I stood quietly, getting cold and hoping “Sniffer” would decide he’d found a trail used by other cattle and follow it. Two other calves watched their companion and lunged to get ahead of him. They weren’t sure about the alley, but they’d be damned if they’d let Sniffer go there, or anywhere else, ahead of them.
Sniffer bolted toward the chute to stay in the lead. Now, we had three calves stuck in an opening two calves wide. All we wanted to do was vaccinate them and send them back to their pen, which should have taken ten seconds per calf, but we’d been working for half an hour and hadn’t vaccinated one. This is why cattlemen learn to weave torrid tapestries of profanity.
A few minutes of prodding and profanity and Sniffer pushed ahead of his mates and raced down the alley, pursued by the others. He’d gone barely five yards before he skidded to a halt and desperately tried to back up, possibly remembering that the last time he went this way was the day he became a steer. His brethren, still determined to get ahead of him, pushed him forward.
If Sniffer doubted whether following bullshit was a good idea, the calves behind him had no such reservations. I gritted my teeth and cursed. They were wasting my time, the time of the other four men in my crew, and expending all this effort to go in a circle, from and to their pen.
It occurred to me that most would see this differently if the calves were people. We’d call the calf trying to back up the “Leader” and those pushing his sorry butt forward “Followers.” Leaders and Followers apparently see things differently—something drilled into me every other November.
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