Happy Labor Day everyone. To many across the country this is a long weekend to celebrate the closing of summer; where many families get together for a party, have some BBQ and enjoy some great food. But for the people who produce that food, there is no rest. Today is just another day on the ranch. True, we may get together and enjoy a cookout this weekend, but first all of the livestock must be taken care of. The rations batched, animals fed, fences checked, and problems fixed. Yes, we may not do many “extra chores” this weekend, if ever there were a thing, but the animals must be taken care of. So while you are enjoying this holiday weekend, take a moment to Thank a Farmer or Rancher who works hard every day of the year to make sure there is delicious food on the table for every occasion.
I hope you enjoy this comical account of a cowboy’s holiday ventures. (I copied this note from a friend on Facebook, but found it too great not to share. Be sure to visit the link at the end for more stories like this.)
To a person with a real career, holidaysbring thoughts of time off for a little R&R with friends and family. The Fourth of July means picnics, barbecues, rodeos, and fireworks. But if you are a cowboy, the romance of your life is being married to the ranch. The Flying P hardly knew what a day off was, and holiday meant catch up on whatever you were behind on. Along with it being a care free and romantic life, there are a couple of other little known misconceptions about cowboying for a living. One of the biggest misconceptions isthat you ride only the best horses. While you might get lucky once in awhile, most of theranches Ive worked for go for the cheapesthorses they can get.I once saw an ad posted on a sale-barn bulletin board, which describes a big portion of the ranch horses I’ve had theopportunity and privilege to ride.
It went: Horse for sale. Will buck, strike,kick, and bite. Not for women or kids. Would make a GOOD cowboy horse. If you dont like him, the dogs will.At least you’ve got to give the guy points for honesty in advertising.
The other little misconception is that cowboys ride out in pairs or groups of three to do their work. There are only about two times that actually happens. The first is when there is a big works going on, such as a branding or gathering to ship. The other time is by accident.On this particular Fourth of July Holiday, I headed out to tag late calves in one pasture, followed by heading a couple miles over the hill to doctor any sick yearlings in another. My semi-trusty mount was Spaz. Now Spaz would have been a really good horse if he’d gotten over the habit of leaving you afoot,and if he had been athletic enough to walk without tripping over his own feet and falling down.
Checking all of the draws and coulees, I was beginning to think I’d be lucky and would’nt have anything to tag when I spotted next to a plum thicket. There was’nt a cow in sight so I started making up a Q tag. Q tags simply had the date the calf was found. In yourcalving book, you recorded the calfs sex and weight so that when you figured out which cow it belonged to, the records would be straight. Because the calf wasnt moving real fast, Spazhandled the situation with ease, and I dropped a loop on the calf, took a dally, and pitched the rest of my rope out so there wouldnt be anycoils to get tangled up in.
I stepped off Spaz, jerked down a pigging string, started to tie the calf down when things suddenly went wrong. Hearing the thunder of cloven hooves, I looked up to see what appeared to be the worlds largest cow barreling towards me at twice the speed of sound, like a cow-to-cowboyguided missile. I temporarily held my ground thinking (OK, praying) that she wouldnt step over her calf. She hesitated for a second, but just long enough for me to pop her on the end of the nose with my pigging string and lunch I was.
My only hope of avoiding being ground into Bob-burger was to get something between Robo Cow and me. It was going to have to be something fairly narrow as there was only an arms length separating us (carefully measured by my finger tips on her forehead). As luck would have it, Spaz had’nt clued into the situation and was still standing there. I discovered this as I ran into his butt and rolled around him.
Luckily, the old witch felt sorry for me and decided to pick on something a little closer to her own size. Looking over my shoulder to get my bearings on the situation, I saw Spaz trying to get up enough speed to get the cow out from underneath him. After fifty or so yards, she decided to drop Spaz and go back to her calf. Being the homing pigeon he was, he kept right on going, trying to make a new record for the three-mile gate dash.
After a three-mile hike under the hot July sky, my cheerful holiday spirits were further raised by the fact that I always carry extra pigging strings. At least I had somethingto use for a new set of reins to replace the ones I no longer had. Now, before I could get anything else done, I had to figure out how to get the calf tagged, or at least how to get my rope back. Riding back across the pasture, I found the calf, this time closely guarded by its mother.
The fence was only a few hundredyards away so I figured that if I could get thecalf close to the fence, I could get the end ofthe rope, climb through the fence and pullthe calf to me to get the rope off. Knowing that Spaz was probably going to run off again, he was going to have to be hobbled,which would give the calf time to get away from the fence. My first step was going to be regaining control of my rope.
Because the cow had already started moving the calf, I needed to ride down the rope far enough togive me time to jump off Spaz, grab the rope,and re-mount before the cow shoved me down a prairie dog hole.When I was about thirty feet from the calf, the cow turned around and charged. Spaz sounded the retreat and headed for home. Now this is one of several reasons why I pack sixtyfeet of poly.
Getting Spaz back on course, I came to within about forty feet of the calf. The mother turned around and started pawing the ground, and the calf stopped. Keeping Spaz between the old witch and me. I stepped offand got my rope. In a few short minutes I was at the fence.
Hobbling Spaz, I crawled through the fence and worked my way towards the calf, coiling my rope as I went. Sure enough, when Iwas within thirty-five feet of the calf, the cow came like a freight train. Luckily she stopped when she hit the fence and went back to her calf. I kept pulling the calf towards me with the cow bellerin, pawing, blowing snot, and running back and forth between the fence and the calf. Once I had the calf up to the fence, it was a simple task of removing the rope through a barbed wire fence while the cow was standing over it trying to get me through the fence. She almost succeeded too. The t post was bent and two wires broken by the time I released the calf. I had had enough holiday celebration for one day, and I decidedto come back out the next day on my personal horse so I could tie down the cow in order to tag the calf.
I located the old witch early the next morning, and true to form, she charged when I was within thirty feet of her. After her first charge, I backed off to thirty-five feet. As she was standing there pawing and bellerin, I built up a large loop and threw a hoolihand at her.The plan was to catch her head and a front foot so that I’d have a little better leverage on her as she out weighed old Whistledink by several hundred pounds.
Its great when a plan works,but this time it didnt. I had her caught, but bythe body. But at least I had her caught. Loping circles around her I managed to get her back legs tangled up, pitched some slack over he rhead and ever so slowly managed to get herdown. Taking one pigging string I tied her front feet over her head, then took a second string and tied her back feet together. Then I got myrope off her and tagged her calf.
Then it was time to put my rope on her back feet, stretc hher out and take off the pigging strings, hopingthat Whistledink would be able to hold her long enough for me to get mounted. The front end worked out pretty good, but when I started working on the back end, she gave a big flop and was up charging at my horse. Whistledink may be dumb, but he’s not stupid, and he also hates cows. He struck herin the head right before he wheeled aroundand let her have it with both barrels. She turned off, and he wheeled around and bit her for good measure.
She didnt want to have much to do with him after that so it wasnt hard to get up to her, heel her and have her down again. This time she stayed down long enough for me to get my pigging string off. The Flying P weighed and frame-scored all of the cows when they preg checked inthe fall. As I said, this was a big cow, and I wanted to know just how big, so I checked the records. She probably wasn’t the worlds biggest cow, but she did tip the scales at eighteen hundred and eighty pounds. That is a lot of beef trying to make lunch out of a guy on a holiday.
If you like this story and want the book it is available from Buckaroo Leather.