Rachel, The Tall Steer and other Summer StoriesPosted Friday, March 4, 2011, at 2:00 AM
Years ago, my dad purchased a calf at the livestock sale. I can't remember if he was a Jersey or Guernsey. He was all legs and not much else. My Uncle Greg had a heifer named Ralph so Dad named him Rachel.
Rachel got off to a bad start. Do you remember those huge pills that they used to shove down a calf or horse's throat? Well, due to the fact that Rachel was sickly, Dad attempted to get one down his throat. Unfortunately, this pill lodged itself stubbornly just out of reach of the tiniest hands. Finally, Dad said, it will either dissolve or Rachel will die.
Three days later, Rachel was still around. Have you seen the movie Bambi when he was trying to walk on the ice? Rachel would move the same way. All four legs would start out supporting him and then give way in four different directions. He was a helpless needy thing for quite a while.
When Rachel grew up, he was very tall for a steer. People used to say he was 6 foot tall and 1 foot wide. On most farms, the lifespan of a steer is not too long, but Dad kept Rachel for several years. It was never too difficult to spot him in the pasture.
We had several milk cows that we named Baby, Betty, Brindle, Lucy, Abby, and Bessie. Unlike the evil Cricket, these milk cows were docile and came when you called them. We even were able to ride them to the barn.
We also had a bull that Bev and I called Dale the Bartender. He was a Hereford bull that we would sit on while he basked in the sun. We didn't know that bulls were supposed to be mean and unpredictable.
The pastures in those days were so smooth, that you could walk barefoot. However, the hill at the back of our house was hot dirt and sagebrush and you had to climb that to get to the pastures. This involved running a short distance and cooling your feet on a towel or if you were lucky there was a shady spot. It was a relief to get to the top of hill and get to the pasture. There was mint and spearmint patches growing wild in the pastures,and we would always stop to get one to chew on. The scent was heavenly.
How blessed we were to have all of that space to explore.
Every summer, we would start out in the ditch by our house and make a grand expedition for a mile or so. There were narrow spots, muddy ones with moss, deep water, frogs and a couple of steep waterfalls to climb.
This might seem tame to many of you, but our summers were wonderful. Our cousins would come to visit and thought our chores were great fun. Our "guest" room was the lawn and they would tell ghost stories under the stars.
No amount of modern technology can compare to these simple pleasures. I think sometimes that our world would be a very different place if we could wade in a few ditches and feel the rocks between our toes. Or make mud pies on the banks. We could use our outdoor "guest" room to count the stars and feel the breeze cool our faces. The night sounds would lull us into a peaceful slumber.
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Walking the Fence Line
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Fixing fence is the one of the hardest jobs on a ranch. I no longer live on a ranch, but I do know what hard work is. Fences are everyone's concern, but nowadays,the "hole" is always your neighbor's side not your own. It used to be that you would respect your neighbor and mend the fence together. If their cows got in your field, a simple phone call resolved the problem. You might even saddle up your own horse and help them gather them up. We need more people who are willing to roll their sleeves up and fix the fence regardless of who your neighbor is. There are people in this country who need to be reminded that a fence is like the way you should conduct your life. Your posts should be straight and neat. The wire needs to be stretched tight and your gate might be closed, but can still be easily opened. And most of all, we can all saddle up together and ride the range, it won't matter if you have an Appaloosa, Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred. The cows still have to be gathered, fences have to be fixed, and the range is a wide open space of opportunity for us all.