Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tales From the Cattle Sale

As promised, herein the tale of my first cattle sale. Imagine a long, flat county road with little to distract the eye and then a long line of cars parked on both sides of the blacktop suddenly appears. "People!", my mind thrust at me after so much "hay...more hay...nice round bales".

This, my friends, is the annual Cattlemens Cancer Research Fundraiser. We'd been invited by the locals at the Star Chamber Cookout. The Teasip security was evident and gently accepted Trooper's Maroon Out (Aggie) t-shirt while saying that there was a fee to park. (There wasn't but the rivalry dictated some form of mischief.)

My senses were all on alert - a lot of people, a lot of motion and too many angles to keep track of...I put on my kindest smile and we signed in at the guest table. I was "branded" with the alcohol bracelet and we entered into a stand of tents next to the cattle barn. For the most part, it was comprised of auction items in one tent and two tents of silent auction items - one of which was already finished. I forced Trooper in the direction of the open silent auction tent though all of him was tending toward the barn.

The variety of the items was astounding - everything from private hunts to a basket of Shiner goodies was there. But my eye was on the handmade afghan in the proper purple shade of the local highschool colors. It was very large - suitable to cover much of me rather than just a shoulder wrap. And as soft as a kitten. We wrote our bids down and then moved toward the cattle barn. On the way we met a few of the Star Chamber folks and spoke briefly. He was asking how one acquired one of those prodding sticks they were using on the cattle. He said he needed one for me.

Inside the barn it was cooler and far more crowded. We inched forward and I doffed my hat to not obscure the view of others. It was like a small school auditorium with a sunken stage area with round pole fencing (see how many terms I've already learned?!). We found Miss Kitty and her husband. I must have had my mouth open as he grinned and leaned in to me - "Your first cattle sale?" We both cackled and I nodded.

The seats in the front "orchestra" area were very old fashioned and, if I recall, had a Masonic or other such label on their bases - "courtesy of" sort of thing. We squatted in the aisle next to the couple as the sale proceeded. One bull was donated by the hostess of the cookout - a fine specimen, he filled that small fenced off area. A man to either side had a long stick that ticked at it, turning it away from one side and the other as it sought any way out and away from all those eyes.

It sold once for about $400 and then the auctioneer - who was fantastic - looked up to the stands. "Taking him home or going again?" he asked. Given the nod, he started up, "We're goin' again, folks!" and started rattling off the numbers amidst the appreciative applause. That bull sold at least 5 times before someone took him "home".

We went back out into the sunshine to check on the silent auction - I wanted to ensure I wasn't outbid on that afghan. I got a beer and saw Miss Kitty sitting, eating. We got our own BBQ and ate then went over and sat with her for a time. The cattle sale continued and I knew Trooper wanted to be back in there. We headed back to the coolness inside and this time we could see the seats in front were opening up. I went ahead and took one at Trooper's urging while he visited - he has met so many people and everyone was there.

One cow after another bull came by and you could feel the heat coming off them being that close. There was a hawker for the auctioneer standing by me, pointing out the bids and helping to raise the stakes a bit. His shirt was so starched that it would stand on its own if he leaned it against a wall. And then it happened...a cow came through, bowels released at the scent of so many humans and it trapped there. And the tail - the tail flicked with a final sort of "fuck you all" sentiment and sent excrement flying. I was tagged with dime sized splatters on my boots and jeans and even my hand was flecked. I laughed with the shock of it and the hawker came by and - God, he knew I was a city girl - he said, "Don't worry - that's money, girl. Pure money."

I tried to just smile and act as though I get splattered with cow shit on a daily basis and wiped off what I could on my jeans and waited patiently. Eventually, the sale ended and we headed back to the silent auction, washing my hands on the way out. We ran around with the rest of the crowd, checking on our bids and making adjustments. I didn't see Trooper when he upped the afghan bid after he saw someone near it.

They shooed us all out and the live auction began - oh, how I coveted that damned Aermotor windmill with its giant tower. The thing was worth 3 times what it went for in my mind...it was donated by one of the Star Chamber guys - the shaman. Seems he has a pasture full of the things, all different kinds. One thing after another was sold for at least its value with friendly competitive bidding and much instigation from the auctioneer.

Finally, the silent auction sheets were posted and lo, we won only one thing - the afghan. I was grinning as we all filed into the barn to pay for our items and then back to the tent to fetch them. We watched a bit and spoke with folks as the event closed down and tents were dismantled. Trooper was very handy in helping load the larger items into truck beds - cast iron cooking pits, picnic tables and benches, and the like. I stood and spoke with the representatives of the charity, getting details on what we might be able to do to help. Before we left one of the guys sent him to his truck to get a prodding stick - a leftover from last year's event.

And then, the sun set and we headed home, the afghan nestled in my lap and the cow shit forgotten. A true Texas time...

Ever since, when I "get out of line" he says "Where's my stick?!". I won't besurprised if he gets a mounting rack for it in the back window of his truck. Sigh...

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