Today we had to move our cows… some have newborns… some don’t.
Herding baby calves is much like herding the proverbial cats…
they don’t know what to do…
they don’t know that mom just took 3 steps that a’way…
they have no clue that even if they touch noses with her… that that *really* is their mom…
they don’t know how to walk in mud or across ditches or through brush…
It is practically guaranteed you will lose your temper with something…
The stupid cows
Take your pick!
Or all of the above…
Here the cows are across the irrigation ditch… with a calf standing in the bottom and two on this side too scared to go down and across! You have to let them look and pressure at the right moment or they go squirting sideways along the ditch instead of forward across it!
Instructions are given… opinions are asked… have you seen 232? She doesn’t have her calf…
Instructions are repeated… opinions asked… that 232 cow need to go back and find her baby?
The mile and a half walk is more than enough for some calves. They lay down to rest hidden in some sagebrush while momma stands near. Brandon actually has to lift this baby up and set it on its hooves to get it going again.
Then you follow on foot… a horse, even geared down to “granny” gear is too fast for this baby.
Hours later we have most of them where we want them… on clean feed grounds with protection for the unborn in the trees and draws of the new area. We head to the house at 1:30 to have a late lunch… then we’ll return… and help this baby find its momma… and trail that momma around until she bawls her calf out of the brush… and go make sure that 232 found her baby too!
did I tell you that?
And Elsa grunts and pants… and squeaks when she breathes at the right angle.
She wants to go in the morning with Vernon, but I deny her that… thinking that jumping on a hay wagon is something that overly pregnant dogs shouldn’t do!
She still goes on walkabouts with the rest of us, though a quick dash after strange smells and a possible rabbit flush leaves her winded and she returns to my heels.
She helps put heifers in at night… though last night with 4 dogs turned into a wreck because *someone* believes fast is good… When my touch left Lucas’ back, he believed that meant he could go too. Boomer came on the scene last and joined in. Dally wouldn’t stop even when the heifers was corralled. All were put into a firm down-stay and were miserable as I, alone, put the last 4 heifers inside.
I hope she times it right… I’m busy 4 nights a week now… and hate the thought that she would whelp and I couldn’t share in it.
And names… I still don’t know…
But did I tell you I’m excited??
The bunkhouse sits just under a south facing hill. On the left side is the living quarters with bed, table, and at one time an old stove. Many a hired hand has slept here… many a visitor…
On the right side is the remnants of the blacksmith shop with various tools and mysterious pieces in the shadow of a huge bellows. Old horseshoes hang everywhere. A workbench holds old boxes and ancient dust. Newer pieces of things wait patiently in 5 gallon plastic buckets. Newer plastic dams are stacked there. Plumbing supplies are ready for the badlands pipeline.
Over all is the sod roof.
The only real sod roof I’ve ever seen.
Covered in prickly pear and bunch grasses, it has protected the bunkhouse forever.
Ten days and counting…
Butcher’s Foothills Elsa, (United Kennel Club Registry, English Shepherd Club Registry, Canine Good Citizen, MDR1 mutant/normal, OFA Good, light shaded sable female, born 5/10/2004) is gravid, fecund, replete.
Gravid is a great term for her. Heavy, burdened. Slowed by the extra weight, she rocks to achieve a standing position.
Fecund. Prolific. Fruitful. Oh, my. She had 10 pups last time, who knows what number awaits inside? I tried to listen to their heartbeats the other day… I need more practice…
Replete. Full. Satiated. Gorged. Oh, yes. With more to go.
I feel her pain.
I remember those days.
And *I* can’t contain myself…
I sing to her and stroke her back and feed her an extra tasty treat and commiserate.
For they are my friends and my confidantes, my saviors, my protectors. A shield to conquer unruly livestock… a warm body to snuggle… a foot warmer… a persistent shadow… an unbidden head reminding my hand of its presence… a happy recipient of my attention. They are my English Shepherds.
I’ve been going through old papers, finding papers 100 years old to the day…
This is a warranty deed, this a homestead filing, that a mortgage.
Just names we’ve heard for years.
Signatures in ink… real ink… dipped, bold to fading…
Surprised that the man I pictured as rough and tumble had great handwriting… the ones that had scribbled signatures reflected age and a shaky hand… tiny printing that is still a trait of the Greet males…
It is fun
and historically significant for us, at least.
And then the pictures.
Not one hundred years old, but old.
I look at boots,
But more, the background. I can walk over and stand in this place in a couple of minutes. I think more than anything… it is *that* the connects us to those people and their stories from before. That any essence that was theirs might linger in that spot… and I can walk to it… and breathe in… and share those old tales.