The usual guest round up crew is gathering at the ranch, and in a few days the mountain pastures will be bare of cattle – all gates will be opened, and it will be possible to ride anywhere at all without that monumentally disagreeable necessity of having to dismount and fight a gate. Given that most of the ranch gates are made of wire stretched tight across the opening, hooked to the opposite post by another piece of short wire, it’s obvious that they are easy to open if you are the 1000 lb gorilla on the scene – but not so easy for a short person on a horse. (It’s an interesting thought that in Arizona, these kind of gates are called Texas gates – perhaps in Texas they are called Arizona gates? I agree with one of our cowboys from years back, who told me: “I call it a fam’bly gate….. ‘cause it takes the whole fam’bly to close it!”) And, every time I am struggling trying to close one, I am reminded of a lady Gerry once told me about. She was a Hungarian countess of considerable means, who owned a vast cattle ranch in Montana – and she had a proper gate that she could open from on horseback installed on every gatepost on that whole ranch! My kind of woman – not my kind of money, however. But now summer is here, and the gates will be but a memory for a whole six months.
I had a truly nasty experience the other day. About 10 am I walked into the kitchen to see how lunch was progressing, and, while chatting with the cook, saw a small piece of what looked like Mozzarella cheese lying on the cutting board. I’d had no breakfast, and the idea of a piece of cheese was very appealing, so, without asking (how rude is that!) I popped it in my mouth. WOW!! It was, in reality, a clove of garlic, evilly masquerading as a piece of Mozzarella … The second it hit my stomach, my insides rebelled – the pain was so acute I thought I’d swallowed a live coal. As fast as I could get it down I gobbled up some real cheese, several slices of which lay nearby. It did help some, but the pain I suffered was nothing compared to the pain I am sure I inflicted on the surrounding countryside, and all the people and animals within the reach of my breath! Truly evil. Jenny, our bookkeeper, kindly (or was it self defense?) ran to her car and brought back a collection of chewing gum and breath fresheners, but I ate lunch by myself, at a table well removed from the rest of the world. Doesn’t pay to be greedy, does it?But on to nicer things – as you could imagine, after all this rain, the countryside is exploding with acres of orange poppies – unfortunately, none of them on the Cochise Pasture, which I cross twice daily on my way to and from the office – perhaps the roots were all eaten up by the herd of cows we had in there last fall? Or perhaps, as we are higher, our poppies will bloom a bit later than the ones in the valley? I would like to think so – but here is a photo taken by Bonnie, of a field not far from her house.
Our Cow Camp went extremely well, and the participants, some of whom are graduates of last year’s Cow Camp, pronounced it to be much better, and said they learned a lot more yet. Well, that’s the meaning of education, isn’t it – you are meant to learn more as you go along … and I would believe it, as Butch, our Barn Boss and Cow Camp guru in charge, is not only good with the cows, but is also a genius at making all kinds of cowboy knots, useful for the making of halters, lead lines, and what all else – so the happy crew spent quite a bit of time sitting at his feet, learning to knot. One of our wranglers, Donny, is also a master of the art, tying his wild rag around his neck in a square knot, a most evil contraption (which I am sure I couldn’t tie if my life depended on it), and he instructed them in that particular art. Privately I thought it was a wonder they didn’t hang themselves with all those ropes! The sorting and penning also went well, and as for the roping, I am glad that some of these people are here to help us this week during round up – one, a medical doctor from the UK, roped four cows in succession – a great job, to be sure, for a rookie cowboy!
So that’s it for today – tomorrow we begin our gather, and we’ll be up early to ride out before the calves brush up for the day – and so our year continues…..