September 12, 2012

On the Quarter Circle XL Today

This scene, from a vintage postcard, is pretty much what today looked like on the ranch. Living life, as if in a vintage photograph, can be quite interesting.

My ranching partner and I did a little late branding today. Or, since we already did some late branding last month, maybe this was more like a late late branding - like the late late movies of yore. Our crew consisted of two cowboys instead of four.  First we built our fire from scratch - chopping up a piece of cedar into fine pieces for kindling - then once that was burning - adding more wood to get the fire hot. When the fire was ready, I started roping the big ol' calves and drug them down. Then, Lyle, my 78 year old ranching partner, stepped in to pull them over and tied up their front legs while I held onto the back legs with my dally - like the photograph above. If I only caught a single 'hocker' he would take my loop off, quickly, while I undallied - to place it around both hind legs then I would dally again and stretch the rope out tight. With only a small group in the pen, they got to running a bit,  so I didn't always get them by both back legs - although I should have. And once, there was most likely a world record set in between catches - giving cowboy and cattle time to reflect - ha ha. While I held on to the back legs and stayed dallied - Lyle ear marked, vaccinated, cut the steers (or soon to be steers) and branded. When that was all finished, he untied the front feet and I undallied and gave the rope slack and, voila, the calf stepped out of my loop ready to head back out to pasture and not be bothered again. Good to be getting the later bunch vaccinated to keep them all healthy as it has been a hot dry summer.

One calf was pretty hefty and would have been quite a struggle to wrastle down with one guy - so we got him by the head and heels. Since I really didn't relish the possibility of sitting somewhat helplessly atop my pony while dallied onto a giant calf and watching my partner get trampled like one other time. So ... Lyle rode in ahead of me - I guess to give me some competition - threw a loop and got a double hocker (of course) - I rode in and threw a loop around it's head and we stretched it tight so that it laid down. Here you can see a well trained ranch horse in action - Lyle was tied on hard and fast, like all old time cowboys do, and he stretched his rope tight with his horse staying in position to keep it tight - next he took his bridle reins and tied them around Henry's neck and over the rope - he then stepped off to brand and vaccinate while I kept hold on the opposite end of the calf. If the calf moved and the rope got slack - Henry, without rider, stepped back to keep it tight while Cody and I did the same on our end. At this point, I was wishing I had a camera mounted on my hat so I could document this real cowboy moment - but probably best to just pay attention to what was going on - as I do like having all ten of my fingers.

For all you cowboys out there - this will be old news - but for any greenhorns -  thought you might enjoy a description of this morning's work on the ranch. Working with an old time cowboy sure keeps me on my toes and keeps me from doing things the easy way. Today reminded me of the 'old days' when I first started working on the ranch and Lyle and I branded the entire herd by ourselves. That would have been my first semester in cowboy college. Fond memories and a renewed appreciation of what I get to do out here. ©JEAN LAUGHTON