It is time FINALLY to turn the cows out to graze…and we’ve been doing exactly that the past three days. It is a time-consuming process. Step One is gathering the pasture they are in and often keeping them in a corner to work them where Step Two takes place. Pairing the cows and baby calves. If a cow or calf loses the other, they will return to the last place they saw each other. If that is 2 miles or 10 miles away, they’ll go there. So, we take the time after we gather them to pair them off out of the herd together. We also can count them as they go, as we need to keep track of how many pairs are where. Then the trail begins… that is Step Three. Older cows know where they are going and if they can keep their calves with them, progress can be made. However, if the cows decide to stop and eat green grass, then it is a struggle. Day one was a short drive, about 2 miles uphill. They did well with no major wrecks. A wreck is when things fall apart… like having calves all at once decide their moms are back behind somewhere and they have to find them NOW! There is nothing like the chaos of chasing numerous calves. They don’t respect a horse and don’t turn away from them. Sometimes it is just pure panic and they run flat out not caring which direction they are going. I hate wrecks. When we reach the destination, Step Four is again pairing the cows and calves. It lets us know if we were horrible cowboys and lost something along the way, and makes sure the pairs will stay in their new pasture and not return to their previous one. Today was a big drive… and my body knows it! We spent 6.5 hours today moving our steers and some pairs to our far pasture. The sun shone this morning for about an hour, and thank goodness that was before we left! I ran back and grabbed my chaps and a heavier coat and I am so glad I did. I froze for the 6.5 hours! I could have used heavier gloves and long johns too! The sky clouded up, and settled in, and then the wind had to howl. The first 3 miles were tolerable, the last 5 miserable. We fought for every foot of progress. The dogs quit. The horses were tired. The cows and calves would take 3 steps and stop. When the snow started it was a little too much… Lunch was half a bag of Hot Tamales left from the other day… I still say the coldest times are either duck hunting or cowboying. And I don’t duck hunt anymore. When the cattle were all settled in their new pasture, I was very glad the horsetrailer was partway out and the last part of the ride was in the pickup with heater on, gorp at hand, and a bottle of water. The good news is it is a short trail tomorrow of just a mile, before we repeat the big drive again on Wednesday. And the weather on Wednesday looks much warmer!
We woke to a covering of snow after two days of 70 degrees. And, although moisture would be welcome, the storm only managed to spit out a pitiful .04 of liquid. And the wind had to partner with the storm, so when I and 4 dogs took a walk this breezy afternoon, I expected a smidge of mud, but was disappointed. It had been a race between the earth sucking up the wetness and the wind evaporating it. Whoever won left the soil dry once more. We travelled up a draw, looking in the sand for hints of those that came before. A flake of chert, a pawprint, a bone. We relaxed in the lee of the hill. A cottontail blasts from the sagebrush and dogs fly over the shale and sandstone. I turn direction, quietly signalling my dogs to come with me and leave the rabbit. Soon the jingle of rabies tags is at my heel, and I smile. We round a corner and I noticed bluebells joining the white phlox as the earliest flowers of spring. The dogs circle around in front of me, testing the air, drowning their noses in loose dirt. Dally is 30 feet away and I try, “Dally, sit!” She takes 4 steps towards me and I “ankh” at her, she pauses, and once more, “Sit!”. She does! Good girl! It was only a second or two, but sit at a distance is a good step forward. Over the hill we come, four dogs enjoying spring and I, I am enjoying them. The house is snuggled under the cottonwoods, braced against the brunt of the wind, and we swiftly cover the distance, ready for a drink and a pat on the head! The dogs get both, but I get ice in my drink!
Today is Tuesday… the day Lucas and I become reading partners to kids at Ten Sleep School. We have always listened to the 3rd/4th graders read, but today we were thrilled to have the kindergarten class as well! Yes, they can read…and they read one of my favorite authors, Dr. Seuss! Picture this: A little girl, book in hand, (the classic Go, Dog, Go!) and a large dog snuggle down on the floor. She on a soft pillow, Lucas nearby. She is a tad nervous at first, from a 5 year old’s eyes, Lucas is VERY large. But with a pat on his head, she begins. Soon she is in rhythm. “Do you like my hat?” Lucas settles down with his big head on his paws and she REALLY begins to read to him. Her voice changes and she emphasizes words adding drama to the intense plot! She turns those big eyes to me and asks, “Does Lucas like to look at the pictures?” “Yes, sometimes,” I say, “especially if they’re good pictures!” Smile. She reads a few more pages until an illustration strikes her fancy. “Lucas…” she turns the pages to him and he opens an eye and glances at the page. Her face lights up. “He did this,” she says to me, and does a perfect rendition of Lucas’ sideways look he’s given me a million times. I choke back the giggle and she continues. Every so often, she turns the pages to Lucas and shows him the dogs on the pages, he glances, and she continues with the story. Soon we walk her back to the classroom where the next student is anxiously waiting his turn. Book under her arm, she turns and tells Lucas goodbye, and skips away, thrilled with her first visit with the big dog. That was a keeper memory, folks. Cuteness is all over that kid!
The past two days have been a radical change. Our warmest days had been from 45-50 degrees and the nights had remained very crisp and wintery. Yesterday we reached a high of 72 and today was 76. Seemingly overnight the grass has grown. It has struggled and fought to get a start, and now the gate is opened and grass is growing. Of course, nothing here is simple and green grass means the livestock wants it! Today the horses forded the creek and were enjoying the fields without proper permission! That meant Vernon spent the afternoon building fence to stop that little joyride… Then calves are ducking under electric fence to graze the hillside while their moms pitifully bawl for their return, or perhaps it is because they can’t join them. There is the bunch by the road though and there it is the moms who are the escapees, blundering through the fence selfishly leaving their calves behind to seek the green grass. Soon the snow that melted today will find its way here and we’ll keep an eye on the creek level. There’s enough snow on the mountain now that the chance of flooding is real, it all depends on how fast Mother Nature decides to melt the snowpack. But with grass growing and water rising, birds singing and cattle lowing, the best spot today was relaxed in a lawn chair with warm sunshine and a sweating glass of lemonade watching Wyoming turn from brown to green.
I knew I should have checked my spelling…it is Kalahari, not Kalihari… I will correct it!
Lucas gave me a scare this morning. He didn’t meet me at the back door, he didn’t come when called, he wasn’t in sight. I took Dally’s breakfast to the kennel and locked her in and began my search. Not here, not there, not anywhere. I called. I whistled. I tried to think if he was really that bad when I turned him out last night. I started to imagine. Vernon was repenning an escaped pair when he saw me approach. “I can’t find Lucas.” was all I said. My voice didn’t crack, the tears didn’t come, I practiced deep breathing. Vernon stopped his work immediately and helped. He looked where I had looked. He called. My heart tightened and my lungs wouldn’t take in enough air. My throat felt swollen. He went by the kennel where I had fed Dally. He leaned way down and looked deep into the straw shelter in there, and there lay Lucas. Obviously not feeling well. The tears came, my voice cracked when I told Vernon, “Thank you.” and I softly told Lucas how he is supposed to answer me when I’m looking for him. He had been 2 feet away from me, and never moved or thumped a tail or peeked. He wanted to stay there that was obvious, but movement is a great help in this situation and I made him go with me. He chased the heifers. He kept the cows away from the trailer. And best of all, he pooped. Whoo. Amazing how that made me feel so much better…and Lucas too! He now is resting, but the worst is over. I can stop tearing up anytime now. Any moment I won’t react like this. Yeah. Anytime now. Breathe. And just because, here’s another picture of the King of the Kalahari. sigh