Into the White: Cattle Drive

Something large and dark sweeps over my head, completely silent.  A great horned owl! HUGE.  Too dark to get a photo.  Drat.

There’s a glimmer of light behind the hills.  I wonder how long it will take the sun to rise above the crest.

Bella’s high-tech method of packing-in water:

The fog is shifting.  A few tendrils circle the colder areas around the barn.  The sun rises, illuminating the fog from below, behind the hills.

For a few minutes, before the fog shifts again, we have incredible light.

Dinero, waiting:

I hear familiar jingling and creaking behind me. People are starting to mount up. Someone is ribbing Alice about the hearts on Hudson’s butt.  She says cheerfully, “I’m the token Hippie!   Peace and Love to cows, dude.”  Everyone cracks up.

Behind the barn, the fog is starting to move back in with a vengeance.

When I remarked later how well the horses worked in plain snaffles, Bella explained.  A cattle round-up isn’t the controlled (!) environment of a roping arena, where curb bits are appropriate.  You can get into iffy situations with a jumble of full-sized cows very quickly. “Sometimes you have to get on their {the horses} faces, when a situation is developing, and you need to get out immediately.  A curb would be very painful. Kinder to use a plain snaffle.”

Practical.  The rider is going to be processing a very big picture, while the horse might be focused on an entirely different piece.  In an emergency, you’d have to grab them: even the best trained horse is excited, and might not instantly respond.  You need that attention NOW to be safe.  Thoughtful horsemanship.

It had been cold, but not bone chilling.  With the fog dropping again, it’s incredibly damp-cold.  I’m glad for my 16 Michelin Man layers.  Out they go:

Kimber is the drive boss, she knows the land, the pastures, and where the cattle are that need to come in.

You can see how the visibility is rapidly shifting.  They’re only slightly further out.

I’m enjoying the peace, the muffled sounds, the earthy smells of cattle, grass and horses.

I can’t keep up on foot, nor would it be smart once they reach the cows.

Note to self: mid-calf muck boots.  I’m dangerously up to my ankles.  The hills might look solid, but they have plenty of soft mucky spots.  Bella doubles back to tell me where to expect the cattle to come.  This is to keep me safe and out-of-the-way, but also so my predatory camera eye doesn’t about-face the ever vigilant cows careening back into the horses.

I guess. At least an hour until they come back?  Once the horses are out of sight, the silence evaporates.  Cows bellow loudly.  One cow in particular shrieks. Why is there a seagull screaming near the cattle?  In a trick of hills and fog, I can’t tell from what area the sound is coming.  I hear unintelligible shouts.  No question. They’ve found the cattle and are calling positions.

I scout out a few camera positions. There are two spots that meet my criteria: light from behind, and places Jane is least likely to get creamed. I should be able to switch before the cows are close enough to get concerned.  I walk it out, checking time.  Once that’s settled, I shoot what’s around me while I wait in spot #1.

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You can see why horses are the best option on this terrain.  ATV’s would get mired. Too many acres for dogs and foot herders.

Impressive: the cattle drive was organized by Kimber, who used to be the rancher’s neighbor.  None of the riders are part of this ranch.  Folks helping other folks. Because it’s the right thing to do.

More to come!

Due to the cold, everyone looks three times their normal size. With 7 women and only 2 men riding, we feel this information is imperative for readers to know.  Men don’t care.  We do!


12 thoughts on “Into the White: Cattle Drive

  1. SUCH beautiful photos! Amazing! I’ve been sitting here watching the slideshow play. My favorites are the one with Dinero in the foreground and the pink sunrise behind him, and the one with the two hills, and the horizontal stream of fog between them. So glad you were able to go and capture these for us! I am in awe of your photography skills… simply gorgeous.

    1. Thank you! I like that one too. It was a beautiful day!

      Here is my opinion: helmets are always a safe choice on horseback, and I wear one every time I ride.

      When I ride with my friends, who might have a different opinion, no one makes me feel stupid, or excludes me, or makes me feel badly about my choice to wear a helmet, and it’s not because they think I’m right. (Trust me.) 😉

      If you could see how wonderful these people are with each other, their horses, and the cattle, I think you’d see they are anything but bozos. They volunteered an entire day to help a neighbor get his cows in for shots, health check, and a few veterinary procedures. No one paid for their gas or time.

      I believe you are coming from your heart, and want people to be as safe as possible. I also think it’s imperative to be kind to each other in how we discuss our concerns. I’d like TLH to be the kind of place we can amp down, and talk about things in a way that allows people to feel heard and respected on all sides.

      In my opinion, what frequently betters our world, is the respect and safety we create in our discussions, with the subject we discuss being less important than the mutual room to respectfully disagree.

      I can tell you with absolute certainty it makes a few of my friends CRAZY when I ride just a little longer than my bum leg can honestly take: it puts me in an unsafe position. They’re right. All I can do is quietly explain my thinking, and all they can do is listen respectfully, and tell me their safety concerns. As much as they might hate it, it comes down to my body, my choice.

      1. I have a “cowboy” friend who refuses to wear a helmet most of the time. Makes me a little crazy, but I’ve learned not to bug him about it…but he’s got to wear a helmet on MY horse, and I beg him to wear a helmet when my kids are watching (and looking up to) him. In those cases, he always graciously straps one on.

        Other than that, I can but pray for his long life and brain-safety.

        1. This is exactly the kind of thing I mean. What a great way for you both to meet on an issue, in a caring way. A friend of mine asked me NOT to continue to ride her horse if my leg was starting to get iffy, and I’ve always kept that commitment – even though, to me, it was a non-issue. The likelihood I’d come off because of my leg getting weaker was extremely slim. I balance off my core. Still, it worried her, and well, why not? It’s not a big deal. I stopped.

          And I’m all about the prayers, all the way around! 😉

          1. Sorry, I guess I had bad word choice there. I meant “bozos” with the most possible love as I’m sure any friend of yours is a truly lovely person! Ack, my bad! *snif* I hope y’all don’t hold it against me. I forget that not everyone knows that my terms of endearment are not conventional. Sometimes stress and a bad day make stupid things come out. I love all the TLH friends!!!!!

          2. Nope. No holding against you! I understand what you meant now (thanks for checking back and letting us know!) and I’m sure my friends will too.
            I’ve come out with some absolute doozies under stress on a bad day, with every good intention.

            My SIL, whom I adore, was about to marry my bro (YAY!) when I waxed poetic on my opinion of wedding rings, never noticing she was getting quieter and quieter. You got it. The kind of ring I was coming across as disdainful of? Exactly what she hadn’t yet shown me. It’s why she came over. And I didn’t dislike the ring! It was beautiful. I don’t know what was going on in my head. I could have died I was so embarrassed.

            Being human can SO suck. I’m passing the donuts. I’ll even leave the one with chocolate sprinkles…

      2. This is a great response.

        I used to be a “barehead” rider, and the more people would scream about how only idiots don’t wear helmets and do I have a death wish and vegetables in hospitals the more I didn’t want to wear one. Some really tactful friends led by quiet example for several months – and encouraged me to buy a nice helmet that really fit – and suddenly it was a habit. Yes, it looks weird for me to see riders without helmets, but I think it’s better to quietly do your own thing than to push others into doing what you think is best. Slippery slope and all.

      3. Thank you for this response.

        Our carelessness with language has been getting to me for a while. As a Tucson resident, the recent current events were only surprising for their target, not for their happening. There has been a lot of anger, a lot of words which were not carefully chosen by those who would NEVER actually go use the violents their words imply, and a lot of negative language implying horrible things about various individuals and groups. I am trying to convince others to be careful with their language not because the words of one person are necessarily so horrible, but because when they add up, they end up with a tragedy and a city full of people saying “we aren’t surprised, but let’s look at the positive, learn from this, and try to make sure it can’t ever happen again.”

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