Days Of Our Ranch Lives

Dear Friends,

I have just re-read your comments, and so am encouraged to rave on some more about the lovely summer we’re having.

Rain in the desert!First of all, about two weeks ago, we had a veritable downpour at Grapevine – and so strange are the weather patterns here, that over at my house in the next canyon, scarcely a mile away as the crow flies, we had a nice, non-damaging, drenching rain of 1.20 inches, while at Grapevine down it came at the rate of almost 3 inches in about an hour. Even though I am always thinking that you can’t have too much rain (and I am sure that people living in the hurricane parts of the country would probably like to kick me) this was almost too much, too fast. Everything got washed out, and Adam and his crew worked valiantly to effect some repairs, only to have it all wash out again a couple of days later!

Rain at Grapevine Canyon Ranch!But the pay off is spectacular!! Grass is waving tall even in places where I had never seen grass, all the tanks (ponds) are full to overflowing, and the Lake behind the house is still filling from the mountain run off, bigger than it’s been for years. I can’t give you any photos of it, as my camera unaccountably died and I am getting a new one on Wednesday, but I do have photos of the downpour at Grapevine, and here they are!! A sight to soothe the soul. There are so many wildflowers out there that whole areas are sheets of one color or another – and it is fascinating to see how tiny most of the desert flowers are, obviously to lower the rate of evaporation. They are almost better seen when walking as against from a horse – a profusion of color and beauty.

Oh the shear joy of rain in the desert!I rode Tequila out into the canyon yesterday and, as always, took the dogs. We went, first of all, to the Spooky tank, and to my satisfaction it is so full that you have to wade through the edge of it if you want to ride on to the Gap Trail. I admired, then turned and rode across the dam to the Rock Gate, intending to go further into the Noonan Canyon . The dogs, however, didn’t follow, and I could hear distant, excited barking. No response to the whistle, so nothing for it but to lope back and find them. There they were, on the other side of the wet stuff, of course, up a steep and nasty rocky hill, each barking excitedly at opposite ends of a big boulder, which, I am sure, housed some unhappy, terrified little animal. No response to calling – I don’t think they even heard me! Nothing for it but to wade through the water, and then encourage Tequila to teeter hoof by hoof on this nasty rocky incline, till I was looming over them. I really think this was the first time they registered that I was even there. Finally I managed to call them off. I bet that rock squirrel, which was probably the likely occupant of that rocky hollow, was glad to see me come!

Rain in the desert!But is there anything as good as the life my dogs lead! Run in this wild, open country, go swimming in the tanks, harass little animals who are minding their own business, and then, as a matter of fact, come in and share their person’s house, not to say bed at times – I mean, isn’t that doggy heaven? My veterinarian told me once that the valley is full of animals lining up to be rescued by me. At last count, the current residents are – my two dogs (both rescues), two donkeys, one a gift and the other a definite, abused rescue, three retired horses, and of course, my own three, who spend a lot of their time snoozing, eating and thinking up devilment. And then there are also two sheep, eight elderly goats, and two pet cows who were hand raised from calf hood and who therefore share in this Elysium, albeit they do produce calves. But what better than to be surrounded by four footed friends!

The other day our tech. support, Elaine , called me to her desk. “Look at this!!” she said, and slowly and carefully opened an almost empty drawer. Behind on old notebook, on a nice bed of shredded paper, was a mama mouse with several baby mouslings enjoying their breakfast. Amazingly, the mouse didn’t run – she looked at us trustingly with shiny, beady eyes and twitched her cartoon like, pointed little nose, but kept on feeding her babies. Slowly we closed the drawer and debated what to do – we don’t want to get the office infested with mice (and I wonder how she got in there in the first place!) but killing someone so trusting and lovely just isn’t in my book. For a couple of days we debated how to trap them so that the momma didn’t run away, and then one day I opened the drawer – and it was empty! Elaine explained later that the mouse had moved her family to a lower floor of her condo – the drawer below – and somehow, the girls were able to pick her up and put her and the babies into a shoe box. They cut a door in the shoe box, and took it outside, where they placed it carefully under a thick and thorny bush. May she raise her family there in peace – but may she never come back to the office!!

We had our August cattle gather the other day, and in all my 35 years of ranching I have never encountered cattle so unwilling and so disruptive. When we bought this ranch, some 20 years ago, the cattle then on it had never been made to do anything – if they didn’t want to drive, they were let go, if they wanted to run off, nobody brought them back, and so they had grown exceedingly willful. We had hell for the first few years, gathering, driving and penning them. One round up we had ridden for days getting everything in, but had not found a few bulls. That evening we put the cattle into a holding pasture. During the night, the missing bulls found the herd, and then the bulls inside had a great battle with the bulls outside, tore up the fence, the whole herd escaped, and had to be gathered again. Those were crazy days. I remember one year chasing seven wild heifers, trying to outrun and turn them, when suddenly over my horse’s neck I saw looming a deep ditch. I thought I was a goner – but at the last possible second Comanche gathered himself up and sailed over it – and hit the ground so hard on the other, somewhat higher side, that everything not attached to me fell off – my hat, sunglasses, pen, notebook – all scattered out in the grass. I guess I must have gone back for the stuff later, but all I remember of that day was that wild chase and Comanche’s quick reaction. There probably is a special guardian angel looking after cow people and cow horses!!

Since those years the cattle have got a lot quieter – generations of them have been born here, they know the routine, they know where to go, and round ups now are relatively civilized – except this one! Not that the cattle were wild, but they didn’t want to drive, they broke out of the herd and tried to run off, they hid in bushes and in the grass, they lollygagged along, they turned back, they stopped to eat, and they were generally most uncooperative. Finally we got them into the corral gate – and of course, found that not only were we missing about twenty cows, but we had also missed about four bulls, and getting these in was one of the main points of this exercise.

So – nothing for it but to go out again. We rode for over five hours that first morning, and rode some more in the afternoon – and the next day, and the next, until finally we had all the cows, and all the bulls but one. This one turned out to be Ferdinand, so named because he is a bit of a wuss. He is a loner, he doesn’t mix with the other bulls at all (though he does get with the program with the cows!), and he is almost always around the Black Tank by the Grapevine Gate. So we thought, that’ll take about an hour, and we’re done! We had by then separated out the other bulls and penned them, and sprayed the cows for flies and turned them out again, because to keep them in for the best part of a week and feed them hay just isn’t in the realm of possibility. But, we thought, Ferdie will be by the gate and it’ll be easy.

Ah yes – but we didn’t figure on the heady wine of being the only bull in the pasture with all those cows!! Ferdie was not to be found – he wasn’t in his usual haunts, he wasn’t by the tanks, he had disappeared. Tantalizingly, from time to time he was seen by various staff members here and there, but by the time we got there horseback, he had vanished, lost amongst the mesquite trees and tall grass in over 7 sq.miles. And all this time we couldn’t turn out the young heifers, who had spent three months in a feed lot, safe from bulls and a too early breeding, and who were costing me an arm and a leg for feed and keep. At the end of a week of riding, we finally nailed Ferdie – at the far south fence, nicely snuggled under a mesquite tree, surrounded by a throng of admiring cows. Getting him in was an effort by itself – he didn’t see why he should abandon this newly discovered life of love and freedom, and it took three of us to get him in – finally!

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5 Responses to Days Of Our Ranch Lives

  1. CONNIE KEYES says:

    Hey Eve, you write so well i could picture the round up in my head. Glad to see you got all the rain, we need it so bad here in Indiana. It’s only been a month since I was there and am ready to come back. I am so looking forward to Janurary, my heart and good memories are truely in Arizona. Take care enjoy the green and rain! Your new place is so Beautiful! love to all connie

  2. Judi Svrga says:

    Dear Eve,
    I totally agree with Connie from Indiana…You have such a beautifully descriptive way with the pen! You really should consider writing another book…Adventures at Grapevine! I do hope you’ll be able to take some photos of all the wildflowers! It’s been so dry here in Ohio also, but tonight we got a bit of much needed rain! Of course it happened to come just as we were sitting down to supper on the deck..hahaha!!! Nature needs a good laugh too! Take care..Love, Judi

  3. Eve says:

    Hi Connie and Judi – glad you enjoyed my round up report!! And I would love to write a book about our experiences over the years, but unfortunately I didn’t keep a diary!! and so have forgotten so much of what happened – it just has to be triggered in my brain in some way and then it surfaces, but as to remembering, no way!!
    It has rained and rained – of course, as always in Arizona, it’s a downpour and then blue sky, and, nice for us, often this year it has rained in the night, so it’s lovely to wake up to a wet and dewy morning but not have it interfere with the rides.
    And photos – yes – I bought a new camera and as soon as I tame it, I’ll post some pictures – you will not believe the size of the Lake!

  4. Michael Edwards says:

    Come to Scotland, you will not be short of rain, you will just develope web feet!

  5. Eve says:

    Maybe we’ll go via that tunnel you’re digging, Michael!!

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