Thursday, April 26, 2018


            It’s not uncommon for a ranch family to plan a trip in conjunction with a livestock show or a bull sale.  That really wasn’t my intention – but our scheduled winter trip to Mexico had to be postponed, and I found myself on the beach in Puerta Vallarta the day of an important bull sale.

            I had already bought two bulls in person at the Feddes sale this spring - only an hour and a half from the ranch - but I still needed a third.  The sale at Becton Red Angus out of Sheridan, Wyoming, was broadcast over the internet.
            This internet auction scenario wouldn’t be a new experience for me, and I’ve described it all before in the post  Bull Sale.  What was different for me this day was that I was on the internet in Mexico, and the sale was in Wyoming.  I wasn’t sure if the connection would be quick enough to show up in time in a very fast-paced auction.

            Another difference between the two sales was my dress.  The auctioneer was the same one who cried the Feddes sale where I bought two bulls a week previous.  I knew he would be wearing a felt hat and a necktie.  In fact everyone at the sale would be wearing hats and boots – and likely jackets as well.   I, on the other hand, was wearing shorts, golf shirt, and sandals – my exposed legs blindingly pale.
            The snow in the ranch yard would be covered by an acre or two of diesel 4wd pickups pulling gooseneck stock trailers.  The sale would be held in a cow-barn, with lunch provided in the shop.  I was sitting in the shade by the pool – cool ocean breezes in my face, and a cold margarita in my hand. 
            I logged into the site, listened to all the auction banter, and watched the bulls go by on my screen.  My personal bull choices were laid out on a spreadsheet before me, and I followed along in the full-color bull catalogue.  

            I allowed myself to be outbid on the first bull on my list, and was disappointed when my second choice was pulled out of the sale.  I kept bidding on the third bull, and every time I hit the “BID” button on my laptop, I got a “You’re IN” on my screen, and heard the auctioneer up his price. 
            My competition for this bull could have been in person, on the phone, over the internet, or he might even have submitted a reserve bid prior to the sale.  But when I hit the button on $5500, the bidding stopped, and SOLD showed up on my screen.

            I’ve sent in a check - and my bull will be delivered to the ranch the next time a trailer is headed my way.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Grand and Glorious Life

The cowboy life is a Grand and Glorious life for sure: ahorseback in the foothills of the Absaroka mountains of Montana.  Or so it seemed the other day.

            The last Friday of March found me at the first branding of the year at the ranch of my old partner, Darin.  He raises purebred Angus bulls, and calves in January – so must get them branded before they get too big. 

            It was the typical old-style branding: a bunch of neighbors, horses, and aspiring cowboys.  The cattle were corralled, the cows sorted out the gate, and several ropers began heeling out the calves to the fire. (Read more about branding in my post Branding 2012.)

            The day was windy but reasonably warm, and we were pleased to get the job accomplished in the respite between bouts of foul weather.  None of us foresaw what the morrow would bring.

            By morning there was a good 8” of snow, and the downfall continued for most of the day – to make over 10”.

            A calf can stand an incredible amount of cold – IF he has been licked off by his mother, and he gets a full belly of milk.  But there were three calves born in the early morning that had been overcome by the cold.  Eric threw a couple of them in the back of the side-by-side ATV, and I went out on the four-wheeler to gather horses.

            The “Kentucky Colt” was my pick for the morning.  Our first task was to dally up to the sled to pluck the last calf out of the snow. 

            Eric made a run up to the house to load up the generator, which we connected to the calf-warmer in the calving shed.  This plastic hut has a 220-volt heater that directs warm air up through the floor-grate to quickly stabilize a hypothermic calf.  Then I went back out on my horse to bring the mothers of all three calves into the shed.

            A full belly is essential for a newborn calf.  He has been getting his nourishment for the last nine months through his umbilical cord.  Now he is suddenly thrust out into the cold where he must not only find a new source of sustenance, but also generate his own heat.  We elected to give a tube-feeding to two of these calves to sustain them until they were strong enough to nurse.

            When the cold calves were taken care of, it was time to feed all of the older cattle.  That required two tons of hay for the morning ration.  By afternoon the snow was still coming down, and the temperature was dropping as well.  It was time for a ton of straw to be scattered to give the cattle some protection from the cold.

            Ah, yes.  Ain’t This Romantic!?!