A cattle guard may be a source of nostalgia but it is NOT a person or a dog. A cattle guard is:
1. The subject of numerous jokes. For example: a popular version on the internet is that President Obama receives a report that Colorado had 100,000 cattle guards on federally owned land. President Obama wants to fire half the cattle guards because the Colorado ranchers protested his proposed changes in grazing policy. Upon hearing this, Vice-President Biden interjects that it would only be fair to the cattle guards and their families to give them six months of retraining.
President Clinton had been the subject of a nearly identical joke.
2. A time saving device that is placed in a spot on a road easement or right-of-way where a gate would otherwise be needed to keep the cows in their pasture. A cattle guard eliminates the need to open and close gates.
Merriam-Webster defines a cattle guard as “A shallow ditch with rails or bars laid across that are spread far enough apart to prevent livestock from crossing but not people or vehicles. First known use was in 1843.”
For example, my Dad lives in the middle of nowhere. To get to his property, we drive on easements that are on two different land owner’s property. We open one gate and cross two cattle guards. Prior to the installation of the cattle guards, we had to open and close three gates.
3. A reference point commonly used when giving directions in rural areas.
If I was giving someone directions to my Dad’s house, I would say, “After you go over the second cattle guard, follow the road to the left. Stay on the road for about a mile and his house will be at the top of the hill. You can’t miss it.”
My Dad would commonly say, “If you are looking for me, I’ll be working on the road by the first cattle guard.” That tells me that he is working on the road near the tank that the oil company dug for Mr. Bower’s cattle when the pipeline had a leak and oil ran into the creek. That tank is near the first cattle guard.
4. A source of nostalgia.
There are a number of cattle guards that are not needed anymore because the cattle have either been removed or the road has been fenced off. In 2007 Bill Tucker, P.E, a retired Texas Department of Transportation Area Engineer, wrote an article, “Merits of Removing Cattle Guards.” teexweb.tamu.edu/eu/documents/07_11-12.pdf
He states one of the biggest challenges to the removal of cattle guards is nostalgia and the simple love of cattle guards.
Sondra Meyer, CPA
Colorado Horse Property Specialist
Colorado. See It. Experience It. Live It.