Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Picture Pen Day

I had somehow avoided the event for four years.
For four solid years I had the foresight to plan something important at work, avoid my brother's phone calls or conveniently travel out of town.
But this year was different. 
Different circumstances.
Other outside obligations belonging to someone else.
My naivety showed when answering brother Luke's question: "Do you have any meetings Friday?"
I quickly revealed that I didn't. 
Rookie mistake.
After four years of avoidance, I had just agreed to helping in the picture pen.

Picturing sale cattle is not for the faint of heart. 
Or those who get easily offended by swear words.
Picture day is my least favorite farm event, so to those who make a living doing this:
I salute you.

1. Friends who show up on picture day are the truest of friends, especially if they understand what it entails.
My friend Cheyanne showed up after a last minute request for help, bless her heart.
No really, bless her heart. 
I sincerely told her that I wasn't sure I could return the favor. She grabbed her sunglasses out of the truck console anyway.
Friends who help on picture day sign an invisible contract that they'll never judge you or your family based on the escapade they're about to be a part of. That contract also requests that they clear their memory of any recollection of the day as soon as their truck pulls off the farm. Friendship is more sustainable that way. As is reputation. 

2. Don't invite your significant other to picture day unless you want to end said relationship.
This is the best way to end a relationship softly. Simply invite the significant other to the worst day to observe your family dynamics and they'll suggest "a break" before you get to LOT 50. There is stress, tension, foul language and fifteen years of built up frustrations vocalized in just 8 short hours. Who in their right mind would want to marry into that? If you want to keep them around, simply forget mentioning when picture day is.....until it's over. 
You're welcome.

3. Sometimes the least appreciated folks are the best resources. 
Momma had the job of moving cattle from the chute - down the lane - to the picture pen. She would then stick around and take the heifers back once pictured and videoed. Sometimes, her position outside the pen (not running around like the lunatics inside the pen) made her a focal point for the cattle. It was in these instances that photographer Laramie would yell to Momma to get the ears - or get the heifers attention so she is poised for the photo. In her defense, Momma had watched us in the pen, armed with streamers and party horns, make a scene. She had nothing to use but herself, so she resorted to:
Give me an E,
Give me an A!
Give me a G!
Momma was an Eaton Eagle, after all. 
Certainly not conventional, but the sixty-something cheerleader got the job done.
Good help is hard to find. Luckily, we had Linda on our team. 

4. Keep the stress carriers in the barn. 
I'm speaking of people.
Those who are exceedingly nervous about the day will go, how the photos will turn out, how the cattle will cooperate and how the 2:00 clouds will move through should be kept chute side, working alone with the cattle and a stereo - and no other individuals. They can find their way blowing out heifers, cutting out fly tags, applying fly spray and staying unusually anxious alone. This arrangement is better for everyone, cattle included. Our family stress carrier arrived to the picture pen on the last two lots. He was dismissed 78 seconds later. Simply put: his passion made him crazy. 

5. The family that pictures cattle together is hopefully speaking to one another come Christmas. 
This is a very real concern. The things muttered, screamed and thrown would be worthy of a restraining order in any other circumstance. But picture day is different. Its like everyone involved comes with this heavy coat of armor over them: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. 
That mantra lasts for about fifteen minutes. As soon as the first head enters the pen, you're throwing stones and dodging sticks with the rest of them. It's personal. You have favorite lots. You have a vision for the herd, the farm, the breed. Cattle folks are the most passionate. 
The goal on picture day is remembering that you're all on the same team with the same goal: To show these sale lots in their best light to promote your program. 
And, to still be invited to Christmas. 

Picturing sale cattle is not for the faint of heart. 
Or those who get easily offended by swear words.
To those who make a living doing this:
I salute you.

Only you can wait on dozens of animals - in the sweltering heat - to perfectly position their feet, head and ears simultaneously, in an effort to meet someone else's expectations....and still have the patience to deal with the people behind the cattle at the end of the day. 

BSG cattle will be sold in the 2015 Leveldale sale, the Great Shorthorn Revival and The Ohio Fall Showcase.

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