November 6, 2013



Sorry I’m late with the article this week. We’re gathering cattle up by Twin Buttes and putting miles on young horses that needed riding anyway. Shirley’s knee replacement is doing well. She can carry about a half bucket in each hand if the mud isn’t too deep. Freezing this morning so I might put a little extra in. No, really, she is doing fantastic! Out of the walker and using a cane part of the time.
I guess fall would have to be my favorite season. Well, maybe spring. I don’t know. They’re all pretty good.
But fall is when neighbors are working calves, harvesting crops, getting ready for shipping…With an eye to the sky, wondering what kind of weather will be coming over the horizon the next few days. Or the next few weeks. Or maybe in the next few hours.
And that weather can switch in an instant. If you’re riding roundup, take a jacket along. Cause that wind can switch to the northwest and the temperature can drop like a rock this time of the year.
We kind of grew up… Well, maybe I never did grow up. But we did have to do a lot of riding in the fall. On Fort Berthold. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven the first time I went on a fall roundup. When Grandpa Jack would line us out in the morning. Sending groups of two or three guys off in different directions. Or have them lined out the night before. So you just unloaded and started gathering cows and heading for the “hold.”
You’d probably come over a ridge with a couple of hundred cows and be headed for that “bend in the creek on Squaw,” or on Moccasin below the Baker pasture. Maybe you’d be holding herd just below the Smith Camp. Or on the flat below John Yellow Wolfs. You might start on Kennedy Hills or down by Surveyors’ Crossing. Just the names gave you a tingle.
We usually jingled the saddle horses the night before. Then in the morning, long before daylight, go down and grain ’em and grab a smoke while they were munching their grain. I guess there is probably not a sweeter sound in the world than a saddle horse eating oats in the comfort of a good barn. A little frost on his back. Maybe the last hooting of an owl as he gets ready for bed for the day. And that last bunch of coyotes begins yipping across the crick. And the dogs are answering back. But they’re sticking around, cause they see the trailer is hooked up and you’re dragging your saddle out.
We’d load up and head out an hour or two before daylight. Arguing about who was going to drive and who was going to catch that last little bit of sleep before a long day of riding. I usually slept.
I remember one fall when we were holding herd over by the Smith Camp. It had started raining just after daylight. A few guys had slickers along. And they weren’t sharing them. Cause it was just pouring. We got done sorting the first gather at about noon. Uncle Hugh had sat up for lunch in an old shack. And we were glad to get in out of the rain for a bit. Everybody was soaked to the skin. We had gathered several hundred pairs and sorted for brands and kind of started a few people towards home with their cut. As we sat there watching that pouring rain, we started leaning towards home. We had just filled up on Uncle Hugh’s special. Hamburgers, well done on the outside and rare in the middle, pickles, beans, hot coffee, and a candy bar for dessert. Life was good.
But as we sat and lied to each other, someone glanced out a broken window. Grandpa Jack was leading his horse from an old lean to. We shook our heads in disbelief as he crawled on in that downpour and kicked “Joey” into a trot and started on another circle. Everybody let out a groan and for a minute it looked like we were going to go on strike. Then Bob and Red headed for the barn. We followed like a bunch of mice. Gulping down the last of the steaming hot coffee and looking at those wet saddles. Off on another circle. It was going to be a long, wet fall.