The First Cows

Billy had worked on ranches in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana, picking up on true ranching culture. Believe it or not, the iconic cowboy is not John Wayne. Cowboys have a sincere heart for the land and the cattle, desiring to improve their herd and their pastures. They live authentically. So authentically that sometimes they look funny and smell bad. Thus when our first cows were purchased, the good old boy network weren’t the only ones laughing.
Every Monday morning, the sale barn comes to life. Behind the sale building are the stockyards where cattle await a new home. One can peruse the pens prior to the sale to get a good look at what will be auctioned off. The pens vary from larger loads of cattle needing to be dispersed, to a lone cow or two just being culled from the herd. Many times there are reasons why ranchers are selling these cows: they aren’t good mommas, they’re funny colored, they’re broken-mouthed (really old), they’re ornery, they’re lame, etc. Sometimes it can be as simple as they calve off-season from the ranchers expected calving season.
Billy stepped inside the office on a chilly winter morning. Awaiting his turn to register for a buyer’s card, he looked around him. Children scampered around the indoor arena or sat eating on the bleachers. The aroma of horses and cattle hung in the air. As he stepped up to the desk, several people glanced in his direction. He received his buyer’s card and took a seat.
Having looked over the pens earlier, Billy knew what cows he wanted. He also knew which ones he could afford. He sat waiting as beautiful two and three year old cows went for more than he had in his checkbook. As some older, but still viable cattle came through, Billy’s buyer’s ticket went up. An ugly grey, but younger cow came through…again he bid and won.
By the end of the sale he had an affordable, but scraggly bunch of cows.
A mature rancher came over and asked where he was working and wondered where he was taking the cows.
“I’m an appraiser right now sir, but I’ve been a cowboy and now I’m buying my first cows. They may be a motley crew, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?” Billy introduced himself and the rancher wished him luck and walked away.
Billy laughed at himself, but held his resolve as he made a couple trips with our eighteen-foot horse trailer to haul the cows to our leased pasture.
Surrounded by established farms and ranches, our little herd looked like a joke. But a Black Angus bull’s genes are dominant in comparison to the recessive genes of those old, ugly girls and our first calves were Black Angus babies. Not only that, but because they were older, they had no trouble calving and were great mothers.
We had known what we wanted in trying to build our own herd, but that first calving season, we really fell in love. We fell in love with the amazement of new life, the beauty of a pasture in the springtime, and the thrill of owning our own cattle—as small as the herd was. There is something honest and worthy in caring for animals and the land. Even though we knew it would be hard work, the simplicity of the lifestyle was worth pursuing. We loved having the cows and over time it’s grown…not just in size, but respectability. The cows aren’t as shaggy as the first bunch, but we sure appreciate the beginners.