Production sale day.
The highlight of the Stringam Ranch year.
The catalogs have been printed, painstakingly addressed (ugh!) and mailed out.
All over the world.
The cattle have been groomed, trimmed, tucked in and kissed good night.
The ranch site has been mowed, scoured, repaired and painted.
Now it sparkles like a new penny in the morning sun as the crew slowly climbs out of bed.
Some (my parents) might not have seen their bed.
Breakfast is on the table and Mom is a blur of motion as she tries to do three things at once.
A shout from the barnyard. “They’re here!”
A glance out the window. Sure enough, the first of a long line of vehicles is moving slowly up the ranch drive.
From then on, the day is a series of impressions.
Greeting and handshaking.
Parking cars and the trickier trucks and trailers.
Handing out catalogues.
Tending the coffee and the all-important donuts.
Making sure the auctioneer staff are comfortable and cared for.
Dusting the bleachers, ready for customer bottoms.
The warm up pitter-patter from the auctioneer on the stand as he gathers the chatting, laughing, gesticulating crowd.
An open gate and the first animal, an outstanding heifer, in the ring.
The auctioneer assistant, armed with a cane, moving her about.
More chatter from the man with the mike.
The smack of the gavel.
Another open gate and the now-nervous heifer gladly disappearing.
Shouts from the pens as stock is shuffled into catalogue order.
Pounding of the gavel.
Talk and laughter as the auctioneer plays with the crowd.
The final animal, a 2000 pound bull, in the pen.
Final strike of the mallet.
Much laughter. The crowd is well aware of the almost fanatic fence maintenance required by the ranch owner.
And the unlikely possibility of anything four-legged crawling through with mischief/romance in mind.
Everyone moving down the hill toward the long tables set out in front of the ranch house.
Tables groaning with mountains of Stringam beef, salads, rolls, and every other good thing.
A buzz of contented ‘people noise’ as food is consumed.
The crowd slowly dwindling.
The setting sun on the faces of a family of exhausted people, collapsed in chairs in front of the house.