Elsa pushes up some cows through deep snow. I’m not giving her direction beyond her first “Get ’em up!” partly because I’m breathing so hard from walking through the deep snow! She does gather them, even recovering the one I thought she had left. She follows them around the corner of the road, and then comes back to check on where I am. Typical English Shepherd behavior! Lucas is shown just following our cows down the road while Elsa and I ride in the pickup! There’s no technique there but make sure they continue to walk down the road. Easy duty!
Elsa bunny hunting.
When we get used to anything, it becomes an instant frustration when it doesn’t work the way it was designed. You turn the faucet, the water should come out. You flip the switch the light should come on. You start the tractor the diesel engine should growl right along. This morning it didn’t. So I sat on the metal tongue of the hay trailer and waited. Vernon comes over, says he thinks it is the fuel filter, and he has to go get another one out of the other shop. So I wait. The chill begins to seep through and I have to move! Elsa is “Dog of the Day” and we head to the haystack to look for mice and bunnies. To deter the fiendish deer from eating all of our hay, Vernon has stacked some old straw bales around the good hay. It has worked well, the deer refusing to jump the 6 feet up to the top of the straw to relish the green hay. As we work our way around, I begin to wonder. Elsa is athletic. Hmmm… Before you know it, we find a shorter bale and she’s up! We circle the stack, Elsa walking above me, seeking the treats I reward her with at each request that she follows. No hesitation. Dang. This girl could be an agility dog! I think I need to delve into this more…Elsa and I could use the time together. We wait. Aha! He’s back. If nothing else, I am extremely mechanically impaired…but I can hand a wrench if that is what is asked of me! So we go to the shop and supervise. We help. We wait. We’re off! Down to the yearling steers and we begin to feed. Fifty yards in and the tractor stops and beeps at me. Huh? I pop it back into F and go a bit more. The infernal blue machine stops 20 yards farther on and beeps at me. OK. I’m outta there! VERNON!!!!! We switch places and I pitch hay while he gets in to play with levers and listen to the engine. We start. It stops. We start. It stops. We head to the house and Vernon calls The Tractor Guys. Hey, don’t laugh. Their business is called The Tractor Guys. I wait. OK. I’m sent for Johnny down at the other place and ask him to bring his tractor here to feed with. I return home and wait. I’m released finally because Lucas and I become a Therapy Dog Team on Tuesdays. We abandon ship. It took Vernon and Johnny until 1 pm to feed today. And Vernon continues to mechanic on one thing or another until 5:30. It is ready. Tomorrow, Vernon will climb in the blue tractor and turn the key and the diesel engine will growl along.
Lucas, Elsa, Dally, and I took a walk. The day was warm and softening the snow, burning it off of the south facing hillsides. Today was a good day for black and white! I didn’t get as many good pictures as I wanted. Dally is a fast little girl. She weighs 17 pounds and had her first big trip to town the other day. Not only did we see the vet, we saw our bank president (who also owns English Shepherds), our feed store salesman, my bosses at Eleutian, tellers at the Ten Sleep bank, the post office people, librarians, and everyone at the middle school girls’ basketball game!!! Whoo! She did amazingly well, as often she wants a few seconds to check things out! We need to do that some more! On this walk, she harrasses her parents by biting their necks or trying to heel them. Often she is ignored, sometimes a sharp reprimand and a roll is necessary. Elsa is usually the disciplinarian…Lucas is an easy going dad! Dally learned about cactus and other stickery weeds… she learned how deep snow can slow you down… she learned following in footsteps means less work for the follower than the trailblazer…she learned walks are great fun!
Each morning as we feed calves, cows, and bulls…we also slow down and feed our horses. We wouldn’t be much of a ranch if we didn’t have horses…and each has their own story.
Happy. Not so happy, oftentimes cranky, retired horse of Vernon’s. He liked to be in the front of the bunch and would lay his ears back and give all the signs to control the other horses. No one would pass him! I rode him once and this was a horse you better stick to when he was after a cow…he didn’t need you to tell him where to go… he was as unhappy with unruly cows as he was with other horses.
Tucker. The old man. Big bay with a big butt and tons of power…but the one you put dudes and kids on! He has a reputation as “gas-powered”, farting all the way up a hill. Now sway backed and retired, he often leads the bunch away as you try to catch them…he hasn’t been ridden in years, but knows what the sign of a halter means!
Cinnamon. Victoria’s little red mare. Delicate legs and a non-delicate attitude. She’s dumped Victoria more than once and so is not MY favorite horse.
Andy. Brandon’s little pony bought from Nate Brown, local horse trader. Little Apaloosa without much cow sense, safe enough for kids, ornery enough to try to step on your foot! Good at opening gates, I wanted to name him Houdini when we got him. I’ve seen him open my front gate to my yard to lead the others in to do an impromtu mowing of my yard.
Little Rooster. Johnny’s horse. This guy is a go-er…aim him somewhere and he’ll go, never mind what’s in between. Easy to get on, he’s short but full of power.
Big Red Rooster. We got these horses pre-named, can you tell? Actually belongs to the neighbors, but Daniel rides him. He needs lots of miles. He’s dumped Brandon and Vernon and Daniel. Watching Daniel ride him when he first started was hard on my mother-heart. He’s big, red, tall, and powerful and seeing Daniel play with his rope all around him was like watching a bomb ticking down. You just wait for the explosion. The explosion finally came helping a neighbor rope a calf and the rope ended up under Rooster’s tail. Can’t blame him for blowing up then…sigh.
Settler. For the first few months, I seriously thought his name was Peddler. That’s what you have to do to make him move. Ride him and your legs will be sore from kicking him, trying to get him to move. Never really used much, he’s a big lovable pet more than anything.
Tart. The mare I ride now. She’s getting up there in age and occasionally pulls up lame. Well-trained and light mouthed, she’s a good ‘un. A little attitude when things don’t go her way, she still travels well. Pretty head on a red bay body.
Kate. Uglier than a fence post. Big feet from her work horse daddy, she can walk across cattle guards and lead the rest of the bunch into trouble. Tucker fell in while following her across once. She’s got a big head too that doesn’t always work well! She’s known for spooking at large rocks, even if you just rode by the same one 5 minutes ago. She does walk fast and she knows what a cow is though.
Feather. The little tri colored paint that Daniel grew up with. They were a pair! They both came with one speed and that was ZOOM! Daniel could ride her bareback and steer with her ears… well, not far, nor fast, but it was cute. She did dump him a few times, one memorable time she wiped him off under a branch while following Victoria on Tucker. How the short horse didn’t make it and the bigger horse and rider did, is beyond me.
Willow. Ah, Willow. He was mine. Lame and retired, I really love this horse. Mentally I named him Red Willow Dancer… sacred Red Willow grows around here, and his redness reflected that, plus, I always said he could bend like willow. Light on his little feet, he needed the lightest touch to turn. He needed a much better rider than me, but was stuck with me. Not a fast walker, he made up for it when we arrived at our destination and began to work cattle. Cutting or pairing was something he loved to do… and if I could hang on, we did OK. Yup, he dumped me. Gave me whiplash once. I landed in a juniper one time, that was the softest landing I ever had! He had problems with his stifle…and afterwards always travelled with a gimp, but one that never hurt. Now he has navicular.
And a tip of the hat to those that went before…Jake, Toby, Frosty, Rusty, Tico, Brownie, Dick, Jerome, Blackjack, Sierra, Eddy, and the team of Buck and Booger.