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It struck in late October like a plague of mustard gas.
It started with a trickle but then soon began to mass.
In pens and cattle alleys on the new receiving side,
The fall run was beginning, and there was no place to hide.
The boss said,”Git’em processed, just as fast as they come in!
A crew’ll bring’em to ya and then take’m back again.”
So, K.T. got three cowboys and headed toward the shed,
“You shovel out the squeeze chute, Clyde. Juan, come with me,” she said.
They filled a gooseneck trailer with the stuff she thought they’d need.
“We’ll inventory later, right now, what counts is speed!”
By eight the chute was bangin’ through the second semi load.
The cattle to be processed stretched a mile down the road.
Syringes on the fast draw firin’ doses of vaccine,
Hydraulic handles flippin’ like a bad pinball machine,
Blue smoke and buzzin’ bee stings from the hotshots and the brands,
An ear tag like a snake bite, bawlin’ calves and flashin’ hands.
An implant undercover, some pour-on down the back,
Dewormer for the pore ones, dehorning with a crack.
Release the head, a clatter. Release the squeeze, a pause.
He bolts, but then the next one is captured in the jaws.
On and on they processed till their hands were just a blur,
The cattle like a carousel, the headgate just a whir.
Above the shed an aura that so brightened up the skies
The cowboys bringin’ new ones had to cover up their eyes.
A vacuum was created like a swirlin’ whirlwind.
As soon as one was turned out, it sucked the next one in.
The final bunch was brought up, but when the last one fled.
They couldn’t quit, their auto pilot stuck full speed ahead!
They might have gone forever ‘cept the power went haywire.
The crew walked out like robots whose brains had caught on fire.
They stood around unknowing, ears still ringin’ from the fray,
So numb they could remember nothing that transpired that day.
But driftin’ in next morning came the news of all they’d done,
Two thousand head they’d processed, caught and treated every one,
Plus, a hundred saddle horses, the neighbor’s feeder pigs,
A pair of tawdry mannequins with English lawyer wigs,
A marching band form Goodland, sixteen greyhounds from the track,
The local Veterans Color Guard, a llama and a yak,
Assorted order buyers and a great big plastic steer,
Not to mention one truck driver with a lot tag in his ear.
Reports just kept on comin’ from the countryside around.
The feedlot was a’buzzin’ with each new add-on they found,
But Boss, he saw things different, “K.T., what about the cost?
Them extra ones you processed guaranteed a hefty loss.
We’ll never get our money back no matter how we tried,
Unless you got some brainstorm…” K.T. pondered, then replied,
“I reckon we could bill’em… or, if mark-ups ain’t a crime,
Just charge’m twice the goin’ rate at reimplanting time.”
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large-animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. Learn more at www.baxterblack.com.