Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chapter 102 The Good, the Bad and the Poultry

Our neighbor, Jack Geren, was a really great friend and had a lot of good old country sayings. We had a winding road from the pavement up to our house that had gotten rough. It was full of “chug-holes” and generally in a mess. One morning about 6 am I was drinking my first cup of coffee when I looked down our gravel road towards the pavement and spied Jack. He was on his old Farmall tractor dragging a blade, smoothing out our road.
I had not said a word about my road to him. As he made his way up to the house I came out and offered him a cup of coffee. He said, “No thanks, I have to get on to the field and finish plowing.” I thanked him for grading our road. He said he had noticed it was pretty rough the other day when he came up to see me. I said, “Jack, I appreciate you grading the road so much. What can I do for you?” Jack sort of pouched out his lower lip and said, “A good deed, ‘specting’ one in return, ‘taint’ no good deed ‘tall’.”
A lesson in country ways was so noted by me.
Duchess before her fall from grace
We still had Duchess, our family dog, along with other dogs that seemed to accumulate at the farm. We were about five miles from McKinney, which was just the right distance for people to bring unwanted puppies and dump them off along the side of the road. Every once in a while we would discover some pups that suddenly would show up at our house. I never wanted to kill them or even take them to the pound. We tried to find homes for them but usually wound up with another dog or two. As long as they behaved themselves they were welcome to stay but if they misbehaved they were out of there. Every dog has it's weakness. Even old Duchess finally slipped and took a walk on the dark side.

We had a lot of chickens and they furnished fresh eggs every day for us and for all the folks that worked for us. One day after we had been gone all day, we returned to find all of the chickens dead. Something had  killed every one of them and there were feathers everywhere. I figured a coyote had slipped in while we were gone but if that was the case where were all the dogs? I could not figure it out. As I was standing at the scene of the crime I saw Duchess had a funny look about her. I spoke to her and when she opened her mouth I saw it was full of feathers.  On further inspection I found blood on her. No question as to who the perpetrator was. It was Duchess! We did not get rid of her but she definitely was on the unapproved list after that.

Photo of tractor blade found here.
Illustration of pointer with chicken found here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chapter 101 Think Like a Cow

One day I needed an extra set of hands while working a cow.  As with everything else I did, Charlotte was willing to help. This was one time that I think she almost decided to quit. She was helping me put a cow into the chute so I could doctor her and the cow did not want to go. It turned out to be quite the battle. The cow would dodge first one way and then another and Charlotte and I were trying to get her to turn and go into the chute. She had gotten around us several times (mostly around Charlotte, but me too). We were hot, sweaty and stressed.
I shouted to Charlotte, “Watch her! She is going to go around you again!” With that, the cow faked Charlotte to the right and then took off around her to the left. That cow could have played basketball or football. She juked Charlotte right out of her shoes. I said, “Couldn't you tell what she was thinking, you could see it in her eyes, exactly what she was thinking!”
This did not sit well with Charlotte, who never uttered a word of profanity, usually. She walked right over close to me and drew all of her 4 feet 11 inches up to about 5 feet 3, then through clinched teeth she said, "How in the H__ do you expect me to know what a D__ cow is thinking!!”  You will notice that is not actually phrased as a question. With that she turned and stomped back up to the house and I had to get the cow in the chute by myself.
 Charlotte checking a young heifer and her calf.
You might note in the photo to the right, those steel 8-foot high corrals are a very long way from that first pen I built 25 years earlier. This one was a series of gates which allowed me to work fifteen to twenty cows by myself without doing anything but quietly closing one gate after another. 
This new pen may or may not have been inspired by the last time Charlotte worked the cows with me. Charlotte may not have known what the cow was thinking but I knew exactly what Charlotte was thinking!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chapter 100 Cattle Call

We worked the cattle twice a year, in early April and then-mid September. Each time we would have to bring all the cattle up from the pasture, pen them and work them one at a time.  “Working cattle” meant different things depending on what each one needed.
Some things were standard; for example, in the fall we would give each one of them a vitamin A, D, E shot. They needed the Vitamin A because they would run out of green grass about this time and they would store the Vitamin A in the liver for use all during the winter months. The vitamin shot was given using a large hypodermic needle. I would draw the proper amount and give them a shot in the muscle of the flank.
Frequently, we would also worm them. This required the use of a balling gun. This stainless steel instrument consisted of a long rod about 8 to 10 inches long with a plunger on the end to discharge the worming pill. After putting the large pill on the end of the rod I would insert the rod along the side of the cow’s mouth and slide it down deep into her throat. Then I would press the plunger and deposit the pill and retract the gun.
In order to do this, I would insert my thumb in one nostril and my fingers in the other so that I could lift her head and cause her to open her mouth wide enough to insert the gun. After depositing the pill I had to continue to hold her nose and put my other arm around her head to hold her jaws closed until I felt her swallow the pill. If you did not do this she would usually spit it out and you would have to repeat the entire process.
I would then dust them for flies and check them for cuts, eye infections or any other needs. That gives you an idea of the process and you can see it was very labor intensive. Considering you were working several hundred cows, it did take some time and effort. At the end of each day you did not have any trouble sleeping.
I usually did not do this alone. I had several hands who worked for me. Of course Jessie was always there; another long timer was an old cowboy named Pete McLain. Pete gave me a compliment I have never forgotten. It was a lesson on earning respect as a manager of people. One spring it started raining after Pete and I got a bunch of cattle up in the pens. We had to go ahead and work them to get them back to pasture rather than keep them penned up for several days. There was a lot of mud created as the rain came down pretty steady while we worked.
The cattle got muddy as we moved them from pen to pen and into the chute. It took about six hours of steady work in the rain to finish. When we finished, we looked at one another and we were mud from head to toe. I grinned at Pete because he was a mess and he said, “I’ll say one thing by God, you would never ask a man to do anything you wouldn't do yourself.” I did not answer but I appreciated the comment and never did forget it in my next 25 year of supervising people. For my grandchildren and great grandchildren, remember, you can be given authority but you have to earn respect.

Photo of balling gun found here.
Photo of cow being dosed found here.
Photo of muddy cows found here.