They may not be all that scientific, but a lot of the "old wives' tales" have merit. I think the same is true of "old rancher's tales."
I recently got a letter from Gordon Porter, a cattleman from Mathis, who shared some observations from 60 years of dealing with cranky cows. Gordon says science is merely confirming what he has always known.
"I read recently that a considerable amount of research has been dedicated to the tenderness index of meat from cattle which are nervous or calm," says Gordon.
Much of the research is aimed at validating the presence of specific gene markers in the offspring of selected bulls. But Gordon suggests the sire is only half the equation.
"An old cowboy does not butcher for his own use a calf from a mama cow who is wall-eyed, twitchy-eared, and wrinkle-jawed, and who watches him from the far side of the corral over the backs of the other cattle," he says. "Often, she's in the corral by trick, trap , or lariat, and the sweetest sound is the cow banging the paint off the inside of the trailer as she's carried to the auction ring. More than likely her or her calf's tenderloin is too tough for chili, and a knife is needed to slice the gravy!"
Gordon says he has encountered many "brush-popping old hides whose main aim in life is to run over any other living thing which has the misfortune to be in the same pen with them. They've even been known to hook at a bird's shadow."
Sounds like Gordon has bought cows from the same bloodline as some of the cantankerous cattle we have owned over the years. Once, my husband brought a cow and calf home that was more than he bargained for.
"She wuz a nice li'l second calf cow, clean an' purdy as a pitchur with a fahn li'l black baldie bull calf at her side," Mel recalls. "Paid $505 fer th' pair. Loaded her up, an' she wuz gentle as a pup. Got to the house an' left her in the trailer whahl Ah made a few phone calls. Came back an' my gawd have mercy, when she saw me she nurly took the side of the trailer out. She'd face me off, up and down the side of that trailer. Thought somebody done switched cows on me. Got to the barn, backed the trailer up, an' she shot out with 'er tail up over 'er back. Ah pulled the gate shut. She'd walk the fence buttin' it with 'er head, trying to get to me.
"On Wednesday, Ah loaded her an' 'er calf up an hauled 'em to Clifton. Ah warned 'em she wuz a badun, but they seemed unconcerned. Anyhow, they started sellin' nice pairs, then Ah heard 'em hollerin' `HERE SHE COMES, WATCH 'ER!' Man, you could hear the gates slammin' an' steel rattlin'. All at onct' Ah seen her foot come through the wall raht by the auctioneer's head. They brought her in an' she slung snot on ever'body on the front row. Started her an' 'er baby at $500, an' not a soul bid on 'er. The house had to take 'er. That's the best $5 Ah ever lost in my lahf. They didn't know it, but Ah'd a give 'em $50 to take 'er off mah hands.
"She seemed gentle when Ah bought her, but she wuz some kinda mean," said Mel. "Come to thank of it, cows is kiney lahk women. What you see ain't always what you git."