that same instruction to my son as he went off to his high school soccer game. As a soccer veteran over the years he’s already had a succession of concussions, sprains, cracks, pulls, punches, cracks, whops, whacks and smashes!

“I will,” he said, as he limped out the door.

I’ve tried to get him to consider a safer sport like bull riding, destruction-derby driver, or competitive whip-cracking for speed and distance. He’s thinking of joining the Marines, which will be a relief after four years of soccer.

However, anyone who has a loved-one in the cattle business knows the feeling. As he heads out the door he says, “I’m going out to the east side, there’s still three cows in the (poison oak, cholla, blackberry, beau d’ arc, palmetto, quicksand, rock slide or swamp; take your pick).”

“OK, dear. Be careful and don’t get hurt.”

They mean well. Those that worry about us. And, they aren’t just saying it, they hope you don’t get hurt. But the odds are against them. I don’t believe you can spend your life, even part-time, associating with large herbivores, which includes horses, llamas, big horn sheep, mountain goats, maybe even rhinos and camels, and not pay a physical price.

And, anyone who spends time with large carnivores probably has a thicker skull than cowboys. Does the name Siegfried and Roy ring a bell? The Animal Planet has an entire series called Fatal Attractions wherein owners have been mauled by bears, wolf-dogs, chimpanzees, monitor lizards and Bengal tigers.

“Where are you going, honey?”

“Oh, I’m just taking my pet leopard for a walk.”

“Well, be careful and don’t get hurt.”

It is true that those of us who keep getting up every day and going out to feed, gather, work, ride, doctor, move or otherwise pester our domestic livestock, know down deep that accidents happen. The scars on our bodies, old X-rays, slings, crutches, bandages and wheelchairs we keep in the garage, are sort of a scrapbook of our injuries.

Thing is, we don’t worry about it. It’s just part of the job. We wake up stiff and sore. Something is always hurting or aching or bandaged or blue. It is the guaranteed result of the combination of manual labor and unpredictable chaos.

It also affects the way we deal with our animals and our children. The calf gets roped and branded. Does it hurt? Of course it hurts. But they get over it quickly. When your kid skins her knee, does it hurt? Of course. But she gets over it.

And when Joe Camacho walks out of the fighting cage looking like someone has beaten him with a bag full of coconuts, is he hurting? What do you think? But he’d rather do that than sit in a toll booth on the turnpike for eight hours a day. And I guess, I would too.

Anyway, be careful Joe, and don’t get hurt … too bad.