Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



All of My Friends

Monday, December 19, 2011

What Am I Bid . . .?

Tall. Long. Exceptional Herd Sire Prospect. 

And you thought a Cattle Sale merely meant selling cattle!

My brother, Blair and I were getting cattle ready for the annual Stringam Production sale.
Which was held . . . ummm . . . annually.
This was quite a process.
The sale was held in the fall.
And was the culmination of many, many months of work.
All of which was accomplished by the family slaves . . .
Dad!
Moving on.
The first sign of the approaching sale was always the appearance of our Father figure with 'The List'.
Let me point out here that this was usually only a couple of months after the last sale.
Sigh.
But I digress . . .
Dad would plunk down 'The List', a stack (and I do mean stack) of envelopes, and a row of new pens.
"Okay, kids, time to get started!"
Which was our cue to pull ourselves away from whatever hot pastime we were currently engaged in (from the two channels on the TV, to this week's current riveting novel) and drag ourselves to the kitchen table.
Whereupon (love that word) we would each be handed a pen and a part of 'The List'.
And told to get busy.
While Dad found something else to do.
Hmmmm.
I should explain that 'The List' consisted of the names and addresses of people who had bought cattle in the past. People who might buy cattle in the future. And people who had once seen cattle.
It was endless.
I'm sure you were on it.
I should also explain that computers hadn't been invented yet.
Every envelope had to be painstakingly (the word 'pain' is in there for a reason) lettered by hand.
Double-checked by our editorial department (Mom).
And stuffed with an assortment of pamphlets and catalogues.
Have you ever seen a cattle sale catalogue?
It's riveting reading.
Pictures of . . . cows.
With catchy, informative descriptions: Long. Tall. Beefy. Impressive. Good producer. Great mother. Exceptional herd sire prospect.
Oh there were other pictures as well.
Mostly of us humans, standing behind the aforementioned long, tall, beefy, impressive, good producing, motherly herd sire prospects.
The bigger they were, the less of us you could see.
Probably a good thing.
Back to my story.
Once we had finished addressing and stuffing and stamping the envelopes, they were left in a pile for the shipping department (Mom) to take care of.
Then we were free to start on the real work.
Preparing the stock for the sale.
This consisted of feeding, cleaning up after, shuffling, and tucking them in with their jammies and teddy.
This went on for months.
As the time for the actual sale grew closer, we got even more proactive.
Checking the sale barn to make sure it was properly cleaned and that the bleacher seats were dusted and in good repair.
Because one couldn't have one's customers guests receive a splinter or a dusty bottom.
Pregnancy testing. (The cows, not us.)
Semen testing (I won't even touch this one.)
And finally, washing and/or air-grooming the stock.
Washing is pretty self-explanatory.
Air grooming consisted of running the animals into a head squeeze (Actually, it clamped shut on their neck just behind the head and held the animal in a standing position) while we moved freely around them, using a high-powered blower (think leaf-blower, but stronger) to redistribute any dust, dirt, or small animals that may have been making a home in the red and white hair.
It was a fun job, if one remembered to stay away from the business end of the blower.
If one forgot, and we frequently did, one ended up as the new home for all of the dislodged dust, dirt and small animals.
Thus, a day spent with the blower was inevitably ended with a trip to the showers.
Blair and I had reached the dirt-blowing stage of the whole production.
We had rigged a series of panels to move the animals from point 'A' to point 'B' as effortlessly as possible.
All was going well.
Dad had purchased a bull at another production sale a couple of years earlier.
Ranchers did that.
Bought cattle from each other on occasion.
Ostensibly (real word) to 'improve their line'.
But actually to encourage the other ranchers to return the favour.
The bull's name was Victor. He was tall. And long. And beefy. And an 'Exceptional Herd Sire Prospect'.
He was also stupid.
Notably stupid.
And when an animal stands out in a cow herd as 'stupid', you have to know that he is remarkable.
And not in a good way.
We got Victor into the squeeze.
We blew all of his little tenants away.
As well as a couple of pounds of dirt.
And some of his precious few brain cells.
We opened the squeeze.
Now, up until this point, all of the cattle had obediently made their way along the corridor we had created (by wiring some sheets of plywood together), happily returning to their familiar paddock and lunch.
Victor was . . . different..
Remember? Victor was . . . stupid.
Victor wanted to go . . . somewhere else.
Did I mention he was tall?
He simply lifted his head and went through our carefully erected barrier.
Four sheets of it.
Oh, he didn't hurry.
None of this running wild stuff.
No.
He walked.
Forward.
Crushing solid wood panels as he went.
We shouted and waved and finally resorted to beating on him with our hands.
We might as well have been something small and gnat-ty.
Because that's all the notice he took of us.
When he had pushed through the final barrier, he simply turned and looked at us.
Then wandered out into the corral and the sunshine.
The wrong corral, I might point out.
Stupid bull.
We did manage to get him back to where he belonged.
Some time later.
And when he felt like it.
Two days later, Blair and I were both present when he was sold, loaded into a trailer, and taken from our lives.
Sometimes, good comes from bad.
It was a satisfying lesson.

7 comments:

  1. There aint no room on this here farm for no idiot bull....good breeding stock indeed..... a bunch of half wits.
    Ps....I hope that owl landed safely...canada post indicates all is well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. And all I had to do was clean the upstairs every Saturday. Sheesh! Oh, wait. Twice a year every square inch of the house was cleaned and reassembled. But even that doesn't measure up to cleaning a bull. Good work.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That looks like a great bull. lol
    And I think he was smart. He was not a follower.
    He was a leader and he knew what he wanted.
    Reminds me of the old horse I rode who avoided all the puddles and came back spic and span as opposed to his friends who came home filthy and muddy cause they followed each other.
    And he didn't look like he was ready to charge kids. A big plus!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Stupid bull.

    :-)

    I am starting to wonder if we are somehow related. Your father sounds suspiciously like mine, although, hey, we had THREE TV channels to be pulled away from. :-) That there's what we call Northern Minnesota Fancy.

    Pearl

    p.s. Have added you to my blogroll.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Diane, I can imagine you and your brother trying to steer the bull into the right corral. Poor Victor, he was marching to the sound of his own drum! I think I would have liked him! hee hee! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. LOL I have never seen a cattle catalogue (but I am a city gal) must be a fun read:) I am very behind on my reading with Christmas and all but I have taken all of next week off and will be back to read more of your funny family stories:) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family

    ReplyDelete
  7. I loved that picture... I assume that is you... Grand Champion! Wow! Awesome! :)

    You know... I came across an old cattle sale catalog that my dad found a while back. It was about the time John Wayne owned the ranch just below where my office is now. It is still called the 26Bar Ranch and is still mainly Herefords today, but is now owned by the Hopi Indian Tribe. It was so neat to look through that old catalog. We don't see them like that anymore now that so many sales are done online and over the TV.

    This also reminds me of all of our own "stupid" cows and bulls that we are always more than happy to take to the auction! We just got rid of a "stupid" horse a few weeks ago that my father-in-law should have never bought. He was hoping to get a horse to pull a cart... that has become his new favorite hobby, but finding a horse to pull a two-wheeled cart is proving to be more than difficult. He got this horse and hoped for the best... took him out one time and the horse kicked and about killed him so off to the auction he went. I think we had him down here about a month. Yes, I know ALL about "stupid" livestock animals! haha... I loved this post.

    ReplyDelete

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