by Jane Morton
My mother always called, “Yoo-hoo,” so we would look her way.
She did it at the sale barn one cattle auction day.
Dad brought his cows to market there, as he did every spring.
He liked to watch the auction and his cattle in the ring.
Some Hereford cows were milling round, and others bawling loud.
The auctioneer was trying hard to stir the morning crowd.
My folks were in their usual seat where they had said they’d be,
And I had started toward them when my mother spotted me.
She jumped up quick and called, “Yoo-hoo,” and then she waved her hand.
She’d bid on thirty Herefords with our own CU brand.
The auctioneer looked toward my mom and gave a little nod.
A feedlot buyer raised her bid, and I was thanking God.
I didn’t dare to signal her for fear they’d think I’d bid,
And Mom had no idea at all of what she almost did.
So needing to get down there fast, I headed for the stair.
Then came another, “You-hoo Yo-ooooo,” that caught me unaware.
I’d almost closed the distance when my mother waved once more.
The auctioneer acknowledged her, the way he had before.
I watched the feedlot buyer as I slipped into my seat,
And when the fellow didn’t bid, my heart near ceased to beat.
My dad sat focused on the ring completely unaware
Of all the action going on right there beside his chair.
From up in back there came a bid, and I could breathe again.
I prayed the field had narrowed down to real cattle men.
I took Mom’s hand soon as I could and held it tight in mine.
I said, “How are you doin’, Mom?” She said, “I’m doin’ fine.”
Now Mom had been to auctions, and she knew what not to do.
Of course a real no no would have been to call, “Yoo-hoo.”
But Mom forgot herself that day and learned to her chagrin
How close she came to buyin’ back the cows that Dad brought in.
When Dad caught on he realized, as he had not before,
That thanks to Mom his cattle brought a buck a hundred more.
© 2008 revised, Jane Morton
This poem should not be reported or reprinted without permission
Jane Morton often writes about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. Generations later, her mother, Eva Lena Ambrose, was surprised to discover that her husband, a teacher and coach, was determined to return to the family farm that eventually became the family ranch. Her mother faced a hard life with dignity.
Jane Morton has award-winning books and a CD of her poetry. Don’t miss reading more of her poems about her family and their ranch history at CowboyPoetry.com.
This 1939 photo by Russell Lee is titled, “Scene in cattle auction barn. Heifer is coming in from pen. San Augustine, Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, part of the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection. Find more about it here.
Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.