Saturday, June 16, 2007

First Ever Ladies' Sidesaddle Rodeo

Reading through some others' blogs, I've found a couple of posts on the species that provides us with such wonderful things as steak, and hamburger. I decided to add my two cents.

Growing up in a rural area, you learn quickly that nine times out of ten, cows are not the smartest creatures on this planet. This would be why they're food, and not pets. The tenth time almost always comes at the worst possible moment, "almost" because calves that are bottle raised and exposed to more than "fence, more fence, gate, OH! hole in the fence, wooohoo!" can show some real promise for the mischief olympics.

Some short and simple facts about cattle.

Your average bovine weighs MUCH more than you do. If they step on you/kick you/brush you accidentally as they go by, it hurts.

However, most cattle are afraid of people. Of any size. I've seen a herd of placidly grazing charolets go into a raving tizzy because a two year old waddles into their general area and starts giggling and yelling "MOOO cows! MOOOOOO!" I'm not sure what was more entertaining. The startled and panicky reaction of the cattle, or the disappointed look on the two year old's face when they refused to moo on command.

Our cattle are not quite as spooky as some. We tend to treat them to "cake," a protein supplement that is formed into pellets about the size of a shotgun shell, on a semi regular basis, and since we distribute this by dint of laying the bags out on the tail gate and having one person drive while the other scatters the Cow Candy out behind us, they come running pretty much every time you drop the tailgate on the pickup. However, if you're trying to get them back into the corral, because some bright boy at the electric company left the gate open whilst checking out a power outage on lines that happen to cross your pasturage, they turn into rip-snorting spooky old biddies. They also completely forget where the corral gate is, and high tail it for the other side of the country whenever you approach them. Sometimes. Sometimes you walk up open the gate and start hollering "You sorry b#$%&es, get your butts in here!" and they come running, to file into the pen in an orderly fashion, and on out into the fenced pasture that they're SUPPOSED to be in.

The most fun, though, is branding time.

Colorado is a brand state, which means we have to brand our calves before we can ship them across state lines. The sale barn that my grandfather prefers is in Kansas. So, we brand, on a semi-regular basis.

Last year, the time rolled around where grandpa wanted to brand. We consulted the almanac, told him the moon was wrong, and he proceeded to insist, in nearly the same tone as my two year old nephew uses when HE's denied something. So, we get the cattle gathered, dose the cows and the bulls with the super med that protects against seven different kinds of critters that live on or in the ones we want to eat, and start in on the calves.

Due to my delicate sensibilities, (and my uncanny ability to levitate to the top of the nearest fence if a creature weighing about four times what I do decides it wants a piece of me,) my usual job at branding time is pushing calves. That is, moving them from the pen, to the alley, and into the chute. Fairly monotonous, broken up with the potential for getting feet stepped on, crushed against the walls of the crowd chute, or just flat run over, as the 100-400 pound calves figure out that whatever is at the end of that crowd chute is Not A Good Thing.

This particular day, things were going fairly well, until I ran across one heifer calf that was determined she wasn't getting within four feet of the turn into the calf cradle. I tried the sorting stick (a four foot long slightly flexible PVC prod) poking her with the end of it in the backside, usually enough to make them ease on forward. Not an inch. I tried tapping the side of the stick on her flanks... nothing. I tried getting right up behind her and scratching on her roasts... nada. So, I resorted to a trick I don't usually have to use, grabbed hold of her flyswatter and twisted it around up over her back, and pulled forward on it.

First time I've ever had one BACK UP when I did that.

During the ensuing confusion, the heifer in question got turned around and squeezed back past a little bull, so I got him chivvy'd on up into the cradle and went back to work on little miss stubborn. The more insistent I was that she go forward, the more convinced she became that she didn't want to do that. She got turned around on me again, and I saw the light go on upstairs as she finally figured out that she was bigger than little 'ol me, and promptly went to take me out. I did my levitating act, wound up on the gate of the crowd chute, one cheek planted firmly on top, one foot hooked in the rails, and one foot dangling.

Thats when the first ever Ladies' Sidesaddle Rodeo began.

That heifer came dead on for me, even after everything but one boot was up out of her sight line... she hit my foot, slid me back into the gate latch, and by the time I got my right foot out of her way, the gate was barely caught. She backed off and I breathed a sigh of relief, about three seconds too soon. That crazy little steak-on-wheels stepped back, assessed the situation, and ran into that gate as hard as she could. Gate pops open, I pop off.

Right into a perfect sidesaddle position on the heifer.

Now, I'm pretty proud of two things about this whole debacle. Number one, I never dropped my stick. Those things are an invaluable tool for reaching over/around the animals nearest you and tapping the one shoving at the others gently on the nose, discouraging them from the activities which caused you to get a brand new tattoo of the pattern of the fencing in your back. Number two, I stayed on that heifer for four jumps before she unassed me onto another gate. This one with rounded corners, which I remembered to be thankful for as I slid gracefully over one of the aforementioned corners and to the ground.

Once I could hear over the running litany of every cuss word I've ever heard in my life and a couple that I'm pretty sure I made up on the spot, I realized that I'd been laying on the ground for longer than my co-branders were comfortable with. I heard a chorus of "Are you Ok?" from the general vicinity of the calf cradle, and climbed to my feet.

Now, I'm pretty sure I said something along the lines of "I'm fine, back to work" but witness accounts swear I leaped to my feet, brandishing the sorting stick like a rapier, and shouted "Have at thee, foul villain!" before diving into the milling group of calves to separate out the one that had just given me a bruise the size of the county seat on my left thigh.

She got to the calf cradle, by dint of me hanging off the sides of the crowd chute like some kind of cowgirl monkey, and planting both boots on her hindquarters at the end of a good swing.

No one has broken the record for Sidesaddle Bucking Calf Riding yet. I don't think any of them have the guts to try it.

But I think I'll let the record stand, anyway.


HollyB said...

Oh, that's a CLASSIC story! But you oughta give us a Class I beverage warning.

farmgirl said...

I wasn't aware that it required the infamous Class I Beverage Alert (which I totally plan on ganking from LawDog and using for myself anyway)

Lin said...

So glad I found you through LawDog. This pilgrim will be following your sage cattle advice henceforth. Just wish I had found it before my first run-ins with the 'horned ladies'.

farmgirl said...

I don't know about sage advice, lol, but thanks for the read and the comment!

Dan O. said...

Love the story! But tell me, did you administer that one individual brand to Stubborn T-Bone Bearer yourself? As maybe a payback. Just wonderin'.

farmgirl said...

No, I still had a bunch of calves to push, and thus no time for vendettas. Ah well, I heard her beller when they branded her, and she got all dramatic and started limping coming out of the cradle.