I'm past 60 where life seems a little quieter, more patient, less demanding, less contentious. Folks long gone are more remembered; childhood is more missed, youth is forgiven. With the grey hair, that I'm still vain enough to dye, has come the understanding that life isn't forever and if I have something left to do, I better get with it.
After a late evening trip to get checked out neither of us have any thing broken (I definitely don't have osteoperosis). We're pretty bruised and beat up but OK. The doctor wanted to give me a shot in the butt for pain but I told him that wasn't necessary, but I do hurt.
First he ran me down in the corral (I've never really realized how big those heads are till it hit me in the chest). I was sure I was about to meet my Maker. All I could think was "1 in 6 people survive a bull attack". (I guess there is still something here I'm supposed to be doing for the Lord or I'm sure I would be dead now). Then he went after my cowboy, knocked him down, and tried to rub him into the ground. Hurt as I was, I still managed to scare him off.
We were on foot, just trying to move him and another nicer old bull out of the corral and down the alley into the trailer, when he turned on us, hunting me then my cowboy.
I knew he was trouble. I hate those high headed bulls. I hate Charolais bulls. They are a problem every year, every year. Did I say I hate Charolais bulls? I hate Charolais bulls.
"More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." Alfred Lord Tennison
I pray a lot (maybe not as much as I should).
I often can't imagine how I can get done what I need to do. Just the 2 of us 'old people' for 6 months manage around 3600 head (that's cows and calves together) on 40,000 acres with very little help. We move herds often of 800-1000 animals, treat cows as big as 1800 lbs with no corrals, deal with 70 or so bulls from the 1st of June to the 1st of Oct. It is a daunting task.
It makes prayer almost a necessity. This probably sounds odd but when I pray for help I ask God for any old cowboys that wish they could do a little more of the work they loved and their good horses and if they have a good dog or two could they bring them too.
Where else can I go for help? We don't have the money to hire it, we call on kids (thanks Crystal), and trade help with friends and neighbors but people have their own lives and their own work and can't come as often as we need help. That is just the facts.
Cowboys pray. It's easy for them to communicate with the Creator when they're out there in the stillness of His creations. And I, personally, think that when they die, a lot of them continue their unrecognized service in the form of unseen angels that come as answers to my prayers.
I prayed for them today and they came. I didn't see them but I knew they were there. I've rode with them lots of times before. I know how it feels when they come.
It reminds me of the bible story in 2 Kings 6 where the bad guys are sick of losing the battles and finaly discover that Elisha, the prophet, has been telling on them and they sent
". . . thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. 15. And when the servant of the man of God (Elisha) was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? 16. And he answered and said, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17. And Elisha prayed, and said Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
Yup, them that be with us . . . I know those guys.
Oh my goodness, you can't take me off the place. They fed us so well at the grazing school. Maybe it was just way more than what the coyote in me usually eats (or just a dang chocolate chip cookie, it's horrible being allergic to chocolate, I knew better than to eat it but sometimes it is just too tempting). Salt is another bad one. Maybe it was a combination of things but I better be better tomorrow so we can pull the last of the bulls.
Back from Grazing School for Women in Milo, Alberta. It's an annual event funded mainly by different environmental and government groups with other sponsors (Myers, Norris, and Penny) and held each year in a different place in the province.
I had such a good time (I even enjoyed the socializing like the ice breaker and the campfire; crowds aren't my real forte) but I had someone good to go with. I always am braver when I have one of our girls with me (our other, other daughter). Actually one of my favorite things is getting to meet women who care about what I do.
We billeted overnight with a really nice, successful couple in their beautiful house (of all the times to forget my pj's, but it all worked out) and some of the activities were in their lovely yard.
This time I came back with some very specific ideas and goals on using distribution tools ( eg. salt, supplements, oilers, troughs, etc. ) to better utilize the grass and protect riparian areas. It was my favorite class.
The stock dogs demo was excellent and I learned a lot. Got to watch a different kind of dog work. It's part collie, part. . . (I can't remember all the fellow told us), but it's short haired and a little broader bodied than our dogs. My cowboy has been talking about wanting some kind of dogs like this that are part Australian Shepherd, Collie, Catahoula, and Kelpie.
My cowboy had an appointment in the city today and was gone when I got home I went out to check on things and found this worrisome new hole in the tin siding on the barn. I freaked out and walked out to the horses to see if anyone got cut up when they kicked the hole in the barn.
It was hot and probably 1/2 a mile out and another 1/2 back. I sweat. I prayed hard on the walk out that it wouldn't be anything serious. My prayers were answered. I could see a mark on Wilbur's back leg but it looked OK, no cut, no swelling. Flies are so bad, I think that's what caused this. I hate tin siding.
It was a hot day out helping cows today. I got overheated, not heat stroke but close.
It was my own fault, chasing a bull through the brush on foot, the sneaky rotter. I never know when to quit. It was kind of like hunting Lions in Africa, quite a thrill to know something that big and dangerous is hiding in the brush. Good thing he was more scared of me than I was of him.
Treated a couple of big calves with foot rot (Here we are on C.O.W. TV) and a big cow with foot rot that out weighed my horse by 300 lbs. No pictures of her, I needed to be focused on the job not the camera.
Plus we found a dead black calf, unknown cause of death, to eaten up to figure out why. I hate when that happens.
I'll be gone for a couple of days to more cow school, well mostly grass school this time. Have fun everyone and "I'll be back" to quote the governor of California.
First time I ever saw a horse, I was three. Something happened to me right then, like an old memory awakening or maybe it was the future stirring. For 13 years, every time I wished on a falling star, said my prayers, or was asked what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday I only dreamed of one thing, a horse of my own. For so long, I was the little girl with no horse.
I saved every cent from that moment on. It started with $5 in pennies, included all my Christmas and birthday money for 13 years, and every cent I made sweeping floors for my dad after school (starting at age 11) until the day before my 16th birthday. That was the day I bought my first horse.
Gypsy Lee, a potbellied (there was a baby in there) jugheaded, stubborn little bay mare with roaning up in her flanks and white hairs in her black tail. I can see her clear as if it was yesterday.
The baby was exactly what I wanted: a sorrel filly, no white on her legs, a pretty blaze face, Tama (short for Tamalina). I raised her, started her, and made a good horse of her.
Then I convinced my dad to buy a chestnut thoroughbred mare with a crooked blaze on her face, Dancer. She could run, taught me about trust, and that it was dangerous to lose my temper with a horse.
(I'll have to find Mac's picture)
It was a hard decision but I sold all three to get enough money to attend University. I became the little girl with no horse again till I fell in love and married my cowboy. He bought me a buckskin colt, 4 months old. We fed him a gallon of oats, a cup of cows milk replacer, a cup of flax seed, with a couple of tablespoons of children's vitamin syrup poured on top, Mac. He grew into a big gelding and I got to start him.
We bought some mares, Holly, Candy, Missy, Annie, and an old stallion, Les, an actual grandson of the great Three Bars. He loved his colts and took care of his mares. It was a privelege to ride him. How can I say how awesome he was or how much I loved him? There are no words for feelings so deep.
I had a pretty bay mare, Sam, that all the kids in 4-H thought was a trick horse cause she could count and I could steer her with no bridle.
I had a miscarriage and my cowboy worked 3 weeks for some folks just to buy a pretty little sorrel filly with a flaxen mane, Susie. I started her and she became my daughter's Junior Barrel horse.
Buzzard, all 16.3 hands of that big chestnut gelding has a special place in my heart. So many times I cried in his mane and told him my troubles. He kept me safe when I didn't know how to do it for myself. He's buried at the ranch after a long life of faithful service with us (even though he never quit bucking).
Buckwheat, we bought for the youngest girl but he became my best bull chasing horse, the little horse with a big heart. At age 22, he won me a buckle, himself a winterblanket, and enough money for me to buy a fancy Montana Silversmith's watch. He never was real friendly with people but his best friend was an old gray gelding that had once been the Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association Champion's calf roping horse. They are buried together.
Tom who was the horse my daughter bought with all her summer wages, sold to her dad, and I got to ride. I called him Tommy Holiday because riding him was so easy it was like being on a holiday.
The first time I moved bulls with Pic, he was so awful I got off and walked a mile and a half back to the trailer and swore I would never ride him again. You should see him do it now. He just needed me to understand.
Now there is Hooch, a promise for the future.
My cowboy told me one day, out of the blue, "When you and Buzzard come for me, bring Trouper." I immediately knew what he meant and I will.
There was a legendary (in my mind he was) old cowboy that used to live in this area. Some folks were riding down by the South Camp. They were going to cross the creek but it was really high and some one had strung barbwire across it not too far down stream from where everyone used to cross their horses. When someone hesitated, one of the fellows says: "What's the matter with you guys, rode by, and jumped his horse into the creek.
It was so high and fast it started dragging horse and rider downstream towards that barb wire fence that was now submerged up to the top wire. Horses caught in wire, never a good thing (probably going to panic) and things were pretty tense. No one was sure what to do.
When out of the corner of the story teller's eye, up rode this old cowboy swinging his rope. It settled, first throw, around the horse's neck that was struggling in the creek. The old guy dallied up to his horn and his horse was able to pull the other one out of the creek. A disaster was avoided.
That got me thinking about tools, cowboy tools.
Lets start with the modern: a sturdy old stock trailer and a flat deck pickup (that's seen better days);
the most important: a cowy, dependable horse (especially one you can crack a whip on);
a stock whip (sure helps with cranky bulls);
a saddle you can spend all day in (tapederos, optional but handy for flapping in cattle faces while sorting, looking a little bigger and thus more intimidating to bulls, keeping feet warm and dry.); a leg rope or two (for tying up cattle legs); 45-60 feet of lariat; a place to carry medicine (cantle pack or banana bag);
a fence stretcher; fencing pliers (I can never find thus no picture);
a knife that will cut through rope (or leather) like butter (I like pretty things);
or two and sometimes with strings and various coloured silk scarves; there's a hoofpick hanging there too;
a good hired hand (also known as a cow dog or collie);
or in lieu of an expert , a wife that can rope (she doesn't have to be really good at it);
and a place to start and end the day.
A well earned morning off today due to social obligations but I better to get to work now. Oh ya! We found out congradulations are due; sounds like we have another grandchild on the way. We're pretty excited to have a new little cowboy or cowgirl in the family.
A day of fixing oilers, filling oilers, hauling salt.
Note the nice salt boxes my cowboy made out of old corral boards
Washday for me, cleaning house, and fixing things too.
The little angels (one for each of my own daughters) might look like expensive crystal (which I really like, like the candle holders behind them) but they are just plastic ones that I picked up cheap at Wally World at Christmas one year (hence the need to glue the left arm and sheet music music back on the closest angel, gotta love crazy glue.)
Our youngest daughters plays the violin, the middle girl- the clarinet (piano and trumpet), and the oldest can really sing nice (along with play the piano, organ, flute, trombone, guitar, her little sister's violin in 20 minutes the first time she picked it up, and is currently taking Cello lessons; and she speaks Russian, French-a little bit, and 3 different dialects of Philipino) so these little angels remind me of them every time I look at them.
I can't do anything musical but play the radio so they don't get it from me but I do like languages. Get this, an old cowgirl who has studied French, Welsh, Hebrew, Latin, and Cree. I hope that wasn't bragging, just what I'm interested in.
I could have bought a heading angel, a heeling angel, and a barrel racing angel because they do that too (they are all good ropers, talents so wasted on those city boys they married) but these were what they had.
Then I wanted to frame a couple of wedding photos: one of our youngest daughter,
(that little black, velvet covered bible is in Swedish and was inherited by my cowboy from his great grandmother; quite a treasure)
and one of 'our other daughters'.
and the nice yellow mare, San Dee, she left behind when she moved to Australia, for the next few years, to be with her new husband (Robin she must really love you!).
Well, I better quite fussin' with things and get some more work done. Hope you all have a good weekend.
"I want to be loved, not just used!" That's what I was thinking when I galloped home today. My cowboy brought the bull in himself (without a problem, he said), then announced he was going to town. Me, I'm still too crabby, so I stay home and fall asleep, when I had other plans (painting my toenails and all). This is what I wake up to.
Flowers, my two favorite bubble baths, and a really cute card with mushy stuff written inside.
Now you know why women love cowboys.
All that, on top of a good nap, did wonders for my disposition.
We went for a ride together to check the Charolais herd after that.
It was cooler, a nice breeze, I didn't see one bug ( I didn't look), and we had a really good time.
My cowboy rode my colt, Hooch.
We checked some of the few trees there, in a little hollow.
My cowboy says: "I hope there's no moose in there.
This colt's gonna have a hard time bucking me off if a moose is chasing us."
I couldn't help but laugh.
Bachgen got to come (and he found a rock to talk to which made his day).
and I rode Trouper who was a perfect gentleman the whole time.
I am so sick of bugs and I am so sick of bulls, only 22 to go (bulls, that is, the bugs number in the kajillions). I'm tired and hot and cranky.
Got in an argument with my cowboy after chasing a Red Angus through the brush (on foot). Heaven help the big wuss (the bull, that is, not the cowboy) if he hadn't run off I'd have. . . done something horrible to him. Rode back home at a gallup, now I'm sulking alone in the house in the middle of the afternoon, trying hard to calm down. I have to get too pumped sometimes to deal with those bulls and I can't control my temper (it's like being on anabolic steroids).
I'm going to go die my hair, get cleaned up, and paint my toenails!!! How's that for mad?
I hate days when I forget my camera. We were just pulling bulls again anyway, simmental this time. I don't like this part of my job and am not sure I want to remember those days anyway. But then what to blog about? Mmmmmh.
How about . . . Wilbur and my worst nightmare come true.
I always tell my cowboy, "Don't take him anywhere." "Don't brush him, leave that mud on" And I really thought his name should be GIFT but we called him Wilbur (not nearly so pretty). I'm always afraid someone will want to buy him. And it's happened.
I pick up the phone:
The lady on the other end says, "Hello. Um, what's the lease rider's name again?"
I politely tell the female voice.
"Oh ya, Is he there? May I speak to him"
I say, "Sure" and hand him the phone
"Well I don't know . . . It would be alot, he's pretty near perfect . . . Well, I have to talk it over with my wife. Ya, good bye."
"What was that all about?"
He tells me that the lady on the phone was the neighbor we don't know real well but when we heard they needed an extra roper at their branding my cowboy went to help out. He took Wilbur, when I told him not to, and now her daughter has fallen in love with the horse and they want to buy him. He's supposed to talk it over with me and phone her back
This is the horse that when I'm not there I can rest easy knowing that this is such a good horse that my cowboy can handle anything on him alone and he's not going to get hurt. That's what he meant by pretty near perfect.
We talk it over and I tell him to ask for a lot, hoping that they won't want to spend that much. Besides, it will cost quite a bit to replace him. How do you find a pretty, good footed, straight legged, sound, calm, realy smooth moving, big, smart, cowy, totally trustworthy gelding that you can work cattle on in a pencil bosal? ( I guess come to our house.)
You see, my cowboy can ride almost anything and get the job done (especialy if I am there to back him up) but me . . . not so much. I need a realy good broke horse, then I can do wonders but without . . . I'm kind of a wash out. And he's one of these really good broke horses that I can ride too. I confess I'm a little selfish because I thought he was moving into my string.
The next day he tells me he called this lady, told her the price, and the lady said it was too much (Whew). Then she called back and asked if he would take 1/2 now and 1/2 in calves in the fall. (whew-not). My cowboy said he'd have to talk that over with me.
One thing you have to understand is that almost everybody has more money than us. It's not easy for us to turn down big money for a horse, even Wilbur. What to do? What to do?
I was talking to someone today and they said resentment was a burden, like sorrow, or loneliness. That thought rolled around in my mind all day. That and that quote in Galatians that says: "Bear ye one another's burdens . . ."
It made me think of Trouper, our little gray horse, that I have been calling Grumpy lately. He has been in my string (the horses only I ride) but I wasn't enjoying riding him cause he always seemed, well . . . grumpy. So my cowboy took him back into his string and the horse seemed to like that better.
But the other day I had to ride him again to check the cows across from the house. The cattle were split into 2 big bunches, one at the north west corner and one at the south east corner of this 8 section field across from the house. We headed north first. The bugs were horrible and Trouper was not happy about it. I told him, "Once we get to the cows the bugs won't be so bad. Let's hurry," and he did.
We looked through the cattle and all was good. Trouper was in a hurry to get back to the house and I let him hurry back. The bugs weren't as bad and I was happy and started singing Christmas carols (the only songs I know). He looked back at me a time or two and it seemed like he kind of liked my singing (even though I was out of tune, as usual).
He cheered up until we passed the gate to the house. He stalled as I pushed him to go by, trying to tell me I was missing it. I told him, "No, buddy, we have to check all the cows, these ones in the south too." He went, not happily, resentfully, I would say. The bugs were horrible again. I finally got off and killed a bunch of deer flies on his face and a horsefly or two. He liked that and went on more willingly. Around the cattle, of course, the bugs were better again.
I dreaded the ride back to the gate. He broke into a trot as the biters closed in, then a lope but we couldn't outrun or out distance them so I got off again and killed all that were on him. I walked a few steps turned around and his face and chest were covered again with these hard biting horrible dear flies. I killed, walked, killed and walked for 1/4 to 1/2 mile till they seemed mostly gone.
Trouper was very appreciative and tried to be so good the rest of the way home. His resentfulness seems like it has evaporated and I started calling him Touper again (instead of Grumpy). I think he just needed to know I cared about him and wanted to help him.
It made me think of people who are bitter or resentful. We don't usually like being around them, avoid them, even grumble about them but maybe what we really need to do is be cheerful (I wouldn't recommend singing out of tune like I do) and walk with them and kill the flies on their face. Well, you know what I mean. Maybe they just need someone to care about them and try and help them. I think I'm going to try that.
"With that much ground to cover in a working day, do you take two horses out? Or just ride one and change horses every day?" Shirley asked this and I got waxing poetic on the answer so decided to make it a post cause it was so blinking long.
It depends how hot or how hard we might think the day is. Sometimes we come home for lunch (at 4:00 PM which I always complain about) and get another horse and go back out. If the cattle are at the south end of the lease it's easier to take two horses. Usually we ride one horse 1 day and 2 days off for them (no days off for me) in a rotation.
Sometimes if I'm hurting or really tired or behind on my housework I get to stay home after lunch at around 4:00. Some times I don't go out till a little later. A five hour day in the saddle is the best for me but most are quite a bit longer. My cowboy often rides a broke horse half a day (when I'm not there) and young horse the rest (when I am there). Everyone gets the Sabbath off unless there's "an ox in the mire."
We usually have our own string of horses and don't ride the other guys or use the other guys equipment just like on the big outfits. (There is quite a difference in stirrup length between the 2 of us). There's a reason they do it that way; it's easier on our relationship and our horses.
Pic is my go-to horse for hard jobs I'm worried about, so sometimes he sees a little more duty than the others I ride. He's a long circle (high energy) horse with some problems but they have gotten less since I have been the only one to ride him. He still takes a lot of patience but I'm willing to try to be patient with him because of the trust I have in him. And he fits me, physically fits, it feels better to sit on his back than in my most comfortable easy chair. My other horses don't feel the same.
Like any working cowboys, we actually put our lives in our horses' hands, so to speak, on a daily basis. It's dangerous with so many variables (cow or bull, horse, dogs, cowgirl, cowboy), the footing (blowouts, sand-hills, badger holes, brush, bog), throw into that mix my 45 foot rope and his 60 foot one and maybe you can begin to get the picture. Trust is really important both ways. The horse has to trust me not to ask him to do anything stupid and I have to trust him to watch his footing and not go down with me and to hold the rope to keep me and, more often, my cowboy safe.
I consider it a real privilege to be able to work this hard even though it's not all romance and pretty days. The days I get hailed on, or have to ride in the rain, or in my snow boots and snowsuit, or fighting bugs and heat, or I'm just plain scared to do what I have to, I just tell myself, "Enjoy it! Remember you won't be able to cowboy forever". I hate to even think of a time when I won't get to do this. Sure there's bad days but the good days are soo good.
Janis had some questions about bulls after my last post and I thought I might just add my answers to this post since I don't have her email to send it to her.
We manage a community pasture where about 50 members lease 40,000 acres from the EID (Eastern Irrigation District, who I think is the largest private landholder in Alberta). They each get to put between 25-50 cow/calf pairs (all cows must come with a calf) out on the lease for 6 months during the summer grazing season. Each member buys where ever he wants and provides a bull for each 25 cows he puts out. We are hired by and answer to a board elected out of those members.
The approximately 1800 cows are divided into 4 herds depending on the type of bull they want to breed to. We have 2 read Angus (one that the bulls come on the 1 of June, the other they turn bulls in on the third week in July or the 1st of August) herds, a Simmental (no blacks), and a Charolais herd. The herds vary in size: the Simmental and the Charolais are the largest herds. The late Red Angus herd is the the smallest. It's pretty standard that there is one bull for every 25 cows in each heard. The largest breeding field is 8 sections the smallest is 2 sections (again a section is a square mile or 640 acres)
Most of the members farm and want to be done calving early so they can concentrate on farming when they need to. Cattlemen here, ranchers, don't usually turn bulls into their cows as early because they don't want to calve in the cold winter weather early in the year, here in Alberta.
Bulls can come here as yearlings (I think they should be 2 year olds when they come but it's not up to me) and they can come back until they are 6, if they are healthy. Semen test and registration papers (they must be purebreds) are required to be turned in to us for every bull that comes to the lease. They are given Cylence (for flies) and Fusagard (for foot rot) at the hoof trimming day which is usually the same day they are brought out.
The owners drop them off but we are required to round them up (when they are done breeding or injured) and bring them in. My husband is like a bull-houdini and can load most bulls out in the middle of an 8 section (8 square mile) field just by opening the door and encouraging them in. The Charolais, we have been driving (us on horseback) to the North Camp corrals (where we live).
Bulls that get broken penis or stifled and cannot breed are sent home to their owners who often then will sell them immediately at the local auction.
Simmental bulls are the ones I like to deal with the most. They seem very manageable, I'm not sure if it's the breed or how the owners handle them. The Charolais are the least manageable, some of them I'm sure it's because of how they are handled when they are not here.
I think 60 days is too long to have the bulls out (see my blogpost : Time to Go Boys for pictures of why) plus I don't think it's a good management practice but again it is not my call. The cows are preg checked by a vet at their owner's place when the owner choose or chooses not to. We watch to see if there is anything bulling (riding/being riden) and can tell generally how the cows are being covered.
If everything looks fine and then we see a bunch of riding later in the year we know there's a problem, probably with tric (a VD that causes aborted fetuses at around 50 days or so). It hasn't happened here but the neighboring lease had it so we're on the look out for it this year.
Every lease is run a little different but that's how it goes here.