Before I get too far into this epistle, take a look at the photo of my two starvelings – “Is it feeding time yet??” Doesn’t that break your heart? They remind me of that character in the Dickens novel (Oliver Twist, wasn’t it?) who, at some meal time or other went up to the front of the refectory holding up his bowl to the stern master, hoping for a second helping.
But – to get on with this, I can hardly believe that so much time has passed and no blog – so here are the reasons!
First of all, of course, round up, which took place, as always, early this month. My left arthritic knee has been so bad that I have to wear a brace and, coupled with a bum back, I often need a crutch to walk with – so I wondered how the branding would be. I thought perhaps I might be the first cowperson to be branding on a crutch – but luckily, the body decided to cooperate and I was able to get by without – but undoubtedly, as I often think nowadays, young was better!
We branded 72 calves with lots more to come later, but we had three excellent ropers and the work went fast. The star of the day was undoubtedly Steve from the UK, who comes every year, and who had been diligently practicing at home, roping a bucket. He did so well with the bucket that he asked me, somewhat diffidently, if he could try his hand at the real thing. Of course, I said, go to it, and he did. And so, would you believe, he was the FIRST to catch a calf, and was initially so stunned that he sat there for a second or two with the rope in his hand, with all of us yelling at him “Dally up, dally up”! And swiftly, he did – and then caught one after the other, so that he actually roped the first four or five calves! With ropers like that the work went fast and we got done by lunchtime – unheard of!!
Steve is staying with us for about a month, so Danny took this opportunity to take his vacation, and he and Bonnie went to Lousianna to see her kids and grandkids. Of course, as Murphy’s Law decrees, the moment he left things came unglued. The first problem was with the replacement heifers, who are apart from the main herd so they don’t get bred too early, and so are grazing in the Grapevine Canyon Ranch headquarters – now that there are no guests to object to the cow ploopers on the drive, and the main gate is locked. It’s nice being able to use this pasture, which has never been grazed and which, therefore, has grass belly high. So you would think, wouldn’t you, that the little blighters would be happy there?? But no- all they can think about is escaping back into Grapevine Canyon – and it’s become a daily routine to be missing 18 or 20 out of the 28 that should be there. All this began before Danny left, and he spent many a dreary hour fixing the fence here and there – and when he left, he did so with the optimistic idea that the fence was secure, and the heifers would be in where we had put them.
But no …. Every day Kate (the resident Grapevine caretaker and cowboy) reports that she can only count 12, or 14 or 18 – and every day Steve and she saddle up and go rounding up the little blighters. Today Steve pronounced that he had fixed the very last bit of fence that they could possibly be escaping through, and that from now on they are secure – so we will see!
A couple of days ago a neighbor called and said that one of our bulls had crossed the cattle guard east of the ranch and was out heading towards town. It happened that it was the one day of this winter that it was really cold – sleeting and miserable. Steve was out riding anyway – nothing will put him off if there’s a horse to be ridden – so I got into my Isuzu 4 wheel drive, and we went bull hunting. No sign of the bull for quite a while – I drove all over the pasture south of the road, bushwhacking my way through trees and dried up swamps till I got to Pearce Road, two miles to the south. Steve turned back toward the cattle guard and suddenly noticed hoof prints – and there was the bull, nicely settled under a bush. I got back to the cattle guard, opened the side gate and waited.
After a while, here came the bull on the trot and none too pleased, bellowing under his breath as he motored along. He got to the cattle guard, took a disdainful look at the gate, then a measured look at the cattle guard grid, put one pudd’n foot on the edge of it and hop! right across it, no problem at all. Steve drove him on about 2 miles and left him in the middle of a group of young, good looking cows – what more could a bull want?
Evidently, a lot more – next day, here comes another phone call – the bull is out again. This time Steve went with reinforcements – Kate and he, both horseback. They found the bull, turned him back, and, no problem at all, across the cattle guard he hopped again like a jackrabbit. So that sealed his fate – not only does he jump cattle guards, just asking for a broken leg one of these days, but he also evidently has totally forgotten his job as a bull, leaving all those handsome cows just to migrate to town! So that very afternoon he was on his way to the sale – better a live 1800 bull on the hoof than a 1800 lb carcass – and he brought almost the exact price I paid for him – $1500. Not bad – at last cattle prices are up a bit, around to where they should have been for years past.
And in the meantime, there are another 20 heifers out in Grapevine Canyon, having got there before the final fence fix – so tomorrow, while I have to go to Tucson, Kate and Steve are off again on another round up!You all remember our filly, Ayita? The day she was born we put a halter on her and began leading her around, as you can’t start too early …. we said to each other. There have been several foals with whom we waited for various amounts of time, resulting in lots of problems, so with Ayita, this early training was invaluable. As the halter comes off after each session, it provides lots of opportunities for further halter-putting-on training.
But the bad fairy of halter breaking is apparently with us. The other day Ayita stuck her head into the front corral panel, which is designed as a gate so we can take if off to get in there with a tractor to clean the pen. Of course, as she lifted her head it came off its hinge and got hung around her neck. We didn’t see this – we just surmise it happened, as the corral panel was off its hinge, and as Ayita suddenly doesn’t want to hear about any halter or anything else which could possibly be put around her neck! What a bummer – here she was progressing so well and now this! So now we are spending many a happy time working with her as if she had never been halter broken all over again – talk about plans of nice and men! The good thing is that at least she didn’t get herself hurt. She is growing like a weed – has a wonderful conformation, and quite an opinion of herself, too. As I said before, this is one foal on whose back I am not clamoring to be the first!!
And lastly I must tell you that I am so busy that I can’t imagine how I ever had time for Grapevine! I guess that work expands into time available, but also I am catching up on lots of stuff that needs done, as for instance, the cleaning out of the garbage dump that I fancifully referred to as my garage. All clean now – clean enough to charge admission to enter! Another item on my list is the organization of the cattle records, complete with the retagging of all cows who have lost their eartags – apparently the sun rots off the retainer pin at the back of the ear and the whole thing falls off. I guess the ones with the lost tags are the ones who spend more time in the sun – like sunbathing? Anyway, a major re-tag is on the agenda come fall, and then, boy howdy! Look out – my cow records will be as never before… I had planned to change over to the electronic tags that you can read with a scanner, but have been told that they also fall off, as it’s – again – the button at the back of the ear that evidently is the weaker part of the tag – and I sure don’t need expensive electronic tags to fall off – bad enough with the normal ones.
Lastly, Ben, the webmaster, requests that anyone who wants to be notified of a new blog posting should add a comment indicating this and he will take care of the rest.
So – have a wonderful spring, and till next time…..