Before we were able to haul in a squeeze chute, we used a series of panels to catch heads at this place. Setting up was a chore, convincing the cows and calves to move through the strange set-up was a challenge, and successfully catching heads was a miracle. But it worked, by the grace of God.
Loading out from this location was equally frustrating. There was never enough room to make a circle with the truck and trailer thanks to the nearby pond and the series of random terraces and pasture holes. Still, it was good training I suppose for children who needed a lesson on successfully backing a 24-foot cattle trailer using an extended-cab manual transmission pickup. Needless to say, the men contracted to pick up the fall calf crop were beyond joyful when we decided to haul those calves to our other barn for pickup.
We call it Granddaddy’s barn. He built the seemingly timeless structure when he started ranching back in the 1930s. According to my father, he didn’t have a clue how to farm. It was my patient Grandmother Bearden who taught the World War I vet how to make a living in the world of agriculture.
Thanks to a tireless work ethic and charismatic personality, he was successful. He cleared the land, raised quality cattle and then later decided to add Baptist preacher to his distinguished resume.
Today, his old working pen and his iconic barn still stand, proudly bearing witness to the generations of bovines and humans that have reaped the earth’s bounty from the blessed piece of heaven on earth that we call home.
My sister still runs cattle on that beautiful part of the ranch, so we get the pleasure of working in Granddaddy’s barn several times a year.
The purposely small herd usually complies with the promise of feed (thanks to careful culling) and calmly enters the shaded pen with ease. They are likely unaware that this was the same pen in which Daddy spent hours training colts when he was a teenager, trying to make enough money to pay his entry fee for whatever rodeo was within driving distance.
Once under the barn, decades of dust cloud the bottom floor bounded by one wall of cinder blocks that have kept the working area cool for years. Old metal troughs and an “antique” one-horse trailer have been permanent residents underneath this shelter since I can remember.
Less glamorous than when it was in its prime, the remainder of the wood serves its purpose even on the second floor, despite an occasional leaky roof. This elevated escape was a wonderland for my father and his siblings. Now our blue heelers enjoy the view from on high.
In spite of the inefficient work environment and because of the connection to our family history, we plan to maintain the wooden beast and continue to work under Granddaddy’s barn for many years to come. Such a tangible tradition is worth keeping. After all, future generations of Beardens need to learn how to back a trailer.