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©2019 by Prometheus Dreaming

Real Deal

by Ron Tobey

The Bid

 

The Missouri auctioneer

a tall thin middle-aged man

wearing a wide hat

an outdoor farmer’s tan

and a pleasant veneer of chatter

in the crowded small amphitheater

the Cadillac Brangus auction house

stands on a platform

behind the show ring on the sale floor

a hundred cattle to sell today

bites out his auctioning patter

a hard-enunciated cripple talk

fast as a machine gun

pushes up bids in the Spring cattle sale.

WHO’LL BID THREE FIVE

THREE SIX

GIVE THREE NINE

His hands swirl in unceasing motion

pointing to buyers seated on the hard wood benches

and Web bidders watching the auction on real-time video.

Farmers and pedigree breeders

their diesel dually 3500 trucks

gooseneck hitched to aluminum livestock trailers

optimistically parked in a large field

heavy in blue denim coveralls

stained ball caps visor pulled down

scraped scratched hard-toe boots

many puffing out a cheek

with a wad of tobacco or herbal dip

only two minutes to bid

hurriedly scribble notes

type numbers on their laptops

calculate in Excel

statistics prepped from the glossy sale catalog

costs and profits

sit silently on the wood benches

or nod or raise a hand

or hold up a small sign with their buyer number.

The auction manager

owner of this Missouri Brangus breeding farm

In a business suit with no tie

collar open

sits at a high bench overlooking the room

interrupts to address buyers participating through the Web.

“Elisabeth, do you want to get in on this?”

NOW FOUR SIX

GIVE FOUR EIGHT

We confer around your desktop pc in your home office

your handwritten notes comparing bull EPDs

and our maximum bids

cover the desk.

We have lost the bidding on three bulls already.

Doing the cost benefit

a bull prospect

might go for less than a proven bull

you respond, yes, and bid

Auctioneer points into the vid-cam

SOLD

FOR FIVE THOUSAND TO THE LADY IN CALIFORNIA.

We have a bull.

1 year 9 months old

1337 pounds

black as a moonless night

with the distinctive Brangus ears

open like a small sail and slightly flopped down

hybrid cross of Angus and American Brahman

Real Deal pedigree:

out of two founding Brangus lines

Brinks and Mighty Mouse

EPDs:

EPDs       BW       WW       YM       Milk       TM       SC       REA       IMF       FT

3.1          34          64         11             28        0.80     0.46      -0.18   0.013

 

bigger bull calves, more fertile heifer calves, than other Brangus bulls.

Breeding Risk

The largest of Real Deal’s sired calves

a bull

three years later

weighed 120 pounds.

Brangus new-borns average 80-90 pounds.

Herd temporarily fostered at Swift Level Farm

Tootie requires assistance of two men

neighbor cattle farmers

stainless steel chains and hooks

four hours

to pull the bull calf out of laboring cow #50.

Our vet helps install an endotrachial tube for the cow

she could hardly breathe

and a stomach tube into the calf

he can’t stand or nurse for days

The dam’s vagina prolapsed

from the violence of forced delivery

the vet stuffs it back in

injects the cow with antibiotics.

We would not breed her again

she is boss cow

for weaned heifers and untethered steers.

 

 

 

Spirit

 

My wife trained RD with apples.

After he was delivered to our West Virginia farm

In a livestock trailer

we drive into field Scarlett in our Tacoma

park

sit

wait.

Curiosity brings him near the truck.

We purchased the Tacoma below list price

a damaged bumper

a small pickup with sparkling green paint

a

California

color, West Virginia farmers teased.

The cattle scratched their itches

flies ticks chaff of straw shed hair

by rubbing against the tail lights,

smashing the plastic covers three times.

The truck does not intimidate Read Deal.

She tosses apples slices out the window

to the grass near him.

He sniffs the fruit, walks away.

His dry beef feed supplement is sweet

with crushed corn and molasses.

He learns the moist apple is sweet also.

Alone out in the grassy pasture with him

she stands still sideways and doesn’t stare at him

with an apple slice in her outstretched hand

Waiting for his approach.

She leaves the truck door open if she needs to run to safety.

She holds her hand out palm up

with the treat lying unclasped on the palm,

positioning the hand

slightly to the bull’s side

as he cannot see directly ahead.

He stretches his neck

his tongue rough and muscular

reaches out and curls around the apple

draws it to his lips.

When he learns the truck and we mean apples

he trots across the field

150 feet for his reward

1500 pounds thundering toward her at 15 mph.

He skids to a stop about 10 feet away

gouging ruts in the soft rain-soaked soil

walks slowly to her outstretched hand.

She swallows her nervousness.

In 6 years he never threatens or harms us.

I maintain the fields and fences with RD present.

Before buying the tractor

I prep soil by towing a chain harrow with the truck.

I use the Tacoma to deliver rolls of hay

each 800 - 1000 pounds,

roll them up a ramp onto a single-axle tag-along utility trailer

push them off when in the field.

I leave them upright

left on their side RD unrolls them

pushing the bale around

shedding sheets of hay Like a roll of toilet paper.

One morning a 1000-pound round bale

lands off the trailer on its side.

I struggled 15 minutes to set it upright.

I lift a few inches, can’t hold it.

He watches my exertions from 30 feet.

While I stand by this extra heavy roll

hands on it

digging my trail boots with cleated soles into the dirt

skootching slightly

gaining leverage for another push and lift,

he walks over and stands at the roll beside me.

As I begin to push groaning

he thrusts his head under it

then flips the roll three feet into the air

landing it on its end

as I want

six feet away.

His help was unexpected

as if in the movie Jurassic Park

T-Rex skips jump rope with owner John Hammond’s grandchildren.

He enjoys his accomplishment

it’s play for him

he repeatedly flips the roll in the air around the field.

In breeding season, quartered with the brood herd,

he nurtures his calves protectively

who cluster around him.

I watch him lick cow’s milk from a calf’s mouth

where the white foam has collected on a rim of fur

from the forceful jerk and sucking of its dam’s swollen teats.

He calms an agitated two-year old bull, his progeny, by licking its ear.

After breeding seasons, we remove him to his own field.

For company, we borrow a 5-month old steer calf from Stacy and Carrie.

In a Winter snow storm

I tote hay with our blue New Holland 55 tractor

the string-bound roll impaled on the front bale spear.

I find them bedded together in the snow

the small calf curled up on the leeward side against him

sheltered by his bulk from the frigid wind.

Bullishness

 

In his maturity, he weighs 2200 pounds

nearly equaling the 2600 lbs. weight

Of my first wife’s 1966 Volvo sedan

was 5 feet 5 inches at the shoulder

over 6 feet tall when his head was raised.

Many bulls turn bullish at two years.

Real Deal did not.

I witnessed aggressive behavior only twice.

A bull led his herd of Maine-Anjou cows and calves

out of their hill field on nearby Bennett Mountain.

The owner hadn’t fenced the mountain side of his field,

only along the gravel road where cows might wander into traffic.

Our field is surrounded by 6 solar charged 12-gauge tensile wires.

The Angus bull followed the breeding season aromas

of our Brangus cows in heat

to the field where RD was breeding.

RD took it as a challenge

when the Angus bull promenaded his herd along our fence.

Real Deal bugled annoyance

a high-pitched open mouth cry.

The two bulls called and snorted at each other across the fence.

After a few minutes the Anjou bull retreated

leading his herd away to our unfenced field along Snake Run Creek.

On another occasion, when we moved Real Deal

from the Grassy Meadows field,

we left him in our sorting and loading pens.

They are built to contain agitated nervous cattle

with woven cattle wire

electric wire

heavy gates

heavy locust posts

pounded deeper into the ground by a pneumatic driver than ordinary field posts.

About 500 feet away in Stacy’s field

a Texas long horn rodeo bull, named Wrong Way, tended his breeding herd.

I thought the two animals should get used to each other

while RD was in a secure pen.

They challenge each other out of sight

bugling for hours that night.

RD paced the pens’ fences testing the woven wire

wearing a path around the perimeter

and battering the 8-pipe steel bull gate.

Sufficiently provoked to get out

he could climb the gate

crush it with his weight

or batter it off its hinges

or push the latching post out of the ground.

I stay with him all evening

fearful he might escape the pens

and start a battle causing injuries.

About midnight, both bulls quiet down.

The next day, I release RD to Marilyn pasture.

He and Wrong Way stood across from each other at the fence line,

bluffing with noises for several minutes,

then wandered off to graze the late summer grass.

About the Author

Ron farms with his wife in West Virginia. They've raised children, cattle, goats, and horses along with a dog and a barn cat. They live in a log house on a hillside in a hollow. Reports that Real Deal's fame has gone to his head seem to be overblown as he was kind enough to recently pose for the paparazzi. These photos (and the snow picture) courtesy of Ron Tobey.