August 14, 2014
Last night I had a board meeting for the local historical society. As it turned out, summer had taken its toll, both in terms of attendance and injuries. Since we didn’t have enough members present for a quorum, we opened the meeting by comparing “What was I thinking?” stories.
Because yes, despite the fact that most of us on the board are definitely old enough to know better, we still sometimes make poor decisions when handling large farm animals. Like Dan, climbing right up on that snorty young horse on a cool mountain morning rather than giving him time to settle, or maybe swallowing his pride long enough to ask a friend to hold the colt’s head while he mounted up. The price of pride? One broken wrist.
And then there’s me. Walking around since Sunday with a Band-Aid above my left eyebrow because, in a split second of profoundly bad judgment, I forgot that massive, muscular creatures are capable of turning a gate into a deadly weapon with one swift kick.
I know better. I’ve always known better. When loading a bull into the 24 foot stock trailer, you latch the back gate first to make sure you’ve got him captured. Then you shoo him up to the front and swing the gate in the middle shut from outside, so you can load the horses in the rear half. This is why middle gates have slam latches, so you don’t have to get inside the trailer with the bull.
What you don’t do is follow the bull into the trailer and attempt to push the middle gate shut behind him. Because A: The instant the gate hits his manure-slimed butt he’s gonna kick, and a one ton bull packs a serious punch so that gate’s flying right back in your face. And B: The bull is coming out behind the gate, over top of you, and back into the pasture. And C: When you blink away the stars and focus on your husband’s face, he’ll be wearing that expression somewhere between concern and “What the hell were you thinking?”
Obviously, I was not. Thinking, I mean. I was okay. As luck and the small part of my brain that was functioning would have it, I wasn’t squarely behind the gate, so instead of smashing my nose it smacked the left lens of my sunglasses, and the sharp edge of the frame left a quarter inch cut on my forehead. And the bull, bless his heart, just stood there in the front of the trailer staring at me as I sat bleeding in the dirt, instead of leaving large cloven hoof prints on my body as he made his escape.
I walked away from the experience with a Band-Aid, one slightly black eye, and a vivid reminder of how an instantaneous lack of judgment can turn fatal. I’d like to finish up with a joke, but the truth is, every year ranchers die or are seriously injured in incidents just like this one. So the moral of this story? Don’t ever use the gate to push livestock.
It’s a no brainer.
Kari Lynn Dell – Montana for Real