Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cattle Fishing - Day 1

I've got a great view out my kitchen window. Yesterday as I was washing the breakfast dishes, I watched a colorful group of cattle graze along the slope above the orchard. One of the steers stumbled under the Courting Oak. Even though the cattle are new to the property and the slope is steep, something seemed odd. I abandoned the dishes and headed outside.

A lousy necktie.

Through the binoculars, I could see a red steer with about 50 feet of black telephone wire wrapped around his body. One loop went loosely around the steer's neck, a snarled knot dangled on his chest and a loose end trailed behind. I angled up the slope to get a better view. The steer was quietly grazing and walking mostly unhampered. Still, I was worried the line would catch on something and the loop would tighten around his windpipe.

Vince, the cattle operator, was due soon to fix a hole in the fence near the watertank. Since the corral gate was open and almost directly downhill from the steer, and I was standing above the steer, I called my son on my cell phone and asked him to help me shoo the tangled steer into the corral.

Zeeeee, running out the line.

However, the red steer and his 3 black compatriots had other ideas - they went up and around a wooded drainage and I couldn't run fast enough to turn them around. I had forgotten that cattle rarely run straight up or down a slope. I wandered around the upper pastures, saw plenty of happy cows grazing and laying out in the sun, but I couldn't find a steer dragging line.

Soon Vince arrived and I filled him in. He had his grandson, Hunter, and Zip the cowdog with him. They set out to fix the fence first and I decided to ignore the dishes and add compost to my earthworm bins on the side of the barn where I could keep an eye on the corral and the cowboys.

Steering the steer to the open corral gate at lower right corner.

By the time I was just about done stirring in coffee grounds and persimmon peels, I heard cattle lowing and turned to see Vince, Hunter and Zip moving a small group of cattle down the road towards the corral. I decided standing near the corral might spook the cattle, so I slipped around the barn. Vince and Zip moved above the steers and nudged them towards the open corral gate.

Hunter stops the cattle with a confident gesture.

Hunter was holding his ground on the road; every time the steers turned his way, he emphatically gestured "stop".

As the steer made a dash up the slope, Vince grabbed the dragging line. Hunter follows suit.

Occasionally, Vince would utter a quiet command to Zip and the cowdog would work around the steer or face him off to keep him going in the right direction.

Tug of war.

The steer charged down the slope and Vince shortened the line, but then the steer reared up on two feet above him. The steer started dragging the cowboys down the road and Hunter tumbled down. Vince realized the telephone wire may have exposed wires at the end that would rip his ungloved hands and he let go. As the red steer dashed off again with the telephone wire bouncing behind him, Vince decided that the cow fishing would have to continue on another day.

Why cowboys wear jeans: to wrap that line around their butt.

Coming soon: another day of dishes and cattle wrangling, plus I get an ATV stuck.

Hunter grinning right before the steer drags him and grandpa down the road.

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