‘A bovine semi-sieve’
Damphewmore Acres, Kan.
I’m writing this column on May 11 and the last three days have been “the end of winter,” not “the middle of spring.” Today’s temperature high is near 50 degrees. Same with yesterday and the day before. I can’t recall needing to wear longjohns in the middle of May before. Please give me just a touch of global warming.
Now, I’m going to tell you a true story about a “bovine semi-sieve.” It’s both a humorous story and a tragic one. You’ll have to read on to find out why and to find out what a “bovine semi-sieve” is.
The story starts with an eastern Kansas cattle truck driver for hire — ol’ Rollin deRhoades, by name. He doesn’t own a cattle truck and trailer, but the owner of a cattle truck and trailer hired him to fetch a load of Florida steers and deliver them to a feedlot east of Parsons, Kan. So, the hired driver — who is experienced enuf to have seen and lived through a lot of cattle trucking experiences — heads to Florida. His diesel is pulling a spanking new aluminum cattle trailer.
Well, after an uneventful trip to the Sunshine State, Rollin finds out that his load of steers is yearling Longhorns, who’ve been rounded up with a helicopter from a 40,000-acre ranch that includes a swampland. Then Rollin finds out that to get to the steers, he has to back the trailer for two miles down a big levee because the manager of the ranch tells him there’s no place to turn the rig around at the corral.
After the backing ordeal wuz accomplished without incident, Rollin gets to see his “load” in the corral. It takes an experienced trucker like Rollin about 1 second to see it’s gonna be a rodeo getting loaded. The Longhorn steers are wild, wild-eyed and on the prod.
They’ve scarcely ever seen a human and they’ve never seen a truck — and they’re in a prickly mood. Translate “prickly mood” to its real meaning — they’re mean and they hate what’s being done to them and they’re eager to charge anyone and any thing. In short, they’re seriously dangerous steers and they’ve got the horned tools to enforce their foul mood. They were rounded up with a helicopter, not horses, for a reason. The ranch crews’ pickups that they drove in the pastures had “protective metal bars” welded strategically to keep the drivers safe.
As Rollin had assessed, the loading process was fraught with danger. The cowboys couldn’t hang on the fence. Too dangerous. The steers had to be prodded toward the loading chute through the corral fence. They stampeded from side to side but a few sought refuge in the darkened trailer. Rollin had a tough time getting the pot-belly trailer properly loaded, and he purposely waited to load the top deck last.
About that time, a cut of the steers stampeded up the ramp and onto the top deck of the trailer. Rollin didn’t get a good count, but he slammed the trailer gate down and locked it tight. He recalls that those Longhorns were banging around in the trailer like popcorn on the lid of a pan. He was eager to get on the road and hopefully calm them down on the more than thousand mile trip to Kansas.
On the trip, every time he stopped, Rollin noted that the steers were still highly agitated. So, he pushed on as fast as the diesel could go and he arrived at the feedlot in the early afternoon.
After he’s backed up to the unloading chute, he decided to warn the “welcoming crew” of cowboys about their new “charges,” pun intended. One cowboy was mounted on a horse in the alley not far from the unloading chute. Others were sitting on the fence with cattle rattles and prods. “You guys better be aware of these Longhorn steers,” Rollin informed them. “They’re wild and mean and they’ll be looking to hurt someone. And you’d better have a good pen to keep them in.”
The young cowpoke in the horse took all the advice nonchalantly and said something to the effect, “I’ve been here long enuf that I’ve seen it all. Just unload ‘em.”
“Okey, dokey,” Rollin said. “You can’t say I didn’t warn you.” With that he opened the trailer gate and the very first Longhorn that charged down the chute made a horn-lowered beeline for the cowboy on his horse in the alley and, sadly, gored his horse in the belly so badly that it ultimately had to be euthanized.
The rider had to scramble for his life to get over the fence. The other fence riders scattered like a covey of quail as the Longhorns unloaded in a horn-clacking stampede. They kept running until they jammed themselves into the cattle pen that awaited them.
Rollin says that the unloading crew was properly chastized — and, dreading what the next several months would be like working with and around that herd of crazed cattle.
Rollin sez he promptly drove away and never did hear another word about the load of steers. However, when he went to clean the trailer before heading home, that’s when he noticed that the top of the brand new aluminum trailer looked like a sieve. It was thoroughly pockmarked with “horn holes” from the crazed steers ramming their horns through the thin aluminum top of the new trailer.
Now you know what a “bovine semi-sieve” is and how it’s made.
In spite of the weather, it must be spring. A pair of Canada geese hatched five goslings in our pond, and a mother duck has a whole string of fuzz ducklings. Both of the web-footed families are very protective of their babies.
Time for this week’s words of wisdom: “It takes a village to raise a child. However, it takes a distillery to homeschool one.” Have a good ‘un. ❖