We try not to plan much for the day after a weekend of cow chasing. Today was that kind of day.
Events last week meant we were short one of our trucks for hauling our 2nd trailer for the cow chases. Fortunately for us the Powells lent us a truck for the weekend. This morning we wanted to get that returned. We made it our planned reward to go out for a late breakfast between that drop off and our next thing. A reward for doing the work of the two chase days. I have to say it felt pretty fine to sit at the diner, and it was noticeably great when Christine slid a delicious omelette in front of me. I was being served, after almost a hundred thousand calories passed through my hands enroute to others this weekend, (105 meals at a 1,000 calories per?). After breakfast was over we got a tractor picked up from one field and headed to another to get a load of bales. While Russ loaded the flat deck full of bales I sat in the truck and returned messages. I made him pose with his load when it was done.
I got a message late last night with a couple more pictures from yesterday.
As Russ and I had breakfast we talked over how things went on the weekend. Two things might be of interest to readers….
1. Why do we start so early?
Saturday we had a very long ride and needed every hour of daylight to ensure we got the herd to pasture before dark. They made it with 90 minutes to spare. Several years ago complications meant that same ride took til well after dark. That wasn’t the first time we ended in dark but it was the most extreme. It was dangerous and very worrisome. We had riders that day that never ever have come back.
The risk of a dark arrival was not high on Sunday with a shorter distance to cover and moving heifers versus cow calf pairs. Indeed, the crew was back at the ranch and eating lunch by 1:30. I thought to myself “Russ must really live in fear of a complicated chase to get everyone up so early that no sunlight is wasted.” When we talked it over Russ said it wasn’t that. Early October days can get hot, an early start means avoiding the heat of afternoon. Last year this same chase started after we had lunch at the ranch. It got hot. The heat tuckered the cows out. Russ called the Patons to ask permission to break into their pasture and water our cows from their dug-out. They gave their permission. No small thing in a drought year. They had to rest the heifers for about an hour then. Russ didn’t want a repeat of that. So there are a few variables in how things get timed out.
2. Why so many riders?
We actually had a pretty searching conversation about this with the kids at supper. That many people around shapes the experiences of all of us. To my surprise it was Morgan who questioned the practice of a welcome extended to all. He is tired, not the easiest time to draw forth one’s welcoming instinct. The bottom line is we invite the people who show an interest and whoever shows up shows up, although we mostly know in advance who that is for trailer, horse and food planning purposes. We don’t enjoy everyone, we are not angels and none of our crew is perfect. It can get tricky. Every single person on the trail gets stretched in one way or another almost every day.
Yesterday our numbers were pretty extreme, we had almost 1 horse and rider for every 2 heifers on the trail. It turned out to be helpful twice. First when rounding up the herd in the heavy fog we dealt with yesterday. Russ organized the cowboys and cowgirls very strategically to advance across the pasture almost in a formation, allowing them to sweep forward all the heifers that emerged from the fog before them. The second time was when they needed to cross railroad tracks and these young animals were skittish and very hesitant. Russ got the crew to completely surround the herd and contained like that, fenced in so to speak, they gave the heifers time to think about it, settle down a bit and decide it was their own idea to go across. Russ likes this method of dealing with cattle, slow and easy, non aggressive unless neccesary, he feels it’s safer and easier on the animals. I heard some riders talking about it later a little amazed at how Russ made that crew coordinate in those moments without raising his voice much at all. That is not always the case. Russ yells on the trail when neccesary, it’s hard for those of us who are used to his more cuddly demeanor.
As Russ and I sat and talked over these questions he was reminded of past times when he moved animals home. He said this weekend we had one extreme, he has lived the other. Back in the PMU days he moved a herd of horses home from the Manor pasture all by himself. He had seven horses loaded in the trailer that Walter his Dad drove down the road. Russ had played them all out by the time it was done. He had a couple other stories that if you didn’t know Russ or his family you might not believe. These stories should be a blog all on their own. Russell’s summary of it all, “I have done this with both extremes of help, zero and lots, with help is way more fun.”
Post chase days almost always include an episode of lost and found. Today that includes this mug and a pair of Polarized brand sunglasses. Any takers? We also found a strange half grown black and white kitten in the barn. It’s possible it was a stowaway on one of the trailers in the yard this weekend. Anyone know anything about that?
There were lots of readers from Canada, the U S. and Europe that had a look at the weekend blogs. That was fun and encouraging. Thanks to you readers! Feel free to share any blog if you think someone in your circle would enjoy it.
We have a little bit of a break from cow chasing now. Ranch activity over the next bit involves alot of effort to bring hay and straw bales home. I am hoping to get some things off the to do list and get writing. There is alot to be said.