Saturday, October 4, 2014

There's more to it

It seems simple. In principle. Handling cattle.

Trailing down from Pumpkin Creek

When there's a jam, I see it like a branch that catches in the crick, and if you don't get it out right away, all the stuff coming down the crick piles up behind it until its wedged so tight you can't budge it. But if you just ease out one little willow slip, then something else shifts and you can pull out a bigger piece, and everything flows smoothly again.
Sara and Newt

And the way your horse moves, kind of like a dog sometimes. Quietly threading the prairie behind the cattle, sometimes flanking, and sometimes heading, shoulder for shoulder with a heifer, as you turn and lope together back toward the herd.

And when, after the cows have gone through the gate, two riders race across the prairie to try and stop a huge black bull that has appeared on the horizon, determined to get with the cows. He's trotting fast, now running, and you're running and you don't think either of you will get there before him. And at the last second, both mares spin, butts to the gate, blocking him and the bull slides forward, shifting his weight and leaning away from you, his hooves plowing ground, fat and muscle rolling toward you, his sweat and slobber flinging into your face. And you guess this might never happen again in your life. This pas de deux.

Ruby, Bird and Gabe headed upriver, March

And in winter, when two trails present at a fork, and you know that one goes well for a while, but then turns bad in canyon rims, a judas trail. And the cattle hesitate, strung single file through the pines, and you see the lead a ways off in the head, and you will and pray she remembers and steps with a swish of her tail onto the good trail.
Mike herding off the top to the winter range

We're still learning. Sometimes it seems we've never made it out of Kindergarten. And other days, it feels like we're almost to a PhD.

Old days - taking a break from herding Snake River, Hells Canyon

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef.