You’ll Need E.S.P. To Handle This Job

by Kevin on December 29, 2011

Everybody should work a sorting gate on a cattle ranch. This duty must have been the birthplace of the old saying, “One oh-crap erases one hundred atta-boys.”

If you do happen to land the job, the first thing you will need to know is that it’s always better swing the gate open to the inside. You will look like a green-horn deluxe McRib if you swing it outward.


Because it’s super cool when you throw the closed and make a super-duper save by pinning the cow between the gate and the corral. Just be sure that when she backs up to get her head out, that you are there to make sure she doesn’t go back through.

The second thing you need to know is E.S.P.B.I. This stands for “Extra Sensory Positive Bovine Identification”.

There will be forty head of cattle coming right at you and the head honcho will yell for you to let “that one” out, but not any of the others.

The third piece of sagely advice I have is to know the M.O.D. What is this you ask? It is the Magic Open Distance. This is an imperceptible distance the gate must be open to work effectively. It is known only to good cowboys and cattle. Maybe it’s not even known, it’s more like “felt”.

If your gate is open too wide, you’ll never be able to make a cut. If it’s not open far enough, the cattle won’t go through it and you’ll get yelled at.

The last nugget I have for anyone that has never worked a sorting gate before is this: Don’t lose your gate. You cannot wave your arms or yell loud enough to keep some ornery tiger-striped cattle in one side of a pen.

I know because I got overrun by a herd of those several times. You’ll usually be down to one or two last cows and all hell will break lose. Usually it’s a mad mama or a big frightened calf seeking reunification with their loved one that knocks the gate out of your hand.

When the gate leaves your hand, a neon-bovine sign appears in the heavens that beckons all who would go forth to depart their intended location.

That’s when you say “Oh crap” and all your atta-boys disappear in a cloud of dust…and you get to start all over.

Never again will an oppressor overrun my people,
   for now I am keeping watch. –Zechariah 9:8

Is the Lord watchin’ your gate?

What advice can you add to a first time sortin’ gate operator?


Click here to become a Save the Cowboy Top Hand. Sign up and make a monthly gift of any amount and receive a free CD with all of Kevin’s sermons each month.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Campfire Cowboy Ministries and never miss another Cowboy Devotional.

Subscribe to Campfire Cowboy Ministries by Email

Print Friendly

  • Hello newbie cowboy/cowgirl gate hand wannaroo…….Don’t under any circumstance work the gate. Run far away, get the coffee, offer to change the oil in all the pick ups present, oil all the saddles in the tack room, give all the ranch dogs and bath and brush all the barn cats, but DON’T work the gate.

    No matter what the boss says, It’s not fun, its not a special honor and its not the easiest job on the place, he’s lying.

    Now if you own said gate…. and are hollering out the sort, that’s different, someone else will be working the gate. 😉

    • Kevin


  • Don Coyote

    Uh, wut’s a sortin’ gate?

  • I’ll remember to let the gate swing inward!!! I had to laugh at the E.S.P.B.I… 🙂 🙂 Great post 🙂 Happy New Year and greetings from the ocean shores of California, Heather 😉

Previous post:

Next post: