Baxter Black: Feedlot Cowboy
Let’s put in good word for the feedlot cowboy. That group of fellers that meet every mornin’ early at the horse barn, saddle up, get their instructions and ride off down the alley. These boys and ladies come from everywhere. Most are fair to middlin’ horsemen with some sort of rural background. A few have come in from the outside, doin’ ranch work. These particular buckaroos and brush poppers often have trouble adapting to a world of crowded pens, clangin’ gates and speedin’ feed trucks. They’re used to a little slower pace and the madhouse routine of pen checkin’, processin’, doctorin’, sortin’ and shippin’ leaves ‘em a little bamfoozled. Some of ‘em catch on and other’s just float around the yard hopin’a heifer will calve or a steer will get out on the road.
A big bunch are young people who grew up around feedlots or horseshoers, rodeos, small farms or sale barns. They gravitate to bein’ a feedlot cowboy. Some are naturals. They have cow savvy and a good eye. They put in their apprenticeship and work their way up to be the cattle foreman or manager someday.
There’s another group who have a little college, maybe a degree, who are willin’ to work and learn from the more experienced cowboys. If they don’t get shot or run off by the crew they eventually gain a position of responsibility.
Lots of feedlot cowboys are married. It’s a steady job, often with housing furnished, a place to keep a horse or two and they’re home every night. ‘Course there’s always a few young single bucks who sleep in the bunkhouse, stay up late and stay broke.
All of ‘em complain about the mud, heat, cold, wind, sorry company horses, Holsteins, the cattle Foreman, the pay, the doctorin’ the cattle buyer, the no rope no dog rules and countin’ with bankers.
They love harrassin’ the new man, coffee in the shack, Sunday afternoons, tellin’ jokes, seein’ someone else get bucked off and Copenhagen.
Women, “cowpersons” if you will, are becoming more common on cowboy crews. There’s never been much question that they could ride and spot sick cattle as well as a man but we’ve been kind of a chauvinistic business. They’re getting’ their chance now.
Abe brought a steer in to the doctorin’ shack.
“Whaddya bring him in here for, Abe? He don’t look sick to me!”
“He sure needs emergency surgery, Lloyd.”
“See that big ball of cow pucky hangin’ on the end of his tail.”
“Yea, so what?”
“It’s stretched his skin so tight it’s holdin’ his eyelids open and he can’t sleep!”
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