Tuesday, November 12, 2019

All in the Family: The Big Pasture

These two cousins have been rounding up cattle at the Big Pasture for several decades. They did it again last week.

I helped with the round-up there for the first time last week. To our knowledge, I was the first woman to help with the actual cattle work since the ground was purchased by a family member in 1904. After it was all over, I accused Randy of trying to scare me with "worst case scenario" options.

As you can tell from their smiles - and the fact that I was able to convince them to take a photo - we didn't end up with any major mishaps. It was a beautiful fall day. And Don said I was hired for next year. I told him they must have a fairly low threshold for "employment."

But as I waited with Randy and Don for the cattle trailer to return for the next load, I did hear one story that qualified in the "worst case scenario" category. One year, a cow tried to hurdle Melvin, knocked him off his 4-wheeler and a hoof hit him in the head.

Thankfully, there were no cows trying out for the Olympic team last week.

The waiting gave me an opportunity to eavesdrop on the two cousins' conversation while I pretended to read my book. (I did do some reading, too.) Later, Randy said he always enjoys that part of the day. We live halfway across the county from Don, so they don't get as many opportunities to visit. There used to be a family reunion a couple of times a year, but as the older generation passed away, those gatherings died, too.

As Randy and Don sat on the back of the pickup and talked, I thought about the family that came before them and worked to give them the opportunity to keep running cattle on this pasture on the Rattlesnake Creek.
The three brothers on the back row owned the pasture. Clarence was Randy's Grandpa; Ed was Don's dad.
Years ago, Randy's grandpa Clarence and his brother, Ed (Don's dad) owned the pasture with their brother, Harve. I used a working photo from a 1950s cattle round-up in my last blog post. This one looks like it was from a wedding anniversary celebration, and it includes their sisters, Minnie and Edna. But, even as young boys, Randy and Don got in on the family affair that the fall round-up entailed.
Undated photo - Clarence and Melvin
As our feet dangled off the back of the pickup and we ate our ham sandwiches, I thought about the previous generations who'd done the very same thing. 

Eventually, Randy's dad, Melvin, inherited the pasture from Clarence, while Don's portion was passed on to him by his dad.
Who knows? Maybe this Hereford pictured with Melvin was on the big pasture at some point. At that time, the Fritzemeiers raised horned Herefords.
Now, Randy and I also have Hereford bulls as well as Angus bulls for our crossbred herd. But we have opted for polled Herefords. 

Before this year's round-up, Randy had been bringing a pickup with hay to the pasture in hopes that they'd come running for a free buffet. However, one lonely cow was the sole curious observer when we first arrived.
Well, that's not entirely accurate. A herd on the other side of the road was curious enough to come to the fence to watch the action and to chime in with a chorus of "cattle calls."
But, eventually, all my honking had generated some interest in our pasture, too.
For the record, alfalfa doesn't give cows "minty fresh breath."
I know because a few of them had their heads practically in my window.
Once the 4-wheelers had made the circuit and had pushed the cows and their calves toward my honking pickup, we began the "parade" toward the corrals, with me leading the way and the cattle following in a cloud of dust.
Then it was time to urge them into the corrals.
While the guys made one final sweep of the pasture to look for stranglers, I sat and read my book.
Then it was time to set up panels, the loading lane and loading chute so we could get the cattle from the pens to Don's semi.
Don built the lane and chute one winter.
The two cousins (along with a couple of other helpers) sorted while I ran the gate. The guys have been doing this a long time and they seemed to know instinctively what the other was going to do. It took four semi trailer loads - two with cows and two with calves - but the job was finally done.
It was just in time. As we were getting ready to leave, the clouds covered the sun and gave us a stunning farewell sky.
We almost got everything unloaded and put away at home before the cold front blew in.

The vet will be here today to preg-check the cows from that pasture and then vaccinate the calves from both the Big Pasture and the Ninnescah. It's going to be a cold day.

But it's a good feeling to have the cattle home - even if it means I now have a daily job driving the Army truck-turned-feed truck. More on that to come.

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