Heard The One About The Texas Rancher, His Longhorn And A Federal Agent?

William F. Strong


This story comes under the heading of a Texas classic. It is folklore. I don’t know for sure that its origin is in Texas, but from the oldest versions I know of, going back 30-plus years, they have Texas linguistic markers. So I believe there’s a good chance that the story originated here. In any case it has migrated around the world. I’ve heard Australian versions and Irish versions and I suppose if I ever go to China I’ll hear a version translated from Mandarin. Story goes like this: A Texas rancher was stackin’ some hay in his barn when he heard a truck rumble across his cattle guard, half a mile away. He looked up to see what looked like a government Suburban — dark windows — leaving a dust cloud of caliche boiling up behind it as it raced his way. He walked out to the clearing to meet it and it came to a quick halt right in front of him, sliding the last five feet. A guy hopped out. Nice lookin’ young man. Slacks, pressed shirt. Glock on his hip. Badge on his belt. “Can I help you?” the rancher asked. “Sir, I’m with the government,” he said, pointing to his badge. “Just making a courtesy stop. We have word of drug activity in this area. I’m going to be looking around your ranch for a couple of hours to either confirm or invalidate these reports.” “Well,” said the rancher, lookin’ mystified. He pushed his salt-stained hat back off his forehead. “Ain’t no drugs around here except the big ole horse pills my doctor gives me for my rheumatism.” He laughed a little. “This is not a laughing matter, sir. I assure you this is serious government business,” said the agent. The rancher said, “I’m sure it is. Go ahead. Help yourself, son. Just don’t go in that twenty acres behind the barn.” The agent got visibly angry for a second. “Sir,” he said, “You see this badge? This badge gives me unimpeded authority, granted by the U.S. Constitution, to go where I please, when I please — no questions asked. I will decide where I will and won’t go. Do you understand me, sir?” The rancher said, “Yes, I do. I guess I’ll just go back to stackin’ my hay.” The agent said, “Good choice. That would be best.” The rancher was stackin’ hay for about five minutes when he heard a blood-curdling scream from the pasture behind the barn. He said to himself, “What the hell?” as he rushed out that way. Even he was shocked at what he saw. That agent was running for his life — staying only five yards ahead of the rancher’s big ole longhorn bull that was seconds away from gorin’ him good. He couldn’t tell who would arrive first, the agent at the fence or the bull at the agent. Just then the agent yelled at the rancher: “Help me! Call him off!” The rancher cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled, “Show him your badge! Show him your badge!”