Friday, September 2, 2011

Salting the Range

After suffering through a week of over 90 degree temps, it has dipped into the 70’s now. Glorious September! The second cutting of hay looks good and we’re having beets and green beans from the garden.  

Mark and I took salt to the cows on Sunday. We have a set routine that doesn't vary. We put 6 or 7 fifty pound blocks on a 4-wheeler, strap them with tie-downs and travel to areas where we want to attract cows. We break the blocks into 8 pieces with a small sledge and throw them into the densest brush we can find, of which we have plenty. The cows stomp around, licking the pieces which are gone in a few days, not damaging the soil, but leaving an open spot in the brush and a bit of “edge” for wildlife. 

It’s a great way to look over the range and check cattle for health issues. Mark has a real connection with the cattle and recognizes each one. As we work through the herd, he points out pairs that we helped in one way or another this spring - the twin that wasn’t sucking, the cow that was confused and claimed the wrong calf, and the calves he treated for illness. We see Tim, the premature orphaned calf that we fed on a bottle for a few weeks until he got a new mom.  He’s big and strong now and we wonder if he remembers us. We figure after branding and trailing to the hills, he has long forgotten our care. We turn off the 4-wheeler and Mark approaches him slowly. Sure enough, he lets Mark scratch him, enjoying it immensely as his mother hums to him nearby.  

It was a nice diversion which ended badly when the 4-wheeler wouldn’t start and we had to walk back to our pickup in the rain. But the clouds were kind to us and only got us damp, not soaked.

If Mark feels a particular kinship with the cattle, I am compelled by the land. I make him stop to get a photo of crimson annual paintbrush, point out violet asters, and pick a sprig of mint for him to smell. Of course we cross-over in our loyalties as well, both wanting the “whole” to flourish. If we can keep the lines of communication open and not get defensive, this complementary allegiance works to the benefit of all.

When we returned a few days later to get the 4-wheeler, it still wouldn’t start. We had ridden double on our faithful sorrel horse, Sly, down to the creek where the machine waited. I got on to steer while Mark tied his lariat on the frame of the 4-wheeler and dallied to his saddle horn. Then Sly drug us back to the trailer for loading. Sly is a good sport and acted like dragging 4-wheelers was an everyday chore. I think that’s where the term “horsepower” comes from.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! makes me smile to think of Tim remembering you! I don't know if he likes his picture taken though! :)

    Complementary allegiance....

    Is Sly a horse? (I know he is, but do others...?)

    -Touching soft story and I enjoy the photos, why is that salt block one so catching? - Not surprising that Mark is so photogenic again. :)