Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I’ve spent more time ahorseback this week than is acceptable to my aging body.  We had taken in 65 pasture steers for the summer and they are due to ship on Saturday.

We are primarily a cow/calf operation – maintaining a year-around herd of cows that give birth in the “spring”, and whose calves are sold in the fall.  Our cow numbers are down in relationship to our grass, so I took in some pasture cattle for the summer in the form of yearling steers.

Yearling cattle are rather like teenage humans: they are herd animals, and they like to venture out and run a little wild.  If there is any weakness in a fence, those yearlings will find it, and they like to run and explore.  With shipping date approaching, I made a couple of rides in outlying pastures to look for strays.

On Monday I made a three-hour ride through the neighbor’s pasture to the west.  It is a few thousand acres with deep ravines and patches of heavy timber.  My “Kentucky Colt” and I made some dozen miles – much of it at a long trot – but didn’t find any steers.  We DID hear some elk bugling in the heavy timber, however.

On Tuesday I gave the “colt” a set of new shoes, then took the buckskin mare downriver and brought in some 25 head of cattle that had strayed into the neighbor on the east.  By Tuesday evening I was stiff and sore.

(It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I spent the fall riding for a big outfit south of Cascade, Montana.  For a full month we were ahorseback from before daylight until after dark.  But I am 17 years older now, and don’t spend enough time ahorseback to really get hardened in.)

Today - Wednesday - we gathered the 600+ acre Sick’em Creek field to the corrals on top of the mountain.  There we cut out the yearling steers, then trailed the remaining cows and calves on north to our last field of summer range.  The steers were trailed some three miles down off the mountain and thrown onto a hayfield.

We did more sorting in the afternoon in the hayfield “around the grade” from the bunch I’d brought in from downriver the day before, and pulled a few more steers from the bunch in the small field below the house. 

We’re still eight head short.  I’ve no doubt that they will show up later in the fall when we get calls from the neighbors reporting that they have ___ head of our yearlings in their corrals – cut out when they worked their cows.  We will likewise have some of their cattle mixed in with ours, and we will load up the strays in stock trailers and trade them out.

I won’t deny that I enjoy it, but all that riding and shoeing in three days is hard on an old body that hasn’t spent much time ahorseback through the summer.  And then it is back to farming and to re-staining the house, until it’s time to gather the cattle again for fall calf vaccinations.