Today I reveal our dirty little secret. Any rancher with testosterone flowing in his veins will deny ever having had a relationship with one. Out in ranch country they command about as much respect as a substitute teacher. They are as popular as ringworm and even more unsightly. Of course, I am speaking of calf tables.
For those of you who don't have any idea what I'm talking about let me educate you. Calf tables are a device with which you can tip a calf on its side to brand and vaccinate. To own a calf table, or ever having made the acquaintance of one, indicates that you are a wuss, a wimp and a terrible roper. If you have EVER used one it's a good indication that you probably have also worn Birkenstocks, watched HGTV and have gone to a spa retreat to get in touch with your sensitive side. Real men, and real women, rope their calves and stretch them on the ground. They never table them!
Any cattleman worth his Wranglers will tell you that calf tables are as dangerous as four-week-old potato salad and are more worthless than a losing lottery ticket. Real ranchers say it's faster to work cattle with a rope than a table. If your neighbors ever knew in advance you planned on using one they wouldn't come to your branding. Using a table is even worse than serving chicken at your branding. Even now there are ranchers reading this essay who will deny ever having heard of such a ghastly device.
Having said all that, I must admit I own one. Go ahead, call me a mama's boy. I'll hasten to add that the table came with a ranch we leased. I'm not proud that my wife and I have worked a few calves on the table when extra help was not available. Well, okay, maybe we branded an entire calf crop that way once, but it was only because of scheduling issues. I hate to admit this but I found the table to be handier than a front pocket and it didn't eat nearly as much food as a branding crew would have. In admitting my sins at least I don't hide the fact that I've used a table, unlike other girly-men now reading this little essay with a sense of shame. You know who you are!
I also admit that when I showed up at the ranch one day and saw my calf table was missing I was more upset than I should've been. At first I thought someone hid it as a joke but after two months I came to the conclusion that some lowlife wanted a table and wasn't man enough to go to the Farm Supply and buy one. So he stole mine.
I'd nearly forgotten about the table when I showed up at Wish Bone's branding. (We call him Wish Bone because he looks like two long legs with a head on top.) I was working the ground crew when I noticed a tarp was hiding something at the far end of the corral. I worked my way over to the spot and, presto, with a wave of my arms I lifted the tarp to unveil... my calf table! I knew it was mine because it was the same color and tilted so that calves could be branded on their right side, just like mine.
Right in the middle of that branding corral I cussed Wish Bone for being a common thief and called him every name in the book. He just stood there stuttering as if he had a leather lip. Completely humiliated, he acted as if he had absolutely no idea how the calf table got under that tarp. The rest of the crew threw down their ropes, helped me load my calf table in my truck and then we all walked off the job. Using a calf table is bad enough but actually stealing one is worse than being a child molester.
I took my table home and put it back in its rightful place in my corral.
So you can imagine my surprise when a couple weeks later an anonymous caller left the following message on my answering machine: “Hey Lee, thanks for the use of your calf table. I would have asked to use it but I didn't want word to spread that I stooped so low as to actually use one. You know how embarrassing that can be! Sorry I kept the table for so long. I dropped it back off at your corral and placed it next to the other one that was sitting there. What are you doing, collecting the darn things?”