It took us only a day to drive the cows to summer pasture. It was a good trip. I drove the chuckwagon very little since an eight-year-old boy came along. He took up the lines as we left the barnyard, and that was pretty much the end of me driving the team. There were moments when he had to eat just one more piece of beef jerky or get a drink from his jug. At those sparse intervals, I was granted a few minutes to drive the team. Garrett was a great addition to our working crew.
We camped overnight and then rode the horses back to the ranch the next day. It was a warm, or maybe the correct adjective would be a little hot. After unsaddling the horses and unharnessing the team, we were all ready for some relaxation. The draft horses’ idea of relaxation was hitting the creek and taking a roll.
Joe’s idea of relaxation is to sit on the porch for a little over an hour and see refreshed guests as they walk from their cabins. They had no trouble finding the showers. We didn’t follow their lead. Our next plan of action was to re-saddle four horses, gather 24 head of cattle off of 600 acres and go ROPE!
This, my friends, is the ultimate cowboy relaxation. Team roping.
We have had two busy weeks. We gathered all the cows, branded the calves, and put them back out to pasture. Joe roped in the Coldwater rodeo the next day. He placed 4th. Laramie had an off night in steer wrestling.
Last Thursday we moved the cows and calves to summer pasture. The cattle drive went well. We attempted to start early before it got too hot. It seemed like it took 45 minutes just to get them down our mile long driveway. We had one obstacle after another. Several cows went their own way through the trees, two vehicles had come down the driveway, the single tree somehow slipped down the tongue of the wagon two feet and some workers had left a gate open. After we hit the pasture, it was pretty much stress free. A grandson of a neighbor rode along on the chuckwagon and drove it most of the 14 miles for me. We returned to the ranch the next afternoon, gathered 24 head of roping cattle off of 800 acres and roped before bedtime. Other than that, we have built fence, replaced two H braces in the fences, fixed the water well at the east place, cooked pots of food, processed 200 head of heifers, rode colts, and checked windmills. I feel like a break. Maybe in a month or so?
Summer has welcomed itself to the ranch with its usual business. I am still struggling to teach myself to carry a camera with me to capture all the things that go on at the ranch. To be a serious blogger, I must, must take some photos. I plan each night to take my camera with me the next day. I make promises to change my lifestyle and tote the camera bag with me. I consider taking the small camera instead of the larger one. Each day I am sure that tomorrow I will be more diligent. Each evening I am sure the next day I will have enough will power to tackle the camera toting problem. It is much like deciding to go on a diet and promising myself that tomorrow I will have willpower and stay on a diet. After all, I just finished stuffing my mouth with chocolate cake. Tomorrow will be the day. Tomorrow I will diet. Tomorrow I will responsibly be a photographer!
There have been many tomorrows. I considered taking the camera with me on one of those tomorrows. As usual, I decided against it. After all, I was riding a young horse, a guest was with me, Joe was on a young horse and who knows the problems that could occur. Actually that was a good call. Someone dropped the reins on their horse, I got off of mine to fetch their rein. Instantaneously a protective mama cow decided Joe was much too close to her calf. She hit is horse in the chest. I was on the ground. Hmmmm what to do, gather up the loose rein for the gal and then run for my horse in case the cow headed my way? Just think of the shot I could have gotten with a camera nearby. I could have whipped out the camera, snapped a great shot, got the rein and mounted my horse just as the cow came barreling by.
What about last week? On that tomorrow when I should have taken my camera along, we were gathering 4 bulls out of a small 80 acre pasture. Simple stuff. Why not take the time to pack a camera along? The bulls walked willingly through the prairie dog town and down a cow path to the dry creek bed. The older black bull decided to run right and go into the brush. I kicked my horse up to cut him back. My horse was thrilled to see some action and bucked. I checked her up and spoke some disciplinary words to her. I knew I should have warmed her up a bit. After all, sometimes she can be a little fresh. I took my rope off the saddle and gave it to Joe. In case she bucked again, I didn’t need anything to get tangled up in. No matter how whimpy it sounds, I am a real cowgirl, but I stand a better chance of riding a bucking horse without a rope. I have no pride. Rope was removed. As we hopped across the creek bed and up the other side she began bucking again and again………..and again. I didn’t make it. Too bad I didn’t have the camera. I could have whipped it out just in time to take a photo of me in mid air or a photo of the matching bruises I got on the inside of each my legs from hitting the D ring of the saddle on every buck.
Or what about the tomorrow when we drove 298 head of pairs just 3 1/2 miles. That was the day that began gloriously easy. Then the cows quit driving and the calves began to try to run back to the pasture we had started from. That is dangerous stuff. When the calves start to run pell mell in every direction, there is usually no end to the trauma it creates in my life, but that would have been a great time to take a photo. I could have labeled it “Disaster in the Making”. I could have yelled at Joe, “I’ll be there in just a few seconds. I just want to get a photo of all these calves trying to run off.” No, my decision not to take a camera was worth it. We contained all the calves and finally made it to the corral. It was a long, long morning and the memory of it will live for sometime in my photogenic mind. You will just have to trust me and settle for a word picture.
Tomorrow we are riding out to check a calf I doctored for scours. (That is the cowboy word for diarrhea). Then we will go to the big pasture and ride through about 180 cows there. Maybe I should take my camera along. I will send you a photo if I do.
Visitors are always welcome here at the ranch. We are open to guests from April – October. In the off months, it can get a little lonely out here. Sometimes I only leave to go to church on Sunday. It is a treat to see someone drive down the road to the house, even if it is just to drop off some cattle or pick up one of their strays we rounded up.
Even the ranch dogs enjoy a visit now and again from a neighoring ranch dog who hitched a ride to work with his rancher for the day. Whiskey, Molly and Popcorn were thrilled to have some company for a couple of hours. However, they were making their visitor, Callie, aware that this is their ranch and their rules apply during the visit.
We have three bottle calves this year. Laramie’s method of feeding them involves removing each calf indivudually from the pen and feeding them one at a time so that he doesn’t get molested by the other two. Bottle calves are very demanding. They don’t mind butting you with their head, wiping slobber on your jeans or walking between your legs. Miss Manners could give them a lesson or two. Their only concern is the white bottle with the red rubber nipple on the end of it. My method of feeding is based on the least amount of time consumed. I feed them all at once. I hold one bottle between my knees and hold the other two in my hands. My plan usually works, but not without complications, which are best left out of this post. Last week I devised a much easier way to feed the calves.
Recruit six gals from St. Louis to do the job for you. This is success. Three smiling girls and three slurping calves.
My method did not work so well with our bottle lamb. Bottle lambs are wooly and cute. There is a simple pleasure in feeding one. I don’t mind this chore at all.
However, I was forced to turn the job over to Jackie when she claimed this lamb all for her own. Bye, bye Woolie. But never fear, you will be my buddy again after these girls head back to city life.
One of the common questions I get before our cattle drives is, “What should I bring.” My reply is usually, “We provide everything. Just bring your toothbrush, medication and any personal items you think you will need”.
When four English women arrived at the ranch and declared that they had brought their onesies to sleep in on the cattle drive, I didn’t quite know what to say or think. I had pictured in my mind a onesie. You know, those one piece baby garments you give as gifts at baby showers. They are nice little t-shirts which snap down around the diaper. I was having a hard time imagining the gals laying in their bedrolls with adult size onesies on. As it turns out, the image was not as bad as my mind had led me to believe.
The onesies were modeled for us the first night at the campsite. They looked great in their footie pajamas and probably stayed much warmer that night than I was.
I won’t embarrass them much further. They posed for an excellent photo after the cattle drive in their daytime attire as well.
What would you bring to sleep in on a cattle drive?