The Right Tool

A couple of years ago we broke down and purchased a new chicken plucker and scalder.  New to us normally just means the product contains thrice used parts put to a new use.  This was different.  No old lamp cords, or recycled 2x4s.  These were stainless steel, electric and gas powered machines that, out of respect, we put on a tie to operate.  The price was high, the money difficult to part with, but the man selling the equipment sold me on more than his product.

He told me that when you have a specific job, you must have the right tools – especially when it’s a difficult job.  Yes, it seems obvious, but when overlooked, you torture yourself and those you’ve hired.  I fully agreed, but did you ever grasp a concept mentally but find it hard to put it into practice?

Enter pinkeye…

After a year’s absence and a new herd of cattle, pinkeye reared its deplorable head again this year.

So, we jumped.  After a bit of research (and a lot of reluctance to use antibiotics) I landed on Cod Liver Oil and concentrated Vitamin A.  That’s right – for cattle.

Since the cows are on our newish land, romantically dubbed ‘174’, we had no chute in which to work them (Doctoring cattle requires a chute that moves them, in single file, toward a head catch or squeeze chute to hold them still for said doctoring).  We quickly cobbled together a chute using metal cattle panels, mounted our hand-me-down head catch and worked ourselves to the bone Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, week before last.

Monday and Wednesday were tough and tougher.  Friday was almost unbearable.  Since the cattle panels are made to gently contain calm cattle, not physically steer and restrict their movements in an ever-more confined space, the panels bent terribly.  By Friday, all of that cattle pressure twisted the chute into the form of a giant metal snake that had just swallowed five eggs.  Cows turned around at will (this is very bad).  Some didn’t get treated.  Some nearly killed us.  We nearly killed some.  It was a true nightmare off Elm St.  We finished, but just barely.

The weekend offered a welcome break and a determination (however unrealistic) on my part to build a real-deal-cows-can’t-destroy-it cattle chute on Monday.

Am I ever a dreamer!

Thursday night at 7pm, with the help of Wright, Elijah, Elijah’s girlfriend, several previous days of work and many munchkins holding boards, we finished our chute.

I called in the troops that evening, announcing we would work cows early Friday morning.  One private balked.  The previous week had burned him.  It was too hot.  Everybody had gotten irritated.  It had taken too long.  “This time will be different,” I thought.  But my lips remained sealed.  With his limited knowledge of what tools awaited him on Friday, I would have balked, too.

So, sans one, we met Friday morning, rounded the cows, and the whole operation was dreamy.  I’m serious.  I could have sworn someone had greased those cows down before steering them into the holding pen.  Everyone just slipped through the pens and chute and head catch quietly, peacefully, calmly.  You see the picture above.  Even in the heat, everyone was cool.  A couple of us even swiped moisture off the cow’s noses and onto our brows so that we would appear to be toiling.  Boys of 8 and 10 safely handled 1200 pound cows, moving them calmly down the chute and into the headcatch.  I think I even saw the teenagers in the holding and crowding pens napping between bunches.  No, I know I did because I remember two cows standing upright on their back legs, directing their bovine friends into the crowding pen while the boys napped.

Maybe not.  But the chute and pens proved to be such effective tools, it could have happened.