Growing up, it seemed like the cattle (and horses) were always out. So much so that when the county dispatch got word of cattle being out anywhere near our property, they called my dad.

One of the first years we owned cattle – I had just turned 14 – we had two yearling steers get loose while we were trying to sort for the sale. Our cattle-handling skills were amateur at best, so our attempts to run them back in did nothing by rile them up. I broke all of the Temple Grandin and Bud Williams rules that I didn’t know, and it showed. I was a frustrated wannabe cowgirl who kind of wanted to shoot her steers. Those steers broke through every barbed-wire fence from our ranch to town. Chasing steers in rubber boots for 5 miles imprinted a hatred in those early years for “working cattle” Saturdays. Around our house, “cows” was a four-letter word.

Six years ago, to my mom’s sheer delight, my dad sold his cattle, but he remains part of the local industry with a part-time custom butcher shop. On the day after Thanksgiving this year, he got a call bright and early from county dispatch. Three cows were hit on the highway, right next to his pasture. “Were they his?” They weren’t, but in the way of all small counties, they asked if he’d be willing to help out. He agreed and went down to the scene to investigate and see if he could actually help. Turns out, a part-time butcher was precisely what was needed. My dad has a policy that he will only butcher animals if they are alive when he gets there. Two of the three cows were still alive. They’d been hit one after another by the same car as they attempted to cross the highway. He euthanized and butchered them, brought them to his shop and hung them up in the cooler. They were left awaiting the pleasure of the owner. The poor Dodge Neon that hit the cows didn’t fare any better, but fortunately the driver was uninjured. In one sense, it was a “Black Friday.”

Turns out, the owner of those three cows was the very rancher who had purchased most of my dad’s herd when he sold them. These cows didn’t have his brand, but we surmise they are (1) the offspring of those oft-out cows he sold to her and share the genetic code for escaping, or (2) those cows taught the other cows in the herd their bad habits. Those Ramsey cows remain a four-letter word to whoever owns them, and it seems my dad is always the person doomed to take care of the situation.  end mark

PHOTO: When I see the cows like this, content in a green pasture, I remember L-O-V-E is also a four-letter word. Photo by Erica Louder.


Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.