Well, yesterday, I played! Quite by accident, mind you.
We finally got a “squeeze”, that piece of equipment no ranch should be without. So there we were: David (hubby) on the head gate, Rusty (son) and Steven (stepson) sharing the most physical chore: chasing them into the chute, pushing them down the chute and into the squeeze. I’m on the table, loading the tag applicator and keeping track of what tag is in what animal for the Cattle ID program. David applies the tag and then opens the head gate and the terrorized critter goes out the front, turns left and flees back out into the field.
Or so goes the theory.
It always seems to take a few tries to get a flow going because we always have a different crew, but once we hit our stride, it was sweet — until the sun went down and we had no choice but to continue in the dark. Even with yard lights on, the cattle got confused. To get them INTO the squeeze, I’d have to stand and look down the chute (over the critter’s shoulder), throwing the light from my “headlight” in front so it knew it was okay to move forward.
It was still going pretty good — until we got to the light brown young cow who apparently thinks she’s a bull. Into the chute she goes. Into the squeeze she goes. Man, this one’s a wild one! Tagged? Good! Turn ‘er loose! Out the front she goes — straight into the fence! Yikes! She makes a left but doesn’t see the gate and tries to go OVER the panels! David swats at her. She backs and whirls and comes into the corner near me again. I jump up and race over to wave wildly in front of her to get her to back off before she tries to go over IT! Not only does she NOT back off, she pushes so hard she breaks the panels loose and the damn things are pushing ME backward as the cow pushes forward! Fortunately, she decided to take her fence a little to the right, so I slide down the rails and off the end. But then she comes FURTHER right and — WHAM! — she runs the panels (she’s pushing FOUR connected-to-each-other panels around — that’s a lot of weight!) into my chair (smashing it to smithereens), then my table. EVERYTHING goes flying — the table, my tags, pens, book and other stuff — and I’m being pushed from the back by — not sure. The cow? The panels? No time to look! I’m just trying my damnedest to get the hell out of the way!
If you know me, you know that I’ve had my physical challenges. The latest was breaking my back in five places, my right hip in three places and my left leg, all at the same time. Well, as this thing was unfolding, my men’s hearts stopped. They couldn’t get to me, or do anything for me.
Fortunately, the cow changed course and took her panels to the left, which left me (still standing — yay!) up against the pipe fence. Had she come further, I’d have been crushed into the metal fence.
I turn to look. There she goes! Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit! She’s gonna take out the front end of the Dodge diesel with her panels! At the last second, she veers to the right again, missing the truck by inches and lodging the panels against a fence. Guys come a gallopin’, open the nearby gate and the frantic little (okay, not so little!) cow fled to the safety of the pen in front of the barn.
Me? It’s the next morning now, and I am stiff as a board — and I know one thing, for sure. I don’t want to play Cowboy Poker ever again!