Airports, sale barns are not that different

By Baxter Black: Guest Columnist

We were sitting in the Los Angeles airport waiting for a flight, just watching the local fauna when Will observed the striking similarities between airports and feedlots. We were in a seating area, confined in a controllable number; penned, one might say.

Once our area was full, another group was started. Some pens were calm. Others had bullers, crypt orchids, cell phone shouters, whiners or unruly children that kept their lot stirred up and trying to jump the fence.

On a signal from the gate attendant, the group was pushed into a crowding pen and sorted into smaller bunches to be loaded in the front deck, the belly and the tail and pushed down an alley, up the loading chute and into the airplane.

“It’s all about turnover,” Will said.

As I expanded the circle of thought to include procurement and delivery, an airport/sale barn analogy made more sense. Passengers are rounded up and delivered to the airport from distant points. Some are brought in by backyard farmers in pickups with stock racks carrying two sheep and a llama in their menagerie. Others have a stock trailer with one old gummer cow, or a school bus full of weaner calves wearing athletic jerseys that waddle up the alley like a band of ducklings. Still more arrive in a stretch limo with pedigree and certificates to prove their fertility and performance records.

Regardless of their origin, each is sorted, weighed, individually identified and given a boarding card and placed in a pen with similar passengers. All manner of cowboys, ticket agents, sky caps, pen checkers, bookkeepers, cattle buyers, maintenance men, cooks, homeland security and taxi drivers help facilitate the receiving and processing.

When the sale is over, the passengers going to the same location are crowded together and loaded on a conveyance and taken to their destination by skilled pilots and livestock haulers. It is all done with a minimum of stress if possible. Judicious use of whips, Hot Shots, being on time and avoiding bumping a traveler is encouraged.

It’s a good system that can move thousands of creatures through a facility on a daily basis and get everyone where they are going safely.
So the next time you are passed by a cattle truck and you can see the passengers through the round holes in the aluminum, try not to think about your last airline flight. Even if you think you recognize one of the steers in seat 22 E trying to open their little bag of pretzels. It’s probably your imagination.