As I said in my blog comment, I have now lots of time to invent new ways of doing things, and, accordingly, we decided to gather the cattle in the North Cochise, drive them to the corral, sort off the heifers which are going to be put into the Grapevine Headquarters – so much grass there, never fully utilized before because of the cross ranch traffic – and then drive the mother cows with babies to the Noonan Canyon pasture. An easy 2 hours’ work we said, as we set out about 10 am – a nice, comfortable time, well past the normal 6 am when we used to begin cattle gathers before the Grapevine days – and even a long time past the 9 am Grapevine time!! But – a 20 minute ride to the North Cochise, half an hour back, put them in the corral and bob’s your uncle! All done.
I imagine that the God of round-ups was listening and decided to teach us a lesson. First of all, the weather, which had been warm and lovely all winter, suddenly took a turn for the worse, and we almost froze, bundled up in jackets, hats and gloves – why is the weather always cold when you have to gather cows?? (I remember one round up so cold that Bonnie and I had to stuff our feet into plastic baggies to keep them from freezing solid in our boots.)
Next, we found a dead calf by the Middle gate, with the anxious momma standing guard over it. It looked teeny tiny, almost a preemie, and we felt so sorry for the cow. They always grieve so much, and you can’t console them.
We went on to join Kate who was helping us with the gather. Kate, I have to explain, is a great new addition to the crew. Cody, who lived at Grapevine as caretaker, left, and Kate applied for the job. She is a friend of Chet’s who used to wrangle at the ranch some years past, and, the moment I heard her voice on the phone, I liked her. She started work, and lo and behold! she is not only a good hand at maintenance, but is also an excellent cowboy, having worked at cattle ranches for many years, as well as having wrangled and given riding and cutting clinics – and she came fully equipped with dog Gus, and three horses.
Kate called as we were leaving the headquarters to say that she had found a cow halfway up a small hill near the Cochise Gate to the Grapevine, and the cow had had a calf – but, Kate said, the calf was so small that she doubted it would live. She said she had moved out all the other cattle that were near, so we told her to leave the pair there and we would take care of them later. We began moving the herd and, as we were almost to the Middle Gate, here comes the fool momma cow on the run – minus the calf! I guess she was afraid she was missing out on something good, the old fool – and, instead of staying with her baby, here she was, tail up in the air, doing a hundred to catch up.
We penned the herd and then drove back in the Polaris to find the baby. It took some doing in all that brush, but finally we found him, and, far from being weak and puny, he jumped to his feet and took off like a deer through the scrub. After some chasing, we finally managed to steer him towards Danny who snagged him in his arms on the jump, as it were, and took him, bleating and struggling, to the Polaris. He is smaller than dog Tuffy, and far thinner, a tiny, tiny baby – but a bull, and full of fight.
We put him into the corral, and after a lot of preliminary bawling on his part and a lot of sniffing on the part of the cows, his momma finally located him, and the last we saw, he was nursing. We decided to keep those two in the pen for a few days, as he is truly small enough for a hawk to pick up. Naturally, he was immediately named – Tiny Tim came to mind, and Tiny Tim he is!
So all this, of course, shot our day – far from being finished in a couple of hours, by the time we were done, it was time for lunch, and, after lunch, back on the horses to mop up a few stragglers in the Grapevine. Seeing as we had taken all this time fooling around, we decided to keep the cattle up for the night and sort them tomorrow, so now of course, we had to feed them … and, as we were making the last round with the Polaris, scattering hay, I saw a cow beginning to calve. Now, they all give birth unassisted, out there on the pasture, but you know that if you don’t check the one calving in the corral, she will have complications and die, and you will wish you had checked her, so guess what I am doing tonight?? Probably in the dark and the cold….. It may be as well that the wind storm we had last night messed up the television reception – so what else do I have to do?
This is a couple of days later. I tried to fix the TV with the help of a tech support person in Texas, who was very good, but after an hour of do this and try that, he decided to send a repair man out today. All of this talk had taken about an hour, so, by the time I made it out to the corral, it was dark. I took a flashlight, and became the belle of the ball. I guess the cows had never seen a flashlight before. I walked slowly through the herd, looking for the calving cow, and was almost engulfed by a herd of curious cattle, pushing, shoving, shuffling, snuffling, their wet noses reaching out almost to touch me, a forest of glowing eyes gleaming in the dark, totally surrounding me, totally fascinated.
Of course, I didn’t find her – but next morning, there she was, with a brand new calf, and later the same day, three more calved out there in the corral, all without my help and worry. But I will tell you this – if you are a compulsive worrier, there is no better place for you than a cattle ranch at calving time! Lots of good stuff to fret about, with dire consequences played and replayed in your head like a closed loop movie, escalating in horror each time round. And all the time, the cows are busily popping out their babies, without help or worry!So, the little round up took two days and finally, we’re all done. The young heifers – the B heifers, as we call them, last year’s babies – are safely out on the Grapevine headquarters, belly deep in grass, the mommas and little ones are out in the Noonan Pasture, and I feel good, having just come in from doctoring horse Chikala.
Chikala, you may remember, is my big black and white pinto from Canada, the Premarin rescue horse, and a sweeter tempered horse you have never met. That is, until you have to stuff some crushed sulfa pills mixed with molasses into his mouth. He developed a growth on the inside of his eye and we tok him to the veterinary hospital in Tucson. The thing proved to be a malignant growth which had to be excised – so, $800 later, here we are, with a clear eye and three days of medicating. One of the medicines is the molasses mix which Chikala resolutely refuses to take, and, seeing as he is about 16 hands high, he can get his head up higher than any of us can reach. Danny fought with this the last two days, but, today being his day off, I inherited the job. Suffice to say that I got the eye cream in his eye, I got the paste into him, but the sulfa finished up smeared on his mouth, on my hands, on my face, in my hair, and we did not part as friends. One more to do tonight and then we’re done.
But here’s a funny post script to all that sulfa-in-molasses drama. The last dose was such a fight, with molasses and sulfa everywhere but in Chikala’s mouth, that I got fed up and tried a totally new approach. I got some sweet feed, some oats, mixed them all together in Tequila’s feeder, which is sitting outside the tack room, and dumped the molasses and sulfa mess into it – and would you believe, Chikala gobbled it down double quick, and licked the whole dish afterwards, getting every last crumb of sulfa. Horses – always a surprise!! Could it be because he was getting it in Tequila’s feeder – therefore, in his horsy mind, getting something illegally, getting one up on Tequila? I can’t wait to tell Danny, who fought with this situation the two days before my turn came. Perhaps one should always try the obvious first?