The cow business has a long history of profit and loss and this little story is a small example of this illusive pursuit. I never did name one unique individual of a bovine brute, can’t tell you why, just wasn’t ever a thought. I was too busy trying to figure out a way to get her in the pen.
There wasn’t anything outstanding about this particular cow at first, but as time went on I could recognize her as far as I could see her. She knew the minute I entered into her world which was as far as she could see. Her world consisted of five different ranches but she had our brand on her. It wasn’t her fault that she was so hard to gather, but it took me some time to understand why.
There were just two reasons; nobody had taken time to do the job right and nobody with any experience had been in charge. I stepped into the picture with no warning. I just needed a job. I went to work on over 200 head of cows that hadn’t been in the pen in a long time because of the two small details I just mentioned.
I still wasn’t able to make many changes but I was excited about the job and was ready to get started. The job was to gather the cattle, sell all non-producers, brand and sell all marketable cattle and put things back on a beef producing program.
The ranch was a good one with lots of grass capable of running lots of cattle, but I don’t think that a single calf had been shipped off this ranch in a couple years. I sure was anxious to show the boss how to turn this deal around so I got started right away. I left the house early the first morn with pick-up, horse and trailer, several cow-dogs, rope, gun and lots of sacks of feed. I was off to check out these illusive grass balers.
I had known the history on some of the cows, as a good friend had sold them to the rancher. My friend had the same ranch leased a couple years prior and sold his cows when he lost the lease.The new owner bought the cows along with the ranch. I knew that these cows were a good set of cows at one time back when my friend owned them. I knew he had a good handle on them, and I figured with a couple of feeding sessions they would be ready to start their new management program.
I found a nice bunch of the cows soon after leaving the house and started honking them to the feed sack. My old buddy loved to cake his cows and I never saw a cow forget a feed sack, no matter how long it had been since she had been fed. Sure enough, with a little coaxing, they came trotting right up to the pick-up.
As I was getting a feed sack out of the back, I was surveying the herd surrounding the pick-up and was tickled to see so many maverick cattle of all ages.They ranged from babies to five and six year old cows and bulls. One steer weighed a ton at least, and I didn’t have a clue how old he was.The cattle acted most considerate and were sure eyeing the feed sack.
I started out with a sack pouring feed on the ground, and most of the cattle were following right along. At the back of the herd was a full grown bull pushing his way through the crowd; he was sure upset at being so far from the feed sack.
I was feeling good about all these cattle knowing about the feed routine because with a little repeating of this exercise I could start coaxing them into the coral. My new job on this outfit was a good one, but the “crew” was to consist of only me and the dogs. Some might think I was a little short handed, but all was good by me.
I was tickled to see this many cattle taking to the feed sack. It made my job just that much easier; I was excited and sure counting my blessings. Then the bull hooked the feed sack out of my arms and just barely missed ripping my jacket clean off my back. Suddenly, the lunch break turned into a foot race.
Mr. Bull wasn’t satisfied with hogging all the feed; he wanted a piece of me too. It was the first time I had ever seen a bovine take offense at being fed. I managed to beat him back to the truck but he didn’t give me time to get inside so I beat it to the other side of the pick-up. O’l Mr. Bull was right with me at the corner. I was amazed at his speed, agility and determination to catch me.
With the second trip around the pick-up and trailer I could see the dogs all watching me like, “Why don’t you get up in here with us? It’s a lot safer!” But I didn’t have time to load, I was too busy running and this bull wasn’t losing interest in the chase.
About the umpteenth trip around the pick-up and trailer I managed to cut between at the hitch point. The bull couldn’t get through so I went over the tailgate, across the bed and was able to climb through the window into the cab of the truck. I wished he would have gotten himself stuck between the two as I would have driven off with him lodged up.
Well after this turn of events, I’d lost some of my composure and decided to use a few of my heavier persuasion methods. I unloaded the dogs and instructed them to teach these disrespectful cake eaters a thing or two. I then unloaded my horse and watched the dogs school on those little darlings. I already had made one mistake and now came number two; I’d unloaded my horse too quickly.
The dogs didn’t have time to properly school on the cattle and get control. There were a few too many cattle for the puppies to overwhelm with me putting even more pressure on the situation by mounting my horse.
These cattle were used to running when they caught sight of a man horseback. The dogs were doing their best but I had overloaded the situation and a number of the cattle managed to slip away. There wasn’t any use in me trying to bring them back. The dogs had their hands full. I thought it best to stay and help them as the cattle weren’t dog broke and they were serious about fighting the dogs.
I noticed that the bunch that got away was being led by a black motley-faced cow that was middle aged. She had a nice bunch of younger cattle following her and most looked to be all maverick cattle.
I continued to sit still and watch. Finally the puppies were getting the upper hand and I called them off to water them at a close water trough while I let the cattle think things over. After letting everyone cool off, I surveyed my herd and was surprised to see Mr. Bull was still in the bunch. Here again, my ambitions took over my judgement.
I thought it would be nice to pen this bunch at the house. I sure had shipping plans for O’l Mr. Bull. So I started out moving the cattle towards the house and the corals. They sure were ready to move. I was glad we were in such suitable country for dogs and horses but here is were I got another lesson on how these cattle reacted to a man and horse; run full steam from the man and horse in any direction.
It was a good thing we weren’t too far from the house corals. I was sure short on dogs and horse when we finally got everyone inside the pen. It was a full blown charge into the corals and once inside, those cattle were sure surprised. By the way they looked, I don’t think they had ever been penned before.
I slammed the gate with great relief and realized I might have been a bit optimistic when I took on this task. I went to the house and let everything settle while I gathered another plan.
It’s a good thing I didn’t have a contract deadline on the project. I finished working this bunch by branding the good keeper heifers and cutting the shippers into another pen. There were a lot more shippers than keepers as I didn’t want to turn out anything that was going to be a problem to gather later.
I had to make sure everyone was dog broke and gentle to handle for man and horse. I didn’t even give Mr. Bull a chance to see if he wanted to be nice. He went directly into the shipping pen without passing go or collecting $200.
The black motley-faced cow that got away with her crowd I will name here because she turns out to be a main character in this adventure that will take me several stories to complete. “Sweet Thing” comes to mind right now, but I am sure she will be called several other interesting names before I get through.
To be continued…