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A limousin or limousine?

by Marie Johnson

I’ve got trouble. When we sold our commercial cattle herd last fall, to keep me an honest woman, we kept a handful of registered Angus cows. Normally, May 1 we put bulls in with the cows. But with only eight cows and two heifers, buying a $2,500 registered bull (inexpensive as bulls go) isn’t warranted. Artificial insemination, not as costly, is a lot more trouble. I wish a body could rent bull services. That idea is probably how Erin and Brian, two high school journalism students, got involved with the cattle business.

It’s prom season and Erin and Brian, working on an article about local limousine services available for transporting prom dates, know pictures add to a story. So Erin, who has confessed to being the one who called information, got the address of the closest limousine service for a quick photo shoot. The operator gave an address near Genoa.

Let me preface what happens next with the observation that jargon used in a specific trade can be confusing. For example, I didn’t know a heifer from a Holstein from a Hereford when I first started working bovines. Honest. They all started with “h.” I just figured cowboys were using different slang terms or just slurring their words when talking about, what looked to me, like the same big animals in the field. Erin and Brian got mixed up in the cattle business the same way and have pictures to prove it.

Our two journalists, encouraged by their teacher who had seen limousines on occasion in the Genoa area, drove to the address given by the operator. No long, sleek automobiles anywhere, just open fields with cattle grazing. The students walked into the general store and asked where they could find the area’s limousines to photograph. The folks at the general store said the students were near the right place. Just go down the road a bit more. A nearby golf course was somehow once connected with a ranch that had limousines. But then, as Erin tells it, the folks looked mighty puzzled when she said, “Thanks. The pictures are for a prom story.”

Erin and Brian drove to the golf course. Again, they did not see any extra-long, fancy cars. They walked into the clubhouse and asked a man taking tee time reservations where they could take pictures of, and talk to someone about, the local limo service. The golf representative said there must be a mistake. They had no limousine service.

The earnest students persisted. They explained how they got an address from information and the folks at the general store in Genoa said they could possibly find limousines here because it was once part of a big ranch. The perplexed golf pro asked a woman he describes as a veteran of the area and who worked at the golf course to hear the kids’ inquiry. The woman listened to the request, then – while laughing – explained to the young reporters that limousin services are for Limousin cattle. The services were for breeding cows. Red-faced, the two students drove back to school only stopping to take a quick photo of the “limos” in the fields, as Erin now refers to all cattle.

Over time, I, too, learned a Hereford is usually a white-faced, red-and-white hide, beef animal; a heifer, a female bovine; a Holstein, a black-and-white dairy animal; and a limousin is a large-muscled, reddish-colored beef animal. A limousine with an “e,” you ride in.

Brian has the pictures and my cows still need a date for Friday’s prom.

– Marie Johnson is a Fredericksburg, Calif., resident and is married to Kent Neddenriep. They have two sons, Kyle, 10, and Bradley, 7. Her column, “Fence lines,” appears once a month.