Having a herd of cows can cause you some worries, like when it doesn’t rain, or when they climb through the fences and take up camping six miles away on the local golf course, or at any one of a million other times – but sometimes they sure give you a good laugh!
Our first time heifers have begun to calve and that is always a time of concern, in case one of them should have a difficult birth out there on the mountain, and we lose her or the calf. So I was not happy when Phil rode in the other day and said he had seen a heifer, number 808, who looked as if she had lost her calf, and, what was more, had not “cleaned out” – meaning that the afterbirth had not come out all the way, and was hanging around her hocks – a case for potential trouble. I sighed – for sure she would have to be herded into the corral, and given some treatment … and then there was the lost calf. Where was it? Had it been born dead, had something eaten it up? A nasty idea any way you cut it.
And so I was pleased when I heard that Barn Boss Sarah and guests Anita and Rachel, while out on a ride, had come across #808 and that they proposed to bring her into the corral for medicating. Sarah was riding a big mare called Sophie, a cross between a Quarter horse and a Percheron, big and stout and over 16 hands tall, the other two were similarly well mounted, and all three are good riders.
And I was doubly pleased when Sarah phoned me a bit later and said “Guess what! We found the calf!” And so it was. The cow, whom they found near Dead Calf Tank, just on the West Noonan side of the fence, had refused to move, kept circling back, finally rooted around in some bushes …. and flushed out the calf! Joy! – everyone was more than happy, and the girls began driving the pair towards the ranch.
Of course, things didn’t go smoothly. The cow was definitely disgruntled and very much on the prod. She didn’t want to move the calf, and she was sure that traveling all the way to the corrals was not something that was on her agenda for the day. Once through the gate to the East Noonan, in an effort to hide, she dived into a hollow below the dam, a place chock-a-block full of dead weeds and cockleburs – and Sarah had to go in after her. Immediately, of course, her mare, Sophie, got covered head to foot in the darn things, fetlocks, tail, mane, body – you name it. The cow kept ducking behind bushes, kept losing the calf, kept circling back, kept trying to charge the horses, and finally decided that enough was enough, and lunged at Sophie, slamming her in the chest. Now Sophie is a willing cow horse, but a 1,000 lb cow ramming her wasn’t something that she had signed up for. She whirled in a 180 degree turn, jumping at the same time and unseating Sarah, who decided that, seeing she was close to the ground anyway, it was easier to let go than to claw her way up there again, and lit down among the cockleburs. The cow, sensing victory, now turned on Anita and her horse, but he, wise to the ways of cows, danced out of harm’s way. Sarah caught up Sophie, climbed back on board, and, both of them looking like characters from a cartoon, bristling with cockleburs and twigs, gathered up the cow and calf and soldiered on. They struggled down the Stagecoach Road toward the ranch, with the cow ducking off into the wash, turning back, trying to charge them….. but finally, bit by bit they came close to the ranch gate.
About a quarter of a mile out the cow had had enough. The calf was tired, and she was cross, and she saw no earthly reason why she should go any further. She sulled up and stopped dead in her tracks. Sarah saw the gate beckoning and did her best to move things along, but the cow, now getting seriously discontented, suddenly lost what little was left of her patience, and charged at Sophie again – who, having by now a good dose of respect for that cow, whirled out of the way.
Just then Danny and Phil, having seen something of the commotion, came up on the Polaris to help, probably thinking that three women, after all …. what can they do, we’d best give a hand. Danny, who’s pretty wise to the ways of cattle, brandished a big stick, and did so prudently from near a big mesquite bush, but Phil, stout of heart, remained in the open. The cow, seeing another adversary on the horizon, left Sarah and Sophie, swapped ends, and with a bawl lunged at Danny, who threw the stick at her and then nimbly ducked behind the tree.
Phil was made of sterner stuff – swishing around a stick of his own, he advanced on the cow, which, having disposed of Danny, now turned with murder in her heart and charged at him. Phil did his best, but those little red eyes and slobbering muzzle coming at him with the speed of sound did him in – he abandoned ideas of turning her, and instead he himself turned swiftly, pitched away the stick in order to be more limber, and legged it down the trail as fast as his long legs would carry him. He was a bit hampered in this, Sarah tells me, in that he had filled his pockets with rocks intended as weapons against the cow, and these were impeding his speed, but he built to it stoutly and vanished down the trail with the cow breathing down his neck and gaining by the second. He managed to reach the gate and vault through it with more agility than grace …. And the event was over. Sarah said she hadn’t enjoyed cattle work so much ever in her life before…
Oh yes, and through all this exercise, the cow lost the afterbirth and, as the saying is, “cleaned out”, so as of this moment, she and her calf are still out there, in the wrong pasture, but nobody is showing much enthusiasm in bringing them through the gate.
I wonder if that cow may be a descendant of a cow I once owned, who was an evil minded piece of work, born of an equally evil mother. She was nasty, even as a calf, and she was also what Gerry called ”off color” meaning she wasn’t black like the rest of the herd, but a sort of brindle gray. Consequently he wanted to sell her – but I liked her conformation, if not her temper, and I held out for her to be my ranch wages for the year. So we kept her – I called her My Blue Heifer and she lived with us for some 12 years, producing a calf every year …. but jumping fences, living free, terrorizing us at round up, putting many a good man up a fence …
I think we may have another such with us now!