The route is unfamiliar to the cows even though they’ve done it for three years now. They need to travel up and over a ridge of mountains with twists and turns, a trap near a spring, and then walk cross-country down two more bluffs. It had been a nightmare of constant shoving, hollering, cows and calves trying to go back, and total exhaustion for everyone - dogs, horses, cattle and cowboys. Not pretty.
I threatened to stay home. At least Mark wouldn’t have to deal with a mad wife along with everything else. But I went of course.
We were trying a new strategy. We would let them out of a nearby field the night before and give them a chance to mother-up before attempting the climb the next morning. Usually as they come out of the gate in a rush, the cows lose their calves and don’t get straightened out until we re-group on the other side of the mountain. This approach would require spending the night in the hills and a few extra hours of gathering, but it would be worth it if they would climb of their own will. And they did. We took them up in two drafts. They mostly kept their calves close by and seemed to remember the route and the fresh grass that lay ahead. What a relief. I was kicking myself for being so pessimistic. Once again Mark’s steady resolve won out, and he didn’t even say “I told you so.”
Once we reach the top of Smyler Canyon, the worst is behind us. It was a beautiful day, cool with puffy clouds all around. I could see all the way to Wyoming. I was tending the front end, letting them graze and waiting for the back of the herd to catch up. I thought about a conversation we had had the night before in the cabin. We had chicken soup by lantern light, Mark and I and our part-time cowboy help, an ex-truck driver, a preacher, and a saddle maker. We talked of their life experiences, which range from Idaho to South Carolina to Egypt. We discussed the rioting in the Middle East. Is it a national pastime or a fringe movement propagandized by the press? How to tell?
All I know is that here on this mountain, quiet except for cattle calling to one another and the soft ripping of grass, one can believe that all is right with the world. No riots, no strife, just an honest job to do and a clear shot to good grass ahead.
|catching the help|