21 November 2020
I don’t even know where to start. This may turn into a bit of a novel. It was a grand adventure though and I want to share it. There are some typos and badly written areas. It’s a novel though and I have to go do more cow things. I don’t have time to proof read it all. Enjoy, hang in there.
Mostly though, everybody wants to be a cowboy until it’s time to do cowboy, um, ‘stuff’. Not how the quote goes but my mom would yell at me.
Our neighbor has a pasture leased for his small herd of cattle about two hours away. It’s way out in the middle of nowhere, not in the hills and trees but along them. It was time to bring them home for the winter and he needed help.
He is a great neighbor, always happy to come help at the drop of a hat, a good hand with cattle, and just an all around nice guy. I as happy to go help. My father in law, referred to from here on out as fil, was not so thrilled. All week he would groan and mumble anytime the subject came up. As in, “groan, argh, grr, I’m just not looking forward to this”. The neighbor is a great guy. The neighbors cows are crazy.
I think because the neighbor is so quiet and easy going, his cows get used to that. When anyone else comes around, even being quiet and easy, they bolt.
We drove the two hours up there, about half of that is highway. Then you twist and turn down gravel road. There is a quicker way but it is best described by C.W. McCall “there was a shortcut but unless we had drove the Black Bear Road before, we’d better be off to stay, stay in bed and sleep late” only instead of Black Bear Pass this is Pants Butte Rd. It twists down the side of a cliff and you can’t take a semi down it. Not safely. So we took the long way.
Once there we unloaded out trusty four wheeled mounts in the driveway of the place we would be driving them to to load. The guy was willing to let us use his corrals but wanted nothing to do with the cows. His daughter and some friends had gathered them last year. She wanted nothing to do with them ever again.
Not a good sign.
Down the road to the pasture we headed in. It’s a small pasture under two hundred acres so finding our way around shouldn’t be a problem. Entering in a creek bottom, low with lots of trees the road immediately climbed up to high flat ground and I started for the back side of the pasture.
Fil explored the creek bottom a bit and the neighbor, in his pickup and trailer went to opening the fence.
The cows saw me and took off for the far side of the pasture. I hurried and got around them. They started running the other way instead. The way we wanted them to go. I stopped to stare in awe at the barn on the neighboring property.
A few pictures taken I started to follow the cow heard, my hat blew off just then. I grabbed it and started to hang it on the handlebar, only to look over and see the cows running back at me with a fourwheeler sitting between them and the direction we wanted to go. I was so distracted I dropped my hat. I waved my arms, screamed and yelled a little until the fourwheeler moved.
Then I went back to find my hat.
It was no where to be found and I had work to do so I left it with a heartfelt promise to come back and look again.
The cows dove into the creek bottom and the trees. The other fourwheeler disappeared. Cows crossed the creek. I could not cross the creek. Not with my mount at least. The water was deep with a soft bottom and steep sides.
With Daisies help we kept them going the right direction. It was all going fairly smooth actually.
The other fourwheeler got back. We got almost to the gate. And it was shut. The plans were to take them out the corner instead. A handful of cows jumped through the fence anyway. The rest turned and ran back to the south, the exact wrong direction.
Normally cows without their herd would go back towards the herd. I shrugged my shoulders at the ones in the road and went after the herd. We got them stopped except for a couple that lost their minds and were determined to go south.
I went after them and tried to turn them. Instead the cow got on the fight and started taking me. I was playing a bit, letting her take me because what else could you do? Fil showed up from way off to the side. She turned and took him head on. Crashed into the fourwheeler and fell over. I laughed a bit. She was not being a nice cow. Then as she laid there kicking I got a bit nervous. Was she dying? Could she really have killed herself crashing into a fourwheeler?!
The answer to that would be yes. Apparently that is possible.
We gathered the calf and went back to the herd. Able to hold them there on the flat we got them pushed back towards the road again.
The cows crossed the creek. Of course. I found a tree trunk and walked the balance beam to the other side and was able to push them back.
The bull found a tree though and made his stand. He was not going any farther. I couldn’t get him to go. Fil couldn’t get him to go. The neighbor couldn’t get him to go. The herd was still trying to break back away from the road.
We left him.
Was it the right thing to do. Maybe not? Probably not? Apparently he isn’t branded. There is nothing to mark ownership. No one is obligated to bring him back even if they had any idea who a bull randomly showing up in their pasture belonged to. I didn’t know that. Cows were running everywhere. It’s hard to find the right thing to do with so much going on.
The rest of the cow herd went down the road to the corrals and we had them in by noon! Not a bad day at all. Except for the bull. And what ever did happen with those cows that jumped out inn the first place?
I left fil and the neighbor to load the cattle in the semi and went back to see if I could get the bull. I should have stayed.
I searched again for my hat first, with no luck I went to find the bull. He was laying in the middle of the pasture chewing his cud. I was not willing to get to close. A bull who has gotten grouchy and made his stand is more dangerous than I am willing to mess with.
Moving him was an interesting practice in negative reinforcement. Annoy him enough that he wants to leave then remove the pressure. With lots of bugging we got almost to the road. Very slowly. On the other side of the creek, that mean more tree walking and chasing the bull on foot. The gate was closed of course. I had driven over the fence the cows knocked down to get in. I didn’t know how we’d get out if we got there. He’s a bull, they walk through fences all the time. I figured we’d manage something.
Then the guys showed up. That meant the gate was opened! But the noise from that side was more annoying than me.
He ran right past no matter how much screaming and arm waving I did.
The neighbor said there was a gate into the neighbors. The ones with the gorgeous barn. They had said he couldn’t use his corrals to load out of. That didn’t mean we wouldn’t make use of them in an emergency to hold the bull.
Still walking on the far side of the creek we worked the bull up to the gates. Developing a nice system I walked on the top, out of the creek bottom so if he came after me he’d have to make it up the steep bank first, and threw sticks in his general direction when he stopped. He walked very nicely to the other side of the pasture.
We got to the gate. He stopped and stood in the opening. Then ran past it. We got him turned and brought him back down the fence line. In the gate again he stopped. Looked around and ran by.
The neighbor had driven up to the buildings and walked with me trying to get him in the gate. He said there was nowhere to load out of there anyway.
Back towards the road again. The pasture is long and skinny. It’s not a half mile square. More like a mile by what ever the width would be to give you a quarter section.
It was a long walk.
The bull was still moving nicely and we managed to get him onto the road! Yay!!
We got a half mile down the road and the bull changed his mind. He turned and went back to his pasture. Fourwheelers didn’t bother him at all. He just walked right through them. I wasn’t willing to let him walk over me. He walked through the fence and I called it good. I was done for the day.
The neighbor was still up the road where the bull had decided he was done. A pickup had pulled out of a driveway and they were talking.
The guy yin the pickup had three cows and a calf in his hay field, he gestured off that way. Sure enough, we could see little black dots.
So that’s where the first fence jumpers went!
If we wanted we could drive them up to his house, there was a gate open into a trap. We could use his corrals to load.
Or we could run them back to the pasture and try to get them together with the bull?
I pulled for that.
We went too push them on up to his corrals. He went off to town for parts.
We drove the half mile to the cows. They took off at an easy lope down the driveway. The houses were a tiny dot in the distance. The cows loped on. The buildings barely drew nearer.
He said we could run them up to his house. He didn’t say the house was three miles down a ridiculously long driveway.
Almost there one of the cows got tired of the long lope and stopped. When we caught up she turned and took us. We were able to convince her to keep going, at a trot now. As she caught up with the other three, stopped by the fence around the yard. One fourwheeler pushed a bit close and they all piled through another fence.
Driving over the remains of yet another fence I took off across the hay field as fast as my poor tired mount could carry me. We all hit the creek at the same time. I pulled up. They dove through.
And there we were again.
There were no tree trunks to climb across. I convinced Daisy, ridding with me all day, to cross the creek and try to push them back. They sulled up in a corner and refused to move.
I found one small tree and was able to climb carefully across. Daisy barked. I threw branches at them. They stood at the creek bank refusing to move.
Until they did.
They turned and came straight at me. I dove for my trust tree. They ran past.
There were no crossings in that field. I went back to the buildings. The neighbor was there with his pickup. He knew a way through the buildings and over the creek.
I followed him through the most beautiful ranch head quarters I have ever seen. The Coffee Ranch was settled way back when, not too long after the civil war, consisting at one time of as many as three hundred thousand acres. It is down to about forty two thousand now. The history is incredible. The buildings old and gorgeous, new and ostentatious. I wanted to take pictures and look around. Not only would that be rude but we had cows to get. I buzzed through and found my way to the other side.
Here’s a link to a story about the Coffee Ranch https://www.1011now.com/…/ranching-in-sioux-county-the…/
With me able to get to them again the cows dove through the creek and fil followed pushing them back towards the latest fence they demolished.
We finally got them in the corrals.
The guy in the pickup showed up having made his trip to town. I bet he was surprised to find us not all that far from where he left us.
We opened and closed gates and got the cows almost to where they needed to be. I paused a moment opening gates and turned to talk to guy in pickup.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something and turned in time to see the orange tagged cow charging my fourwheeler from clear across the corral!
I was sitting perfectly still, not bothering her. Not sure what made her snap just then. I dove off the far side of the fourwheeler. Aimed for the gate. Missed. She stopped and turned running back to the others.
The Guy in the pickup gave me a lecture about how cows wont go over a fourwheeler. Having seen them do pretty much that I had to disagree, even though he informed me that he knew this because he ran a twelve hundred head place.
We opened the gate and the cows ran through full speed. Only then mostly because we hadn’t expected them to go so fast or easy, did we look on down the loading chute to realize the trailer wasn’t backed up to it yet! The neighbor and fil were standing there messing with the trailer door. Yelling a warning to them they waved arms and jumped out of the way.
Fortunately the cows were just out in another big corral and not loose. We ran them back in and they loaded easily. We were done.
Back to the first set of cows waiting patiently in the semi and home. It was almost dark. We had left home at eight that morning.
Driving down the gravel road towards home I could barely see the road in the cloud of dust in front of me bringing up the tail. I kept thinking I could smell burning rubber. We were going along railroad tracks. It could be from that. I kept getting occasional wifts though. Enough that I stopped, got out, and checked my tires. No heat there. I kept going. As we neared the highway I tried to call fil see if he wanted to stop and check everything before we got going. His phone rang and rang but no one answered.
I’m always paranoid, so I chalked it up to that and ignored the occasional smell.
My husband called to get the update now that we had service again and I told him about the burning rubber smell. He wasn’t overly worried. Yes, I was talking on the phone and driving. It’s not like we have traffic to worry a bout out here. I lost service again.
The pickup I was in started making a weird noise. I called him back. As we talked a saw sparks start to fly off the tire of the semi in front of me.
Now we knew the cause of the burnt rubber smell. I told him I couldn’t reach his dad. He hung up and tried to reach him again. A car passed me and got between me and the semi. I couldn’t flag him down. My husband called the neighbor leading this procession of errors and tragedy. He pulled over as we made our last turn and we managed to get fil stopped.
The hub on the wheel was glowing red hot. We were ten miles from home with a load of crazy cattle on in the dark.
He said to ‘heck’ with it and drove on.
Not sure what the other options were. I followed him again with the neighbor bringing up the rear because I discovered when we stopped that I didn’t have any trailer lights. As we drove I watched sparks fly and prayed for everything I was worth for a safe trip home without the trailer catching fire. Then as we turned back onto gravel for the last bit home I also prayed not to start any other fires with sparks and chunks of glowing hot metal flying off.
We made it. My husband as well as making phone calls got the corrals arranged and lights turned on.
Backing up to the chute we happily and quickly dumped the cows off. The wheel glowed.
They went off to hose it down while we unloaded the three cows and calf off the pickup and trailer. All the cows were safely confined in corrals with guardrail fences. They weren’t going anywhere and we could haul them to the neighbors, with the pickups, no semi, in the morning.
This morning we were ready to go start loading cattle when we got the phone call. Apparently there was something else that could go wrong.
The neighbor got a call from the guy whose corrals we used. There were still three calves in his corrals…