Soapweed's Ranch Ramblings
The writings of a Nebraska Sandhills cattle rancher!

The Way It Really Is
Sept 22, 2002

We were nearing the end of another strenuous calving season a few years ago. My hired hand spent an evening at the local watering hole and came home with this story of happenings on a neighboring ranch. I shall change the names to protect the innocent.

Charlie ran a good outfit, with the help of his two sons, George and Fred. They were calving out a big bunch of cows and feeding a lot of hay, as the grass was covered with snow. Calving started in late February and carried on until early May. Charlie was doing most of the hay feeding with a good-sized front-wheel assist tractor and a stack-mover equipped with a hydra-fork to feed off the seven-ton stacks of hay. George was in charge of the day-time calving, and Fred was baby-sitting the cows during the night-time hours. Things were rolling along fairly smoothly, as these fellows are all top hands. Quite a bunch of the cows were Chianina-cross two-year-old first-calf heifers, and they have the reputation of being just a little bit "woofier" than your average run-of-the-mill bovine. Any cow that gave the boys extra trouble for any reason was getting the lower switch of the tail bobbed off, a sign that she would be in the selling bunch. Charlie mentioned to his boys that they were being a little hard on the young cows in this respect. "Give them a chance, they are just first-calf heifers and should all make good cows."

The season was starting to wear on all the participants, as it tends to do every year. Charlie decided to give Fred a chance to catch up on a little shut-eye, so volunteered to take part of the night duty one evening. Fred was to sleep the first half of the night and then relieve Charlie at 2 a.m. Fred's alarm went off at the apppointed hour, and he bundled up in his warm clothes to go to the calving lot and relieve his dad. As he left the house, he could hear quite a commotion going on in the calving barn. There was a lot of clangin' and bangin' and a few choice words were occasionally heard. Normally it didn't take too long to walk from the house to the barn, but with the extra-curricular noises in evidence, Fred kinda drug out the process. Just as he arrived at the barn and peaked around the door-way, Charlied slammed the head-catch on the calf-pulling chute. "Gottcha! You old rip!" Charlie's horse was standing outside the barn with two 30-foot lariat ropes tied together to make enough length to go around a couple corners. The horse was necessary to pull the cow into the stanchion.

Charlie didn't see Fred standing in the shadows of the door-way. Before he even attempted to pull the calf, he procured his jack-knife and whacked off the lower portion of the tail switch. Fred couldn't resist. "Gosh, Dad, let's give her a chance. She's just a first-calf heifer, and should make a good cow." If looks could kill.






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