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
Three of us loaded our horses onto a trailer and hauled up along the Eli road to where the heifers and their bully boyfriend consorts are summering. I always get a kick out of crossing the state line north of Eli. The rough narrow Nebraska oil road turns into South Dakota gravel, and each state seems to think their road is the best. The sign leaving Nebraska reads "Pavement Ends" and when you are heading the other way, leaving South Dakota the sign proclaims "Road Narrows". Anyway, yesterday Nebraska sure had the best end of the deal, as the South Dakota road was plumb greasy and hard to negotiate.
Another problem was that the rain hadn't let up after all. In fact it was coming down harder. Visibility wasn't overly far, and it is always easy to get disoriented under those conditions. The hills and soapweeds all tend to look alike. As we unloaded, I pointed out that the wind was sure coming out of the north-northwest, and probably wouldn't be changing. This would serve as our compass.
Saddletramp headed on west into a two section pasture, where five steers had been sighted several days ago. My son and I were going to sift through the pasture which contained the heifers, which we could see from the road were scattered the full two-mile length of it. We knew there were four steers in with the heifers.
We split up and started on the north end. We'd just ride through each small bunch of heifers, and lope on to the next bunch. Luckily there were two steers together and the other two steers were about half a mile away, also grazing together. They sorted away from the heifers better than expected, and we drifted them south through the drizzle, eventually driving them through the gate into the neighbor's pasture. The whole process took about an hour and half from when we unloaded. As we rode north back towards the pickup, Saddletramp and his horse emerged through the fog. He had struck out on finding any cattle, and there is a chance the other yearlings got back around the water gap on Round Lake before it got fixed.
Riding into the rain and wind, we were a pretty soggy trio. Having the most grey hair and less pride, my attire was not as photogenic but I was the driest. Full length bull hide chaps, and LaCrosse high-topped lace-up overshoes over my Wilson boots, along with the help of a 3/4 length yellow slicker made me the winner. Bermuda chinks and jingling spurs would have been very desirable had a photographer shown up, but they don't turn much water.
It was a nice little ride, and we appreciate the rain. It turned into a full inch that came down very nice. Riding along on my Yellowstone horse, I passed within a hundred feet of a lone Pronghorn antelope. He knew I was harmless, and was unconcerned about my presence. A duck jumped off her nest and I rode by it looking down on several eggs. A couple days ago, we rode by a big mud turtle hunkered down in a hole laying eggs. Saddletramp saw a coyote in full pursuit of a rabbit, but when he popped over the hill, the coyote got distracted and veered off course. The rabbit breathed a sigh of relief.
Studying out the map on the wall this morning reminds me how peaceful our part of the Sandhills can be. Our nearest neighbors are six miles to the north. There is a stretch of country immediately north of us that is twelve miles east and west by six miles north and south, 72 square miles, completely devoid of human inhabitation. It can be a mighty lonesome country, as I've discovered on a few occasions when getting my pickup stuck. Kinda like it that way.
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