Yesterday, Drover and I loaded up our horses and our three little braves and headed up to Kansas to drive our cattle out of their summer pastures down to the corrals to be sorted, sold or relocated for the winter. You’d think I’d be excited about this sort of thing, most real cowgirls are. The thing is, I’m not a real cowgirl. I’ve been a cowgirl against my will for about 14 years now and I STILL get nervous about working with large groups of cows.
Yesterday was no exception.
The cattle drive was to take place on my brother-in-law’s Kansas ranch. Since my brother-in-law and his family don’t live on this ranch, I’m not very familiar with it. I’d never been to the parts of the ranch we would be driving the cattle through. Nor had the cattle.
Normally, this wouldn’t be much of a problem… only I was the leader. It was going to be like the blind leading the blind…. A whole herd of blind.
What could possibly go wrong with that?
About 5 minutes before arriving, I was given the following instructions from Drover.
“You’re going to drive the truck and hopefully, the cows will follow. Just take the county road to the pasture. Go through the gate, past the pond, up the hill and find the cows. Once you get all the cows gathered, lead them back down the hill past the pond, through the gate and down the road. Don’t let them get in the neighbor’s pasture. Then just take them to the corral.”
“Which pasture belongs to the neighbor? And where is the corral?” I asked.
“Well.. the pasture is… you’ll see it. The corrals are up near the house,” he replied, “You’ll figure it out, don’t worry.”
When we got there I was relieved to see my brother-in-law and his son, who is currently in medical school, both armed with glorious ATV’s.
“Are they going to help us?!” I asked Drover, trying to contain my excitement that we might actually have enough hands to pull this off.
“I think so,” Drover replied.
At that point Drover and children waved me off as they disappeared into the field while I took the county road to the meadow where the cows were grazing.
When I got to the pasture, I found 6 head of cows and thought my luck couldn’t have been any better today! Surely the other cows were nearby. This was gonna be easy peasy. I’ll just wait for everyone to mosey on over to me.
So I waited.
No more cows.
This meant I was going to have to drive across the ravine to retrieve the rest of the herd.
I dreaded driving across the ravine. It was steep, narrow and full of sharp rocks.
With my hands gripping the steering wheel and my foot glued to the brake, I eased my way down the rocky ravine without incidence. Making it up out of the ravine was another story. About 10 yards up the ravine, I slid sideways.
I certainly didn’t want to slide off into the deep part of the ravine.
I immediately stopped and frantically started looking for the 4-wheel-drive button, but it wasn’t there. Where the heck is the 4-wheel-drive?! My panic was intensifying. I know how to shift this truck in 4-wheel-drive, I’ve done it before, but my mind won’t stop fretting over the position I’m in long enough to tell my hands what to do.
That’s when my brother-in-law pulls up in his ATV with my 5-year-old wrapped around his waist.
“Can you get it in 4 wheel drive?” he asks.
“Where is the 4-wheel-drive?” I asked, mortified that these words were even coming out of my mouth.
“To your right, by the center console,” he kindly replied.
My right side was cluttered with cowboy hats, shirts, styrofoam cups, keys, papers and fishing supplies. I shoved everything aside. Of course! Ugh. I shifted it in 4WD and crawled up the ravine to find the cows grazing about, unconcerned with my problems.
While we waited on the rest of the gang, I decided to confirm the directions with my brother-in-law to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.
“So… we’re just taking them down the way I came in, right? Down the county road?” I asked.
“Yup,” he replied.
“Okay, just wanted to make sure we weren’t cutting through any pastures,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, when you get on the county road, go about 500 yards then you’re going to cut through the pasture, follow the creek around the edge of the pasture, then when you cross the rocky creek bottom, go about 50 yards and turn through the gate, go down the lane and through the gate across another pasture to the green gate. Then you’ll see the house, then just drive on through the pastures there toward the house.”
I hopped in the truck and hollered for the cows to gather round so I can relay the game plan.
Soon Drover and our oldest 2 boys showed up on horseback along with yet another cowboy who I later learned used to cowboy at the Mullendore Ranch.
God loves me.
I led the cows back through the ravine, across the top pasture, down the hill, past the pond, out the gate – careful to keep them away from the openings to the neighbor’s pasture – leading them 300 yards out on the county road. Then Drover steers his horse up ahead of me another 200 yards and waits for me at the gate.
I turned in the gate, followed the tree line, that I assumed was the creek line, crossed over the rocky creek bed and happened upon the Mullendore cowboy.
“Hello there!” he greeted me from atop his horse.
“Hi!” I hollered over the diesel engine of the truck.
“Do you know where you’re going?” he asked.
Great. I’ve gone the wrong way. Now I’m lost. And I’ve taken a whole herd of cows with me.
“Not really, I think there’s supposed to be a gate up here I’m supposed to go through,” I replied.
“Yes ma’am! It’s the one on your left, leading down the lane. I’ll block the entrance to the other gate for you. After that, just kinda head in that general direction. If I see you’re going in the wrong direction, I’ll try to get up there to help you.”
When we come out of the lane, I can see a homestead that I’m hoping is the homestead we started at this morning. From this angle, it’s hard to tell. There’s silage, hay galore, lots of big red barns I hadn’t noticed before and cows that didn’t belong to us. I look back at Drover and see him motion toward the corner of the pasture. Somehow I make it up to the corrals and find Drover’s nephew, the medical student, ready to catch the cattle in the corral.
Miraculously, we not only got the cows in the corral, but we also got them sorted and sold without any major mishaps.