Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Home for the Holidays

Note:  I wrote this post on Sunday, but could not get all of my pictures to load.  So, I'm publishing it on Tuesday!

We are out at my folks for the Labor Day weekend.  Today has been the perfect day after months of triple digit weather.  We woke up to the wind howling out of the north and the temperature at a cool sixty degrees.  The  three younger kids have not come in the house at all, except to replace two way radio batteries and eat meals.

Studmuffin and The Man have been hunting dove and prairie dogs with the kids.  Today they took Dead Eye, my sister's oldest hunting.  They apparently have plenty of opportunity for bathroom humor when they are together.  So it was probably a good thing that my precious little angels decided to ride horses with Elvis.  Because quite frankly they can come up with enough bathroom humor on their own without their Dad and Uncle adding to the mix.

In an attempt to make some sort of money in this drought, my brother has bought 38 little calves.  He has figured up some total feed ration for ninety days then sell them again where he can still turn a profit even with a thirty percent death loss.  I pray it works for him.  Something's got to give.  They only have 40 bales of hay between the two of them, and they typically go into winter with over 600.  Round bales are up to $130/bale depending on what it is and where it's from, and even how old it is.  It is a scary time for my family...

Three of David's calves are on the bottle, and a few others appear so little as if they should be too, but they would not take it.  Oh well, they only have two bottles, and besides three bottle calves and three kids who are still not to cool to play with calves is a perfect balance! 

I helped my dad doctor some of the sick ones.  It seems to go with the territory of buying calves that some come down with shipping fever.  It only took maybe fifteen minutes to sort off the sick ones and run them through the shoot.  Dad suggested I hold the rope to drop the gate behind the first one in the shoot...

That is the weeny job.  "Really?  I have to do the boring job?"

And, of course he "let" me run them from the crowding pen and into the lane to the shoot...Sadly, not one single calf kicked me, or balked at the shoot, or even pooped down my leg!  Which really seems as if they aren't truly sick, just faking it so they can get a shot.

Or something weird like that.

Anyway, I love being with the cattle and horses.  It brings back memories of all the time I got to spend with my dad growing up.  I am 6, 8,and 12 years younger than any of my siblings.  My brother was in  a Prodigal phase through most of my growing up years, so since the age of about ten, I was the only one home.  Dad, Mom and I could work a truck load of cattle at less than two minutes per calf.  The bull calves would slow us down, but we had a system, and everyone knew exactly what role to play.  At that time, my dad ran a yearling operation and he ran about 2000 yearlings each year.  This translated into working cattle or moving cattle every single weekend.  It seemed as if a Saturday was not complete if I wasn't washing cow poop out of my pony tail at the end of the day...

And I loved it.

While Dad &; I were doctoring cattle my girls and Elvis, my sister Paula's boy, were riding horses.  Dad was suggesting that after we finished we ought to go down to the trees where the kids have a fort that is constantly under construction.  He wasn't sure they could get back on the horse themselves.  Appy may be 29 years old, but the old bronc never did learn enough patience to stand still while you mount.  And he's ridiculously tall. 

I think if we just leave them be with the horses, they'll figure out how to take care of themselves.  After doctoring cattle, bandaging Dad's hand where a calf slammed it up against the side of the chute, then decided to jump around, cleaning the five pounds of mud off of Elvis's shoe where he "had" to wade into a pond to retrieve his dove yesterday, we headed down to the trees, a mile north of the house to see if kids were ready to remount.  We topped the hill to find them all mounted and returning home.

Bookworm figured out that if she hooked her knee in Appy's stirrup and muscled her way up, she could swing her right leg over, then get in the saddle.  Sugar is just an average sized horse, so Elvis was able to reach his stirrup to mount, then grab Popcorn's hand and drag her on behind him...

And all of this after Sugar decided to rear up with Elvis on her!  The kids are getting so big and brave!

I refrained from saying "I told you so."  But I wanted to. 

After the kids got home, I helped them unsaddle and walked the horses back to the pasture to remove their bridles.  The kids stood and petted them for about thirty seconds, then they were off to do whatever it is they do...

I stood there and rubbed Sugar's ears and took my knuckles and massaged the spot on her forehead between her big brown eyes that all horses love.  I stroked her all over and talked about how sweet she was, even if she did give the kids a little rodeo today.  I assured her they would be better cowboy's because of it.

Then I moved on to Appy.  Sugar was not happy with her session ending, and she reminded me of her presence numerous times by placing her right ear on my left shoulder and rubbing her head on me.  I chuckled, gave her another little love down, then told her to let Appy have a turn.

Darling, cantankerous old Appy. We have had him for twenty six years.  Where he used to be mostly red with white appaloosa speckles and a white rump, he is now gray.  He is skinny and he drools when he eats.  Dad has even moved to buying him senior formula horse feed in the hopes of putting some meat on him for the winter...

It hurts my heart to look at him, and it worries me to think of him being ridden.  But he loves to be ridden and kicks up a big fuss if he suspects he will be left out.  I rubbed his forehead and he closed his eyes in horsey bliss.  I moved to his side and scratched his cheek and ears and buried my face in his neck.  He let out a great contented sigh and I breathed in a deep breath. 

He smells so perfect.  There is just something so perfectly "home" about the scent of horse sweat.  It is not a bad smell.  It is musky and unique.  It smells like wind and grass and carefree days.  It smells like blistering hot days with dirt in your teeth from chasing cattle.  It smells like leather gloves that have been soaked in the stock tank to form perfectly to your hands.  It smells like your dad's lap after he has come in from working all day long and is sitting in the recliner to catch the weather before he sits down to supper.

It just smells perfect.

For another take on life out at my folk's, go take a look at Paula's blog. She did a great touching story!  Anyway, it brought a tear to my eye!

What makes your heart yearn for home?


Dawn said...

Perfect description of that horsey smell--except the dad's lap part--someone else was always sitting in it..... :)

Marilyn said...

What a great story and it made me all teary just thinking about all of the years of kids and cattle and horses on this Ranch. A great memory was made.