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Testing: One, Two…

Until I got married, I spent every Thanksgiving with my family except the year I was in Texas, when a combination of my job and my budget forced me to stay in Grand Prairie. The next spring, I moved to South Dakota. I had been dating my future husband for three months when our first Thanksgiving as a couple rolled around. My parents, two states and seven hundred miles away, were aware of his existence. They’d even met him once. They were not aware I had already made up my mind to keep him.

Neither was he, come to think of it.

It wasn’t a foregone conclusion. I was twenty-seven. He was thirty-two. This was not our first rodeo. We’d both been involved in long term relationships that didn’t quite pan out. I can’t begin to explain how I knew, only two weeks in, that he was THE ONE. I do recall the exact moment. We were in a movie theater watching “Young Guns”. Apologies to anyone involved in making the movie…but it sucked.

I kicked back, ate my popcorn, and enjoyed being there despite what was happening on the screen. I recall looking at this man sitting next to me, and Bam! I knew. This was it. It was all over but the bachelor party. I didn’t know whether to run or cry.

I settled for stealing his soda. He let me. Yep, it was love.

By Thanksgiving the panic had mostly faded, so I dragged him home with me to the ranch—a fifteen hour road trip from eastern South Dakota to north central Montana. We reached Glacier County without anyone having to resort to hitchhiking. Relationship test number one—passed. I figured the rest would be a piece of cake.

Silly me.

We usually pregnancy test the cows early in November, right after the calves are weaned. Things were running a little behind schedule that year. Dad figured he might as well get it done while he had some extra help. Namely, Greg and me.

Pregnancy testing is basically a bovine pelvic exam. Each cow has to be run up the alley and captured in the chute for the procedure. The front of the chute has a headgate, divided in the middle, that closes like a pair of scissors, with a half moon cut out of each side to leave a nice round space for the cow’s neck so she doesn’t choke. If the headgate is closed at precisely the right instant, the cow’s head ends up on one side, her body on the other, and she can’t go forward or backward until the headgate is opened.

Operating the headgate requires both skill and timing. Greg had worked cows all his life and owned a feedlot at the time, so he’d had plenty of practice. He didn’t even blink when my dad assigned him to run the headgate. We zipped right through the main herd. Soon, there were only a dozen cows left in the corral.

A dozen Longhorn cows.

Not just Longhorn cows, but Longhorns who had, once upon a time, been roping cattle. They’d been through a gazillion chutes, and they knew all the tricks. How to tilt their heads so their horns didn’t catch on the sides of the narrow space. How to hang back and force the headgate operator to open the head gate really wide to accommodate those horns, then launch themselves into the open space in one big leap. Bonus points if you whack the headgate operator under the chin or across the knuckles with a horn on the way by.

Greg managed to capture all of them. A few he grabbed around the hips instead of the neck, but none escaped. When the veterinarian had finished, we trailed the cows out to the pasture and went to the house for dinner. As we discussed the morning’s work, my mother frowned.

“Longhorns? What are you talking about? We never pregnancy test the Longhorns.”

We all looked at my dad. He smiled.

Relationship test number two—passed.

KariLynn Dell  –  Montana for Real

 

 

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6 Responses

  1. Hahahaha! I love it! This is one of my new favorites.

  2. OMG! HAHAHA That’s hysterical. One of the best things about being married is NEVER NEVER NEVER having to go through the relationship test! Know what I mean?

    My first husband (ex-husband) got drunk at my parents’ house and threw up in the bathroom while the rest of us were having breakfast. I shoulda known right then he failed the relationship test!

  3. Very cute story. Gotta love those dads and their little tests.

    Guess you’re family loves him just as much for enduring that!

  4. HA! That’s great. my parents already knew my husband. He was best friends with my cousin from pretty much kindergarten and up, so his test was already passed.

  5. Cute story, Kari! It takes me back to the time we I first met MY future hubby. 😉

  6. I love this story! And the pic of the longhorns is great. Wish we had more than our one longhorn, because they’re so pretty to look at, but alas, the grass has to feed the beef cattle. we only keep Oreo around because she’s smarter than the average cow. Lol.

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