This is one of those embarrassing stories that I have kind of tried to block out, but really it’s just too funny not to share. It’s been 12 years, so I can finally look back and laugh instead of cry.
Here’s the background: in my small, agricultural-based school, one of our extra-curricular activities was showing livestock. Think Animal Planet show dogs, except this is teenagers raising and showing pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens….pretty much all your farm animal categories.
Dad wasn’t too thrilled when I wanted to pick up ANOTHER activity - especially one that would tie up one of his cattle pens, require hours of work, and take up dozens of his weekends but he held his tongue - and so I showed my first calf in the 8th grade.
Mostly it was a blast, but it was a lot of work, and I’m not sure it was smart for little 100 lb me to take on 500 lb animals on a daily basis. For 3 years, I was happy to go pick my show calf out of the herd each spring, write a check to Dad, and show in the ‘Commercial’ heifer classes. But then, in the 11th grade, I really really really wanted to move up to the Registered class! You see, all of the big shows required your calf to be registered. (Ok, full disclosure – I could have instead shown a steer, but I just couldn’t stand to train a steer all year and then send it off to the processer. I only showed calves that I kept to use as mama cows, because I am a big sissy.)
Lucky for me, Dad was soon doing a bull trade with a registered breeder in Kansas. As part of the deal, he arranged for a ‘nice, gentle’ registered heifer to be delivered as well. No, that’s not something you normally buy sight-unseen, but it was a good deal and I sure wasn’t going to complain.
Now, I’m not sure if the trailer-ride from Kansas to Oklahoma made a nice, gentle calf turn into a crazed hell-heifer or if that tendency was there all along, but something went very very wrong with that animal. The worst part was that she was not only crazy, but SMART! She hid her insanity for months and months as I dutifully worked on training her to lead. She would obediently follow me around the lot in her halter, tolerate baths and blow-drying, and load peacefully into the trailer. A regular puppy-dog – I was so proud.
Then came the day to take her up to school to get ready for our local show. Everything went fine, until it was time for her to get her first haircut. Unfortunately, we had decided to do the ‘trimming’ during school hours – in front of several classes of high-school Ag students.
Just so you know, this is the kind of chute a show calf goes in to get trimmed. Well, at least this is what it looked like when we started. As soon as the groomer touched her with those shears, my ‘calm, gentle’ heifer lost her dear little bovine mind and promptly turned one of these into a pile of scrap metal.
Except the headpiece, of course, which she proceeded to drag through the show barn, through the show ring (tearing it apart), and through the pig pens (destroying them and releasing a dozen show pigs out the barn door). All in about….30 seconds.
Did I mention the barn door was open? Well of course it was. It was a nice day, and the animals don’t exactly smell so good, so we were enjoying the fresh air. My heifer spotted that sunshine and headed for it like a guided missile. Before I knew it, she was outside of the barn, out of the parking lot, and out into the street.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the details. Dad says that he could only make out a hysterical few words amongst the tears over the phone – something about “Crazy heifer….(sob)….ruined the show barn…(sob)….running down Main Street….Broadway…2 hours to catch her….(sob)…tried to run over the teacher…BRING THE TRAILER WE’RE TURNING THIS NUTCASE OUT TO PASTURE.” You get the idea. It took about 20 high school boys to corral her into a trailer, by which time I was so humiliated I could barely watch. I heard the groomer say something like, “Well, you know these kids have to work with them…”
To everyone whose pig or cow (or Ag teacher) was traumatized that day, I really am still sorry. Can we all just laugh about this now??