Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Cow Work and Birthdays



Cow Work and Birthdays

Mr. Blue (Sky)

By Stephen L. Wilmeth 


            The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.

                                                             ~ Frank Lloyd Wright


            The only Frank Lloyd Wright designed home I think I was ever in was there on the Peach Tree just east of San Ardo, California.

            I arrived in afternoon driving off the ridge from the San Andreas itself into that beautiful valley. Springtime in California is one of the greatest of all God’s gifts and it certainly was that evening. With the grass and the burr clover stands clinging to those live oak hillsides like massive emerald, green choirs shouting hallelujahs and the wild flowers exploding in riots of colors, it was not easy to reenter the civilized world.

            Several casitas served as sentinels to the entrance to the main headquarters which was a predominant red brick structure wrapping around a wisteria filled courtyard. Tom wasn’t there so his instructions were followed and the key was found to unlock the door. My stuff was deposited in the bedroom off yet another patio area that overlooked the valley. It was there by the pool, and the view of that valley filled with stocker cattle and ranching heritage, that demanded more attention.

            My goodness that was a beautiful place.

            Tom had told me the story of the swimming pool. In one of the continuous earthquakes that were a condition of the valley, a crack developed in the pool and part of the water drained out. In another tremor, the water ceased draining and the pool was refilled without any hint or suggestion a crack ever existed.

            A similar thing occurred on one of the casitas. A quake opened a doorway enough to disengage the door handle from the frame and the door swung open. The next tremor reset the alignment and the door was closed as if nothing ever happened.

            The evening was spent alone without Tom’s arrival. By bedtime, a book had been selected, and, with the doors wide open to that soft coastal hill air with its sweet smell of spring spilling in, the adventures of a Texan arriving in California for the first time was read. He had talked about getting horseback and riding off into an endless sea of green grass. He found himself wanting to look over another hill just to see if the grass stretched yet further.

            Old California was not just mystical, it was creation that had to be witnessed to be believed. That setting and that Frank Lloyd designed home … epitomized a world that too few now realize.

            Cow Work and Birthdays

            We weaned calves this week.

            Tim came over from Tahoka. He arrived with those three horses that now know the routine as well as we do. They were all looking for a horse cookie reward from the matron of the place as they were turned loose in the pen against the barn. Their next move was to check to make sure hay had been thrown.

            The first morning started at 4:30 with feeding. It was cold enough that departure was delayed until sunup.

            The first day’s junta covered the north end of the Burris Pasture. Chris and Martin joined us, so we had seven riders. The drive was penned, a late lunch was eaten, and then the cows were sorted. A three way sort was done with weaners going into one set of pens, unbranded calves were gated into another, and our white tagged first calf heifer calves were pulled off and run back into a shipping trap where they can be observed and helped if necessary as their expected calving begins the middle of the month.

            Cows and bulls were run out into a water lot.

            The second day began as the first with horses greeting us as we stumbled across frozen ground to the hay barn. The departure was again tied to daybreak and the drive to the ranch ensued.

            The day’s work started with the unbranded calves from the previous sort being branded and run back into the herd to pair. The penned herd was then moved into a big pen whereby we could leave them until the second drive was expected to arrive later in the afternoon. They would then be turned out into the Lazy E Pasture with calves with fresh brands assuredly paired.

            The horses were loaded and pulled to the jump off point by the cattle guard going into the Coldiron Pasture. The south end of the Burris Pasture was the next gather. That took longer than expected with only five riders (Chris and Martin were unable to come), but the remaining end, the big end, of our whole herd rotation numbers was penned about 3:30.

            The next day, the third day, began as normal with the first work being to sort similarly to the first day’s approach. The unbranded calves were branded, all the weaner calves were vaccinated, and the herd along with the newly branded calves was turned out into the Lazy E pasture with their peers from the previous day.

            By 2:30 we were done reminding the participants … how whole herd strategies can handle big numbers and accomplish many things quickly when the process is fully installed.

            Mr. Blue (Sky)

            The occasion can be predicated either on Buy Me a Rose or Mr. Blue (Sky). I chose the latter even though the former is a much better song to dance to.

            There needs to be no unnecessary homage, but the passing of time prompts many things including wondering how it all took place so fast. Nostalgia must be included in the bylines and the refrain, but the ride has all been interesting. I am humbled by several things, but always there has been the land and wonderful people and the animals that make it endearing.

            If there is a sequel, there will be thanks, but for today, … let’s just dance.

 Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Big birthdays do happen.”


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