by Mike Murchison
Jesus once said: “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.”
Regardless your faith it is something to absorb and remind yourself of from time to time. It keeps you humble. At my age I can break bones falling off a high horse.
Where am I going with this? Stick with me.
I started hauling cattle from feedlots to a processing plant in Utah about 2 months ago. It’s hard work and I’m not sure why I’m doing it at my age. But I like a challenge. I also like working with animals.
The dogs never listen to me, so I figured I’d give cows a try. They are big. Anywhere from 1500-1800lbs. And they can hurt you if you rile them up. Which brings me back to my opening sentence.
In my experience those who raise, handle and care for livestock are doing just. that. Treating them with respect and a little kindness.
Afterall, raising livestock is a labour of love that takes dedication and a lot of time in the best and worst of weather.
I do occasionally run across the odd fellow who thinks a cattle prod can be used like a video laser gun. Pointing and pulling the trigger at everything that moves.
Its in this scenario one can see how stirred up cattle can get. How difficult it can be to load them in a trailer. And just how much one increases their odds of having their femur broken when that cow starts kicking back.
Those fellows will usually get put in their place by the pen rider or another cow hauler pretty quick.
Loading cows into a trailer (a semi-confined space) is not natural to them. They get nervous and anything to calm them down helps.
Me! I talk to them, sing to them. Treat ‘em like I’d want to be treated. Then when I have them loaded, I ease on the accelerator, softly on the brake, gently round the curves.
We don’t want any cows falling. That’s called a ‘downer’. And if one goes down it can get trampled by the others. I’ve been lucky or smart. None down on my loads.
Once you get them to where their going, you open the back gate and let them find their own way out of the trailer and into the pen. No whoopin’ or hollerin’ and definitely no cattle prods. They are banned from the facility. Use one and you’re banned, too.
So, you think like a cow, watch their behavior. Learn from them. It makes things a lot easier.
Once there off the trailer, then comes the task of washing roughly 1200 pounds of cow shit and urine out of the trailer; not a job for the faint of heart.
So, I don the appropriate attire.
Find the nearest 2-inch diameter fire hose. Pull it all the way into the trailer, climb up onto the second level. Brace yourself and turn that nozzle.
Whoosh! 1800 pounds per square inch of water comes flying out of that hose and you best be hanging on cuss the shit is flying everywhere. Literally. You start up top simply because shit runs down hill. I witness it every time I wash out the trailer.
It takes an hour to wash out. That caps off a very long 20-hour day from start to finish.
Your job doesn’t seem so bad now does it?
Next comes my shower and my sleep. Then we do it all over again.
So why does it? Why at my age do this type of trucking?
I’m still trying to answer that.
I like to think that yes, we as humans were given domain over all the things that creep and crawl on the land, swim in the waters and fly in the skies. Stewardship is serious business. So is humbling oneself to the needs of not just each other but to all living creatures.
I don’t know if feedlot operations are the best way to raise beef. But I do know that those I’ve loaded at and the folks who work the cattle have a deep respect for the cattle they are stewarding.
Those who chant anti-beef cries and talk about cruelty to animals may have had a somewhat negative experience around the livestock handlers . But from where I sit as one who hauls them, there a great number of people who do give a damn.
Yah! I talk and sing to the cattle on my trailer. Maybe they like it. Maybe they don’t. But they’re not fussing or kicking the trailer apart.
And maybe, just maybe that’s a part of what Jesus meant when he said, “What you do for the least of these, you do for me….”