bring May lambs
Ewes through the dodge gate,
dart left, duck right, straight ahead—
In the fall, the cows and calves are gathered into private pastures near the Home Ranch. They have spent the summer months grazing on National Forest permits. It takes several “back rides” to make sure that all the critters have come down from the summering ground, and we collect them into pastures where they can graze and hang out until it is time to sort them. Here are some views of our family, friends and employees moving cows and calves closer to home. Soon it will be time to load the calves onto trucks to their new homes, and the cows onto trucks to go to winter pastures and cornfields where they will ruminate and gestate until spring.
Riding Rough Stock
The rough stock waits in the chute.
Riders tug, straighten their chaps,
screw down their hats, squint and gauge
the critters they aim to ride.
“Now, folks” chants the announcer,
“The third go-round, Mutton Busting.
The riders are six and under,
weighing less that fifty pounds.”
Tears flow as a young rider
hugs tight to his father’s leg,
snuffles into the dusty denim.
“Cowboy up!” A brave nod.
A brother and sister–busters both–
adjust the numbers pinned to
their shirts, tug at the safety vests,
exchange cowboy hats for helmets.
This is serious business.
The rider drops onto the back
of the ewe with the wary look.
This isn’t her first rodeo.
Some grab the bucking strap
snugged behind her front legs—
a handhold on the shorn sheep.
Some wrap their arms around her neck.
“Let me tell you about this critter,”
Blares from speakers overhead,
“She’s known as Baaaaad Bessie—
and she’s never been ridden!”
The rider swallows, and nods,
and the chute gate flies open!
The ewe bolts like lightening
spies the white line dusted in the dirt,
And jumps! The youngster tilts
and turns, seeking mom, or dad,
and grips harder on every wooly bit.
The ground looks hard.
Then boom, the dirt rises up,
grit fills teeth, nose and eyes,
suddenly flooded with tears.
The crowd cheers, and claps.
Angelic, the Rodeo Queen appears,
smelling sweet—with hugs and smiles,
and a salute to bravery,
with a dollar bill, a shiny ribbon.
The mutton buster remembers
how the bronc riders do it,
brushes off the dirt and the tears,
and waves to the crowd.
2018 shearing is complete. The crew showed up in a timely manner, the ewes moved through in an orderly manner, and we thanked our lucky stars because many years bring problems, from weather to a late crew to the late arrival of our sheepherders from Peru.
First the ewes trailed from their winter pasture on the Red Desert to Badwater, which is spring and fall country. The shearing crew showed up and set up their shed and baler. We brought the bunches through, staging them for the trail south to the lambing grounds. We got two days of rain, which was welcome, but finished in time to trail several days ahead of lambing.
We then moved on to Powder Flat, where the ewes who had lambed in March were still in the wool, and the bucks, still in their red “working clothes”, awaited. We had a glitch when my dog, Cora, hit the automatic locks on the pickup as I was hauling the shearing shed to Powder Flat. Unfortunately, the pickup was at the main gate (fondly know as The Portal), and my phone was inside. After several hours, which included a long walk, much unhitching and hitching and dragging heavy vehicles around with a tractor, we were able to haul the shed to the waiting shearers and get started. Pat brought the extra keys, liberating the truck and the dog.
After two half days, all were sheared and ready to head into the spring season and events.
Spring has definitely sprung, if not with weather, then with spring work. After a dry winter, we have had series of spring rains and snows. In the meantime, we have lots of baby lambs and calves arriving. We are trailing sheep to spring country and preparing to shear.