It’s fall, y’all. A busy time of year for most of us in agriculture. On our place, we’ve got corn to chop and the last cutting of hay to bring in. There is also the most (and least) anticipated task of the season, working cattle. It’s time to bring cattle in from the desert, work them and wean the calves. In theory, I look forward to this. My family makes a celebration of it. We all lend a hand, gathering cattle, working the chute, giving vaccines, sorting calves, etc., etc. My mom makes a picnic lunch, and my sister brings cookies. When we finish the work, we celebrate.

Louder erica
Freelance Writer
Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

In theory, this sounds pastoral and quintessentially Western. In actuality, it is a shouting match surrounded by cattle, followed by a series of passive-aggressive gate slams. My family completed this annual chore last weekend. According to my husband, before that Saturday, I’d never been around a cow in my whole-dang-long life. My dad called my younger brother an incompetent *insert unintelligible word* for missing a cow in the headcatch. I brought my 9-year-old daughter to tears for walking in the wrong direction on the side of the alley. These were not our best moments.

However, there was a bright spot in the day. After the last cow was moved through the chute, the last calf branded and the last vaccine given, we sat down on tailgates and picked flecks of manure out of our warm potato salad while we pretended everything we’d said to each other the previous four hours never happened. We do love each other, quite a lot.

Surely, this isn’t just my family. I know it’s not because the internet is rife with memes on the subject, many of them related to the expedience of working cattle with a partner before marrying them. However, I did this, and the polite young cowboy I’d worked with 13 years ago was nothing like the red-faced raging rancher of last weekend. Nothing will adequately prepare you for that, except for the knowledge they do actually love you and appreciate your work. It’s just the cows they hate – but they actually love them, too, almost as much as you. It’s a tough thing to explain, they say. But I get it; at least, I think I do. Cows, they bring out the worst and best in us – and that worst has to land somewhere, and that somewhere is sometimes your wife.

That’s enough philosophizing from me on the nature of the human-cow relationship. Here are some of my favorite working cattle memes, minus the pictures.

  • Why go to marriage counseling when you can just work cattle and figure out the issues right then and there.
  • Before you marry a person, you should first work cows with them to see who they really are. 
  • Working cattle together is the best form of marriage counseling. If you can make it through that, you can make it through anything.
  • Don’t take anything he says personally when working cows. 
  • When your dad says, bring the black one up the middle. #notthatone #isaidtheblackone #insertcusswords
  • Sorry for what I said while working cattle.