Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: A case of PSS
We are planning to ship our calves a month early and I have already got all the signs and symptoms of “Pre-shipping Syndrome” (PSS). This condition is easy to spot in ranchers. One of the early signs is that the sufferer experiences a nagging sense of dread that he has forgotten something important like calling the veterinarian to have him there on the right day to health inspect the calves. Often times ranchers afflicted with this condition will make lists of things to do which they then misplace.
Any deviation from the normal routine can lead to panic attacks. A good example was today when the state department of agriculture scale tester arrived driving the truck normally used for testing large commercial scales. This truck has a van body that is six inches taller than the 12-foot high gate frame at the end of our scale alley. For the past 20 years, the scale tester has just unloaded the weight cart on the concrete apron in front of the scale and driven the cart on to each corner of the scale. The weight cart set down on sand made it about two feet before sinking. Fortunately, my son figured out a way to move enough of the test weights with the front-end loader to test the scale.
Experiences like this only make PSS worse. The more mishaps that a rancher has experienced in the past, the more paranoid the PSS sufferer becomes. They start raving about the time the county road grader came by and cut a ditch in the turn-off while the calves were being weighed. This prevented the trucks from getting back on the road. It might have been a simple inconvenience except for the fact that the grader operator was not working on the county road but instead on a private road that he had no business maintaining. It’s important to treat people suffering with PSS with caution. Never mention the time the cattle buyer showed up too drunk to get out of his car, or any other epic shipping disaster. The final stages of PSS are characterized by extreme irritability, insomnia and occasional swearing. Frothing at the mouth may be observed when inquisitive deer hunters let their dog out of the car by the corrals. The only known cure for PSS is for the afflicted person to see loaded trucks leaving the ranch on dry roads. Even that might not be sufficient if there is a problem cashing the check for the calves.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News