From the time I was born, my parents continually stressed the importance of telling the truth. As it is with any child, I sometimes told a lie in order to avoid taking the responsibility for doing something wrong. When I was caught in that lie, my father would carry out justice quickly … and harshly … with a leather belt or a switch cut from the nearest tree.
By the time I was a teenager, whenever I told an untruth to anyone, regardless of whether I got caught or not, I would have the tendency to rub my rear end to ease the phantom pain. Evidently, those lessons last a lifetime.
I try to tag all my newborn calves with a numbered ear tag at birth. Because they are all the same color, this makes it much easier to identify sick ones that may need a shot or special care, and allows me to check up on them during the next few days. As an added benefit, I put the tag in the right ear of bull calves and the left ear of heifers to make it easier to sort them at sale time.
A couple of months ago, while driving through the herd, I noticed a mistake. No. 53 was tagged in the right ear, but he was obviously a she. I had screwed up. Normally, this error could be corrected the next time the little dogie wandered into the corral and I could run her into the chute and remove and replace the tag, but the cowboys were to arrive the next morning to work all of my spring calves.
For those of you who have never worked with real cowboys, you need to understand that the grief and ridicule you receive from these hardworking pranksters when you mess up is both severe and unrelenting. Triple that amount of guff when the owner has three degrees in agriculture, is a former professor and has judged hundreds of cattle shows in his lifetime. What to do?
Telling an untruth
The cowboys were there at daybreak, ready to round up my cattle and run them all through the chute to vaccinate, deworm, castrate and brand. Everything went without a hitch through the first two farms. As a matter of fact, it had rarely gone as smoothly, and they even complimented me on having almost all of the calves tagged. Then, we came to the third bunch, which would be the last group to work right before lunchtime, when my wife, Judy, would have her usual big spread of a delicious meal.
We ran the cows through first, followed by the heifer calves, and lastly, the bull calves. As luck would have it, the very last calf was No. 53.
“Whoa!” Ron yelled out. “What’s going on here?” All the cowboys gathered around as Ron, with his knife held in his mouth, pointed out, “Jerry, this bull has no testicles!”
“There’s a perfectly good explanation,” I began. “I took Judy with me one morning, and she begged me to let her tag a newborn, so I did. You guys know she has trouble with left and right.”
To them, that description seemed plausible, so after the heifer was worked and retagged in the correct ear, we all walked toward the house for lunch.
“You know,” I added, “I wouldn’t say anything to Judy about her mistake, if you want to eat what she has prepared.”
Since cowboys always want to eat and would never make fun of a lady anyway, I was confident nothing would be said. But for some reason, I kept rubbing my rear all the way to the house.
Crownover farms in Missouri.