by Glenn Crumpler
A good friend recently reminded me that I was not a "real cowboy." I could not agree with him more. In fact, I have not even owned a horse for over 20 years nor do I have any plans to purchase one. (Although grandchildren do seem to have the ability to influence decisions I thought had long ago been settled!)
The conversation came about after a really nice-looking, young herd bull with a very good pedigree had been donated to the ministry. He really looked the part. The only problem with this bull was, as Deputy Barney Fife would say, "He’s a nut!"
We thought he was going to tear the sale barn apart trying to load him, but he finally hit the front of the trailer at full speed and we were able to slam the gate.
All the way back to the farm, he rocked the truck trying to go through the roof of the cattle trailer.
We realized he would most likely hurt himself if we tried to unload him into our heavy-duty, "highway-guard-rail"-constructed catch pen. We decided the best thing to do was to turn him out in the middle of the cross-fenced, 40-acre pasture with the 21 yearling heifers we planned for him to breed.
With two of the heifers in standing heat, we felt sure this was the safest place to unload this fine bull. So, we backed the trailer up to the heifers and slowly opened the trailer gate. He came out running and kept running.
For 13 days, we drove the surrounding roadways, talked with neighbors and put out piles of feed around our property lines trying to lure the bull back onto our property.
After five hours on a beautiful, Sunday morning of repairing four fence rows of three- and four-strand, high-tensile electric fencing, Jack finally saw the bull!
It had lived in the deep woods of a beaver pond bottom. Nobody around us had seen him, heard him or saw signs of him.
To make a long story short, about 10 days later, we were finally able to lure him into the catch pen. It had taken 23 days to get him caught! After a few days, he had settled down.
We offered to haul the bull back to our well-intentioned friend who had donated him and offered to swap him for a substitute bull.
"No," he told me. "You and I are not ‘real cowboys,’ but I know someone who is. We will come and load up the bull and leave you the new one."
A few days later, our buddy showed up with two young "real cowboys" and their horses. We told them when they got out of the truck that the best thing to do was to leave the horses either in the front cut of the trailer or take them off and reload them after the bull was loaded. If they put those horses in the 40-by-40 guard-rail catch pen with "this" bull, somebody was going to get hurt – especially the horses.
Well, they took our advice and left the horses tied up. Within three seconds of them entering the catch pen, they were both hurling themselves over the railing to avoid the oncoming mauling! After about three of these episodes in a 45-second period, the bull finally noticed the open gate, took off down the lane and hit the cattle trailer with Jack slamming the gate behind him.
Ended up, the problem was not because we were not "real cowboys" or did not make experienced decisions in handling the bull but that the bull was just a nut!
A few days later, as we were looking back and were able to laugh about this entire episode (knowing the bull was finally gone), Jack and I got caught out really late at night, three times in a four-day period during the wettest, coldest, nastiest weather we have had in years. In fact, we actually had a little snow accumulation and a lot of ice.
The first night, it rained and the wind howled, blowing my cowboy hat off my head several times before I finally just took it off and put it in the truck. A 3-year-old cow had delivered her second calf earlier that morning and, by late afternoon, Jack told me the calf could not stand and he wanted me to go check her while he took my place finishing the new fencing lane. He started fencing and I went to the calf, in our most distant pasture from the catch pen.
Turned out, the new, little heifer calf could stand up. When she did, her mother would beller and knock her back down. We ended up after dark having to take the cow to the head chute, go back and get her weakened calf, and then help it learn to nurse. This went on three times a day for over a week before the mother finally accepted her calf.
On the second day of this process, a first-calf heifer had a fine, new bull calf born during the night when the chill factor was only about 7 degrees. She did not reject the calf; she just did not clean it up. At daylight, the calf still had not nursed.
I went back to the house to get some towels to dry the calf, but, when I tried, all the wet stuff from the birthing process was solid ice! I could not wipe anything off his frozen hair.
As a last resort, I put the calf in the floorboard of the truck and set the heater on 87. After about two hours, the calf’s core temperature was finally up enough it had stopped its uncontrollable and violent shivering. I was able to dry him and put him back with his mother.
In about 15 minutes, the calf was nursing and all was well.
The next night, Jack told me that just before dark he had seen another really good, mature cow walking around looking for a place to calve. I told him to go on home and my grandson Bradyn and I would check on her until she calved.
We stayed with her until about 6:15, then we went home to leave her alone for a while and get a bite of supper. About 45 minutes later, we covered up and headed back out in the cold to check her. As we stepped outside, the yelping and squealing of coyotes sounded like they were right where the cow was.
When we arrived, she was still laboring, just beside a head of woods. As we watched with the flashlight, the reflection from the eyes of several coyotes started popping up about 30 feet from the cow. I restarted the truck and scared them off.
Almost five hours later, I called Jack to wake him up and tell him we had to catch her up and pull the calf. She just was not making any progress.
At 11:45 p.m., wet and bitterly cold as it was and with Bradyn still asleep in the truck, we pulled off our jackets, hooked up the OB chains and pulled until we were both lying on our backs to get the 109-pound bull calf delivered. He was huge, but both survived and are doing well.
Exhausted, we wiped ourselves off the best we could with some dry hay and made it back to the truck to warm up. As we sat there reflecting on the week’s events, we wondered what some of the real cowboys were doing at midnight while we were out in the freezing cold doing all of this, after long days of work and just hours before another one would begin – and these cows do not even belong to us nor do we get paid for caring for them.
Our good friend was not mistaken when he said we are not "real cowboys." We don’t own a horse, we don’t ride, we seldom even dress the part and a lot of people know more about cattle than we do. We are still, however, real cattlemen trying all we can to be good shepherds of what God has entrusted to our care (cattle, resources, people and, most important, the truth of God’s Word) so others, both at home and around the world, can know Him and His love for them.
As members of Christ’s Church and as citizens of a country that God has blessed beyond all others, we all have a command and a responsibility to shepherd and care for His sheep who are scattered throughout the world; lost, abused, hungry, cold, neglected, afflicted, hurting, lonely, victimized, terrorized and without hope for this life or for eternity.
Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep." (John 10:11-13, International Standard Version)
God does not call us to a title, to a talk or to act out or dress a part - He does, however, call us to BE "good shepherds" who are His ambassadors, representing Him as we take His love, His care and the Good News of His Son Jesus Christ to all the world.
That sometimes involves a little cowboying up!Glenn Crumpler is is president of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 333-4400 (mobile) or www.CattleforChrist.com.