Before It Rained

It’s been raining here.  Things are looking a lot better now than they were two weeks ago, when we were desperately hoping for moisture to grow green grass and tamp the dust down.  The pictures below were taken back then — before the rain — so they’re not an accurate representation of the color of things around here right now.  But I wanted to share these pictures anyhow, because there are some good ones.  Warning:  there’s lots of gray and brown, and not so much green down below.

We’ve had about an inch and a half of rain in the last couple weeks, which doesn’t sound like much but which can make all the difference between a good year and a tough one here in short-grass country.

Before it rained — two or three weeks ago — the kids and I were busy helping Beau move cows off of winter pasture to spring pasture.  Once again we were “cheating”:  I pulled the cake wagon behind the pickup to lure the cows close to the gate while Beau, horseback, kicked the cows hidden in the far corners of the pasture down toward the cake wagon.  I’ve written before about how I feel about “cheating” to move cows; you can get the lowdown here:  We Cheated.

Anyhow, the photos below illustrate the process of cheating.

First of all, this is what happens when you leave me and my three kids in charge of hooking up the cake wagon.  Disclaimer:  no hitches were harmed in the making of this blog.



Next, my co-pilots help me drive under the cake tower and fill the wagon with cake (a cylindrical protein feed that cows just love):



Yes, I’m quite certain these kids of mine are going to drive the pickup over me one of these days when I get out to open a gate:



Swoogie, our trusty canine, always tags along in the bed of the pickup.  What do you think:  Should we clean the back window of the pickup yet, or can we get a couple more months out of ‘er?



Out in the pasture with the cows, Beau is already horseback and out of sight.  I bump to popular cow hangouts in the pasture, honking the horn to attract the cows’ attention.  Here they come with mouths watering for cake!  (The cows in the back have paused to stare agape at some intruding deer):



Like Pavlov’s dog, these cows will be hungry for cake when they catch up with the cake wagon.  Some of them are gentle enough that they try to jump up on the cake wagon to sneak a bite while we wait for the rest:


Naughty cows.  There are two ways to combat this problem.  A) Drive in slow circles as we wait for Beau to come with the rest of the cows — going just fast enough that the most athletic cow can’t quite get her timing to jump up and snitch a piece of cake:


(Circle-driving here.)


Eeek!  Look at the dust they were creating.  Remember, this was before rain and before green grass came on.  The cows had eaten out their winter pasture and were needing a shot of fresh green grass before calving… which we are so thankful we’ve since gotten.

The alternative to endless circle-driving is B) Swoogie in the cake wagon.  She keeps them at bay with a few well-aimed nose-nips.  Good girl, Swoogie!



Usually we have a while to wait while Beau brings stragglers in from the far coulees and creeks.  So we keep ourselves busy.  Marsielle likes to look out the window and watch cows:



Emi might take a nap:



And when Asher gets fed up with it all, he stretches out on the dash:



I personally like to take pictures of cows to pass the time.  They might all look the same, black all over and all that, but I remind them that they’re each unique in some significant way.  (The different tag colors correspond to different years in which they were born):



This one makes me laugh because I’ve never seen a cow react with quite so much surprise to her photo being taken.  Whoa!  Your flash is really bright!



And then I like to take close-ups, endeavoring to capture the cow’s personality and character in what may be the first portrait she’s ever had done:


Don’t be afraid to work it, girls!  You are beautiful, strong, hardy mama cows!  Own that ear tag!


Usually about this time I decide it’s silly to keep taking pictures of cows, because really… they all kinda look the same.  So we Blake kids busy ourselves in other ways.  Emi makes funny faces in front of the lens:



I tell ya, a gal feels a lot more confident in her own good looks when she sees how impossibly beautiful her own daughters are:



Marsielle likes to keep my reaction time tippy-top by repeatedly attempting to jump out the open window to run with the cows:



Asher and Emi like to play Rock/Paper/Scissors.  Be assured they have little to no comprehension of the real rules:



When everybody starts growing arms and legs and Mama can’t stand it in the pickup with them for one more minute, we all get out and stretch our legs.  (Who says you can’t wear a dress, tights, and dress shoes for moving cows, huh, Emi?)



Finally, finally, we will spot Daddy coming from a long ways off with a bunch of cows.  First one to spot him is the golden egg:



Now it’s time for me to start luring the entire herd toward the gate.  Come, girls!



There’s our house!  Wave at the house, everybody!



I draw the cattle near the gate, then we wait for Beau to catch up so he can count them as they pass through the gate.  Here he comes!  (Bev Doolittle has nothing on me):



Asher gets to hold (an apparently very sleepy) Frosty as Beau opens the gate.  (Or is Frosty just one of those horses that closes his eyes every time a flash goes off?)



There might be enough time for each kid to have a short ride before we roll through, but that can open a can of worms, too:  I didn’t get as much time as she did!  No, brother, I didn’t get as much time!  And the baby will cry when you take her off no matter how long she’s been in the saddle.



And then I drive through the gate and wait as the cows filter through and Beau counts them each and every one:




Once they’re all through the gate, I lead them to a feed ground and feed them the cake I’ve cruelly been holding hostage for a couple hours now:



And we meet Beau back at the barn.  He’ll be standing on the top rail of the fence, searching the pasture we just gathered with his binoculars… because we’re short six head.


© Tami Blake


4 thoughts on “Before It Rained

  1. Sandy and I enjoyed this short story this find day in Phoenix with sunset and especially the portraits of those smiling cows, and your 3 children.


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