Due to advancing age, illness, lots of orphan calves, goats, sheep and the daily mundane chores of laundry, meals and housecleaning, I have been able to do very little riding this year. I had a very good day,
however. My chores were mostly done, things were pretty organized in the milk/feed/tackroom and the cowboys just happened to bring the horses back up from the field in the afternoon. I ambled out to the corral and captured Wimpy, with
a little difficulty, as he thought maybe weaving in and out of the other 40 horses in the corral might result in his not being seen. I asked the guys if they were going far, or riding hard and they said “not too hard and not too far,” so I invited myself
along. They were kind enough to take the horse trailer and save us several miles of long-trotting right off the bat.
We agreed I would ride with them until I got tired then I would ride back alone and drive the truck and trailer back to the ranch headquarters.
All the riders from the ranch (except me) spent a week on the mountain bringing cow/calf pairs down from the summer range. They gathered them, pushing them to the bottom of the long and winding road down the
mountain back to the valley and now over the next week, the cows make the 20 mile trek home on the road themselves. Cows are good that way, if they know where home is and they do this every year at this time. So good, in fact, that 2 years ago, the boss had
to truck the cows out to the desert in the winter, because they kept coming home on their own, 3 months early. That was interesting, as we were unloading on a moonless night, in the pitch dark and following them to water with flashlights on horseback.
We drove down the road to the pasture we were going to start riding in, pulled over and unloaded the horses, climbed up and headed off. We found a bunch of pairs waiting in a corner outside the fence we so
opened a few gates and let them drift in. We spent the rest of the afternoon riding across the ranch through several different pastures, checking feed and gates and having good conversation. Usually we don’t ride close enough to one another talk to visit,
but since we weren’t looking for cows, we were able to converse a little now and then.
The current cowboss has a new baby boy. At one point, the discussion turned to baby-spit which the other cowboy has an aversion to. He started gagging during the conversation so he resorted to plugging his ears
and sing la-la’s until we we changed the topic. It’s good to know these guys are not overly tough and they still have some weaknesses. Riding through blizzards, wind, rain and blazing heat doesn’t insulate one from baby spit or diapers.
My nephew’s cellphone rang. Phones don’t work here on the ranch because of the mountain we sit under which blocks the signal, but once you get far enough out on the range, you are likely to get reception somewhere.
It’s just not very convenient to saddle up and ride 5 miles or so to make a call, unless you happen to be doing that anyway.
It was the boss asking about the truck and trailer we left back in the road. We always leave the trucks and trailers in the road, because there is 50 miles of dirt road from ranch to highway and not much traffic.
The boss had Randy with him so offered to drive it back for us, saving us having to backtrack or drive down there later for it, as I was holding up fine and didn’t have to stop riding early.
It turned dark on us while we were only a few miles from home and as we came through the last gate, the cowboss’ horse started acting up again, as he had been doing all day and some schooling commenced. The
cellphone rang once again and I found out Randy didn’t realize I had ridden out with the guys. I assumed he knew as he saw me saddling Wimpy. Nevertheless, he called to make sure I wasn’t laying dead somewhere else on the ranch and satisfied with Logan’s answer,
he hung up. I trotted on home in the nearly pitch dark, Wimpy picking his way, as I had no idea where we were, or where the fence or open gate was. I long trotted the last mile up the lane and into the back corral. EmmaLou had been bawling without ceasing
and I was able to hear her all the way down in the horse pasture, which is a good long ways away.
I yanked off Wimpy’s bridle, saddle and sweaty blankets and drug them into the milking room where everything is kept. As I filled up Emma’s feeder with her grain, I noticed Wimpy was still standing in the middle
of the dark corral where I had left him, in spite of the open gates. Normally he is not a very social fellow, so I figured I would reward him for not taking off back to the pasture just because he was loose, although that had been what I intended for him to
do. I got him a scoop of grain and gave it to him in a bucket. He ate and then trotted off into the darkness. It left a warm feeling in my belly that he'd waited.
I brought Emmalou into the dark milk-room and got her belly-strap on by braille then went to get fat Willy, her calf, and bring him in to nurse. He kept spooking and refused to go in the milkroom. I hollered
at him, chided him for his foolishness and being afraid of the dark and finally managed to chase him in. As I went to follow him, Randyman quickly jumped out from around the corner and I sucked up nearly all the oxygen in Harney county. Now it makes sense
why Willy didn’t want to go in, because there was a big, old hulk of a man hiding in there.
I guess I had it coming as I forgot to tell him I was going with the guys and didn’t get back until so late.
Instead of griping about my not leaving a note, he brought the milker and a light out and helped me bottle feed calves. He also nuked us a dinner. I
appreciated it, as after riding 6 hours, I didn't really want to cook. What a guy!