Day Writing: Sorting help | TSLN.com

Day Writing: Sorting help

For generations, my family has been involved in the Rocky Point Grazing Association, located in very northeastern Wyoming. Every spring and fall, without fail, we have hauled truckloads of cattle north for the summer. It's a tradition that occurs the first half of June and October, and the source of many a memory and funny story.

One year when I was around seven or eight years old we were sorting our yearlings before shipping them to the sale barn. After gathering, I was given the task of running one of the sorting gates. My dad was running another gate across the alley from me, and my uncle was sorting on up the alley a ways and hollering which direction each bunch went.

On this particular day another association member was present. I recall him being a tall, rotund, older man with his hand in a soft cast and a cigar hanging from his lip. He was also a talker. He decided I needed help with my gate.

This was offensive to my young self, who had been running gates without any help for years. I eyed my dad in desperation, hoping he would make a comment that would release me from the situation. No such luck. I later learned he was getting a big kick out of my predicament.

Sorting commenced, and it wasn't long before my uncle hollered for a sort to go my way. The man had his hurt hand resting on the gate, and while I eyed him frantically from below, he missed the sort. Missing a sort was messing up. Messing up got you yelled at. I'm sure I went pale as my uncle grumbled a little and someone brought the cattle back.

On we went. For a second time my gate was called, and for a second time the guy had his hand right in the way and missed opening the gate in time. My uncle grumbled more; he couldn't see what was going on and only knew that I was responsible for that gate. This could not go on.

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For a third time, my uncle hollered out a sort for my gate, extra loud and in that tone suggesting I do not mess up again. I had a split second to decide what to do. When it became obvious my "helper" was going to miss the cattle yet again, I slammed his hurt hand on the gate post as I flung the gate open wide just in time let the sort in.

Dad says his eyes nearly popped out of his head and he darn near swallowed his lit cigar as he grabbed his sore hand and bounced around for several seconds before leaving me and my gate behind. He finds the entire incident hilarious. I had zero sympathy for the old bugger. My opinion at the time was that at his age he should have known that serious consequences result from poor performance.

May your fall cattle work go smooth, and may you not inadvertently cross any ranch kids with a serious job to do.

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