Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trailing to Summer Range

            The day began with the mundane task of hauling a load of gravel out from town.  The West Boulder valley is appropriately named – there are plenty of boulders.  The soil on our ranch is rich and silty, and it grows excellent crops.  But it makes lousy roads.  The run-off we’ve had in the last couple of weeks erodes things badly.  And we have no gravel to give the silt some body in the places we need to drive.  So I bought an old used dumptruck to bring out some fill material from Livingston.
            The county road is steep and winding, and uses all of the torque in the Caterpillar engine and most of the 13 gears in the Fuller transmission.  What takes 35 minutes in the pickup takes a full hour in the dumptruck.  And a load of 12 tons doesn’t go far.  So I intend to take the dumptruck every time I go to town all summer long to patch up the damage done by the spring run-off.
            With the load of gravel placed in several low spots, I used the tractor to spread and level the material.  And thus I used up most of the morning.
            It was time to move the cows up off the river and into the first of the mountain pastures.  But before I could set off across the rock-strewn landscape, my horse needed a new pair of shoes.  And then a thundershower blew in, with lightening too close for comfort.
            It was mid afternoon before we headed out to gather the cows.  They were bunched close to the gate, and we soon had them in the trap next to the corrals.
            We held them up there for awhile as we cut out four head of the neighbor’s cattle, two dry cows, and a cow with an overgrown hoof.  One of the neighbor’s steers blew by my horse a couple of times.  On the third pass I dropped a loop on him and led him to the gate the hard way.  The cow with the bad hoof lost her calf somewhere in the herd, and insisted on going back to find him.  We had to run a few more cows into the corral with her, then cut her out and ran her into the chute.  There we used the hoof trimmers - with handles like a pruning shears – to lop off the extra growth.
            With the herd shaped up we headed them out for higher ground.  First stop for the summer is the “desert” pasture – only a half mile behind the house, but involving a quick gain of some 500’ in elevation.  This field was added to the ranch in the 1919 under the provisions of the “Desert Lands Act”.  From certain angles the old ditch is still visible that brought in the water to prove up on the land.

            In fact it wasn’t much of a trail – only a couple of miles.  But such is the nature of modern day ranching.  The horses put on quite a few miles more, circling the pasture from which we gathered and working back and forth to gather the cows and head them through the several gates.  Then they did a little fancy cutting at the corral.  So we got several hours of lively horse-work in between thunderstorms, before we sat down for a comforting glass of whiskey.

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