Sunday, October 12, 2014

Before the Wreck

When things go wrong working cattle, the late, great, Bud Williams, always told us to take responsibility for it. It’s not the cows’ fault. “Were they doing it before you got there?” he would ask. Well no, they weren’t.

We call them wrecks – those days when the herd falls apart. They come infrequently, once every few years. Apparently we all need reminded that it can happen. One can get complacent.

I know one thing for sure; it’s harder on the womenfolk. Just ask Anita. Men take it in stride, just another day on the ranch. But for she and I the wrecks live on in our mind. We’ve been on the drag too many times when the weight of the herd gets heavier and heavier. More little heads looking back longingly for where they think Mom is. Second by second attention is required and it’s exhausting, even on those days when it doesn’t fall apart precisely because we’ve done everything in our power to prevent it.

It happened again on the first day of fall cattle work. It was a beautiful morning and I was sure Anita was getting some great photos as we let the herd out the gate into the lane heading down to Brush Creek. Poetic really, but in going through the gate and then confined to a narrow lane, lots of moms and kids got separated. When that happens they don’t trail well but keep looking around for each other. And it was just too many pairs traveling at once. We know this.

We got in the trees without enough forward momentum. Our crew was split and I couldn’t get Mark on the radio to send reinforcements, and they started running back in droves. By that time I was on foot, as my horse who had galloped into a badger hole earlier, had quit me. Not fun.  

But in the end the crew managed to gather up the ones that had run back and trailed them on down to the weaning pasture just as dusk descended.  

Someone said there was a beautiful sunset as we headed home. I honestly didn’t see it. We'd had one too many wrecks and I was too discouraged to notice.    

the gather - so far so good

looks peaceful right?

regrouping the renegades
 Gary, Anna and Callie
(and Martha)

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