It’s not what it used to be.
We run cattle in a grazing cooperative that’s been around since 1916. My great grandmother was a founding shareholder. Mark's family also has a history in the cooperative. We've heard stories of round-up for many years. Used to be that men (and men only!) rode their horses from area to area to gather cattle together in bunches. Each owner cut his cattle from the most numerous brand of the day and trailed his group back to his grazing area. Everyone rode each allotment because with no fences the cattle could roam over large distances. It meant the cowboys stayed overnight in the mountains for 10 days or so and rode in a different direction each day.
Now we have fences that divide up the range so mixing of brands is minimized. Usually a couple of days will get the cattle collected. Other things have changed of course. It's usually done on the weekend so it doesn't conflict with town jobs. Most of us sleep in our own beds in the valley instead of throwing a bedroll on the cold ground or riding from a far off cabin before and after the day’s work.
But some things haven’t changed. If you're less experienced you're expected to hold herd and let the real cowboys do the work of cutting out strays. Holding herd is an important job, but boring. Cutting out is loads of fun. I told Mark I’m sick of holding herd. I’ve paid my dues so let me in the herd already! It still pays to know everyone’s brand and ear tag. And for heaven’s sake cut out pairs, never singles, or you cause yourself more work by mismatched mothers and kids searching for each other. Be conscious of how your neighbors handle their cattle, keep an eye out for sick calves that need treated, and remember in the end it’s all about relationships so be respectful of one another.
Some things have improved. Our crew on Saturday included Gary at 70 plus, the senior cowhand, and Harli, a “fuhst grader.” Harli rode with her grandma or me the afternoon we were together. We three females would not have been included in the old days. Or I dare say, even wanted.
With many hands comes light work and we gathered the high country, the low country and the in-between country in a quick hurry. Rain threatened all day but it never materialized. Just those incredible angry skies to pull our eyes to the beauty beyond the mountain tops.
I'm trying to instill a habit of saying “thank you Lord” throughout my days. Some days are better than others. Round-up day was a “better” day. Especially since I got to cut.