During the fall months, mainly in September and October…old memories flood back to my mind when I first wake up…I want to grab my long johns…(under armour with the nice slick material had not been invented yet)…instead we had the thick long johns which were never long enough for me…next I put on my heavy socks, then my wrangler jeans that I had to struggle with to get on over the heavy long johns…without the long john legs riding up my leg…which added to my mood of grrrr. I added a layer or two of tee-shirts on top with either a flannel shirt or sweatshirt or both with the finishing touch of one of my brightly colored wild rags to keep my neck warm and mouth/nose if needed…shoved my boots on with the heavy socks, grabbed my chaps, heavy coat and gloves and I was good to go…all depending on the weather as you never knew if you were going out in an early snow storm or rain or frigid temperatures. My knee jerk reaction in the fall is to be gathering cows on the mountain…after living it and doing it for over 40 years…old memories remain. I should be horseback in the mountains looking for cows…gathering and herding them towards camp…where we sorted and organized them for the long 90 mile cattle drive home to the winter grounds.
After gathering a large bunch of cattle, we pushed them back to the headquarters at Beaver Creek…somehow they seemed to know it was time to leave their summer home and go home to lower winter pastures where they had better grass and open lands. It is amazing to me how animals can sense the seasons changing…or an approaching storm…they have a sixth sense of life around them as well as what we are feeling with the sense of our emotions that they pick up from us.
It took many long days and several weeks to find and gather 1860 head off 25,000 mountainous acres…lots of ground to cover and many miles…and as Dad always told me “Now push them slow Marcy, we want to keep the weight on them and not work them too hard.” I can still hear him telling me this in my dreams…I already knew this fact from years of riding with him, as keeping the weight on them was what we wanted…but he would diplomatically tell me this in front of town friends who did not know. I would get the lecture of sorts…privately I had to roll my eyes and often I was embarrassed as everyone would look at me…”Dad, I know”..and no I never said that to him…I knew I was the fall guy.
We began to ride various pastures from the middle of August on to push herds closer to our headquarters at the main ranch on Beaver Creek where we had corrals and the set up to sort cattle and load them out into cattle trucks. We had 800 Black Angus mama cows to gather along with their calves…200 head of replacement heifers and 60 head of bulls…so that was 1860 head of cattle to round-up and account for…and every year we would find that we were short 20 to 30 head…thanks to the work of cattle rustlers.
One of our cowboys taking a bath in the Grande Ronde River…it took time to find each and every cow…and sometimes the cows would get confused and try to run away from you as their natural instinct was fear or flight…they did not understand what to do…especially if one got separated like this one.
The first two years Dad tried to run both Herefords and Angus…and then went to 100% Black Angus and Black Bawly Cross as they surpassed the Herefords in weight gain, endurance and did much better overall in the high country.
Dad on horse Bucky with dog Blue…holding herd. One of my favorite pictures of my Dad as I can see his life and humanity…he loved what he did…cattle…horses…mountains…family. It was his life. When he was so very ill I often whispered the good old memories and times riding with him gathering cattle in the high country…and how God rides in the high country too and He is with us and with you Dad…and so am I…and someday I will ride with you again in the high country of God’s mountains:)
Another of my favorite pictures as this picture truly shows my Mom and Dad…you can see their committment and love. Mom grew up in the city with a cook and cleaning lady….then she fell in love with a cowboy and here she is with a smile on her face…she learned how to cook and run a ranch beside her man. I learned about love and true committment from my parents…I was so very blessed to have them as examples:) You can see why I called my parents “John Wayne and His Lady”. One of my favorite John Wayne movies is McClintock with Maureen O’Hara.
Working cows in the corrals, sorting off the calves etc…in the background you can see the cattle trucks waiting for their loads. In the fall we sold the calves at the sale in Baker…the bulls were trucked down to the winter ranch and the mama cows would make the cattle drive to the winter pastures. In the spring we trucked the entire herd up, mama cows and their babies and the bulls…we tried to drive them up a few time in the early years but it was not do-able as the cows wanted to turn back and after several stampedes it was decided to truck them up June 1st.
The Juniper T cattle drive historically began October 15th and would last 10-14 days depending on weather and also how well the cattle moved. I have the cattle drive pictures matted and framed…this is early morning on October 15, the cows are leaving Beaver Creek heading for the low lands…they are crossing the Grande Ronde River at Starkey.
Heading out the second day from Four Corners…towards Indian Lake…two days ahead of us…cold with snow. In the early years the cattle did not know the way but in later years the older ones knew and would lead out pretty well.
Cows milling around close to Indian Lake…we are about half way through the drive.
From the air the herd is stretched out…
Cattle reaching the stock driveway…smelling home getting closer.
Taking a coffee break at the chuck wagon bus (WB wants to restore the bus as it is a Diamond Reo). Dad on the far left with the dark cowboy hat on and his brothers…and hired man “Big John”.
I am sure this was our friend and cattle buyer’s plane’s shadow, doing a fly over to see where the herd was at. He taught me how to play Gin Rummy and dang…I was good at it…I loved playing it with him and miss him. When we lived in Wyoming we called it Wyoming Rummy and when Oregon friends and family visited we challenged them to Wyoming Rummy verses Oregon Rummy:)
This in the Birch Creek crossing in Pilot Rock…we have about 2 to 3 days left before we hit winter pastures…as you see it is quite a bunch of cows! Going through Pilot Rock at daybreak was always interesting to me as I saw so many women out with hair curlers in their bathrobes ready to attack any dang cow who wondered into their yard to grab a bite or two of flowers or grass or shrubs…they had brooms ready to swat any wayward cow! We tried hard to not let that happen but it was tough to keep every cow out of yards….once we got over Birch creek we got on a road that became a stock driveway all the way to Butter Creek and the winter ground and headquarters for the Juniper T.
Today WB and his HRCG are celebrating our 36th Anniversary…can you believe we got married on October 15th…the first day of the cattle drive!!!! Long story for another time….
Stay tuned the story will be continued:) and I have some new photos to upload towards the end of the week hopefully if the weather co-operates with me:)