When I was a kid, I was your typical horse-crazy little girl. My dad was a logger, and we didn’t have horses, so I would ride any horse I had the chance to ride. Now, I had very little practical knowledge of horses, but I’d read plenty of horsey books and felt quite able to take on anything!
One time I was given the opportunity to ride some Haflinger ponies that were just 2 miles down the road. Trained to ride, but lazy and stubborn from lack of use – they were offered to me to ride as much as I liked. Wow! What a gift to a horse-crazy girl!
They were a pain to catch. I had to lure them (and all their buddies) to the barn with grain. Then when I finally caught one, I spent half my time kicking it in the ribs to make it walk. They were such a pain, I wonder at my own tenacity!
Well, one day I had a extra hard time catching that horse. Once I finally got it caught, saddled and cinched up good, I got on and we stepped out. This barn had a circle drive in front of it, flanked on 3 sides by the horse pasture, one side was the barns and one side was the dirt road.
All was fine for about 5 strides – till Mr. Haflinger decided he wasn’t having any more of this riding business! I kicked him lightly in the ribs, but instead of walking out onto the dirt road as usual, he began to run! Around and around that circle he galloped, as I clung desperately to the saddle horn and prayed I wouldn’t fall off!
The day dawned bright and warm. Such a welcome sight, after all the rain we’ve been having. Although we aren’t complaining of the rain! Nope – we loooove rain around here! But these calves were getting mighty hefty, and they needed branded.
We invited some friends and neighbors, and commenced the work.
Here they crew is bringing the pairs in to the trap.
We like to have our brandings buckaroo-style; head and heel the calves, so the horses do the work of holding them, which makes less work for the people. Plus – more roping!!! 😉
caught him some heels!
Puttin’ on the brand.Thumbs up! (all done – let’r go)Have a bit. The afternoon brought huge, beautiful cloud formations. And a few rain showers. After teh branding was done, we met back at the house for a lunch of grilled burgers, watermelon, chips, ranch beans, cupcakes, jello salad, brownies and ice cream.
Sunday afternoon I went riding with my man. It was a lovely afternoon. Not too windy, and quite warm. First, my husband wanted to pull a reata through a post.
I know! It sounds weird. But he drilled some holes through an old fencepost, then planted said post firmly in our backyard. He then threaded his reata through the holes, and pulled it with his horse. Honestly, I forget exactly what it is supposed to accomplish… I know it smooths it out and stretches it a bit to get kinks out, but beyond that, well, you’ll have to ask a buckaroo. 😉
At any rate, I helped by adding one layer of kidney fat to the reata as it went through the holes. Then made sure it didn’t kink. He pulled it approx 20 times.
(Note: the kidney fat we rendered ourselves. And boy is it a good hand-conditioner! 😀 )
Big loops and slick horns…
My buckaroo and one of his hand-made reatas.
After the reata was greased and pulled, we loaded up the horses and trailered them to the heifer pasture to ride through the pairs. There’s been some sickness among the calves, unfortunately, and we wanted to keep on top of it.
Confession: I don’t know how to doctor cattle. I am learning to spot sick ones, but I have yet to learn what meds should be given and how much. So I ride along and take pictures while my man does the doctoring. I also run errands for him, like: “Ride down along that ditch and make sure there’s no calves hiding in there, will ya?”
Sure. I can ride along a ditch. I’m good at that.
I sure enjoy being a partner to this man. He is my favorite.
My husband giving a sick calf a shot.
Oh Cisco! Why must you stick out your tongue at the camera?! You have a pretty easy life, you know.
I was sound asleep – tired from being up late. I forgot to make a dessert to take to the branding, and it was bedtime till I remembered. So when the alarm sounded, I was too zonked out to even hear it. Thankfully, my husband heard it and woke up.
The kids crawled groggily out of bed at 5:15, yawning and rubbing their eyes. The baby was stretched out so comfortably in sleep, that I hated to wake her. But I did. Because that’s what you do when you want to go to a branding. Meanwhile, My Cowboy was making hot, black coffee, and saddling his horse. When I finally got the kids all herded into the Suburban, we drove over to the barn and loaded the horse.
We headed north while the sun rose in glorious color beside us, streaming beams of light high into the sky, painting the clouds silver and orange and golden.
For just a few minutes, the sunshine lay a golden mantle over the land. The tall, prairie grasses glowed with light, and all the trees and hills had a soft, muted look that made you want to just sit and stare.
We drove back the two-track through miles of green grasses, with the birds swooping and darting beside us. There was fresh-cut hay in the fields, and a young elk – trying to figure out where to run to.
We arrived at the pasture where there was already a long row of ranch trucks, each one sporting a horse-trailer. We parked beside the last one and sat quietly while my cowboy unloaded his horse, and mounted up. After instructions from the Cowboss, he rode off with the others into the sunrise – over a grassy knoll, and they were gone. We sat in silence, still sleepy.
After an hour or so, we could see the cows drifting over the hills, followed by the cowboys. They had ridden to the back of the pasture, then worked their way to the center and front, pushing the cattle before them.
As the sun rose higher in the morning sky, the cattle got closer, and soon we could hear the mooing of the cows. The cowboys rode close behind them – close enough to keep them moving, but far enough back so that they wouldn’t start running.
Once the cows were all in the branding trap*, the boss’s wife brought out some snacks for break. Huge cinnamon rolls and buckets of cookies and brownies. Plus the coolers full of ice-covered drinks.
Soon the pot was roaring, and the Cowboss had given instructions on how he wanted the roping to go. Some of the cowboys mounted up and started roping calves, while the rest of them stayed on the ground to wrestle calves, give vaccinations, castrate, and brand. They took turns, roping and working the ground.
The kids were encouraged to git in there and help any way they could. For the littlest ones – like this tiny cowpoke – the best job is to mark the calf once it has had it’s vaccination.
My favorite buckaroo in the whole world. :)
All done! Turning them out again.
My husband’s saddle that he made. I made the cinch. :)
*Branding trap is the term used for a small fenced off pen out in a pasture, used primarily for brandings, so they don’t have to trail them all the way back to the corrals. Often they will set up a trap on the day of the branding – using steel fence panels kept for that purpose.
I have another cowgirl feature for you today! I love showcasing the great women and men in the ranching world. By it’s very nature, it tends to be a lifestyle that is lived mostly in solitude, or at least partial isolation from most of society. Many thousands of people in our great country have no idea what life is like for those of us who put food on the table for everyone.
I am happy to introduce you to Meghan – a woman who is quite busy and talented! Read on…
1. Name: Meghan Anderson
2. Where do you live? Guide Rock, Nebraska. My husband, Troy, and I ranch alongside his parents, and his family has been involved in ranching for at least 120 years.
3. Job Title? I am a beef specialist for Aurora Cooperative Elevator Company.
4. Tell me a little about your job description. I have a day job where I work as the beef specialist for Aurora Cooperative. I work with cow/calf producers and feedlot operators mostly. I market animal health, feed supplements, mineral and ethanol co-products to them. I also help them with their feed rations and develop least cost feed plans for them. When I come home in the afternoon/evenings and on the weekends I help Troy with our operation. It consists of a commercial and purebred Angus herd, developing replacement heifers, marketing Angus bulls and we are currently building a backgrounding yard. We also have a 16 month old son.
5. What are some things you enjoy doing in your time off? I enjoy running, gardening, competing with my horses and spending time with friends and family. I also blog at huskercowgirl.wordpress.com. I am in the first National Cattlemens’ Beef Association / King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management Beef Scholars program. We are in the first year of a two year program.
6. What is something you enjoy about your job? I don’t believe what I do is a “job”, but a lifestyle. Our life together revolves around the cattle, horses and taking care of the land that supports us. Its something we want to do no matter what Mother Nature throws at us. Somebody once said to Troy, “Why don’t you sleep in on a Sunday and not do any work?” His reply was, “There are no Sundays west of Omaha.”
We don’t take vacations, but sometimes can sneak away for a one day trip, usually to a bull or cattle sale. But this lifestyle wouldn’t be traded for anything. I was fortunate to be part of NCBA’s Young Cattlemens’ Conference last year. If it wasn’t for the beef industry supporting its young producers, I would not have had the opportunity to attend the conference. I’m proud to be in agriculture!
Aaahh, it’s branding season! My husband looks forward to spring brandings all year, I do believe. Roping is his favorite job on the ranch, and branding season offers more opportunities to rope than usual.
Note:If you are the only guy who knows how to run the implant-gun, you may not get to rope much – just so you know. Don’t let anyone find out that you have skills other than roping, if you want to be able to rope! 😉
The first branding here on the ranch was the heifers. It was a small, quick branding. They branded in the afternoon, so there was no food involved. A friend of mine came up to watch us, and help a bit. That is always fun!
Then too, my ‘big’ kids decided that they wanted to get in there and learn to wrestle calves. I was all cool with that, I mean, go for it! Glad you have a little try! Learn all you can!!
I forgot how hard those babies can kick, until my baby girl (ok, so she’s my oldest – she will always be my baby!) was kneeling on a calf’s neck, and he was thrashing around. Suddenly I remembered how my husband’s hand looked, after he got kicked a week earlier at a branding. Painful.
Suddenly I was terrified that the kids were going to get kicked in the teeth, or stepped on, or accidentally branded, poked or cut with a the knife.
Which were all very foolish fears, of course, since the guys running the knife, needles and irons are all very experienced and handy. Not to mention very careful around the kids. But a mama’s heart… there’s no reasoning with it, I’m tellin’ ya.
It did make me feel a lot better when I saw a couple cowboys showing my kids the correct hand/foot placement to hold down the calf with. It is more about technique than strength, really. And my husband had explained it all to them, but since he had to hold down the other end of the calf – it was easier for the other guys to show the kids correct techniques.
I was grateful to these tough cowboys, who took the time to patiently teach the next generation. Even though it meant taking a bit more time, and letting a calf or two escape.
I am excited to bring you my first Cowgirl Feature! Yee-Haw for cowgirls, right?! 😉 I can’t really lay claim to that title, since I rarely get horseback, but I sure enjoy my cowgirl friends. I admire them immensely. The ability to cook, keep house, and rope? Yeah. That’s pretty handy, as they say in the ranch world. Here is one such cowgirl. I’m pleased to introduce you to Audra.
2. Where do you live?
3. Job Title?
I am a day worker/ranch hand for several area ranches, & own a few of my own cows.
4. Tell me a little about your job description.
I help area ranchers with all ranch duties, from calving out heifers, to branding, to getting cows out to grass, & home again. I also help AI, I drive a tractor at haying time & help rake or mow usually.
5. What are some things you enjoy doing in your time off?
When I am not helping ranch, I enjoy roping, & riding my horses, entering in ranch horse competitions. I also like to enter the WRRA & WSRRA rodeos all summer. I like to spend as much time in the saddle as I can.
6. What is something you enjoy about your job?
I love all aspects of my job. It is something different everyday. I really enjoy it when I can be horseback everyday & a few of the ranchers I help let me bring my dogs.
7. Did you grow up on a ranch?
I grew up on a ranch in Colorado, my Dad couldn’t get out of the house without when I was little. I have wanted to ranch my whole life & hope that I can keep building my cow herd & have a place of my own.
My daughter Jenni loves to write stories about horses and cowgirls. She writes pages and pages! She has notebooks filled to the brim with her stories. Today she is sharing with us what it takes to be a real cowgirl. She should know – she is one! She helps her dad gather cows (and bulls!) on horseback, feeds the beef heifers, bottle-feeds the orphan calves, and takes care of other miscellaneous pets. She can also tend a baby with the best of them, and makes a delicious loaf of bread. She is twelve. I am proud to call her my daughter.
Ten Steps to Being a Real Cowgirl
by Jennifer Schrock
1. Instead of fancy dresses, wear a dusty cowgirl shirt, patched jeans, faded boots, and a hat. A cowgirl doesn’t care if her boots are brown and her shirt pink, just as long as there is something in her closet to wear every day, 24/7.
Chinks made for her by her Daddy.
2. Instead of going to town every weekend, grow your own fruits and veggies, raise chickens for eggs, plant wheat crops for flour, and shoot elk for meat. Also, learn to sew your own clothes and learn to make candles and soap.
Apples from our apple tree.
3. Be friendly. Instead of studying someone to make sure he or she is approachable, go right up to them and give them a hearty hand shake while saying, “Howdy pardner!”
Giving the horses some lovin’.
4. Respect your horse. He works hard to please you, so make it fun for him too, don’t let that stray calf go, run after it! There is nothin’ a cowhorse loves more than running after cattle.
Gathering cows with her friend, Megan.
5. Don’t wear too much make up. Instead, pull on your clothes and get out there, because the best kinda makeup is the dust your horse makes when he runs.
6. Tight buns? High ponytails? Forget it! Just put your hair in a braid or two and pull on your hat.
7. Spend less time on the internet – getting browned by the summer sun is much better than gossiping on facebook.
Pushing cows through belly-deep wildflowers.
8. Forget going to a professional to get a tan – working out in the summer sun is all you need to get seriously tanned.
Pushing cows with her brother, Frank.
9. Get off that treadmill, dump the weights – saddle your horse and go do what needs to be done. Trust me, working cattle is all the exercise you need to stay fit.
10. Caviar? Sushi? Margarita? Puh-lease, go for chili and beef steak – its much more filling!
Pushing cows through the gate.
This article is for all you Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and other wild west state cowgirls, Yee-haw!
I have lived my share in the city, and often in small towns, but I always feel most at home in the country.
I enjoy seeing my daughter carry her pet chicken around.
I enjoy cows standing on the road in the rain.
I really find it relaxing to hang clean laundry on the line in the summer.
I enjoy taking walks with my kids in the coolness of early evening, down a dirt road.
I find cows amusing.
I like to watch my baby watch the chickens.
I am glad my kids can hang over fences and watch Dad work cattle.
My heart goes pitter-patter when this handsome Cowboy rides past me, swinging his rope.
The road home is always pretty…
And the flowers in my yard seem to be shouting praises to God.
The rambling old rose bush harks back to a day where life was slower.
And the wild roses that grow along the creek are so delicate and pretty… blooming unnoticed, mostly, but still being as pretty and sweet-smelling as they can be. Just because that is what The Creator told them to do.
The sinking sun streams over the snowy white clouds, shooting streaks of brilliance into the wild blue yonder. It makes one look up. Sometimes I just need to stop and look UP.
But today I want to write about the great ladies who work alongside the men – doing much of the same work, and they look better doing it! (you guys know this is true.)
Some women are able to work with their men all day every day, some only part time, and some like me, are primarily stay-at-home moms, but who love to ride and work with our men when given the chance. (in other words: when we can find a babysitter!)
Here are some of the cowgirls who were at the Stevenson branding this week.
First up; Katie Rogers. Her husband used to work with Cliff at the X-Bar in the Big Laramie Valley. She was in vet school at the time, so I don’t know her very well.
Next on the list is my good friend Karmen Stevenson.
She has a toddler and a baby, yet hasn’t forgotten how to rope.
When I grow up I want to be just like her.
Then comes… oops! I forget her name. I do know she is pretty and is getting married this month. Yeah. Sometimes I’m not that good with names.
And lastly, Kaleah. (Forgive me if I am spelling your name wrong, Kaleah!) I love her bright red shirt! She just happens to be Karmen’s sis-in-law. And she can make a mean mocha cheesecake! She made the desserts for the branding lunch (after riding and roping all morning) and she did it all with jingling spurs, a knife strapped to her belt and a gun stuck in her waistband.
( I bet no rattler lives long around her!)
Maybe when you hear the word ‘cowgirl’, you think of turquoise and bling. Perhaps you think of barrel-racing and pink hats. But let me tell you – these are the true ‘cowgirls’. These girls can cook a meal for several dozen people, ride, rope, brand and give shots. They can skin a deer and shoot a coyote. They can help a calving heifer and train a young horse. They can build fence and sort cattle.
And they can do it all with pink nail polish and beautiful long braids.