Friday April 25 2014
Since we've been getting a lot of practice this spring mooooving cows off our upper acres, when the local Owyhee ranchers needed help gathering and driving their cows, we Rent-A-Cowgirls volunteered.
Connie sat astride her Grandson of the Black Stallion Finneas, and I rode tall (and wide) on The Dude. We joined 15-20 Real Cowboys and Cowgirls, riding out into the sagebrush and splitting up to gather a hundred or so head of cattle, pushing them together and driving them up to an awaiting corral for some branding and sorting before turning them loose in the next higher pasture.
Finneas spent much of the morning ignoring the cows but, more importantly, trying to win the ride, sweating and fretting and covering a lot of extra ground. The Dude spent his morning getting more fretful, as the cattle spread out in a half-mile mooing bawling long line, and as the calves shot back escaping behind the line and the cowboys took off at a gallop to retrieve them, and as Finneas occasionally disappeared over a hill out of sight to go let off some steam.
Once the cows bunched up at a fence corner and gate, and Dudley got to squeeze together with a line of cowhorses and move in close on the cows, that's when he found his comfort zone, being big and bold and bossy, throwing the Stink Eye at the cows and charging at them to get them moving onward. The bellowing cows and hollering cowboys and cowgirls and barking cow-leg-biting cowdogs didn't bother The Dude a bit, and he threw his own snorts in for good measure to scare them.
Once the herd was corralled, the ranch owners lit the fire and heated up the branding irons, the Real Cowboys and Cowgirls roped and branded the "slick" calves;
and after a cowboy lunch the fun began: sorting a dozen dry cows from the herd.
Wisely, Connie and I did not join the sorting. That was where the real cowboying came in, where you see those rodeo competition events really put into practice. It was fast and furious - it took a strong and imperturbable horse and rider to cut a mad cow out of a swirling bawling herd, and a coordinated effort from several other riders to keep that cow moving to the other end of the corral. "You can't outrun a cow," one of the cowboys said - but that didn't stop them from trying. The skill of the cutting horse facing a dancing cow was apparent. One particularly cantankerous cow took 8 cowboys and cowhorses, driving her, literally leaning on her and shoving her along, doubling back to chase her down when she slipped back through holes in the line, a neck rope to pull and a butt rope to shove - and 10 minutes to finally get her across the corral into an adjoining pen.
Those riders and horses knew what they were doing. It was clear from the beginning that we Rent-A-Cowgirls and our Quasi-Cowhorses would have been way out of our league, in the way, getting dumped or run over. We were happy to watch from the sidelines in awe.
So if you're an Owyhee rancher that needs an extra Cowgirl or two for the day, we're rent-able. We probably won't disgrace ourselves (i.e. we probably won't fall off or get lost), and we might help moooove some cows, and we know when to stay out of the way and admire the professionals doing their thing.
Here are a couple of short videos from the day:
Waiting on cows to filter into the corral
[the white face, white-legged horse is a mustang, an awesome cowhorse]