The cows didn’t want to leave, and maybe we should have listened to them. Perhaps it is as they say that animals can read the weather. Mark and I believed the forecast of heavy snow and high winds and so determined to fetch the cows to the valley, but as it turned out the storm didn’t materialize and we could have left them a little longer. And every day matters when you’re counting down to the haystack.
But, still, they were the last holdouts of the neighboring herds, and at the highest mountain pasture, nearly 2000 feet higher than the valley floor. And now they are here, safe and sound, and so are we.
Today was the last day of the trail home and I knew we had enough help so I asked Mark’s 95-yr-old grandmother if she wanted to ride along with me in our little Ranger pickup. I could let Kate keep the tail end of the herd caught up and Bonny would get to see Seth and Anna riding and be part of the day. She tried to talk herself out of going, but couldn’t find a good enough reason to stay home.
Mark and the kids started the herd early and I arranged to pick up Bonny at 10:00. I loaded Kate in the pickup shell and tucked in a blanket for Bonny's lap. We came upon the herd just as it was streaming down the last bench of high ground above the Snake River Plain. Grandma was teary-eyed as she wished out loud that Eldro, Mark’s grandpa now 14 years gone, could see the cattle.
She talked to me about the old days. How she was a town girl uprooted to the country and none too happy about it. She had to learn to like the cows; had to learn to like trailing them back and forth to the mountains. It wasn’t her idea to be a rancher’s wife, but after all the years she spoke with obvious pride in the herd, in the stake that she and Eldro had worked so hard to give us.
She said Eldro was the most determined man she had ever met, determined to build a farm and a cow herd, and how he had never cheated anyone out of a dime for his own benefit. Yes, it was hard for her to play second fiddle to the cows, but there was no regret or bitterness in her tone. She did what she had to do and it was a good life with many happy years.
Bonny, and Anita, Mark’s Mom, and I are very different. We all married into this place and these cows, but we live this ranching life on our own terms. The details vary but the outlines overlap. Is it the same with other families? Or is it particularly so on a family ranch that the generations seem so close, almost side by side, separated only by the thin thread of time.
|reluctant to leave|
|trusting the movement|