We spent last weekend sorting cow calf pairs out of the herd to go to pasture. It’s been a mad rush around here trying to get everything done. With all the late snows and getting the farming taken care of the cows are very late getting to pasture. Sorting is very careful work, it’s very important to get the proper pairings. If we grab a calf that is standing next to a cow assuming it is hers and are wrong the calves will be orphaned. Especially if they get hauled off immediately. So we cruise the pasture carefully looking for nursing calves to run up to the corrals.
I may have been there physically riding that four-wheeler, but mentally I was mounted on Jerry back in the glory days of our youth working those cattle. In my mind instead of wrestling heavy unwieldy handle bars I gently gripped the supple leather of my reins. Turning to head off a cow required only a shift of my hips and the squeeze of a leg. My horse eagerly anticipated the cows every move as she slid to a stop and spun back around easily preventing the balking cow from escaping. In my mind Jerry and I were once again beating out all those good quarter horses to win the open class and take judges choice for best ladies horse at the show.
Now Jerry and I are both old and crippled up. She will never again thunder down a fence to turn a calf right at the flag swapping directions at full speed as we take it the other way. I am no longer sure that I would be capable of riding a good cow horse and be able to walk the next day. But we can remember. My good old Jerry girl will still try to pull the reins out of your hands to go get cattle and I will still think a four-wheeler should stop and spin on its hind quarters after a cow.
When not riding Jerry I was up on Coyote. We were back in thousand acre pastures moving a couple hundred head of cattle with just one other rider and a good cow dog. He could go for miles, move the cattle by himself, I was just along for the ride. Down steep draws he walked sure footed and steady. I remembered galloping across the winter pasture on footing of ice covered in a greasy layer of mud to turn the leaders as they tried to escape. Over the most treacherous of ground he carried us safely. He fought off cows on the fight and drug calves to the fire, he carried calves and tired dogs on his back and was always had more to give no matter how hard a day we put in.
He is getting older now. I dread the thought of life without him. He doesn’t mind taking life a little easier. He is no longer a full time cow horse, now he gives me and the main reason I no longer get to ride so much rides around the yard. He is still hot and cowy with lots of energy that no longer gets used up and I pray he lives into his thirties.
As we bounced across the pasture full of holes and ruts I was also glad not be riding a horse. Trying to avoid all the badger and prairie dog holes would be nearly impossible. Also, Daisy rides along with me all day, somehow balancing on the back of the four-wheeler. I don’t know how she stays on with all the speeding, fast turns and slamming on the brakes. With a horse I’m afraid she would have to walk, she wouldn’t like that.
Despite me spending the days day dreaming we got the pairs sorted, calves worked and cows hauled to pasture. The remainder of the cattleare still out there waiting for us. Maybe I can convince Cowboy Bill to come ride with me and we can play with the horses. That’s all any cow work on horses is isn’t it? Play?