Me and Scout

Me and Scout

25 April 2013

Head Wounds Bleed a Lot and First Branding

No substitute job on Monday, so I got to stay home and hit the ranch work hard.  It was one of those days where the sheer number of tasks that we had to do was so overwhelming that we decided just to pick something and be satisfied with getting that done.
We fed the horses and then went to go look at the cows.  We have been missing Cow #35 for a couple of weeks so we started looking for her.  At the time, I was afraid that she went off in the woods to have a calf and being a first year heifer that she had trouble and we lost her.  Our cows normally have easy births, but you never know, so we started skirting the edges of the woods.  I dismounted and started walking through the woods, smelling for dead cow.  It was here that I made my first stupid mistake of the day.  There was a small log lying in my path and I stepped over it.  About 8 inches to my left I saw a rattle.  I mean I just missed him.  You should always step on the log before stepping to the other side.  So, I called for Anna and she brought me an ax that was in the gator.  ‘Nuff said.
We went home for lunch and started some clearing around the house.  There have been some old fence lines that needed to be taken out, so we hit those.  I cut some tallow trees under the power line to the house.  I was very careful not to make a mistake here, as this could have taken me out.  It is usually a simple matter to fell a tree in the direction you want, but trees growing up in brush are seldom straight.  Invariably, they are leaning away from the direction you want them to fall.  I have more clearing to do here, but if I choose the order I cut the trees correctly, then I can use existing trees to block the ones I’m cutting from the line.  Anyway, it looks a lot better right around our house.  That kind of work always feels good to do.  It is nice to look at a job and know you are done.  Of course, we still have to pick all this trash up.  Then it will look really nice.  It was in doing this, that I made my second mistake of the day.  I was chopping at some vines with a hackknife and reached up to pull them down, they pulled free suddenly and I hit myself in the head with the backside of the knife.  It hurt, but not too bad.  As I was walking around shaking it off, I figured I should check my head and pulled my hand away, covered in blood.  I staunched it with my bandanna and we went inside and put on some pain-free (yeah, right) liquid skin and that was the end of it.
We decided that we did need to repair the Old Field Fence by the trap before the day was over.  However, when we got over there, cows were in the Old Field.  We took the opportunity and drew some of them into the lane and shut the gap.  The calves were not all there, but we reckoned that they would work their way in to the trap like last time.  We started repairs to the fence, then called it a day.
The next night I saddled up Scout and called a buddy from Sunday School as well as Grandmother and Aunt Josey.  Anna and I were very relieved to get the calf mentioned in the last blog tagged.  He’s a bull after all, so we didn’t have to brand him.  The main problem we had was that two calves got out.  One slipped out an old gate that can’t be tied tight enough to hold a calf.  The other slipped into the tank lot under a gate.  We went in to get him, but he braved the mud hole into the Calf Patch and got out.  True, we should have shut the gate, but my help was getting low on time and we decided to call it quits.  We worked 4 calves, branding 3, and tagging 2 (2 of them had tags already).  We had a good time and got to break in a new hand from my Sunday School class.  Jim had done some bullriding in the rodeo, but since that is useless for actual ranchwork, we were relying on his practical experience in working his uncle’s ranch in Mexia.  In other words, he is not afraid to throw down the rope and body tackle a calf if necessary.  In working ranch world, you don’t points for style, you get points for getting the job done.  For instance, a second calf started to go out of the hole by the gate I mentioned.  Jim and I each grabbed a back leg and kept pulling until she was back in.  We threw her right there.  Good moment, but it was spoiled by an angry cow who charged us, so we got up.  God was with us.  We had our backs turned.  I don’t know what made me turn around, but when I did, there she was.  We got up quick.
I do miss  my old war horse, Rebel.  Scout has his uses, but he is way too scared of cows to be much good in the pens.  We worked 4 calves and he only helped us drag in one.  The rest we either worked in the roping pen or drug in by hand.  He would rear up, spin around, but did not want to go in amongst the cows.  Once, a little calf hit the fence and rolled over at Scout’s feet.  He acted like I had thrown a stick of dynamite under him.  He hit the sky and gave a jump or two.  Not good for a cow pony, especially our only one.
It was a good evening.  We got some ‘combat’ in, exercise, society, and work done.  I love branding.  Always have.  We still have several to do, so I will keep you all posted.

23 April 2013

The Usefulness of Gratitude

We had quite a frustrating day on back on the 6th.  One of those times where I just started to question what it is I am doing here.  This is an unfortunate phenomenon.  In reality, I am convinced that God authorized our move to Batson.  It was so incredibly clear at the time.  The main indicator was that the story of Abraham leaving Ur kept coming up independently.  But now, it can be different.  Now that we are here and there is little money and our home site is being turned into an oilfield and we can’t pen cows because we only have one working horse and one untrained cow dog, it is a different story.  Saturday was one of those days.
On Friday night, we saw some cows in the Old Field, so we tolled them in with cubes.  We led them to our newly constructed trap, but the calves would not go through the gate.  However, the mommas to these calves did.  A little calf will not have any trouble getting through a barbed wire fence, even a good one, so I decided to leave them there overnight and let the calves work their way in.  The next morning, we were very pleased to see that the two untagged calves were in there!  Easy, right?  Well, not so much.  All the cows went from the trap in to the Calf Patch, but all four calves balked at the muddy hole they had to go through at the gate.  I gently got around them and managed to ease in three of them, but the one calf left just wouldn’t see the way in.  She eventually got around me, went through the fences out into the Old Field.  The rest of the morning was spent trying to catch that one calf.  I even got him cornered next to the pens.  I tackled him, wrestled, him, but couldn’t get his legs out from underneath him.  That and the mud helped him get away.  [Excuse the fact that the calf tends to change sex in the story.  The general rule is that if a calf is out grazing in the field it can be a girl, but if you are wrestling it “she” becomes a “he”.]  By this time, I was enraged.  I couldn’t wrestle a tiny little calf, something I had done countless times in the past, and I couldn’t rope it because I couldn’t get close enough on foot.  I had had enough.  We reset the trap, hoping that he would come in and we tagged the other one.
I would like to say that this scene was an isolated incident, but frustrations like this are a part of ranching with no money.  Here’s what was different this time.  We went home, ate, and calmed down.  Anna’s devotional had been about being thankful in all things.  We made an effort to do that.  We tagged the one calf that we did get into the pens.  We went and fixed a hole in the fence that we had discovered.  It occurred to me that because we made an effort to change our attitudes and to be truly grateful for the things that had gone right, we were able to see the truth of the day.  That truth was that we did some valuable fence repair.  We tagged half of the calves that we had in the trap, I took a ride on Scout, and I worked with Silver.  This, in reality was a good day.  One of the things that made it good was that because we purposed to be thankful, we could see the good.  May God continue to make it easier for us to do this.

03 April 2013

The Newly made Gelding

The veterinarian told us that once Silver was castrated that we could get two months of training done in two weeks if we worked with him every day.  Of course, I did not do that, but I really did work with him most every day and I have to admit, he was a different horse.  Due to his neck injury, which was still healing, and his procedure, we left him in the pens by himself.  After a few days, we gave him the Calf Patch as well.  Most days, I longed him and some days I worked on getting him to come to me.  I was sensitive to the fact that I couldn’t be too soft.  If he didn’t come up to me, or at least let me come up to him, then I would crack the whip and run him around the pens a bit.  That seemed to work pretty well, but I do wonder if it’s not confusing.  I used the same principle in longeing.  He had never been good at longeing at the lope.  I would pay out more lead to give him room to move and he knew that he could get away from the whip.  After a couple of strides, he would stop and face me.  This time, as soon as he did that, I ran to him and cracked the whip, chasing him a bit.  I tried again, going quickly from the trot to the lope in whatever direction he chose.  Whenever he tried to stop, I cracked the whip and if he balked, I ran him around a bit.  In just a few minutes, he was doing as he was told.  When I did stop him, he quickly came to me and put his head in my chest, so I gave him a good rubbing and “made much of him” as the cavalry manual says.

This instantly approaching me after stopping him got a little scary when I put the saddle on him.  I had mentioned before that I put the McClellan on him and the stirrups got him bucking around pretty good. I decided to break that process down, so I put on an old Mac with no stirrups.  I just had the pad and the tree cinched down pretty tight.  It didn’t make a difference.  Once he took a couple of steps, he realized that this thing wasn’t coming off and he took to bucking.  The theory is that you just let them buck until they are tired and realize that the saddle is not going to hurt him.  I would have loved to do that, but he eventually worked the saddle pad out.  Now, the saddle was loose and I worried about him turning it or slipping it off down his legs.  That would be a real disaster that could get him hurt.  He’d buck some, then stop and immediately and quickly come to me for reassurance.  Of course, when he did, that saddle moved on him and he would start bucking again right next to me.  Finally, he calmed down long enough for me to get it off.  That was unsettling too.  If he took to bucking before I had completely freed it, then that could have been a wreck as well.

So, my mission is to now figure out a way to keep the saddle on tight, be able to release it quickly in a jam, and then let him buck with it until he can stand to be longed with it on.  Of course, whenever I think about him doing that with me on board, my heart rate goes way up.  Maybe I will do some additional reading.  I really really and truly do not want to hurt this horse and I don’t want to get on him wondering if he is going to buck.  So, I will have to do a lot of prayer and trusting along with research.  I’ll let you know!

02 April 2013

Spring Work Camp

Our Spring Break Work Camp was a success.  We had our three regular customers and they had a good time.  They arrived on Saturday, the 9th of March and left on the afternoon of Wednesday, the 13th.  The first day all we did was string the final strands of wire on the New Fence.  One of them has been toying with the idea of being a combat engineer, but is now reevaluating this career choice after unrolling a ¼ mile of barbed wire.
The next day was a Sunday, so we intended to spend it going to church and then resting as the Lord commanded.  We did except for trying to turn the young Patriot into the pasture with the three remaining horses up front.  This was a bit of a disaster.  It all worked pretty peaceably at first, but about an hour after we made the switch, I saw all three of them chasing Patriot all over the place.  I ran out there and Patriot was down with Rebel over top of him biting his neck!  I ran him off, throwing at Rebel everything that I could get my hands on.  Patriot just lay there a bit.  There was no mark on his neck.  This makes sense because Rebel was not trying to kill Patriot, but to dominate him.  However, he was a little bloody around his eye and had some blood trickling out of his nose, as well as having a barbed wire cut on his shoulder, but overall he was okay.  We decided that it would be better not to deal with this at this time.  We spent the rest of the day reversing what we had done in moving horses.  Patriot and Sarge were in the New Horse Pasture and then we put Silver in the pens by himself until we could get him castrated.
Monday was when the real work started.  I put the boys on rigging up a fence that goes into the tank so that stock could not cross it.  The goal was to get a trap built that we can lead cows into and leave them overnight without having to worry about water.  That way, if we do pen them, we can leave them until we get around to working them or until there is a sale.  Eventually, when we build up the west fence of the Savanna, Tallow Flat, Bobcat Woods, and Old Field, we can use the Mineral Box Field as a big trap and drive into the pens from there or even separate the herd into two different herds.  This will help gentle down some of the wider cows and keep better track of what bull is sire to the caves.
The fencing into the water was the kind of problem that I love to give kids like this.  I have said that ranching is a giant Army-style Leadership Reaction Course used for training.  My orders to the kids were to make a suitable fence and not to get wet.  They constructed a type of pontoon bridge and the fence is still holding.  They also were successful in fulfilling the secondary objective of staying dry.
After that, we rebuilt the short section of fence behind Tank 3 and remade the old gap there.  Then, we patched the worst of the holes in the west end of the Lane Trap.  We were ready to see if we were ready.
We went to go look at the cows and since we had some cubes, we tolled them in.  Unfortunately, they were coming straight for the pens so we bypassed our trap altogether, but we had two calves in the pens!  I decided to put the m all in the calf patch, since the tank lot is weak.  The gate from the Tank Lot to the Calf Patch is pretty muddy, so we were a little concerned about the little calves getting stuck in the hole.  They were too apparently, so they waited until all the other cows had gone through.  Before we knew it, the calves were all we had in the pens!  We shut the gate and did our best to keep them calm while Anna went to go get the tags.  I got the rope and kind of showed the boys how to use it.  The two kids that have never done it got to “rope” a calf, then each of them got to throw one and we tagged it.  They enjoyed it a lot and I enjoyed watching them do it.  I will have to have them back for more, maybe even branding.
The next day was a rodeo of racing through fields on the 4-wheeler, the truck, and on Scout.  We didn’t ever get anything else in the pens, but we had a good time trying.
The next morning was the last day and the vet was scheduled to come out early and castrate Silver and clean out his neck wound.  That was not an easy chore.  Silver was as scared as he could be.  I don’t know what we are going to do when we have to pull blood on him in the future.  We snubbed him up to a gate post and squeezed him up between the gate and a cattle panel.  He pulled like a crazy horse, but I had a couple of wraps and the rope was going nowhere.  In fact, it didn’t even let loose when Silver went unconscious.  I had to cut the rope.  I also made a rookie mistake.  The vet told me to take the slack out once and I actually grabbed the rope all the way around.  Silver spooked again and pulled the slack out, catching my fingers in the wrap.  Luckily I had gloves on.  When I took them off later, my middle finger had been cut open and a little piece of fat had been squeezed out.  Ick.  Nonetheless, we got him down and I had the doc do every kind of needle work that I could imagine.  Coggins, rhino, West Nile, the works.  I don’t want to have to do that again for awhile.  He was also successfully castrated.  You have never seen three paler teenage boys, I can tell you that.  When you get to be my age, it doesn’t bother you so much.  Actually, when you get to be my age, you learn to find some tool to fetch, or something else to check on.  On top of that, the vet also cleaned out Silver’s neck wound while he was out.  A few days before our future combat engineer had to rethink his career choice.  Our future combat medic was forced to do the same thing.
The Camp, as always, was fun, successful, and productive.  I dream of the day when I can put all of them on good horses and know for sure that we will be able to pen cows when we want.  God says not to despise small beginnings.  It is the story of our lives right now, but I really see that someday we will look back on these days and appreciate them.  We will know that if God ever brings us a bunkhouse full of campers who will all get a chance to rope, ride, and throw calves it is because God granted us the ability to be faithful over the little things today.

Calving Season

Calves are being born!  I was beginning to worry, because last year we moved our breeding season up a month in order to start the calves in January.  For some reason this did not work and we are still having calves born in late February at the earliest.  I won’t mind moving the schedule up a little more.  One of the main reasons we did this is so that the bull won’t have to do his job in the middle of sweltering heat.  This hurt us for last year’s crop.
The bull works, we know that.  Dad had him up there before we brought him to Batson and calving started there last month.  It is all about timing.  A cow’s gestation is 283 days.  Last year’s breeding season was from April to June.  More than half of our cows are from the 2011 crop of heifers that we fed in the winter of 2011-2013.  Those heifers were born in March, April, and May of 2011.  The other cows are a mix of some younger cows, herd leaders, and older cows that we intend to cull, but haven’t been able to catch or load.  It takes roughly 15 months for a heifer to be old enough to breed.  So, by moving the breeding season up by a month, we are narrowing the window on the breeding season for the 2011 heifers.  I understand that is probably confusing.  I myself had to count months on my fingers several times just to write it.  The upshot of it is that our older cows that were bred are having calves now.  The younger crop of heifers were not mature enough at the beginning of the three months breeding season, so anything we get out of them will happen at the end of this calving season.  This means there is systemic shift of three months.  In other words, the calves that are born this year from the new heifers from 2011 will definitely miss the breeding season in 2014.  The bottom line is that a heifer will be three years old before having a calf.  The bright side is that first calf heifers will not be having calves in the coldest part of the winter, but in the milder Spring.
Right now, we have 10 calves down here in Batson.  The good news is that 2 of these are from the 2011 crop of heifers.  We have already exceeded the calf crop from last year and we will probably have more.  I know of two cows that look pregnant right now.  As the calving season goes on the 2011 heifers will be more likely to calve.
The next mission is to tag them when they are small.  Too small and you could hurt them.  Too big and they could hurt you.  We have already managed to tag three of them and matched them up to their mothers.  In recent years, we have been tagging them about the same time we are weaning them.  That is way too big.  Of course, to brand them, they have to be bigger than they are to tag them, but once again, they could stand to be a lot smaller than when we have been branding them.  Some of the brands on the 2011 crop are awful looking because we waited so long that they had to be done in the chute.  When that happens, they will lie down or move forward or backward so that you can’t reach the brand that you started.  When you have them down on the ground and well and truly held, there is nothing that they can do.
All in all, the calving season is going better than last year.  More calves and we are getting to the tagging part sooner.  I will keep you posted.