Monday, February 20, 2012

"Three Ropes the Cow"'s almost calving time and I get to thinking about things that happened in years past.  One story that comes to mind is the story of "Three Ropes the Cow".

Along about three years ago, we got a pretty big snowstorm, about a foot of snow, right smack dab in the middle of calving.  We don't like that, but as Dad says, "we take what we get.  What choice do we have?"  The cows were in behind the windbreaks for the storm, fed and bedded on straw.  It's about as good as we can do for them.

But this day was sunny, almost no wind, the snow was settling, the cows had started to make their way out to the hilltops and they were finding a few blades of grass to make a living.  Now, normally, when I drive into a pasture, run my siren or the cows catch a glimpse of the cake pickup, they come at as quick of a pace as they are able. So I was pretty sure something wasn't quite right when I looked up on that big hill and saw a cow still just laying up there.

It was a ways to get to that hill and I had to pick my way on account of all the deep snow.  When I got there, I can't say I much liked what I saw.  There was a black white face cow, with big black panda eyes laying on a little bare patch of ground with a big white head sticking out of her back end.  No feet....this is not what we like to see.  I was pretty sure the calf was still alive and the cow was either sick enough or gentle enough to let me up close to her.  If I had a rope, I could rope her around the neck, dally to the bumper of the pickup and see what would be necessary to get that baby out of her.  But of course, I didn't have a rope.  I had a tow strap.  One of those 20,000 pound, flat (about 4 inches wide), about 20 feet long with big loops in the end.  It weighs roughly 5 pounds.  You can't rope a cow with one of these.  I know this.  From experience.

So I headed back to Dad's place, about 5 miles from where the cow was.  He saddled up Tim and I grabbed the calving chains and puller (a ratchet type device that rests up against the cow's butt and helps extract a calf that is difficult to get out), threw them on Matt's pickup and Dad and I trailered Tim as far as we could without getting the pickup and trailer stuck in the snow.  Dad set off cross country riding Tim and Matt picked me up with his pickup.

We all reached the cow at about the same time.  The game plan was for Dad to rope the cow, Matt to drive the pickup to the cow, dally to the pickup and I would work on the cow.  It sounded like a solid plan.  And it was.....except that Dad's rope broke.  There were two more ropes in that pickup (apparently that's where every rope on the place was since there wasn't one in my pickup) and Dad set off with the second one.

The cow pretty much had this deal figured out and what followed was a series of Dad tracking the cow( following her in a position to rope her) through the deep snow, him getting a shot to rope her and the cow either ducking her head or dodging and turning off.  All the while, there was this big white head sticking out of her back end, bobbing along as she ran.....once in a while, he'd open his eyes and look at us with this big eyed, "what the heck is goin' on here?" look.  Finally Dad got the cow roped.  About the time the rope came tight, Tim decided enough was enough and went to bucking.  He put his heart into it.  He was serious.  It was the real deal here, folks!  Dad let go of his dally and ended up getting bucked off in a snow drift.
AND NOW I AM PISSED!!!  I took off chasing after ol' Tim through the deep snow, using every expletive that I knew at the time. Come to think of it,  I may have added a few to my vocabulary that day.  After I got Tim caught up and delivered back to Dad, I set out chasing the cow (now dragging two ropes), afoot through the knee deep snow.

It was about this time that Matt, who was driving the pickup over to Dad and the cow after the second loop fit, drove into a hole with deep, deep snow and got the pickup add insult to injury, the only shovel in that pickup was one with a handle about as long as my arm.  Apparently, we stored ropes in that pickup, but not shovels.  So Matt was left to dig out the pickup on his own, with a little kid shovel.  It just keeps getting better, doesn't it?

The cow headed back to the windbreak.  Not TO the windbreak, IN the windbreak.  Trees are spaced very closely together and in doing the job they are supposed to do, they hold a LOT of snow in them.  My plan was to try to grab one of the ropes she was dragging while she was stuck or slowed down in a drift and dally the rope to a tree or fencepost or hold her enough until Dad could get there.  This did not happen.  The only thing that did happen was both me and the cow trudged through some very deep drifts, tiring us both out.  We ended up on the far side of the windbreak where the snow had drifted over the fence.

Now, I can't say who left the gate open.  None of us remembers who did it or why.  But it was open.  And that cow made a beeline for it like it had a beacon light on it.  About that time, Dad was back on her heels and somehow made the throw of the century with the last and third rope.  He caught the cow right up next to the fence.  I fumbled over through the snow and took the rope, dallied it to a good fencepost and set to work getting the calf out.  The cow was tired enough that she didn't put up much of a fight.  And the extraction was not a difficult one.  I'd had the presence of mind to grab my chains and carry them with me and the feet were easy to get ahold of and bring out.  I found a piece of an old fencepost laying close by and used it for leverage to pull the calf out.  He was alive and strong, despite the whole ordeal, so that was a relief to us all!

Along about this time, Matt came driving up!  He'd used the little kid shovel to get the pickup out and came as quick as he could!

Now you'd think that would be the end of the story.  But here's something you need to know about a cow.  If she's been jostled around like this cow had, there's a pretty good chance that she is going to head for high country and never look back for several days.  She might say to heck with a calf and just about everything else and we will have a bottle baby on our hands.  It's important that you understand this.

The only dry patch of ground was on the side of the fence where the cow was supposed to be anyway, so I drug the calf over to it and got out of the way so Dad could drive the cow back over to her calf.  She darted right back through the gate but as soon as Dad got up along side to turn her, she must have thought he was going to rope her again.  She darted off the opposite direction and apparently a several minute chase ensued.  I couldn't see it from my vantage point at the windbreak.  Finally, Dad got her back on track, heading toward her calf at a pretty stiff trot.  She trotted right on by.  Then, about fifteen feet past the calf, stopped dead in her tracks as if she'd caught a whiff of him.  It was looking hopeful, anyway.  She turned back and went to him, gave him a sniff and went to licking and talking to him!  So in the end, everything turned out great.  Mother and son were both safe and healthy and that's what we're in the business to do!

We still have ol' Three Ropes.  She raises us a good calf every year.  But I don't guess I'll soon forget the day she got her name.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Duke Didn't Have It Quite Right....(in my opinion)

I imagine most everyone has seen the John  Wayne quote, "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."  Well, since I haven't posted anything in quite a while, I'll get on my soapbox a little about this quote. 

The Duke is wrong about this....I know he was speaking metaphorically, so he can say it however he wants to.  But here's the fact of the matter.  I've saddled a fair number of horses that I was pretty sure were going to buck.  Trust me when I say, saddling is the easy part.  They might buck when you're saddling and they might stand there all puffed up waiting to move or they might look all relaxed until they move.  But if you've ridden even one colt or horse that has a little buck in them, you know ain't too scary to saddle them.  Not too many bad things will happen if you are paying attention at all. 

However......once you get that saddle on and the cinch tightened enough to keep the saddle on and do a little ground work and run back to the house for another cup of coffee and check your facebook account on your phone and scratch everything you can think of to scratch and....and......and.....At some point, you are going to have to put that left foot in the stirrup.  That isn't really too tough either.  If my cinch is tight enough, I can hang in the left stirrup all day.  I can even hang there and bounce a little while the colt moves around.  Hardly scary at all if you keep your foot where it needs to be in the stirrup.  But are going to have to swing that right foot over that horse's back and put it on the other side of that horse.  THAT'S WHERE THE COURAGE COMES IN. 

You know if you've ridden any broncy thing on this earth that you need to stay relaxed.  Keep your muscles relaxed and your body relaxed.  Keep your thoughts relaxed.  But that is not the easiest thing to do.  Your brain tells you all the things you know you should be doing......but your body goes into self preservation mode.  And then you think, "maybe I should have had just one more cup of coffee.  No I gotta pee." 

Seriously, I know what the Duke meant when he coined this quote.  He was saying it takes courage to start something when you are afraid.  And no doubt about it, that's right.  There are lot's of folks who just need that little push to "start".  And maybe that quote is just the thing they need to hear to do it.  But as usual, I had to put my two cents worth in.