Last Friday we sold our calves at the local auction. It is one of the most exciting and scary times of the year. A whole year of work boils down to just a few minutes. Dad, Ike and I watched with pride as our calves came in. The old rancher next to me leaned over and asked if they were our calves. I told him yes and he said "that's a nice looking bunch of calves". For those of you who don't do "rancher speak", that is about as good a compliment as you can get.
These were the calves that my family and I spent many cold mornings and evenings checking, tagging and caring for. We worked long hard days preparing the pastures in the spring, burning the old grass and fixing fence. Then came a hard week of running them through the chute and giving them their vaccinations.
Summer came and we went out many mornings and evenings when it was cool to check them. We filled the mineral feeders, baled hay and moved the cows and calves to new pastures. When the rains came we spent many miserable hot afternoons fixing flood gaps. Finally, came the fall gathering, hauling them from summer pasture and ultimately hauling them to the salebarn.
All of that led to the moment when the calves came into the sale ring. The auctioneer really worked the buyers, and they responded. All of this gave me a great sense of accomplishment. At that moment I think I was as proud as I have ever been to be a rancher and doing my part to provide my customers with healthy, wholesome beef.
That is why it so upsetting to me when groups such as HSUS and PETA attack our way of life. Have the very activists who spend their entire lives trying to tear apart what generations have built, ever experienced the sense of pride, accomplishment and hard work that I was at that moment. The short answer is I doubt it.
I think if they had spent the hours working in the biting cold or the extreme heat they might have a change of heart. If they had ever gotten dirt under their nails, grit in their teeth or mud on their boots, they would feel differently. If they had truly ever put the care and comfort of animals in their care ahead of their own well-being, they would have a change of heart. There is something about raising your own food and feeding others that brings meaning to life.
At that moment, I realized that the hard work of the past year, the hard work of my parents, grandparents and the three generations before them counted for something. The hours caring for my cattle and the time spent caring for the prairie was time well spent. At that moment I was truly proud to be a producer of the food we all eat.