SELLIN’ THE YEARLINGS

dsc00336My old man, all five foot six inches of him, with his flaming red hair and gnarled hands, was sure a crazy fellow.  I remember him ordering a truck to take our yearlings to the Public Auction Yard in Billings, Montana to sell them to the meat packers and those cow people needing feeders and replacement heifers.  Every year he did that, every year without fail.  That is the reason we raised calves. They were born to sell. The money was used for baling twine, a new pair of Levis, a kitchen sink, diesel fuel, a set of tires for the tractor, a dress for mother–necessary things, things that allowed him to stay on the ranch raising more yearlings and us kids, and to buy some beans and Campbell’s soup for the pantry.

Every year he’d feel “terrible bad” about selling those calves; sometimes he was so sad he’d be unable to speak for a week.  Once he had them on the truck ready to go on their journey and he stopped the trucker and had the driver unload them. He just couldn’t do it.  And now I’m selling mine, what’s left of one hundred and one head born last February and March, those that survived my caring for them and didn’t die.  I’m loading them on the truck this coming Thursday bound for the auction yards; already I want to stop the trucker, and unload every one: because they’re so beautiful.  My old man was sure a crazy fellow.

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