I am ashamed to say that I lasted less than one year in the registered cattle business. It wasn’t the people or the paper work that turned me off, it was tagging and tattooing the calves that I dreaded.
The instruction manual that came with my breed association membership certificate said that to be done properly “the newborn calf should be weighed and tagged as near to parturition as possible.” This usually meant playing hide and seek with a nervous mother for two days and then smelling her bovine breath while I tattooed, weighed and ear tagged her calf. Most of my cows would snuff, blow and bluff like they were going to roll me over at any minute, though they never did. But I was not willing to take that chance with cow #34.
I have always believed that cattle should be handled as little as possible and cow #34 was largely responsible for this belief. She was a man slayer. If this cow was human her picture would be hung in every Post Office in America. So the day I saw her sharpening her horns at the water trough I knew that it was my only opportunity to tag her calf which was resting a half mile away. I gunned the truck’s engine and took off like a rocket over the rocky terrain.
“There’s her calf, we have to act fast,” I yelled to my wife who was riding shotgun and preparing the tattoo pliers in advance of the assault. I knew I had to catch the calf on the first attempt because it was getting older every day and would soon be uncatchable. I jammed on the brakes, jumped out of the cab and grabbed the calf by the hind leg as it was about to escape. By pulling on the leg I provoked a balling response from the calf which meant trouble was on the way.
With hands faster than a PRCA calf roper I threw the calf and was preparing to squeeze down on the tattoo pliers when I looked up into the cold eyes of cow #34. There was simply no way she could have got there that fast!
Acting on instinct I jammed the tattoo pliers into my back pocket (a move I would later regret) and jumped into the back of the truck thinking I would be safe. To my surprise #34 jumped in the back of the truck with me and followed me over the roof and down across the hood. My wife had realized the danger and rolled up the windows and locked the doors. That left only one safe place and I dove under the truck.
#34 might have been a mother but she surely was no lady. She tried to follow me under the 4-wheel drive pick-up but could only get as far as her shoulders. By rolling over to the opposite side of the truck I could barely escape the pointed ends of her slashing horns. When the killer cow would run around to the other side I would quickly roll over on the ground which was covered with moist cow pies. It was at this precise moment that I regretted earlier shoving the tattoo gun with its piercing needles in my back pocket. Although it does explain why I have the number 34 tattooed on my right rump.
I am reminded of this incident by the large muffler brand on my right arm and to this day I could draw you a schematic of what the underside of a pick-up truck looks like. I got a real good look at one as I rolled back and forth to be on the safe side, away from the cow. Realizing that I could not keep this up for ever and that I might die from carbon monoxide poisoning I yelled to my wife in the cab of the truck.
“Honey, cough, cough,” I gasped, “get out and detract the cow long enough so that I can roll out from under the truck and jump in the cab.”
I wish I could tell you, gentle reader, what happened next but the last thing I remember is the sound of my wife laughing haughtily at my suggestion, the transmission slipping into gear, my feet being warmed by the midday sun and my wife saying something about going for help.