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

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. He loves a good story and also writes cowboy poetry that has a way of hitting the nail on the head with authenticity. One time he asked another rancher what the biggest cattle working wreck was that he had ever seen. The other gentleman didn't bat an eye and said that was an easy question. He had been helping his old neighbor when this deal happened.

This old rancher had put together a dandy cow outfit deep in the heart of the Sandhills. He had pulled himself up by his boot-straps, with a lot of hard work, diligence and frugality. He worked hard, played hard, and "didn't believe in coffee breaks." When work was getting done, this old feller liked to see things happen, and he most of all wanted to see everybody look like they were busy.

On this particular autumn day, a good-sized group of cowboys (including both ranch hands and neighbors) had gathered about a thousand cows with their calves off of several thousand acres of summer range. The goal of the day was to corral this bunch of cattle, separate the cows from the calves, and keep them apart to wean the calves. The calves would be wintered with hay and cake, summered the next year, wintered again, and eventually all the steers would be sold as two-year-olds off of summer grass. The heifers not retained as replacements to make into cows were probably sold as yearling feeder heifers. Anyway, things were going smoothly and the big bunch of cattle was all just about maneuvered into the corrals. The owner, who was getting up in years and a little crippled, was carrying a cane on his saddle horse. Impatient to get the rest of the cattle behind the corral gate, this old feller pulled his cane along the ribs of a corrugated tin windbreak to make a little extra racket. This spooked the herd of cattle and they all hit the other end of the wooden corrals with great gusto. The fence went down and the cattle stampeded in all directions. Most ended up ten miles from headquarters after going through several barbed wire fences. They were at the far end of where they had started from, and not nearly as easy to get along with for the second round-up. Five days later the cowboys had the herd gathered again and back where they were before the windbreak ruckus. It was a good thing that the owner himself caused the commotion, because anyone else would have been fired right on the spot.

Oh, for the life of a cowboy!






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