Got back yesterday afternoon from a four-day trip to vaccinate calves and pregnancy check cattle. In total, we worked nearly 1000 cattle between Friday morning and yesterday evening, and we covered a lot of ground! I drove out to the permit west of Custer with Penny (Jack’s wife) on Thursday night to join the rest of the crew, and we were in the saddle by 7:30 the next morning.
It took a good couple of hours to round up the cattle, with a crew of about ten on horseback, a plane, and a Jeep, and once we had them in the corrals, sorting took another hour, and then four of us had to move about 50 yearlings to another part of the permit. Pretty sure I didn’t climb down off that horse until about 1:30 that afternoon. I haven’t ridden much at all lately, so I rediscovered some muscle groups I’d forgotten that I had…
Everything went quicker than expected Friday, so Saturday was a pretty easy day, packing up camp and heading to Wyoming, where Jack leases from a rancher over there. The heifer group (cows with heifer calves) were all out in Wyoming, 226 pair, and to get things going for Sunday, we brought in the herd Saturday afternoon. It was hot, dry, dusty, and we were ready to be done when we finished, let me tell you. It was a little stormy on the horizon, and we could see smoke from a couple of fires in the distance, from lightning strikes we assumed. But the cattle came in without incident, sorted nicely the next morning, and we were able to finish up another small group of cattle yesterday in the early afternoon. A good weekend’s work.
Working with ranchers and cowboys, I appreciate the gentleness with which they treat God’s creatures. We may just be getting steers ready for the meat market, or getting heifers ready to be bred, or preg checking a bunch of cows, but there is a gentleness and respect for the animals, and a desire to cause them the least trauma or discomfort. Rounding them up, running them through a chute, sticking them with needles, all that causes some level of stress to the animals, but the job is done quickly and efficiently. There is visible distress in the voices and on the faces of the crew when there is an animal suffering–A calf died at the permit, a “respiratory calf” that had a form of pneumonia, and the sober attitude had nothing to do with money lost on the calf, but everything to do with the little creature’s suffering. It is refreshing to see such gentleness towards God’s creatures–That gentleness is, I think, a sign of real strength.
The visit to Wyoming was eye-opening. I’d never been to Wyoming before, and it is some beautiful, desolate country. Green this year, but just so big–So much of it! And so open. The things that seemed to thrive were sunflowers, rattlesnakes, horned toads, and rabbits–Lots and lots of rabbits.
Being on horseback isn’t conducive to taking pictures, but I managed to sneak just a few. I missed one really fantastic photo opportunity, with the sun coming up over the corrals, and the dust rising like mist around the cattle, sifting through the fences, and partially obscuring the cowboys sorting the herd. It was really beautiful. But the dust was really awful.
I leave tomorrow morning around 5:30 to head to Nebraska for more vaccinating and preg checking, and I’ll get back on Thursday evening. Good to be back in the saddle, even if only for a week and a half.