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Irons in the fire: Stick to your job, Mr. Bull

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 June 2021

We’ve got a little 40-acre piece of ground that really isn’t much more than just a piece of ground. By that, I mean it doesn’t really grow much more than dirt except for a 10-yard strip along the north fence where the end gun from the neighbor’s pivot shoots over the fence.

(Speaking of which, I hope Eugene doesn’t read this. He’ll probably adjust the pressure on his end gun – in which case, the production of my little 40 will significantly drop.) We’ve chopped the brush and spread a little crested wheat seed around it, but it’ll never be much more than it is. Generally, I figure it’ll hold about 40 heifers for two-and-a-half to three weeks before we turn out on the mountain.

With this year’s nonexistent spring, however (we went straight from the cold-with-no-rain season to the hot-with-no-rain season), I knew I was pushing my luck when I dumped 45 first-calf heifers through the gate with the hope I could keep them there for seven days. And with the help of a ton or two of old, weathered, moldy hay my neighbor from across the road deemed unsuitable for her horses, I made it through a week without any major incidents involving destroyed fences and frolicking cows in grain fields.

On the morning of the eighth day, I saddled four horses and enlisted the help of my sister and a couple of my nieces to trail the pairs a couple miles up the road and around the corner to an irrigated field where I’d stashed a few of the older cows. On paper, it was a minor chore – and with a little luck and some providential help, the grass there would stay ahead of the cows for 20 days. I figured I’d take it slow and let the critters graze the roadsides on the way to their new accommodations. Maybe that’d help stretch my sparse available grass just a bit further.

Taking it slow turned out to be no problem at all. The cows were, of course, content to graze the relatively lush vegetation in the barrow pits of the old gravel road, in no hurry to venture past the foreign green matter beneath their feet. That was all in perfect union with my ingenious plan. The real fun and real life began when I decided it was time to march up the road. The cows were willing and cooperative, but the idiot 3-year-old bull, whose sole job is to breed the cows, took it upon himself to add to his job description.

From that point on, every step toward what, by every measure, would be a better existence than the one the herd was leaving became an excruciating ordeal. As the cows tried to meander up the road, the bull’s singular purpose transformed into a mission to drive the cows back. It was an arduous, maddening, leap-frogging journey. As a few cows would slip up the right side of the road, the bull would rush over to turn them back. While he was busy with them, we’d sneak a few cows past him on the left side of the road. The bull would then rush over to the left side of the road, attempting to bring that portion of his claimed harem back into line with his way of thinking. Back and forth we’d go, unhappy participants in a cowboy dance, custom-made for a viral TikTok video except a TikTok video lasts about 15 seconds. This little production was more akin to a full-length feature film of the tide coming and going.

Occasionally, I’d take after him with the dogs and the knot end of my rope and drive him 15 or 20 yards up the road, hoping the cows would follow before he got the slip on me and continued with his exasperating game. After a few of those treatments, you might think he’d give in to a more sensible and peaceful approach to the journey, but you’d be wrong in thinking that. Not until we finally and mercifully reached the gate to our destination did the fool of a toro give up his quest. Even then, it was only because the cows could finally scatter and, upon his entrance, he was met by three bellowing, snot-blowing older bulls who were able to otherwise occupy his mind and energies.

As infuriating and frustrating as that imbecilic bull’s actions and attitude were, it’s a pretty short hop to the human parallels of this bovine tale. Sadly, you don’t have to look very far (maybe no farther than the nearest mirror) to find someone who, despite circumstances completely in his favor, chooses to take it upon himself to get his nose up in everybody else’s business in an ultimately futile effort to turn back to where he thinks they should be, even with the obvious promise of greener pastures just a mile or two up the road.  end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter, or email Paul Marchant.

 

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