By GLORIA LOPES
For the Capital Press
My husband, John, and I own a cattle ranch in Oregon. We run about 400 head of yearling steers. This year we sold them to a feedlot in Idaho. As required, we have to have them brand inspected and veterinarian health checked when the cattle are weighed. The steers are sold by the pound.
Since our ranch is divided by a creek, the steers are gathered on one side of the ranch at a time. Our friends and neighbors help us. They are a great help and so nice to us.
My job is to drive our three-quarter-ton diesel four-wheel-drive pickup filled with alfalfa hay in front of the steers and coax them to the corrals. Those on horseback follow up the rear. We gathered one half with no problem. All went smoothly.
Then we had to gather the other side. I had to drive around to enter through a locked gate to that pasture. When I opened the gate, the steers heard the pickup and came rushing out of the barn. They crowded me and I only got halfway through when they started coming around me. I had to get out and chase them back in and they started coming out on the other side. I realized I had to drive the pickup through the gate and close it or I'd have steers in the neighbor's yard or on the highway.
In my rush, I accidentally put the pickup in reverse and it flew backward, the door caught on the gate post and nearly tore off. I put the pickup back in gear to drive through the gate and then get out again to close the gate behind me. When I turned around, the pickup was moving forward and heading across the pasture. I ran to catch up with the pickup but by now I was running out of breath, and I was only able to reach in and grab the steering wheel.
Since I am 84 years old, I can't run as fast as I used to. I tried to reach across the steering wheel but was just short of the switch or to take it out of gear. I had the feeling that I could get run over if I let loose. I didn't know if the broken door would catch me and push me under the pickup, so I hung on for dear life. I couldn't run anymore and soon the pickup was dragging me across the pasture.
I finally lost my grip and down I went. No one saw the accident.They were all out of sight and I was by myself. I felt the pickup tire run the full length of my leg and then off. I lay there a few seconds and then I said, "Thank you Dear God, you only took one leg." I tried moving my toes, they could move. I thought I hadn't heard any bones break. I got up and was able to stand. I started limping after the pickup.
Johnny came riding over the hill and noticed the pickup with the door hanging and no one inside. He caught the pickup, then came looking for me. He saw me limping towards him and picked me up.
When we got to the hospital I told the doctor that I had been run over by our pickup. He wanted to cut my boot off, but I said no because I just had my boots resoled and new heels put on and I needed a boot jack. He didn't know what that was and never heard that word. I told him when we were kids my Dad taught us to improvise if you don't have the proper tools and that I would show him what to do. I told him to back up against the hospital bed and put my leg between his and grab my boot heel and pull up. I don't think he will forget that lesson.
The X-ray showed my ankle was cracked. I also had a deep gash on the back of my leg and also in the front just above the boot top. A nurse came in to assist with the stitches. She asked what business I was in and I told her I was a rancher and ran cattle. She promptly told me she was a vegetarian. So I told her I was sorry for her, and if it had been her leg it would have cracked like an egg. I eat a lot of beef. The doctor said eating beef is good and that I have really strong bones for someone my age.
I had planned a barbecue at our home for the nice people that had helped us ship the cattle. I had made potato salad and marinated some steaks so dinner wasn't hard to finish with garlic bread and salad. We ended up having a good time.
I have thanked God over and over again that I was so lucky not to have more serious injuries. Thanks to beef my bones were so strong. I wouldn't trade my life with anyone.
Gloria Lopes is a rancher near Junction City, Ore. Her family has been in the cattle business since 1884.