Me and Scout

Me and Scout

28 May 2013

Almost Summer

I’m tempted to say that not much has happened since the last blog entry, but that is not necessarily true.  We penned some more cows and took another to the sale, but the associated drama so paled in relation to our previous adventures that it has hardly seemed worth mentioning.  Therefore, I will be brief and cover some other information.
We did manage to toll some in.  Our plan was to try to get the orphan calf to start nursing from cow 65 who has been nursing cow 74 for two years now.  When we weaned back in 2011, we never could get 74 up and consequently she has been using her momma ever since.  I figured that if we could get 65 and 77’s calf in the pens we could wean 74 and hopefully 65’s bag would start to ache a bit and she would let 77’s calf take a drink.  We separated out all the cows but the ones we wanted, plus old 67 so we could sell her, and a few of the gentle 2011 crop.  Since we only had confidence in the pens holding them, we kept them in there for a day or two, bringing them water in the truck and laying down some cubes.  We also opened the front lot, which had not been grazed much.  Chris and I tried to roll some left over hay onto the deck of the mower on the little Kubota, but she quit on us.  I’ll go into that more in a minute.
The cow we wanted to sell, 67, had actually been in the trailer once before, but got out before we could shut the gate on her.  This time, it was boring.  We separated her in the front lot, got her into the crowding pen, ran her down the chute a ways, she turned around on her own, we changed the gate, and she walked right into the trailer and we shut the gate.  No fuss at all.  I was ready to go buy a lottery ticket right then.
After a couple of days, we decided to let them into the calf patch, and then the lane.  That was Tuesday.  By Wednesday, only the two cows that we left in there for gentling purposes were still there.  I think 65 swam the tank and 77’s calf just pushed through a fence.  Doesn’t matter.  We have not seen 74 nursing off 65 since, so we may have done the job there and 77’s calf looks fine and is way gentler than her momma.  We’ll see.
The tractor is another story.  I grabbed a tank of diesel to put in there, but it turns out that it was fire starting fuel, which is to say that it had some crud and water in it.  Once that got into the engine, the tractor wouldn’t start at all.  I changed out the filter (which was full of junk), drained the fuel, put in some more, but there is still nothing.  I’m going to call the mechanic today and get him out, but I think the pump is out.
I know I have been talking about the pens a lot, so here is a rough sketch of what they look like.  Hopefully, this, along with the other map of the place, will help you get a better picture of what we are doing.

I have two weeks left of school, then we begin our summer work projects (which include trying to stay cool).  Until then, I am not very ambitious; just trying to keep things together (like the tractor) so that we can get to real work once school’s out.  Of course, the real work will be trusting God through the time of much depleted income.  That’s the tough part for sure, but we are getting better at it due to lots of practice.

13 May 2013

Having Psycho Cows Committed

I have taken on a job for the rest of the year and I think it will be a good one.  I am the 6th grade PE coach.  This is really a cush job.  I am teaming with the PE coach for 7th/8th grades and they are doing the activity together.  There are only 4 classes a day, but I frequently get put in another class here and there.  The rest of the day I sit in the coach’s office and work on the computer.  Writing this blog, working on the Sunday School lesson or writing my “Disciple’s Hip Movie” book.  Since this job will pretty much preclude me taking a day off here and there I decided to not work on Friday.  God (as He often does) had other plans.  I started feeling sick on Thursday last at work.  That Friday I did nothing but sleep, eat, and watch TV with a real emphasis on sleeping.  Saturday was not much better, but I decided to test my legs so Anna and I drove out in the Gator to look at cows, etc.
I had obviously not fully recovered because just bouncing around was really wearing me out, but it did perk me up a bit to see that we had three more calves!  Even better than that, on the Camp Road back to the house, we glanced into our trap and discovered there were cows in there.  We figured they were the same old ones, but thought it best to check.  We drove west down the northern fence of the trap and saw 76 and 77, the two craziest cows in the bunch.  These were responsible for busting up our herd at least a dozen times in the last few years.  We would get a group headed toward the house and they would run off, taking other cows with them.  The wouldn’t head, they wouldn’t come to cubes for more than a few seconds.  They’d fight you in the pens.  These were the outlaws and they had wandered into the trap.  This was no less than a miracle.  Our psychotic cows were in the trap and it was time to have them committed.  Anna sped us down to the west end of the trap and I jumped out before she even stopped, crawled under the fence and hoofed it over to the gap to the Old Field.  Shut!  Anna NASCAR’ed it back to the pens to shut the gate from the Tank Lot to the Old Field and I started jogging that way from the back side.  I saw her shut the gate with cows right there.  We had them!  Of course, this also wore me out, but it was worth it.  I called Dad and he instructed me to check for their calves in the morning (we had already seen them in the Savanna) and then call him and he would come with the trailer.  The next morning they were there.
We ducked out of church after the worship service.  This is not something we normally do, but this was indeed a special circumstance.  After church, we were joined by Jim and Chris.  Jim had helped us out before and Chris had helped me once during our work camp with some fencing.  I began to worry a bit when we were driving the cows from the lane to the Calf Patch.  Chris and I started leading them in on the Gator with Dad and Scout trailing to pick up stragglers.  That did not last very long.  They quit Chris and me pretty quickly and got past Dad on the tank bank; led, of course, by Cow 77.  Then, we all started driving them.  With Dad on the bank and the Gator on the flat, we managed to get them moving forward as a kind of a herd and they went in to the Calf Patch pretty easily.  We just about had all of them in the pens when, true to form, Cow 77’s calf turned back and got past us.  Chris and I had dismounted, but none of us could catch the lone calf.  Dad got around him and started him back, but we had not luck.  Eventually, he worked his way out into the Old Field.
Now for the hard part.  We figured the best way to load these cows was to forget the running chute and just back the trailer up to the open front gate of the pens.  Our crowding pen is right next to the front gate so we can easily open both gates and the trailer gate makes the other half of the chute.  Without too much difficulty, we got 7-8 cows down our cattle panel wing into the crowding pen including the two that we wanted.  Here is where we had to stop and scratch our heads awhile.  Since the trailer gate was half of our chute into the trailer, as soon as we shut the gate on the first cow, our chute would be gone.  This means that all of the other cows in the crowding pen would run out into the horse pasture.  That was not a good option.  The other option was to try to cut out cows that we didn’t want to haul, but we risked losing the two and getting them back into the crowding pen wouldn’t be easy a second time.  We finally decided to rope the two we wanted to haul, tie them off to a tree just outside the fence and let the others out.  This actually worked pretty good.  Now, we had our trailer set up with Jim and I holding those cows dallied off on the tree with Chris on the gate, ready to slam it shut.
77 was closest to the front, so we got another rope on her and led it up through the trailer.  Once we got that done, we unfastened from the tree and ran that rope forward as well.  I tied off 76, but Jim and I both could not pull that cow in on our own.  So, we just got her up to the trailer, and took the free end of the rope and tied a bowline around the bucket on the Kubota.  She could not fight that.  Dad pulled her in nice and gently.  You have to be careful when they step in so you don’t break the legs, but it worked fine.  Once we got her in, we reran the rope to the front and got her in the front partition.  I really wanted to take a break at this point, but 76 was still tied off and fighting the rope.  Before long, she would wear herself out or get herself caught under the rope, or hook a horn in the fence.  No time to rest.  We got set to do the same thing, but she kind of fought her way into the trailer without us having to tie on to the tractor.  That’s two!  Next we had to get both of them in the front so we could get 76’s calf in the back.  More passing the ropes back and forth, pushing her back, opening the middle gate, tying the front cow off so she couldn’t back up, then working 76 up front.  Then it was just a matter of getting a running iron (essentially a metal hook) and pulling the ropes off without getting hooked.  Think of it as events that you won’t see in a rodeo.  The Unroping event, the Tractor Pull event, the Rope Only Two Horns Out Of 10 That Are In A Crowding Pen event, and the Climbing On A Trailer With Fighting Cows Without Getting A Horn Through Your Leg event.  With tenacity, quick thinking, and the right combination of daring and caution, we got it done.
Roping the calf and dragging it to the trailer was simple.  We took a look for the other calf, but couldn’t find it.  She is still out there.  She’s a couple of months; too young to be weaned, but still old enough to survive on her own.  She may not amount to much, but we’ll keep an eye on her and do what we can for her.  Not wanting to let those two angry cows spend too much time together in the front partition of the trailer, Dad took off for the sale.  The rest of us started up the fire and tagged one calf and branded and tagged another that were in the pens.  By the time Dad got back we were working on getting an unbranded cow into the chute.  We got her in and branded.  By this time, I had abandoned using Scout.  He just wouldn’t stand for it.  We’d get a bunch of cows up to the gate and he would hit the wall and bolt through the gate, rearing up, and spinning around, scattering the cows we wanted.  I’d run him back to put him up, but he did it so quickly, I knew that’s what he wanted, so I went back and tried him again.  He would fuss and pitch a fit, so I would drag his head around to my knee and run in him in a tight circle.  I’m trying to apply the same principles I use in substitute teaching to horse training.  Don’t get mad, just demonstrate that the alternative to compliance is less pleasant.  For students, I move them or send them to the office.  No yelling, or accusations, just, “You need to leave now.”  Sometimes I raise my voice a bit so they will know I’m serious.  With horses, it’s just keep trying it until they know they won’t get their way, or do things like run them in a tight circle, then go try again.  However, I’m not sure this will work with Scout.  After talking about it with Dad we realized this horse is probably 25.  He’s always been skittish, but never as bad as this.  We are beginning to wonder if he’s losing his vision.  It would explain a lot.  This is just another reason to get our horse program (whatever that will be) up and running.
All in all, we had a really good day.  My crew from Sunday School had a good time and are just dumb enough to want to come back and do it again.  The calf that is on its own is doing well, but following other cows around looking for milk.  He’ll quit that after awhile.  This week, I will try to get that calf in the pens along with a cow that never weaned her calf from 2011.  If I can get her to take this calf and wean the other that will be good.  We will put them in the trap and see if they will stay.
It has rained a lot and the ground is too wet to do much now.  Silver is remembering how to wear a blanket.  He needs consistency, which will be a lot easier for me once the summer starts, but I’m working with him most every day, even if it is just throwing that thing up there.  Next will be the surcingle to strap it down.  Then, the saddle again.  We’ll see.
God was surely with us last week and we are thankful for keeping us safe, getting rid of those crazy cows, and blessing us with lots of rain before the summer.  Thank you, Lord!

02 May 2013

Decisions, Decisions

Not much happening this week.  We did manage to get up some more cows.  Actually, we got up the same cows that we got up last week, the same cows that we always get up.  The cows we don’t get up are still out there.  Anyway, we branded the two calves that escaped last week and we also branded two cows that have been escaping for quite some time.  I have to confess that I had a little trouble throwing one of these calves.  I just couldn’t get his front leg up off the ground.  Part of it is that I am just not 25 anymore, but I also think I was grabbing him around the neck and just picking his head up.  He finally jumped and I threw him with no trouble.  The only other real trouble we had was with the horse.  Scout is only a marginal cow pony out in the open, but he is getting worse and worse in the pens.  He wouldn’t even let Dad get close to the cows.  All he was good for was running interference while Jim and I pulled the calf in by hand.  A cow pony that is afraid of cows is about as useless as a carpenter that’s allergic to wood.  We need a replacement.

This problem is absorbing a fair amount of thought.  Silver is relatively gentle, but the whole castration, wounding, and needle episodes have put him behind.  I use to always throw a blanket on him to work him, but now he’s scared of it.  So, I am starting that process over.  I can catch him easier and sacking him is going well, but it’s a step backwards for sure.  We have some options.  The ranch can go ahead and foot the bill for a decent cow horse (hopefully one that can do cavalry too) is one option.  Another option is to work a deal with a local horse trainer and get some of these brumbies broke and work out a trade.  Or, I can have a trainer finish off Silver.  Also, a combination of these might be best.  I hate to give up on Silver, but I’m just really not sure how it’s going to go with me training him.  It is possible, since this is my first one, that I could mess him up.  I’m a little shy about that.  I think that the whole Sarge incident has significantly changed my outlook.  Sarge used to be a horse that I could ride until I rode him steady for about a week and then he just wouldn’t stand to be mounted.  He only got worse.  Of course, that I messed up my knee during that whole thing also shakes me a little.  I would hate to take a perfectly gentle horse like Silver and traumatize him.  Has it happened already?  I used to walk up to him and throw on a blanket and now I can’t.  Without the horse training experience I am experimenting and winging it.  That could prove to be costly and even dangerous in the long run.

A guy I reenact with told me about a farrier/horse trainer in Tyler that can break a horse without trauma.  He’s in his 60’s so he doesn’t put up with the bucking.  He is supposed to be very good.  I would love the chance to learn from someone like that.  The problem there is that kind of training also takes a good deal of money.  Anyone that does that down here would be training a potential competitor.  These are the downsides to training Silver myself.

On the other hand, if I ship Silver off to get trained by a local, then I take the risk of him being broke out rough.  I do not want to do that because ultimately I would have to try to undo the bad lessons.  That is part of Scout’s problem.  With getting any horse off the place trained is that what is delivered to us is still a young question mark.  I will have to train them to the gun, the neck reining, the cows, the rope, the trailer, the riding in formation, and all the myriad other things that a cow horse/cavalry mount will have to endure.  In the world of living in the suburbs and riding once or twice a month that takes about a year.  Living out here it would be less, but still a lengthy process.

This is a summary of the horse problem.  We need ‘em and we don’t have ‘em.  I need at least two reliable cow ponies at the bare minimum.  Right now I have a half.  If I had four cavalry/cow horses I would be able to use them all or be able to put someone on all of them for reenactments or cow work.  I would love to have something that Anna could ride.  What is the right intermediate step to take to get to this goal?

So, that is it.  We could use prayers and advice on this problem.  I welcome input.  Ultimately, like the whole living on the ranch enterprise, it is in God’s hands.  It is His ranch.  The problems are His and so must be the solutions.  I have faith that He will work them in His good time.  In the interim, I want to be faithful to do what I am supposed to.  The sermon on Sunday referenced 1 Corinthians 1:27.  “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”  Our lack of skill, experience, and resources are an opportunity for God to show His glory.  I look forward to seeing that, but I also rest in that until He does.