It was shortly after my first son was born that I was told to make cookies for the cattle-working crew. I’ll admit it stung a little. Granted, I wasn’t the middle cog that kept everything spinning—that was my dad—but being put in charge of the cookies was a bigger step away than I had planned to take.
I had started out as a “gap” filler. My training lasted three seconds and included advice such as, “Don’t let the cows walk through Grandma’s flower beds,” and “block that gap so the cow will go in the trailer.”
Then I moved up to pushing calves up the alleyway. Taking my place behind the chute, I was told, “Keep them coming so we can get done today, but don’t bring them too fast or they’ll try to jump out,” and “stay close to them so they can’t kick you as hard.” This helpful advice was all yelled at me from in front of the chute.
Pushing calves naturally progressed to pushing cows, running the end gate and placing the pipe behind so the cow couldn’t pull back. We had homemade alleyways and working pens. There were no tubs and catwalks at this point.
I helped. I was usually covered from head to toe in cow poop by the end, but I felt like I had contributed. Working cattle with my dad taught me multi-tasking; how to work with people who hang on the fence swinging a sorting stick; and when I see something that needs done—take care of it.
My steps away started when I brought my then-boyfriend home from college. His family had cattle so he didn’t need any training and he had a good enough sense of humor that he wouldn’t take anything said that day personally. After a few trips back to work cattle, it became clear he was good help.
He was also tall. The other members of my dad’s crew could be considered average height but we were not tall.
As our relationship progressed so did his role in working cattle with my parents and their crew. I was no longer covered in cow poop when we were done. He wasn’t either but he was tall enough that it only got on his jeans.
As our married life started and took us further from home, we didn’t get to come back as often to help. That was my biggest step away.
I knew my mom liked to have cookies for the cattle-working crew for the afternoon. She helped at the front of the chute, putting in new ear tags and filling syringes but also made lunch for everyone and had some treat made for afterward.
On this day, she hadn’t had time to bake anything so she asked me to take care of it. One of the crew members had his 4-year-old daughter along and while she was big in spirit, she wasn’t tall either so her and I made cookies while my son napped in the other room. The sting didn’t last long. My mom reminded me to leave some cookies without chocolate chips. The guy in charge of castrating bull calves didn’t like chocolate chips in his chocolate chip cookies. I was still contributing. It just involved less cow poop.
Jennifer Theurer can be reached at 620-227-1858 or firstname.lastname@example.org.