Last of the Spring Cattle Drives

Photos from Bella, since we didn’t get to go. Now I know what she meant when she said it’s steep, rocky, and brushy. Thanks, Bella.

The view is awesome. Glad you had your phone, and were high enough for a cell tower!

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(Don’t let Hudson see this, or I will never live it down…those are Dinero’s ears!  I know those ears! Where am I?  How come I’m not there?!?)

In Which We Witness Stewardship, and Riders Move Out

I learned a lot, standing in my barbed wire corner and watching.  The riders had to herd the cattle through a lot of open acreage, then through two narrow (for a herd) gates, after which the land opened up into major open acreage again, just when they needed the  herd to go left.

Not easy.

The first rider brought in a smaller clump of cattle through the first gate, began to push them through the second, then went ahead of them to keep them from veering out into the open acreage again.  I mentally dubbed her the Point person.  (I have no idea what this is in cattle speak. Bella, Kimber…anyone…does this job have a name?)  After turning her cows towards the pens, she came back and took up a position to block cattle from the sea of open land, and push them off to the left.  It was a wait.

Imagine being the person relied upon to quietly turn a hundred cows or so, after they’re pushed through the gates.  Sure, help would be handy…as soon as a rider could get through the rest of the herd without spooking them!

The idea is to walk the cows in quietly, both for their sakes and yours. I’m guessing (despite what we see on TV) dealing with a herd of panicked, running cows would be incredibly difficult.  I often saw the riders stop, quietly reposition their bubbles of space, wait, check everyone else’s position, and then start walking again.

To get a sense of how aware cattle are, and how easily they can be spooked:

These cows were part of the first group coming through gate 1. I was quite far away, using a zoom lens.  Time to move to position #2.  Stopping cows is bad.  Slowly, quietly, I turn my back, pick my way up the hill through gate 2, and move into a far corner, using the point rider as cover.  The minute I stopped looking at them, they started moving forward again. Given the choice, horse and rider is what the cows will register, not person way back against fence post with one giant eye.

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Git Along, Little Doggies: Cattle Drive

From the shouts, bellowing, mooing and general commotion, it sounds like the cows are being driven in from the right side of the property.  The riders turned off to the right through the gate, going out.  I kept staring in that direction, looking for cows.

The fog lifts momentarily, and I see…a  yellow tractor.  No cattle.  Huh.

I’d been keeping my eye on a far away hilltop on the left.  Some cattle were nicely silhouetted on the very top of the hill against the lightening sky.  I am waiting for the moment when the light volume turns up enough to make the silhouettes pop.  That might be a nice picture.

I check the far away left hill-top again.  Ugh.  Foggy, gray, uninteresting.

Waiting for “the moment” is the sucky part of photography.  It’s easy to miss when you have the attention span of a single cell organism.

I accidentally shoot my toe in a clump of grass and throw in a blurry shot of barbed wire.  Great. Jane: Photographer.  I check the mountain top again.  I know!  I’ll shoot the mud.  I wait.

I can vaguely make out a horse and rider on top of the above mountain, and I wonder if it’s still the same ranch, or a different one.  The group definitely turned right, not left, at the bottom of the hill.

I click.  The light has upped to a sepia tone.  I like the itty bitty horse.  Bonus, when I get home, I realize it’s Hudson and Alice!

The bellowing is getting closer, and the human shouts clearer.  I think I hear “H” noises. Like hit hit hit, hey hey hey, and hup hup hup. This makes me think of little league and kids behind home plate calling out: “HEYYYYYY  Batter batter batter…heyyyyy batter batter batter!

Figures are appearing and disappearing in the patchy fog.

This where 20 pictures are worth 20,000 words:

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There’s still more!  Tomorrow….

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:

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O Dark Hundred

I’m just starting my lesson with Jane Savoie, after a perfect warm up, when an electronic rooster crows horribly in my left ear drum.  My eyes fly open, and it’s pitch dark.

Aw, c’mon.  Who set the stupid alarm?  And why the horrifically annoying electronic rooster that crows loud enough to scare the neighbors?

I wanted that lesson with Jane Savoie.

I roll over, close my eyes, and climb back on Hudson.

Hudson…Hudson….?  CRAP.  I leap out of bed, grabbing my jeans in the dark, bang into the dresser, and trip over my shoes.

It’s five am. On a Saturday.  The Saturday.

Today is the cattle drive!

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Who’s Decorating Dobbin for the Holidays? Calling for Submissions!

I have a devious plan forming.

We had so much fun last year when everyone sent in their Horsey, Goaty, Self-y, Doggy, Kitty, Bunny, and even Chicken-y holiday dress up.  It’s wide-open, people!  If you want to share, send all goofy holiday (of choice: I’ve always wanted to see a yarmulke on a horse) photos to:

I can’t exactly walk yet, but I’ve been invited to work a cattle drive with Hudson on December 18th.

Um. “Work”.

Read: I’m invited to tag along, but no one has illusions of my usefulness.  This will be Jane’s bone-head course: Cattle Drive 101.

Hand me that Sore No More, will you?  I need to keep arnica on the hematoma.  I am determined to be fine by December 18th.  What do doctors know?

Oh yeah.  Back to devious.  I think the drive is all cowgirls, leaving the boyfriends/hubbys at home.  Sort of a girls cattle-work day.  I thought I might bring a box of Santa hats, reindeer antlers, battery lights, whatever, and see if I could get Santa Cattle Drive photos! Women are much more open to decorating animals than men.

If you want to be truly grossed out in Technicolor, click “more” to see Hudson’s love tap. Not for the queasy.

Continue reading “Who’s Decorating Dobbin for the Holidays? Calling for Submissions!”