On the Ranch Journal
|May 1 - Very May 1st
May 2 - First drops of spring rain
May 3 - Little bull calf
May 4 - Sheep shearing
May 6 - Rain
May 7 - Tromped wool
May 8 - Begging for moisture
May 9 - Frost and flake
May 10 - Honkers
May 11 - Night blizzard
May 12 - Cousin Dave's branding
May 13 - More calf branding
May 16 - Dragging pastures
May 17 - Calf branding
May 18 - Preparing for Sunday's branding
May 19 - Heavy frost
May 20 - First lamb born
May 21 - Our branding
May 22 - Irrigation water on
May 23 - New lamb hurt by cows
May 24 - Broken hip
May 26 - Moved Cows
May 27 - Last Branding
May 29 - Memorial Day
Monday, May 1 Very May 1 - Hauled three dump truck loads of manure to our nice neighbor lady's garden. The garden is situated on a cold, dry, windswept, sagebrush hill, but this lady doesn't let a rocky hilltop stop her from enjoying the growing of tasty vegetables and lovely flowers. Great inspiration here. Where there is a wish to accomplish, so it will come to be. Recent warm days have all the animals (cowdogs, too!) stretching out to bask in the toasty rays of spring sunshine. We never, ever disturb a poor, little, tired cowdog! Instead, we "let sleeping dogs lie!"
Tuesday, May 2 After dragging meadows, it was about dark when I finally made it back to the barn to milk Heidi. She was more than happy to stick her soft-brown head into a stanchion filled with range pellets, and let me take the pressure off her enormous bag. We were humming right along - the milk singing in the bottom of the tin bucket and me, well, I was whistling some old tunes: The Red (Green) River Valley and Down in the Valley, and enjoying the semi-quiet of the falling darkness. Foam was raising on the bucket when I heard a few drops of rain beginning to dancing on the barn roof. Both the cow and I paused from our preoccupations to listen to these first drops of spring rain. Then quite suddenly, the light breeze drew in one heck of a breath and then let it go with such a violent, wild force, the barn door tapped and rattled against the chain lock, and bits of hay blew down from the loft. Heidi waltzed nervously and switched her tail, then settled back to her pellets while I tried to shield the bucket from the sifting, drifting hay dust. Soon, though, the wind had blown the slim chance of much-needed rain on down the valley. Maybe tomorrow, we'll get that warm, gentle rain.
Wednesday, May 3 In the late afternoon, after hay feeding duty, we set up the old sheep-shearing rig. Because most of the sheep herds in our county have been sold, it's now almost impossible to catch the 5 - 7-man shearing outfits when they pass through here on their way to bigger sheep bands. Consequently, Rudy and I have drawn the short straw, so tomorrow, we'll be taking the winter coats off our little sheep herd all by ourselves. Hard work. Sore backs. Low pay. Poor wool prices. Sheep, however, have been part of my family's heritage for over 75 years, so the tradition dies hard. Yesterday, we pulled a calf from an older cow that was headed into the world backwards. If you don't get 'em out quickly when they're born hind feet first, the little fellers most likely will drown. In the process of pulling this particular calf, the hard tugging with the pulling contraption made his hocks and hips pretty sore. Now, he's stiff and moves with great effort. His mom, too, is wild and won't cooperate very well, so we'll give jugs of "Heidi" milk to the calf for a couple of days - until he heals up enough to catch up with his nervous, obnoxious mother. Then, if the little bull calf still won't suck the cow, we'll have to put her in the chute and show him how it's supposed to happen. Hope we don't have to do that. The more you wrestle with a wild cow, the more she'll want to fight you. Bottom line: The quieter we are, the better all parties involved like it.
Thursday, May 4 It took five hours of steady clipping and "harvesting," but we managed to shear, pluck, pull, tear, sweat, beg, and pray the wool right off those ol' sheeps' backs. They're tickled as heck to be lighter and cooler, and we're grateful to have this headache behind us. In a couple of days, we'll tromp the wool into an oversized gunnysack for marketing. (The ewes are scheduled to begin lambing on May 20.)
Saturday, May 6 RAIN! COLD RAIN - Very much resembling snow, but it's moisture!
Sunday, May 7 Tromped the wool this afternoon. My mother-in-law helped pack the greasy, smelly fleeces to the tromping deck. What a good sport! Guessing we got about 150 pounds. Will haul the bag to Riverton, Wyoming and sell it to a wool dealer soon, when we take a load of old cows to market.
Monday, May 8 We begged for moisture, and we finally got it! A slightly different version than what we ordered, but it sure beats the dust and fires.
Tuesday, May 9 Even with frost and flake, the quaking aspens along the river are starting to leaf out. Buds are popping out on the willows and cottonwoods, too.
Wednesday, May 10 Snowed two inches of white stuff throughout the day. We're still having to full-feed all the livestock. The hay pile is dwindling. Hoping for some warmth and sun so the pasture grass will grow and the calves will stay healthy and grow up strong. Many of the Canadian Honkers have hatched their eggs and are leaving the nest. Don't know how the little ones survived the last storm. I'm guessing they did quite well, considering the return of winter. Sometimes we have to raise an orphaned goose or two if they get permanently separated from their folks, then we return them back to the wild bunch in the fall time.
Thursday, May 11 Snow, rain, and cold wind. Went to a Daniel Community Club meeting in the evening time to help plan the Old Timers' Picnic in July. On my way home, a night blizzard insisted on slinging two inches of snow across the countryside. The storm was so blinding, I missed our highway turnoff and had to back up about 20 yards and try again. Made it, though. The porch light saved the day. Six inches of snow was reported in the neighboring town of Boulder - 15 miles southeast of us, with four inches covering Big Piney - 25 miles to the south.
Friday, May 12 Cousin Dave's branding happened today - despite the nasty weather. Wore winter clothing to stay warm while we worked. Hands and face froze. Snow flurries on and off all day long, heavy at times, with a very cold wind blowing into the cracks of everything. Good company at the branding "party," though. Got to visit with all the busy neighbors and watch the young folks learn how to work. Excellent food was served after the job was done. Full bellies! What great rewards for all the hard work!
Saturday, May 13 One inch of ice on the water buckets last night! One of my uncles branded his calves today. The crew helped. Gotta keep plugging away at the work, even if the weather doesn't cooperate. Seems we're moving backwards instead of forward during this spring season - and slipping around on out of season ice! But, that's life, and IT'S bound to happen!
May 16 - 24, 2000
(Howdy, everyone! Hope you're having a happy, hoppy, hopeful spring! My sincere apologies for missing last week's updates. It seems that at this time of year, with the days getting longer and longer and the sunshine smiling longer and longer upon us every day, and with all the work needing to be done yesterday (calving, branding, dragging meadows, fencing, lambing, and getting the irrigating water turned onto the meadows, etc.), I tend to get "behinder" and "behinder with the things I love to do!" Yep! We're all dog-tired, but then, old dogs whine a lot, too, you know! Thanks for your patience, folks!
Tuesday, May 16 The days have been windy, cloudy, and cool, but the trees are leafing out ahead of schedule, and the grass, with its "never say die" attitude, continues to grow and prosper. I'm dragging meadows closer to the home place, now, and will have to re-drag some of the meadowlands after the cows and calves are moved to summer pasture within the next ten days. I guess practice makes perfect - even in the "manure" jobs.
Wednesday, May 17 We helped our good neighbors brand their first-calf heifers' calves this afternoon. It was cold, windy, and cloudy with scattered, soaker rainstorms that nearly put us out of business. If the calves' hair gets too wet, the branding irons will cool down quickly and won't allow for a good, clean brand. You simply must wait, then, until things dry out again.
Thursday, May 18 My mom and I started cooking up some grub to get ready for our branding on Sunday. Bread, biscuits, cakes, cookies, and cowboy-baked beans were baked and frozen, and the rest of the menu was planned (chips and dip, spaghetti, ham, relish plate, fruit salad, potato salad, homemade cottage cheese, and caramel apple pies). Vaccine and other vet supplies were purchased from our local veterinarian, and the vaccine guns were tested to make sure the rubber gaskets held their seal. Metal corral panels were set into place in several pastures and fields, where the captured cows and calves will be held during the branding. Sort of felt like we were gearing up for an event as important as the countdown for a space shuttle launch.
Friday, May 19 Last night, Ma Nature froze thick ice on the water buckets and pasted a heavy frost across the vehicle windshields. Tender gardens are bound to have felt this harsh blow.
Saturday, May 20 Double-header brandings took place today - an early morning herd at the Miller Ranch, then my cousin's branding in the afternoon. Fairly warm day, but still the wind must blow. Our first lamb was born this evening. It's a big, strapping, crossbreed buck lamb - 1/2 Suffolk and 1/2 Columbia with a black and white speckled face and dark legs. Cute as a bug's ear! (Pictures next week!)
Sunday, May 21 Our own branding happened today. Lots of good cowboys and young helpers. Couldn't do it without 'em. By nightfall, we figured that during the last five days we've helped our friends and neighbors to brand more than 2000 head of calves, with still more (1000+) on the horizon in the coming week. By the first of June, most of the brandings will be history for another spring. Any calves born on summer pasture will be processed in the early fall.
Monday, May 22 Pack your bags, frogs, and head for Horse Creek! The word's out. The boss just turned on the irrigating water, and it's prime and perfect ground for croaking and hopping and serenading.
Tuesday, May 23 The boss and Rudy are building some new fence lines across the river. Rudy (and the cow dogs) drove 80 steel fence posts by hand, down the steep, rocky, 90-foot sage-covered bluff. What a tough job! The homemade pipe driver weighs about 30-40 pounds; driving posts through river rock, at 15-20 whacks per post, creates a whole, new meaning to the term "pumping iron." Body parts will be remembering the job for several days to come. The dogs are happy, though, frolicking in the sagebrush, rooting out gophers and rabbits, and cooling off in the river at the foot of the bluff. It's a dog's life, indeed! Sadly, this evening while I was doing the milk chores, a bunch of heifers bulldozed their way over the top of one of my new lambs. The day before, the mamma ewe had lambed in the willows in a nice, safe place, and was properly attending to her maternal duties of licking the twins dry and nursing them. When all the preliminary work was done, I tried to gather the trio up and move 'em to the barn so the cattle wouldn't tromp over the top of 'em or a coyote or fox wouldn't make a meal of the young'uns. The mom, however, is meaner than a cornered badger when she lambs and would have no part of my good intentions. Well, well, I thought. You old bag! Knock me down and ram me into that cottonwood tree and then hit me again before I can get back onto my feet! You can just stay here forever, for all I care, or at least until I can round up some extra help and convince you to cooperate with what's best for your lambs. So, I went about my work and planned to move them into one of the corrals when the milk chores were done that evening. Too late! My fault! Wrong plan of attack! The old ewe tried to make it through the cattle with the lambs, by herself. Now, the poor, little lamb must suffer with a broken hip. I'm hopeful, though, that with any luck at all, and with lots of fussing from me, it will still be able to nurse, and its leg will heal. But the down side is that by having a mom that's not user-friendly, it drastically reduces the odds of success. How frustrating and sad some days can be!
Wednesday, May 24 More fence building. Broken hip on lamb is still a big problem. The lamb can't stand alone, but does seem to feebly rise to its knees. I haven't seen it suck the ewe yet, but it's not gaunt and won't suck any milk from a bottle, so I'm assuming that its nursing a little at a time. The ewe has been letting me work with the lamb without much argument, but I danged sure am not going to turn my back on her! If the lamb suffers too much, for too long, we'll have to put it out of its misery, and then I shall cry. Time will heal, perhaps.
Friday, May 26 Moved two cow herds to the Horse Creek pasture.
Saturday, May 27 Helped our neighbors with their last branding.
Monday, May 29 Memorial Day. The willows are in full bloom now, and the scent of nature is purely intoxicating. Each spring a burst of willow perfume can easily talk me into pulling my old horse to a stop to pinch off a green blossom and dab it behind my ears. Then, I steal time and circle that willow patch, just to ride her lovely wave one more time before moving on.
But before I go, I cut a small twig filled with fragrant buds and stick it in my hatband to take home for my kitchen table. Somehow, though, the scent of spring never smells as pretty on my kitchen table, or me, as it does on the willow...
|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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted,
Cris Paravicini, 1999-2000. Drawing of Daniel Schoolhouse by Teresa Shenefelt.
No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer.
Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.