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.
Every morning I manage to crawl from bed…morning person I am not…and thankfully I have a husband that can cook breakfast! Pancakes and coffee kick me out the door and we begin winter chores. I feed my puppy and throw a little extra to the big dogs, to keep them warm in the cold and to keep them from stealing Dally’s food as well. We hike a stone’s throw to the corral out behind my house, and haul grain to the heifer calves. Poured into bunks, the ground grain is increased a smidge a day, to help these little girls grow and hopefully start to cycle in good time. We have grained the steer calves in years before as well, unfortunately, our grain crop was poor this year. However, it does save us steps and time. We then puff across the field, OK, *I* puff across the field and Vernon heads for the tractor, the dogs and I head for the hay trailer. I then watch as Vernon expertly loads the trailer with 4 big bales and pulls up to hitch up to the trailer…my job is to drop the pin in to connect the two…and we’re off! Then follows a pattern. Stop, cut and pull strings, pitch hay, go to next haystack, load hay, stop, cut and pull strings, pitch hay, go to next haystack, load hay, stop, cut and pull strings, pitch hay. OOPS. Forgot about chopping the ice off the creek so the cattle can reach the live water. It takes us 3 hours or so every day to do this. Doesn’t matter how cold it is or how snowy or how I would SO much prefer to wrap in a cozy blanket, drink a few more cups of coffee, and read for a bit! Every morning I would prefer to not have to dress in coveralls and heavy Carhartt coat and boots. Every morning I would love more coffee. Every morning I would love more sleep. Every morning I see a different colored sky. Every morning the brisk fresh air wakes me up. Every morning my dogs make me smile, chasing bunnies, begging for love, noticing the wildlife, keeping me warm. Every morning I’m part of the cooperative that makes this ranch work. Every morning I can watch deer or spy a fox or coyote or see an eagle on the rimrock. Every morning I have a chance to take a photograph someone might like. Every morning I see a world that is part of me. Every morning I am blessed.
Saw two coyotes head over the rimrock this morning, unhurried, curious, yet wise enough to leave the territory.
Dally must be locked up the past few mornings, or she follows us, eager to learn and I am unable to watch her carefully around the hay trailer, yearlings, and soon-to-be momma cows. She must learn to remain at home as well, and I hope that some good comes of kennel training.
I have been leaving either Elsa or Lucas home with her…they are put out, but I actually can “top off” these dogs when I have them one on one.
Cows are much like people. Some are content with the first flake of hay that comes their way, and stand and patiently munch away. Others follow for a while, nudging each proffered flake until they settle on one. Some cows share larger flakes, others are pushy and demand single ownership. Other cows continue to follow the hay trailer ever seeking something better…greener, softer, grassier, alfalfa-ier, weedless, thistle-less, moister, drier… Some are never content until forced to become that way. Their choices all exhausted, they return to formerly visited piles, and force less lucky cows off of their final choice. Some take bites of one pile, and amble to the next, and the next, and often bucking their way to another flake, enjoy it all. Are they not like people???
Elsa minds tremendously better when a long line is attached… is she not like people??? If I knew someone could give me an immediate swift jerk when I do wrong, I would rarely risk any unruly behavior either!
When cows have crisp white snow blankets on their backs, often you can tell how little they have moved overnight because the blankets don’t have those “earthquake cracks” created by movement. But they rarely shake themselves as horses and dogs do…why?
The squeaking of snow increases as the temperature decreases. Anyone ready for spring yet?
The zillion stars overhead tempt me much more in winter…the lights are brighter, the skies clearer… and I look… and head inside to warm up!
I glimpse my buddy in my rearview mirror.. he keeps an eye on me, guarding, watching, listening, and smelling for the Dangerous Unknown. His job is serious and he can’t wait until he can brush his big head against my hand, waiting for a reassuring touch that says “all is well”. He’s a Good Dog.