August 14, 2011

Another Fall Ranching Season Begins

And so begins another Fall season of cattle work - one of the best times of the year. Awoke at 4:30 AM to a million watt moon that lit my way to the old log barn. Henry was finishing up his oats when I walked into his 'dressing room' backstage to get him saddled up. Loaded Flaxy and Henry into the trailer and Lyle drove us to the 'location' for the day's scene. Beautiful drive as the sun was thinking of rising to our left while the enormous moon was glowing pink and setting to our right. It all felt scripted as if the sun and moon had rehearsed their timing. I felt keenly aware of soaking up every minute of it all as we arrived at the Pines Corral on the old Double X Ranch to join the rest of the 'cast' and crew to begin our day.

A small crew of cowboys headed out on a sunrise ride - Chris Elwood, Baxter Badure, Al Badure, Lyle O'Bryan, Charlie Fortune, Joe Pavlis, Colter Carlson and myself. We trotted a few miles through tall lush green grasses (a rare sight in November) to a distant pasture. Cowboys spread out to the back of the pasture to gather several hundred red cows. Baxter, Charlie, and I stopped at the edge of the pasture and looked down and out across an adjoining Badlands pasture - making for a grand view from the saddle. Once gathered, we strung the pairs through a gate and trailed them back to the corrals under an endless sky - all the while feeling like I was riding in a John Ford movie scene - being followed by a cameraman on a dolly. My mind wanders from the cinematic daydream to the reality of the work I am doing as I ride along side the herd pushing them onward.

Penned the pairs and started the choreographed work of sorting the cows off the calves - horses and cowboys working in a sort of rhythm - holding the calves back while funneling the cows out the gate. Ran the calves through the alley and gave them their fall shots along with pirate-like patches for a few with pink eye. Then ran the cows through and poured them and reunited them with their calves - (roll heart warming soundtrack).

Trailing the herd back was equally as picturesque with an epic view from the back of the herd. We counted the cows and calves through the final gate - turning them back out to graze. Rode the few miles back to the corrals listening to stories along the way along with the sound of jingling spurs, horses trotting and their hooves moving through the tall grasses. Ended with lunch on the prairie. (roll ending credits) ... Another long glorious take to add to the 'reel' of memories from my last eight years here.

(the photo is from the same work done on the same ranch back in 2005 - photographed from horseback with Noblex 120 (film) camera "Putting Pairs Back out to Pasture on the Old Double X"- from the series
My Ranching Life - Archival Pigment Print 20" x 48") ©JEAN LAUGHTON