Friday September 12 2008
Wanna Be a Cowgirl
Local rancher Rohl came out this morning with a horse and trailer to round up and pick up a bull of his who'd found his way down from the Owyhee mountains onto our upper 200 acres and had been hanging out a few days.
Steph and I thought we'd help him out, so she saddled up her fast endurance horse Rhett, and I saddled up the ol' ranch horse-turned-endurance horse Rushcreek Mac (Cowhorse being his first line of haywinning and all) and we set off up the canyon with Rohl on Rusty and Rohl's 3 cowdogs.
Well - I thought Mac could trot, and I knew Rhett could move fast, but Rusty the cowhorse on a mission had a business trot that any endurance horse would covet. Rusty's cowhorse shuffle left us cantering in his dust just to catch up with him. As we left the house, Rohl had made some joke about his old horse and old cowdogs and his old self riding and keeping up with some younger women, but after the first 5 acres were covered, it was easy to see who could outpace whom when it came down to Bull.
We were going to drive him back down to the house where Rohl had pulled his trailer into our lower paddock. We'd run him into a pen, and Rohl would load him up. Easy, right? Especially with 2 real ranch horses on the job.
We spotted the bull halfway up the canyon, and rode past him far enough, then turned and headed straight for him. The bull turned to face us, then took off like a jackrabbit alongside the creek, bulling his way through the tall sagebrush, and Rusty was off like a shot behind him, and Mac and I were off like a richocheting bullet in a metal tube after him. I don't have any idea what Steph was doing, because I was just trying to hang on. The faster we went - and it was getting faster and faster - the more excited Mac got, about yanking the reins out of my hands, and throwing his head straight up in the air (and therefore not watching the rough ground we were covering).
Rusty must have been floating above the ground because he kept putting more distance between us, while Mac was dodging this way and that through the sagebrush, over downed logs, leaping like a gazelle 3 feet in the air over one sage (okay, it couldn't have been 3 feet, but it sure felt like it). I quit trying to guide Mac because this was going much too fast, and I just threw the reins at him and hung on. I thought I'd be taking pictures of the whole thing - HA! In fact, I wasn't completely sure I'd be able to stay on for this wild ride.
The bull dove into the middle of the dry creek - very rocky - difficult footing, overgrown at places, and Rusty without any hesitation plunged right after him. Steph behind me said "I'm getting out of the creek!" while I was already pointing Mac out.
Steph headed to the right bank, Mac and I took the left, and we stayed a bit behind the commotion down there. You know, we were going to help keep the bull moving forward and not let him leap out and over the cliffs of the creek (about 20 feet high) and double back on us. Okay, in truth, there was no way in hell I would have tried bushwacking with Mac after them through the thick willows and downed branches and walls of tumbleweeds and logs and tripping rocks and monsters and god-knows-what-else that that were down there.
As it was, it was pretty excitingly alarming up top, because the bull below us was making a ginormously scary racket crashing through the brush in the creek; the 3 snarling barking frenzied cowdogs were attacking the bull; Rohl was yelling at the dogs to stop; and Rusty was just bulling his way along right after the whole thing.
Mac and I couldn't see any live creatures, but the brush and willows were swaying back and forth like a green threshing maelstrom machine, (think Children of the Corn), and it sounded like things were getting eaten in a body-ripping sort of procedure. Beneath me, Mac the Cowhorse was either soooooo excited about finally getting back to his beloved cows, or he was thinking, "Bee-Geeez-Us! Horses and cows and dogs never got ripped apart and eaten in Nebraska!" because he was - well, absolutely freaking out. I had to keep both hands on the steering wheel, and hope I wasn't going to get tossed down into the Bull Ring below.
Despite the predicament I was in - not knowing if I was going to get dumped off my horse (then laughed at - "She can ride a hundred miles but she can't stay on a COWHORSE when a COW is around!"), I think I still had it easier than Steph on Rhett, who, across the creek, was REALLY freaking out. Rhett is NOT a cowhorse, does not WANT to be a cowhorse, and probably thinks cows should not even exist on the planet. Rhett and Steph were spinning and galloping back and forth and climbing in the air - well, from what I could see on my glimpses of them anyway, as I had to keep my eyes on my own quandary. Mac was cantering in place, throwing his head down, throwing it up and back into my lap (I was really afraid I'd get smacked in the face again), snorting, trying to wheel - I wasn't quite sure what he was going to do.
Finally, the dogs laid off the bull, the bull chose to come out of the creek and continue moving down-canyon, and I was able to let Mac move forward instead of up and down. He was still terribly excited, but fortunately he was still somewhat controllable. Rohl stayed on the bull's tail, and Mac and I hung back and to the side in case he might have doubled back... though I'm sure Rohl and his dogs would have had it under control.
Steph crossed the creek and caught up with me and my dancing horse, and I think she said one word, something like - "#*+&%@^!!" and that's all she had to say for explanation, because that about summed it up for me too! Rhett's eyes were big as pie plates and he and Mac snorted back and forth like elephants - "SNOORRRTT (Did you see that BULL!?)" "SNOORRRTT (Did you SEE that bull!?)" "SNOORRRTT (Did YOU see that Bull!?)"
The bull made his way to and through the gate like he knew what he was doing, and on down to the pens at the house. He might have just stayed there waiting for John to open a gate into a pen - but then our cow-senseless dogs ran out thinking they'd help (Quincy came out to play!). The bull tried to make a break for the creek; I moved to join Rohl to keep the bull from the creek, when - uh oh, somehow it fell to ME to keep this BIG 1900-lb bull from breaking past us, along a fence to the creek. Heck I didn't know if Mac would face him down, but unthinkingly (no time to think!) I sent Mac right at the fence, and at the last second I about chickened out because the bull sure wasn't stopping.
I'm sure Mac knew what he was doing and wasn't afeared o' no bull, and he was much calmer now, so I think this was something he used to do a lot of, and he was wondering what the heck I was doing up there on his back. We turned the bull and stood there - while Rohl had to cut him off from going across the creek at another spot - then we held him there a minute and let him settle down before driving him around the corner, where he went right on in the waiting pen.
As Rohl backed his trailer up and drove the bull right in, we tied our horses up (Rusty was already calmly hanging out under the barn roof - I think he was snoozing). Mac stood tied like he'd had everything under control the whole time, and Rhett danced back and forth around the hitching post, his eyes bugged out and veins standing out like flood-stage rivers on his skin.
I'd done a wee bit of cattle herding before, so I thought I knew what today's bull drive would be all about; and I thought I was riding a real cowhorse, but either Mac had forgotten all about his cowhorse days, or they rushed back to him too fast, or I just didn't know how to ride a cowhorse after all.
I better stick to endurance - I don't wanna be a Cowgirl anymore.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Posted by Merri at 11:06 PM