The cattle, 115 Brahma heifers, were loaded at Gallagher's sale yard in Fallon, Nevada and were destined for a feed lot owned by the Coors corporation in Golden, Colorado.
From the beginning of the trip, nineteen year-old Danny Clemons had been cursing the freezing cold, but if there was any road condition he loved to drive in, it would be three feet of ice crusted snow. He was one of the biggest dare-devils of the professional truck driving world. He had pissed off dozens of snow plow drivers by blowing past them to blaze a trail instead of following behind at a maddening 35 miles per hour.
Nearly 40 hours after leaving Fallon and fighting one of the most severe storms he had ever seen, Danny came up on Little America (which was more of a truck stop than a town), just outside of Green River, Wyoming, and the chatter over the CB said that the roads to Landers, Cheyenne, and even the one that he was on were closed due to blizzard conditions. Danny knew that he could keep going, he had always been able to find a way around the roadblocks using the back roads and little known highways, but the stock in the trailer were in trouble. At 43 degrees below zero the animals were in a bad way and he had a sick feeling that not all them would make it through the night.
Pulling into the parking lot of Little America, Danny parked his rig in between two van trailers to keep the icy wind from cutting through the ventilated sides of the cattle car, and jumped out to see how the animals were faring.
"Not good," he shouted against the whipping wind as he stalked through the snow, peering into the trailer. Around 18 of his cattle were down, icebound to the aluminum deck of the car. Covered in frozen shit and unable to stand, eyes rolling back in their heads and being stepped on by the others, the exhausted livestock were losing consciousness and would soon die.
He knew he had to do something, but didn't know what. His mind raced for a solution.
"The cattle are freezing to death. They need to warm up. What do I do when I need to warm up? I drink whiskey. That fucking St. Bernard on Looney Tunes had a whiskey barrel around his neck and gave it to someone to get them warm."
He fought his way through the storm, past dozens of other rigs that had been shut down, into the little truck stop convenience store. He raced through the aisles, searching for booze, but the market carried only beer and wine. The liquor store in Green River was still open, the girl behind the counter told him, but Danny knew that the $30 in his pocket wouldn't be adequate to afford enough whiskey to save the dying Brahmas, even if he could get to Green River.
"Warm. Warm. Warm. Warm. Warm. Warm. Warm."
Time was against him, and he pounded the insides of his brain for an answer.
"What would Grandpa do? What would Eisenhower have done? How would John Wayne handle this problem? Warm. Warm. Warm. Warm. Warm. Warm. Warm."
"You're getting warmer, warmer, warmer, Hot. Hotter. Hotter. Hotter. HOT SAUCE!"
Danny hurled himself back out into the blistering cold, carrying two cases of Boon's Farm wine, the girl from behind the counter in tow with a case of large Tabasco sauce bottles in her arms.
He opened the loading door and tossed the wine inside, then took the box from her and thanked her with a broad smile.
"Hey!" He yelled to the girl over the whipping wind, "I wanna take you out to dinner when I get unloaded!" But blue lipped and shivering, she only nodded in response before hustling back to the warmth of the station.
Once inside the cattle car, armed with one bottle of hot sauce and one bottle of wine, Danny had to fight his way past the beasts that were standing to get to the ones that were in trouble. Kneeling down beside one of the pitiful creatures, he twisted the green octagon shaped lid off of the Tabasco bottle with his teeth and pulled out the plastic restrictor plate with numb fingers. Wrapping his arm around its neck and tipping its head up, he fed the neck of the bottle into its mouth and drained its contents down its throat. The cow, in its weakened state did nothing to resist. He threw the bottle aside and peeled the metal cap from the wine, and tipped that bottle too. The Brahma started to choke and bellow weakly. Danny massaged its throat as the wine went down, working it through to wash down what he hoped would be the animal's salvation from a hellish death.
He was on his feet and moving to the next heifer when the first one produced a sound the likes of which he had never heard. Liquid fire had exploded in that cow's belly and given it the motivation to live. He cheered, tears freezing on his cheeks and tumbled out of the trailer to grab his snow shovel that was strapped with bungee cords against the back of his rig.
When he returned with the wide bladed tool, the Brahma was kicking its legs and thrashing, bellowing demonic noises from deep within its guts, trying to get away from the napalm inside. He chiseled and scraped the deck underneath the heifer's hide with the shovel until it could get up on its own.
He repeated this process until he ran out of cattle to save. Six were lost completely, but in the two hours he had struggled he had saved enough to make his effort worthwhile.
In the parking lot of the Little America truck stop, 27 other cattle trucks were parked, the animals inside suffering the same fate while inside the cafe the truck drivers slurped coffee and smoked cigarettes, worried more about getting home to wives and girlfriends than the condition of the livestock. It wasn't like the cattle belonged to them, it wasn't their responsibility.
Danny regaled them with how he had treated the dying cattle and was met mostly with scorn and disbelief, but overall there was a slightly guilty feeling and the knowledge that the if cattle were to survive, they needed to be moved to somewhere out of the storm.
No one knew what to do, or didn't care to do anything, so Danny asked the girl behind the counter to let him use the phone to call the Sheriff to ask him for help.
"We got people freezing to death in their cars, son. Your beef are low on my list of priorities," scolded the Sheriff.
"HEY, MOTHER FUCKER, those goddamn people had a choice, these cattle didn't have any say in being here, now if you don't come down here and help me I'm calling the fucking Humane Society!" Danny slammed the phone down and then winced a second later as he looked over his shoulder at the girl behind the counter who was wide-eyed, both at his language and that he had told the Sheriff off.
Without waiting for the Sheriff to show, Danny phoned the Humane Society, whose only office in the state was in Cheyenne. The person who answered asked how many trucks and how many cattle there were and what condition they were in. Danny was then told to wait by the phone, that someone would get in touch with him and tell him what to do.
Two minutes after he hung up the phone, it rang, and the girl behind the counter called Danny over. On the other end of the line was an extremely irritated Sheriff who sounded like he had just gotten his ass severely chewed and was demanding his name.
"Well, Mr. Clemons, I want you to round up all them drivers with cattle on their trucks and get them ready to move, I will be there at the truck stop in five minutes. And you listen to me, you little shit, you and me are gonna have a talk when we get to where we're goin'."
Grinning, Danny took command and called for the attention of the other truckers. He told them what the Sheriff had said and they moved out, almost immediately to start their trucks.
They were led in a convoy behind red and blue flashing lights to a rodeo ground just north of Green River where already dozens of farm trucks were arriving with bags of corn grain and bales of hay, the farmers kicking the feed off into corrals and directing the trucks into places that they could unload.
Off the trucks the animals were revived, standing together in a milling herd and with food in their bellies, they looked like they would be just fine.
One of the farmers that had brought in sacks of grain volunteered to help remove the dead from the trailers with his tractor for $10 per rig. A pile of frozen cows soon formed at the Southeast corner of the rodeo grounds, but when he got to Danny's he looked inside and asked him how come he had so few dead. Danny once more told the story of the Hot Sauce and Wine, pointing at the empty bottles that littered the bed of the cattle car, and the farmer shook his head and slapped the much younger man on the shoulder.
"You're a damn fine human being, boy. I'll get these critters off your hands for free."
The Sheriff never got around to having his little talk with Danny, and the girl behind the counter ended up having a serious boyfriend, but none of that mattered to him anyway.
He had done what he knew was the right thing.
The roads out of Green River were closed for three days, and when they were finally opened, the truckers returned to pick up their livestock and get on their way. As the cattle were in a huge collective, it took a few hours to separate and load the animals, and they all looked the same to Danny, who tried his best to pick out the ones from his original load and keep them separated from the rest.
Although six of his cattle froze to death, and his brand inspection papers said 115 head, Danny Clemons unloaded 117 Brahma heifers in Golden, Colorado. The other truck drivers had lost so many that they didn't notice the missing cows.
I have heard this story my whole life, told by my father, Daniel Clemons.