Posted 10/18/16 (Tue)
I guess over the years I’ve probably written 20 stories about fall roundups. From gathering yearlings on Standing Rock, to picking up pairs on Fort Berthold.
Used to be you’d leave pretty dang early so you could get the gather done before Hugh brought out his Handy Andy burgers, beans, pickles, and Hershey bars.
Shirley’s brother, Red, and I got in kind of a contest to see who could get there first. I had a little advantage because I lived about 15 miles closer to the rez than Red. But I was bigger so it was harder for me to get up.
It got so bad we were hardly sleeping in our beds. I’d put a horse in the barn at night and give him a good bait of grain so he was ready to go in the morning. I’d make a thermos of coffee so I could gulp that down on the way. And I’d leave by three or four in the morning.
Finally, it got so bad we would meet at four a.m.! Four a.m.! And it didn’t get light enough to ride until six! We would sleep in the pickups until daylight. Damn, we were dumb. But we were cowboys. I guess that kind of goes together.
We are doing a gather now west of Twin Buttes. It’s rough country and a pretty good haul from the house to the pasture. I suppose it is 75 or 80 miles.
Nick and I were riding down Hay Draw. It’s a big old canyon that runs south into Hans Creek. It’s beautiful country. But there are a few spots that you really don’t want to ride into.
We spotted a couple cows on a side hill. They were trying to get down to the trail, but were on the wrong side of a hill that had a big slide on it. So they had come to a standstill. Nick and I tried to wait them out, but the grass was lush and green where they were so they were pretty content to just stand there and eat.
Being older and wiser than Nick, I spotted kind of a deer trail that wound up through this slide. I pointed it out to Nick so he could try to ride up there.
Now Nick is a cowboy. He wouldn’t get off his horse and lead him through this bad stuff. He’d ride him. And he was riding a good sorrel horse that would pick his way through anything you pointed him at.
With some encouragement from me, they started up this bad spot. They got hung up in some bull berries and had to take a detour. About half-way up, I saw Nick’s horse slip into one of the big cracks on this slide! And it’s pretty much straight down if he goes over the edge. I hollered at Nick to bail off. I mean I screamed “BAIL Off!” And he did.
Just as he slipped off, that old pony tried to lunge out of that crevice and over the edge he went. He did a complete roll over and crashed down through the brush.
When he got to the bottom, he stood up, shook himself, and went to eating grass!
And I was thinking to myself, I’m glad I’m older and wiser so I don’t have to ride into stuff like that!