Mad Jack Hanks: Tales From the O-NO Ranch 6-11-12 | TheFencePost.com

Mad Jack Hanks: Tales From the O-NO Ranch 6-11-12

Mad Jack Hanks
Wellington, Colo.

I have had “rain on the brain” for the last few weeks. I reckon that’s because I just can’t seem to bargain one to arrive here at the O-NO Ranch.

My neighbors off to the east and south of me have had better luck. I got to thinking about some of the rains that I have enjoyed and been somewhat dismayed by in the past.

To a cowboy I think, or it’s just my opinion, that “rain” can mean different things at certain times. By that I mean some of those rains are so special and such a “God Sent” they are never forgotten. Other times I remember rains that caused so much destruction that one could only hope it wouldn’t rain another drop for a long time to come.

I remember moving to that little ranch at McLean, Texas. Just a little eight section ranch full of sagebrush, sand and some good solid short grasses. The day we got mostly moved in a really hard shower came. The sun seemed to explode in the west just before it went down. I walked down to the corral just to see the horses. None of which were mine but I judged them to be good ranch horses as my boss was in the business of raising Quarter horses. He lived some 40 miles away and I was hired to operate this little cow ranch.

When I stepped outside the air was cool and the smell of rain coming off the sagebrush was more than refreshing. It was a good smell. I was in new territory. A new place with pastures I had yet to ride and country I had yet to see. I was 34-years-old and “I was a cowboy.” It was just a few short years after that I was managing a large steer, cow/calf operation in a totally new and foreign country. It was foreign because I had never been in the lush clover and rye grass and coastal Bermuda pastures of north central Texas. Great Scott, you can run a cow on three or four acres.

A new and terrifying experience for me to be handed all the responsibility of raising hay, running a different type of cattle and trying to manage a crew of men I knew nothing about.

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One night in rained, and it rained, and it rained some more. It rained 12-inches, children that’s a foot of water in one night. The country was flooded.

I didn’t know what to expect when I went over to my office that morning and put on a pot of coffee for the crew coming in. I had the radio on the local news and it was reported that the whole community was surrounded by a lake of water. We lost long stretches of fences. I had over 40 cows with calves washed away down the flooded creek. Not all were washed away as we found some impaled by branches in the Mulberry trees in the creek. I almost got drowned in one of the flooded creeks when I discovered my pony never learned how to swim. It was a terrible experience. One of those you just don’t ever forget and you don’t want to see another raindrop for a long, long time.

There were those winter days out in the wheat fields riding through hundreds of steers looking for anything that showed any sign of sickness. It would be drizzling rain and you would be so cold you absolutely could not stop shaking. The fear was you were going to be the one that needed to go to the sick pen, not any of your charges.

“Lord, I do need a rain. A gentle, soft day long rain to soften up the ground and quench the thirsty roots of these old grasses.” I know, I know gentle readers, it will rain just before it’s too late. I get a little impatient at times, it’s just one of the chinks in my armor.

Stay tuned, check your cinch on occasion and I’ll c y’all, all y’all.