It’s always a joy to put cows on fresh pasture, but there’s something almost mystical about fall feed. The days can be hot, but the evenings are crisp and cold. There's a clarity to the air. We regroup not only the herd, but our lives; take a look back and a look ahead.
Summer is taking her last draw, the cured range grasses are yellow and lush - the water, crystal clear. It's a bittersweet shift, for winter is staging her descent in the background and we may return sooner than expected if the snows come early.
We moved cattle to their fall pastures on the last two weekends. First the cows and calves on an uncomfortably hot day, over the mountain to Meadow Creek country. We do our best to practice low-stress cattle handling, but we found ourselves reverting to old methods as we pushed them begrudgingly up the steep incline. They seemed more interested in going back or staying put than any forward movement. At days’ end, we were totally spent, as were our helpmates, the dogs and horses. Who’s stressed now?
Then the heifers went to their new digs up along Ross Fork, high above the city of Pocatello. We processed them first, preg checking and vaccinating. Then we saddled up to make the so-called “short” drive to the fall pasture. What we thought would take an hour stretched to three, the heifers tired and hot. We traveled up, and up some more, and finally dumped them in a thicket at sunset. As we headed home in the dark, we crested a hill to see the sparkling lights of the city laid out in the distance. And above that, a bank of clouds and the slim crescent of a new moon. For a moment the silhouettes of cowboys jogged against the sky.
This life we have chosen, or rather that chose us, is at once sublime and wearisome. Just when I think I’ll retire and let Mark hire his help, I get a reawakening . . . while watching cows wrap their tongues around native bunch grasses, or riding home towards a panorama of city lights.
Guess my love/hate relationship with this ranch is on the upside tonight.