My Cowboy Life: Day Two
I was awake and out of the house before sunrise, and I was over an hour late. Andrew and his boss, Jed, had saddled five horses, taken them by trailer to the arena, rounded up about fifteen leased yearly Corriente steers from the pasture, and already run a few through the shoot by the time I arrived. The cowboys had forgotten to tell the insects the day had started; the grasshoppers and cicadas were still singing the night songs as the blue of dawn was just fading.
The Bartlett Ranch produces quarter horses. Twice a year, spring and fall, horses go to auction. Most of the fillies (female baby horses for those of you, like me, who need a refresher in horse terminology) are sold as weanlings - less than six-months-old. A few are kept each year to replace mares in the breeding herd. Colts (male baby horses) are kept until two years of age, at which point they are started in a week long seven ride clinic held once a year. I prayed a lot that week back in June when Andrew put the first rides on three different colts. Most of the two-year-colts are sold at auction; I watched Andrew and Jed bring those horses down from the pasture yesterday. The ranch keeps less than ten new two-year-old colts a year. These horses, added to the cowboys' strings, will stay at the ranch until trained.
The ranch has four finished ranch geldings going to the sale this fall. Andrew has worked with two of them. Prior to the auction, the horses' skills are demonstrated in the arena. Andrew and Jed took the sale horses to the arena this morning to practice roping.
When they had finished all the steers, Andrew pushed them through to the start and they did it all again. Always the focus was on the horses' performance. If he shied from a gate, the cowboys opened and closed it a second time. If he bucked when feeling the weight of a steer on the horn, the cowboys paused and put him through the paces. The second video below is the promotional video the ranch made to sell one of the horses Andrew has been working with. Andrew is in the saddle.
After roping practice Jed and Andrew rode pastures for a few hours checking on cows. A couple steers had gotten out and more salt and mineral buckets needed to be checked. I went back to the Horton, made coffee, and spent a few hours resting in the sunshine on Andrew's patio. The break from Nathaniel's care is needed. Caring for a child with a critical airway tracheostomy is intense. The line between life and death is not only thin, but it is dependent on the caregiver's response to a crises. Our knowledge and reactions to his emergencies, or lack there of, has steep consequences for Nathaniel. 86,400 seconds a day, our job is to maintain an open airway. It is a type of stress that we had never experienced in twenty-five years of parenting seven children. While we post photos of Nathaniel on playgrounds and having fun, there is no down time in being attentive to his breathing. So respite times are needed. Here is my oasis today.
When Andrew got home we decided to go out for a late lunch. We had three choices within a thirty minute drive. We settled on the Longhorn Family Grocery and Restaurant in LaGrange, a town of 448 people according to the city (hmmm...) limit sign. We walked through the grocery to get to the restaurant. I wanted to linger and take it all in. Bunny Bread was stocked next to Mead notebooks. There was one jar each of thirteen flavors of Smuckers jelly. All centered straight and brought to the front of the shelf as if more stock was coming any minute from the stock room to fill the remaining eleven inches of empty space. Walmart Great Value white sugar, repriced with a sticker from a pricing gun, felt surprisingly soft when I squeezed it. I expected three months hard.
The restaurant was equally quaint and expected. Crocheted sundaes and banana splits in real glass dishes decorated the shelves. They probably would have sold me one if I had offered to buy. Patrons were welcomed to the back room of the Longhorn with a "Do you need a menu, today?" What looked to be a newly added salad bar tray stood attractively in one corner. The bathroom, located behind the soda machine with its light switch on the outside of the room, was unisex in a we-aren't-trying-to-be-trendy sort of way. The Longhorn and LaGrange's greatest features? A cell phone left on the table and reclaimed after a few miles down the road was tucked safely in the cash register drawer.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at the Horton. We've been watching some Westerns. It is a quiet, slow, peaceful life here when Andrew is not working.