Tuesday, November 17, 2020

All in the Family

Anyone who knows me can tell you that math is not my subject. But these two guys have been gathering cows and calves off the Rattlesnake Pasture since they were junior high age. 

That takes more fingers and toes than I've got. (It's been at least 50 years - whew!)

Randy and his cousin, Don Fritzemeier, are now the owners of the pasture, which has been in their extended family since 1900. They've always called it "the big pasture." The ground was purchased for $4 an acre by a great-great-uncle, August Brinkman. Originally in a tract of 1,040 acres, today 560 acres of it remain in the Fritzemeier family.
It is a Farm Bureau Century Farm. Back when Randy was a child, the pasture located along the Rattlesnake Creek was owned by his grandpa Clarence, Don's dad Ed and their brother, Harve.

The three brothers on the back row owned the pasture. Clarence was Randy's Grandpa; Ed was Don's dad. They are pictured with their two sisters, Minnie & Edna.

 Today, Randy and Don are the remaining owners.

L to R: Clarence Fritzemeier (Randy's Grandpa) Milton Giedinghagen, Ben Fritzemeyer, Melvin Fritzemeier (my father-in-law) & Harve Fritzemeier. Yes there are two different spellings on Fritzemeier - it's not a typo! 

Years ago, the extended family would gather in the spring to take the cattle to pasture and then round them up in the fall. I think this undated photo would have been taken in the 1950s.

While the guys were rounding up and sorting the cattle, the women got together to make a big meal.

My mother-in-law Marie, Jean Newell Fritzemeyer & Marjorie Giedinghagen on a cattle working day back in the 1950s.

I helped with the round-up there for the first time in 2019. To our knowledge, I was the first woman to help with the actual cattle work. I guess I passed: I was invited back for the 2020 round-up.

While we waited on the semi to return from a trip to one of the farms, I listened to Randy and Don share tales from their youth. Back when Randy and Don were young, the brothers and families hauled all the cattle back home in small trailers. As they drove through Stafford, Randy remembers his dad telling him to "duck down." School was in session, and Randy was absent for the day. (Knowing Melvin, it was probably more joking around. It wasn't unusual for kids to be excused for a day of work back then.)

Undated photo - Clarence and Melvin
As we ate our ham sandwiches, I thought about the previous generations who'd done the very same thing. 
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. 
My first cattle-related duty of the day was honking the horn to attract the cattle to the hay in the back of the pickup. (If I want to get technical, I guess my first task was making and packing the lunches to take with us. The woman still gets that job.)
I became the Stafford County version of the Pied Piper, but I had a horn - not a flute.

It was a bouncy ride across the pasture toward the corrals.

Four guys on 4-wheelers had to go back to find additional cattle, and I watched the action in my rearview mirror, hoping we didn't lose any of the ones we already had gathered.


Once they were gathered, 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. 



Just like their ancestors before them, they used plenty of wire to keep everything together. (It's a farmer thing!)

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 seem to know instinctively what the other is going to do. It took four semi trailer loads - two with cows and two with calves - but the job was finally done.

And, of course, there was more time for sharing stories.

But some of that visiting was interrupted with trying to corral a bull who had taken his sweet time to arrive at the sorting corrals, along with a calf who'd escaped.

The semi blew a tire, so Randy and I took a 4-wheeler ride to pick up the electric fence charger and battery.

The Rattlesnake looked a little different dressed for fall, rather than in its summer wardrobe.

August 2020

Even though it would have been nice to finish sooner, the colors of sunset were a fitting end to the day. 

Until next spring, Rattlesnake Pasture ...
Of course, the work wasn't done. We still had a vet visit on the horizon and feeding chores. More to come ...


  1. What a wonderful read, Kim. So much family history but what of the next generation? Our family farm at Kyogle will only have Cullen owners for a few more years to come.

    1. Our kids will inherit the land. We'll see if they continue to rent it out to another farmer/rancher. Even though it's sad in some ways, it also is a good opportunity for a young farmer/rancher in our area. It's not easy to procure land to own or to rent, so hopefully, it will give that person a "leg up," so to speak. We've had landlords over the years who've done the same for us, and we are extremely thankful for the privilege and opportunity to farm ground that has been in their families as well.