Posts Tagged ‘working cattle’

It has been pretty wild and crazy here at El Rancho de Loco.  I think I have actually sat down to write this post 4 times so far and have not finished it yet – at least until tonight. Cross my heart, I promise I will not leave this computer until it’s done.

There is always lots of work to do on a ranch and spring is always the busiest time of the whole year.  We’ve been buying cattle, branding cattle, sorting cattle and moving cattle to summer pasture.  And we’ve been doing a lot of riding.

That’s Hubby’s new horse Smokey and my sweet new Pistol.  We’ve gotten along really well considering we have been working our butts off.  Just once I would like to be able to get to know a horse without having a herd of crazy cows going in 50 different directions to contend with.  But Pistol did just fine!  She definitely loves to work cattle and she is QUICK! 

We finally pushed the last of the pairs out onto the Forest Service permit last week where they will spend the summer eating lush grass and basically hiding out from us pesky ranchers.  Now all that’s left is to brand the last load of yearlings and move them to the beautiful pasture near Crazy Horse Mt.  Of course I keep forgetting to grab my camera so I  have very few photos to show. 

There’s this one of Pistol who is saying “OK, I’m ready to go”.  Notice the bare spot on her backside – I’m not real sure what happened – she either rubbed it off in the horse trailer coming home or one of the other horses and her had ‘words’.  Any time you bring home a new horse they have to establish the pecking order.  Thankfully, Pistol has settled in very well with the other horses and I know her backside will grow hair again.

We’ve been going pretty steady every night after work and even a few early mornings so the last night of sorting I opted to give Pistol the night off and I rode a horse of a different color…

I guess you could call her a Red Roan.

This horse isn’t near as good as Pistol.  It doesn’t corner as well, it likes to find prairie dog holes and it will, on occasion, wander off if you don’t set the brake which I didn’t and it did.  I stepped off for just a second to shake my favorite ‘rattle paddle’ at one wild-eyed cow and when I turned back to get on my trusty steed it had rear ended the pickup.  Won’t you know – it was the only thing parked in the whole corral and the 4 wheeler hit it.  Don’t worry – there wasn’t any damage I just had to back it off the tailgate.   No sweat.

This ‘fake’ horse also doesn’t have a nice fuzzy nose that gives velvety kisses either.  If fact it’s a rather poor substitute. 

The only good thing about this ‘horse’ is that it is very easy to step on and off of and that makes it really easy to pick up things you find along the way.  And then it has this really nice box on the back too so it’s easy to carry home all kinds of crap – I mean treasures.  That night I actually found 2 treasures. 

The first was a  jawbone of an antelope.  I’m not sure what killed it but by the way the hide appeared to be ‘balled up’ I would guess it possibly could have been a lion kill.

The second one was this piece of history…

Please ignore the dirty kitchen floor.  Can you tell what it is?  Here’s some clues:

1.  I would guess it is around 60 to 120  years old.

 2.  The small hooks on either end were hand forged. 

3.  The wood was oak and originally it was straight across – not nearly bent in half.

This has probably laid out in the grass (near the road to Elk Mountain) ever since it broke years and yeas ago.  Dan didn’t remember ever seeing it before and I’m sure everyone driving by on the road was moving too fast to even notice it. 

Got any guesses?

No, it’s not an antique Pioneer Thigh Master.  Good guess, thought.

It is actually a ‘tug’ which is part of a harness for a horse.  This piece would have hitched on behind the horse and would have hooked onto either a wagon, a piece of equipment or even been used to hook onto what ever needed to be moved.  Here’s a photo from last years Custer Co Fair showing some harness being put  to work.  This isn’t the same as the piece I found but it gives you the general idea.

 It always amazes me how much ‘stuff’ we find in the grass.

Well, it’s off to bed for me so we can get up early and have more fun tomorrow.  Yipee!





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Wow – 3 posts in less than a week!  That’s got to be some kind of record for me but don’t get too excited, my life usually isn’t like this.  There is just so much going on right now that I want to share. 

Like today – we worked cattle. 

It’s that time of year when we sort off the calves, preg check the cows and decide how many are going to the sale barn.  I took two days off of work – one so I could help today and one more for tomorrow so I could go to the sale barn at Belle Fourche, SD. 

Here’s a few photos of todays adventure:

Selling calves is a pretty big deal in our family.  Our son, Morgan took off from work too.  When the boys were young we would even take them out of school to go to the sale.  When you’re born into the family ranch you’re part of the business from the very beginning. 

As you can see from this photo we prefer cattle that are easy to handle.  Of course they’re not all as curious as this one.

First we sorted the calves and yearlings off of the cows.  These are our girls.  Dr. Pete showed up at 9:00 am to preg check them and this year we came out really good – only 5 of the girls aren’t pregnant and they are probably the ones who had late calves.  Sometimes we sell the cows who are ‘open’ (not pregnant) rather than feed them all winter with no hope of a calf but since these are all really nice cows (good-looking and nice to handle) we will keep them.  There is also the chance that since we ended up with 7 late calves last spring these cows may be pregnant but just a month or two behind the others.  Having late calves can be a hassel but we usually end up keeping the little ones and then selling them in the spring as heavy calves or else the next fall as yearlings.

This is our hydraulic chute.  My brother-in-law, Scott built it and it works great. 

The yellow stick with the red ‘paddle’ on the end is a Rattle Paddle – a sorting stick that makes noise when you shake it.  They work well for sorting cattle and they’re kind of fun too.

Hubby and Paul run the cows into the chute, Morgan ran the chute,  Dr. Pete preg checked (a job – no one else wants to do) and I applied the pour-on pesticide.  And good news – since I’m kind of messy there’s a pretty good chance that I won’t have to worry about round worms, lung worms, grubs, horn flies, sucking and biting lice, and sarcopic mange mites for a while.  Wa Hoo!

The girls even seemed impressed with the new hay trailer Hubby built.

We have some of the best looking calves we’ve ever had this year.


Once we finished with the cows we sorted the calves out of the yearlings, did a couple of quick counts and then pulled a couple more small calves out of the bunch and turned them back with their mamas.

 All the cattle are looking good.

Here’s that batch of skinny yearlings we bought last spring.  They have put on a lot of weight this summer. 

Maggie got put to work too.  This is her ‘Come hither and unsaddle me’ look.

And this was our last helper – Steve.  Steve is Morgan’s new puppy.  He’s pretty young but he’s learning.  He doesn’t like the cold weather very much but he sure looks stylish in the cut off sleeve of my old sweat shirt.

By 2:30 the truck had arrived and our calves and yearlings were loaded.  A 2 hour drive to Belle and they should be settled into a couple of pens and ready for the sale in the morning. 

Sale day is always the best.  This is the day we work toward all year.  Prices have been up this year so we’ll hope for the best and see what happens.  But the best thing about sale day this year is that Morgan will be going with us and we’ll also get to see Dalton & Dani too.  I’ll be sure to take some pictures.

And of course Steve will be there too – he’s quite the social little creature even if he isn’t to fond of chasing cattle yet. 

“No.  I will not come out from under this snuggly blanket to chase cows!”



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This Worthy and Wierd Quote is a little nasty but  it was so funny that I had to include it here.

I would guess that our boys were about 13 and 16 years old at the time it happened.  We were still living near Custer but were spending that particular day helping Grandpa S. get some things done around the ranch. 

Grandpa was known to everyone as ‘Bud’.  He had been born a cowboy and had lived his whole life at the ranch.  Bud was mostly a quiet man but he could get fired up on occasion when stuff broke down, the price of cigarettes went up or the football games he loved to watch didn’t turn out as he had hoped.  Basically, he was a tough old rancher with skin like tanned leather and a vocabulary that sometimes bordered on the – shall we say – spicy side of life?

This particular day had been a long, hot one filled with broken down equipment, skinned up knuckles and busy grandkids.  We had finally had all the ‘fun’ we could stand so had stopped for a cold drink at the kitchen table.  Grandpa was in the middle of telling a story – about what or who I can’t remember but our youngest son had obviously come in at the middle of the story because he didn’t know what or who it was about either.  Unfortunately, he was trying to figure out what Grandpa was talking about just as Grandpa was trying to finish his story.  My baby (actually a teenager) kept asking,

“Who?  Who are you talking about?  Who? Who?”

Grandpa had reached his last nerve and answered back,

“You don’t shit through feathers!”

It was one of those rare moments in time when the world and everything on it stopped mid-step and you pause with creased brow trying to process the words you think you just heard before asking, “What did you say?”

Grandpa was frazzled and our son was speechless (but secretly thrilled to quickly file these words of wisdom – complete with a 4-letter ‘sentence enhancer’ away for future use). 

The rest of us were practically worthless as we laughed till tears streamed from our eyes.  Everybody laughed about that one – even Grandpa and our boy.

I can’t blame HBO for teaching my children to cuss like sailors.  They were born ranch kids and since most ranchers have a colorful language you’re bound to pick up a few choice words that always seem to pop out at the most inopportune times.

(I’m still really, really sorry about that one time, Pastor Dave)

When our boys were little and throughly fascinated with those 4-letter words I finally had to make a deal with them – they could cuss but only when we were working cattle.  I figured this was OK since it seems to be the only language cattle understand. 

Now, you might think I’m a terrible mother but I must admit this arrangement worked out pretty well.  The boys actually watched their language at school and public places but on horseback, in a corral full of wild-eyed cattle they could blister the paint off the side of the barn. 

I always had to laugh when the neighbors would come to help work cattle – seeing the shocked looks on their faces, the boys were always quick to explain…

 “But Mom says that’s the only language cattle understand.”

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What exactly is a snubbin’ post?

I heard you – inquiring minds want to know.  So to ease your mind and not leave you hanging,

this is a picture of a genuine snubbin’ post.

No – it’s not the cows or the cowboys or even the big stick my Hubby is dragging behind him – it’s the wooden post sticking out of the ground all by itself in the middle of the corral.  The one that looks like someone forgot to build the fence on to it.

And what do we use a snubbin’ post for?

Why snubbin’ – of course.

Let us demonstrate.

Here’s our son Morgan and his rope.  Morgan likes to rope and he’s good at it.  Please notice that at the end of his rope he has a calf and two cowboys trying to subdue said calf.

Now, notice how Morgan has one loop wrapped around the post already and is ‘throwing’ a second loop.  It is always a good idea to have at least 2 loops around the post no matter what size the animal is on the end of your rope.  Three is even better.  The friction from the rope around the post gives you much more control over the ticked off animal – at least it gives you the illusion of control.  You soon learn there is very little about the world of ranching that you have any control over.  This setup also allows you to take up slack when the ticked off animal charges at you and hopefully you get enough slack to get you clear of the business end of the charging animal.  Warning – don’t ever let your loops cross over each other as they will bind up and refuse to slide at the exact moment you really, really need them too. 

 Take my word for this. 

By applying a little pressure you are able to hold a very large and very angry animal in place no matter how many times it chases you around the post (as long as you stay ahead of it and don’t get run over).  And absolutely never ever let them get the rope wrapped around any part of your body – this is an extremely bad thing.  People have lost body parts and their lives by getting tangled in ropes.  A rope can cut like a knife under the wrong conditions and cows never stop just because you ask them to.

Oops, Morgan – you’ve lost a loop. 

Snubbin’ posts are very heavy posts, usually the butt end of old power poles that are set deep into the ground.  This is a new one we put in a couple of years ago when the original one rotted off and broke while we were working cattle.  Hubby’s uncle and his father had set the original post when they built the corrals sometime in the 20’s or 30’s and it showed all those years of wear and tear in the deep groves dug by hundreds of ropes.  

My favorite part of the old corrals are the gates.  There’s nothing like the sound of an old wooden gate when you swing it open.  It’s music to my ears.  Our gates  are hung from the original gate posts that were set back then too and it amazes me that they are still in such good shape as cattle are pretty rough on things.  Remember the ‘bull in the china shop’ thing?  It’s true. 

Snubbin’ posts are handy for other things too.  You can wire metal panels (sections of portable fence) to them when you need to create an alley way or loading chute.  They will also save your butt when the usually mild-mannered bovine changes before your eyes to a raging leather bag full of vinegar and oneryness and decides, for some unknown reason, that you are the spawn of the devil himself and their sole purpose in this life is to the stomp you into the ground and save the world from scum like you.  It happens – I’ve seen it happen.  It’s scarry when it happens!  The trick is to keep the post between you and the cow long enough for you to jump the fence.  And believe me, with the right motivation (such as a ticked off cow blowing snot all over your backside) you can clear that 6 foot corral in a single bound – just like Super Man.

You can take my word for that too.

Here’s a good picture of the post and our oldest son Dalton on Rough.  I know it’s a weird name for a horse but it suits him – he’s always been a little rough around the edges.

Horses know the benefits of snubbin’ posts too.  Rough has worked most of his life in this corral and he’s ducked behind that post and run cattle around it and has even been tied to it a time or two himself – yes, that’s partly how he got his name.

Snubbin’ posts take a lot of abuse but every corral should have one. 

Don’t you think?

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I love my job.

I work for the US Department of Agriculture and I love my job not just because they pay me and I get cool benefits like paid vacation and health insurance (which I really like) but the main thing I like about my job is that I get to visit with ranchers every day.

Ranchers come in all styles and shapes.

There are lady ranchers who are tougher and smarter than any one I’ve ever met,

little old cowboy ranchers who might be 80 years old but they’re still out there when the work needs to be done,

gussy-up’d ranchers with silverbelly hats, polished boots and shiny belt buckles

and ranchers straight off the ranch with mud and manure encrusted coveralls and 4 buckle overshoes.

Ranchers are honest, hardworking people who will give you the shirt off their back – they are good people!

Last week a rancher came in.  He really didn’t have any ‘business’ reason to come see us but just wanted to catch up and see how we were wintering.  We got to talking about a woman we all know and the tough times she’d been going through.  Even though this gal has been struggling lately, she is the type that never gives up and she knows how to get things done.  As we sat and visited at one point the rancher looked at me and said:

“She was twistin’ tail!”

“Say what?”

Now, unless you’ve worked cattle you may not understand this statement or that it is a complement.  It sounds more like something you could get arrested for at Sturgis during the motorcycle rally, but it’s not.

Twistin’ tail is what you do when your moving cattle through alleyways or chutes.  It is a delicate (Not!) maneuver that can get you kicked big time.  The first thing you need to know is you can’t do it half way – jump in with determination and no fear or don’t even attempt it.  You come up behind a calf (always practise this with calves before attempting it with full-grown cows), press your body hard against the backend, grab hold of the tail and twist it up into a furry, manure caked corkscrew and then push for all your worth.

Now when you first do this you will learn several things very quickly:

1.  You will get kicked, so stay close to the calf.  The closer you are – the less it hurts.  When your right up there ‘in their business’, so to speak, they just can’t get the right momentum to give you a good swift kick in the knee cap.  If your backed off from them, even just a little, they can reach right up with their back hooves, kick you in the jaw and drop you to the ground.

2.  Cattle, in general, have no pity.  If they see you go down they will  turn on a dime and run over the top of you to get as far away from the chute as possible.  They will even laugh at you as you wallow around in a foot of mud – they are mean that way.

3.  And finally –  sooner or later what goes into a calf must come out.  Never wear good clothes or new gloves for this and above all do not tuck your pants into your boots – take my word for this.  By the time you perfect this maneuver you will have manure down the front of you, in your face, in  your hair and down your pants. 

One word of warning – if the back-end of the calf is already covered with a slimy, yellowish substance known as scours (or diarrhea) do not attempt to twist that tail.  Use a whip, sorting stick or hot-shot to keep at least 5 feet of distance between you and the backend of that calf – take my word for this too.

“I’m out of here – I like my tail just the way it is – thank you very much!”

I challenge you to use this quote today.  Just see how many times you can work it into a conversation with your hair dresser, lawyer, priest, dentist or just the nice old lady who lives next door.  I guarantee they will either be impressed with your way with words or just walk away with a troubled look on their face.  

Either way you’ll get a good chuckle out of it.


“Humans are so weird!”

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