Me and Scout

Me and Scout

30 June 2011

The Mysterious Cow #7

30 June 2011, 0759, Thursday, Home Patch
I’ll bet you thought that when I didn’t do another consecutive blog entry that it would be another month.  Well, it’s only a week and I still need to scratch my head to remember what I’ve been doing during that time.
On Saturday, Anna and I patched some holes in the fence that Cow 7 keeps using to get to our neighbor’s property.  It was hot, but not as hot as it has been in the past.  In fact, with a slight breeze and in the shade it was almost pleasant.  We put in some posts, stretched some wire patches and then went back for lunch.  I skipped the heat of the day and then went back out around 4 to finish up.  We saw Cow 7 in our neighbor’s property that morning, but I was surprised to catch her on our place on the way back out to finish the fencing.  I guess we didn’t quite get all the holes patched.  I finished up in a couple of hours.  There are still some holes, but there is so much brush and limbs laid on the fence in those places, that it is just as good as a fence.  We will fix it for real at another time.  We’ve been back once to check if the elusive Cow 7 has been back over there, but we haven’t seen her.  Of course, we haven’t seen her in our pasture either.  It is possible that she is a jumper.  If this is the case, then we will just get rid of her.  It’s not worth the effort.

Dad came down Monday and we filled some holes in the road.  That certainly makes it nicer coming and going.  Since we had the tractors out, we also moved some limbs around that had been down since the hurricane.  It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t make us any money, but it sure feels better.  Sadly, it is also the kind of thing that if you didn’t know what it looked like before, you can’t really appreciate the improvement.  I hope to get to do some more today.

Tuesday, we followed Dad up to Normangee with the rake while he took the baler.  He will be needing the tractor pretty soon, so I want to push those limbs around and stack the hay before he does.
The “Fourth of July Reunion” will be this Saturday (the 2nd).  We are beginning to call it the “Independence Day Reunion” for that reason.  We’ll see if it sticks.  This is always a really fun event.  We have some preparation to do, i.e., house-cleaning.

23 June 2011

Consecutive Blog Entry??

23 June 0606, Thursday, Home Patch
Going to give reprioritizing the blog a shot.  I am putting it out there for my handful of followers that I will make a short blog entry at the beginning of each day.  Feel free to nag me if you don’t see anything new after a day or two.
I would like to take this opportunity to disavow some of the ads that Adsense has put on.  I’m not a Mormon, I don’t use lipstick, and I don’t deal in giant pink cupcakes.  Just thought I would mention it.
Up until about a week ago, mowing was our top priority.  Many of the pastures have been taken over by our particular brand of invasive species, the tallow tree.  This is a bad weed.  They make nice shade trees I guess, but they spread like wildfire, they are not good for wood, they grow stupid fast, and they are hard to kill.  The big fields need to be mowed annually or even semi-annually in order to keep this pest down.  If that happens, it is relatively easy to cut them down, but if it doesn’t, then the trees get bigger and we have to skip more.  For various reasons, we have not been able to complete mowing the Savanna and Savanna II for the last several years.  We were making a concerted effort to do this, but were still falling behind.  The piece of equipment that we used to do this was a 15’ batwing mower.  This is an impressive piece of equipment that can cut a tree that is up to the size of a coke bottle around.  (This is an old rule of thumb, so we are talking about the old glass coke bottle size.)  After nursing this piece of equipment along for about ten years, we finally decided to haul it off.  One of the gear boxes on the deck was hanging on by a thread so we declared it dead.  I felt like I needed to pull out a pistol and put it out of its misery.  Instead, we hauled it off to the scrap iron place and got a pretty penny for it.
Now, of course, the problem is that we still need to finish our mowing.  Trying to figure out if it is better to hire it done, use the smaller mowers, or go buy a replacement.  The new ones are upwards of $15,000.  They have 20’ mowers now, but I am sure they are even more overpriced.
So, we’ll see what God has in mind.  Today, I hope to get out to the fence and finish some of the patchwork that needs to be done.  Rain could keep me away, but that’s okay.

22 June 2011

Beautiful Rain

22 June 2011, 1117, Wednesday, Home Patch
It is raining!!!!  We have needed this badly for quite some time and it started up yesterday and his been raining off and on since then.  We are breathing a sigh of relief around here as they are in most of the state.  We have a long way to go to fill the tanks back up, but the grass will start to grow again.  That’s the critical point.
We cut and baled hay last Saturday.  We got 24 rolls, which is much better than what we expected during such a drought.  We also managed to get all the hay moved to our hay storage area.  If you remember, putting out hay directly from the hayfield was a real hassle.  Getting the hay out of the hay field and into the storage area during the summer will be a great time saver and be a lot easier on the roads.
Cow #7 has been getting into our neighbor’s pasture pretty consistently.  I took our preacher last Tuesday and began doing some patchwork on the fence.  I thought we may have gotten the most of it, but the cow was spotted again.  I’ll probably get back to it tomorrow.  Today, since it is raining, it will be an admin day.
Not much else to report.  We are just rejoicing in the rain.  Thank you, God for the rain.  I made an interesting discovery.  It is very easy to try equate God’s provision with our immediate needs.  We think God is providing for us when we get money or rain, or whatever.  So, we pray to God for money.  We pray to God for rain.  I believe in praying specifically, but the danger in doing that is that we lose sight of what we need.  My devotional referenced 2nd Kings (or maybe 1st) 17.  It was the story of Elijah staying with the widow woman during Israel’s drought.  God provided, but he did not let it rain on her.  The last bit of oil and flour she had kept stretching, but it didn’t rain.  It had to become clear to her that God was providing for her directly, but he didn’t let it rain.  There was no mistaking God honored her for honoring Him, but he didn’t let it rain.  We look to God for rain, but he often gives us something else that we need more, the chance to trust Him.
Now that it is raining, we are soaking it up.  We are so thankful, but that doesn’t mean God loves us.  He loves us anyway.  Any pagan can pray for rain and get his prayers answered eventually.  The pantheon of ancient gods always had a god of rain.  Our God is the god of everything.  He is also a father to us.  Eager to take care of us in a way that demonstrates it is Him that is doing it, not a random collection of water vapor reaching the saturation point.
So, thank you, God, for the rain.  Thank you so much more for taking care of us when it is dry.

01 June 2011

Never Let a Cow Step on Your Neck

31 May 2011, 1122, Tuesday, Liberty Middle School
Praise God!  The house closed and we are now the proud owners of one and only one house, that being the one in which we live.  Good times.  Of course, we still have a lot of the same issues we had before, but it is important to remember that God had rescued us from that burden and He will continue to show His faithfulness.  It could get pretty lean during the summer, but I’m convinced that we will be fine.
Saturday was a big day also.  Dad and Linda came out that morning and the Pflugerville Cousins came out in the afternoon.  We were also joined by my cousin Blake.  We needed every bit of help we could muster for the job I had lined out.  In an effort to maximize our knowledge of the herd, we decided that we would ear tag the calves well before we sold them or decided to keep them.  This way, we can match up calves to their cows during the year and when we sell the calves, we don’t have to guess at which calves belong to which cows.  Each calf will have a recorded birthday, etc. in a cow-calf management software program.  Oh, the glories of modern day agricultural technology are making their way into the Crow Ranch!
But not completely.  We still pen cows with horses (and a little help from the Gator and a sack of range cubes).  We still rope, we still throw calves by hand.  In the fall, we will still brand our heifers.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We tagged fifteen calves and I have to hand it to those fifteen, they put up a fight.  Nathan got knocked down about three times and I spent some time on the ground too.  The rule about spending time on the ground is that you don’t do it; at least not if you can help it and not for very long.  When dealing with livestock of any kind, being on the ground is where they get you.  That’s how you get trampled, kicked, and hooked.  It’s how you get hoofprints on the back of your neck.  More on that later.  The other reason you get up off the ground is that there are a bunch of your family and friends who probably saw you go down and want to know that you are okay.
For the unitiated, the process goes something like this.  We have about 10-25 cows and calves in what we call the roping pen.  This pen is worked by one man on horseback and one or two men on foot with ropes.  One of these will rope a calf, then hand the rope up to the horseman if the rider wasn’t the one to catch the calf.  The horseman takes a dally or two around the horn of his saddle, then drags the calf through the gate to the branding pen.  The gateman opens the gate before him, which is important, because if the momma cow tries to follow, then the gateman can shut the gate right after the calf gets through.  Once in the branding pen, the horseman will ride up to the snubbing post.  A snubbing post is a deeply buried and solid round post about eight inches in diameter and about five and half feet tall.  The rider will try to “split” the post with the rope.  A roper will grab the rope quickly take a dally over the top of the post as the rider releases the rope.  The rope man now has the calf.  He will keep himself on the opposite side of the post and take up slack whenever he can to get the calf close to the post.  The flanker (usually one of the ropers) will then work his way down the rope and stand on the calf’s left side, grab it by the loose skin around his neck and by his back leg.  The flanker then smartly picks up the calf with his arms and right knee, rolling him up his leg and dropping him gently on the ground onto the calf’s left side.  He quickly squats on the calf’s neck with his left leg and grabs the calf’s right foreleg with his left hand and puts his other fist into the calf’s flank.  This prevents the calf from kicking with his back legs until the foot rope person comes up from the calf’s back and puts both back legs in a loop and a half hitch.  The calf is then easily worked.  The flanker slips the headrope off with his free hand, the legropeman releases the footrope and they coordinate the release of the calf with the gateman.  The calf gets up and runs back to the roping pen.
Yeah, right.
A favorite military axiom is that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.  It is also true that no cowboy plan survives contact with the cows.  The plan would work almost exactly as described except the darn calves just won’t stay still.  They also grow and some of them have gotten pretty big.  When they get to a certain point, they don’t bounce around as much and are actually a little easier to handle in some ways.  This middle size that we dealt with on Saturday can be kind of tough.  Not only are the calves getting older, so are the cowboys.  Our average age is 44.  We are almost as quick and agile as we were 20 years ago, but not quite.  When those calves start to jumping like a marlin on the end of a fishing line, they are hard to catch.  When we finally get a hold of them, they don’t always go down that easily.  We try to help each other.  Nathan was flanking one that was particularly stubborn, so I grabbed its back end.  Nathan starts to lift him up and I start dragging the calf down with all my might.  I took Nathan with him, of course.  Nathan went down and the calf rolled over him and just got right back up.  Remembering what happens to cowboys who go to ground in the pens, we quickly jump back up ourselves.
Later, Nathan modeled the exception to the rule for me.  He was working his way down the rope to a calf, got tripped up and fell to his knees.  “Get up!” I’m thinking, but Nathan just paused on all fours for a half second as the rope passed over him, then jumped up.  Pretty slick, and a lesson I would appreciate later when I tried to twist one down.
Bulldogging a calf is when you get behind its head, then twist the nose up into the air and just lay back.  If done properly, this gets a calf down quick and easy, but leaves you in a bad position to get on the calf.  We were having trouble with a big one, so I announce that I am going to twist him down and step in and grab his head.  I bring his nose up beautifully and then I just slip off.  I don’t know how it happened, but now I’m on the ground face up and I’m all alone down there.  I here people yelling, “Get up!”, but I remember from watching Nathan that not getting up immediately can be a good thing to.  I feel the calf coming toward me and I roll up to my hands and knees, tucking my head under as that calf used me like a welcome mat.  I still have the hoofprint on my neck.  A mark of how not to bulldog a calf.
All in all, we had a really fun day and plenty of bruises, cuts, and sore muscles to go along with it.  There’s something about the combative nature of working calves in this way that helps release the aggressive male tension that builds up when working in an office.  I suppose you get the same thing from playing sports.  Guys need this.  They need to work through some pain and fear and test themselves.  They need to get knocked on their butts, shake their heads, laugh, and then go back in fighting.
I can’t wait for the next time we work calves.  Well, I reckon I can wait long enough for the bruises to fade.