A Cattle Barn Love Story

There were many years when my brothers would be around to help my sister and me with the cows at the fair. However, in the later years, my brothers would go off to start practicing for college football season in early August so we were on our own. Sure, we could get the help of the 4-H boys in the barn if we really wanted. The other boys were always eager to help damsels in distress. Not to mention, they were just good, homegrown, country boys who were raised right and knew when to help a lady out. My sister and I would capitalize on our feminine wiles during fair week.

We were both pretty good at getting beef burgers from the beef stand or milkshakes from the dairy booth, without paying a penny for them. But, if it were a competition, I would have to give first prize to my dear little sister. Nobody could do it up like she did. She could bat her eyes and then a milkshake from the dairy farmer’s booth would just appear. A little wink and a smile from dear little Rebekah and BOOM a beef burger from the cattlemen’s beef stand would be in her hand. A small girlish giggle and seconds later I see one of the boys leading her heifer out to the water trough. A sad puppy dog face complete with a protruding lip and WHAM one of the boys has volunteered to “fit” her heifer for her the night before the show. It was miraculous to watch folks. She’s a talented lady.

Bernie as a calf… Nice fanny pack Bek!

There were other times when the assistance of the boys was a life or death situation. After all, we were dealing with large animals. One year my sister decided to show a cow/calf at the fair. She chose to bring Bernie. Bek had shown Bernie as a feeder calf a few years before and she was the sweetest little calf. It was no wonder that my sister felt a special bond with her. Then she brought her back to the fair again as a breeding heifer, and well why not bring her again with her calf? However, as Bernie got older she got meaner and meaner. Bernie was no longer that dear sweet little calf that followed my sister around like a puppy. She was a red 1,000+ pound mean machine. She was strong as an ox and knew how to throw her weight around.

At this point in time when you brought a cow/calf as a 4-H project you wouldn’t have to halter break either of them. However, if we had to, we could halter break her to show her at the state fair. Bernie had a halter on before so she should be used to it. We learned otherwise quickly. We thought we would just put a halter on her to transport her to the county fair. When we put a halter on Bernie she would buck her head up and down like a rodeo bull until we took it off. Like I said, she was a mean old b—–. So we would just put Bernie and her calf in a pen together and locked the gate behind them. They were free to roam freely in their little pen.

One night, Bek and I stayed at the fair a little longer than my parents. They had gone home after a long shift at the Cottonwood Cattlemen’s beef booth selling hamburgers and left my sister and I at the fair. Before they left Dad said, “Be sure those cattle are watered and fed before you come home.”

My sister and I made our way to the cattle barn. We led our breeding heifers out to water and my sister filled Bernie’s water bucket through the gate, if my tiny sister had stepped foot in that pen Bernie would have swallowed her whole, spit her out and then trampled the pieces. We were all set to go when Bernie decided it would be a great idea to not only step in her water bucket but tip it over and trample it. We knew we couldn’t leave her with no water so like the brave sister I am, I said, “I’ll go in and put the bucket back where it belongs.” My sister replied, “No don’t go in there. Joe (a 4-H boy) is sitting right outside the barn. I’ll go see if he can help us.” Looking back, I know that my sister was wise beyond her years. Yes, her idea would have been the better choice, but because I have too much pride, I replied, “Oh it will be fine. We don’t need boys to do EVERYTHING for us. You stand in that corner outside the fence and feed her some hay. I’ll sneak in the opposite corner by the gate and fix the water bucket. I’ll be in and out fast. She won’t even know I was in there.” The plan seemed to be a good idea. For the first half a second, it actually worked! My sister agreed and did her best to distract the old cow for as long as she could.

I swiftly opened the old yellow gate and slipped inside like the ginja ninja I am and then shut the gate behind me to ensure that the calf wouldn’t escape. Then it happened. As I wrestled with the water bucket trying to stabilize it against the gate, Bernie made her move. My back was turned to her and I was bent over wrestling with the bucket, trying to get it to stand on its own after the brutal trampling. She quietly yet quickly turned her body around, I heard my sister say “Joanna…” But I almost had the bucket back into place so I ignored her. “Joanna…” she said a little louder this time. Finally, I got the bucket untangled and put back into place. Oozing with pride that my plan worked I stood up and SLAM! Bernie had turned around and positioned herself behind me. She hooked her nose low under my bum and whipped her head straight up. She had me pinned up against the fence, my feet dangling off the ground beneath me. My face and body were pressed up against the gate. She knocked the wind straight out of my lungs so I couldn’t make a sound. She held me there, pressing harder and harder into my lower back with her long face. “JOANNA!” My sister screamed as she ran past me and headed towards the front doors of the barn screaming for help. Joe had already heard my sister’s screams and rushed to the pen. He flung the gate open and I could feel Bernie’s body shift slightly from side to side as Joe threw his whole body into her shoulder like a line backer trying to get her to release me from my pinned up prison. Finally, he was able to shift her off balance and I came tumbling down onto my bottom in the middle of the cow pen. Heaving, trying to catch my breath I realized I was sitting in the middle of an angry cow’s pen. I crawled as fast as I could out of the gate and Joe ran out shutting the gate behind us both.

As I lay there on the cold dirt floor of the barn, clinging to my life, coughing still trying to catch the last and final breath of my life, I looked around to find that I was alone. The bright sun light from the evening sunset showed through the large open barn doors, burning my pupils as I squinted and tried to make out the picture… there they were, side by side walking away from me as if nothing happened. I could see two silhouettes walking into the sunset, gazing into each other’s eyes. Of course, she was only 10 and he was 18 so the love story only began that day. (HAHA just kidding Joe I know you aren’t that much older than her) They were married on May 27th, 2006 and now have two beautiful boys.

Ok so, MAYBE the story is a little dramatic. But you know what, it’s MY story told from MY perspective. This story is a true story with only some SLIGHT exaggerations. I guess there’s something irresistible about a guy who comes to… your sister’s rescue? But who am I to judge? Jesus clearly knew what he was doing that day. He let me live and He sprouted an epic cattle barn love story.

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