Quackgrass Sally: On the Trail 12-31-12
I never get tired of this time of year. It holds an almost magical feel to each day, crisp and new. The snow lightly comes down and it puts a sparkle on trees, fence wires and even the backs of the cows grazing in the pastures. You can always tell when its “really” cold outside when the snow squeaks under foot … a sound it doesn’t make when its above freezing. At night, the sky is darker and the stars shine brighter … with the occasional shooting star even more magnificent then normal. Maybe all this is because the end of the long year is upon us.
Being ranchers, each late December we seem to reflect and round out what’s been done during the year. It’s that sitting down at the kitchen table kinda time where you decide what you need to fix-up, sell and do different in the coming year. It’s contemplating a new bull or two for the cow herd and selling off the big black for a nice heifer bull to use on this year’s yearling keepers. Its hoping the feeder tractor will make it one more season so you can afford to buy those corral panels and fix the chute run-way before vaccinating time. It’s counting hay and straw bales so you know you can make it till spring without too much worry and still have a few for neighbors who didn’t have much pasture. It’s realizing that you didn’t take a vacation and make a promise to do “something special” before next winter. (Did I hear cruise?)
Yes, the end of the year has a feel unlike any other time of year. The horses are fuzzy hided, their breath a steamy puff in the cold morning air as they greet you at the gate. Funny how they seem to know the difference between a “saddle up day” and a lazy December one. The other afternoon as we were trying to bring the feed-truck through the gate, our geldings slipped past me through the opening, trotting across the yard like naughty little kids and off down the lane they headed. My cowboy husband was groaning and not too pleased with his wife’s gate operating technique.
“Better go grab some halters and I’ll try to head them off,” he grumbled out the truck window.
“Just go load the truck, I’ll get them back in,” I sweetly smiled, heading for the barn and a bucket of horse goodies I keep at ready, just in case of such “escapes.”
Sure enough … those ol’ fellas put a good reining horse slidin’ stop, spin and happy trot back to me when they heard that bucket rattle … snortin’ and wigglin’ tails as if to say “did you see us mom!”
Even the cows know its the end of the season, happy to have their calves weaned and a bit of time before the new ones are born. Its always interesting to me to see the pasture filled with Canadian geese nestled in the snow while the cows graze, pushing up nose-fulls of snow all around them, each trying to find the last bits of the hay fed that morning. Yesterday, while heading to the corrals for chores, I heard a mocking bird, squawking in its distinctive loud voice and then a calf holler. Reaching the end of the feedlot I saw the bird sitting on the lip of the automatic cattle waterer, a steer calf standing only inches away. Each time the calf tried to get a drink, the bird would holler and try to peck the calf’s nose. Guess the bird liked the warmer water and wasn’t too pleased to have calf slobber in his afternoon drink.
Yes, another year has run its course and we should all take time to reflect and remember … the good and even the bad. To be thankful for the things well done and to look forward to what lies ahead. From this ol’ ranch wife ’n trail gal, “Let’s hope for better pastures and summer water for us all. Life is worth exploring, go do it! May the new year bring you all, Happy Trails!” ❖
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