Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Git along little doggies

The crops are stored in the bins, the hay is hauled, the winter wheat is planted, the equipment and tractors used so heavily during the warmer months are cleaned and tucked safely away in the shed. Which means that it should be vacation season, only it's not.
Remember those cows? Those cute little calves that were born this spring? Well they are no longer cute and will be off to new "homes" in a few short weeks so we need to bring them in to the corrals, vaccinate them, and put in fancy new electronic ear tags.
But before that happens, our cattle herd, which was split into three groups earlier in the summer, needs to be reunited.So it's on to the horses we go, a husband, a niece and myself, to move about 30 pairs 7 miles due south.
As the official photographer for this little adventure, I was pleased that my beloved horse (who would be considered useless by any halfway-legitimate cowboy) only tried to kill me for about the first 20 minutes of this little trail ride.
And then this big guy came along and threw our whole world upside down. But I perfected the one-handed shot and we moved on past this pretty horse's pasture, without any major mishaps.

Per standard operating procedure, Danish Cowboy, Joe and Tucker Dog do most of the work. The horses put on about 7 miles. The dog probably put on about 20.
Tucker Dog has learned to push the herd from behind (as was difficult for him to do because Australian Kelpies are naturally headers rather than heelers) and was a great asset to us this cold, blustery day because the cows were unwilling to move. Do you know how boring and cold it is to follow a herd of cows for 7 miles at a pace of about 2 miles an hour? It's painful, sometimes. I'm glad I had my camera in hand.
We did have a few exciting moments. There were two or three cows who seemed determined to pulverize Tucker Dog into the ground. It all happened so fast, I just couldn't catch it on camera. I ended up catching a blur of dog and cow hooves, or as is the case here, the tail end of the fight.

But because the cows moved so slowly, I was able to drink in all of the scenery. Towards the end of our trail ride, we move through the gravel hills formed by the seas of an ancient time.
It's my favorite place in the world: the low rain clouds moving in quickly, the patches of red grass (ironically named little bluestem) dotting the hillside, the raw wildness and loneliness of it all.
When we finally got to our land and had just two miles to go, we traded the horses in for a four wheeler and a pick-up. Danish Cowboy and I finished moving them south while the other half of our party took the horses home for a well-deserved rest (well-deserved for two out of the three, anyway)
Rain and mist started to gently fall upon us and the cows seemed to move even slower. You can see forever out here and while our end goal was clearly in sight, it took a great while to get there. I was thankful for the beauty that surrounded us.

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