People and Cattle

By Summer McMillen

October is weaning time around here and every time we wean a different set of cows, I learn something. All people and all sets of cattle are unique and can teach you something if you let them.

When we work the cows in the Gammell pasture I learn persistence. That pasture is the farthest from the pens and usually  the toughest cows because they sure like their babies. When we go to gather them, they are hunkered down in the trees hiding from the heat, the dogs, and the gather. It takes a lot of yelling, a lot of discussion, and a lot of wild and loud hand motions before you get them going but, that’s a different story for a different day. Once we get them started down the dirt road, they are a breeze but, it’s a long drive and you can’t take your eyes off them for a minute for fear of them jumping a fence or a draw and being gone forever. If you do everything right and take the time to give them the care they need, driving the Gammell cows to the pens will be the easiest and most rewarding part of your day. Metaphorically, they always remind me of my sister. She’s a quiet one that will often make you question your intelligence. But, if you take the time and effort to get her to talk to you or, even look your way you will always be blessed with the wisdom that comes from her mouth.

Time and time again, when we work the cows in the lake pasture I simultaneously thank God for this life and wonder what the heck I am doing. It’s the most beautiful pasture to gather with huge pecan trees, wild river bottoms, and vast hay meadows. I always get lost wondering through the trees because there is much I haven’t seen yet. About the time my mind starts to wonder I am snapped back to reality by the cows crashing through the trees going every which direction but the right one and the panic sets in. I am always reminded of Dear Ole’ Dad. One constant in my life growing up was Dad sitting at his desk in the mornings, eating peanut butter crackers, and reading his bible. This brought me so much comfort growing up because I knew we were safe. I would get lost not worrying about anything in the world when I was usually snapped back to reality by an afternoon spent in the arena with him. The learning was fast, loud, and a little confusing at times. “Big Square circles” means very little to a pre-teen. I often wondered if we would make it out alive. Obviously, we did. We even made it out of a few show pens with a blue ribbon and a very clear understanding of what “Big Square circles” meant. That merited a slap on the back and a supper at Allsup’s. Make no mistake, those things were even better than the blue ribbon.

We have other pastures full of cows that are calm, cool, and collected. They are easier to gather and a joy to ride through. Their babies frolic in front of the heard leading the way and, we always end up at the pens rejuvenated and ready to work a set. These cows remind me of the pillars of strength in my life that keep me grounded and just make life a little easier. We all need a few pastures like that.

Then there are the Brangus cows. I wouldn’t dare compare to anyone in my life to the Brangus cows except maybe myself. They are mean, a little crazy, love to graze, and have really cute babies. I identify with them on a very personal level but, that’s just between you and me.

You might find it comical that I compare the special people in my life to cattle. You might find it strange. But, besides people, I spend every day all day living among cattle. They are smart, predictable at times, and make you question your sanity often. Just like people. We can’t live without them for various reasons and wouldn’t want to for a thousand more. So, the next time you’re around cattle, stop and think about the important people in your life. If nothing else, it will give you one heck of a laugh.\

Read more in the October issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.