On the Ranch Journal
October is an unsettled month, with gorgeous, crisp Indian Summer days filled with all the chores that need to be done to finish off summer's work. The hay is put up for winter, the cows are weaned, and calves are shipped off to market. Sometimes things go along smoothly, sometimes not. Cris gets bucked off her horse, Taz, in a "horse wreck". The ranch is also home to many wild creatures, fox, racoon, jackrabbits, skunk and others, whos antics intertwine with ours occasionally...
Corral gates at sunset
|October 1: The fox
October 6: A racoon gets into some feed bags
October 7: Nub, the Boss's new saddle horse
October 8: To Riverton auction
October 11: Sunscreen for Cows?
October 12: Bo encounters his first jackrabbit
October 13: Moved the cowherd to the Home Meadow
October 15: Bulls and Brown Trout
October 17: Little boys from Pinedale visit the ranch
October 18: Getting ready for shipping cattle
October 19: Weaning calves
October 21: Bull calf knocks the Boss into a pile of cow %$#@
October 27: Bucked off in the Cattail Patch
October 28:Calf Bales
This is my favorite chair, and almost every morning I set here to put on my boots (and if we're ridin' that day, I also put on the ol' spurs you see hanging on the back of the chair. My dad gave them to me a long time ago. I had to earn them by breaking colts to ride. They were his rodeo saddle bronc ridin' spurs in his prime, so they have a history behind them). And, I try to practice my fiddle, which I leave setting right there, too, nice and handy, just so I'll practice.
Friday, October 1, 1999: In the late evening hours, a fox zigzagged through the sheep as they lay contentedly chewing their cuds. We were concerned, but not overly alarmed, because a single fox usually can't do any damage to an animal the size of a full-grown ewe or it's five-month old offspring. But, we've seen nasty results when a pair of marauding fox works together.
One fall morning, a few years ago, we found one of our best ewes drowned in the corral water trough, the victim of Mr. and Mrs. Fox. The foxes' tracks of terror, "paw-printed" into the mud from a recent storm, had mapped out the horror story. They entered the corral where the sheep bed down for the night and had singled out one of our favorite pet ewes - Sheldon Chops. They then chased her around and around the corral until finally, in a futile effort to escape the determined fox, she dove into the water tank. Once submerged with her front end, her wool soaked up the water, and she was silently pulled to her death. In the meantime, the fox began feasting - ripping flesh and guts from her tender flank and rear quarters - most likely before she died.
During the springtime, we must keep our eye on every lone fox traveling through this area, because we've lost several day-old lambs to the nasty, little critters. Though a fox is a tiny creature, it can easily drag a newborn lamb away from its mother. Sheep most generally have twins after their first year of giving birth to a single, so while she's mothering one newborn, a fox will sneak in and steal the other, slick as a whistle. The fox we saw yesterday is free to come and go for as long as it wants - unless it starts lookin' for trouble...
Wednesday, October 6th - The sun was just crawling over the sagebrush ridge when I turned the dogs out of their night pen. Immediately, they made a beeline for the old garage where I store some of the livestock grain. They knew something was up, and sure enough! A raccoon had ripped into a couple of bags of rolled oats and pushed the lid off one of the 50-gallon storage barrels, then feasted on a little bit of this and a little bit of that, making one heck of a mess.
Thursday, October 7th - The boss is trying out a new saddle horse. He's called Nub, because the tips of his ears were frozen off at birth. Nub is a nice-looking palomino - about 15 hands tall with solid feet and good conformation. He's notices everything that moves around him, in fact he's sort of on the goosey side, but seems to have quite a bit of sense. I've come to trust Nub's kind, curious eyes.
Friday, October 8th - Rudy and I sorted the sheep at daybreak and loaded the old, cull ewes and the extra lambs into the horse trailer, then headed for the Riverton Auction. It's that time of the year when we sell the old and crippled livestock and their offspring, and keep only the most vital of the herd.
Monday, October 11th - Heidi is still milking about 1-1/2 gallons of milk each morning. The ol' gal does quite well to give that much milk, since she was born with a bag (udder) that has only three, separate quarters (or milk compartments). Her pale-colored bag has been a little sore and chapped, lately, from the wind and frost, so I'm alternating greasing her bag with three different ointments - Bag Balm, Corona, and Dionne, which has sunscreen in it. Imagine that! Sunscreen for cows!
Tuesday, October 12th - Been riding Taz, the "green" or beginner colt. He's cooperating quite well and I'm happy with his progress. I have to pull the saddle cinch up one hole at a time and ease him off-center, carefully, to work the hump out of his back. It feels like he's walking on eggs until he loosens up his kinks. I'd much rather "talk" him out of bucking with these precautions, because with each year that passes, the ground gets harder and rockier, and I don't bounce as well as I used to.
The boss and I back-rode some of the isolated pastures this morning, looking for two cranky bulls and a couple of cow-calf pairs. We found them fairly quickly and started driving them toward the meadow.
We hadn't gone far when Bo, the young cowdog, stumbled onto his first-ever-in-life jackrabbit. It jumped up out of the brush right in front of his nose and headed for the hills, lippity-cut. Well, this pup had never before crossed paths with such a creature, so he let out a yip and gave chase. Bad mistake! I called and called to him, then kicked my saddle horse into a fast-paced lope and tried to catch this fast runnin' rabbit and dog. But, whenever I zigged, they zagged. I missed them at every turn as we cut a path through the willows and brush. I yelled out at the top of my lungs, "Come back, you "danged" dog, come back!" I'd been so proud of his perfect training (my perfect discipline!). But now, Bo was ignoring my shrieking cease and desist order. Again, bad mistake! When the hound and hare finally came to a barbwire fence, Bo's hearing started working again, and he trotted back to me and my puffing horse, his tongue hanging to his knees.
I hated the task before me, but I couldn't let him get away with this disobedience or we'd all suffer worse down the road, so I stepped off my horse and spanked him, kind of hard, but not too bad - the poor fellow. He whimpered and I did too.
Wednesday, October 13th - Moved the cowherd to the Home Meadow this morning. We'll be shipping (selling) the calves next week, so we want them nearby on some fresh grass. Dogs worked well. No rabbits in sight!
Friday, October 15 - It was warm and sunny today when we moved the bull battery to fresh feed. Most of the big fellas lined out and traveled along pretty peacefully. I must say, there's little else more dangerous on the ranch, than when a pair of powerhouse bulls decide to do battle. They crack heads and ram and shove, bellowing defiance, and if one is whipped away from the fight, he'll break and run blindly, crashing through anything or anybody in his path. The horseback riders, therefore, must be on their toes to troubleshoot before this happens. But, if a sparring match does occur, you'd better ride like heck to get out of the way.
Today, two of the old rebel bulls buddied up, and instead of declaring war, decided to quit the trail about the time we paralleled the creek. I kicked my horse into the gentle current and rode into a defensive position on a shallow, rocky riffle. As the water trickled over my horse's hooves, I watched the movements of the bulls and couldn't help noticing how the sunlight danced like diamonds on the water.
It was then that I noticed two fish swimming side by side, heading straight toward my horse and me. The horse was doing his job, keeping an eye on the bulls, so he didn't see the German Browns coursing their way upstream. I was certain the fish would turn away when they spotted me, but they swam closer and closer. To my surprise, the five-pound browns glided right under my hoss like twin torpedoes passing silently beneath an unaware battleship, then stopped in the shallowest part of a nearby gravel bar, their fins and backs totally exposed to the glinting sunlight. It's spawning time for the Brown Trout and Nature was calling to them, despite the obstacles.
Sunday, October 17 - Some friends from Pinedale brought their young boys to visit the ranch this afternoon. I caught our aging kids' horse, 34-year old Scoop, and let the little guys ride him around the corral and cow lot. When we all grew tired of that project, we called the milk cow into the barn, caught her head in the stanchion, and hobbled her so she wouldn't kick us clean across the barn. The little boys and their moms then learned how to pull up a milk stool, stick their heads in the cow'sflank and really make that milk pail sing! Later we raided the hen house and gathered the eggs. Usually, little boys and raw eggs don't mix when they pack them in their chubby little fists and coat pockets while skipping and jumping across the barnyard, but today we made it back to the house without even a crack!
Want to read more about Scoop? Read The Old Horse and the Raven
Monday, October 18 - Rudy changed some rotten logs on the bridge into the ranch and replaced the broken poles on the lot fence in preparation for cattle shipping day this week. He also set some traps in a stock water ditch where the beaver community is damming it shut. I rode Taz and checked the cows and calves in the meadow south of the house. The overcast sky wasgloomy and the cool breeze crawled up my coat sleeves and down my neck, making it feel more like winter weather than autumn. The orange and yellow cottonwood leaves have blown away, leaving the countryside in stark gray limbo; melancholy summer homeowners are closing their shutters; and the Canadian Honkers, numbering up to 50 to 75 in each bunch, are forming impressive southbound "V" patterns. There must be a low pressure system settlin' into the valley, because I can smell that cozy, wood-fire smoke driftin' clear across the meadow.
Tuesday, October 19 - The boss and my husband Rudy are helping the neighbors wean their calves (separating the cows and calves) this morning. They left with their saddle horses and trailers when the valley was still blanketed in nighttime's frost. We exchange work with these good neighbors the year around - like branding, cow movin', and shipping cattle. Tomorrow we'll begin several days of selling and trucking calves and old cull cows out of Sublette County.
Thursday, October 21 - Payday! A bunch of the area ranchers, friends, and little cowboys helped us sort, weigh, and load eighteen-wheelers with the heifers and steers we're selling. One of the 600-pound bull calves we were cutting from the bunch squarely knocked the boss off his feet and into the fresh manure. The collision rattled him a bit, but after he gave the big calf his cussed blessing, he regained his sense of humor. The weather was warm and user-friendly all day long! No icy roads, frozen fingers and toes, or humped up buckin' horses!
Wednesday, October 27- Got bucked off this morning in the middle of a cattail patch. It hurt like bloody heck - everywhere...
The frost was still glistening on the yellowing fall grass as we headed away from the barn to move the main cowherd back to Horse Creek. The mother cows were fully weaned, having forgotten the calves we'd shipped last week. It was time to get them off the home meadows to save the grass for calving time next spring.
As we rode across the first stretch of meadowland, our horses were feeling pretty cocky with the cool air nipping at their heels and a stiff breeze picking up their tails, so we let 'em walk along at their own pace to help ease the kinks and humps out of their backs. When we got to the edge of the herd, we spotted two cows grazing on the other side of a boggy slough, so Rudy and I each picked a different crossing and planned to circle around the cows and drive them back to the main bunch.
My horse Taz has always been sensible in boggy ground, taking his sweet time as he calmly pulls one leg at a time through the sucking gumbo. Today seemed no different, except we were sinking deeper in the mud than I thought we would, so I handed him a little more slack in the bridle reins. Bad decision!
Squarely in the middle of the cattail patch, with the water and mud rising above his knees and hocks, the colt suddenly panicked and began to lunge. Then, like a gunshot, he broke in two and started bucking and jumping like a nervous frog on a hot stove. Each pitch shot us higher and higher. I tried, but wasn't quick enough to pull the extra slack out of my reins. There I was without even the slightest prayer. I blew a stirrup, next, which put yet another unbalanced twist to the game. About that time, Taz hit hard on the "distant shore" with his front feet, then sucked back through his hide and tried to tip over backwards. By then, I was more than ready to get bedded down - anywhere - except on top of that knothead. The horse soon obliged me, showing no mercy. He whiplashed my head and smashed my cheekbone across the saddlehorn as I set sail for the icy water.
When I hit bottom I still had a good hold of one rein and wasn't about to turn it loose and be left to walk home. But, hanging fire wasn't in the cards today. Taz dragged me along on the side of my head through the murky water and cut-grass, then jerked the rein out of my hand. We had finally parted company, completely.
Oooowww! That water was cold! I was hurtin' real bad and had soaked up a dandy, little "wet hen" attitude. Rudy recaptured my "prized" mount while I back-tracked the length of the slough to recollect my scattered body accessories - my cap, my sunglasses, my hair clip, my ChapStick(r), and finally, myself. Then came the hardest part of all. That dreaded old cowboy law of "you-gotta-be-tough" started tapping me on my sorest shoulder and taunting, "Hey kid, now you hafta get back on that horse. Right now!" I thought, Good Lord! I'm way too old for this.
But, there "ain't never gonna be any slack cut nor show of sympathy among cowboys," so Rudy mugged my "wonder" horse while I stepped back onboard, this time taking a deeper seat. Now, I know what you're thinkin': If I was any kind of a cowgirl, right then and there, I should have taken the bridle reins and whipped this spoiled, barn-raised, no-good, piece of bear bait, over and under, down where the colt gets his breakfast. But, if I'd tried this cowboy way of straightening out an outlaw, the odds were, I'd probably have ended up right back in the bog. So, I gathered up my reins, eased off-center, and we all went on with our work, limping along as though nothing had ever happened.
Many thanks to all the folks who've phoned or e-mailed with concerns about my recent horse wreck! I surely appreciate your time and thoughtfulness. I'll soon be as good as new - rotating my head and neck as easily as a hoot owl perched on a cottonwood limb, checking out Sublette County's awesome panoramic view. Hope all of you are sittin' safe in your own saddles...
- My best regards, Cris
Thursday, October 28 - Finished hauling some bright-green calf bales closer to the corrals (the newly weaned calves grow (bloom) better when fed less rank, more easily digested hay). Weather's changing. Snow clouds are brewing and there's a deep, bone-chilling dampness hanging in the "time-for-hot-chocolate" air.
Halloween, October 31 - When I stumbled over that hen crouching on the ground outside the scratch pen door, I should have known there was an after-dark, Trick or Treat party happening at the chicken house. I scanned the perimeter with my flashlight to see if there were any more strays scattered about, then bent down to pick up the little lady so I could tuck her back onto the roost. But the instant my hand brushed her feathers, she let out one of those "I'm really dead, now!" squawks and tore off through the blackness, wings and skinny neck stretched out for speed. After she smacked into the far wall, the dazed hen huddled in the corner, waiting for "the axe to fall" from what she surely imagined to be a terrible ghoul. Tiptoeing softly, I cupped my hands around her tiny, quivering body and gently squeezed her onto the roost pole between two, old veteran hens.
Then, oblivious to things that go ppssstttt! in the night, I shuffled my way to the nesting side of the coop. I propped the door open, snapped on the light, and was just sticking my hand into a shadowed nest when I noticed that the big red rooster Bodacious and the little bandy rooster Spur were also hunched on the floor. Strange, I thought. But, still humming a little lullaby as I dug under and around the fowl, I figured I'd finish my egg collecting before moving the roosters to their favorite "bed" post.
About that time, a faint, yet familiar whiff came ridin' along on a dusty draft and made its way to my olfactory works. Uh oh! I thought. Skunk! No wonder the hen house was hopping, long after dark! Then something brushed against my pant leg and knowing the dogs were outside, I quickly looked down at my feet. Sure enough! A medium-sized skunk danced across my boot tips with the light-footed grace of a ballerina, then full of mischief-makin', it pirouetted into the corner behind the water can.
I edged over and killed the overhead light, snapped my flashlight beam back on and aimed the shaft of light right into the skunk's beady, black eyes. I snatched up the little rooster and put him where he belonged, but, the second I touched ol' Bodacious' wings, he let out a mournful battle cry and tore across the hay-covered floor, coming to a halt - squarely atop the skunk's back. The black and white warning "flag" immediately went up. Then, just like a little kid on the loose in an aisle filled with "try me" perfume bottles, Bodacious pushed all the wrong buttons and spilled the yet-to-be-analyzed mist into the small room. Giorgio of Beverly Hills, eat your heart out, boy!
Because things were still "soaking" in, neither the skunk, nor the rooster, nor I moved a hair or a feather during the next breath or two. Bodacious moved first; he carefully raised his bulky frame to its full-feathered stature, shook his head, stepped off the skunk's back, and coolly "mist"ified, strutted back toward me. I swiftly scooped him up and set him beside his little buddy, the Spur. When I reeled around to deal with the skunk, he was gone. All I could hear was excited yips and the thunder of dog feet behind the coop.
The dogs and I eventually returned to the house where Rudy raised his head, never batted an eye, and determined, "I smell a skunk." I just answered, "Yip. Trick or treat?"
|The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles
northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be
reached by e-mail at: email@example.com.
Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted,
Cris Paravicini, 1999. No part may be reproduced without permission of
the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 1999.