Soapweed's Ranch Ramblings
The writings of a Nebraska Sandhills cattle rancher!

Sept 6, 2006

I try to manage my horse herd so that there are never any horses around that are in poor condition. Most of our horses are for sale at the right price. After they get to be middle age (10 on up), I try to sell them so someone else can watch them grow old. They are worth quite a bit of money at this stage of their life, and it is an excellent time to capitalize on that value. This is also an excellent time to go on with a younger model, get the work done, and have something well broke and very saleable again in a few years. (more)

Princess Saves a Man's Leg
Aug 20, 2006

Some of you may recall, well over a year ago I bought a new horse. About the night I got him, he was a participant in my dream and was pitching a fit. In my dream, I said to him, "Don't cause a ruckus, Rufus." The next day I named him "Rufus". (more)

Paint Horses
March 27, 2006

My dad had a cousin that just hated Paint horses. He was a rancher and good hand on a horse, but he'd have walked before he would have lowered himself to riding a paint. Guess just to be different, this brought out a strong urge in me to ride spotted horses. (more)

Christmas Greetings
from the Soapweed Outfit

Dec 17, 2005

Merry Christmas, everyone, I’ve procrastinated long enough.
My better half’s good nature is turning stern and tough.
So here I sit, with pen in hand, and paper white as snow,
Trying to write a Christmas poem, with words that rhyme and flow. (more)

Observations from a Bred Cow Sale
Dec 09, 2005

On Wednesday, there was a bred cow sale at the Sheridan Livestock Auction in Rushville, Nebraska. Enthusiasm ran high, and it was a jam-packed full house with every seat filled. (more)


Nov 08, 2005

Mrs. Soapweed and I have participated in quite a few team pennings through the years. We have even managed to each win three belt buckles while doing it, and this has been done pretty much using the same gentle cattle working methods we use at home. Some of the "real" rodeo hands downplay team penning by saying, "it's all in the luck of the draw on what cattle you get." Well, it is, but no more so than in the "real" rodeo events. Luck tends to be what you make of it. (more)


Military Merchandise on the Meadow
October 11 , 2005

Some of you may recall that last evening I mentioned that there were helicopters flying close to our ranch buildings. We watched them hover around, and then they went out of sight, though we could still hear them. Soon thereafter, our son returned from a ball game in Cody. He came excitedly up the steps and announced, "Do you know there are three big helicopters that have landed down in the meadow?". (more)

Loading Bulls
August 23, 2005

This afternoon we had some hay down, but it was a bit too green to bale. I suggested to Saddletramp that we maybe had time to get a few bulls out before dark. He jumped at the idea, as he'd always rather ride a horse than a tractor. (more)

Bob Moreland
August 20, 2005

Every year, the Tri-State Cowgirls, in conjunction with the Tri-State Oldtime Cowboys, recognize someone for their "hall of fame" award. This year the honor was bestowed upon Bob M, also a bull session contributor. (more)

The Parade
August 20, 2005

Just today, my bride and I arose bright and early and harnessed our team of Belgians, Homer and Jethro. We loaded them onto the front third of our 24' gooseneck trailer and rolled the two-seated buggy onto the back two thirds. We headed out at about 6:00 a.m. to attend the Tri-State Old Time Cowboys breakfast in Gordon at 7:00 a.m., and then the parade started at 10:30 a.m. (more)

Sandhills Satisfaction
July 25, 2005

A couple years ago, my dad posted this poem that his dad (my granddad) had written back in the 'forties. He wondered if it would be appropriate to post again, as there are quite a few new readers to these pages. He's even a bit more computer illiterate than I am (it's a hereditary thing), so I'm helping him get it posted. Here goes: (more)

Frome's Hunting Camp
July 16, 2005

When I worked on Frome's hunting camp in 1971, sleeping accomodations at base camp on Turpin Meadow consisted of an old school bus with bunk beds. The caretaker of the camp was about 80 years old, and his name was Jim Romero. He was a good ol' feller, and his pedigree was 3/4 Swede and 1/4 Mexican. He lived in that bus with the bunkbeds, and there was a cook stove in there, too. (more)

Going to the Dentist
June 24, 2005

Last Wednesday was a very hot day in this country, with temperatures hovering around a hundred degrees. Haying is just around the corner, so we took an opportunity to have a yearly dental checkup before life gets hectic. The rigors and discomfort of sitting in a dentist chair were offset, because at least the air conditioner was turned up to a cool comfortable level. (more)

Jake Clark's Mule Days
June 21, 2005

Jake Clark's 8th annual Mule Days Rodeo and Auction was held this past Father's Day weekend in Ralston, Wyoming. This is a fun event that Mrs. Soapweed and I had the pleasure of attending this year for our first time. We left the Nebraska Sandhills early last Friday morning, and headed straight west down Highway 20. (more)

June 15, 2005

There is a site on the Internet,
Where we cattle people all like to go.
Ranchers.Dot.Net is the name of the place.
The “bull session” fulfills our desire to know. (more)

Rainy Day Ride
June 5, 2005

In the early morning hours, night before last, it started to rain. When daylight arrived, a steady drizzle was still in progress. About 8:00, the rain let up and by looking at the radar on the weather channel, it looked to possibly be dissipating. We had some of the neighbor's yearling steers in with our replacement heifers so decided this would be an excellent day to get them back where they belonged. (more)

June 1 , 2005

A nice rain started here about nine o'clock yesterday morning. We were horseback trailing cattle and the herd moved along pretty good, with the steady drizzle and cool weather. About ten o'clock we sanded Highway 20, and crossed with the cattle. Guess ol' Saddletramp, Mrs. S. and I must have looked a little bit colorful, because some passers-by video-taped our cattle drive as it crossed the blacktop. (more)

May 29, 2005

Some of the "best" auctioneers are sometimes a little too good for their own good. They "take" bids that aren't even there. I like a good entertaining auctioneer as good as the next person, but it always kinda gripes me when I have to bid against a rafter to get what I'm trying to buy. To me, honesty and integrity from the auctioneer's block is just as important in that line of work as it is in any other. (more)

Pretty Moon
May 22, 2005

We went to church this evening, and when the service was over, several of us stepped outside to visit in the cool of the evening. One lady looked up and said, "Now that is what I call a pretty moon. You should take your favorite gal the long way home tonight."(more)

Another day in the saddle
May 17, 2005

This is the time of year that our saddle horses get a good workout. We are in the process of sorting cattle for color and sex of calf, before turning bulls out real soon. Due to my harem-scarem ranching "management" (or lack thereof), we have had even more sorting to do this spring. (more)

The Cow Sale
May 20, 2005

Well, we didn't exactly hit a "home run" with the sale of our cows, but did make it past second base. They are all now in the pastures of their new owners. Couldda' been better, but couldda' been worse. (more)

Our Branding Machine
May 2, 2005

Our crew of five branded another bunch of 149 calves today. My son built a new contraption over the week-end, and this one is on a swivel. It works good because you can line it up perfectly with the rope pulling the calf as it is dragged into position. Even if a calf comes in from the backside, the swivel allows it to turn completely in the opposite direction to accomodate the situation. (more)

Theory on Our Weather
May 1, 2005

A week ago the weather was mild, and we had just received a very welcome almost five inches of rain. The grass was popping and prospects looked very bright. Since then it has been cold and windy, with hard freezes every night. Right now, as I write, it is almost the middle of the morning and the temperature is still only 29 degrees. The grass is all hunkered down trying to stay warm. (more)

Branding Pictures
April 14, 2005

These are a few pictures to demonstrate our branding gizmo. We did 116 calves Wednesday. A friend asked when it would be a good time to come borrow my horse-drawn "Little Dickens" big round bale feeder (which is like a horse-drawn Hydra-bed). (more)

Tom Cat... Tribute to a Good Horse
Apr 12, 2005

My "perfect" horse is now 23 years old, as of this spring. I am continually looking for a good young gelding to take his place, and have bought and traded quite a few in recent years in my search, but none have all the qualifications that he does. (more)

Ode to the Night Calver
April 3, 2005

The evening of March 31st was the last shift for our night calver, Kenneth. He has been steady every night since February 21st, from dusk to dawn. On only one occasion during this six week period did he leave the ranch, and that was for just a few hours when he went to town to buy groceries and to do his laundry. He was totally dedicated, and I think there were very few calves born during the nights that he didn't watch as they came into the world. There was not one dead calf that came while he was on duty. He turned 60 years old sometime in March. (more)

Ranch Ramblings
March 5, 2005

The last few weeks we have been experiencing beautiful springtime weather, but it is getting quite dry and dusty. Calving is in full swing, and the nights have been warm enough that we have not had to put hardly any into the barns. We are over a third done. It has been our experience that the biggest runs come between a third and half done. After the half-way point is reached, things always seem to slow down a bit. (more)

Cruisin' in My Son's Caddy
Feb 25, 2005

Late yesterday, I needed to take a pickup to Valentine to get a bed liner sprayed in it today. My son is sixteen and a sophomore in Cody High School, so it befell him to follow me to the "big city" and bring me home after leaving the pickup. We did some errands, both washed our vehicles in an automatic car-wash, ate at McDonald's, and then I kicked back for a luxurious ride in my son's car. (more)

Bull Deal
Dec 14, 2004

Had a fun day of traveling and looking at cattle. I ended up buying 35 bull calves that were born this past February. They are the top 20% or so out of a real good commercial Angus herd. They are weighing over 900 lbs. right now and should gain about 2.25 pounds per day until early May, when I take delivery. (more)

Another Bad Storm
Nov 28, 2004

The 29th of April in 1967 was a nice day. My dad's cousin had recently purchased a small ranch quite a few miles down in the hills south of town. His main ranch was six miles north of town. He had a son my age, and another cousin and I were looking forward to helping trail yearlings down to this new pasture. (more)

Cattle Work Winding Down
Nov 20, 2004

It has been a busy fall, but things are looking up as the cattle work winds down. A week and a half ago, we weaned our replacement heifer calves. We had left a little meadow with fresh after-grass (grown up after haying in July) for this purpose. (more)

Oct 22, 2004

Crossbreds work well in cattle, and also in people. The older I get, the more "holes" get blown into the high cattle-producing theories I had as a younger man. At one time, I thought an F1 half Hereford-half Angus cow was the only way to go, and breed them to a third "terminal cross" sire. (more)

Selling Club Calves
Oct 19, 2004

A week ago, an acquaintance of the last six years called to see if we would consider selling any club calves. I told him that we didn't raise any "club calves" but just good functional using cattle in their work clothes. This man and his dad had bought a pot load of fall pairs six years ago, and really liked the cattle. (more)

Cow Aggravation
Oct 11, 2004

A few days ago ol' Saddletramp and I put 175 first-calf two-year-old heifers and their calves into a rectangular-shaped lot of about an acre and a half in size. We settled the bunch on one side, and then started sorting the steer calves and their mothers to the other side of the lot. Everything worked great, and we just worked the cattle slow and easy. (more)

Captive Supply
Feb 18, 2004

Ranching is the name of my game. I raise cattle; cattle eat grass. Our ranch has about two thirds enough grass and hay for the amount of cattle we run. Therefore, I lease grass from neighbors. Should the neighbors be offended because I have a "captive supply" of my own grass? (more)

Running a Downtown Business
Feb 13, 2004

One thing about ranching, and selling our "produce" through a sale barn, getting our paycheck doesn't seem to be much of a problem. You can run cattle through the ring, watch them sell, and five minutes later pick up the check for the value of the cattle; then be on your way. (more)

Low Imput Ranching
Jan 25, 2004

Recently my wife and I had opportunity to attend a talk given by Kit Pharo. He suggests that "low input" ranching has more potential to be profitable than does ranching with higher costs of production. The talk was interesting and informative, and the concept works for him. (more)

Keeping Things in Perspective
Dec 27, 2003

The people in the Donner party were headed to Oregon in 1846. They became stranded in the Sierras by deep snow, and got very hungry before the ordeal was over. Only about half of them survived, and they did so by eating human flesh from people who had died. (more)

Things of the Pocket
Dec 21, 2003

It seems that the older I get, the more stuff I tend to pack around in my pockets. This "stuff" is always with me, whether working on the ranch or going to town to see the bright lights. My style of clothing is in a rut, as I always wear the same type of apparel. (more)

One Moonlight Night
Dec 10, 2003

Last night I read a small book entitled OLD HANDS, OLD BRANDS by Herbert (Jake) Handley. It tells of the early days of raising cattle in western South Dakota. At the time of this incident, a roundup was being held in the area where the Diamond A outfit ran a lot of cattle. Cap Mossman was the one in charge of running the Diamond A, and he was pretty progressive and aggressive. He was always on the look-out to expand the operation. (more)

Bureaucratic Bungling
Dec 4, 2003

Stopped off at a local business this evening, and the owner was seething. A bureaucrat wet-behind-the-ears whippersnapper had been in town trying to tell the local how to run his business. (more)

Dog Catches Rabbit
April 25, 2003

We have a dog that is a German Shepherd-Rottweiler cross. She is almost a year old now, and actually belongs to our sixteen-year-old daughter. This dog is big and friendly, goes by the name of "Scarlet O'hara" and her best quality (as far as I am concerned) is that she has no grand illusions that she is a "cow-dog." This morning Scarlet caught a rabbit, and she was pretty proud. (more)

Old-time Homestead Stories
April 15, 2003

Sam McKelvie was the governor of Nebraska from 1919-1923. He was an early-day settler and rancher of the Sandhills. This little tale was told about him. (more)

Breaking Even on a Horse Trade
April 11, 2003

As a young feller in my twenties, I fancied myself as somewhat of a horse trader. It was very seldom that I made any money on a trade, but the thrill was in having fresh horseflesh around to admire. It is with complete honesty that I must admit I am still hooked on the sport. Maybe someday yet I can trade for that perfect saddle horse. (more)

"Clean 'em up, Kelly"
April 10, 2003

When I was a kid, ranch machinery was not as efficient as it is today. More people labor was necessary, especially during haying time in the summers. Good help was hard to find, and any sort of transient that looked like they could handle a pitchfork was considered fair game to hire. Hitch-hikers were picked up readily, and would be asked, "Do you want a job stacking hay?" (more)

Rattlesnake Stories
April 7, 2003

Fortunately on our ranch we have never seen a rattlesnake. My dad's buildings are three miles across the hills to the west, and he has lived there since 1946. We have never seen rattlesnakes there either. The old railroad track is about three miles south of us, and for years it seemed the track was the dividing line. South of the tracks there were rattlers, but north of the tracks they seemed to be non-existant. Now the railroad line has been abandoned and the tracks taken up. (more)

Coyote Stories
April 1, 2003

On a summer afternoon in the early 1980's, my wife and I went out after dinner to head back to the hay-field. On glancing towards the northern horizon, quite a cloud of smoke was evident. In this country when smoke is sighted, every rancher drops whatever they are doing and gathers up other members of the ranch crew to go fight fire. It doesn't matter whose land the fire is on, the neighbors all help each other. (more)

Windy, windy and Saturday night stories
March 28, 2003

Pitiful day. Regarding the wind, we can't live with it and we can't live without it. But as in all things, moderation is the key. With this much wind, the windmills turn themselves off and don't pump water anyhow. (more)

Calf Conundrum
March 26, 2003

One day in early May several years ago, I was out in a pickup caking the pairs and admiring how well the young calves were doing. Then I noticed a calf that was stretched out flat looking quite lifeless. Sometimes they appear this way, and then an ear twitches and they sit up to take notice of the world. Unfortunately this calf was very sick and knocking on death's doorstep. (more)

Branding Wreck
March 26, 2003

A couple years ago we were helping a neighbor brand. About thirty cowboys and cowgirls had gathered a large pasture, which included about four or five miles of river. Portable corral panels had been put up in the middle of the pasture on a good flat, and with the help of pickups and trailers serving as "wings" the cattle were corralled. (more)

March 18, 2003

Heard a story the other night about a rancher that put together a large Sandhills ranch. He was known for his frugality, and didn't particularly take a lot of pride in his stockman appearance. He was known to ride with an old work-horse "blinder bridle" on his saddle horse. He used a gunny sack for a saddle blanket, and always wore bib-overall farmer pants and spurs tied around his old work-shoe brogans. (more)

Political Palaver
March 18, 2003

A few days after Christmas I was in a ranch supply store. They had been selling big tin cannisters of popcorn before Christmas for six dollars apiece. After the holiday, the price immediately dropped by fifty percent. I was in the check-out line, having decided that the only things needed were two containers of this bargain popcorn. (more)

Inadvertant Experiment Results
March 9, 2003

The weather in this neck of the woods continues to be pretty darned cold. The weather prognosticators have a way of dangling the proverbial carrot in front of us, promising milder conditions just around the corner. We just can't ever seem to get by the corner. (more)

Hired Hand Humor
March 6, 2003

It was May of 1962. An acquaintance of my dad's called on the phone with a deal too good to pass up. He knew of a town kid that needed a job. The kid had pulled too many pranks, and was in trouble with the law. His latest stunt had been to knock on the door of a house, and when a lady answered the knock, he sprayed her with a garden hose. (more)

Purple Ketchup
Feb 19, 2003

My teen-aged kids talked their mother into buying some purple ketchup recently. Of course, I howled in protest. They talked me into trying some on a hamburger, and it tasted as bad as it looked. My wife said, "It is all in your imagination. It is just regular ketchup in a different color." I adamantly asserted otherwise, and bragged that if blind-folded, I could sure tell them the difference. (more)

Some More "Bull"
Dec 20, 2002

It was February of 1977. Dad was running mostly straight Hereford cattle at the time, and about a third of his cattle were registered. He usually marketed about 70-100 head of bulls at his annual October sale. Dad had gone to a couple bull auctions in January, and purchased five new herd bulls. (more)

A Wreck Working Cattle
Nov 16, 2002

We have a good friend who is cowboy through-and-through. He has worked on many Sandhill ranches in the past thirty years, and has broke quite a few horses. He has helped us calve the past four years, and always has a way of keeping morale up when the going gets really tough. (more)

School Bus Memories
Oct 20, 2002

Going to my last two years of high school entailed driving eight miles to our little town and riding a school bus for 30 miles to a bigger town that had about 300 high school kids. I played a lot of hands of pitch on these trips, and did quite a bit of reading. My cousin started writing cowboy poetry on these same trips, and it wasn't even a fad in those days. (more)

Just Visitin'
Oct 10, 2002

Ran onto a good old rancher this afternoon on my way home from the sale. He asked how calves were selling, and my report was about $10-$14 per hundred less than last year, but about $18 per hundred better than three years ago. Several years ago I visited with this same gentleman at a cafe the day after he had sold his calves. (more)

Party-line Memories
Oct 2, 2002

It is ironic how we've come full circle from telephone party lines, to a much-improved private-line where things said can be confidential, and now back to the party-line syndrome on this "bull session." Isn't progress great? (more)

Shade-tree Church Chatter
Sept 29, 2002

There are three churches served by one minister in our area. Population around here probably averages about two square miles for every person. There is a sparse enough population that it is becoming increasingly harder to gather a "quorum" to even hold services in each individual church, so lately all three congregations have been "meetin' in the middle," and just having one service. (more)

The Way It Really Is
Sept 22, 2002

We were nearing the end of another strenuous calving season a few years ago. My hired hand spent an evening at the local watering hole and came home with this story of happenings on a neighboring ranch. I shall change the names to protect the innocent. (more)

Letter to Paul Harvey, May 3, 1998
July 11, 2002

Dear Paul Harvey,

Greetings, Mr. Harvey, from the good ol' Nebraska Sandhills.
It's pretty tame country now but was "founded" with wild cows and moonshine stills.
We love these old grass-covered sand dunes with valleys in between.
Soapweeds, hay bales, cattle and horses put "polka dots" on the scene. (more)

Cowboy Philosophy
June 29, 2002

There were two local ranchers, "Joe" and "Moe" (not their real names) visiting together quite a few years ago. They were both good hands but philosophically on very opposite sides of the spectrum. Joe was a perfectionist, having high quality cattle and ranched in a very orderly fashion. He was the one in the area that everyone else looked up to. (more)




























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