Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The perils of counting cattle

Julie Carter

The probability factor for knock-down drag-out fight in corrals zooms to 100 percent when him-and-her cattle counting is involved.

"Differing slightly" is a smooth term for what happens when he expects her to count and she expects him to help or accept her count as correct. Neither of which ever happens.

Counting cattle appears to be a simple process of pointing and starting with the number one and progressing to a finally tally. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First, let me say that of all the skills required to work cattle, counting is one that is always taken for granted.

No one ever asks if you can count, they just expect that you will. And it's never an issue, until of course, you've done it wrong.

In every counting situation, it helps to know how many there are supposed to be. It's been suggested by better cowboys than me that the best way is to count at least twice and get an average. You might end up with 37-1/2 but that's a number.

A couple of broke cowboys bought a huge roan saddle horse at a horse sale in Amarillo.

Because neither had enough money to individually pay for Roanie, they partnered on him.

The day Jess got his turn with the new purchase, he was supposed to help his bride count a big string of wheat pasture cattle.

There were about 450 head on three sections of undivided wheat pasture and when they got them pushed to one side, they headed them down the fence.

The cowgirl was counting them at the corner and her able partner was supposed to keep them coming and count anything that went behind her.

When she finished her count, she turned to ask for his to add to the total.

What she saw indicated he'd never even started his job.

The cowboy and his new roan horse had ridden off and were doing little turns, circles, stopping and other assorted horse training maneuvers.

After the fight, the cowgirl hired some reliable help and the next day got a good count on the herd.

Another time, they were riding through a big string of cattle on a couple sections of wheat. He was to count one side and she the other.

Her horse had to stop and water the ground, so she got a ways behind.

When she caught up, he managed to take the time out of his busy schedule to raise hell with her, but in doing so, lost his count.

They managed to settle on a plan. One day she counted and the next it was his turn.
Florida cattle are treasure to count. When they arrive in the West, most of them have never seen men or horses.

Often described as wilder than "outhouse rats," getting them to slow down enough to count them was a feat and if that happened, then they wad up in a ball, all looking at the rider with no intention of stringing out for the count.

Darrell always had a lot of Florida cattle and would gather up everybody within a million miles to come help receive them.

The trucker would turn out the first bottom compartment of the trailer and it was pretty standard that they all had to be roped and tied down because they simply would not stop running.

The theory was that the next compartment would stop to see what was tied down.
Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

One cowboy suggested that the words women use that don't really mean what they say were created in the corrals during counting.

The definitive use of "Whatever!" "Fine!" and "Never mind!" suggest a few rocky days ahead.

When the boss asked me that dreaded question, "How many did you get?" I categorically always answered with all the sincerity I could muster, "All of them."

Julie, never good at counting, can be reached for comment at

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