November 10, 2015



I can’t recall a fall with so many beautiful days. I know I will not have my fall work done when the first snow hits, but it dang sure won’t be Mother Nature’s fault. She is giving me plenty of opportunity.
I’m a believer in climate change. And I’m thinking again this morning that maybe for our part of the country that is not all bad. Please remind me of this again this winter when Shirley’s face is frostbitten and the tractor won’t start.
On Saturday we moved a bunch of cows to the harvested cornfields. My ideas of beauty have somewhat changed over the years. Knowing that the prettiest thing in the world is a bunch of cows grazing in a valley surrounded by harvested corn and cover crops shows you my advanced age!
The move was something special. It’s about nine miles and the cows pretty much know what is waiting for them at the end of the trail drive. Many of them have made the trek before. Cows can be rather dumb. But usually they have a better idea than the guy chasing them. Grandpa always said the fastest way to work cows was slow and he was sure right. And these mama cows knew that in a few hours they would be eating corn on the cob, sunflowers, turnips, radishes, and Sudan grass. We weren’t really chasing them. We were following them.
I was doing a little figuring this morning. Now I’m in my late 60s. One guy in a pickup was in his late 70s. After that there was a dramatic drop-off in age. I’d guess the youngest cowboy was probably a long four or a short five. Then there was probably a six or seven. Maybe two that age. And a nine for sure. And they were mounted on horses that had more experience than any of the riders on the trail drive.
We start out going down a gravel road by Lake Ilo. Then cross Highway 200, get on a section line, kind of sneak around Killdeer, and then head north to the fields. There were a few adults, half a dozen kids, four or five dogs, a feed pickup, and a couple trailers in case someone got cold and needed to warm up a little. They didn’t.
When we were about a mile from cow heaven, we crossed a stubble field. All of a sudden the competitive juices surged up in me. I let out a Rebel yell and charged past our youngest drovers. As in the old country song, “my challenge was answered in less than a heart beat!” And away we went. Me whipping and spurring a three-year-old colt. My competition whipping and spurring their 20+-year-old horses. American Pharaoh would have been proud.
But when the dust settled, which happened fairly quickly, I lost. Mainly because the excitement and the exertion gave me a side ache.
Now I have never heard of a jockey having to pull up because he got a side ache, but trust me, it happened.
But you talk about a young bunch of cowboys that can move cows, I’ve seen them. And in a few years I will guarantee you some of them will be seeing the bright lights of Vegas from a bucking chute!