My Cowboy Life: Day One
By four o'clock, my lips were stinging chapped and every time I put my teeth together, I crunched dirt. The water we got from the red pump in the back pasture was almost gone. It was warm. I was hot. And there was more work to do.
Having now experienced daily life on a Wyoming ranch leads me to suspect there is always more work to do.
Our son, Andrew, works as a cowboy at the Bartlett Ranch in southeastern Wyoming. The ranch breeds and sells quarter horses. Andrew "rides the rough ones and ropes the wild ones." I flew to Denver last night and drove up to the ranch to spend time with him for the holiday weekend. It has been a year and a half since I've seen Andrew. It is good to be with him.
Our morning started with strong coffee on the front patio at six. Andrew already had a horse saddled and ready for the day. I observed quickly that everything on the ranch and even what the cowboy wears has a purpose. Take for instance the red fringe on the chaps Andrew made by hand for himself. A piece of the fringe can be cut off and used to fasten broken reins together again. Andrew's primary job on the ranch is to ride colts and train them to be ranch horses. He has a string of horses that he works with. Most of them were in the pasture this morning. He offered grain to the two he had in the corral just as the sun was coming up.
Andrew's first job this morning was to trailer his saddled horse down a dirt road to his boss' house, pick up his horse, and go further down the road to headquarters. The ranch is over 90,000 acres with different houses and barns spread out. Andrew lives alone in a two bedroom house, called Horton. He has a barn, corral, and pastures right at his house where he works with the horses assigned to him. Other ranch personnel live spread out in different homes or at the headquarters. About thirty weanling fillies were there in the barn; Andrew and his boss brought thirty-six two year old colts down from a pasture. All of the weanling fillies and two year old colts I saw today are headed to an auction next week.
The next job was to move two horses from headquarters to the corral at the boss's house. They are older horses that need some training. Then we dropped the trailer back at Andrew's house and went to another location to load 2,000 pounds of salt and mineral for cows.
We spent most of the day, seven hours to be exact, driving through pastures checking on windmills and delivering salt and mineral to the cows. This needs done once a week. First we did the pairs - cows and their spring calves. Then we went to pastures where the one year steers are kept. The ranch keeps about five hundred head of cattle primarily for the purpose of training the horses. Sometimes we stopped to watch antelope. Or to look for the two rut road. Or for the best way down to the water trough when there weren't two ruts. I opened and closed a lot of gates.
It was a hot and dirty day. This video shows a bit of what we encountered at each of the twelve tanks and often when we would work the gates. The cows feel intimidating to me; but by the end of the day I finally realized they were more scared of me than I was of them. By a smidge.
Andrew's last job was to pick up hay and deliver it to a group of horses. We finished the day around six this evening. Andrew made me spaghetti. We are headed to bed soon; he has to be ready for team roping tomorrow morning at five thirty.