My buddy Mike and I were on a five-day September bow hunt for pronghorns in western South Dakota. We had high hopes, for it was getting near the peak of the rut. The pronghorn’s, not ours.
We found an unusual situation early on the third day. Following a narrow trail at the bottom of a draw, we came upon an eroded hole about five feet in diameter and a good four feet deep.
At the hole, which had to have been eroded during a spring flood, time unknown, we saw a buried log nearly 10 inches in diameter, buried about three feet deep. That former tree must have been there a long time, to be buried that deep.
But the animal trapped under the log by its horns — a pronghorn buck with really nice horns — had been there unknown days. Our approach made it frantic. It tried to stand up to flee, but one horn was under the log and it was trapped, even though nothing else held it in place. It became more frantic as we stood there, looking at it in amazement.
“It must have been following a hot doe, didn’t watch where it was walking and fell in,” we decided. “Typical of a guy chasing a girl,” we thought.
We freed the buck, then dragged it to a nearby pond. If it could stand up, it could get water.
My buddy Mike decided to take a few photos of the buck, including close-ups of its horns. He broke out his camera, backed up a few steps to get a better photo background … tripped and fell backward into the middle of a large patch of little round cactus.
My mind’s eye still can see him windmilling to get airborne. He knew where he was going to fall.
He landed. He yelled in pain. He said some bad words.
I helped him up. His pants were pinned to his rear and the backs of his legs.
Back at our host’s house, he stripped and spread-eagled on a bean bag chair while I searched for a flashlight to light the thin cactus stickers which matched his body hair in color and texture.
In mid “operation”, my main concern was trying to decide where to place my left hand (I’m right-handed) so he wouldn’t wallop me.
I pulled spines for 15 minutes and decided the remaining spines would need to work out themselves. Mike agreed, but he didn’t smile.
A couple of months later, he presented me with the plaque you see here. The cactus spines took a few more months to work themselves out. For months, whenever I saw him, my question would be the same: “How’s your a….?”