I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this with as much enthusiasm as I feel in my heart about the news, but Little Sister has recently moved back to the area to work as a teacher in a neighboring town.
My built-in-best-friend is now my neighbor and I couldn’t be happier. And even though our lives are currently in two completely different states of chaos, when we get together it seems like we do a pretty good job of zoning out everything else in the world and concentrating on the things that matter.
Like the movie she watched last night, the new boots I’m thinking of buying, what we should drink for happy hour and how we are going to pull off the next waterballoon ambush on Husband. The first and second were not so successful.
I heard third time’s a charm and we’re counting on it.
Anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to confess here the level of worthless we are when we get together. And nothing exemplifies our incapabilities more than when we so generously volunteer to help our father move cows in the early morning and then linger in the house just long enough over a cup of coffee, a piece of toast, Little Sister’s missing boot and the a.m. hairdo I can’t fit under my hat for Pops to get out the door, up the road and into the barnyard to locate our saddles, sort out our bridals, catch our horses and assume the position of waiting patiently while he listens to our jabbering as we finally make it out of the house and to the barn to meet him.
Pops is patient. He’s had to be out here in the wild buttes of Western North Dakota surrounded by girls. Sometimes I wonder if his life on the ranch as a father would have been a little easier if he would have had a few boys tossed in the mix. But he’s never once complained and you gotta love him for it. Pops is just grateful for the help, even when his help is riding a half a mile behind him talking over how weird it would be if we rode cows instead of horses as he works to keep the herd from the black hole that is the brush patches in the hot 10 a.m. sun.
We were supposed to be out there much earlier you see, but we were a little late because Little Sister and I had to finish watching the story about Michael Phelps on the Today Show. By the time we made it to the barn to meet Pops he was deep in the middle of a nasty battle with Husband’s horse who decided over the summer to become wild and un-catchable. We sat in the tack room for a few minutes before we realized that perhaps the stampede of horses and Pops’ cursing coming from the other side of the hill indicated that perhaps he could use our assistance.
Because we really are a lot of help, with one of us ducking, swatting and screaming at anything that resembles a bee and the other one tripping over anything that resembles the ground.
A half-an-hour later we got the damn horses in and took a moment while Pops assessed the sweat dripping down his back and we assessed the bur situation tangling in the manes of our beautiful horses.
A girl cannot be seen on a horse with a bur situation.
Three gallons worth of Show Sheen, two curry combs, seven curse-word combinations and another half-hour later we had the hair situation under control.
And once we got past the missing reign situation, the stirrup situation and the fly spray situation we were finally on our way to moving some cows in the heat situation.
Little Sister hates the heat.
She’s also the one, if you didn’t guess it, who hates bees, or anything that looks like it might belong to the bee family.
Anyway, the rest of the roundup went something like this:
Girls: “Where are we chasing them? Which gate? That gate? Where are you going? What? I can’t hear you?”
Pops: “Just stay there, I’ll head up over the hill to look for more then we’ll move them nice and easy.”
Me: “I think we missed one. Should I go and get it?”
Little Sister: “Should I come with you? I should probably come with you. I’ll come with you…eeeek! A bee…I hate bees…eeeeeeeekkkkkk.”
Pops (as he races through the brush and up the hill): “Just stay there!!! Girls! Stay there! I’ve got it!!!”
Little Sister: ”I’ve never really liked chasing cows…I mean, I like it when things go well, like we can just ease them along, but they start going the wrong way and it stresses me out.”
Me: “Ooo, chokecherries.”
Little Sister: “Where’s dad. Maybe we should go find him. Should we take these cows with us?”
Me: “Oh, yeah. We should get going.”
Little Sister: “I think my horse runs weird. Look at him. Does he look like he runs up hills weird?”
Me: “That horse is weird. Look at his hair. He reminds me of you.”
We finally catch up with Pops who is behind twenty-five head of cows and their calves.
Little Sister and I have brought along four, who are currently headed toward the wrong gate on the wrong side of the creek.
Me (hollering across the pasture to Pops): “Oh, there you are. We couldn’t find you. We’ve got these here…thought we were going to the other gate…”
Pops (hollering from behind the twenty-five head of cattle and their calves he’s just moved through a half-mile brush patch on his own): “No problem, actually you’re going to have to turn them or leave them because they’ll never make it across the creek and through the trees…”
Me (running toward my small, straying herd who are eyeing a brush patch) “Oh shit, oops. I’ve got em. Sorry. Wasn’t paying attention.
Little Sister: “Do you think my horse runs weird?”
Pops: “I think you’re horse is just fat…Jess, you’re never going to get them. Just leave them. I’ll get them later.”
Me, hollering to Little Sister: “Whhhattt? Whhhattt did hee sayyyy?!! Ask him? Should I leave them???”
Little Sister, hollering to Pops: “DAAAADDD, SHOULD SHE LEAVE THEM?”
Pops, hollering to Little Sister: “Yess, ssheeee ssshhoullld lleeave them!!”
Littile Sister, hollering to me: “HEEE SSAAAYSS LEEAAVEE THEM!”
I leave them and point my horse in the direction of Little Sister, who has now decided her stirrups are still too long.
We meet up behind Pops’ herd and discuss the matter while we walk with the cows toward the gate. But our conversation about leg length is interrupted as we hear Pops calling from the fence line and turn to notice our herd is heading toward the trees again.
“Girls, I need you to actually CHASE them.”
“Slap”, a branch hits me across the face as I manage to distract the lead cow from her destination and back toward the gate.
The rest of the herd follows and we proceed to do the same.
Pops informs us we’ll just push them over the next hill…
Five giant hills and three miles later we’re on the opposite end of the pasture where the stock dam is located and where Pops had intended to lead us all along.
Little Sister has melted and seriously considers joining this cow for a swim while I scope out any signs of wild plums and wait for Pops’ next move.
It appears that it’s toward home, so we follow along as he thanks us for the help and stops to take our picture.
He said he couldn’t do this alone.
We argued that he probably could.
He argued that it wouldn’t be as much fun.
And we all had to agree as we moved slowly across the pastures turning gold in the late summer sun, happy to be together out here again with the burs, and the chokecherries, the sun and even the bees.
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