Wyoming Cowgirl - On the Ranch

On the Ranch Journal
by Cris Paravicini

June, 2002

Cris and JJ
Cris and JJ
"Catching up with the herd"
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Last half of March-June, 2002

Sometimes I get so far behind with my work and my writing and my photography and my fun that I wave at someone who looks a lot like me as she goes ridin' by... When that happens, it's high time to spur yer hoss off-center, whip over and under, and catch up with the herd; and if you can't keep up the pace, you'd better simply ride to the side, pull yer saddle off, and turn the ol' horse out to pasture... But, you know, I kind of like that cartoon where the crane's tryin' his darndest to swallow the little bog frog, but the frog gets a choke hold on the crane's throat and seems to say: "Nope! I won't be swallowed up today!" The caption reads: DON'T EVER GIVE UP!! Now, that's my kind of frog!

WAY BACK TO THE END OF MARCH DIARY - For this time of year, the weather seems favorable for the upcoming calving season...But don't hold your breath countin' on it, or you'll turn as blue as skimmed milk or a frosty northern breeze...

Bonnie and BoMy big cowdog, Bo, had another seizure early one misty March morning. He was just lying by the horse trailer, enjoying the fresh scent of Lady Spring when bang, he tipped onto his side and started jerking - every muscle tensed and curled like a new rope, and he stared fixed-eyed into an uncharted oblivion. Last fall the vet said he wouldn't recommend giving Bo medication unless the attacks become more frequent. My poor "Bowlegs." I keep wondering if perhaps the colt kicking him in the head when he was about a year old might have triggered these maladies?

Been saving my pennies for a while to try this modern eye technique called LAZIK. Had both eyes laser burned on the first day of spring. Gotta tell you, it smelled just like branding smoke! They warned me that I might catch a whiff of "the burn." And I did! Now, when everything's hung out to dry, I'll probably end up with what they call an under-correction. Will know more after the eyeballs heal - in about three months. Actually, it wasn't a bad experience at all. I have to confess that I had crossed my fingers for a little clearer vision, but that's okay. The deal includes a free tune up within two years. Today's guinea pigs volunteer, I guess, so tomorrow's kids can see better. Pioneers with "vision," I expect we are...

Attended the 21st Aniel Daniel Chili Cookoff. 'Twas another "hot" time in our little cowtown. Lots of talented cooks from many kitchens slow-cooked their favorite green and red chili recipes then took a shot at the Best of Kitchen title...Another very entertaining event at our little Daniel Schoolhouse!

April 1-13 - Warm and pleasant, clear and sunny. Newborn calves are stretched out soaking up the warmth of Mother Nature's arms. Enjoy it while she's in a good mood, because there's a sense of foreboding on the winds. Even the frogs and gophers seem fooled into leaving their down overcoats behind.

April 14-30 - Yep! Here it comes - right on schedule! Strong winds, angry clouds, and sub-zero freezes shouldered into the Valley of the Green, bullying the new bovine and equine babies and killing new grass shoots and wild hatchlings. Yep! It's Ma Nature's way of doin' things even though it makes a person curse and stomp and pout. But, there's no time for temper tantrums. We just zip up our coats till mid-June, and hope for at least a little measurable precipitation out of the frosty deal.

MAY (Mayhem) CALENDAR - Looks like all heck's breaking loose this month! Brandings and meadow dragging...again; fencing, irrigating, lambing, and cleaning contracts...still; Been some drought relief here and there...we're wading through late season snowfall, manure, and WOW! HONEST TO GOODNESS MEAUREABLE PRECIP!

May 1 - At daybreak, six inches of snow lay upon the spring ground. Nephew Joe called to tell me that sadly enough, his pet fly had died... "Just crawled under the wood stove, Auntie," he reported, "and then it sorta died."

Mid-May - Took a setting hen, "Mrs. Magic," to the kindergarten room to hatch eggs. Yea! It Photo by Ann Bennett, Kindergarten teacherworked this year! Three babies hatched like clockwork. Little Magic, Spirit, and Chubby Cheeks! After a little schoolin' they then came home to the ranch to live out their natural lives. Everyone celebrated! Kids and teacher visited the ranch to make sure I was tending their brood to perfection. Sadly, though, Chubby Cheeks fell victim to a fatal umbilical hernia the day after I brought the Magic family home. Though we knew it would be futile, my son John and I tried to clean and gently push his Photo by Ann Bennett, Kindergarten teacherintestines back inside, but the pain and shock of our attempt at kindness killed the sweet, little fellow. The children forgave me, though, and seemed to understand these hard lessons of living and dying...

Memorial Day or Day of the Wreck - Another day of moving cow and calves to pasture. I decided to ride the big sorrel colt named Jack. We're both learning more each day. He seems kind and easy-going, but I have an idea he's keepin' a secret hidden deep inside his stout body... We'd pushed one bunch of cow/calf pairs to the banks of Horse Creek, penned 'em in an empty hay yard, then returned to the calving meadow to pick up the next herd-in-waiting. Things were falling into place easily...almost too easily...
   Now, before we go any further, I should tell you: Cattle, well, any livestock for that matter, "speak" a certain language - sort of body language, and it's up to the cowboy/cowgirl to pay attention to what's being "said." Always makes the job so much easier if you can "listen" to what an old cow's sayin', or read her mind, or just get lucky and out-guess her next move. Sort of like reading a book and guessing at what's on the next page...
The Boss   This fateful morning, the Boss (my dear ol' Dad) had jumped on his trusty 4-wheeler and I proceeded to catch the equine "trainee." Oh boy! Bad karma! Oil and water, fire and ice! Yep, sometimes two worlds literally collide when horse meets machine...old-fashioned meets new-fangled... And then, to top it all off, Dad and I weren't even reading the same book when the wreck of the day found a fine and dandy place to happen...
   Now, back to the story I started to tell: Husband Rudy was out in the lead on horseback, slowing down the anxious moms while my dad, my mom, and I were dealing with the wheel end of the drive. Both left and right flanks were unattended for a split moment while we took turns crossing a boggy, narrow culvert. Only the thick buck brush and mountains of alkali bumps were keeping the sides pushed in and held stable until one of us "wheelers" could get past the bridge and make our move to cover the sides and prevent any calves from breaking from the bunch to head back to the home meadow. A calf that's misplaced from his mama in the usual swirl of herd activity most predictably will try to sneak away from the bunch and return to where it had enjoyed its last milk meal.
   After we crossed the culvert, the boss "read" the herd one way and I read it in a much different, more relaxed way. I was jigging along, headin' for the right flank, nice and easy like...no problem...no worry...happy as if I didn't have better sense when suddenly all hell broke loose.
Like hittin' a hornets' nest or steppin' onto a busy freeway...the horse jumped ahead and exploded in a cloud of dust and noise and fury. I quickly realized that the boss's revved up 4-wheeler, right in our tail-feathers, had ignited the horse's inner sense of outlaw, and we were now becoming the next road kill.
   Young Jack reared skyward and almost tipped over, then lunged forward and to the left as I attempted to gather up the slack in my reins. I was off-center from the get-go, and try as I may, couldn't get screwed back down in the saddle seat. I jerked up hard on the reins.
Instinct. Get the slack out...Keep his head up...not that high... He's gonna come over on top of you...smash you in the ground, but good... Feed him some slack... He's scared real bad...jerk up again... Oh hell, here he comin' over again... Yes! He caught himself, again... Is he ever gonna quit...yes...no...? Hurtin' bad... Crap, he's gonna run, now, still scared blind... Both reins flippin' onto the left side after the next lunge... Good deal...I can pull him around in a circle till he gets a grip on his fright... O-o-h, shit...I'm done for now... Can't ride out these long, stabbing, jarring, painful thrusts... Okay, horse, you go South and I'll just explore to the North... Why, you mad, sorry, S.O.B! I'm gonna hang onto the reins when I hit dirt so you can't run over any baby calves... Dragging on my back, now, through the buckbrush bumps...arm's a mile long...head takin' a bad beatin'... Don't let go, whatever you do, cowgirl, don't let go of yer bronc...!
But the bronc was too big and young and strong, and I was too small, too old, too weak... So, Jack jerked loose, almost; the reins were accidentally looped around my wrist, and I dragged along helplessly for a few more strides before coming to a quivering rest between two brushy bumps.
   I jumped to my feet. That's what you're supposed to do, you know, if you've hired on to be tough... I looked around to see where my turbo-charged transportation had scattered off to... Watched a little dazed calf pick himself up from his unseen collision with flyin' hooves... Now, where's my hat...my sunglasses...my hair ribbon? And why does my finger and my back and my butt and my head hurt so bad? Oh, you poor finger! You're crooked off at a 45-degree angle. Let' straighten you out a bit! You damned horse, you! Catch him and bring him back over here! I'll show him whose boss... I'm tough! I'm tough... I think I'm still tough...
   Well, we finished the day...got the herd moved...hoss behaved...4-wheeler behaved...even rained a bit and cooled the ol' scratched back and head and finger and anger and pride...
That night we vet-wrapped the right ring finger snuggly to it's "next door neighbors"... "It'll heal in a few days, I s'pose." Bad headache...not a worry...stiff and sore...been here before... Nothing's broken, maybe; you just gotta be tough, the boss and husband say...Sorta your fault for ridin' a colt, you know...

Bonnie and TrampJune 1 - Moved more cattle off the Horse Creek meadow and onto summer pasture...Creek is high and murky...too high to ford on horseback...three cow/calf pairs are stranded on the wrong side...Sent my little Border Collie orphan, Tramp, across to round 'em up and push 'em back across the creek... He grinned up at me, happily, proudly, as he shook the muddy water from his black and white coat then fell in step behind Dollar, the other young trainee, and me. One heck of a fine dog! My hat's off to him. He would go anywhere for me these days...even swim a raging river to do his job. We're bonded buddies. Tramp's young and strong and capable...and tough, or I wouldn't ask him to risk his life in the line of duty. He's worth his weight in gold...to me...

Daisy May calved two weeks prematurely. Gave birth to a poor little puny calf down in the willow patch...She was acting strange one morning and on second look, we figured she'd calved. Went to investigate and had one heck of a time finding the little guy, but there he was pushed way up in the middle of an ancient growth of willow. Was probably shoved there while Daisy was trying to clean him up. We gathered him up; so tiny was the little bull that I could carry him under one arm without breaking a sweat on the two hundred-yard-walk back to the barn. I milked some fresh milk into a bottle and he drank with vigor and appreciation, but surprisingly, by morning he seemed to have weakened. I'm guessing that something internally must have been wrong with him...not fully developed...the little fellow died soon afterwards. Daisy was distraught...so sad. We had another calf whose mom wasn't giving enough milk, so we changed moms and Daisy May became a proud mom after all.

I cried, again, today...Had to put the old red dog to sleep. Cindi Lou was fourteen years old. She was my sister Teresa's dog for several years, but the little cow dog took up with me after Teresa got married and moved to Daniel, a few miles away. Cindi had gone down hill rapidly over the past two weeks. Her sight and hearing all but abandoned her some time ago, but her sense of smell was what kept her going until her final hours. She could always find her way to and from the house by sniffing her way along the trail, and she could find me whenever she wanted to help with the milking or egg gathering. During the last week before her death, I had to help her in and out of the house with the aid of a towel wrapped around her middle, because her back end had become increasingly paralyzed. I knew it was time when she couldn't roll upright on her own will following a long, long nap. ...Afterwards, we buried her near the softly flowing brook, up a spell from the house and near an ancient cottonwood tree - a special place where many of our old, dear pets have come to find their last peaceful rest...

Two weeks later, the ol' finger seemed to be getting worse, so I broke down and got an x-Brokenray...broken in at least three places...surgery on June 13... Hardware Heaven: four screws, a plate, a fishhook, and a button that looks like it came off your favorite set of Carhartt longjohns. They tell me I should be a new woman by July 31! Just in time for haying season!

Interspersed between horse wrecks and body repairs, I've attended a couple weddings and a baby shower, and the husband and son enjoyed the second annual Wind River Blue's Festival in Pinedale. I even built a little ramshackle Huck Finn-type deck over the irrigation ditch so we can sit out in the evenings, drink iced-tea, and feed a few mosquitoes - if it ever gets warm enough...

Summer serenityJuly 7 - Well, gotta git, but only for a little while. My nephew Ben will be arriving at the ranch any moment. I'm anxious to see him, as it's been several months since we last crossed paths. The weather is warm and peaceful today...nearly too hot for us cold-blooded folks. As I close this diary I can hear the rumble of distant thunder and see the smoky-blue heavens begin to darken. Rain, perchance, to quench the thirst of our poor parched homeland...?

Where did that story go?!? The stories from earlier front pages aren't gone. We just move them to the monthly journal pages to make room for the latest diary entries on the front page. See the Journal Index for a listing of all previous front page journal entries!
The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Daniel, Wyoming, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, where she lives along with her husband, Rudy. Historic old Fort Bonneville, built in the late 1800s, is located next to her family's ranch. Cris is a writer and photographer for The Sublette County Journal newspaper, where you can find more of her accounts of life on the ranch. Cris can be reached by e-mail at: cowgirl@wyoming.com.

Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted, Cris Paravicini, 2002. No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.

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