Let me set the stage for my worst moment in cattle working history…I was probably around ten years old.  It’s a sweaty Saturday, pushing up on lunchtime, in the Texas Hill Country.  We’d already worked all the cows and calves for that particular morning and only one thing remained…the bull.  Now my parents aren’t rope and drag kind of ranchers.  There were no horses or cowboys.  They had a hand-welded chute system that was typical of 1960s cow size.  One snag…in the late 80s/early 90s we were still in the “frame race” (trying breed leggy cattle).  Towering meat wagons were in style, thus cattle had outgrown the head gate and squeeze chute my parents designed.  In typical southern engineering/redneck style, they adapted.  We just put them down the chute portion, running a pipe behind them, across the chute, so that they couldn’t back out.  Don’t laugh, the money tree didn’t put on new leaves that year.  

I had ONE JOB.  Stay up against the barn with my mother and when the bull ran down the chute, slide that pipe in behind him so he couldn’t back out.  Simple enough, right?  

I could hear the bull coming up through the pens and my father clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth, easing him along.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a mouse.  Mice are everywhere around a barn and our most recent barn cat had fallen victim to one of two things: a coyote or it found it didn’t have to work as hard for it’s food at a neighboring farm.  No matter the reason, we had a nice population of mice and I thought I should help my parents and catch this mouse.  I could do both at the same time, the bull was still far enough away.

I sat down the pipe that was supposed to go behind the bull and grabbed another pipe and thought “if I just get the mouse trapped in the bottom of a pipe, I can hold it there and then Dad could kill it when he’s done getting the bull in the chute”.  Makes total sense…insert eye-roll.  I wait for my moment of glory, just knowing the pride my parents will feel when I managed to capture this mouse and put the pipe in behind the bull.  The mouse goes right where I think he will and BOOM, I tip up the pipe and catch it, heck yeah!  

One tiny little portion of this “feat of genius” I hadn’t planned on…that mouse could climb.  I heard the bull getting closer, I grabbed the pipe that was to go behind him with my right hand and my left hand held the pipe on the mouse.  All of a sudden, the mouse popped out onto my hand, runs up my arm onto my shoulder.  I dropped the pipe in my right hand, threw the pipe in my left hand, flung the mouse off me and screamed bloody murder, all at the exact time the bull started coming down the alley.  

The 2,300 pound bull promptly turned back on my Dad and started to run at him.  Like a rodeo cowboy, my father was over a five foot welded wire gate and safely to the other side in an athletic stunt that is generally only seen on ESPN highlights.  Mom turns and said words to me.  I did not comprehend them, as I know the wrath of my father is coming.  That’s it, I knew at that moment, that barn is where I was going to die.   I made it to pre-teen, that was a good life.  He was going to kill me and probably just bury me out back.  At the least, I was going to get a serious whipping.  My father came around the corner and his eyes were huge…I’ve accepted my fate, so of course, I was crying, knowing that is where it all ends.  “What, what was going on?!” he hollered.  Through tears I told him my “genius plan” and that I just didn’t know the mouse would come up the pipe.  

His furrowed brow softened a little, I received a scolding, a lesson in safety, and that I had awesome parents…as in hindsight, I would have killed a kid!  Dad walked away chuckling and shaking his head.  From then on, I was a large supporter of the barn cat and using the double mouse trap along the wall method of catching a rodent.   

Julie Zimmerman Morris

Julie Zimmerman Morris

Texas Ranch Sales Associate

Growing up on a small ranch raising cattle and goats as well as her experiences with 4-H and FFA has led Julie to a life and love of working in agriculture and the ranching industry. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Services and Development from Tarleton State University. Here, she also went on to earn a Master of Science in Agriculture.

Julie spent over 13 years working under the AgriLife umbrella as a County Extension Agent – Agriculture/Natural Resources and Program Coordinator.