Wednesday, July 27, 2011


It was time to move the cows again – off the pasture by the river and up into the “desert” field on the mountain above the house.
We were trying to hay, but my baler was broken down again so I was waiting for parts to be shipped in, and we had gotten a heavy shower the evening before, so the stars had aligned to get the job done this morning.  I did need to get a load of salt up to the field, however.
            I had 750 pounds of salt and mineral – about a week’s supply - in my pickup.  To get up into the desert with a vehicle one must go round-about across a hayfield and up the “road” that was cut with a bulldozer up into the pasture along a deep ravine .  It is steep, narrow, and rocky – and it is for this reason that I keep a pack mule.
A pair of salt barrels are located only a half mile above the house – a lot closer ahorseback than the round-about vehicular route. But that would be three loads, and I have only one mule.  I don’t have the heart to embarrass my good cowhorses with the indignity of walking in a row carrying a pack.  I determined that it would be expedient to take the supplement all in one load in the pickup while Ted was getting in the horses.
I felt guilty tracking across the hayfields.  Now the swather won’t pick up the hay that was smashed down by wheels.  And I almost got stuck crossing the little gulch at the end of the hayfield.  Then I hit a big rock hidden in the grass on the way to the gate.  I was already beginning to question the wisdom of my decision.
The road up along the gulch was still wet from the last night’s rain, and grass was grown up tall along the track, obscuring the exact edge.  Suddenly I lurched to a stop as my back end slewed down toward the brush below.
I quickly slammed the transmission in the lowest gear, turned off the engine, and set the brakes.  When I stepped out my door it was a long drop to the ground on the downhill side of that pickup! 
Had I a set of tire chains along, I could have thrown them on the front wheels and pulled myself out.  But it is July, and I generally take the chains out and leave them in the shed for the summer months.  There was nothing to do but walk the mile home.
Ted had the horses in and the morning was passing quickly.  We mounted up and headed first for the yearling heifers that were a couple of miles up west.
We had an extra rider along this morning, so once we had the heifers gathered I sent Ted and Julia toward the corral with them while I went on across the bridge and started gathering the cows that were in the pasture on the other side of the river
Max and I had made the outside circle and bunched the cows toward the gate when Ted and Julia arrived to help guide the cattle through the gates, past the haystack, and across the bridge into the corrals.  There we sorted off the bulls and threw the yearlings into the cows for the last leg of the push up into the desert.  We returned from our mission just in time for lunch.
First order of business after lunch was to extricate my pickup from its precarious perch on the mountainside.  We took the four-wheel-drive tractor, tire chains, and a tow strap.

With the tow strap slung from the tractor bucket to the trailer hitch, Ted lifted the rear end of the pickup and pushed as my front wheels pulled.  The road had dried out and the way ahead was clear – I was soon on solid footing again. 
Five hours after I started, and with the help of Ted and the tractor, I finally completed my mission.  So much for expedience...

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