Cattle Today

Cattle Today



by: Lee Pitts

Our neighbor, The Professor, has a new ranch, a new wife and a new herd of cows. I worry that any one of the three might kill him. The Professor is not really a teacher, he just looks like one with his thick glasses, white beard and patches on his flannel shirt. The Professor swapped some apartments for a ranch to avoid paying any taxes, but in the long run I think it would have been cheaper just to have paid them!

The first time I met The Professor was at a bull sale and he cut quite an imposing figure in eel skin boots and a Resistol hat that came straight from the box. The only thing in worse shape than his new hat were the odds of his surviving the cow business. Oh, he thought it looked easy enough; he'd read every book and attended every seminar on the subject and thought it would be an easy occupation to master.

The Professor was attempting to select a bull for his new herd of forty cows and trailing in the wind behind him was a computer printout that contained all the data on every bull in that day's offering, including EPD's on the size of their ribeyes and their scrotums. The Professor was drowning in data and finding it hard to find a bull that excelled in every trait so he ended up giving way too much money for a bull with very impressive numbers that was so crippled up he could barely walk. It reminded me of how we select our spouses and politicians in this country.

The Professor was quick to learn about the concept of “neighborin”, or as I call it, “free help”. In addition to putting his brand on his new set of cows we vaccinated for diseases I've never even heard of. Before we could let a cow out of his new chute we had to give her all sorts of scores for frame size, condition and disposition. We looked at everything but the most important economic trait; the absence or presence of teeth. I swear, if I'd have been as picky as The Professor and applied the same standards to every cow I've ever owned I would have been “all hat and no cattle.”

The Professor explained that any cow that entered the chute easily and stood calmly would be given a disposition score of one. Any cow that acted “barbarously truculent,” as he put it, would get a five, along with a free trip to the auction barn. Even though we only had 40 cows to work it took all day because we had to enter the scores in a laptop computer. And also because we argued about the score on every animal. On the cow that hit the headgate going 60 miles per hour and went out of her way to circle back to try and kill me, I wanted to give a five, but The Professor admired her character judgment so we averaged her off to a two. One cow stood perfectly still in the chute, barely moving when we burned her hide and he called her a one. I called her older than dirt and suggested we get her entered into the computer before she died.

As we finished up The Professor's wife arrived in a brand new luxury car, which is what she drives when she isn't on a broomstick. She's as sociable as a sheepherder, applies her eyeliner with a mop, has more silicon in her body than four tubes of caulk and is as out of place on a ranch as a cowboy would be in counseling. She'd just got back from taking her Airedale to obedience class and as I reached down to make friends he bit me so hard on my hand that blood flowed from my veins and cuss words from my mouth. After getting mad at The Professor for getting her laptop drenched in manure she stomped off to the house, but before leaving she bit my head off for upsetting her poor traumatized puppy. Although I was the one doing all the bleeding.

The Professor was embarrassed and stood there like a cow looking at a new gate. Changing the subject he asked, “Well then, what do you think of my herd?”

I pondered the question and replied, “I'd give your cows an average of three, your dog a four and your new wife a five and a half.”

It was the first time we agreed all day.


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