Last fall my family took 300 calves for a few months. We weaned and pastured them for a feedlot in Iowa.
The night the first load came in, the older boys were gone hunting. Dad had been driving truck and came home late with our first calves in his cattle pot.
It was stormy that night with a terrible wind. It kept trying to rain, and lightning lit up the horizon making the mountains stand out in black relief.
Dad could not make it up the hill in his semi, and called for someone to pull him. I winced. That would be me.
I could not see a thing as I backed down the hill to him, just aimed for his headlights and took it slow. My window was down to let in my younger brother, Jimmy’s directions. It also let in a spatter of rain and the rumble of Dad’s semi.
We made it up just fine the first try, and I thought I drove like a cowgirl.
I took down the electric fence in the glare of headlights to make room for the cattle pot to get through. It was still close. I watched as the trailer brushed a fence post, slowly tipping it to the side.
We did not have a loading chute. It was one of those things that never got done. Dad just parked by the corrals where we could push the calves out the little side door.
My job was to prop up an old, abused panel. Together the panel and I blocked the way to freedom. The only other route for the calves was up along the trailer and into the corrals.
On the other side of the trailer, my sisters yelled, pounded on the trailer, and poked at the calves with sticks, trying to push them out. I waited as lightning flashed above the trailer, and the wind blew grit into my eyes and teeth.
This was not how I imagined it, when I looked forward to raising 300 calves.
There were only calves on the lower deck, but it took us nearly an hour to unload them. They came out slowly, one by one, instead of following each other.
When we were finally done, the others went down to the house while Jimmy and I fixed the electric fence by flashlight. My eyes burned from the blowing sand, and my hands burned from pulling on the cold wire. We could hardly see the wire and kept losing it, but I did not mind.
Actually, I loved it. I felt like a cowgirl.