The moving fence: A 'good' idea trampled by common sense


There is one in every crowd. You know the type - someone who knows everything and has done it all.

There is one in every crowd. You know the type — someone who knows everything and has done everything.

I have an internal detector that helps me identify all know-it-alls the minute they open their mouths.

Often they get away with it because there is no way to corner them and make them do all the things they claim they can do.

But this time it was different.

The know-it-all in this crowd was in his mid-30s. I spotted him immediately, as he sat on a fence telling everyone how to do everything and recalling how he had always done it better than anyone could imagine.

We were trying to herd about 50 large calves into a makeshift corral so that we could draw blood for evaluation. It wasn't going well.

The round corral was in the middle of a half-section wheat field. The cattle would go inside, then make one quick lap and come back out the way they went in. We couldn't stop it, and already had wasted a couple of hours. The know-it-all just sat on the fence telling the rest of us what we needed to do, though obviously it wasn't working.

What amazes me is that everyone continued to listen to him. At one point he had a complete change of mind, telling us to rebuild the whole configuration so the cattle wouldn't have a way out. He had us construct an elaborate alley 12 feet wide. After we again chased the cattle inside, he was going to pick up a 12-foot aluminum panel and use it as a moving gate that would block the alley and shoo the cattle into the corral, holding them there.

These 500-pound wild animals already had escaped three times. I was sick and tired of chasing them around a wheat field in pick-up trucks, and was just about to tell the fellows they would have to bleed the cattle themselves and bring me the blood. I had sick critters back at my clinic and didn't have time to round up cattle — especially under the direction of a do-nothing know-it-all.

But I am glad I stayed for one more round.

The cattle gathered easily this time. We brought them into the alley just as the guy had planned. All was going smoothly until he jumped in and plugged the alley with the 12-foot panel. He started forcing the cattle into the corral with his so-called moving gate.

But remember, the previous three times the calves simply made a lap and went out the same hole. This time they found the know-it-all blocking their way.

What happened next was remarkable.

All that separated those 500-pound calves from the wheat field was this 150-pound man with his puny 12-foot panel.

I could tell by the look on his face he had not anticipated the stand-off. Actually, it wasn't a stand-off at all. The cattle just kept running toward him without an ounce of hesitation. They even picked up speed.

He had no escape.

He was holding the gate at its center with both hands. If he let go and ran in either direction, the panel would fall and there would be nothing to keep the animals from running over him. If he kept holding the gate, he had no chance of overpowering 50 calves.

Either way it didn't matter, because the calves were coming so fast he couldn't do anything. The first calf tried jumping the moving gate, but didn't come close to clearing its 5-or 6-foot height. Instead, the animal struck the top of it with a force of 500 pounds moving at 20 mph.

The gate, of course, came down right on top of Mr. Know-it-all, pinning him to the ground. Then about 50 more calves tramped right over the now-horizontal panel.

We all ran over to see what was left of the guy underneath.

It looked as if someone had woven him into the panel. His head was on one side of it, his body on the other. His arms and legs were braided through the pipes of the panel, and his shirt was ripped into strips.

Strangely, not one calf actually stepped on him. Only the gate had touched his body. He cussed and moaned but wasn't really hurt.

I thought I was the only one who realized how annoying this fellow had been, but I was wrong. Until that moment I had suppressed a laugh to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. But soon one of the 10 cowboys chuckled softly. Then another, and that triggered a chorus of laughter that grew louder until we were all bent at the waist laughing so hard we could barely breathe.

We couldn't even help the guy. As he tried to extricate himself from the wreckage, we all just stood there watching, telling him what he needed to do — in the same way he had spent the previous three hours watching and giving us directions.

The moving gate had been a stupid idea.

I'll bet the guy has someone else hold it the next time.

Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

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