Sunday, June 21, 2009

Helping Dad

In honor of Father's Day, I thought I'd share some of my favorite memories of my Dad.

My dad made everything fun. The first time Studmuffin helped us work cattle he was astounded at how smoothly everything went. The thing is, even if it didn't run smoothly, it was no big deal. You let a calf get by? Well, we'll get it in a minute when we re-sort (to get all of the other calves I missed of course.)

I hated "working the gate." This is a very important job. The person working the pen brings you, hopefully, one calf. If you want to keep the calf it was an "in." If you plan to sell the calf it was a "by." In other words, you either opened the gate to let a calf in or quickly closed it to let it by into the pen behind you. Notice I said "hopefully one calf." Sometimes 3 calves would run at you at one time. Dad would yell "First one is a by, the next two are in!" I would be half panicked trying to get the sorting right. Now, if Dad worked the gate, he was very adept at sending 3 calves 2 different directions at one time. And it was the right direction. That always drove me crazy. I remember my Grandad Marvin always used to say, "Andi, the cow doesn't want to run over you. Get in front of her. She'll stop." I disproved him on this theory over and over as I would try to leap a 6 foot fence in a single bound and the cow would charge into me, the corral, and whatever else that was in the way of her getting back to her calf. But he still never gave up this adage. Stubbornness runs in our family.

We used to have an Angus bull that had a tendency to roam. He liked to go into our neighbors pasture and visit the ladies there. We regularly had to get the horses and run him back home. The neighbor had a pony that had been allowed to founder in his pasture. So, we would be trying to round up an 1800 lb (guesstimating) bull, not disrupt Henry's cows, and avoid the crazy pony that would run up on us and kick at our horses. It was quite the sight, I'm sure.

Before I move on, I just have to share a remembered conversation with Henry and his wife: "Well, I guess it's okay that your bull got in here, but we really didn't want any black calves." Dad just apologized and went back to work. Never mentioning the fact that half of Henry's cows were black....Okay, return to topic:

Dad would rope the bull, then I'd put my rope on him (I was a terrible roper) and we would use 2 horses, trying to be sure and never let any slack go either way to prevent a charge from the romeo at either horse, and lead him home. One time we had been unsuccessful at getting him lassoed. Dad told me to go on ahead and open the gate, and we would have to just run him home. I rode ahead, but the gate was hard to open. I was wrestling with the bale (the wire that wraps around the gate post to attach the gate to the fence post) and I heard a thundering sound. Here came Dad the bull, and the crazy pony. My horse started to dance. So, I'm struggling with a fence and a skittish horse. I can still hear Dad yelling "Open the gate! Open the gate! Open the gate!" at the top of his lungs, and can picture that bull bearing down on me. I turned back to the gate and "put my butt into it." just like Dad taught me.

I got it open!

Just in time to see the stupid bull veer right and jump the fence into our pasture.

Dad, never one to be caught off guard immediately yelled "Close the gate! Close the gate!"

Gee. I guess that explained why no matter how many times we checked the fence to see where the fence was down we could never find it. Stupid bull.

Seriously, though, Dad did make everything exciting. We used to have to haul irrigation pipe. We had an irrigation system that we would use aluminum pipe for. When it was not in use, like in winter, or when we needed to farm, we would gather up all the pipe and stack it neatly. However, it was a tedious job to move it from place to place. We would each grab an end of 2 pieces of pipe, and "trot" to wherever it went. I'm just going off of memory here, but I think the pipes were about 8 feet long and 8 inches in diameter. How could this be fun? You see, we would always see neat things. Dad always made an effort to point out every baby bunny he saw. Or hawk. Or baby birds. Even flowers. It was always interesting. He would point out animal tracks and tell me what made them. If we found a pile of mouse bones and fur we knew an owl had probably had his meal there, then regurgitated the indigestible parts. Since I always found this fascinating, I guess I was always a little bit of a nurse. Plus, Dad was always nice and let me pick up my end of the pipe first. I would pick it up and tip it up on it's end. The end he was on. Why, you ask? Well, if the pipe had been stacked for the winter, invariably some animal had decided to make a home in it. Rabbits were okay. Even mice were alright. But I always had a horror that a snake would come sliding out. That never happened, but I still dreaded it.

I always knew my dad was invincible. One summer the rattle snakes were terrible. One day we were rounding up cattle and we killed 4 rattlers. Notice I said "we." Here's the scenario: Blue and I go to get a calf. He would start to pitch and carry on. I would see a snake, realize that was the cause of the ruckus, and run to get Dad. Dad would then come and kill the snake with his lariat. That's right...His lariat. I thought he was the most amazing dad ever...

And I still do!

Happy Father's Day, Daddy! I love you, and I hope you guys have a great trip to South Dakota!

Without us.

Dang Studmuffin's job interfering with our plans for fun...

But I'm not bitter or anything....

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