It was a chance for Kurt to shine. He was father of the bride. Kurt is a seasoned, tough-hided, bow-legged Wyoming cowboy. He was not the kind of person you would ask to help you select the bridesmaids’ dresses or the pattern on your china. But his daughter knew that, so she asked if he could make it possible for her and her bridal party to arrive in a horse-drawn surrey.
"Sure," he said beaming, "That’s what Dads are for!"
The wedding was taking place at a big ranch headquarters, east of Cheyenne. Jolene was helping plan the wedding. On the afternoon of the rehearsal she spotted Kurt putting a horse through its paces pulling a sulky. For you Quarter Horse people, that is a two-wheeled rickshaw with bicycle wheels.
She waved and they visited. He explained the horse he had planned to use for the surrey didn’t work out, so he was testing a new horse in the sulky. The next time she saw Kurt, he was limping up the lane, shirt hanging off his shoulder and his hat down around his ears! In the paddocks behind him she could see a trail of broken sulky! Wheels, shaft, seat and harness spread across three fences! The horse was nowhere in sight.
On closer inspection, to her horror, the left side of Kurt’s face looked like somebody had scraped it with a cheese grater! Gravel and dirt were embedded in the wound and flaps of skin hung down, dripping blood. Jolene was a nurse and insisted he let her take him to the emergency room in Cheyenne.
"Nope," he said, "Ain’t gonna do that. It’s not that bad. Yer a nurse, you can do it."
She explained she didn’t have instruments, but, by luck, there was a vet tech in the gathering crowd who offered an emergency kit. The only place with electricity, lights and running water was the ladies bathroom. Jolene cleaned the wound best she could, but there were still flaps of skin hanging down.
"I don’t have a scalpel or any local anesthetic," she apologized.
He offered her his castrating knife, and you know it was sharp.
"This is gonna hurt," she said.
"Don’t worry," he said, "Cowboys been bitin’ bullets since Buffalo Bill shot himself in the foot!"
After her triage was completed, the only bandage she could find was a Pampers one of the young mothers lent her—which didn’t seem out of place in the ladies room.
As for the wedding next day, they cancelled the surrey. The bride and her entourage rode in on a hay wagon pulled by a tractor, oh, and every wedding photo in the scrapbook showed Dear ol’ Dad doin’ his part, in right side profile!
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.