Seriously, who names corrals or pastures 13? Forever The Rancher would say, “We’re going down to 13…” and it was supposed to mean something to me. But now I know. 13- the corrals and fields nestled behind the reservoir, only 14 glorious minutes away instead of the agonizing hours it seems to take to Black Pine (don’t worry, I know you don’t know where that is…). And 13 is where we began the crazy fall work this year.
Nearly a week ago, on a hazy cool morning, we saddled up and headed out to gather in the cows on the Forest Service ground. These cows have been difficult all summer long, so it was awesome to get the buggers done and out of the way first. Of course they were spread out on the very edges of the field. And of course they had to turn and chase the dogs every chance they could. And of course the only time they hurried along was when they were headed in the WRONG direction. But we were ready for them and brought lots of help, and in reality, we didn’t have all that far to go to.
After our quick 45 minute gather began the real fun of sorting off the cows from the calves. These cowboys work cows so different than I ever did growing up. I was always taught the approach of less is more- quieter, calmer, less guys… Maybe some of that was just because we didn’t have so many cows or man power. Still, very different. With these Curlew Cowboys we start sorting from both ends, each grabbing a bunch and sorting off calves out one gate and cows out the other, sometimes pushing against each other. I went on the end where we pushed the cows out and kept calves in. I have to admit that the first few minutes were stressful for me. It was chaos. Pure chaos. There was no organization, no plan, just get ’em and go. Fortunately my anxiety simmered down and I jumped into the chaotic, sorting groove. Before long we were done… mostly.
A few calves had managed to slip the gate man that needed sorting back out. And a few bulls needed bringing out. And some of the neighbor cows needed pulling out too. So not really done, but that gave me the perfect opportunity to take a few pictures. I have to admit that I didn’t take any when the good sorting was going on, but that was simply because I was too busy doing my other job…
With the sorting done, all that was left was to wait our turn to get all the calves loaded and head home. And in the meantime while I was waiting, I enjoyed my moments of bliss on the back of the horse with my camera, conversation my new sis-in-law, and a little kid free time. I was almost sad when we loaded up the third and final semi-full of calves. But alas, all good things must come to an end. Until the next time we wean- oh wait, that’s tomorrow!