Tue 5 Jan 2010
Before we load the horses, we always tack them up instead of packing our saddles and headstalls along in the back of the truck. We have a stock trailer made for hauling cattle, so we don’t have a tack room built in. The horses are currently out in the big pasture behind our house, so someone’s gotta take the ATV out there and run them all into a smaller area where it makes it easier to catch one of them. Believe me, I’ve caught horses out in the big pasture, and unless you rope them, it’s a game.
“Missy” and “April” in the stock trailer during a range day.
We tack up and load the horses into the stock trailer. Our range is about an hour’s drive, or even two depending on the roads and where we want to unload the horses. Usually we unload them at Hat Creek Ranch, which is our ranch (700 acres; we’ve got a thousand in the valley) in the hills, and the reason that we got the range in the first place.
Dad on “Ginger” and “Gypsy” riding herd.
We ride out, and sometimes we have to ride for most of the day before we find any cows. There are a few days a year when we don’t find cows at all, and we just go on a rugged trail ride for the whole day. The cows are monitored to keep them off the creeks and other places we don’t want grazed. A lot of the day up there are just spent moving thirty head of cattle higher, or lower, and onto forest.
Moving cow-calf pairs on the forest land.
Dad will pay me for these days on the range, and if I remember to write it down, I make some pretty good money for riding. Most days up there are about five or six hours long, but sometimes you have a fluke. I remember when I was sick (oh, the irony) with a cold, we rode about twelve hours. Dad figured the mileage out, and that makes approximately forty miles that day. Then there have been a few days where you only ride two hours.
We stop for lunch about halfway through the day, and take a break by one of the range’s many springs and creeks. It isn’t green on the hills, of course, but there are a lot of draws that are filled with trees and brush, and a little water is running through them.
Stopping for a break in Big Hat Creek.
On a longer day, the cows will be moved, and we’ll be riding out at dusk. Sometimes it gets to the point where its dark all together. Hopefully we’re on a road heading back to truck, and not stuck on some mountain, but if that happens, the best thing to do is trust your horse. We walk when we get in rough country, but in the dark, the horse can see better than you anyway!
Driving back is either a time for conversation, or sitting there staring into space, too tired to open your mouth. A lot of times, it’s dark by then, and I wonder what people think, seeing those headlights coming off the hills!
We unsaddle the horses, and let them out, and then go up to the house to eat something, because by that hour, you’re hungry! My friend and I would joke that anything tastes good when you come off the range!