11 December 2009


On my cell phone, I have my parents' phone number programmed as "Idaho." That way when they call me I can tell myself that the Gem State is calling me on the phone.


Most of you know that I grew up in Idaho, but I'm not sure how many of you know that I grew up in the country surrounded by livestock and crops. My father operates a cattle feedlot that he inherited from his father around 30 years ago. (Is that right dad? 3o years? Am I completely making that up?) The feedlot is behind our house along with a few fields that dad owns/rents out to other farmers.

Now, I don't want you automatically thinking that I am a cowgirl. No, I don't mean to give you that impression. I don't own any cowboy boots (though I wouldn't mind a pair), I don't ride horses (I'm actually kind of scared of them), and I've never held down a calf a la PW's kids. To tell you the truth, despite growing up in close proximity to them, I'm pretty scared of cows. I mean they're gigantic. And not smart. And they get scared and they run...and they could run over me and not even notice. So the idea of working cattle when I was young tended to cause me a lot of anxiety. Although, so did most things that appeared even remotely dangerous. I was a very cautious kid.

Okay but now you all think I was just a sissy kid who never went outside and might as well have grown up in the city. So, here is a list of things that I did do while growing up to justify my "farm kid" cred.

:: I "changed water" in the field during the summer. That includes hand lines (which I never NEVER got the hang of), wheel lines, and siphon tubes.

:: I showed steers in 4-H (I liked my steers because I knew they were tame...I was usually terrified of everyone else's calves).

:: I've driven the 10 wheel truck during corn and beet harvests.

:: I've driven the tractor to rake hay.

:: I can use a cutting-torch.

:: I could probably weld something together if my life depended on it.

Whew. Okay I feel better now. I think I can get on with the point of this post now.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my dad was selling a load of fat cattle. Before the cattle truck comes to pick up a load, dad has to sort through some of the pens of cattle to separate the cattle that are fat enough for slaughter from the ones that still need more time to grow. Since N8tr0n and his parents were going out with dad to see the action I decided to join them with my camera.

A brief tutorial on sorting cattle: The pens are laid out so that there is an open alley that runs down the middle of the lot. The gate to one of the pens is opened and the cattle are pushed out of the pen and into the alley. Then they're pushed down to the end of the alley and next to another empty pen. One person (usually dad) stands in front of the cattle keeping them at the end of the alley. Another person (usually a hired man or offspring braver than I) opens the gate to the empty pen and stands next to it. Dad does his best to make one cow separate from the herd and run down the alley toward the gate man. Dad then yells "in" or "by" and the gate man either directs the cow into the empty pen or lets it run by. So basically fat cattle are going into a pen together and the rest are waiting to get put back in their original pen. Make sense?

{Cows waiting}

I never got a really good picture from dad's end but the above picture is of some of the fat cattle waiting in their pen.


It was a cold morning and the cattle were doing a lot of running/sweating. It filled the air with steam which looked really cool. These cattle have all lined up because they can see me and are too scared to come any closer. I am, of course, protected by a sturdy fence.

{N8tr0n, Dad + broom}

Here dad is talking to N8tr0n while my brother and the hired man bring more cattle down. Notice the broom? He'll tell you that a broom is the best cattle sorting tool around. Also, doesn't the sky look amazing in this photo? No photoshopping necessary folks.

{Izzy waiting}

N8tr0n tries to bring Izzy along to work cattle whenever he gets a chance. Sometimes dad worries that there will be too many dogs around getting the cattle too excited so N8tr0n tries to keep tabs on Izzy at all times so she doesn't lose cattle working privileges. Above is a picture of her waiting patiently for her turn to have fun.

{Izzy hard at work}

The dogs' main job while sorting cattle is to make the steer run down the alley. Sometimes once they get past dad they're too scared to keep running toward the gate and the gate man. The dogs nip at the cow's heels to keep them running in the right direction.

{Izzy + Maxine}

{Izzy putting in}

Izzy is very much a city dog (she's lying at my feet on her dog bed right now), so it is amazing to watch her when she is around the cattle. N8tr0n has trained her to stay next to him and wait for his signal to get the cows but other than that, you're looking at pure instincts my friends.

{dogs: Izzy, Calvin, and Maxine}

{N8tr0n + his parents}

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of life on my dad's Idaho feedlot. I have just one more picture to share with you...

I'm saving this one for when dad is nominated for cattle grower of the year. I think it will look great on a plaque, don't you?

{dad laughing}



michelle said...

I love the cow photos! Although I'm glad to be looking at them in picture form and know that they can't charge me.

Great photo of your dad, too!

Staci said...

I love the photo of your dad!

Being the city cousin that I am, my most memorable trip to your house involved being startled awake by a man pounding on the window of your mom's office and yelling, "Your cows are out!" Jon hopped out of bed and ran to your parents room to get your dad. He got to spend the day playing cowboy. He said Mellings rode up next to him with a spare horse and told him to hop on. Big Jon had no idea how to ride a horse, but he's added it to his repertoire now. He said it's something that he never wants to get caught flat-footed over again...

I also remember watching you primp your 4H steers, deliver donuts to the buyer, and then cry when you said goodbye.

Do you have any idea how much I loved coming to visit you in Idaho?

deidra said...

I wasn't too sad that after my one year of steer showing the group basically folded. Darn. We were little girls and those were big animals!

That's a great picture of Ken!

eaumaison said...

Izzy is so awesome! I wish I had instincts.

Simon and Sara said...

What a great picture of good ole' Ken! He is one of the Sunday School teachers I will always remember! He sure did put up with a lot from us girls! :)

Kimberlee said...

Favorite line: "Okay but now you all think I was just a sissy kid who never went outside and might as well have grown up in the city."

God bless us farm kids!

Serin said...

Love the story and love the pictures... all of them really.

I just put 2 and 2 together (more like 1 and 1 together, but I don't think I've heard that expression) and realized that your dad raises cows and my BIL is a cow nutritionist. I wonder if they have worked together?

Greeneyes said...

Dang, that makes me miss home.

My spouse is a dairy farmer's son, so this town kid gets a fair share of country livin' every time we go back.

You should frame that last image and give it to your mom.

Gail said...

I'm just a fairly new-on-the-scene MIL, but it was fascinating watching this in person, and I loved reading the good-memory blogs of the people who knew you "way back then". It's awesome to share times with your family!

Gail said...
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Gail said...
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