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Back in the early 1960s, I was living in the Ocala National Forest in an area between the Oklawaha River and the St. Johns. My great-grandfather, Anderson Roberts homesteaded here when Florida was still just a territory.
At this time in the late 60s, I was doing a little day work working cattle. Buying and selling a few cows and anything else to make a buck. A couple of the local cow men, Ray Martin and Billy Holly, told me about a big steer that a Mrs. Reynolds wanted to sell. The lady was up in years and when I went to talk to her about the steer, I found out she had tried to get the men that recommended me to buy the steer to buy it. After seeing the steer, I could see why they did not want any part of him. He was a monster, about 1,400 pounds, with a good five foot spread.
I told her I did not have a horse big enough to handle that big of an animal. My biggest horse at that time probably weighed 850 pounds. She said, “Oh, you don’t need a horse. I can get him in the cowpen, he’s gentle as a lamb. I raised him myself from a calf.”
Well, that sounded like it might work. We settled on a price and it looked like I might make a week’s wages out of the deal if I could get the steer to Swift’s in Ocala.
Day working cattle at that time only paid $10 a day. Mrs. Reynolds said she would call me when she got this steer in the pen. When she called a few days later, I decided to give it a try. The steer was in the pen like she promised. I had backed the trailer up to a little gate and dropped the ramp.
The steer was happily munching on the feed Mrs. Reynolds had talked him into the pen with. When I got my rope out of the jeep and made a big loop, the steer stopped eating and began to get a little nervous.
Well, I knew this was going to be a one-shot deal. The pen was about 30 feet long and 20 feet wide. It was made of hog wire about five and half feet high with a board at the top and one in the middle – and that big, old steer could look over it anywhere.
By then he started circling the fence, head held high and thinking about jumping out. Well, it was show time. I was standing a little behind the horse trailer and as ready as I was going to get. When he came by, I made a throw and got my rope around those big, old horns. This was a big surprise to him after being coddled for the last 15 years. Well, I got me a dally on a post right next to the back of the trailer. When that big steer hit the end of the rope, he went straight up in the air and flipped over backward. As he was scrambling around trying to get up, I had just enough time to get my rope up off the post and run it through an opening up by the manger. I brought the slack back and tied it off to a fence post and the battle was on.
He was pulling backward with all of his might and every now and then, he would jump forward four of five feet and I would get some rope back. Pretty soon, he had his front feet in the trailer but when he was halfway in the, he balked. I had a hot shot in the jeep so I tied him off right there and got the electric prod. When I hit him with the hot shot, he went all the way to the front and almost over the manger and would have, if it had not been for the rope, through the hole by the front.
Now I had him in the trailer, almost. That’s when I realized he was longer than the trailer. His rear end was a t least a foot out of the back of the trailer. Well, we had come this far, so after catching my breath, I hit him again with the hot shot and brought the ramp up as far as I ould and tied the rope around the steer’s rear end. Now I had most of him in the trailer.
When I pulled the jeep and trailer up on the dirt road, the back wheels of the jeep came off the ground and went to spinning. All the weight was on the back of the trailer. But, by taking mostly back roads and using the front axles, I finally delivered the steer to the Swift Meat Packing Plant 18 miles away in Ocala. The cow brought a good price and I cleared my week’s wages.