Who Done It? (Best Of)

Riding Hard


At first glance I thought I’d been the victim of some radical animal rights group. I’d been away for a couple days and when I returned home I found my squeeze chute draped in red, white and blue crepe paper streamers with several insulting messages attached to the antique chute. The note that really got my attention stated that, “You have been white-tagged by OSHA because working facilities are not safe and healthful.”

Taped to the side gate, that had long ago rusted permanently shut, were three advertisements from scrap iron dealers. All the ads were cut out of the yellow pages and all carried a similar message: “Top dollar paid for scrap metal that no longer serves a purpose. Free pick-up.”

Attached to the front door of the squeeze chute was a two-dollar-off coupon for spectacular savings on an $18,000 hydraulic squeeze chute that according to the flyer did everything but make lunch. Also included were several sets of instructions and plans for new working facilities and crowding alleys. I had to admit I could use some, working facilities, that is.

The final insult taped to my crossbred chute was a huge yellow OSHA sign written in both English and Spanish pointing out several safety violations and the penalties for committing such heinous acts. The mandatory penalty for possessing a man-killing chute as outlined by OSHA was $1,000 and a “failure to correct such safety hazards could result in a ten thousand dollar fine and six months in jail.”

At first I suspected the cows for doing this to my chute because underlined in the production code of ethics was the statement that, “Equipment should be used and maintained to insure livestock safety and to prevent choking.” I had to admit that the cows had justifiable cause but I knew they didn’t speak Spanish and who would feed them if I was in jail?

I hated to think about the possible repercussions but I had to admit to myself that it really could have been OSHA itself who white-tagged my chute. I knew that they conduct periodic job inspections but I really didn’t think that a government employee would have taken the time to drape my chute in colorful streamers. Although the crepe paper streamers did reinforce the chute, they also ruined the paint job where they were taped to it. So I concluded it must have been some irresponsible friend of mine playing a practical joke.

Just three days prior to the attack I had some friends over to help me preg check which could have prompted the insults. Thus, I had three really good suspects. It could have been the vet. After all, his relationship with my crossbred chute over the years has been a stormy one. He has had a cow tip over backwards in it, the headgate opened up when he was examining a bad eye and he has had his arm halfway up a cow when she slipped lose, backing his elbow into the tailgate.

It could very well have been my friend and neighbor John. Admittedly, my squeeze has tried to kill him on several occasions. The top has fallen down on his head and the sides have pinched him worse than a perverted Senator. (Aren’t they all?) But John is usually the one who gets to operate the headgate which is usually considered a position of honor, but in my case demands hazard pay. That alone would find him innocent in any court in the land even if he did desecrate my chute.

But I really suspect Beans because he’s been trying to sell me a slightly used 1935 model squeeze chute for years, the kind that features an easy pull, spring loaded latch like mine used to have.

Because of the insulting nature of the messages I would fire all three right now and never have them help me again, but according to the OSHA rules they, “Cannot be discharged or discriminated against in any way for filing complaints concerning unsafe working conditions.”

I’ll probably find out who did it the next time we work cows because according to OSHA, they all have the right to refuse to work under conditions that endanger their lives.


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