A Cowboys Day
The morning stillness and the rays of sunlight breaking over the mountain, sets in motion another day at the ranch. It was just breaking dawn when I went to the barn to grab my saddle for the day's work ahead. It is spring according to the calendar, but the fresh blanket of snow would cause one to question that and argue that spring should be a time when meadows are covered with flowers and green grass and not a new dusting of snow and ice. A day such as this where I grew up in central Texas, would be one for the record books, but out here it is not unusual to have snow on the ground and another month of winter.
The boys had already saddled and were waiting on me when I reached the corral. "Deter" was leaned against the fence pinching a new bite of tobacco while "LJ" was collecting his rope and building perfect coils before he tied it to his saddle. Now old "Deter", well he has been ranching and cowboying all his life. A quick glance at his hands reveals a look of leather that only time, hard work and the weather can produce. His wrinkled face is filled with lines that I am certain each hold a story that most men only dream of living. His chaps show all the signs of belonging to a working man and not some weekend cowboy. His boots are worn, but soft from the leather oil he cleans them with each night. His stories will keep you mesmerized as he revisits the many adventures he has experienced over the years, and paints a picture in your mind as clear as the heavens on a star filled night. "LJ" is young, energetic, and full of spit and vinegar, but he soaks in every word that old man says, just like a sinner hears the preacher on the front row in church.
We are moving the bulls from the winter pasture to the cows today and chances are we will need the ropes and the dogs to get them there. "Bode" and "Jake" were already anticipating the adventure and they can barely sit still while we get ready. "Bode" is the youngest and fastest of the two dogs. He will become the most valuable if any of the bulls break from the herd in the gather, while "Jake" is the most experienced. They work together good and make a strong team. Kinda like "Deter and LJ".
We down the last of the coffee and load the horses into the trailer for the drive out to the pasture. The dogs are already loaded and we climb up into the truck and head out. It is a beautiful morning, cool and calm winds. The fresh snow is just a light covering and will probably all melt off by noon. I drive slowly, not because of the road, but just to take in the beauty Old Mother Nature has provided this day.
"Bode" and "Jake" are out of the truck and anxiously awaiting a command to gather the herd. "Deter" is already moving to the east side of the pasture as "LJ" and I move out away from the truck. "Bode" stays with me and "Jake" moves on out with ‘LJ". We only have 15 bulls in this pasture, but moving them out will be like getting an old Grizzly to leave her cubs. I expect several fights and flying hair. Several of the older bulls will be pretty cooperative, but the young ones will challenge the horses and put up a Hell of a fight. I gave Bode some bacon and a little egg this morning figuring that he will need all his energy. Besides, he eats my cooking without even one little complaint.
Deter has positioned himself on a ridge overlooking the valley and has let us know that a few bulls are moving in toward the water tank. I sent LJ and Jake a little farther up the draw and I am moving off with Bode to secure the west side of the pasture. Here is where patience is the best action. Just sit back and let them all come in before moving down on the herd. I relaxed on my horse and had Bode lie down beside me. A shadow came into view and I looked up to see an eagle soaring towards its nest. What an amazing view he must have of this country. As serene as it looks from my view, for him it must look like an ocean of grass dotted with trees. He circled for a few moments, and then disappeared over a ridge line. There is an abundance of ground squirrels scurrying to their holes and peacefulness in this little valley that is nearly overwhelming. I never grow tired of just sitting and looking at all that surrounds me.
A ringing from my cell phone brings me back. Deter has let me know that all the bulls are through the draw and we can move down when I am ready. I called LJ and we slowly started in toward the herd. If we can get two or three of the bulls moving out toward the gate, we should be able to get the rest to follow without too much trouble. LJ has sent Jake on up ahead and is whistling him to circle to the right. Bode keeps looking up at me as if to say, "When do I go"? We rode another hundred yards and I sent Bode out. He quickly reached the rear of the cattle and I motioned him to move left. He responded quickly and effectively. The bulls started moving. Deter was already set up east of the gate and LJ was drifting back to the rear. I remained on the west side of the herd and we started pushing the bulls out.
Just as I was thinking about how easily this was going, two bulls in the middle of the bunch started pushing and shoving each other. Its breeding season and the bulls feel it. These cattle act no differently than any animal in the wild. Only the strong and the most aggressive will get to breed most of the cows. The fighting instinct is strong and these bulls go at it vigorously. The problem for me is that their sparring match has caused the others to drift out of the tight group we had moving out of the pasture. I sent Bode in to disrupt the fight and Deter and I tightened up the group. We were yelling and slapping leather and Jake was grabbing any bull wanting to leave the group. It took a few minutes, but we managed to get them moving our way once again. It took a couple of hours to reach the gate and the open pasture of cows, but all in all it went really well. LJ closed the gate and we watched as the bulls set off building their little herds. Each bull would push his group off and although he will lose one or two to another bull, I am certain the best bulls will do the most breeding this year.
We rode at an easy stride back to the truck and Deter was off on another story that had LJ's full attention. Shoot, it had mine too. I loved hearing Deter's stories. You had to make up your own mind on how much was true and how much was coloring for the story. But as he talked along, you quickly realized, it really didn't matter. His stories were interesting and exciting. He was completely animated as he told the story. You could feel each and every word as though it had a life. His head would rock back, his eyes would light the moment, and his hands would flail through the air as he spoke. I'm surprised he didn't fall off his horse..I glanced down as we rode along and I swear I think Jake and Bode were listening.
We reached the barn and LJ and Deter began rubbing down the horses and I put the saddles away. It had been a productive day and we were all tired and hungry. Bode and Jake have been in and out of the water trough ever since we got back and are off chasing squirrels. I am looking forward to a cool beer, some food and a good night's sleep.