Like every family, we had a few inside jokes. The term, ‘The Lead Steer’, was one of them. We grew up on farm with a few hundred head of beef cattle which were, at most times, not much entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, there were incidents when the cattle were the object of several great stories – but for the most part…the cattle were quiet, predictable and mostly not a problem. Back in 1980 something, we didn’t have the technology that we have these days. Cable television was something that was not possible without a giant, somewhat space-like, satellite dish, towering in your yard. This was a luxury that was reserved for the rich and urban. We were neither. This was of course, a complete detriment in our youth, because MTV was as important to young people back then, as cell phones and texting are today.
There would be those ‘Dog Days of Summer’, when there was absolutely nothing to do, but revel in the heat. Being in a youth induced coma, without MTV, wanting for nothing more than an ounce of entertainment – I remember wandering out to the cattle lots. Knowing that there was nothing to do but stare at the cattle, and knowing that the cattle had nothing to do, but stare back at us – we would catch a seat in one of the feed bunks and have nothing better to do but watch each other, hoping that something exciting might happen. We were disappointed most of the time.
Between the cattle and us kids, it would take about fifteen minutes of concentrated stares, and eventually – the herd would continue with the rituals. Herd rituals are basic - what one does, the rest follow. If one decided to go eat – the rest ate. If one wandered to one end of the lot – the rest wandered to the end of the lot. If one pee’d – well, we always kind of got a kick out of how many steers would be pee’ing at the same time.
If you watched the herd long enough, you could usually pick out the one that did everything first – ‘The Lead Steer’.
There were two types. There was the ‘heroic’ lead steer – the first to detect danger and lead the rest of the herd to a safe distance. And then there was the ‘crazy’ lead steer – the one that would lead an entire herd off a cliff to their death, if given the chance.
The stories of the ‘crazy’ lead steer are endless and upcoming, but because I have to keep the blog entries to less than a novel, I’ll stick with the point of the story.
Our brother was reading this blog, authored by his older sisters and mention to me specifically, “Why are you going by the moniker…’The Lead Steer’. I know that we understand what ‘The Lead Steer’ means – but the readers?? They won’t get it.”
So here is the story of ‘The Lead Steer’. Not that I am a lead steer, but I chose the moniker because it has significance that only a farmer could understand and reference.
You know all those family vacations of destinations that are completely foreign to your regular day to day life? The places that you just can’t wait to get to? The ones that you can’t wait to say you visited? – a cafe’ in Paris, a canal in Venice, perhaps a safari in Africa.
Well , keep in mind that we were farmers from midwest, America.
Let me just take you to a fun filled, family vacation to FABULOUS, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Crowded casinos, filled with hords of tourists that would make any family with a farm background, only used to large populations of corn and cattle – completely FREAK OUT. There was one thing that we were not used to handling – herds of people!
Our family unit was instantly lost – somewhat in a panic and completely uncomfortable, screaming at each other…”WhErE ArE wE gOiNg!?! WhAt ArE We DoInG!?!”
In the midst of the land of confusion – to this day, I’m not sure who screamed it, but there was a calm during the storm, and it was summed up in these few words….
“WILL SOMEONE BE THE LEAD STEER!”
In the mob of people, unable to hear basic conversation - we instantly knew what that statement meant. We got into formation. One of us lead – and the rest followed in single file, leading us out of the mess of people.
To this day….kind of a joke.
Heroic or crazy , despite the adventure or ending……when desperate times call for desperate measures….follow the lead steer!