By Cole Baker, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop
Back in the day, my Uncle and Grandpa got up early to tend to the morning chores. The horses and dairy cows needed feed in the early morning dark. This was a constant in their lives. Every morning the two of them and a hired hand would drive down to the barns and feed and water every animal on the farm before the sky began to gray and it was time to head back to the house for breakfast.
On this morning though, they drove up to the unexpected. The rich Texans that owned the ranch had installed some sort of motion light, in the event that someone would attempt to drive away with something valuable in their pickup. Lo and behold the lights were on. The three stood there in the barnyard and speculated. Now just what in the hell is going on? While a coyote wandering too close or a faulty relay may very well have done it, the other terrifying and exhilarating possibility quickly dominated the repartee. Some derelict, or even a professional criminal on a spree from El Paso, was lurking around.
The cowboy took his deer rifle from his gun rack; my Uncle produced an old shotgun. Grandpa, being of the old school, knew what gun was needed. The gleaming chrome of the .357 magnum immediately became the burning sun of that little universe. The three men fanned out and searched the premises. Not finding anything immediate, the sheriff was called and the rest of the lights were switched on. The deputy would take at least 45 minutes to get out there and the chores would have to be done in the meantime. So, guns at the ready, they set to dumping grain and pitching hay.
Soon they fell into the rhythm of their work. Time began flying by and the menace seemed to be over. Then, of course, something was knocked over causing immediate vigilance and a frantic grasping for the firearms. Each man scanned their surroundings and filtered through explanations of the cause. Just when they were about to go back to feeding, guns still at the ready, the unmistakable grinding crunch of tires on dirt road demanded attention. Slowly and carefully exiting the barn, firearms in hand, they found the sheriffs car in the driveway and the cop easing herself out of the front seat. It was the local woman deputy. All three men had known her for years and had all been subject to her firm maternal authority. She was as tall as anyone present and had the heft of a decent sized mare. “Gentlemen,” she said, “Why don’t we put the guns down.”