No, Iím not talking about making your two legged kids work their little fingers to the bone
at home or go out and get jobs. Though those little four-year-olds could handily clean under
McDonaldís tables by being able to just walk under them. Finding tiny little brooms and
mops for them might be a problem. But, maybe youÖ..I seem to be getting off the subject.
How many of you have been around cow people (they probably prefer to be called cattle
people or cowboys) and they tell you with extreme seriousness that they have to go work
cows, or go work cattle? People who have never been around cattle might wonder what on
earth they are talking about.
They simply mean that they have to go and worm, give shots, castrate, dehorn, and a
number of other things that keep the cattle healthy, though not happy. Thereís an aura to
this saying, "Gotta work cattle." Pictures of old time cowboys flash through your mind
while they work cattle. A deep respect for the cowboy expression of working cows comes
Going to work cows or cattle or steers or whatever is never simple. You have to have
EQUIPMENT. That usually includes a four wheel drive truck, a cattle trailer, cattle racks
or panels, holding chutes, holding pens, possibly horses, western saddles, ropes, and a four
wheeler or two. And then thereís the meds -- needles, syringes, drenching gun, elasticators
or surgical blades, ear notchers, ear tags, and the list goes on.
It takes more then one person to work cows. Usually the owner of the cattle invites his
neighbors who know how to work cows or invites people who have horses to help him
bring the cows in. It can involve two or three people to twenty or more, depending on the
number of cows and how popular this event will be.
And, you always have to have a cookout to feed the crew that is working the cows. Plenty
of steaks, hamburgers, sourdough biscuits and buns, maybe a baked potato or two, strong
enough coffee to put holes in your tin coffee cups. Oh, yeah, and beans, plenty of beans to
go with the steaks and hamburger. Beans prevent the close fraternization of gossiping
groups and keeps everyone spread out and working.
Donít forget the look and dress code that goes with working cows. You have to have a
squint to your eye when you say you are going to go work cows. Stick a piece of straw in
your mouth, pull your cowboy hat or John Deere cap down low over your forehead, and
make sure you have your squint. A pair of spurs on cowboy boots looks good too, whether
you have a horse or not. Donít forget the leather gloves, rope (whether you can rope or
not), and stick a can of Skoal in the back pocket of your jeans, whether you dip or not.
The look is very important in working cows. Oh, and donít forget to stop at the little town
mom & pop restaurant to get your early morning breakfast and tell everyone that you are
going to go work cows. The looks of admiration always seem to fortify you for the hard
Okay, we all have the picture of working cows. Now consider us goatboys. We canít call
ourselves cowboys because we donít work cows. We work goats, so we must be goatboys,
or kidboys. Though what hog raisers are called Iím not sure.
If I was to walk into that same restaurant of the person who said he was going to work
cows and announce I was expecting a hard day of working kids, what kind of response do
you think Iíll get?
It would be, "Youíre going to work your children?" "No, no, Iím working kids. You know,
Either outright laughter or a polite silence. And it wonít matter that Iím saying Iím working
kids with a squint to my eye and a piece of straw in my mouth. That I have my sombrero
on, after all a cap or cowboy hat doesnít protect me from the sun enough, even though I
have a hard time getting that big rim through the door. I might even get a puzzled remark or
"How do you find harness small enough?"
"What?" Iíd ask.
"You know, to work kids. How do you find a harness small enough? And where do you
find the tiny plow?" Usually these questions would be followed with knee slapping and
sidesplitting laughter. And not from me.
The equipment involved in working kids is not too impressive for most cow folk. Some
goatboys have small size head chutes and holding pens for goats, but most of us canít
afford it. Most of us have to rely on strong, lean muscles and quick reactions. Okay, most
of us have to rely on being heavier then the goat and the goat being tricked into getting
We have basically the same medical equipment as the cowboy. We goatboys need needles,
syringes, vaccines, wormer, drench guns, etc. But, I guess it doesnít look as impressive
throwing a kid on your lap, holding it down and giving a shot, or straddling a goatís neck to
give it wormer, or turning around (while straddling the neck) and giving a shot. Though Iíd
like to see cowboys do that to a cow. But, I guess thatís called a rodeo.
The clothes are all different for a goatboy, too. Itís hard to run in cowboy boots to catch a
goat, so we trade those in for fast tennis shoes. In the winter itís rubber boots with good
tread to prevent falling flat in mud or snow. Itís really hard to get spurs to stay on tennis
shoes. Even harder with rubber boots in deep mud. You just canít make those quick turns
in the mud with spurs sticking out there like a rudder.
Cowboys or cattle people wear jeans most the time when working cows. Youíll find
goatboys or goat people in every type and style of pants imaginable, as long as they are too
wore out to wear to their regular paying jobs. We know good jeans cost money and goats
do all sorts of things to your pants, from spitting up the drench wormer all over you to kids
bouncing off of you after they have run through the barnyard. Sure, weíll wear jeans, but
we will not refuse to wear a worn out pair of dress pants to chase after goats.
Now, if we do invite a couple of goat friends over to help us work kids and we have to
feed them, my cookout would be comprised of weenies and burnt marshmallows. Since
you do have to get close together to work a small kid, I leave out the beans. Some goat
folks actually serve goat meat at their cookout. I would find that hard to do. We have so
many deer around Iíd rather serve a free meat, such as venison, and sell the goat and get
some money. Besides, most the people I know would definitely be mad at me if I served
goat because all my goats have names and nobody wants to hear, "Hey, this is old Molly.
You know, you saw her yesterday. Sheís the one your children were hugging and petting."
No one wants to eat meat that has a name. But, when you say this is venison, well, thereís
something exotic about eating venison. Just donít say, "Bambi."
Yep, working kids is hard work. Chasing the little rascals, cornering them, snagging them
for shots, worming, banding, whatever, it is hard work. But, whatís harder is enduring the
snickers from folks you tell this to and who have never had to work a kid. It just goes to
show how much tougher we goatboys have to be compared to the cowboy.