Today was our first “full day” at the Padlock, although our third in Wyoming. We awoke to French toast and sunshine (Steve’s wife Kristin does all the cooking…don’t even get me started on the chicken pot pie we had for dinner tonight). Marvelous.
I guess with consistency in mind and perhaps even kindness, Martha and I were once again assigned the same four-legged partners we had yesterday. Copper and Blanco have now had 48 hours to decide whether or not they will put up with our East-Coast ways–and I must say, bless them, they chose to be benevolent souls and carried us through the day with little complaint and a whole lot of downright reliability.
We had a task of sorts today, and that was to ride through the 10,000-acre pasture (ha ha, you might say, when somewhere in the midst of 500,000 acres) and check out the “replacement heifers” (those that are intended to take the place of non-productive cows in coming seasons) and steers marked for the Country Natural Beef program for foot rot–which has been described to me as something akin to athlete’s foot.
It took some time and navigation of steep (yet beautiful) terrain to find our first lot of heifers and steers (at which point Martha and I both exclaimed, “Cows!”…yes, that would indeed identify us as the “dudes” we are). But we were in for some action. Isaac Johnson (Steve and Kristin’s son) rode through the herd as Martha and I “held” them in the midst of a massive prairie dog town. Note: Two things should be mentioned here–1) “Held” may be putting it strongly…we sat on our horses in a particular position on a hillside, as we were instructed, and I DID move back and forth a few times when a particularly brazen cow started to come my way; and 2) have you ever stood in the midst of a prairie dog town? The sound of the prairie dogs chastising you for your presence is almost deafening, and it is actually hard to find solid ground on which to tread, their holes are so darn prevalent.
Anyway, when checking a herd for foot rot, you move through the cows to get them to get up and walk or trot, basically affording you the chance to check them for lameness–a common symptom. If they appear off, they must be roped and checked and if necessary, given an antibiotic, which means they must be removed from the Country Natural Beef program (you don’t really want that).
Isaac found one that was suspect, and to our greenhorn delight, he and his father had to rope it and check it for the fungus, then mark it and release it–it made for exciting riding in and around Chez Prairie Dog.
There’s really nothing like having a cowboy gallop right by you, hot on the heels of a heifer, so close you can hear the rope whizzing through the air. Amazing, intense, and addictive.
So it only seemed appropriate that after dinner (that delicious chicken pot pie I mentioned earlier), we all meandered down to the horse barn for some roping practice on a wooden dummy (the cows were very thankful). Reata Brannaman, who is good friends with Isaac and Cooper Johnson and lives in Sheridan with her dad Buck and mom Mary, gave Martha and I a first-rate, first-timer’s introduction to the art of holding and throwing a rope. Both of us are pretty bad at the whole activity at the moment (let’s just say we have nothing to brag about and lots to be embarrassed by), but we’re surely destined to get better…
And miracle of miracles, despite the fact that we were on horseback from 8:30 to 4:30 today, and rode over varied terrain and at various speeds, neither of us is too lame to climb stairs, sit in a chair, or get in bed.
It really doesn’t get much better than this…