Me and Scout

Me and Scout

27 July 2011

Ranch Work vs. Ranch Management

27 July 2011, Wednesday, 0853, Home Patch
Dad came down yesterday.  Our focus was ranch management, which means that we didn’t really do a whole lot of actual physical work.  We looked at the hay fields to see about cutting them again soon and we spent a lot of energy in thinking about how to fix our pens.  If you’ll remember, a storm a week or so ago, knocked down an old dead tree and took out some of the pens with it.  That section of fence is pretty easy to decide about.  We are going to replace it exactly like we had it.  However, the other end of that stretch of fence is in poor shape and also needs to be replaced.  The problem with it is that there are two big old tallow trees there.  Our options are to have the trees removed and put in the fence in the same place or to bypass the trees and angle the fence.  This would have some advantages.  Ultimately we decided that we didn’t know what to do, but I am going to get with the local bulldozer guy about pushing those trees down.  I firmly dislike having trees as part of our pens, or even too many trees around the pens.  They drop branches on the boards and grow into the fence itself.  It’s nice to have a few for shade.  Once again, my philosophy is to cut the tallow trees and what’s left will be about right.
I did get what looks like it might be a more serious case of poison ivy than I have had for a while.  The tree that was knocked down was already dead, but it didn’t look dead because of all the poison ivy growing on it.  I thought I was careful to avoid the stuff, but I guess I didn’t do so good.  I am treating it aggressively with Vitamin C and alcohol (rubbing alcohol, that is).  If it doesn’t get better, I’ll hit the clinic for some steroids.  I heard recently that eating poison ivy berries will make you immune.  Maybe so, but it seems to me like it could also kill you.

25 July 2011

Burn it all! And the difference between me and Rob Roy

25 July 2011, Monday, 1033, Home Patch
My last entry said that the rest of the day was pretty uneventful, but the day was still young.  I cleaned up, and that afternoon, we went back to the gully where the cow had met her demise.  I still wanted to read the number on the ear, so I brought my rope.  I have told you before that I am no artisan with a lariat, but I surpassed myself this time.  It took me embarrassingly long to rope a cow that could not evade or run.  To my credit, I will say that there were some very awkward branches preventing me from making a normal throw, but by underhand pitching, I could throw the loop over between the horn and the limbs.  I actually got the rope on the horn once or twice, but it slipped off as I tried to take up slack.  At one point I looked down on my hand and saw that a maggot had hitched a ride on my rope and was now crawling on me.  Finally, I got the rope around her whole head, pulled it up a little bit and managed to read the number.  Simple, task complete.  You are probably now wondering what I had been wondering up to that point.  How to get the rope off.
I decided that I would have to pull her out.  She was still too heavy to get her out by hand, so I got a ratchet strap out of the truck.  Tied a bowline, hooked on to the end of the rope (the draw for the gully was too long to get close with the truck) and got her up into the draw.  One final pull was too much, though and I broke the strap.  This dead cow is now beating me if we are keeping score in terms of straps as I had lost a tow strap in the gully earlier in the day.  Now, comes the rough part.  I had to force myself close enough to the animal to work the loop off with a hoe.  I did not want to touch the thing for sure and yanking it around after it had been dead for 24 hours only caused an unholy and vicious stench and vile liquid to emerge from the carcass.  I could only manage to get close enough with a hoe to work the lariat for a few seconds at a time.  In the movie “Rob Roy” the hero manages to evade capture by forcing open a very similar cow, removing the innards and taking refuge inside.  Yes, indeed, there would have been some very happy British Soldiers that day if it were me.  Even if my love of freedom compelled me to force my way inside the carcass, the Soldiers would have surely noticed the intense hacking and retching sounds that the old dead cow was making.
Not much else of note has happened in the last week, ranchwise.  We took a day trip to Schlitterbahn as God had blessed us with some free tickets.  Saturday morning I was at the church for a work day, but got out of there as soon as I could when I learned that the burn ban had been lifted until this morning.  We had several weeks worth of house trash in cans, and some old brush piles from when we had the house put in a year ago.  It was hot outside, but we did our best to burn as much as we could in our burn box.  We didn’t get it all, but I did manage to push the bigger logs over to the burn box with the Kubota.  That along with some mowing we had done really made an improvement in our front yard.  Furthermore, Anna just came in from planting some rose bushes as well.  I’ll put up a picture soon.

15 July 2011

Rain, Wind, and Dead Animals

15 July 15, 2011, Friday, 1530, Home Patch

We went to Beaumont yesterday for our Date Day.  As we were heading back it commenced to rain something fierce.  I tried not to get too excited about it until we got back to see what things looked like at home.  I have been disappointed before.  Happily, we got about an inch and a half.  We also got some pretty serious weather.  There were major limbs on people’s roads as we got close to home and we had a good size limb on our road as well.  We decided to see what other damage there might be, so we got in the truck and went on down the Camp Road.  Sure enough, an old tree in the pens went down and it took some of the pens with it.


So, we have some work to do, but it is work that we have needed to do anyway.  That section of pens was not in the best of shape to begin with.  By the way, that tree was basically dead.  All of the greenery on it is actually Jurassic size poison ivy.  Cutting that tree up is not an option.  We are going to have to pull it out with a tractor, let everything die on it, then come back later and cut it up.
We also noticed a very strange thing in Tank 3.  There were about half a dozen dead fish.  I expect to see dead fish when there is no rain, but right after a big storm?  I think I figured it out this morning.  I think that tank got struck by lightning and turned our few remaining fish in there belly up.  I’m sure the snakes survived somehow.
This morning, we went to go patch up a good size hole in the calf patch fence.  This fence is particularly organic now, so half of the battle was getting up to it.  Thankfully, I have Dad’s chainsaw and I began cutting our way in.  There was a lot more poison ivy here, so we had to go careful, and then we kept smelling a skunk.  A skunk smell can be a skunk, but it can also be a water moccasin.  The dogs kept digging and barking where a tree had been uprooted and the smell kept coming and going, but I couldn’t find the snake.  So, we put in a post, hung a wire on it, cut all the poison ivy vines at the base of the trees and decided to check the other fences.  We’ll come back to this place later.
Sadly, we found a dead cow.  It was pretty fresh; caught in the gully by the culvert bridge.  I tried to turn her ear up so I could read the tag number, but all I managed to do was drop the tow strap in the death-infested water.  I’ll go back later with a lariat and a hoe or hook.  I’m not the greatest roper in the world, but I shouldn’t have too much trouble roping a dead cow.  I’ll let you know.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.  We patched some relatively easy holes in the fence.  We road it all the way from the SE corner to about where the Sun Company Road comes in.  We have a lot of work left to do.

14 July 2011

The Crow Ranch Cowboy Camp

14 July 2011, Thursday, 1406, Barnes & Noble Starbuck’s-Beaumont

Our big Work Weekend Ranch Camp was a huge success!  The boys got in early Friday afternoon so we took them on a quick trip to MACI’s Feed in Hardin to get some black leg medicine.  When we got back, we got them oriented to the vehicles and the ranch by taking the 4-Wheeler and the Gator out to put out some cubes.  This also got the cows dialed in to the sound of our vehicles, the “Taco Truck” as Anna calls it.  We played a couple of games that night and went to bed early.  As expected, the boys had a little trouble going to sleep that night.

We got up around 6 the next morning and ate a delicious breakfast casserole.  During breakfast, I did a very short devotional (basically just read some scriptures) about what our attitude should be about hard work.  There is a fine line between working hard in order to get God or Man to like us and approve of us and being lazy because God loves us already.  Of course, the perfect scripture for that turned up during our revival a couple of days later, Col. 3:23.  I’ll have to remember that one for next time.

After we had all eaten (including the horses), we went to saddle up Rebel.  This was our first snafu of the day.  Although he did really well at the reenactment several weeks ago, his back seemed to be troubling him again.  There are only the slightest little bumps on his back and they are not tender to the touch, so I don’t know what the problem is.  I will keep doctoring him and keep praying for him.  Anyway, by that time, the other horses were out, so we had to call them back up so I could get Scout saddled.  Scout is not my top horse, but he did really well Saturday.  He had two issues.  The first one is that he gets really spooked about walking up to a man on foot, especially if he has a rope.  Of course, this is a very important part of working cattle and this habit made it difficult.  Also, at the end of the day, he was getting downright stubborn about going back in the pens.  He would just stop and refuse to do what he was told.  We worked it out, but it took some time.

The thing I was worried about the most for the entire weekend was getting the cows into the pens.  It frequently takes two or more cowboys with some good dogs and a fair amount of luck.  A lot of our internal fences are down right now, so when they make a break for the woods, it’s all over.  God was sure with us on this one that day.  I put Daniel (9th grade) on the 4-Wheeler with Hunter (8th Grade) in the Gator with Anna.  Age has its privileges.  Poor Hunter got stuck with kind of a boring job, but it was critical.  His job would be to handle the feed sack, while Anna drove.  Daniel would be pushing the herd from the rear on the 4-Wheeler and I would work the critical flanks on the horse.

We got to the Old Field and there were some cows there, but I couldn’t get around them in time to stop them.  I sent the vehicles out to the Savanna by way of the Culvert Bridge road, while I drifted east to the Board Bridge Road.  I gently trotted around them and the cows were all coming up to the Gator just like we needed them to, so I signaled Daniel to come to me and for the Gator to move ahead.  The cows trailed in to Bobcat Woods, just like we wanted them to.  I had Daniel pushing them from behind and I ducked into the thick woods on the west.  They kind of got away from us here.  I got about halfway into Bobcat Woods and saw the Gator, faithfully flapping feed bags and calling them up.  I had expected to see some cows before getting that far.  They had made a break for it, probably off to the east.  I told Anna to head to the Tallow Flat and recommence calling them up and bolted for where I thought the cows were.  Daniel had figured out where they were and was on them too.  The two of us managed to get them turned back to the North and even a little west toward the gully crossing that we wanted.  We got them across and Anna and Hunter were waiting for them, tolling them on toward the Old Field.  Many of them went right for the Tallow Thicket so I followed them in to keep them on course.  Daniel did really well here.  He knew exactly where to be and put the pressure on them just right, keeping them moving North while I kept them from getting away in the woods.  Anna and Hunter were also just in the right spot to keep them moving forward.  Going over the plan several times the night before when we were driving around really helped.

Once we got them into the Old Field, getting them into the pens was pretty easy.  I put Daniel up on the tank bank next to the gate so they couldn’t go by the opening and Scout and I cleaned the rest up nicely.  I was extremely gratified.  God was with us.  The boys did an outstanding job and the cows did well too.  We had enough calves to work in the pens and it was only 0915.  That was the complicated and tricky part.  Now, the dangerous and physically demanding part would begin.

Note:  Please see the 01 June 2011 entry “Never let a cow step on your neck” for a detailed description on how to work calves.

Since we had such luck with a thorough briefing on how to pen the cows, I gave a detailed demonstration on how we would tag.  This was also a good thing and helped them out a lot.  All in all the biggest problem we had was my roping skills.  I do all right on foot sometimes, but on a horse, I’m not the greatest.  I’m sure I’ll get better as the years go on, but roping in the pens is hard.  It’s not like in a rodeo, that’s for sure.  The easiest way to catch a calf is when it is passing from your right to your left.  On horseback, the horse’s head is in your way.  I’d try to run the calves in a circle so I could put it right out in front of me, but Scout was not the best at this and the calves got very proficient at ducking behind another cow or staying close to the fence.  What we finally ended up doing was this.  I would hang Scout up in the pens while I and one of the boys went in on foot.  When I roped one, I would pass off the rope to him, go get the horse, and they would pass the rope back.  This system worked pretty well, except for Scout not being great at walking up to people on foot.  This reminds me of another thing that I like about Rebel over Scout and that is the cavalry training.  Rebel has a different gear for his back end.  I can push his rear around with my feet.  This is so when I am in a saber duel with a Yankee cavalryman I can maneuver around to his back left where he can’t put up his guard.  Also, when I am in the pens, with a calf running around at the end of the rope I can keep myself from getting tangled.  I need to teach this to Scout.  I had a calf dallied off on the horn coming past my left side.  When I was trying to ride him around the snubbing post, he took off hard to my right and that rope almost pulled me off.  On Rebel, I could have kept him in line with the calf with a quick flick of the leg, but Scout had to figure it out on his own.  He did, but only just before I went off.

Anyway, we did good that day.  We tagged a total of six.  The boys did most of the holding and Daniel even threw a couple.  Most of the time we just jumped on them when they flopped down and once I put a foot rope on a big one.  Hunter showed his sand by hanging on to the rope beyond the point where it made sense.  He got pulled down a couple of times, but darn it, he wouldn’t let go until I told him to.  I guess if he were my son, I wouldn’t have told him to let go at all (see the entry “Hang on, Jason, Hang on!”), but since these kids were borrowed, I tried to take care of them.

We had done 5 calves when the sun came out.  It had been cloudy and even rainy up to that point, so the weather was pretty cool.  After the sun came out, we did one more.  The kids were pretty glad to be done, but according to their folks, they are still talking about it.  Fantastic!

We had a restful evening and went to Church and Sunday School on Sunday which was extremely important to the whole scheme of things.  It was very nice to be able to fellowship these kids in the Lord the way I could not when I was their teacher.

The weekend was excactly what I had hoped for.  Anna and I have talked a lot about what future iterations will look like and I will take some notes on what went well, what could have gone better (not much), and what we would like to accomplish in the future.  I will take all of my faithful readers along.  Thank you for your prayers.

08 July 2011

Cow Piercings

08 July 2011, Friday, 0655, Home Patch

Not much to report today, but I don’t want to get out of the habit of more frequent posts.  The master bathroom toilet has been back to haunt me.  Since we are having company this weekend, we decided to go ahead and get it fixed.  We went to Beaumont, got a new tank (since my efforts before had resulted in cracking the old one) and when I tried to put it on, it did not fit.  Yes, we did measure it, but it was only slightly off.  Anyway, it cost another trip to Beaumont and a later night than expected.  I will take another stab at it this morning.

We are attempting to pen cows with only the gator, a novice four-wheeler operator and a horse this weekend.  We are toying with several ideas to make sure that we get a good shot at getting the cows into the pens.  I am thinking about giving it a shot tonight.  However, we may just try tomorrow morning and if it doesn’t go well, then we can try again tomorrow late afternoon.  Please be in prayer for us.  It’s Hot!

I also finally managed to update the Cow Manager software.  We had about fifteen calves tagged and I found homes for all but 6.  In other words, we have discovered with reasonable assuredness which cow 9 of these calves come from.  I also have notes for which ones are not tagged.  We will try to take another look today and figure out what other matches we can make before tagging some more.

I also would not mind catching up on tagging some of the other cows.  This could also mean verifying that no cows have lost their tags.  This shouldn’t be hard to spot.  All we have to do is look for a hole in their ear.

I should have more to report after this weekend.  Wish us Luck!

06 July 2011

Little Stuff

06 July 2011, 0816, Wednesday, Home Patch
Well, the reunion went well and everyone had a good time.  God was very gracious to us on that day and gifted us with almost 2 ½” of rain in the course of about an hour.  The young kids were running around in the rain and getting soaking wet.  It was a lot of fun.
There is not a whole lot else to report yet.  There will be some of my former students from League City coming out this weekend to do some work.  Please keep this in your prayers.  I’ve always kind of imagined that God would turn ranching into some kind of ministry for young people, boys in particular.  I may be wrong, but in any event, I feel like this weekend is God ordained so your prayers are appreciated.
Remember, that Luke 16:10 says that if you’re faithful over little things, you will be given larger ones.  It’s hard to be faithful when you have your hands full, but I believe that if we don’t neglect the little things and the things that are close to home, then God will grant us with more responsibilities and resources.  Having three kids over to do some organizing and maybe throwing some calves may be the beginning of something bigger.  It may not be, but I will be faithful over this weekend.  It also applies elsewhere.  How can God trust me with more land if our house is not in order?  It is so easy to say, “If I only had money I could hire a maid, or someone to mow,” and yet there are dirty dishes in my sink that I need to wash.  Think small.  Get the small down pat.  Make the small so easy it is boring.  Do it the best way you know how.  I loved going to the KFC on Space Center and El Dorado.  There was a guy in there who loved his job.  You know what?  He actually  may have hated it, but he did it well.  He was cheerful, helpful, and thorough.  This guy wasn’t there very long.  Why?  I can only suppose that he got promoted or got a job with more responsibility and better pay.
I hope I have inspired you to do your work today with gusto and thoroughness.  God is pleased when you do and will reward it in His time.  If I didn’t inspire you, I inspired myself.  So, I’m off to be faithful.  Have a great day!

02 July 2011

Riding a Bucking Tractor

02 July 2011, 0917, Home Patch
I really did sit down at my computer yesterday morning with the intention of writing a blog entry, but realized I had absolutely nothing to say.  At least, nothing interesting.  Not much better today, actually.  However, I did move some more limbs around in cathedral oaks, but we pretty much did all we could handle the other day.  I made that tractor buck a couple of times.  Pretty scary, but it would be really hard to tip one over.  Basically, this happens when you try to pick up something that is heavier than the back end of the vehicle.  If you are not picking up right in the center and it’s too heavy, then one of your back wheels will jump off the ground.  When this happens it is better if you have kind of “preprogrammed” your response into your head so you don’t just start moving things and make it worse.  It’s not often that someone flips a tractor over on themselves, but it does happen.
We had company yesterday, or rather, Anna had company.  I just involved myself in the eating parts of that fellowship.  When they were all visiting, I went out to move limbs and when I finished that, I switched out the bucket and the hay spear and started restacking hay.  I left that job undone, when Anna said that we were all going to eat and just finished it this morning.
Switching out those implements on the front of the tractor is a lot easier when you have help.  At one point, you have to loosen or fasten the lynch pins and if someone is there directing you it keeps you from having to get out of the tractor several times.  I almost knocked out Dad during this process the other day.  We really do need to codify our hand and arm signals.  The Army kind of messed me up.  It got to the point that I couldn’t be understood backing a trailer or vehicle at the ranch or in Army ops.  A lot of the symbols are pretty basic.  You point up to make the bucket go up, down to go down, and unfold or fold up your arms to your chest to work the bucket.  We were doing pretty good, until Dad was getting ready to go in to work the lynch pins.  He wanted me to wait a minute while he did that, so he gave me the universal signal for wait a minute.  You know the one.  You hold up one finger in the air.  Woops!  We both realized our mistake before I knocked him in the chops.  Now, we our using the Army signal to wait or halt, a closed fist in the air with knuckles facing the driver.
Pretty soon we will be going over to Grandmother’s for the family reunion.  I’m looking forward to that, but I’m also wondering what kind of work I can get out of my cousins this weekend.