Cattle operation comes with catch

As many of you regular readers might guess, people tell me their stories — stories about horse wrecks, cow wrecks, sheep wrecks, dog wrecks, financial wrecks, any kind of wreck you can think of.

I met JW in Tennessee. He’s a regular reader of my column and thought his story would fit.

It seems he was helping a neighbor with his small pasture operation. His neighbor was a successful contractor, a good welder and builder but a bit of a novice in the wonderful world of cows.

When he put his cattle workin’ facilities together at his place, it was a work of art.

The corral was built with drill stem set in concrete, clips, cable, and an eye for function. His long single-loading alley was lined with treated 2-by-6’s bolted to the upright pipe stem and had a sliding gate at each end.

He called the county agent to get proper dimensions for alleys and gates. His persnickityness and attention to detail could be compared to a watchmaker or a farmer rebuilding antique tractors.

JW and Dag, we’ll call him, got the bunch of 600-pound heifers gathered into the corral. They tied their horses and set a 50-gallon drum beside the chute to act as a table for their instruments and medicants.

JW took a close look at the chute. It wasn’t a squeeze chute, it was a scissor-type head-catch that Dag had tied to two big round steel posts set in cement.

“Pretty stout,” JW was thinkin’, til he noticed the head-catch was secured to the post by four pieces of 12/2 Romex that Dag had obviously scavenged from one of his construction jobs.

That would be like tying the Titanic to the dock with a tarp rubber and two pieces of baler twine. JW questioned Dag about the Romex and Dag swore it would be OK. He had earlier used it to tie his side mirror to the truck when it broke off. Worked fine, he said.

The first two critters came through fine. “See,” said Dag. “It works fine.”

In came No. 3. She hit the gate, locked it, pulled back once, then lunged forward like a fullback going over the right tackle. The Romex shredded and the head-gate popped free. It was so heavy it pulled her down and flipped her into a full cart wheel.

The cartwheel was followed by a double sideways flop, drop, drag and slide that left the calf in the ditch alongside the state highway.

JW watched several cars go by, each one staring and then punching in the number of every animal rights group in North America.

JW and Dag managed to get the beast upright, where she crawled up on the road, dragging the head-catch with her, as well as her two assailants.

Dag finally managed to reach the release latch. The catch fell off and the heifer stumbled down the middle of the road on her way to Kentucky.

As they were dragging the head-catch off the road JW said, That was great! I only wish Baxter was here!”