It was a typical morning on the farm. The four farmhands, Glen Allen and Richard McClung, Ben Benjamin and I walked through the hen houses to feed, water and remove the young pullets that didn’t make it through the night. Next, we were off to the lower pastures to sink a few post holes. There was always something to do on Houston Moore’s cattle farm in Lewisburg and this day would bring a new experience.
I spent the summer after my freshman year in college as a farm hand. I made $25 a week, but I was paid in cash, more than enough to gas up my 49 Pontiac, take a date to the movies and hit Jim’s Drive In afterwards. I weighed about 125 pounds dripping wet, but by the end of the summer I could heave a 90-pound bale of hay to the top of the wagon with the best of them. It was all about technique.
Right after lunch, John Persinger, the farm manager, loaded us all up in the back of his pick-up and we headed for a pasture with young Black Angus heifers. Joh instructed us to single out the young animals and run them up into a small pen. We did, then John approached the pen from the rear, rolled up his sleeve and stuck his entire arm right up the cow’s butt.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Checking for calves, to see if they are pregnant,” he confirmed
Apparently, that one was, so John tagged her ear and released the startled animal.
We culled out another heifer and sent her into to the pen.
Then, John turned to me and said, “Your turn.”
“Excuse me. What?”
My turn to do what?
A few weeks back we had penned steers and went through the process of castration. That was not a pleasant experience, but this had the great potential of being worse.
When I realized John was serious, I, too, rolled up my sleeve, gulped back a big “holy s…”, and went in all the way to my shoulder. All I felt was cow poop. If there was a calf in there, I couldn’t tell. John reached in after me and confirmed that this one was not pregnant.
All the other farm hands had their turns at the southern end of these 800-pound animals and when we finished, it was determined that most calves were indeed pregnant.
When I’m having a really bad day, doing something I truly don’t like, I often think back to that summer afternoon on the farm and I think to myself, “It could be worse.”