Chute, There It Goes—by Steve Moreland, April 9, 2017
For a few years in the mid 1970’s, our neighbor Ronald Snyder summered cow/calf pairs on the Rosebud Reservation southwest of St. Francis, South Dakota. The pasture that he used was managed by John Face, and it was on the road to the little community of Spring Creek.
On one occasion, I was part of the crew that gathered the cows and calves to haul them back to Snyder’s Ranch. We rode our horses through the hills to find and pen the cattle in a temporary corral comprised of portable steel panels. Many years have elapsed since this incident, and I can’t recall if we sorted cows away from calves or just loaded about the right amount onto each compartment of each truck. I do recall that there was a total of seven semi-loads of cattle.
Since the portable loading chute was mounted on an axle with rubber tires, it had a tendency to work backwards as cattle jumped onto the trucks. The problem was solved by securing a chain from the hitch of the loading chute to the back axle of the truck being loaded. After each truck was full of cattle, the sliding door was pulled down, the chain would be released, the truck would pull away, and the next semi would back into place.
We had loaded the sixth truck, and it was pulling away from the chute. Somehow, no one had thought to release the chain. It was still firmly attached to the chute, and the truck was pulling forward quite rapidly. The chute was following obediently, and the portable corrals were hooked into place behind the chute. They were stretching and straightening out like Lawrence Welk’s accordion in the extended position.
In those days, the back doors of cattle trucks were in the center rather than on the left side as they are now. Had the door been on the left, the driver would probably have been aware of the problem by looking in the mirror. With the chute dragging merrily along in the middle, the driver didn’t see what was happening. I bailed over the fence, and another pedestrian did the same on the other side. We both ran as fast as we could, and whistled and waved our arms for the driver to stop. He was just about ready to shift into a higher gear when we finally got his attention.
The portable corral panels had pulled out straight. Each side fell over towards the middle. Lester Leach from Gordon was one of the truckers. He was very fortunate in the fact that when both sides fell inwards, there was a gap of about two feet and he was standing in that gap. He had very narrowly missed getting clobbered by the falling steel panels. Wonder of wonders, the back of the corrals remained upright as they came against the remaining fifty or so cattle. Not a single critter had escaped.
We re-set up the corrals and pulled the loading chute back into place. Earlier in the day, Ronald had put a wooden case filled with bottles of Pepsi-Cola under the chute in the shade to keep cool. As you can well imagine, there was quite a mess of broken glass strewn along on the Pepsi drenched ground, as well as the completely demolished boards and nails which were once the carrying case of the pop.
The remaining truck was loaded with cattle, and the corral panels were picked up and placed into traveling position on the portable loading chute. Our horses were loaded onto trailers, and the convoy departed in a cloud of dust. A powerful thirst was starting to come upon me, but alas there was not a Pepsi to be had. So much for waiting for the job to be done before taking time for refreshments.