No bull here

When my husband and I were young and just starting out, we decided to apply for a loan from a government-underwritten outfit to purchase a few cows. We had the place to run them secured and the drought was temporarily over (which is all we can ever ask for in the Southwest).

We even had the cows located, a nice bunch of 3- and 4-year old Herefords. It was mid-winter, and they were all guaranteed to calve in the spring.

A great deal – we thought.

The government guy in charge called and said both my husband and I needed to go into his office in town for an interview before he could OK the loan. So we went.

He was a soft-looking fellow sitting behind a huge desk with a fistful of papers in front of him. He shuffled through them as he asked about our plans for the cows. We were happy to tell him all about the ranch, the windmills, the cedar breaks for protection during calving, the good fences.

He nodded and smiled as he listened. Then he asked some strange, personal questions. He looked at me as he asked, “Did you both grow up around cattle?” When we said “yes” he wanted to know how long we had been married, whether we planned to have children, what our parents did for a living.

We answered the questions, thinking either he was weird or he was actually trying to be friendly. I felt like asking him about his family, and whether his wife understood loan-making and if he had children (which I doubted) but I managed to keep quiet.

Finally, we got to the signing-the-gazillion-papers part. My husband, who didn’t lose his cool thank goodness, read each paper carefully before he signed and then gave it to me. That was my first encounter with legaleeze, and before long the “wherefores,” and “whereases” had my eyes glazed over and I ended up just signing when it was my turn.

When we had almost made it through the pile of papers, my husband suddenly said, “Let me see those again.” He looked at the main page carefully, then said, “There’s no allowance in here for a bull.”

The government guy said, “No. You’re just borrowing the purchase price of 25 cows.”

“One bull can take care of 25 cows,” my husband replied, “but if we don’t have a bull we can’t plan on having calves next year.” As he spoke, he stared at the government guy incredulously, not believing this required explanation.

Unmoved, Mr. Gov replied, “Your application doesn’t say anything about a bull.”

“I thought that would be understood,” my husband said. Then he asked, “Have you ever personally been on a ranch?”

At that Mr. Gov got huffy. “I have plenty of books and government reports to tell me everything I need to know about cattle and ranching.”

We left, and borrowed the money from a regular bank where they understood the cattle business.