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Cattle Drive - Day Two

6-23-14, Valley Falls, OR -  Today marked the very successful completion of our cattle drive to the Fremont National Forest. A tally at the forest pasture gate showed that we had 316 cows and bulls. Since we started out with that number, but picked up a few strays from neighbor ranchers, we only dropped a few head along the way. All the missing cattle will be rounded up in the fall when the cows are driven back through the pastures closer to the ranch. The cows from the neighboring ranches will get some good grass for the summer and be returned to their owners in the fall.

This morning, after unloading the horses from the trailer, we went through the gate into their pasture for the previous two days and started our drive to gather the cattle. The gather was a real challenge as one end of the paddock was choked with thick stands of lodgepole pine and the other end was full of boggy ground. After about an hour of ducking pine branches and skirting hock-deep mud, we finally rounded up the herd and started them for the gate.

Before getting started, Geren laid out the plan for the day. We constantly had to tell him to speak up as he lost his voice while yelling at cows and dogs two day ago.  Personally, I think he was practicing his lines for a remake of the “Godfather” film.

Doc and I are standing guard on a potential escape path as most of the remaining hands finish bunching up the cattle prior to running them out a gate and into the forest.

Overall, today was a good day for driving cattle.  We had some major obstacles to overcome, like steep hillsides which were covered with  fallen trees, but the cows were fresh and it didn’t take a lot of encouragement to get them moving.

This picture shows a cow turning on a dog that has been nipping at her to keep her in place. The cow may temporarily get the upper hand, but in the end the dog always wins.

Once the cows were gathered, it only took about 3 hours to get them to the gate for the far pasture in the grazing allotment. After letting them settle down for a few minutes we opened up the gate and let them go.

Holding the cows in a bunch while they settled down and reclaimed their calves.

Geren’s wife Candace astride her little sorrel.  These two cover a lot of ground while moving the herd.

A selfie, with the crew in the background. This was taken moments after the last cow passed through the wire gate into their pasture for the next few weeks.

Wire gates can often be difficult to close, even with log or pipe pry bar. Here, Garen is using his lasso and his horse to stretch the wire closer to the rock filled jack, allowing it to be closed.

After finishing up, the crew is taking a much deserved break before loading the horses into the trailers and heading home.

The stars for the past few days are the horses.  Doc is tied on the other side of the far trailer.

Cattle drives of this nature are an important part of American heritage. While they are physically very challenging, a drive of this kind is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.  Everyone involved felt pride with the fact that successfully drove a million dollars worth of cows to their summer grazing, through some rough terrain.

I definitely plan on participating in more drives in the future and wouldn’t have missed this one for the world. While traveling back to the ranch, Geren asked me, “What do I owe you for the last few days of work?”

To which I replied, “I had the time of my life.  What do I owe you?”

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