Me and Scout

Me and Scout

20 April 2011

“Hang On, Jason, Hang On!”

20 April 2011, Wednesday, 1336, Liberty Middle School
We did get our offer.  We had a real struggle at first because it was so much lower than what we had originally hoped for.  It’s a little tough to swallow when the house you made a good down payment on and have been paying on for 5 years nets you a pittance in equity.  I guess that’s what comes of a bad economy and the extreme reduction in the space program.  Enough said on that.  Frankly, we were upset and bitter.  Angry because God’s provision did not work out the way we thought that it should.  We got some encouragement through our friends and family, but what has helped us turn the corner was the realization of how ungrateful we were.  Here is the thing that we have been praying for for quite some time now and we got upset about it.  We had to get on our knees and repent of our crummy attitudes.  You know, it helped.  We are once again, grateful that this giant albatross hanging around our necks is almost gone.  Also, things are moving pretty swiftly.  We have already had the inspection and that seems to have gone well, with minimal problems that we have to tend to.  But you know, it doesn’t matter if it’s going well or not.  We are just happier because we are not second-guessing God.  Now, I wish I could tell you that we have absolutely excised our gripey nature, but I’m sure we have not completely.  Like most things, it’s a process.  So, be patient.
I have gotten in the habit of telling stories to the classes I sub for.  Not long ones, of course, because I have to accomplish what the teacher has asked me to, but just something to keep kids from having to read a book or do a word search for an hour.  I dare say that for the most part, they find my stories entertaining.  They ask for them whenever I show up.  By the way, I do realize that it’s largely because they would rather do anything than work.
The other day, I told a couple of stories about how I sometimes thought Dad had it in for me.  As a boy of about 12 or so, maybe younger, we were branding calves.  I was afoot in the roping pen full of cows, trying to get my rope on something.  I succeeded, but not the way I wanted to.  I threw a loop out and instead of the cute little light calf I was aiming at, I got my rope on a big heifer.  Before I even had time to realize what was happening, that heifer jerked me off my feet and started dragging me around the pens.  In the background, I was vaguely aware of everyone in the other pen shouting at me.  My Granddad, Grandmother, cousins and everyone were all imploring me, “Let Go, Jason, Let Go!”  But somehow, above them all, I heard the voice of my Dad, “Hang On, Jason, Hang On!”  Hang on, I did.  That cow took me for a couple of laps through the mud and manure, but I managed to get my feet under me and get it stopped.
Several years later, we were all out penning some cows.  They made a good run and we chased ‘em down.  My cousin Shannon kept up nicely and I was impressed so I rode over to her and by way of encouraging her slapped her shoulder with my hat.  I was on ol’ Ranger that day and this horse was calm to the point of being asleep half the time.  When I started waving my hat in the air, he woke up and started to buck.  Up and forward he leapt, immediately throwing me out of the saddle and onto his rump.  Knowing this is no way to ride a horse, I was about to push off and get clear, when I heard my Dad again, yelling across the field, “Hang On, Jason, Hang On!”  Ranger pitched forward and I was back on the saddle if not exactly in it.  I rode (“clung to” is a better way to say it) to that horse until he stopped bucking and running.  Sometimes in front, sometimes in back, sometimes on his left, sometimes on his right.  Of course by the time he quit, the only hold I had on him was with my arms around his neck and both feet dragging the ground, but by thunder, I did not get thrown.
After telling those stories to the kids, I mentioned it to Anna and told them to her.  She said that I needed to really listen to what I had just said.
Both of those times, my Dad encouraged me to stick it out.  He kept me from letting go of a rope in a pen full of agitated cows, leaving me lying on the ground and he encouraged me to stick with that horse, keeping me from hitting the ground hard.  He figured I could hang on, even when it didn’t make sense to me or anyone else.  When I was about to join the Cadet Corps, I told my Dad that I wasn’t sure I could get through it.  He told me that he had seen me get drug through a pen full of cows without letting go and he figured I could do this.  He was right.
I can’t tell you how many times, this move and change in our lifestyles has been rough. I can’t tell you how rough it has been.  I can’t remember how many times I have thrown up my hands and said, “I can’t do it.”  But now, when all the reasons to let go are going through my head.  When I struggle with worry and fear, I can hear it.  It’s that voice from my Big Father.
“Hang On, Jason, Hang On!!”

12 April 2011

How to Milk a Wild Cow

Monday, 1156, Liberty Middle School Library
Just got a text from Anna telling me that we are getting a good rain.  Praise God!  We need it.  The grass is green, but it needs some water to get it growing good and we also need to have the tanks filled.  This will certainly help.  It is supposed to do it again in a couple of days.  That’s what we need.
It’s been awhile, so I may have to skip around a lot.  I’m sure some of you are curious to know about the calf that we weren’t sure about milking.  In short, we are assuming a happy ending.  Now, in long…
How to Milk a Wild Cow:
Last Thursday, we still had not been able to determine if the little calf was nursing or not.  The cow still had an enormous bag, so we decided that we should bring them in.  I wanted to know if milk was actually coming out.  I saddled Rebel, we got the dogs, and Anna got in the gator.  We found them by the Cross fence of the Savanna I and Savanna II.  The dogs got them stopped and we found our cow.  We had about 35 or 40 of them.  I didn’t know if they would follow the gator or not, but we started off with them toward the house.  Our dogs still haven’t figured out exactly what they are supposed to do.  A well-trained cow dog will bark at the front of the herd in order to keep them from running off.  Ours clearly do not understand this and wanted to be sure that these cows kept moving.  Move they did.  They ran all the way to Bobcat woods and split up.  Fortunately, we only needed the one pair.  Penning one pair as opposed to 30 is easy, right?  Absolutely not.  Since cows are herd animals, they frequently do not do well when by themselves.  At the start of Bobcat Woods, I kept trailing Cow 3 (the one we want) along with a few others.  I just kept moving them and generally pushed them north.  That went pretty well and the dogs showed up too, which was helpful in this case.  I got them to cross the gully and lost a couple more of them, but my pair and another cow were still moving in the right direction.  They started fine, then ducked into the tallow thickets in the Tallow Flat.  Fine, Rebel and I kept them moving.  Rebel was in fine form, by the way.  He could be sent around a tree left or right with just the flick of the wrist.  He knew what we were doing and he did it well.  It’s about this time that the other cow dropped off and they separated.  I believe that she had a calf that was left behind.  I managed to get #3 into the Old field, but she froze up.  She just stood there.  So, Anna went back in the gator to try to get the other cow up with us.
As I waited patiently, I could hear the Gator moving back and forth and Anna yelling at the cow.  Eventually, the cow came out into the Old Field to join us.  I want you all to appreciate how difficult this is.  She was not on horseback, the cow was in the woods and wanting to go the other way.  I wish I could have seen it.  I guess she just worried that cow into doing what it was supposed to.  Nevertheless, when I disengaged #3 to get them together, Anna’s cow jumped back into the thicket.  Anna tried again, but we eventually decided to come on with what we had.
Now, we are down to just one cow and her calf and a couple hundred yards to go.  She really did not know what to do.  Here is where the dogs helped us.  They got between her and the pens and started baying at her head.  #3 would run at them a couple of steps and I would close the gap.  We did this for about halfway.  Then, she turned around to face me and wouldn’t look back.  I kept gentle pressure on her and she basically backed another 75 yards or so.  Once we got close, she figured out what to do and drove to the gate pretty easily.
Okay, now she was in the pens, we had to get her all the way to the front lot, into the crowding chute, down the running chute, and into the squeeze chute.  This actually all went really well.  Anna was on foot now, shutting gates behind me as we got closer.  Cow and calf work their way into the running chute…and…. Out they go, into the Meadow Lot.  What?  I had made a rookie mistake and not opened the last little gate into the squeeze chute.  The cow was still in the pens, but we had to turn her around, go back down the chute to the crowding pen, turn her back around and then into the chute.  Whew!  This actually went pretty well.  She got into the chute and we squeezed her up.
Her calf had followed her the entire time so she was right there in the chute behind her momma.  Now all I had to do was milk her.  Even though I have been messing with cows since I was a little kid my only experience with milking one was at a summer camp when I was about 12.  It’s just not something beef farmers get around to doing.  Happily, I didn’t have any trouble.  I had to drop one of the access panels on the side and reach under.  I don’t know the dairy business, but I do know that you don’t want to milk from behind.  The milk flowed.  That eliminated the possibility of the bag being clogged.  We decided that if we could get the calf up to the cow that we could get it to drink.  I got behind and opened the back gate up just enough to get a hand in and then drew up the calf.  That’s when the bad stuff started to happen.  The calf got startled and found a hole in the chute and made it to the Old Field.  This was just too much for the dogs.  All three of them took after her.  I love dogs.  They are wonderful and loyal animals that deserve a special place in heaven.  That day, I was ready to send them all there.  They chased the calf all the way across the field, catching it by the ears and the skin and pulling it down.  I would race up as best I could with a bum knee, yelling.  The dogs let off enough to let the calf get up right before I got to it, then pulled it down again.  Finally, I kept my mouth shut and caught the calf, throwing it and holding it down.  Any time a dog came within reach of foot, hand, or hat, I let them have it.  It makes me mad just thinking about it.
Anna showed up with the rope and we tied up the calf and carried it back.  Back where we started except we were pretty upset.  We tied the calf behind the cow and did everything we could to get her to drink, but she was too rattled.  I squirted milk in her face and the most I got out of her was to lick her lips.
We decided then (after a call with the boss) to leave her in the pens and Anna would come check on them in the morning and watch for a couple of hours.  This would mean getting some water and bringing it back down and then keeping the dogs in the house.  The next morning, after all this inconvenience, Anna came to the pens and they had gotten out.
Sometimes it is important to find what good you did.  We learned a lot.  We learned that the cow was giving milk.  We learned that we could pen a solitary cow with her calf using a couple of dogs, a Gator, and a good cow pony.  We also learned that our dogs cannot be trusted with a loan stray calf.  Finally, we learned how to milk a wild cow.  So, although it felt like a waste, it wasn’t.  It’s important to remember that.
The good and final news is that on Saturday, Dad, Anna and I went to get a cow out of the neighbor's pasture and we saw the cow and calf with the herd.  It has been over a week.  If the calf was not nursing it would be dead.  Problem solved.
In other news, we got word yesterday that we may have an offer on the house soon.  Please pray.  It would be very exciting to have that off our plates.

01 April 2011

01 April 2011, 0804, Friday, Liberty Middle School Library

It seems that the only time I have time blog is when I am not at home.  Hey, whatever works.  I’ve been working a lot this week, which is good, but there is not much to report ranchwise.  Rain was in the forecast on Tuesday, but we didn’t get any.  This is getting to be a bit of a problem.  Yes, it does give us the opportunity to mow whenever it’s daylight, but we need the grass to start really growing and the tanks to get really full for summer.  Isolated thunderstorms are in the forecast for Monday.  We’ll see.
We looked at the cows on Wednesday night.  Half of our cows now have calves.  This is very exciting.  I hope to start tagging the calves around the middle of next month.  There are plenty of people who have volunteered to help us with that.  Hopefully, we can oblige them.  Working cows is about the funnest and coolest thing that we do out here.  It connects us with our past, is exciting and it keeps you on your toes.  I can’t wait.
We may have one problem calf.  On Wednesday, we found a really new calf on a cow with a huge bag.  It looks like the calf can nurse, but we are going to have to check again today to be sure.
That’s about all.  We are still looking for the right balance between fulfilling all righteousness and waiting on God.  The Bible instructs us to wait on Him, but it also admonishes us to work.  It’s things like this that make it apparent to me that an actual relationship with God is indispensable.  When I have worked cows with my Dad, Granddad, and cousins in the past, we were able to anticipate and interpret what the others were doing.  For instance, we would ride into the field and see a bunch of cows.  Dad would say, “You go around the left, and I’ll go right and come from behind.”  That might be as much as we would talk before we shut the gate on them.  He would give general instructions.  Of course, like in war, as soon as you start doing the plan, the plan falls apart.  I would look across the herd and see Dad take off to a little copse of trees.  I would then shift my position, knowing that he may have heard or seen something.  We might have changed the plan half a dozen times before the job is over, and not discuss anything until we were done.  We are in each other’s heads, as the saying goes.
How we should long to be the same way with God.  “A little sleep, a little slumber…and scarcity comes..”, or “Wait on the Lord”.  Who can say which applies in each situation.  God can, of course, but so can I when I am as close to Him as I am my Dad; when I am “in His head”.