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.