Sometimes we have to bring the cows home.
This is what that looks like…
when it takes a little longer than planned to get them there.
And this is what it looks like in the morning waiting for the rest of the crew to come and help finish the job.
These are all words for moving cows home, although I can’t say we wear out the last very often.
I should start though. Cow Punchin’ sounds cool and retro and as you know, that’s the image I strive for.
Well, something like that, but anyway…cow punchin’ is my favorite task on the ranch. I like the idea of gathering everything up in a big black mass of bellering and creaking and munching from all across the Veeder Ranch acreage. I like to make a big swoop of the place, riding alongside the cowboys, loping up to hilltops, opening gates and following behind a nice steady stream of marching cattle on a well worn path.
I like the crisp air and the way my bay horse moves under me, watching and knowing and doing a better job of anticipating a cow’s move than I ever could.
I like the dogs and how they work as our partners in pushing the bovines forward, seeking approval and a little nip at the heels of the slow ones.
I like the way voices carry off into the hills and the conversations and curse words that come up when we’re all out in the world on the backs of horses.
I like how anything can happen and that anything always means a good portion of the herd will head for the thick brush and I will eventually have to go in there, no matter how many hats, mittens and chunks of hair have come to their final resting places among the thorns.
Or how many thorns have come to their final resting place in my legs.
This week was no exception: wool cap in the trees, tree in my hair, thorn in my leg.
Sounds about right.
Sounds just fine.
Because this is what it looks like when the cows come home in the light of day.
And no matter how many years pass, how many trucks hit their breaks on the way by or how many power lines or pipelines or oil wells cut through the once raw land. No matter the fact that some cowboys carry cell phones now and that I might hear one ringing in the trees below me, roundup always throws me back to the long held tradition of cattle ranching and care taking.
Because no matter what, horses and saddles and riders and neighbors and good dogs still work best to get the job done.
And technology can never save a rancher from the occasional necessity of standing in shit all afternoon.
No. In this line of work, some things just will not change.
And so I tell you my friends, if there is anything in the world that brings me peace…
it’s the roundup.