It was one of those days working cattle, the kind where it snows and the only thing deeper than the six inches of mud is the eight inches of cow crap mixed in with the mud.
The cattle are skittish, your preg-checking hand is frozen but so is the rest of you so, the heater was busted in the truck, somebody forgot the coffee, and the cattle crew was short two hands. In other words, it was a nice autumn day in Montana to be working cattle, and Doc Randall, still better known to me as Dad, was off doing just that. On the docket that fine day were reading tattoos, bleeding, Brucellosis testing, checking ear tags, and preg checking 300 head of black cows with Frankie, a Powder River squeeze chute, and another gentleman hereinafter referred to as Our Hero.
Dad had a queasy feeling about how the day would go when Our Hero opened the chute gates wide and hollered out, “Bring ’em, boys!!”
Our Hero wouldn’t narrow the head catch and he lost nearly as many as he caught. Black cows are hard to tell apart from one another even on the best of days, so once you add in mud, snow, surly behavior, and spattered or missing ear tags, you can see the direction that this day was heading in a hurry. The cows were not overly enthusiastic to enter that chute the first time, and they were even more remiss to go in a second time. After more than a few occurrences of missed cows, Frankie let forth with the plaintive peal of “Oh why oh why oh why didn’t I go to college like my mother said I should?”
About the third time Frankie let forth his cry of “Why oh why,” Dad turned to him and said, “You know, you’re making me feel pretty bad about myself.” Now, Frankie was a nice man and a fine fellow to have with you when working cattle on a crap day like that, and he honestly looked confused as to how he had made dad feel so low. “Why? What did I do?” “Well, Frankie, I did listen to my mother and I did go to college, and I’m right here in the mud and the blood and the guts right along with you. How do you think all that college is working out for me?”
Dad and Frankie had a good laugh over the educational pitfalls of listening to one’s mother. While I have no doubt that he enjoys being a vet, I imagine that the trying days of “Bring ’em, boys!” were enough to make Dad wonder if he should have listened to a different career counselor, even his own father, instead. True, he’d have missed out on the high-brow conversational topics of the chute society, but he wouldn’t have had to clean as much cow crap out of his ears.