The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A cowboy birthday

It was May and it was Button's birthday, he's third from the left in this photo. We had set out that morning to gather steers from a pasture that was leased from a neighbor. I don't remember how many steers were turned out there, but several hundred anyway, and to get ready for roundup and shipping, we were moving them closer to the home. The fact that it was Button's birthday made no difference at all, except that it was the only reason I had my camera along. I wanted to commemorate it in some small way. The other men shown here were neighbors come to help, with me in the middle, the lone woman, as was often the case.

It was Willie, on the left, who commented in characteristic style; "I thought we might get by one day without any women along." My retort was straight forward and quick, "F you, Willie," after which I calmly stepped on my horse and rode off. With that one quiet rejoinder, I forever endeared myself to Spike, second from left, who had known Willie for decades and deeply appreciated the suitability of my come back. Without saying a word, Button trotted past me shaking his head.

On a deal like this, there is a ramrod deciding who goes with whom and in which direction. Button managed the ranch, knew all of it as well as anyone ever could, and gave the directions. Second from the right, Steve and I found ourselves working together often. It was just our little cross to bear, but Steve is a good cowboy, and we almost always managed successfully. Quick to anger, and prone to yelling when things went awry, I once had to remind him that it was my backyard after all, but the lesson held over time.

The unfenced pasture was big, probably a section or so, with a seldom-traveled, two-lane highway running alongside. The water was good, consisting of 3 or 4 large ponds that were all but invisible through the tullies and brush grown up thick around them, and only the cattle knew the way in and out. We rode to the backside of the pasture and began gathering our steers, to be counted, then put through the fence onto to the home ranch.

I looked up at one point and saw Button across the highway all by himself way up on a hill. The cattle liked to work the hillsides and I saw that he had a big bunch of them headed straight down towards the road. Sometimes when you start cattle in one direction, they choose the pace, and these steers had thrown their tails up and chosen to run. I wondered what would happen if a truck came along at the wrong time. At about the same time, I saw Steve hit a gallop toward the ponds and realized he was running to stop them from diving into familiar territory where they could be lost. I took off after him. We missed, and we lost them and I can still remember witnessing the dissappearance. Thrashing and diving, it was as if they had been swallowed whole. I heard the brush rustle, then there was silence.

I went to a little rise and watched to see where the cattle emerged while Steve found a path of least resistence and rode into the thicket. Later I told him that the only thing to come out of there besides him was a duck, so we gave up and joined the others. By this time they had most of the cattle headed down a dry creek bed in the right direction, but some of the leaders broke and ran off. This time it was Button who galloped after them. Realizing he might need a little help, I was rewarded with a huge smile when just as he got them turned, I arrived to get them stopped. No one else was in sight and he had appreciated my insight.

I was selected from the group to work behind him as Button counted cattle that I pushed past him along side the cross fence into our pasture. It was high praise from a good cowboy. One or 2 slipped between us, but I kept track and the same number was confirmed when we counted them again on the way through the gate. It turned out to be one of those rewarding days where more things went right than wrong.

On our way back from lunch, we spotted the steers Steve and I lost near the water. They had finally come away from the ponds and were grazing nearby. Button backed his horse out of the trailer and went to move them to our side of the fence. He must have realized that I was worn out from the gather that morning and asked me to go home and return with his dogs to help him. The last I saw of them, they were high on another hill driving the wayward bunch home, so I wished him a silent happy birthday and drove away.

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