We’ve had a string of cow-working days. Preparation for winter means weaning calves and processing individuals to update their vaccinations, and giving them their annual dose of parasiticide. The bulls are taken to their own pasture. The calves are trucked to the valley where they can eat our best feed. The adults stay in the mountains until snow forces us out.
Ask any cowman or woman, and they’ll tell you that fall is their favorite time of year. The weather has cooled, the horseflies are gone. The mature perennial grasses are a soft, buttery color. The trees and brush go from yellow and rust to shades of grey. And when the calves come off a silence descends on the herd that’s like winter herself.
We walked the cows to their fall pasture yesterday. They stretched for more than a mile, walking single file. Watching them this time of year, I always think of the word “resolute.” They know where they’re headed. They trust us.
My sis rode with us a couple of days. She enjoyed it a lot, and having her along made me remember why I married a rancher in the first place. Riding horses and trailing cows was a grand activity when we were kids. And I still love it, it’s just that the burden of ownership gets in the way.
Yesterday was near perfect. Not only was the weather sublime and the cattle willing, but we had some excitement before the day was over when we collided with a band of sheep. The big white dogs that provide predator protection to the sheep started chasing our cows. The sheep got in the action and all three species came barreling toward us scaring our horses. Kit took her frightened horse out of the melee and I got off Jane, afraid that in her fear she might remember she knows how to buck. Mark got control of his Doc horse and with the dogs got the sheep collected and away from the cattle. In a few minutes all was quiet again and the herd was safely through the gate.
Kit has come back to riding horses. She was too busy raising kids, and working and owning a family business, to commit the time, energy, and money required to keep a horse fit. Never mind the tack and pickup and trailer to have on the side. She had an epiphany a couple of years ago when she had a rare day off and happened to ride a friend’s mare, one of those memorable horses that is kind, responsive and an absolute joy to handle. Kit remembered just how much horseback riding had meant to her as a young woman. Now she has a good, safe horse, her own saddle and her own transportation.
Most of all she has the luxury of time . . . and a post-fifty mindset that says, “it’s later than you think." Time to put first things first.
|counting them through the working corrals|
|my sis and me|
|Doc and Jane, our helpmates|
|before the sheep incident|