If you think you haven’t heard from me for a long while you’re right.
First of all we had our normal November round up, complicated this year by the fact that we had decided not to sell the calves in October due to the bad market prices, but took the advice of our sale barn owner to hold off until a super big sale on November 13th, when he had buyers coming from Texas and New Mexico. Apparently, they had had a good summer and so have lots of grass.
So we held off – but that of course made the round up just so much more complicated – poor Danny had a headache for a week trying to figure out how to sort cattle six different ways. We are blessed in that the ranch has a super set of cattle corrals, made of stout metal, with a well thought-out sorting alley and multiple pens and gates, but still, cattle are large and the pen space is finite. However, finally we did get it done, and on Wednesday, ranch trailers trundled to Willcox laden with sale steers and about 11 cull cows. At the last minute we held the heifers back, hoping that, in case the price was not all that good, we could sell them in the spring. If the lower desert gets some rain in early winter, the filaree, which is a great cattle feed, covers the low country and ranchers look for replacement heifers. Anyway – we got a reasonably good price for the steers and culls, and it looks as if the cattle part of the ranch will be more or less solvent for another year. Just consider that a ranch’s payday is only once a year – you work like a dog for 12 months, and then, within the space of about ten minutes at the sale barn, you find out your wages for a years’ work!
Some of you will be happy to read that among the cull cows this year was an evil blue roan named “My Blue Heifer”, who would chase strong men up corral fences and who could wilt us all by one look out of her mean little eyes and a shake of her head. When she was born, I admired her conformation, and said to Gerry that we should keep her as a breeding cow. Gerry, who liked any cow as long as she was Brangus and therefore black, said “No way – she’s off color, she’s for the sale”. But I did like her – so I told him that I wanted her as my wages for the year, and she was promptly named My Blue Heifer, and turned out with the rest. This improbable name stuck with her through many years, though there were some of the guest corral crew that called her Diablo instead – a name I must admit she lived up to with enthusiasm. She never missed a calf in 10 years – and she never missed being mean, though in the last year or so she became a bit more mellow. This fall we saw that she had lost an alarming lot of weight and we knew that her time was up – so she went to the happy hunting ground. I know there are many that won’t be sorry – but I am. She was a good marker cow – being as mean as she was, when you had her, you could be sure of having everybody else, because she was always the last to be gathered, the first to break out, the first to cause trouble. A good ranch cow….
I was happy that this year’s round up went off without injury, except that when a cow hit the trailer gate, poor Adam got slammed against the cattle scale, which didn’t do his ribs a bit of good. But apart from that, it was nothing like the fall round up of two years ago. Then, in one day – within 20 minutes – three of us got mashed. First of all Danny got roundly kicked by both back bovine hooves into both legs by a swiftly departing cow; then, minutes later, Adam somehow managed to lose control of the handle of the cattle chute which slammed him under the chin – a wonder it didn’t kill him, and lucky he didn’t have his tongue between his teeth… and then I, somewhat carelessly, got too close to the head of a horned cow caught in the chute head gate. She didn’t want me quite so close and with the speed of light slung her head into me so I flew back about six feet and slammed into the trunk of a tree, slid down it, sat hard on the ground and cracked my head against the trunk. A good time was not had by all, that year.
So to other news…..
I am in the middle of a spirited correspondence with the US Post Office. Firstly let me tell you that I have been engaged in a running battle with the local post master, who, in spite of the fact that we have been here for some 28 years, and who has a pretty small post office with a handful of post boxes, keeps on insisting that he cannot deliver a letter which does not have our post office box number on it. Seeing that we are the happy recipients of several tons of mail each week, most of it rubbish, and seeing that we are paying a big box fee as well as a little box fee so they can dump all that rubbish into them, you would think, wouldn’t you, that he would know our box number off by heart? Well, you would be wrong. For quite a while I kept getting the occasional letter addressed to the physical address with a notation scrawled across the envelope stating “Once again you have failed to notify your correspondents of your proper box number.” Yes, well, of course! I know exactly who, out of the 7 billion people in the world, is going to write to me next, no problem! And now he has taken to sending the letters back, recently all the way back to New York City, where, I am sure, the helpful post office pixies do look up box numbers!
So I wrote to Washington – and thereby started a whole new chapter of this comedy. I won’t bore you with the details – suffice it to say that, via several letters, Washington upheld the policy of the post master, quoting the fact that he had “new” workers there. Yes, one has been there a mere 6 months and the other 10 months – and in that time, I presume, neither learned to read so they could look up a post office box number! Finally the Washington correspondent and I worked our way down to the fact that, should I wish to send a letter, such as, for instance, a condolence card, to another member of my community, and I don’t have the box number, they will not deliver the letter … but wait for it! Here’s the Catch 22 – they will not tell you the box number, either! Why? Because that is against Post Office regulations!! So let me get this straight – without the number, they will not deliver it, but they cannot give you the box number if you ask for it, so they could deliver it. So I suppose what you do is to phone the bereaved spouse and ask him or her for their box number, as you wish to send them a condolence card! Is this beyond stupid!! Your government at work…..
Those of you who are enthusiastic team penners here at the ranch will be happy to know that the ’08 team penning cattle herd has gone down the road, and been replaced with no less than 19 second-calf young cows who will need a bit longer with the bulls than the rest of the herd, and who are therefore in a separate pasture. The program now is to gather their pasture first, get them into the corral and then proceed with the team penning, so that the whole enterprise teaches you quite a bit about cattle work. From our point of view, this is a great idea – because if you then wish to join us for one of the round ups, you will be an old hand at cattle work!
And I guess that, with the rest of the country, we had also suffered with the pre-election jitters – and now with the Wall Street toboggan ride – so that we seem to be either almost full, or almost empty. A very distressing state of affairs, shared, I think, with the rest of the hospitality industry – but, as I always think, inevitably the wheel turns and pretty soon you’re at the top again. And if not, then I may apply for a job at the Pearce post office. Seems like a nice way to pass the time!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great holiday season!!