Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday, November 2, Cattle drive, installment 5 – frustration, sheds and a driving name

How could you not want to get up to face the day with sunrises like these?  (Photo by Flounder.)

Ten hours in the saddle today. It's frustrating to have the cattle running from one side of the road to the other, to gather them, put them in line, and then have it happen again. Some folks do not understand the concept of driving.

Joe and Kale.  Two fine cowboys.  (Photo by Flounder.)
But on the bright side, I found my first shed, a big two-point. Then I found a small three-point with a tine missing, and a small spike. It was a good day for shed.

But still a lot of frustration. There was a lot of traffic which also scatters the herd, so we spent more time than we should have today gathering them up time-after-time.

But there are treasures in the weeds.  (Photo by Flounder.)

You only had to look at the scenery surrounding you to forget any of the frustrations that might be bothering you.  (Photo by Flounder.)

This might be the devil cow ... but what a sweet face!  (Photo by Flounder.)

Evaline and Marieke.  (Photo by Flounder.)

Yep, we're in the west.

Heinz and Hayden.  Horseplay.  (Photo by Flounder.)

This was a favorite photo of Arnold that I found in Flounder's albums.  (Photo by Flounder.)

I set such a fashion statement ... orange proper desert hat, red fleece vest.   Glad the fashion police were not in attendance.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Made it to Arizona.  (Photo on Flounder's camera.)
It was time for another cow photo.  (Photo by Flounder.)

This family had to put up with us ... Ruth, Harmony (with Elizabeth), Dustin (cow boss), Esther and Rachel, and Emma.  Emma is 4 years old, and on her own horse.  Rachel also has her own but others were riding it that day.  A lovely family, lovely children, and all so much fun to be around.  Thank you for helping make our time on the drive an adventure we'll never forget.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Once again, though, Chef Mel made it all better, lasagna. And sitting with the cowboys was a blast. I've now gained a cattle drive name – Coon Dog. Due to my racoon eyes from the sun glasses and filthy face, and the fact I was talking about visiting the coon dog cemetary in Alabama.
And yes, I did learn to put up a tent.  (Photo by Flounder.)
The Austrians pretty much keep to themselves although I've had some very nice conversations with a few of them. Flounder and I mostly sit and eat with Marieke and Evaline and the cowboys and the families. It's a greater experience for us because we are making new friends and learning of other people's lives and gaining so much through these friendships. Think I'd like to bring a few of these folks home. No names, please!!!

Thursday, November 1, Cattle drive, installment 4 – yip, yip, little coyote

Coyotes were howling this morning … guess I didn't think they howled or yipped or whatever they do except at night. But it's fun to hear them.

Joe and Hayden on their mules. 
I was sick to my stomach today. I didn't eat my lunch, just an apple. That's irritating. I never get sick. I felt weird, just not myself, but did a good job (I thought) of gathering stragglers.

Moving a straggler back toward the road.  (Photo by Flounder.)

While this isn't a great photo, I loved the fenceposts in the foreground and the beautiful scenery behind.
We drove the cattle down some paved very secondary (or maybe tertiary or quadary … I know that's not a word), and some dirt ones as well. There were a lot more cars, which scatter the herd to the right and left of the trail we're pushing them on. It's then our job to gather them back up and get them back on track. It was loads of fun, though. At one point there was a bit of a stampede, and everything seemed to be moving at once like a wave coming at you. Even Luke spooked for a step or two. Then he stopped, and I loved that horse even more than the day before.
Even sand hills look good.  (Photo by Flounder.)

With the vehicle on the right, you can see how the cows scatter, which then makes our job gathering them up and pushing them back to the road.  Sometimes they're not real cooperative, so then it's a little bit of a chase, adding to the fun and excitement of the drive.
You can see the saddlebags we use to pack our lunches and whatever else we might need ... Chapstick, other snacks, hats, gloves, sunscreen, water.  Mine were always way too full.  It's kind of like when I travel on the motorcycle ... I've got something for most every occasion!
Marieke from Holland, one of our favorites.  (Marieke, I apologize for misspelling your name until now.)

Luke and me, early when it was still cool and I was wearing my fleece musher-style hat.

We always took time to take photos ... lots and lots, hundreds of photos.  Every moment was a photograph as we didn't want to forget a single memory.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Some of came across a dead deer today. Flounder and I had the same thoughts. Maybe we can't find shed, but we can find dead. We were off the horses in a heartbeat and down to the deer. We pulled and pulled trying to get the horns off it, but that didn't work. I asked if anyone had a knife because I was going to cut them off. We wanted a trophy. No one had one. What's with that? A bunch of guys and no knives?

Kale came along and we asked him to help us get them. Nice guy that he is, he broke them off for us. He probably thought we were nuts. Maybe. Oddly, Evaline had found a cow eating a shed and got it, and we wanted horns, too.

We took this photo back at camp later.  A matched set ... horns ... and crazy girls most likely.  What a great time we're having.   (Flounder photo.)

Flounder and I ate lunch not too far from the dead deer, a send off of sorts for it. It had been shot but apparently not found. Yep, no shed; just dead. We were okay with that.

We had bought some carrots prior to leaving St. George.  We had to have treats for our horses, of course.  I told Flounder I used to let my horse take a carrot from my mouth.  Yep, Blondie can do it, too.  And she left Flounder with her own lips intact.

Franz is breaking trail for a vehicle.  Sometimes the cowboys did this to make it easier on the vehicles, to help them get through the mass of cows quicker and without accidentally hitting one of them.

It's just one postcard after another.
There was more family joining the drive today. There must have been 12-15 kids, mostly riding their own. They have been great fun to be around. Yep, I know. I don't say things like that, but these kids are very special and are quickly finding a place in our hearts, as are their families and others associated with putting on the drive.

The teepee is once again a topic … it's quite comfortable although a tad chilly in the a.m. and p.m. It seems to always have a scenic view. I have seen little field mice or something, though, which always gives me a start. Eeeeeeeeehhhhh!!!

Tonight we had some of the boys playing at roping. They roped each other and some were down in the dirt. It was lots of fun to watch.

Caleb and Hayden roping.
Heinz roped Franz.  They were good sports and participated in some good fun.
Then it was dinner … chicken, corn, carrots, rice or potatoes, salad, homemade sourdough biscuits (thank you Natashia) cooked over the coals. The food always tastes so good.

You could always tell which one our tent was ... towels and washclothes hanging over the top.
Then it was another campfire and a couple who played instruments for us and we all sang … old-style Western songs, “She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain, Old McDonald.” We had a ball. Maybe it's corny, but it was loads of fun. Of course I was dancing, and dropped my pocket camera in the sand. Luckily someone saw it, and I retrieved it. It no longer worked, but I did have my memory card at least. (Postscript on this – I had bought the warranty and the camera was replaced. Yahoo)

But I sure was having fun.

Our musicians for the evening.  The last photo I took before dropping my camera.
So, now Flounder is my official photographer.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, Cattle drive, Installment 3,
up and at 'em

Breakfast is served.
Up and at 'em cowgirl. Today ended up being about a 9-hour ride. But I was still in the saddle. At this point I determined it was my boots causing my ankles to ache. I was wondering if it would be okay to ride in my sneakers. (I asked one of the guys and they said I could do what I wanted.)

We were joined by some of the families of the cattle owners and tour owners. Everyone who is guiding us on our trail excursion are Mormans, and it's nice to see people who are kind to each other, considerate and helpful to all. There are prayers before breakfast to send us safely on our way and to aid in our arrival at the end of the day, and a prayer before supper. It's A-okay with me, and I am enjoying the feeling of being a part of something bigger than just Flounder and me joining a group of folks to do some type of strange (to some) adventure.

Stetson, AKA Muscles, for wrangling a roped cow.  He's one of the young men on the drive who helped make our adventure so enjoyable.  Courteous, well-mannered and a pleasure to know, all of them.

Nice to have someone block for us.  (Flounder photo.)
Today we were crossing a highway, and there were sheriffs to block for us. That was pretty cool. Flounder and I were both given specific jobs to do. She blocked a small roadway and I was near the fence to help keep the cows moving from the pens out to the trail and across the road. Others were in the pen pushing them out and on … Yee haw, move along, cow. It was an awesome thing. We were living in the past, when cows, cowboys and cattle drives were the way of the land. Well, except for the sheriff's cars, of course.

Crossing with vehicles held up in both directions.  Ya gotta love modern conveniences on a cattle drive.  (Flounder photo.)
Then we were on the other side, and moving. The terrain was somewhat dusty, so we were eating dirt. I had brought a bandana, but never wore it. Don't like them.I'd also brought my motorcycle riding chaps. Didn't wear them either. Preferred to have the dust enter my nose and throat and permeate my clothes. Ha!!!

The road signs said we were headed to Coral Canyon. The beauty of Utah is never-ending, mind-boggling, awe-inspiring. I was so happy and excited to see things I'd never seen before, and I've traveled in Utah a lot. Seeing it from the back-end of a cow, on horseback, made for a special trip, one that could not be duplicated.

We waited while the cattle were gathered on the other side of the hill.  Stetson was going to take us to a red canyon, down the trail which we'd been pushing cattle.
Once the cattle had been driven up a hill where they were to graze for a bit, Stetson took us to a red rock canyon. There was more beauty for us to feast our eyes on as we saw it as only you can from horseback, or if you were hiking. The niche in the rocks led to narrow, high-walled red cliffs above us.

Red cliffs closing in on you is not for those with claustrophobia.

Flounder and me and our follower horse in one of the wide spots.

Marika riding between the red walls.
It was exhilarating to ride through, with our knees touching rock on either side if you got an inch or two too close. If you suffered from claustrophobia this ride was not for you, although you could look up, and high above see a sliver of daylight. The scenery does not end, and changes from moment to moment. How lucky am I to be on this trip, seeing what I'm seeing, experiencing something that only those from the past mostly experienced? I know how lucky I am to be able to do these things. Yahoo!!!

On the way back out to rejoin the cattle.
One more stop to photograph red rocks.
Cowboy (Coca Cola as they call him) found a matched deer shed today. Was that cool or what? Now I want to see if I can find antler shed. I should be so lucky. I saw lots of tracks, but nothing bleached and white, nothing but bones and probably not deer ones either. Although I did see a skeleton that appeared to be some type of big lizard. It was rather cool looking laying in the dirt undisturbed by anything. It wasn't the type of thing I'd see while riding along a paved road on a motorcycle, so there is even more to be thankful for while traveling in the old way.

We were told the first two days in the saddle are the worst. But it's odd that Flounder and I aren't having any bad reactions … soreness, or problems with being in the saddle for so many hours each day. The only problem I've had was my ankles. And I took care of that. Sneakers rock!!!

Cattle, good food, good company and a never-ending source of beautiful scenery.  Wow!  I should have done a cattle drive a long time ago.
I don't feel dirty enough yet to be missing my shower, and I've not made a single move toward my mascara and eyelash curler. At least one of the Austrians was washing his body and feet. I never thought of that. I only used water to wash my face and brush my teeth. I guess I'm just a dirty girl.

Chef Mel had one of my favorite suppers … spaghetti. How did he know? HA!!! So far, so good. No food I don't care for. But then, it would be hard to find that as I like most everything.

Then it was cowgirl bedtime and tent talk. We realize there is a communication issue as some of the Austrians don't speak English and it will continue to be a challenge to follow the drive instructions and communicate with others when there's a language barrier. There are a couple who do speak and translate to the others, but there appears to either be something lost in the translation or a deliberate choice to ignore the instructions and do what they want. My issue with that is these are not our cows and we should all be considerate enough to each other and to follow the directions of those who own the cattle. After all, Dustin is the cow boss, and therefore, our boss.

I'm not the best at following directions either … due to a very short attention span. But I'm working on that, and ask questions often to make sure I'm doing the right thing. Not only is getting the cattle safely to the other end my priority since it's my job, I want these people to respect what I've done and appreciate my help (even if I am a paying guest).

Even scenery from the teepee is beautiful.
And then there's the need to get rest for the next day. Cowgirl, check the gorgeous moon and then hit the sack!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cattle drive, installment 2 / Tuesday, October 30
Yahoo, we're going to drive cattle

Little did we know what lay in store for us. Maybe I should have read the synopsis of the cattle drive before we left, or booked it. Of course, I don't expect it would have included howling coyotes or the lovely sound of elk (I had no idea), both of which I heard our first night. Guess I didn't get to sleep right away. It also turns out that of the 25 largest mule deer on record, 10 of them have been taken in these parts. Hope Hobbs is paying attention to that. BIG deer. But his first love is whitetail. Maybe I'll see one.

The first real cattle drive day was going to be a long one. Our bodies, our butts, our lungs, our skin … all promised to suffer mightily. Good grief. We'd only spent an hour-and-a-half on a horse a few days before leaving. Prior to that, for both Flounder and me, it had been years since we'd been on horses.

While the afternoon before, we had help in getting our horses saddled and bridled, now it was time to put on our big girl panties, “cowgirl up” and do it by ourselves. The cowboys were helpful, but hey, this is part of what being on a cattle drive is all about.

Flounder and Blondie, ready to rock and roll.  She's wearing her proper desert hat since we're in the desert. 

The motley crew ready to ride and drive.
We were energetic, enthusiastic and incredibly naïve. By the end of 10 days, I'd get worn down, but I didn't know that yet. We were in the honeymoon stage.

I'm wearing my polar fleece hat since it's a bit cool, plus my FXRG motorcycle boots (waterproof and warm), long johns top and bottom, and two layers of fleece on top. I was a bit overdressed.  I'd change to my proper desert hat later in the day.  Luke was a gem, standing when I needed him to for photo ops.
The next thing on the agenda, after a hearty breakfast, packing a PB&J and an apple,and getting Luke outfitted, was to join the rest of the crew and go get the cows. There were all kinds, black, black and white, brown, brown and white. But they all had sweet faces. Except for the devil cow. I understand she's named because of some Disney movie or something. Black, with horns and no tags in her ears. But she's a leader and is always at the head of the herd.

Off we go, on our way to drive cows.  Whee, what fun this is. 
The crew started moving cattle. We had been told that cows have a comfort zone and if you are too close to them, they will stop, or move away from you. Who knew, a cow comfort zone?

About 950 cows, many of them pregnant, to drive.  Usually this drive is about 800.
Another photo of the crew.
Early in the day, before we were hardly started, Stetson's (one of the four young cowboys) horse spooked over something. It bucked, bucked and bucked again, then went over backwards. Stetson hit the ground, and it looked like the horse partially landed on him, got up and kicked him in moving away. Luckily, it looked worse than it was. Stetson seemed hardly to notice, he was up and then down on the ground. He got up, dusted himself off, put his hat back on and got back up on the horse.

Turns out Stetson's horse was green, and had only been ridden a time or two, so it was just getting broken in to being on the trail. (I found out later there were several green horses on this trip.) My heart was in my throat, and my stomach sick at the thought of something bad happening. Oh, for youth and resilient bones. I never saw him limp or gimp. I would have been laid up and begging for one of the trucks to transport my hurting, aching body to the next camp!

I do believe Stetson was a bit irritated with us all by the end of the day as we continually asked him if he was okay. By the time we got back to camp that evening the story was that he'd just gotten off his horse to retrieve his hat which had fallen to the ground. Okay. Whatever you say. You're one of our bosses. And isn't the boss always right? (Although I heard he had a couple more incidents, but he stuck his ride. Guess I'd give him a perfect 10.)

North ends of southbound cows.

Herman, one of the Austrians.  He's a postman.

Two of our youngest drivers, Emma (4) on the left, and her sister Esther (9).  These young ladies are the real deal, cowgirls from the hooves on up.  Esther rode the entire time, and Emma rode quite a bit.  She did sometimes pack with either Esther or her momma.  But these youngsters, and others, are troopers when it came to being out on the trail for 10 days, riding and eating dirt.
Up we went on a narrow trail with the cows. I was told I was too close and was breaking the movement of the herd. I had to get off the trail, but it was narrow, barely a couple of cows wide, with a steep hill and rocks on either side. I wasn't exactly comfortable with either the drive or my ride and didn't know how to get out of the mix, so finally just kept still and let them all go around me. I did way better next time, particularly once I was totally trusting that Luke would get me anywhere I wanted or needed to go. He was a gem and I fell in love with him.

Luke and me at the back of the herd.
Git along little doggies.
No fleece, but no proper desert hat yet.  Moving cows.
Kale was the cowboy who wanted me to move and later said he didn't mean to be harsh. Hey, I'm learning here, and need to be told. I grew to really appreciate Kale. He was quiet, but as with all the guys, knew exactly what he was doing. I wanted to be told what to do because these guys were my bosses. What I did on this drive would contribute to getting their cows safely to their destination, losing a minimum of weight. That's a lot of money on the hoof to not be doing your job right.

It was a beautiful and sunny day, but we had risen and went to bed in the cool darkness. It warms up during the day to make a pleasant and warm ride, filled with typical gorgeous Utah scenery. Riding 10+ hours today, setting up the tent in the dark, feeding, brushing and watering made for a long and tiring day. I was tired, tired, tired, and my feet and ankles ached. That would need some adjustment.

Even tired, one can't ignore the beauty surrounding you.
The moon again lit up the area like a streetlight and you could see the rocks and sand of the riverbed where we were camped. I didn't have any problem sleeping. I heard the coyotes again but nothing kept me awake. And I'm so glad I've not needed to get up in the middle of the night to visit the teepee.

I've figured if I don't drink anything at night, and eat lots of salt to retain water, that I won't need to visit this during the night.  There are animals out there ...