My instructions were to be at the plant by 9:00 am. I was there 10 minutes early (because mama raised me right) so I walked in looking for Mr. D.
“Excuse me, sir? I’m looking for a Mr. D."
“I’m Mr. D."
“Hi. My name is Jack Matusek. We spoke on the phone."
“I didn’t talk to you on the phone."
What do you say to that? Yeah you did. I remember. I was there.
After much awkwardness, I realized I was talking to ‘ol Mr. D. The Mr. D I was looking for I found on the phone in the back office with a pair of readers perched on his forehead and an old ball-cap cock-eyed to the side. Beside him, was another, but younger, Mr. D.
Yep, three generations.
Looking back now, I’m sure Mr. D thought he was hung with baby-sitting some city-college-boy for the summer. To get me out of his hair, my first task was a trip to the feedlot to pick up a trailer load of cattle. When I got back, I headed out with him to the local sale barn for my first lesson with the boss man.
Now let me tell you, there is a certain hierarchy and protocol at cattle auctions. The man who buys beef for half of South Texas sits front row and middle. Next to him is his good buddy, Mr. Jakeburger. Obviously, green hands are not allowed on the front row with Mr. D and Mr. Jakeburger so I took a spot a few rows back.
To be quite honest I didn’t know what the hell was going on. It took me a while to translate what the auctioneer was spewing and to cypher the code on the cow’s back hip. I knew one thing, no matter where you did your 4 years of college no degree could prepare you for this.
I have been around cattle my entire life. Hell, I was born on a ranch. But I never truly embraced it. All I could think about growing up was getting the hell out of Small-Town, Texas. I never would have believed after 4 years of college I would be back were I started, driving in a dually, looking at cattle, and liking it.
I’ve learned that no one has a sense of humor quite like God.
Three hours and 300 head later Mr. D and I headed out with the promise of treating me to the best burger in town.
"They’re the best because they use our patties."
But I will say, no bias involved, that Shell Station beats any of the seven restaurants in that town any day of the week.
When we got back to the plant, Mr. D handed me a jacket and a hard hat and sent me to observe the kill-floor.
I know there are preconceived notions regarding meat markets and kill floors, and I will say that mine looked like a scene from a horror movie. I was surprised to find that it was nothing like that.
I sat up on a platform with Flacco and he explained the facts of life to me.
“Cows come in, carcasses come out."
Feeling a little queasy meat eater? Where did you think that steak came from?
At the end of the day I realized that I had a lot to learn, and I was excited about the adventure that was ahead. I asked Bossman what time everyone got there and he told me they showed up at 7:30 and worked like red blooded, blue collared, American men until 5:30.
In order to lose the “new guy/city-slicker” nametag, I needed to assimilate quickly, so I figured working the same hours as everyone else would be a good place to start.
And you thought waking up for an 8AM class was hard…