My introduction to agriculture…
I had recently arrived in Colorado and was spending time with my in laws. My wife’s family has a lot of land and raised cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, goats and all kinds of critters. Danelle, my wife, was well known in 4H for her excellence in raising and showing livestock. She was also currently 8 months pregnant. I, however, was raised in an insurance office and was a soft, timid, city boy who required air conditioning and creature comforts.
One morning I was woken up early and was told we were going to the Ranch to unload some new calves. These were 600 pound Black Angus steers. My father-in-law was going to show me the ropes of how to unload these little boys into their new home.
My Father-in-law, PT, a white haired man who wore a well worn black cowboy hat, Carhart shirt, jeans and broken in cowboy boots, which was his standard uniform. His average height and build combined with his friendly disposition didn’t convey just how damn tough he really is. My father-in-law gave me a detailed list of instructions for using a rope to lead the steer out of the trailer. PT saved the biggest of the little baby calves for me. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “blah blah tug firmly to turn their head, blah blah, turn their head, blah blah blah”.
I’m in my early 20s and am rich in ego and poor in humility. In my past, I had lifted some weights and thought I was pretty darn awesome, and although I remember not fully understanding the concept he was explaining it didn’t seem to concern me. I stepped up to get a close look at that little Angus calf. Now to the untrained eye, a 600 pound calf can appear to be a 2,000 pound full sized intact bull. I immediately had a little humility introduced into my life by the name of “Too Much”. Later, I would discover that Too Much’s castration hadn’t been complete and he was just a little more boy than his brothers.
I dismissed all insecurity within me and I grabbed the lead rope firmly, wrapped it around my hand, boldly stared that calf in the face, planted my feet and knew I would succeed in getting this little boy to his new home. My ego made me SURE of my success, my confidence was tangible and grew even larger than my ego. I was also … wrong. At that moment the calf’s front legs lift off the ground in a movement that reminded me of monster trucks flying off a dirt ramp. He was in the air and then he dropped one of his massive hooves on my right foot. I believe … I’m not certain, but I THINK Too Much … winked at me.
My foot was experiencing pain that my weak and mushy body had never had to deal with. Then he displayed his Spanish heritage and I was instantly part of the running of the bulls … or calf. I held onto the rope as best as I could, I remembered SOMETHING about turning his head. I tugged on the rope with everything I had … but I don’t think that was much at all. Too Much didn’t even seem to feel the effort of my entire body pulling on the rope. I fell to the ground and rolled as Too Much landed one of his mighty hooves on me while he continued onward to … wherever the hell he felt like going.
On the ground, my universe was black and filled with pain. I was unable to breathe and unwilling to open my eyes. I sifted through the pain to see if I was hurt or injured. Though not sure if I really wanted the answer. Eventually, I opened my eyes to see another cowboys face with a smile so large it almost extended beyond his head. My Uncle Troy was standing over me. He was a towering and intimidating man and was PT’s little brother in age only. He said with gentle gaiety to his tone, “Don’t worry about the steer, James” He paused shortly for effect. “Your pregnant wife is taking care of it!”. His smile somehow grew larger…
I saw Danelle, FULLY with child, leading that steer around as if he was a puppy. It looked as if she could utter the word, “Sit” and this bovine would drop his rear haunches and plop on the ground.
This was the beginning of long journey for me. One that taught me life can be hard, but I would have people to help guide me. People like PT … or my pregnant wife.