You know you’ve created something of a monster when people go to livestock expos and start sending you photos of pink squeeze chutes. Like this one spotted by Becky Johnson at the NILE in Billings, Montana.
Or this one that my brother found down in Waco, Texas.
And it all traces back to Megan, who saw that pink squeeze chute and just knew that it was something that would fascinate–or bewilder? or confound?–me. It has taken me eight months to find out the truth behind the pink squeeze chute, but find it I did.
But the truth is far better–and far stranger–than random pink squeeze-chute sightings. You just have to be willing to do a bit of digging and go way out on a limb to find it.
The last time Megan headed back to Washington to see her family, I begged and pleaded with her to stop by the pink squeeze chute people and get me a name and a phone number. Megan didn’t quite have it in her to stop at a stranger’s place to say, “Hey, can I get your phone number so that Erin, who lives down in Texas but has a blog in Montana about a vet clinic and cows and horse advice and rural stories and Eleanor and Beatrice. Well, she digs your pink squeeze chute and wants to talk to you about it.” Not that I blame her. It’s hard to not sound cat-lady crazy and slightly off psychotropic medication with an opening line like that. But Megan did get me an address for the chute!
The next part was up to me. I took a deep breath, wrote a letter to the pink squeeze chute, and explained how a whole lot of people were curious about and amused by it. And joy of joys, the pink squeeze chute wrote back. And just as I suspected, there is a really good story behind how that chute became hot pink.
The pink chute is owned by the Gill family. Bonnie Gill, the matriarch and paint brush of the family enterprise, grew up on a large cattle farm. As luck would have it, she married and moved to town. but she was never quite as happy as she was out on the farm. So, she decided to change her life by convincing her husband to move to a “mini farm” out in Washington. As Bonnie is pretty much the only bipedal Y chromosome on the place, she pinks things up whenever possible. In Bonnie’s own words, “Anything that can be pink is!” That means pink and white flowers, a pink chicken-crossing sign (anybody else picture the march of the marshmallow peeps come Easter?), and yes, that infamous pink squeeze chute.
For those of you wondering if pink ranch equipment makes for better preg-checking numbers and healthy calves, alas, we don’t have numbers on that, although it does give veterinarians out to do AI work quite the chuckle. However, pink chutes do make for happy mums and easy geographic markers. There are few things easier to find than the place with the hot pink squeeze chute and pink tractor.
And that pink squeeze chute? It will remain a delightfully rosy shade, but come springtime, it will be repainted. After all, the squeeze chute has to match the tractor!