Back when I first started patrolling, I put into my patrol bag a 40' length of good double-braided 5/8" nylon rope. I like good rope, and am loathe to ever cut it. But sometimes, like the guys in Boondock Saints, you're not just real sure why you bring the rope.
Initially I thought that I might use it for all the cattle that I seemed to have to chase, but I learned that without a horse, you might as well try to put a rope around a whitetail deer's neck as a semi-feral cow of any breed. Holsteins, Black and Red Angus, Texas longhorn, Masai, Brahman, Limousin-- they've all given me the slip as I've tried to ease up to 'em with a rope loop on foot. And Texan though I might well be, I can't honestly say that I'm much of a throw with a lariat. I never could get a loop going that I could hold (though few could with that floppy braided nylon). I can usually hit the branch or staub that I'm throwing for, within a couple of throws, when I've got to (and I choose my targets). But that's about it.
The secondary use, I did use it a lot for: clearing road blockages. We get these major-duty thunder storms (see prior post), and they'll knock a tree down. Now, technically, trying to clear the road isn't my job. But if I don't want to spend the next several hours baby-sitting a road hazard, I find a way. The Crown Victoria has a pretty decent anchor point on the back and front, but it's a little sharp at the edges. I used to use a carabiner, but I don't know where that went. So usually I'll just loop the rope a couple of times around the tree, put a two half-hitch with a slip knot in it there, and tie off to the push-bumper of my car. Then I back it up. I've pulled some mighty big trees out of the way this way, enough to allow traffic to pass. Toss out a cone on either side, and call Road & Bridge in the morning, and all's well.
Then there's the other stuff. Occasionally we find ourselves doing something stupid, like Ambo Driver's old partner did. Rationality says wait for the fire rescue guys. But emotion sometimes says that you're stepping in, with or without the rope. It's a poor excuse for proper rescue equipment, and my father is quite right when he declares that it'll only make it easier to retrieve your body. But sometimes... well, it's better to have it than not.
My length of rope spent a weekend holding a gate shut until the out-of-town rancher could get back to repair it. (I now carry a heavy set of linesman's pliers, and nowadays I'll just rob a middle strand of barbed wire from his fence, for the task.)
I used my rope many a time as a lead to take home a stray dog, and to anchor a dog while I went to a call before seeing whose it was.
I used my rope, run through a stretch of pipe, to capture a baby opossum out of a bedroom, one morning. No lie-- I was called by the homeowner, a single mother, who hadn't even gotten out of bed before she saw the marsupial sitting on the back of a loveseat in her oversized bedroom. "The door's unlocked-- just let yourself in," she said through her bedside phone. She refused to get out from under the comforter until the 8 lb rat-like creature was removed from her house. I left it hissing at me from a nearby woodpile.
I pulled other cars out of the mud a few times, and more than once had to be pulled out of mud or a snowbank, using my rope. 5/8" braided nylon has a new tensile strength of over 10,000 lbs, and folded double I figured I could probably depend on my used one for about 12,000 to 15,000 lbs.
I never pulled Timmy from a well.
I never yanked a damsel off a ledge from a crumbling cliff.
I never tied up a band of thieves.
I did once use it to hobble the legs of a critter who was threatening to kick out my windows. Tied a knot in it near the feet, tossed the knot out the door, and shut the door. He couldn't lift his feet until we got to the sally port, at which location he had an amused welcoming party waiting, which took the wind right out of his sails.
+ + +
My old braided nylon's swan song was one day when a beautiful-but-stupid thoroughbred stallion reared up, got a foreleg caught between two cattle panels, and came down on it in a terrible way. The horse's weight broke the leg, and he was hanging from it, with his other foreleg just off the ground. I used my rope to attempt gird the horse up and take the weight off his broken leg until we could get him loose.
He was frantic, and screaming, and the whites of his eyes (which you normally don't see on a horse) could be seen as he tried to rear up, which made things even worse as his broken knee and forearm caught, and the hoof, too wide for the gap, caught just below the fetlock. Then he'd come crashing back down, and the screaming was enough to split your head. The top of the cattle panel was cut rough, and it tore open the underside of the forearm, from breast to brisket. A vein was cut open, and blood pooled fast and dark in the powdery red dirt below as I tried in vain to take the strain of the horse's shoulder, as a sobbing trainer risked her life on his other side to get the loop placed forward on his chest. In the end, my rope just served to keep him from rearing up, which at least stopped part of the damage. We got a large animal vertinarian there quickly, but all he could do was inject a large dose of tranquilizer into the poor boy until we could get the fence apart.
When I left, they had the horse loose and sedated and on his three good feet. My rope was saturated with his blood, and we used it to tie the panels together tightly to keep a hoof from getting between them again; I didn't want it back. They put the horse down the next morning. To be honest, if I'd known for certain that they were going to have to do that, I'd have just shot the poor thing and ended his suffering right then.
+ + +
Now, six months after ending a two-year hiatus from patrol, I find myself driving around without a decent rope in the car. I found a 15 foot length of 3" webbing, thicker than your car's seatbelt, which probably would rate about 30,000 lb tensile strength. But there's not a lot you can do with such a short length. Still, we made due with it tonight when a large hunk of black locust was blown down-- the boy that hailed me down to tell me about the obstruction on the side road was driving a nice pickup, and I conned him into helping me by claiming I needed him to show me where the obstruction was. In the driving rain, I got the webbing tied off to the tree and to his hitch, and we yanked it free from its remaining hold to the trunk before dragging it to a wide spot of the ditch next to the fence, and together we got it (mostly) into the ditch.
The boy said, "That's not much of a rope."
I said, "You're right, and I plan to fix that. Still, it's better than the one you had in your pickup."
"I don't have a truckbox..." he began.
"I'm just bustin' your chops," I smiled and shook his hand. "Thanks for your help, kid. Don't wreck that pretty pickup in this rain; they drive poorly with empty beds on slick roads." He squinted at me like I was crazy-- everyone knows there's nothin' better in foul weather than a good ol' pick'em-up truck. Ah well. He'll either learn it on his own, or I'll be working his accident.
So now I've gotta go find myself a decent length of rope. I'm thinking I'll spring for 60 feet this time, with a couple of carabiners and a large snaplink hook.