The TA is a ranch west of us, that hosts a large branding every year. They actually have several ranches – quite a good-sized outfit. We were able to make it over for one of their brandings this year.
Cliff and I loaded up at 4:30 and drove around the mountain to meet at the ranch at about 6 am. We were there early, and joined the long line of trucks and trailers lining up to park.
The sun wasn’t up yet, when we mounted up and rode down to get instructions. They divided us into 4 groups, and off we went. We trotted a couple miles to the back of the pasture, got behind the cattle and started moving them back towards the corrals. In this part of the country we don’t round up and drive.
We gather and push.
As in: “We’re gonna gather this pasture, and push them to the green gate.”
We were close to the back of the pasture when we came to this deep wash. (or gully, if you’re from the east)
The far side was steeper than it looks in the photo. One guy broke a rein-chain, and we all stopped at the top to get situated, readjust saddles, etc. This is why we use breast collars – because if you don’t, your saddle may end up over the horse’s rump.
We rode a bit further and there they were – the cattle were already starting to move, thanks to another group of riders that had reached the back of the pasture first.
As we got closer to the corrals, the sound of lowing cows and bawling calves grew louder. The circle of cowboys tightened gradually, until we were riding side by side and bunching up to go through the gate.
It was a lovely, overcast morning. Cold at first but warming without getting too hot.The scenery was amazing, and the remote location meant no sounds of traffic or other civilization. Just cowboys, cattle, and horses.
Quite the long line of trucks…
Question: Do you say pickup or truck? I was having this conversation with a friend recently, and I hadn’t thought about it much, but now I pay attention…. and yes, we say truck! 😀 Or at least I do. I guess I need to listen to what other around here call them. I have lived so many places in my life that I never know if I am speaking local slang or just carryover from my childhood.
PS – extra points if you recognize our rig. 😉
Once we had all the cows and calves into the corral, we waited for them to pair up a bit while we got instructions. Well, they got instructions. I offered my help but since there were so many people, the boss told me to just go take pictures. (Thank you Mr. Haskell!)
Firm handshakes ’round here.
Oklahoma buckaroo Cody holds a calf while it gets a brand.
Janet Jordan from Walden, CO throws a nice loop out there.
There were 800+ calves that day. They gathered, roped, and branded them by 11:00 am. There were two branding pots set up, and lots of ropers! Still, that’s pretty impressive. I had so much fun photographing them. Hope you enjoyed this little piece of western life.
“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations,
but look what they can do when they stick together!”
The snow started last night and kept right on falling all through today. It is still snowing, even though night has fallen and all the children are tucked in bed. I think we have over a foot of snow, not counting the drifts. Of course, there were drifts and several inches already here – but now the lowest spots are still over a foot deep!
Today I spent 6 hours decluttering, sorting, and organizing my house. When I was finished, I bundled up and went outside with my camera. It was my reward for a hard job well-done. I walked down past the barns and corrals, down to the horse pasture. I walked through the ditch, and the snow was up to my waist! I snapped some photos of the horses for my online gallery. It was fun to get some fresh air and some good pictures. I really enjoy taking time to indulge my creative side!
I opened my online gallery this week, and to celebrate, I am offering 15% off when you use the code WELCOME. The sale only goes till January 7, though, so hurry over and check it out!
You can buy prints or ready-to-hang wall art, like canvases. Or you can buy digital downloads that you may print yourself.
Check it out here—> ~Kay Schrock Photography~
While these storms rage – for there have been several – my husband feeds the cows and works in the shop. But me and the children, we stay warm and cozy beside the fire inside our little house. When the children are finished with their schoolwork, they get out books to read and games to play. Sometimes they play Chess or Candyland. Sometimes they draw pictures or write stories. Sometimes they watch Netflix shows like “CHOPPED” or “Dick Van Dyke”. We drink hot tea and eat thick slices of homemade bread, slathered in butter and crabapple jelly. It is all quite cozy and satisfactory.
A good bed of coals in our stove.
I hope wherever you live, wherever you call home, is as cozy and sweet as it can be. May your winter be warmer than ours, but if not, may your stove be warm and your hearts full of love.
“So all night long the storm roared on: The morning broke without a sun; In tiny spherule traced with lines Of Nature’s geometric signs, In starry flake, and pellicle, All day the hoary meteor fell; And, when the second morning shone, We looked upon a world unknown, On nothing we could call our own. Around the glistening wonder bent The blue walls of the firmament, No cloud above, no earth below,— A universe of sky and snow!” ― John Greenleaf Whittier
We have been blessed with great weather for shipping and pregging. This morning I told myself to get with it and get outside, for once! It’s real easy to just say: “Oh, maybe next time”, but today I put on my big girl boots and bundled up to get some photos!
It wasn’t even that cold.
Which was nice.
They cowboys met in our yard, (yard being the general term for the parking area in and around the shop & barns) Once they were all there, they gathered around the cowboss to get instructions for the morning. Then they headed out by twos and threes, for various corners of the pasture. They got to the fenceline, then turned around and started pushing (moving) cows and calves together and towards the corrals. Some places call it a ’roundup’, I guess, in this area we call it a ‘gather’. We gather cows and ‘push’ them to the corrals. Obviously, we do not physically push them – it’s a term for herding.
I took the silhouette photo from my front porch, no joke.
Here they come – down the hill!
Once they get in the corrals, it’s sorting and weighing. Then loading them onto waiting semi-trucks. Sorting and moving calves down an alley is a great place to get photos – but I’m always afraid I’ll b in the way! So I try to stay pretty low profile. I get really nervous if I feel I am going to be a nuisance.
There’s my man!! He’s my favorite. He is currenty soaking his foot in Epsom salts, because he got stepped on so hard today, that he is limping. I wonder if that is what people think of, when they get starry-eyed about ranching? I doubt it. But still, cowboyin’ is a great life, if you’re tough enough to cowboy up! 😀
The summer heat wrapped thickly around me, causing sweat to run in little rivulets down my back. I heaved the saddle up on my horse, tightened the cinch, and checked to make sure nothing was twisted or pinching. It was an old saddle, dark with age, and the skirts were curling under. I didn’t care, I had a horse and a saddle to go with it – little things like a poor quality saddle and cheap farm-store headstall meant nothing to me. I eased the bit into Sonny’s mouth, and swung up.
We were leaving Illinois for the summer – going away for work – and our friends said they would keep my horse for me. We didn’t have a horse-trailer, and my dad didn’t want to go to the bother of borrowing or renting one. He said it would be easier if I would just ride the horse over, and Mom would come pick me up.
Easier for him, anyways.
I started off briskly. Sonny always started off briskly. He jumped smartly over the deep ditch by our yard, and I liked the little thrill of jumping. He walked up the first hill quickly, head up, ears pricked. I watched the birds darting, and daydreamed about being a true horsewoman who worked with horses all day – riding, maybe racing…
But the further we went, the slower Sonny walked. He was nearing 30 years of age, which is ‘old-folks’-home’-age in human years. He still got around good, not much arthritis or other problems, but in the manner common to old folk, he was increasingly stubborn and balky. He didn’t care much about making you happy – he just wanted to be left alone to eat his grass and switch at flies, without having some kid pile on and make him walk in the 100-degree heat for miles.
The first mile was good. The second was slower, but ok. By the third mile, I was pulling his head back around every few steps. He wanted to go home. He knew every step he took was another step he’d have to retrace, and he wasn’t keen on having to walk back all that way. This is what we call “barn sour”. They just want to go back to the barn.
We passed a little country church, white boards shining in the sultry afternoon heat, surrounded by big oak trees and patches of deep orange daylilies. We rode past a house with two yappy dogs that came darting out, barking their silly heads off. They stopped a few yards away – unsure what to do with this beast. Sonny kept plodding, uncaring of their desperate barking.
Sonny finally stopped trying to turn back, and resorted to plodding. Now, you have never experienced plodding, till you have ridden a 30-year-old horse who is on a forced march. Head down, feet dragging, steps slowing imperceptibly till he was nearly at a standstill. I’d kick him in the ribs, and he’d pick up his feet and walk for five steps. Then he’d slow down. And down. And almost stop.
8 miles of southern Illinois summer heat and humidity, sweat pouring off me, bugs and flies annoying me and my horse.
My family was not a ranch family. Not even a farm family, really, although we had a varied menagerie over the years. My dad was a logger, mainly, with a lot of travel and seasonal work thrown in. He grew up farming with horses, and grew to dislike them immensely. Said he’d looked the backside of a team too long. But he loved me, so he told my Amish cousin to find me a horse. Well, one day my cousin showed up at my door with this old nag.
Sonny was a gelding whose entire life purpose had been to give kids rides at a big tourist park. He was trained to walk nose-to-tail with other horses, and completely ignore the kids who were bouncing, yelling, and kicking on his back. He was good at that. As long as we had him, we could put little kids on his back – as many as would fit – and set him loose with a halter and lead rope. He’d wander around the yard a bit, then go stand with his nose to a tree, as if tied there. No amount of them kicking and yelling would make him go. He was great at babysitting!
But for me, an awkward 14-year-old kid who was dreaming of Derby races and barrel racing, he was far and away too slow. I had no boots, no hat, no jeans. Just a long flowing dress, tennis shoes and a Mennonite head-covering. I didn’t know tennis shoes could be dangerous, I didn’t know flowing things can spook a horse, I didn’t realize just how odd I looked.
But it really didn’t matter. I was riding through farm-ground, down dusty country roads where only the occasional house broke up the fields of corn and soybeans. The heat rose in shimmery waves from the ground, day lilies lined the road in many places. Delicate Queen Anne’s Lace nodded in the sun, and honeysuckle vines tumbled thickly over sagging fences, filling the air with sweetness.
I would have enjoyed the ride more, had I not been kicking and coaxing Sonny the entire time. The last few miles were almost torture. Turtle-speed, we finally made it to the friend’s house. I was starting to feel sorry for Sonny, but when he saw a barn and other livestock, he came alive. Suddenly he was full of vim and vigor! I was cross with him. All that long, slow ride, and here he was; nearly trotting to the barn!
I had been sad to leave my horse behind for the summer, but after that frustrating ride, I was just glad to climb in the van with Mom and go home.
As a parent now, I look back at these kinds of things and realize why me and my siblings are pretty independent. This was before cell phones were a thing. I was 14, and my dad sent me off through lonely country roads on an 8 mile ride. I was expected to find my way, even though I wasn’t totally familiar with that route. I was given basic directions and sent off. I had no water bottle or snacks. I simply climbed on my horse and rode away. Mom was waiting when I got there. (she went the faster route by the main road.) If dad or mom were worried about me, they sure never showed it. (I really don’t think they were worried.) Therefore, I wasn’t worried. If something happened, I was expected to figure it out.
We pass our fears and concern along to our kids. We are worried, so they are worried. They are more able than we think. Give your kid a bit of rope, mama! Don’t hover. Let them try new things and experience a little freedom! They might surprise you! 😀
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.