Its definitely winter here on the ranch. Not because it is cold and snowy, because it has actually been warm (relatively) and rainy. I’m saying its winter time on the ranch because the cows are here and The Rancher is officially feeding every morning. Slowly over the last 2 weeks we have trailed and hauled cows home, starting with the group up in Quaken Asp.
Quaken Asp is some of private ground in the mountains past our home where we pasture the cows in the fall. Its a favorite of our family’s- a place where we go up for a 4 wheeler rides, hunting, an evening drive… you name it, we do it up there. In fact, The Rancher proposed to me up there. Yep, I love it up there. When The Rancher announced that it was the day to bring the cows home from there, I immediately asked if I could come along too. I would say it was 50% me wanting to go for a ride, 30% that I needed get out of the house and do something, and a strong 20% that needed some quality time in a place that I loved.
Luckily for me, I managed to upgrade my ride from the gator, which I always plan to take because it lets me take all my little people and manage to take photos off the trail, to my horse! The Ranch Boss, my father-in-law, had shoulder surgery a few months ago and the thought of something going wrong and him coming off his horse was enough to make him call dibs on the gator. At first I thought that meant I was destined to stay home or to sit in the truck and wait. But, because I am his favorite daughter-in-law, The Ranch Boss volunteered to take my kids with him and I was free to saddle up and go.
Once we got up the mountain, it didn’t take long for us to realize that the cows were going to be difficult to bring home. We rode to the very edges and corners of the field and only gathered up a small portion of the herd. As cows do, they had managed to tear the fence down in a few places and meander far, FAR away. And not only they were few and far between, but they were also belligerent and stubborn and wouldn’t move. They would sit in the trees, head up the mountain, and no matter what we did, turn tail and run.
Ya wanna here just how stupid and ignorant and frustrating these cows were? Ok, it wasn’t the worst move we have ever done, but still frustrating.
There were four cows that I found in the bottoms, stopped in a groves of trees. Calling them trees is kinda pushing it… It was more like a bunch of overgrown bushes that left no room for a horse to move around but apparently enough for a cow to wiggle under. And there was no amount of whooping and whistling that was moving these cows. I tried coming at them from every direction and something worked because eventually they started moving (I guess I am scary… BOOM!) Of course they don’t take the easy way down and jump in with the rest of the herd but they decide to go further up the mountain, through even more brush. About this time The Rancher rides in and he followed them up and over while I kept looking for others in the rest of the brush.
Things were going pretty ok, but we could see handfuls of cows that still needed gathered in. The Rancher and Cowboy E headed out to gather in whatever they could find, while I grabbed those four cows and kept pushing them. I actually didn’t have to push all that much because they were moving plenty fast on their own. Unfortunately they kept going further and further up the mountain and away from the herd. I would get the leader stopped and headed back down just to see one take off another way. This happened over and over again. Where was a good ranch dog when I needed him?
We were headed in the same general direction as the herd and I knew that we would come out just fine, so I opted to stop fighting those old girls and just see where they were taking us. I knew that other cowboys were on the same side of the mountain as we were and that in reality, if I needed help, I could leave the cows and things would be ok. But, being the good cowgirl that I am (or at least pretend to be), I just kept going. One of the best pieces of advice I ever learned when I first trailed cows was to let them take the lead. They knew the range better than I did so it was likely that they knew the best way out. I was hoping that this little bit of advice wasn’t about to fail me. After moving for a long for a while, I start to see more and more cows. Apparently this group all had the same idea to head for the same corner of field, not realizing that they had passed up the better route of going through the bottoms. About that same time, I see Cowboy Pete push a few more cows in my direction and turn around to head for more so I figured I would just take this group and move on down. We started following the fence, assuming that it would take us to the road and out. But I started to look where the fence headed and all I see are corners.
Who builds a fence with 12 hundred corners in it?! Ok… I know that the where and how the fence goes depends on a lot of different things, but still… I mean, if I kept following the fence, where was I gonna end up. I didn’t bring my map of the range so… I called The Rancher instead. He informed me that occasionally they just take the fence down and make their own gate… Oh. Make my own gate. I can do that. I rode up ahead of the cows and took the wires down. Just then The Ranch Boss called me to explain that I needed to turn the cows around, that there is a gate at the corner already opened. Ya know, the gate that we had passed already. He said it was an easier ride out so, I turned those cows around. And went back to where we had started.
No gates to be found… I might have grumbled a little.
And then we turned around again and headed for the place I knew I could get out, make-shift gate I had torn down. And that is when I saw it. A gate. Hidden in a sort-of corner (as opposed to a nice square corner) that we had passed. Over and over again… These blasted cows, that have been on this mountain year after year, head straight for the gate that THEY want to go out, and then MISS it altogether! Gah! If I was a cursing woman, I would have used all sorts of obscenities but… I held my tongue. And those crazy girls redeemed themselves by sticking to trail for the rest of the ride home.
Until the next ride!
The Rancher’s Wife