SUNNYSIDE Like his dad and uncles who worked cattle in Mexico, Diego Mendoza was born to be a cowboy — a wrangler rope in one hand and set of steering reins in the other is what drives him to be out there on the range, living his authentic brand the only way he knows.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and what you like to do,” Mendoza said after feeding about a 120 head of cattle as the sun crept over Snipes Mountain at Kellie Wiersma’s ranch on a chilly Sunday morning.
There is a cowboy code of truth to working with cattle everyday — the uncompromising threat of being brutally hooked by a cow, guided by the fact that it is bound to happen, binds this tight knit community together.
Back in November, Mendoza, who has spent about 40 years tending cattle while experiencing his fair share of broken bones, endured a perilous accident with not only one unruly Angus cross cow but a rampaging herd.
“Diego was on foot in the corral and loading cows into an alley to be processed,” Kellie Wiersma, along with her sister Gracie described.
They have known Mendoza for almost their entire lives while he worked in the cow and calf operations at their father’s ranch.
“There was this one mean cow… he hooked Diego and got him down on the ground. The herd of cows in the pen trampled him. The other cowboys dragged him out by his feet, and after the herd had moved, that same cow came back and got him again,”
The Wiersma sisters said that Mendoza laid motionless out on the ground somewhere in the Moses Lake region, they were thankful that an ambulance found the location and was able to get the wrecked cowboy to the hospital.
Mendoza suffered a broken shoulder, five broken ribs and punctured lung in the raucous.
“We were just trying to work the cows, and they were on the rampage… once in a while, they get a little upset… pushing them too much around, and they get a little excited,” Mendoza recalled.
The elder cowboy does not have an ounce of anger in his voice about the rowdy cow that left him seriously injured and jeopardized his livelihood.
While Mendoza mends and tries to keep working in a limited capacity, the cowboy’s heart remains out there on the pasture.
Calving season is fast approaching and will be starting at the end of the month. Mendoza is worried that his wounded body will not heal in time and allow him to work his profession.
The cowboy community shared in their on-going concern for his welfare as well.
Two months in the planning, a fundraiser to help Mendoza was organized by Linda Bordwell and Pat Mott.
“Diego is a good family friend. We’re trying to help out our cowboy community and pay it forward,” Bordwell, who wanted to do whatever they could to help, said. “My husband was involved in an accident, and people helped us get through our family hardship.”
More than 200 people attended a benefit for Diego Mendoza that featured a cowboy spaghetti dinner, live and silent auctions, as well as music by Sunday Best Band at the Sunnyside Eagles Aerie Lodge #2927, 5 p.m., Saturday evening.
The two-hour dinner was prepared by Bordwell and her daughter Brezzi Campos. A family recipe for five generations with special ingredients and the right touch of bacon, mushrooms and onions added to the hamburger and pork gravy with Worcestershire sauce.
Family and volunteers filled in as kitchen staff and said it felt like they had served a thousand plates.
“It’s nice, so nice, that the community comes out like this where we can get together to help people who are helping people,” Aerie Lodge #2927 Auxiliary President Pat Mott said.
Anyone who would like to contribute can contact Linda Bordwell at 509-830-2118 or Pat Mott at 360-970-7658.
“That was pretty nice, everybody showing up,” Mendoza proudly acknowledged.
The reserved cowboy greeted everyone as they entered the lodge with a welcoming and appreciative handshake.
“Diego has been a big part of helping me with my own operation. He’s the one who’s always been the first one to help… He’s an awesome guy,” Wiersma expressed.