In 1946, my first experience with cattle occurred on the Floyd McRorey Ranch near Cherokee, Texas, San Saba county. I was four years old and the first time away from my family. I slept on a cot beside my aunt and uncle in the master bedroom. My uncle Floyd and his son, John R., ran a cow-calf operation of about forty head of black Angus. He sang a cattle call to bring them to feed: “Whooooooie, su, su, su!” He repeated the call twice more. Cattle came running and he would count. The last time I saw Uncle Floyd in 1977, he was spraying the cattle for ticks.
As a boy, I visited my aunt and uncle, staying days, even weeks. The ranch was the second or third ranch on County Road 407, north of Cherokee. The house was white clapboard with three bedrooms and a grand room with dining table at one end, living room at the other. A flower garden, lawn, and oak trees surrounded the house. A windmill stood outside the fence surrounding the house. The master bedroom had floor-to-ceiling windows facing south and Aunt Lennie had five or six shelves holding African violets across the windows. Floyd took a nap after lunch everyday so that he go back out in the field to work. Before napping, he could look out of the bedroom window and see the oak trees and cattle when they grazed. After I had seen Floyd the last time in 1977, a few months later, he ate his lunch, went to the master bedroom for his customary nap, and died in his sleep. Before falling asleep, his last visual must have been violets, noonday sunshine, oak trees, and his Angus cattle, a scene to carry for eternity.
Floyd’s Angus were very dear to him. His son, John R., told me that he thought his dad loved those cattle more than him. John R. laughed at the rivalry for he knew how much Floyd loved him.
When I had a herd of twenty-seven Angus-cross on our place, I called the cattle with, “Whoooooie, su, su, su.” In reflection, I thought of my uncle and how he husbanded his Angus and his family and me, a blond-headed kid that always asked too many questions. Of all the days and nights I spent with uncle Floyd and aunt Lennie, there were no unkind words directed toward me or others in their country home. There was silence, a lot of it, and we would get up in the morning with the sun, listen to the weather report and markets from WOAI radio in San Antonio, and then to the fields.
When Angus Number 27 on my place became ill, I sped him to the veterinarian. He survived his illness and recovered his eyesight. The 27th heart, as I call him, made it back with the herd because I remembered how Floyd cared for his cattle. A cycle complete, I was tending a herd sixty years later the same way Floyd watched his Angus and lived with the land in Cherokee, Texas.