Smells of the cattle auction

cattle herd
(Submitted photo)

I stood next to my father. Must have been near eight years old. The auction yard
was filled with cows just waiting to be sold.

The August sun bore heat on down. Turned cow manure to hot. Steam rolling off
the hot manure, put out a smell like rot.

I heard one cowboy say,”Pew!”  That caught my eye for sure. He said, “I spose
there’s nothin worse than smellin cow manure!”

The smell was nothing new to me, a normal farm boy’s way. But the cowboy’s
words convinced my nose, “Be sensitive today.”

My father said, “Let’s grab a bite. The sale will soon begin.”  Each café stool was
set so low. The counter hit my chin.

The scent of frying burgers, topped with onions, filled the air. The smell of fresh
brewed coffee and tobacco smoke hung there.

But then a hint of cherry pie was teasing at my nose. I heard the waitress say,
“Eat fast before your father goes.”

My father gobbled down his food. I’d never ate so fast. Then we climbed the
stairs and there we were, the auction sale at last.

I’d heard him talk a hundred times about the auction ring. But I don’t recall him
mentioning the smells the auctions bring.

The first thing that I noticed was the smell of lodgepole pine. Shavings covered
most the floor and smelled like turpentine.

The benches sat up high, so we could look down at the sale. One farmer’s wife
brought chicken. Got a whiff with each inhale.

Then came a smell so thick and strong, it dang near made me choke. The smell
was overpowering from the clouds of cigar smoke.

There ain’t no doubt you’d pick up on the cigar smoke, just fine. Your smeller
didn’t have to be so tuned and keen as mine.

For me the smell’s nostalgic. Guess it wasn’t meant to last. ‘Cuz smoking at the
cattle auction has become the past.

Yet when I smell that cigar smoke, psyche calls it Pavlov’s Dog. My mind reflects to auction day; engrained in my brain’s log.

Make no mistake about the smells at the cattle auction sale. They’re a combo of
good memories that your brain will never fail.


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Bryce Angell’s father was an outfitter and guide for 35 years, and Bryce was there to shoe and care for the horses and help him do the cooking. Bryce is from Idaho and still rides into the Tetons, Yellowstone and surrounding areas. His poems are mostly of personal experience.



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