Friday, February 10, 2012

A Day's Wages: A Cowgirl's Story: Part 3

Have I lost your interest?  Part 1 was most assuredly TOO long.  But I felt you needed the background.  I think I did better with shortening Part 2.

Part 3 will, hopefully, be the end of this particular saga.  Well, unless I somehow end up working for that former employer again. 

Although I can't quite fathom such an occurrence.  But after getting paid with promotional items from my Dad's business, I had sworn to never help him again.

But Dad made me anyway.  However, this time he agreed to come along.  Especially in light of the fact that I told him my "employer" had sworn at me, and yet said nothing to his slump of a son who was scared to get his horse out of a canter.

Yes indeed, I did have a very smart mouth.  But Dad was gracious enough to not smack me in light of these  spoken truth...Not that he ever smacked me...Except a few spankings that I truly deserved...Although each time Dad spanked me, David got one too.  So, it was probably all David's fault, and I was just the innocent bystander.

Sorry.  I rambled there.  Oops.

So Dad and I were off to help this individual work cattle.  This was a semi load of cattle that he was expecting delivered first thing in the morning.  He was quite proud of his truck load of Limousin cattle.  I had never worked with Limousin cattle, but I confess I was intrigued as they certainly sounded impressive!

We arrived about the same time as the truckload of cattle.  We watched them trot off the truck and scatter through the corrals.  I don't remember finding anything special about them. 

However, as you are about to learn, I soon realized that they had one very specific trait that seemed to run through every single one of them.

Dad and the Employer did the little chat with the trucker thing that comes along with such goings on as cattle, then he headed off down the road.  And we commenced to grouping the cattle into one large corral, with the plans to bring them by smaller bunches into what's known as a "crowding pen."

Okay.  I will now stop this post for a bit of explanation on the system.  The cattle are in a large pen.  You bring them by bunches into a smaller crowding pen.  Once they are in a crowding pen, the person working the pen, brings them by groups of two or three into a narrow lane.  The lane should be just wide enough for the cattle to fit through.  I'm sure fancy operations have a gate to swing shut in their lane.  We had a gate in ours, but always found it simpler to use a fence post that was narrow enough to go through the squares of the corral.  You run the cattle into the lane, then make them stand as close to each other as possible and then with your hip planted firmly into the last calf's backside, you shove the post in.  Not too high, or he will get under it.  Too low and he'll pull his back legs up and climb backwards over it.  When I helped my dad work cattle at this age, I'd run the cattle into the lane, shove in a post, then  climb the fence to help work them.  We had a nice little system where we knew exactly who did what.  He nearly always ran the head gate, as I was too slow to get it closed, and the calves would jump through, then be loose in the final big corral where you let the cattle after they'd been worked.  My ineptitude with the head gate would lead to sorting the cattle to get the ones I'd let go back through the chute.  This was nearly always a big hassle as the cattle tend to be a bit wound up after being branded, ear marked, vaccinated, and if they were bull calves, castrated....

This isn't our chute, but you see if the head gate doesn't get closed, the calf runs right out the front.

In the system we were using with Dad and Employer, we would all three run a group  into the crowding pen.  I would work the crowding pen, then stay in the lane behind the cattle trying to keep them in place as Dad and Employer did the actual "working" of the cattle.

My job was not a fun job.  It involved getting pooped on more than should be necessary.  I also got kicked more in that single day than I was kicked by cattle in all my days combined...

You see, Employers lane was too wide.  The wide lane meant the cattle had room to turn around.  And switch places in the lane.  And generally be pains in the rump.  When it came time to put them in the chute, inevitably the next calf was facing backwards.  Only I wasn't able to really do much about it, because I discovered that the cattle had the most amazing ability.

They could climb fences.

I'm not kidding!  Because the lane was not narrow enough, and they were apparently crazy as bed bugs (there seemed to be a pattern that developed with all of the Employer's livestock) they would literally turn up on their back legs and start climbing the corral panels until they just literally kind of climbed/fell over the sides.  Please understand, Gentle Reader, that the average corral panel is about 6 feet tall.

I am saddened to admit that I was quite intimidated by such goings on as I had never in all my born days seen such behavior in cattle.  However fearful or not, I had two people up in front attempting to work cattle, and my job was to get the cattle to them. So I soldiered on with much grumbling and whining on my part, I'm quite certain.  I was a teenage girl after all, and grumbling and complaining was all part and parcel of using me as a hand.

My Grandma Irene brought us a sandwich at dinner time (remember this is the noon hour, or "lunch" to town folk).  As I sat on the tailgate of the pickup eating my bologna sandwich with a slice of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and potato chips on it, I tugged off my boot and pulled up my pant leg...

My legs were swollen and black and blue from the knee down where I'd been getting kicked repeatedly by those dastardly Limousin calves...

My employer took one look at my legs and said, "Well, I guess you're going to sue me over that."

"Well I would, but Grandma won't let me."  I said in all seriousness.

"Oh now listen here, kid.  Nobody's suing anybody.  Now just don't talk like that."  And sadly her statement was pretty much law, so I dropped it.

Aside note:  As I think about my acceptance as adults word as the law, I can't help but think of kids today, and their lack of it.  And directly on the tail of that thought is the thought that it's the parents fault.  If we as parents demanded the respect, and taught respect and most of all SHOWED the respect that I was taught, kids today would be respectful.  It's really a pretty simple solution.  Well, and I also have the solution of ceasing to allow kids to watch all of those shows where kids talk sass to their parents, and it's treated as humorous....But I will now step down from my soap box and return to the story....

Forgive me, I just can't help it!

That is the last time I recall helping that employer.  I'm sure there were other times.  However, that experience with those crazy Limousins is burned forever in my brain....

When we moved down by San Antonio, there was a Limousin bull ranch about two miles south of our house.   He had fences that we use around here to keep bison in...I think they are a good seven feet tall...

So I'm guessing the propensity for climbing fences wasn't exclusive to that one herd.

At last the saga of a cowgirl's life is wrapped up.  How sad for me, as my blog ideas have been few and far between lately. 

What's the most exciting job you ever had?


Dawn Castor said...

I knew that wasn't our working chute when I saw it was painted and clean.....

Crazy Sister said...

Yikes, I can't imagine cattle climbing fences! You'd sure as heck get out of the way when they were coming down. What a mess!

I'm with you on the issue of kids talking sass on tv. It's AWFUL. I make a point to gasp and comment to my kids really loudly, "What a RUDE little boy, his mother should SMACK him, and no WAY would I give him any pocket money!" and things like that.

Most exciting job for me? Once I worked crowd control at an event at Dreamworld. I can't believe I ended up in the position of standing in front of a few hundred teenagers holding them back from the rides until someone shouted all the rules at them. Then they STAMPEDED and if I hadn't been able to hang onto my (now) husband, I would surely have been crushed to death.

And guess what?! The only thing I got for my efforts that night was a ball cap! Just like you! It was a freebie from the defense forces (recruiting at Dreamworld, of all places) and I still wear it, though it has holes in it. Well, when you've worked really hard and been given a cap for your pains, you've gotta keep the cap!

KiteFlyer said...

I thought you were going to say your Dad went with you and made sure you got paid this time - paid with cash, that is.

It's funny - when I talk to my Mom, I automatically know she's talking about the noon meal when she talks about dinner, but around here, I know people mean the evening meal. I don't have to think about it. I tend to say lunch and supper to avoid any confusion.