In a Sow’s Ear 11-16-09
November 17, 2009
The question is, what do “simple” folk do? If you’re speaking of ranch life, here’s a partial answer.
Betty and Sean McCarthy raise cattle, sheep and goats on a spread in Missouri. Where it rains. A lot. Here in Montana, we know rain as gentle drops from heaven – few drops and far between.
The McCarthys calve both spring and fall. Which means they turn the bulls in with the cows on December first. Bulls, however, being of the male persuasion, grow restless in the bull pasture, especially if they take notice of pretty heifers across the way. A restless bull is a fence-busting bull, so Sean and Betty shut half a dozen “boys” in a corral a month or so ahead of prom day.
To keep their spirits up and their breeding talents in prime condition, the bovines (not the McCarthys) get fed generous amounts of grain twice a day. Sounds like a “simple” chore until the excess rain is factored in. After days and days of rain, the ranch “mud room” extends its perimeters to include the whole house. As for the corral, National Geographic should be making a documentary about sloppy, gloppy igneous gorp that happens in rainy country.
To feed the penned bulls requires a team effort. Sean carries the heavy buckets of grain while Betty slogs ahead bearing a shovel with which to scoop the collected rain out of the feed bunks (the drain holes are always plugged). Now, traipsing around amongst a crowd of randy bulls is a little like Russian roulette. Will you get trampled, butted, run over or killed? Maybe. Maybe not. These bulls are generally mannerly and patiently wait as their caretakers supply them with yummies. Still, they are bulls, each in the thousand pound weight range. Sometimes they might start a fight. Sometimes they may get overly anxious and crowd each other at the bunk or as Betty would say, “act like hungry football players at a buffet.”
On one particular day at the end of two weeks of sheeting rain, Betty donned her rubber high-top boots. By now, you could almost float a canoe on the slop in the corral. Betty slogged forward, each step a lurch and pull as the mud tried to suck her under. Reaching the feedbunk, she began shoveling out water. When one is shoveling, one has taken one’s eyes off any approaching, possibly threatening bull. Watching out for the shoveler is the teammate’s job. That would be Sean.
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Suddenly, in mid shovel-swing, Betty heard, “WATCH OUT!”
Betty ran. That is to say, she could have cleared a high jump with her soaring. Then she landed and looked toward the man she’d vowed to cherish. He was doubled over. In pain, you ask? Well, only if you think a belly laugh is painful.
There was no over-anxious bull about to ram her. No, in fact, the boys were standing in a row, puzzled expressions on their bovine countenances. That was the moment Betty became aware of moisture, lots of it oozing between her toes. Ye Gods, the mud had slopped over the top of her boots – she thought. She was wrong. Her boots had gone missing altogether. She’d leaped out of them.
End of story? Well, they did finish the feeding that day. Betty has never found her boots. Perhaps some day, a future archaeologist will dig them up, declare them a fossil from the olden days and mount them behind glass in a museum.
Just another “simple folk” tale in case you’re wondering.
Also – in case you’re wondering – Betty let her husband live.