A thus is the life of a modern ranch cowboy – he spends a lot more time with his equipment than he does with his horse. But maybe that’s not all bad. Maybe it’s the contrast that makes the time ahorseback more fun.
The romantic picture of cowboys following herds of cattle day after day comes from a short span of time over a century ago when steers were trailed through open range to take advantage of grass that greened up ever later in the season as the herd moved north. Most of these trailhands were indeed boys – in their late teens and early twenties. The job paid poorly, lasted only 9 months, and ended when the cattle were delivered to a railhead in Montana as winter approached.
It may sound romantic, but trailing day after day behind cattle grazing their way north sounds boring to me – and the prospect of camping out every night in every kind of weather is something I outgrew years ago. Most of the horses those trailhands rode were truly broke rather than trained, and most of the riders weren’t any more skilled at handling cattle than were their mounts.
I love working a good team of horses, and am disappointed that I spent only one happy winter feeding a thousand head of cows with only the clop of hooves and the jingle of trace-chains to break the vast stillness. But there is something to be said for a heated cab. And as I pointed out a couple of months ago, the invention of hydraulic loaders sure makes life easier. (http://mellinniumcowboy.blogspot.com/2011/08/miracle-of-hydraulics.html )
There aren’t many people left who experienced what modern folks call “the good old days”. Those old-timers are quick to point out that wood stoves, outhouses, one-a-week baths in a washtub, and kerosene lamps didn’t seem so good then.
I’ve tried it all, and I’m here to tell you that I don’t mind doing a little mechanic work now and then to enjoy this modern lifestyle.