Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

I am an ordinary woman, with an amazing family, serving an awesome God.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Branding ~ Part 3

Here is the rest of the branding day.
First, this is the grill-thingy I was talking about, that we use to heat the irons in. It's alot faster than a fire. Not to mention portable.  I didn't have a picture of the cooler of pop, which is the only thing I am interested in today. I am so thirsty for a cold Coke. And the nearest one is 20 miles away. That's what I get for living on a ranch. It has its downside - just sayin'.

 Oops! the hair caught fire! It happens, once in a while. they calmly step on the flames, to put them out. While the calf bawls. See? poor baby. Then again - in a  few months this same calf will be a big, ugly yearling, and most likely will be trying to kick me or slobber on my car. Never mind the pity.
 My good friend, Nikea, giving shots. I miss her. She went with her man to Texas. They are soaking in sun while I am still in WY. How fair is that, I ask you??

 Here comes the brandin' iron again. look at that smoke roll.  The smell of scorched hair, mingling with the scent of sweating horses, fresh cow pies and saddle-leather, all mixes together into the typical branding day smell. Not bad, really. In Wyoming, we always have a breeze to carry it away.
 Our boss's brand. I have no idea what its called. Upside-down-house?
 My cute nephew again. He was marking each calf with a huge, pink marker, so that if it got back in with the other calves, the cowboys could tell which ones were already finished.
This colt was kind of being a jerk that day. I think it was the first time it was at a branding.
 My mom and my sister were doing a wonderful job babysitting, so I could take pictures.
 The trusty Leatherman knife. Cutting off the eartag, and replacing it.
 My all-time favorite picture I have ever taken here on the ranch. I have threatened to frame it, but he won't hear of it. I know its not really an outstanding picture, but its My Cowboy. Nuff said.
And that, my friends, is a branding.
Branding trivia:
1. The rancher hosting the branding usually doesn't ride. He stays afoot to keep the process going.
2. It's customary for the rancher hosting to feed the crew lunch. Traditionally its a feast, with beef as the main dish, but some ranchers that either don't have womenfolk, or the women are also riding, have really slacked off in this regard. Our boss's wife always makes a feast. Truly. Its the highlight.
3. You DO NOT go to a branding uninvited. It's bad manners.
4. If you do get invited to a branding, don't make problems. Stay clear of those working, and don't spook the broncey horses. Trust me.
5. And of course, the #1 ranch rule.... If You Open A Gate - Close It.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Branding ~ Part 2

Now that all the babies are separated from the mama's, the cowboys set up the branding area. Carry in the branding irons, and the gas-grill-thingy to heat them in. The cooler full of meds, and the boxes of ear tags.
                           Cliff's boss - Den. It is seriously muddy.

I love the red boots.

                                             What is wrong with this picture??
 One of my all-time favorite pictures. My bro-in-law and my nephew, Ira. They are even walking in-step.
 Now that everyone is ready, the cowboys go in the pen with the babies and start roping. They take turns roping. 2-3 cowboys are a'horseback at a time, so that they can each have a turn at the fun part. Branding is a good time to show off fancy loops, quick catches, and well-trained horses. Or not. Some guys bring colts and green horses to the branding. Which I don't like, because I always have kids with me, and I want to be reasonably sure that the horses there are safe. Or at least not gonna go on a buckin rampage at any ruffle of skirts.
And invariably, the cowboys complain that their roping was "terrible today", which is understandable - considering all the pressure they are under. Or maybe its a bit like child-training: You think you're doing pretty good till you go in public and have eyes on you. (or your child) Anyways. Some guys are predictably good. I love watching the roping.
A cowboy from Rawlins, WY.
                                       My sweetheart of 10+ years.
 Pull that baby in! Then comes the hard work part; flop it to the ground if it is on its feet, and sit on it. It would seem a simple process, right? But even jerking a calf to the ground and sitting on its head has its tricks. I will show you some more pics of that later...
 My bro-in-law, Marcel. He lives in southern CO. He was the first guy that My Cowboy worked with on a ranch. He's a smart guy. He married my lovely sister. :)  The Mennonite in the background is my friend from Cheyenne. She and her family have lived on the X-Bar the last two summers, making hay for us. That makes My Cowboy happy. Hayin is hard work.
And last but not least - my cute nephews again. (they would hate this attention if they were 10 years older, but at this point, they have no choice!)  I love little boys.

Note: The answer to the question above is, technically, nothing. But since most people wear gloves on both hands, it could look a bit funny! He was wearing a roping glove, to protect the hand he dallies with. His skin is too dry to dare try it without.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Branding ~ Part 1

Have you ever wondered what a branding looks like on a working ranch? Well, we aren't a dude ranch, so we do things the most efficient and/or the easiest on the calves - not necessarily the most picture perfect or movie-style-perfect. But its fun and interesting, nonetheless. I love to watch, and more often - take pictures and video footage. This particular branding was a perfect Wyoming day...sunny, warm, and green. It had rained recently, so there was copious amounts of mud and standing water.
1. Separate all the babies from their mothers. I always feel a bit sorry for them, much to the amusement of the cowboys. Look at those sad, cute faces!

 Our friend, Axel. He used to work here, but now lives in Germany. That makes us sad.
 2. Snap multiple pics of the cute lil cowboys that are just waiting to get big enough that their dads will let them get in on the action.
 My adorable nephew - Ira. He is extra-special to me, cause he was Andy's best bud. Plus he has the most remarkable eyes...
                    My dad and mom watching the action. And my sister.
                  There goes My Cowboy, in the black vest.
Some more cowboys...They are moving the calves from the holding pen into the branding pen. We have fairly small brandings here on the X-Bar. That's because the primary purpose of the X-Bar is to do care on yearlings. The boss has a small herd of mama-cows tho, so we do get the fun of branding, without so much that it gets boring. Not that branding is ever boring.
To be continued...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fire on the X-Bar.

One day in October, 2008, My Cowboy had to go weld something on a windmill. Now, I have no idea about what or how you weld on windmills, but anyways, that is what he was doing. Unfortunately, it was a very windy day. A very windy day. As in, 40-50 mph gusts. Or more. I try to underestimate, so people believe me. Well, it being fall and all, the grass was dry. Very dry. And there happened to be some tall, dry grass around the windmill. Hmm, welding+wind+dry grass= fire. yep. Some sparks caught fire, and so My Cowboy calmly stomped them out. Then more sparks caught fire on the grass, this time he used his Carrhart, but to no avail. In seconds the field was burning, fast and furious. And I do mean furious. It wasn't long till the Fire Dept began to get calls from people. First My Cowboy, then from neighbors and strangers driving by on the road. Ok, I really don't know who all called, but I do know they got multiple calls. Anyways, I stepped outside to do something, and smelled smoke. I then seen the cloud of smoke about a mile away. My memory is a bit foggy from this point on, but I do know that I drove down to where the fire started, and couldn't find My Cowboy. And the other cowboy asked me for a shovel. Not that it did much good against that inferno, but he didn't realize that until he got out to the front line. The fire trucks came, finally, and calmly sprayed tiddly bits on the sides of the fire. Like that was really gonna do much. So My Cowboy, and the other cowboys worked at the front of the fire, scraping up layers of grass and topsoil with the tractor-buckets, trying to make a dirt windbreak. It worked, eventually. I think the cowboys could teach the Fire Dept a thing or three.
 #1: when the fire is racing toward your neighbors hay stack, (freshly filled for winter)  you get to the front of the fire and put it out!!
#2: see above. 
Meanwhile, my friend Nikea (the other cowboy's wife) and I were making sandwiches and brownies and getting a cooler of pop ready for the guys. As they came in, we handed out Coke and sandwiches. Then I drove out around the ranch on the road that borders the X-Bar, and handed out sandwiches to the firefighters that were fighting it along the road. By now it was night, and the sooty men would peer out of the darkness, trying to see who was hollering about food.  I felt rather foolish, till one old white-haired man began to thank me and eat like he hadn't in days. Or hours. He was too old to be fighting fires, I thought, but you can't break the spirit of these men who have lived in the open lands, fighting whatever it throws at them, enduring the hardships, thrilling in the freshness of baby calves and spring mornings, soaking up the sun when it shines, bundling up against the cold when it bites, and bending into the buffeting winds. They don't quit with old age. They don't bow out when the going gets tough. They just quietly go on, fighting fires, enduring weather, and getting ever stronger. At least that's the way I like to see it. :) I love old people. 
Anyways, back to the fire... see this beautiful picture of this windmill?
It was taken the same day as this one, below...
 ...and this one. The ill-fated windmill.
 the windbreaks smoldered awhile.

 The firefighters worked so hard - holding down their shovels.

Jenni and Frank entertaining themselves while I climbed on the windmill to take pictures. Ranch kids learn at a young age to entertain themselves. They have to, during brandings, shipping, sortings, etc, etc. And while their mom indulges her hobby of taking pics.
By the way, the fire was under control by 10-11 that night, although the guys went out to check the hot spots several times per night for the next several nights. We didn't get any rain for awhile. And even when we did, the stuff in the windbreaks smoldered a long time, as in: weeks. Even after a snow. And My Cowboy ruined his Carharrt.

PS- I like firefighters. But their strategy is slightly lacking. Ask My Cowboy. And we are friends with the fire Chief. He is a wonderful christian man. He's been out multiple times, the first two times was from MY 911 calls. I set my yard on fire 3 weeks after we got here, then he was the first one on the scene to search for Andy, so he is familiar with us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My First Summer on the X-Bar.

I love summer. I am really getting the fever, now that there has been few warmer days. I remember the very first summer we spent here on the X-Bar. It was lovely. I went on walks with my kids, My Cowboy took us riding in the back pasture when the wild iris' were in bloom.... I also took some time one day to follow the guys around and get some pictures. It was fun. And funny. It was the first time I watched someone 'tail down' a steer. Actually, it was a bull, only moments away from being a steer. I was fascinated with the techniques that I had never seen before.

Cliff's co-worker, Bill. He was here that first summer. My kids love him.

My Cowboy.

Bill was doctoring a steer with pink-eye. See the glue around the eye?

Putting on the eye patch. I am glad humans don't have to glue on a patch when we get pink-eye. Cause my kids have gotten it in both eyes at once. That could be unhandy. I claim that My Cowboy brings the germ back from the cattle and my kids pick it up. But we can't wait till he showers to hug him, at the end of the day, so I guess we will have to put up with the occasional case of pink-eye.

Then they pushed some yearlings from one pasture to another. I hear its because the grass gets too eaten down in one pasture, so they rotate, to be more efficient with the grass. I say its cause they like to ride. The grass looks the same to me.

Here come the cowboys! Bill is on the left, and My Cowboy is on the right.

Riding home... that IS my home, by the way. And look at the grass!!

Green is my favorite color. Just sayin. And that truck finally had to be replaced. By a Ford, which has by now also been replaced. By a Dodge. I wonder how long it will be before they accept the superiority of CHEVY, and replace the Dodge? It would be funny to go full circle! :)
Note: I know nothing about rotating cattle, or superiority of trucks. I just like to talk. Or write.
Edit: The Dodge did get replaced by a Chevy, eventually. :)
                   Drive Chevy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Walk in The Country.

I shall try to do a quick post while my Princess is sleeping....

I have this issue with going outside in the winter time. I don't do it. Well, just to dash from the house to the car - then from the car back to the house. I try to stay inside by the fire as much as possible. I have been doing pretty good with that, too. But today it was so sunny and warm, (warm is a relative term. It was 45*) that I decided to get off my duff and take a walk. So I gathered the kids and out we went.
Note: these pics were from last summer - hence the shirtsleeves. Today we were all wearing coats.

Miss Lucia likes to ride in the stroller. I'm ok with that, cause even though I walk slow, I do like to get somewhere, eventually.

It was refreshing to get out in the sun. And the 40+ mph wind gusts helped push us home, once we rounded the turn! Anyone want a country lane to walk on? Come visit me!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time, there was a woman who loved the outdoors. She had 3 kids, however, and so she could not always do the outdoorsy things she loved. So while her hot cowboy husband was riding the range,

She was inside, tending to her crazy kids.

Sometimes it was so much fun. Sometimes it was just alot of hard work. She loved the children very much, and so it wasn't really a sacrifice. But sometimes, just sometimes, she wanted to be outside, roaming the hills and enjoying the fresh air, like she used to do before the babies came. So she got an idea...
She went on the internet one day, and ordered a hunting license. She wasn't sure what she would do with the crazy kids, but she decided that she was at least going to try to go hunting. She hadn't been hunting for 4 years. She missed the woods. The early-morning fog and coolness. The excitement of listening to crackling twigs, padding footsteps, and coughing ants. (ok, maybe she didn't actually hear the ants coughing, but it seemed like it.)
So when fall came, she begged her cowboy husband to babysit one Sunday afternoon, and she took the 30.06 and drove out to where the antelope gathered, and went hunting. She walked miles. There were lots of antelope, but they were wary and ornery and obnoxious. They stayed between the woman and the Registered Black Angus Cattle. The cattle that the womans' husband was paid to keep alive. So she couldn't very well risk killing one. She hunted till nightfall, and no luck. Just tired. The woman wasn't used to walking for miles at a stretch, so she went home and crashed.
The next evening, she repeated the process. Again, no luck. By now, the woman was getting frustrated. She knew how deer thought. and where they would tend to go, and where to find them. But these antelope were a different story. They stood in the middle of a 5,000 acre field, and just watched her. How could she deal with that? So one afternoon, her cowboy husband took her and all the crazy kids in the truck, and drove through the fields. "The antelope aren't as spooked by a vehicle, as they are by a human on foot," he explained. But there was a problem. The woman was so intimidated by her cowboy husband watching her shoot at an antelope, that she missed 2 perfectly goood shots. So she gave up in disgust. She was a bit embarrassed, too. And perhaps her pride was hurt just a tad.
The next day, she decided to go at it again. This time she piled all three crazy kids in the front seat of the Ford Ranger pickup. It was the middle of the afternoon. She didn't bother with the camo pants, the orange vest, or anything like that. She just grabbed a knife, and her rifle, and a few extra shells, and jumped in the pickup.
They bounced and jounced out through the ranch, over rutted two-tracks. Suddenly, there was a small group of antelope ahead. She slammed on the brakes, jumped out of the truck, and leaned on the hood of the truck. A shot rang out. Oops. Clean miss. But the baby was now crying. So the woman calmed the baby, and drove on. The antelope had stopped again, so the woman again jumped out and leaned on the hood of the pickup. This time when she pulled the trigegr, the antelope in her crosshairs went down. The woman tried to still her shaking hands. She could hardly believe she had actually got one. Finally.
After about 3 minutes, she drove slowly over to where the buck had went down. Well, that buck jumped up and limped slowly away. Uh-oh. Gut shot. Bummer. So she waited awhile, then followed it on foot. Several hundred feet later, she came to a fence, where she stopped and fixed the buck in her scope again. This time the shot went right through the heart, and it went down for good.
Now for the hard work. The woman managed to crawl under the fence, along with all the crazy kids. It took the woman several minutes to drag the buck out to the truck. That boy was heavy! Then she gutted it. Now to get it home. Hmmm. It was so heavy, that she could barely get it on the bed of the pickup. She finally used a board to use as a ramp, and managed to get it up. After splashing some water on her bloodied hands, she got in and drove her kiddos home. It was quite a day.

ps - and that woman can't wait for next antelope season.