Chapter Two of Ranch Work:
The morning following the sorting of sixty cow-calf pairs, only to be interrupted by a call to a fire, held a gloriously cool morning, after a night-long session of rain and thunderstorms. What did this mean to me, the new kid on the rancher's block? Well, instead of capris, linen shirt, and leather horse boots, I donned long pants, sweatshirt, and lovely knee-high rubber boots. (Wellies, if I were the Queen of England.) It also meant several large, muddy, manure-filled pens which would soon hold the cow-calf pairs again.
I headed back to the Bunkhouse early the next morning, coffee thermos and china cup in hand. From our house to the "Bunkhouse" is about four miles of beautiful Flint Hills, rolling green grass and vistas to miles and miles away. It really is beautiful. So, I had one mile to go to arrive to this day's workplace, and as I was enjoying God's green earth, I saw commotion out of my left eye - to the south. Yes...there were a whole lot of black cows running pell-mell down a hill. Sort of willy-nilly. Upon closer attention, I saw a pickup, a four-wheeler, two dogs running, and someone on foot, striding much longer and quicker than one might observe on a regular bucolic morning.
When I got to the Bunkhouse, no one was there. And no cows. Or calves, either. I poured myself a cup of coffee, turned on some Vivaldi, and sat in the car doing a crossword puzzle. Shortly, a pickup truck came into the drive, and the patriarch of the ranching family climbed out of his truck. He is a large man, and his countenance is both kind and one which calls for respect.
"Good morning!" I called out from my station wagon. I climbed out. "Was that you all I saw down the way?", I asked.
He nodded. Or sort of nodded and shrugged. "Now THAT was a rodeo." he replied.
I laughed. Maybe I shouldn't have, but I thought he was funny. As we chatted in the morning cool, the others brought the cows and calves into the pens, the pens that they were re-visiting from the day before. But there was a catch to this morning's work...
Instead of 60 cow-calf pairs, we would be sorting and vaccinating 100 cow-calf pairs. I don't know how rancher math works. I don't think cows can reproduce overnight, but there ya go: many more bovine creatures to sort and assess.
We went into the pens and sorted. This time I felt a little more at ease with the situation. In part, I think, because there was no hot dusty WIND making my head spin. Mud and manure, yes, and I had to make sure I was in balance in my Queen's Wellies in the muck, - if the mud suction wins the contest, one will either fall face-first into the mud/manure, or (at best) pull one's leg out of the Wellie and immediately plop a socked foot into the mud. Keen balance is the best defense. As for the mud: I will take that over Saharan conditions any day.
After sorting the cows and their babies, we got to the part where I walked into the barn with rancher Joe, and he said, "Trish, after lunch we will come back here and vaccinate calves and cows. Your job will be to write down the calf number, its cow number, and while I vaccinate, you will replace the used needles with new ones, and here's how you do that (visual aid given), and put the used ones here (as he points to a bucket). Then, make sure which pasture the calf is to go into, move the gate where that calf should go, (visual aid), and then you will open the chute (as he motions WAYyyy upwards, over my head) and let that calf out."
What was daunting about this? Well...some things. But the main thing, and I think Joe caught my hesitation about the "chute-opening" thing, because after lunch when we met up again, he was carrying a step-stool over for 5'2" me to use to open the cattle chute. Ha ha! Bravo, Joe.
The afternoon proceeded without too much noteworthy description.
Calves in, calves out.
Cows in...WHOA! Much larger animals! I was a little unsettled by these big old mamas.
But, hey: I am a small-town/city girl. I did have some fun. I learned an awful lot. The learning biz was what was most appreciated. As that Spouse o' Mine mentioned, "People PAY to do what you did this week." True, that. But I appreciate that our neighbors might trust that I can come in and do a job, maybe well, maybe iffy, but do it.
And guess what! There is yet another chapter of TWebsterArmstrong on the Ranch! Haha ! Stay tuned.