Tres, a cowboy that has worked on my family’s ancestral ranch for nearly twenty years, illustrated a commonly-occurring prank that occurs during the process of castrating and ear-tagging young cattle (calves) during the summer months.
To provide locational context:
The calera pens, where the prank is most likely to take place, is an octagonal dirt arena where calves are let in three to five at a time from an adjacent pen holding around 100 calves in total.
At any given time, there tend to be around ten cowboys occupying the pens as to make quick work of the calves that are let in. Clearing out the total queue of calves takes a matter of what usually amounts to three hours.
Each round of calves that enters is quickly and methodically dispatched with a combination of lasso-ropes thrown around the calves’ hind legs (preventing them from running and compromising their balance) and a ‘mugger’ who turns the animal on its side and holds it in place. A third cowboy then approaches with a knife to sever the calves’ testicles (since breeding is designated for carefully-selected bulls, clipping young calves keeps both genetics and numbers in check). An ear clipper is then used punches a hole in the calves’ ear that will then be used for placing a plastic numeric identification tag on the calf in a permanent manner.
The prank in question involves the cowboy who has just performed the business of cutting off a cow’s testicles, which he now holds in his hands as two bloody balls of flesh.
With these in hand, the cowboy will put away his knife and nonchalantly walk up to an unsuspecting co-worker, placing the severed testicles either on their shoulder, in their front pocket, or, in particularly biting cases, down the back of their shirt.
The sight of a co-worker reeling in disgust or groaning as they flap the back of a rapidly-untucked shirt is can prompt immediate laughter from bystanders who may not have even seen the perpetrator’s approach, a clear illustration of its familiarity within the pens and a helpful outlet of humor and fun in a workplace that can very quickly become physically punishing and demanding in terms of both high heat indexes and the unpredictability of handling large, frightened animals.