Monday, February 27, 2017

A Good Winter Day Sorting Cows

Last week sorted cows in Locomotive.  Scratch that... It was actually like SEVERAL weeks ago that we sorted.  In fact, its been long enough ago that we sorted, that the snow has melted and we have mixed the cows back up.  I had a twinge of hurt when they mixed up the cows again.  Because I feel that we just did the work of getting them unmixed up... Oh the work we do...

That day of sorting had a lot of emotions running through it.  There were those overwhelming feelings of just being totally exhausted from the added work with dealing with the snow.  There was the tension of not knowing how the day was going to go, if it was going to go at all.  Then there was the final relief and thankfulness of finally getting the work done. 

You can imagine we slept well that night.

I'll admit, I had my own doubts about how the day was going to go down.  They had never had to sort all those cows there.  They never had so much snow to work the cows in.  I was afraid for the worst- cows not cooperating, horses slipping on the ice, and cowboys coming home hurt and discouraged.

That is always my fear.  Because I have seen it.

When I was a little girl, I saw the hard days that my dad had.  There was the day that he couldn't take his own boots off because of the 4wheeler accident.  There were the days that he came in exhausted from no sleep trying to keep calves alive in the cold.  There were the days he couldn't keep the equipment running to get the hay done before the storms rolled through.

But there is one day that comes to mind above all the rest as being hard for my ranching dad.

It had been a long winter.  The calving was over and breeding season was in full swing.  Doing the spring work in the still winter conditions was getting long and tiresome.  Eventually there was a break and the thaw finally came.  It only took a few days for things to change.  The frost thawed, the ground dried and suddenly it was hard again.

He was bringing in a heifer to AI.  He saddled up his horse and headed out as he did every time.  Now let me tell you a little about his horse.  She had a long, long ugly nose.  And that was about the only bad thing about her.  Ok, not really... everyone horse has her issues.  But this girl was good.  She could cut a cow as good as any other.  Once she knew what cow she was bringing in, you just let her do the work.  She could drop her back end and change directions in a second.  If you didn't hang on she would move right out from under you (and I know that from personal experience!).  She loved the work and worked hard.

 The heifer my dad and his partner were bringing in was a little feisty.  No surprise and really, no big deal.  And for my dad, it was even a little fun.  Like most cowboys, he enjoyed the rush of the ride.  But then the heifer cut back and Whitney, his horse, went to spin.  And then she went down.

In those couple of days that the weather changed, my dad was busy.  Are you surprised?  He is a rancher, they are always busy.  Busy enough that he hadn't had a chance to take of the cleats on his horse.

When she turned back, those cleats dug into the ground, and she spun, but her leg didn't.  And it broke.

My dad knew instantly that it was bad.  So bad.  He was right.

He called the vet and he was able to come in and help Whitney.  They were able to set and cast the broken leg.  But she would never chase a cow again.  It was devastating.  

My dad says that every cowboy gets one good horse and one good dog.  She was his.

Ya know, despite the great days we have on the ranch and in this life, there are some really hard days.  We take risks.  We work in sometimes dangerous conditions.  We work with animals that can do a lot of damage.  And when those bad days come we just have to take it in stride.

My dad couldn't put his partner down that day.  He just couldn't lose her.  She meant to much for him.  So he decided to turn her into a brood mare.  Now her babies are on the ranch, doing the same work their momma did. 

Thankfully, our day sorting on the range had a good ending.  A great ending.  The work went well and the cowboys came home safe.  Not everyday turns out so well and we are grateful for the good days.  Its the good days that keep us going when we have those hard days.

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