Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale

This is the real deal. Local color and then some! If there are any city slickers in the crowd they are artfully camouflaged. It reminded me of the days of the Iowa State Fair every sultry August in Des Moines. The difference is it's not sultry and it's a lot smaller. Other than that it is all about the family business and is the event of the year to show off what you have and what you do if you are a ranch family. Just like the State Fair. Everybody is here. Grandma and Grandpa, mom and dad, the kids, the family dog. You see (and hear) a few young adults that have been drinking Bloody Marys since 8:30 that morning but they’re in the minority.

Kudlac Ranch's "11K9" from Grant's Pass, Oregon

The ranch families are here to show and sell some of their fine ranch animals to the highest bidder. They have bulls, stock horses, mules and stock dogs. Again, like the Iowa State Fair you see big gorgeous stock that are groomed and curried and blown dry to resemble very, very large stuffed toys. Remember the image of the pawing, fire snorting demon in the field next to Gramma’s place? You won’t find one here. Here the bulls stand patiently like Ferdinand waiting to be given a flower while their humans pamper them. The bulls are the Buddhas of the animal world. And don’t they have the best job in the world? After they’re sold they are bound for the best job on the planet. All they do is romance the lady cows and eat. They, themselves, will never grace the table of the local steak house. What a life! No wonder they are so content!

Elsewhere at the Sale you find the amazing stock dogs. Most of them are border collies with a work ethic that is unsurpassed. Upon release they jet their way at lightening speed across the vast field to the small cow herd. They turn on a dime to corner and stare down an animal 10 times their size and then move the herd back across the field turning them this way and that until they reach a small pen. Then if they are lucky and adept they’re able to turn the cows into the small pen and hold them there. Some of the cows are more stubborn and wily than others and the judges take this into consideration. Here’s the living embodiment of the phrase “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” The dogs work so hard and hot that near the end of their run some of them plop down in the muddy water that was left from the rain. You can almost hear the sizzle.

There’s the cutting part of the weekend and everybody attends this. As a matter of fact all of the events are well attended. There’s nothing here that doesn’t interest the crowd. All of the events are part of a ranch’s stock in trade. The dogs are an integral part as are the horse and bulls. Without these animals the ranch can function but not as well. The horses show off how they can cut out a cow from the herd and keep it from getting back. They also show how they can pen a cow and how they are being roped off of. Ordinary people have no clue how much a good dog or horse can help a rancher. Poorly trained horses are a danger and a hindrance. A motor driven vehicle like a Gator works better than a horse that is not into his job. But if a rancher has a good horse he can go many places a vehicle can’t. The riders are all adept as their horses. There’s even a young girl that the crowd cheers wildly for as she guides her horse around the cows.

The trade show is part practical and part fun. I find a moderately priced pair of stirrups and a felt saddle pad with Navajo blanket. Mostly the items for sale are ranch related equipment but you see the odd vendor that offers packing equipment. Especially sweet is the radiant heat contraption and we stand in front of one of their models as it billows out warmth on this rainy January morning.

Marty indulges in a corn dog. We hear a few comments like “Isn’t this why we came here?” from passers-by. I resist and go for the wood fired pizza which is delicious and has healthy toppings. But then the next day I indulge in an Indian taco. There’s something about that deep fried bread dough. Hmmmm, hmmm, hmmm! Crunchy on the outside and warm and creamy on the inside. Don’t think about the implication as you eat it. I can live without the hamburger meat, lettuce, grated cheese and refried beans piled high on top. It’s that bread that I’m really digging for.

If you’re ever in Northern California the last week in January stop in on the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale. You won’t be disappointed.

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