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Posted 10/31/12 (Wed)

As I was watching the east coast brace for what could be the “perfect” storm this morning, I got to thinking about another kind of storm. One you get on horseback.
A few years ago, I had a chance to help a guy gather his yearlings. Now, you know, I usually don’t go out of my way to find more work. I have a hard time getting the stuff done that Shirley has missed. But, I figured I might never get to see 2,500 yearlings in a bunch again, so I had better take it. That’s right, 2,500 yearlings in one pasture.
We were supposed to meet at Bruz’s place at about 5:00 o’clock a.m. Or daylight. No one knew what time daylight came, so it was kind of an unorganized start to things. But, Will and I were the first ones there.
I guess we sat around and had coffee for about an hour before everyone arrived. The sun was just up. I never knew it came up in the east before. The sun was just up when we trotted out of the yard into the hills. Twenty-five riders. Kind of a pretty sight.
As we trotted along, Bruz was pointing out landmarks and explaining the lay of the pasture to us new guys. He explained how the gather would work and how the cattle string down this draw and onto the creek. They line out down the creek, through the dog town, across the creek, around the corner, and into the corral. Yeah, right, that’s what I thought.
As we neared the west end of the pasture, we split up into groups of two or three and fanned out. It was an easy gather. There were yearlings scattered all along this ridge of hills on both sides of the creek. They just trotted down these draws and off these ridges and pretty soon we had a couple of thousand yearlings strung out headed for the corral. It was more beautiful than a girly show. But then, maybe that’s cause I’m getting old.
As far as I could see, we didn’t need 25 riders. Shirley, Will, and I could have done this job. But an hour later, I figured out why we had so much help. As the yearlings wound through the dog town and across the creek, they started to figure out this wasn’t a normal day. The leaders of the herd turned back. They jammed up in the middle of the dog town and the Saler cattle rose to the occasion. They made a break for freedom. Have you ever seen a couple of thousand cattle turn, lift their tails in the air, and head right for you?
I was riding Boss. Boss is a colt. Two years old. And kind. But, in that instant, when he saw the stampede headed right for him, he decided he was not Smoky, the cow-horse. He was leaving the reservation. Whether I went along or not. Now, being the cattle were not mine, I went with Boss, about 40 miles an hour sideways, through the prairie dog town. With riders trying to head me and the yearlings off. It was great.
I noticed one thing. As you get older, prairie dog holes get larger and more frequent. Washouts get deeper and wider. And cattle and horses run faster than they used to. It was a real old west stampede. All we lacked was six-guns blazing in the air.
After a couple of miles we, well, actually they, got the herd stopped. Boss and I were miles away by then. Sitting on a hill watching a roundup. But we did manage to sneak back to the herd to help corral them. Just as we got to the corral, the cattle started to mill again. For an hour, we had 2,000 yearlings going in a tight circle just outside the corral gate. I thought we were going to lose them again until Todd had a bright idea. He took his jacket and tied it to his rope and drug it through the corral gate. A few curious yearlings followed that jacket through the gate like it was a bucket of feed, it was the strangest thing I had ever seen. But we got them gathered and loaded. And it was a pretty sight.