Tuesday, August 2, 2011

These Aren’t John Wayne’s Longhorns

I was asked last week, “Why are you using Longhorn cattle in your story?”  The implication was that I should be writing about REAL cattle. You know, the black ones or the brown and white ones instead of those scrawny, mean Texas Longhorns that John Wayne and all the other celluloid cowboys trailed through countless movies.

 My granddad raised Herefords - some registered, most not. He loved them and swore by them. So, I grew up thinking Herefords were the only cattle to have. I bought into the John Wayne image of Longhorns. Tough, scrawny, cantankerous, hard to handle, easy to spook. Who’d want to raise those things? Might as well breed wild cats and cross them with werewolves.

 When I moved to La Veta, Colorado (where, by the way, my mystery NO MORE BULL is staged) to take over a restaurant, I noticed there were several ranches in the area that ran Texas Longhorns. Of course most of them were owned by Texas oilmen, so that kind of made sense to me. I really didn’t give it a lot of thought. But I got my first up-close-and-personal moment with the breed when asked to cater a Longhorn sale. They would supply the meat. I would smoke it and prepare it for a barbecue with my “secret” sauce. Now, my first surprise came when I tasted the meat. It wasn’t tough and stringy. It was lean but really tender and tasty. I attributed that to my smoker.

 My second surprise came at the sale. 
I like to do business with people who do business with me. Since the organizers of the sale were nice enough to have me cater it, I thought I’d return the favor and buy one of their Longhorns.

 So I got a catalog and went to the sale. I noticed a twelve-year-old steer was offered. Now in the cattle business I grew up around, steers didn’t get to be twelve years old. A steer’s only purpose in life is to convert grass into beef. Rarely did they get to three before they were sent to the packer. So I figured someone had decided that this old steer had probably got loose on some big Texas ranch and hid for several years. Maybe he was not worth killing since everyone knew that Longhorns are tough and stringy. Old Longhorns must be worse. I figured I could buy that steer for two or three hundred dollars, hang the head over my fireplace at the restaurant, have the hide tanned and hang it on a wall someplace and make all the meat into hamburger and jerky. Win, win. Right?

 Wrongo. The bidding on that steer started at one thousand dollars. Before the gavel fell it had gone over twelve thousand. Obviously, these folks either knew something I didn’t, or they were crazier than hell.

 Turns out they knew something I didn’t. I’ll tell you what that was in my next blog. In the mean time why don’t you share your impressions of Longhorns by leaving a comment? Just click on the “Post a comment” down below this blog.

 Until next time I’ll see you down the trail.

1 comment:

Jim Brownlee said...

You old dogy, another cliff hanger!
I didn't think any rancher in his right mind raised anything but Herefords, but then I went to Florida and befriended a third generation Florida cracker, who raised Brahmad cattler, well suited for the intense 9 month summers. Looked worse than a Longhorn, but great grass fed beef.