June in the mountains

Six foot tall Brandon stands in the snowdrift that blocked our way to our mountain pasture.

Visit to the mountains

Our assignment, which we did accept, was to go to our mountain pasture and put up our lay down fence.  Our pasture lays along a stockdrive, which means many ranches trail their sheep and cattle along the wide gravel road on the way to their individual mountain pastures.  We have sections of our barbed wire fence that we actually lay down every fall.  Massive drifts of snow build up over the winter and all that weight will break the wire if you leave it up.  We try to get up there early and put our fence back up to help anyone that might trail by from having to keep their stock away from the fence or dig them back out of our pasture.  The wire is still connected, but needs to be lifted up and put back in the staple brackets on the posts.  We drove up the mountain road dodging the ruts in the road washed by all of the rain and runoff… crossing Hammer Creek where the new crossing is washed badly… Half a mile from our fence corner we come upon a drift.  Not a piddly little snowdrift, a monster one that covers the road and runs downhill.  That didn’t bode well for the rest of our drive.  We 4 wheel above the drift and make it another quarter mile.  Another drift, more runoff in the road and we stop.  We fix a few broken wires and replace many staples, but a quick visit over the hill on our 4 wheeler shows the lay down fence is still under snow!  We are way too early!  But that’s OK…not much work was accomplished, but we saw hundreds of elk… a flock of snow geese… wildflowers by the thousands… and we had a good time!

Stories

Well, branding went just peachy!  No one got hurt, we had plenty of food and drink, it was a cool, overcast day, and the rain started after lunch!  We were a little short on help since it was on a Wednesday, but the 21 people who were there stepped it up and handled things well.  We had planned on branding, eating lunch, and then finish branding, but with rain clouds looming we branded everything  and just ate later.  Which left me with enough food to feed more people, but that was the original intention.

Thanks to .6 inch of rain yesterday, we virtually had the day off, although cleaning up after branding is still a chore.  Daniel and Vernon went to Frannie, Wyoming and bought Daniel a new saddle… He has been riding his grandfather’s old one, but it needed serious repair, and so they decided to purchase a new Billy Cook.  Daniel rode it today, but was not impressed, guess it needs some serious breaking in…

Today we sorted off different pairs out of the branding bunch to go different directions with different bulls.  We sent 55 green tags to the upper end of Violet’s, 49 Y8’s to the feed grounds, and Vernon, Daniel, and Shelley gathered the Joe Henry Allottment.  We still have to take the Y8’s to the Mills place.  We have yellow tags to take to the Richie pasture.  We have other green tags to put in the horse pasture.  Sigh.

But let me entertain you with the story of Daniel and the bull’s tail.  The day I spent cooking for branding, they had to move some pairs down to the branding corral.  As they went along, two bulls got in a fight and Daniel took down his rope to break them up.  Using the end (not where the loop is), Daniel proceeded to beat as hard as possible on one bull to distract him and make him quit fighting the other bull.  Somehow his rope got tangled in the hair on the bull’s tail and wouldn’t come loose!  He dropped his end and followed the bull.  Shelley rides up and Daniel gets off his horse, grabs his rope and hands it to her to dally up.  She does, turns her horse, and tries to pull the rope off.  But poor Shelley and her horse just end up getting dragged backwards as the bull isn’t stopping… he has quit fighting the other bull, but is now determined to leave the country!  It was quite the picture, I guess, Shelley pulling on one end of the rope, the bull pulling on the other end.  Now Vernon appears on the scene.  He proposes cutting the bull’s tail… the end is just long hair, so they regroup.  Daniel is still on the ground, pulling on his rope.  Shelley dallies up again.  They both pull on the rope as hard as they can.  Vernon bails off his horse with pocket knife in hand.  One swipe of his sharp knife and Daniel is on his back with his feet in the air, but his rope now unattached to the bull.  Daniel is unhurt, but shocked his Dad’s knife was that sharp – he assumed a couple of swipes or some sawing would have to take place, but it sure didn’t!  The entire time the bull didn’t stop.  Thank goodness he never went on the fight with them.

Whew…

The view from above…Elsa rests at my feet during a break on a long day of gathering.  Never far from where I am, this is typical Elsa.  If I’m on horseback, she’s at my horse’s back end on the left side…95% of the time.  I didn’t teach her that, maybe that’s where the shade always was!  Note the dirty poo on the side of her head.  She had to roll in some fresh green, maybe it helped cool her off!  I worried about her some… it was fairly warm and it’d been a while since we found water.  But we had a break and we went chasing a mud puddle, which she was very thrilled to lay in and drink!  All my dogs have a great fondness for K9 Restart – a doggie gatorade that I pack along.

Go lay down!  After we’ve gathered a section of pasture, we all meet at the sorting grounds.  There we pair up each ranch’s cattle and send them different directions.  Oftentimes it looks like mass chaos…riders cutting mothered pairs out of the herd, some riders turning back those that want to leave the bunch, but don’t have their calves with them.  Other people just work to keep the herd together.  It is during this time that the command of “Go lay down” is used.  Lucas has that one down pat.  He’ll search for a quieter area and try to find some shade.  Obviously he didn’t find much this time!  Sometimes a cowboy will trail a pair very close to Lucas and not see him.  From somewhere Lucas hears me say “Stay”… and though temptation is there to chase the cow and calf, he does behave and the pair is cut away from the herd.  Elsa is better if I take her somewhere and down her and then tell her stay.  “Go lay down” is too much of a command for her to hear and she often turns her head away from me, signalling I was too loud or demanding.  But I wonder sometimes why cows and calves are watching me so intently… I look down, back, and to my left and there sits Elsa…who broke her stay and just *had* to help me out!   

Reality

For every person that watched Roy Rogers or Clint Eastwood or Robert Fuller or Lee Horsely and thought, wow, I wanna grow up to be a cowboy… the shine wore off of the romantic version today.  We fought hard today to get 175 pairs out of the badlands.  We are exhausted, sweaty, sore, and in a foul mood.  This pasture is a big one, 12 miles to the backside which is where we started today.  The grass looks gorgeous this year thanks to all the rain… the unfortunate byproduct of that is the cows are happy and not thrilled to be forced to leave a lush pasture with plenty of water.  So they take two steps and stop and eat.  And you ride by and yell, and they take two steps and stop and eat.  So you turn your horse or sic your dog on them and they run 3 steps and stop and eat.  We left home at 7 this morning and arrived home at 6.30 pm.  Do not try to make me laugh, my sense of humor is gone.  Do not try to do anything but be sympathetic, or give me a backrub, or help me with supper since what I put in the crockpot burned before we got home.  Let me take a shower, go to bed, and I’ll be fine in the morning.  We ride again tomorrow, we are short 8 pairs.