A cattlemen’s world from ranch to the sale barn | TheFencePost.com

A cattlemen’s world from ranch to the sale barn

Imelda Gressley
Hazard, Neb.

The day had started out early at 6:30 a.m. It was a crisp, cold winter morning in February.

This was “D-Day” for the yearlings that we had raised. We had even played “mid-wife” to several. My hubby had gotten up early and fed them their last meal at home. He had that “empty gut” feeling deep in the pit of his stomach. Parting with his “babies” was such “sweet sorrow.”

Hubby had the stock trailer backed up to the loading chute. Mr. Neighbor pulled in the yard with his cattle truck too and waited for us to load our bunch. After some sorting and prodding, the yearlings were loaded and ready for market.

I had decided to accompany Hubby to the sale barn and be where the “action” was. Hurriedly my daughter and I pulled on our warm parkas. I also grabbed my purse and sewing bag incase I had some spare time. This was my first time to watch our cattle sell at the sale barn.

We jumped into the pickup and took off with the truck following. There were no long lines yet when we arrived at the yards. We backed up to one chute while neighbor backed up to the other one. I smelled the odor of barnyard and heard the bawling of cows and calves in the pens. The yearlings were pushed out from the safety of our trailer.

Hubby was in a hurry to get inside the barn, so he went ahead. Daughter and I joined him later. As we went in the wide front doors, we walked up a few wooden steps to the main level. Looking around and searching for Hubby’s face, I saw a mass of mostly male faces. There were young and old-whiskered and clean shaven. Some of the farmers and cattlemen were in overalls, coveralls, jeans, denim jackets, or vests. On their heads they wore western hats or ball caps of all kinds. Some western hats were new, but mostly were older ones with sweat stained brims pulled down over weary eyes. Hubby stood up so I could see him in the crowd.

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The half-moon shaped stair-step bleachers had filled in around him so Daughter and I mounted the steps to the top. It felt warm way up high. My daughter and I could see all around the barn. Ceiling fans were oscillating slowly stirring the warm air. Overhead lights helped brighten up the gray atmosphere. An attic vent opened and closed methodically with each intake of fresh air. A trio of one woman recorder and two auctioneers sat behind a bench high above the ring where three ringmen helped sort the cattle. One ringman was finishing his lunch which consisted of a bun and hamburger. What a “true veteran” to his job … the idea that these animals would become hamburger some day somehow didn’t appeal appetizing to me as it mingled with the smell of live cattle and manure.

There were large varieties of cattle this day. Different breeds were corralled in. There were Herefords, Black Angus, Charolais, Simmental, Salers, and other mixed breeds. The cattle were let in through a swinging gate and pushed onto the scale. They were frightened by the strange sights and sounds. Eyes were wide open with fear as they milled and circled in the ring, crowding each other. The brightly lit digital numbers showing the weight of the animals illuminated above the sale ring.

I noticed cattlemen in the “thinker” position with chin in hand, those in the “Indian” position with arms crossed on chests, “scholars” with pad and pencil or calculator in hand, cell phones in use, and now lap computers also being used. There were a few toothpick chewers, and even a few who appeared to be sleeping through all the commotion.

The auctioneer was busy rattling off bids while picking bids from the air. “Here’s some fancy cattle, folks. Here’s fine green cattle. Couldn’t ask for better reputation cattle.” The auctioneer sang out.

There were all kinds of bidders: head nodders, ear scratchers, finger raisers, thumb twiddlers and thumb raisers, hand motioners, and eye contactors. I was afraid to use my hands or scratch my head for fear of stealing a bid. How the auctioneer knew who was bidding was a mystery to me. But he had his partner hollering out if he saw a bid too.

By mid afternoon the wooden benches were getting quite hard and my daughter and I were getting restless and fidgety. The clock on the wall said 4 o’clock. I saw Hubby hand a sheet of paper to the ringman. The gate swung open and Hubby joined us now. He poked me with his elbow, “These are ours now.”

The yearlings were prodded in place. They were sorted out by weight and sex. One steer became frightened and angry and he snorted at the ringman. The ringman stepped behind a steel gate.

“Oh, Simmental cross. They are sweet. These are the ‘Real McCoy’. Green as wood. Been out on pasture.” The auctioneer bragged. He picked up some papers. “These are green tag animals. I have the shot record here.” Then he picked out Hubby in the crowd. Hubby nodded his head in affirmation. “They’re Simmental cross. Been sired with Shephard’s Simmental bull,” the auctioneer explained.

Bidding became rapid. The price was good. Finally, ours were all sold. The sale continued into the late afternoon until all animals were sold.

On the way home, Hubby expressed a sigh of relief. Another year of hard work had been completed and it was good. Now the next crop of calves were being born and he needed to get home to check the pregnant cows.

Just another busy day in the life of a cattleman.