"Lu, I need you over here. And wear some shoes you can run in."
It was The Chief calling me on his cell phone from the cattle pen over by the barn. He was there early Saturday morning moving the cattle into a particular pen in preparation for loading some of the older calves to be hauled to the sale barn. Before the guys arrive with the trailer, you need to have all the cattle in the pen. Once they see the trailer and catch on to what's about to go down, anything can happen.
And sometimes it's not pleasant.
I had done my best pretending to be very, very busy preparing a nutritious and delicious breakfast when he announced that he was headed over to the pens.
"Oh, OK Chief, you just let me know if you need me to help..." I said. Immediately adding a whispered plea to God. "Oh puh-leez God, don't let him need me to help..."
Loading cattle makes me very nervous. Probably not as very nervous as it makes the cattle, but still.
Resigned to my fate, I turned off the skillet where the sausage was already sizzling, pulled on my running shoes and headed over.
"I've got them all in except those three," The Chief yelled while pointing toward one older cow and two extremely agitated young bulls. Two young, agitated bulls sporting impressively LARGE HORNS.
I'm not sure if I said it out loud, but I definitely said it.
I sincerely apologize.
"I'll go down and come up behind them and you keep them going in the direction of the gate," he politely suggested. " And WHATEVER YOU DO, don't let them run back down toward the woods."
"WHATEVER I DO, I will not let them run back toward the woods," I kept repeating to myself,
just in case I forgot what I was NOT WHATEVER TO DO.
It went surprisingly well. I made the appropriate "HUH" noise when one of them started to turn down toward the woods, waved my arms, and just like that, they were in the pen.
(I can be hired out to help you pen your cattle for a very reasonable, dare I say, bargain price.)
"Well, that was easy," I almost gushed. "OK, I'll be headed back to finish up that sausage now. You take care Chief."
"No, Lu, that's just the first pen, now we've got to move them through that little shoot there into the pen with the rest of the cattle."
Again, my apologies.
The shoot, as it turns out, was not actually a shoot at all, but an oddly shaped little area with the opening to the desired pen on one side, and a pesky little open area between two large oak trees just down from said opening..
"You just need to block that opening Lu." "WHATEVER YOU DO, don't let them go between the trees." "We'll lose them for good if you do."
"Oh, OK Chief, just let me make sure I understand what I'm supposed to do, OK"? I mean I like to be clear about exactly how my last few minutes on earth are about to play out.
"I'm supposed to stand here and block the opening between these two trees while you run the cattle,
(the cow, and the two young, agitated bulls with the VERY LARGE HORNS) directly toward me. And then if things go as planned they will all make a very sharp turn to the left and run right through that gate instead of going straight ahead, the direction they will most likely prefer to go, and come right between these trees, trampling me in the process."
But WHATEVER I DO, I should not let them through the trees.
"Is that the plan Chief"?
"That's it in a nutshell, Lu, are you ready"?
"It will all be easy. Just stand there like you're a fence post- they won't know any difference."
(And in a twisted irony type thing, right at that very moment one of the young, agitated bulls used it's VERY LARGE HORNS to do some major damage to a large cedar fence post while searching for a means of escape at the other end of the pen) Seriously.
So anyway, I did my very best impression of a fence post (albeit a very pale, sweaty fence post) and apparently successfully fooled those cows into thinking that their only exit was the open gate to the pen as they one by one navigated almost Olympic-worthy sharp left tuns.
And WHATEVER I DID, I did not let them run through the trees, Amen.
"OK, thanks, Lu, that's all," said The Chief. "What did you say you were making for breakfast"?
After I was safely back at the house and was finished preparing breakfast, I stepped outside to see if I could get a few shots of the whole loading process.
Loading and hauling cattle always involves lots of pick-up trucks.
It also always involves some very skiddish, nervous cattle. And in this case one pretty shaky donkey.
And as much as I dislike it, it also requires the use of the "hot shot" or cattle prod.
The donkey breathed a sigh of relief as he was cut-out into the pen of older cattle that would not be sold today.
Thankfully, on this sale day there were no major catastrophes (well, except when one of those two young bulls jumped the fence into another pen and had to be forcibly retrieved...) or injuries to man or beast.
The older "Momma" cows will moo and search for their calves for a day or so and then go on about their business and have another calf.
Such is the circle of cattle life.
It makes me unhappy sometimes, but clearly not as unhappy as I get when I have to imitate a fence post...
Like I said. Call me with your cattle herding-related needs. I'm what they call "a professional."