We Cheated


The other day the kids and I used the cake pickup to help Beau move cows to fresh pasture.

There was a time in my life when I would’ve insisted Hell would freeze over before I would be part of a cattle-moving operation involving a pickup.  But I’m definitely mellowing as I age.

It’s just that I was taught there is a very specific way to handle cattle.  I think that’s how my dad keeps his crew working well together:  Everybody’s on the same page… his page.  It’s not that I ever thought we were the punchiest outfit around.  But we have tradition, and tradition is very important to me.  And so I grew up feeling certain there was a right way to do things, and by golly we were doing it.  There were rules and some things were against the rules.  Cows were only to be handled horseback.  To do it afoot or on a four-wheeler or to use a cake pickup to move cattle… well, only ignorant cheaters did that stuff and we could only shake our heads in wonderment.

If you were familiar with Garth Brooks in the 1990s, you know that cowboys can be a prideful bunch.  Cowboys make up approximately .02% of the population of the world.  And camaraderie is indeed there.  But there’s also a lot of competition, a lot of ego, over who can do the job best and who’s doing things the right way.  They can be insecurity-inducing company if you’re not too sure of where you stand… which, admittedly, I never have been.

So what escaped me for many years was that elsewhere, somewhere other than the PV, people were handling cattle in a completely different manner compared to us and they were getting along all right.  These people were not being sent to Wannabe/Weekender Jail and their cows were not being sent to Badly Behaved Prison.  I didn’t realize that these people weren’t doing things wrong; they were just doing things different.

These days, I still enjoy working with cows.  And I’d like to be horseback doing it.  But I’m following another trail in life right now — the Mom Trail — and it’s impossible for me to be horseback with a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 7-month-old to rear.  Still, I want to be a part of what’s going on.  And so God bless my husband — who came from so deep in the South that it might as well be another country compared to Montana, who always knew that there are many different ways to handle cattle (you can bet that made for an interesting first ten years of marriage), who is not quite so enamored with the cowboy way of life as am I — for allowing me to make myself this concession.  For allowing me to let myself be human.  For letting me and our three littles be a part of things, even though is meant — groan — using the cake pickup to move the cows.

So the kids and I were in the pickup with the cake wagon hooked behind.  The wagon was filled with delicious and nutritious cake (protein cubes) for the cows.  I drove out in the old-grass pasture and honked the horn.  Expecting winter feed, the cows came running hungrily, and Beau, on horseback, hurried along any stragglers.  Then I drove through two gates and the cows followed the cake pickup blindly, so bent on cake were they, and Beau shut the gates behind them and I fed them their cake.  And now the cows are situated on fresh grass in their winter pasture and they didn’t even realize they were being moved.  Cows are pretty easy to trick like that.

We did the job, just the five of us, and there’s a lot of value in that.  Someday the five of us might do it with everyone horseback.  But this is working for now.

I’m getting older and chilling out and deciding there’s not enough time in this life to pretend I’m more than human.

But for the record, I still thinking handling cows horseback is the right way to do it.  Sometimes, I guess, it’s right to be wrong.

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