The forecast was pretty straight-forward: ”100% chance of snow tonight, with probable accumulation of 4 inches. 80% chance of snow tomorrow, with accumulations up to 6 additional inches.” Snow was already falling at daylight – as was the temperature. It was obviously time for us to get prepared. I went back to my bedroom and put on my wool underwear, and put on my wool ear-lap cap as I went out the door.
It had been quite nice the day before, and we had burned off most of a field that I will plow next spring. It was warm, but there was still some snow lying in shaded spots and I had gotten stuck while taking a fellow to look at our summer range in anticipation of taking in some pasture cattle for next summer. We chained up the front wheels of my pickup to make it up to the top of the mountain, and had dropped the muddy chains in the grass near the house when we returned. The first order of business was to find those tire-chains before the snow got too deep.
Ted ran in the rest of the horses while I bridled and saddled my new Arab mare for another lesson. I would let her “soak” while we were out riding.
The cows were all out in the Clayton field where the fall grass had been excellent. But the grass was getting sparse, protection was limited, and there are too many rocks to turn a pickup loose while you feed. Ted wouldn’t be with me much longer, and it was time to move the cows up west.
The cows were pretty well bunched up, so it wasn’t much of a gather – and it was only a mile or so up west, so it wasn’t much of a trail. We started out in what seemed to be an impending snow-storm that passed quickly. What gave us a little more fun for the morning was a handful of strays that had found their way into our winter pasture.
We dumped out the cows in the field and watched them spread, then went searching for four head of black cows I had seen in our field a couple of days before. We covered a mile or so of steep rough country before we found them bedded down in a brushy draw.
These cows jumped up and headed west - from whence they’d come - at a long trot with two of us and our dogs following at a respectful distance. They split up at a deep, brush-filled coulee, and we all went after the bunch-quitter until we had her turned back. I went searching for the other three while Ted and Izzy brought the fourth one back around for another pass.
I rode up and back looking down into the brush for tracks, then began hollering and whistling at the last place there was evidence of recent passing. Max went down in the brush and I soon saw black shadows moving ahead.
Ted pushed his cow into my bunch, then opened a gate behind them while I turned them all back to him so he could turn them out into the neighboring field where they belonged. Then a two-mile jog home across a rock-strewn hillside in time to make some lunch.
After noon we again cleaned all the fencing equipment out of the pickup and loaded it up with hay for tomorrow. I spent half an hour hosing all the mud off my tire-chains – we were assured that the temperature would plummet, and mud frozen onto those chains would make them extremely heavy and nearly impossible to apply.
But the joke was on us. As we accomplished all these tasks in preparation, the clouds had been breaking up. The temperature remains moderate and we accumulated only a half inch of snow. The cows are still eating grass, and the hay is still in the pickup.
Ah, well. “Better safe than sorry.”