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Posted 9/30/14 (Tue)


One thing about living in the Dakotas, you do have four seasons. You can tell the difference between summer and fall. I think this is transition day. On Saturday it was 92 above. Tuesday the high is going to be 40. If you’re going riding, I’d take a jacket.
In the next month, most of the fall roundups will be taking place. Ranchers will be moving cattle home from summer pastures, weaning calves, preg checking, and getting ready for winter. I used to maintain that we had only two seasons. Haying season, and feeding hay season. Some years they run together.
Fall roundups are always my favorite. Just as harvest is to a farmer, fall roundup is to a rancher. You see the fruits of your labor. You see how that bull you purchased a year and a half ago worked out. You determine if that old cow you let slip by one more year paid her way. You see the calf whose leg you splinted last spring has grown up, and fits with the rest. You recognize the heifer that had the backward calf you saved. Or the heifer calf you gave to your kids. To start their own herd. It’s a great time of the year.
The days may be getting shorter, but they are long enough if you’re on roundup. You load saddle horses in the dark. And bring them home in the dark. Breakfast is eaten in a hurry as the horses eat their grain. Shirley said Uncle Hugh always made them take extra pancakes in their pockets in case dinner didn’t show up. Was a good idea, but I wish I could break her of the habit. It is embarrassing to have your wife pull pancakes out of her pocket when you are at the mall.
The roundup on the reservation would last two weeks. Grandpa Jack or Uncle Hugh would be the boss. Each night, we would find out where we were meeting in the morning. And everyone developed a reputation as to when they would show up. Some would be an hour late, cause their horses always got out during the night. Some had to get kids on the bus. Billy always came in time for dinner. Red and I would race to be first. It got so bad, I would get up at two in the morning so I could beat Red. Get to the meeting point and sleep in the pickup for three hours waiting for daylight! Nobody ever said I was real smart.
But there is no better feeling than unloading and trotting down a ridge in the morning, as the sun is just starting to peek up, heading for Big Bottom. Or maybe heading up Moccasin Creek towards the Smith Camp. Riding a good horse, next to a good friend, followed by a good dog.
Knowing that by noon, you would see the smoke from Uncle Hugh’s fire, and the hamburgers and beans would be smoking hot. The coffee would be boiling. There would be a jar of pickles and a sack of candy bars. You didn’t have to ask to see the menu. It never changed. And when you were putting in those cold fall days, there was nothing better.
Wish you could have been there. I would have bought you dinner.