Thursday, June 9, 2011

Essential Equipment

One might assume that every ranch has horses.  In fact, I have done a little work – very little work – on two Montana ranches that took pride in the fact they had no horses.  Each of the owners pointed out that they were in the business of raising cattle, and that horses eat more grass than a cow.
Not all ranches have horses, but every ranch has a welder.  My first task for today was to fire mine up.  During last week’s deluge water was running through the shop.  The high-water mark was about 4” up the side of the welder, and I was sure that there was silt deposited inside of it, as there was over all of the shop floor.
So I slid the unit out into the open where I could access both sides, and took out enough screws to remove the top and sides.  There was indeed a layer of silt, which I scraped out with a trowel.  Then I applied compressed air – from another piece of essential ranch equipment – and blew it clean.  Now I was ready to do a little welding on the harrow I used on Monday, before I put it away.
Another project was to weld up another pair of shoes for my top horse.  I always apply hard-surface to the toes and heels of the shoes I use on the West Boulder.  That build-up gives them a little more grip, and keeps those toe and heel calks from wearing out between shoeings.

With that accomplished, I went to work on the tractor brakes. 
A couple of years ago I had a hired man rebuild the brake master cylinders, and they worked well for awhile.  But lately one brake has only worked when you pump it, and then it faded quickly.  I ordered a kit for it, and took it apart recently, only to find that it was missing a little ball and spring checkvalve.  It took a week to order the parts, and a total cost of $3.79.
When I had the tractor back together it was time to saddle up and rotate the heifer bunch to new pasture.  Yearlings are always fun to move because they move.  A fellow is often at a lope to keep the cattle lined out in the right direction. When I had the bunch in their new field we had to do some fancy footwork to cut out a dry cow that had somehow gotten in with the yearlings.  That kept the ride interesting as we brought the cow back to throw in with the rest of the handful of drys up near the house.
The next project was to attach the backhoe and clean out the debris that had clogged the culvert near the horsebarn.  Rocks washing down the creek had plugged the culvert and diverted the water around it, cutting a new creek that had to be crossed by jumping.
So ranching is not just about cows and horses – it’s also about welders, tractors, air compressors, and mechanic tools.  But a fellow seldom gets bored!

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