Last week the crew moved the PV bulls back to the feedlot from their winter pasture on the south side of the Yellowstone. The fast-paced three-mile trail of the bulls is an annual tradition that, for us, has become one of the beacons that indicate spring is officially here. This time of year the bulls get their first tastes of green grass and start thinking about cows… and if we leave them in their winter pasture, their desires often lead them deep into the Hysham Hills in search of neighbors’ cows. So to the feedlot they must come, saving the cowboys days spent finding lost bulls; here in the feedlot the bulls will remain captured for a couple more months, until the PV breeding season kicks off.
(There’s a great video of the bulls click-clacking over the Yellowstone Bridge on Facebook.)
After the bull trail last week there was lunch, and then, another beacon of spring: cutting the bull calves in the feedlot. Almost all our bull calves are castrated at branding time, at 1 to 2 months of age… but there are always a few that get missed at branding time, for various reasons. Those calves are weaned with the others and come into the feedlot in the fall, and they’re usually allowed to grow into yearlings before some spring day when everyone pitches in for a fun hour or two of heading and heeling. The event is significant because, after another long winter, and breaking up the monotony of heifer-calving, the crew is together once again, shedding coats and gloves (hopefully, if the weather is nice enough), joshing and making noise and testing out ropes.
Here’s the crew:
Now, a few words on Joe Fox. People often ask us what it’s like to work with him. He’s a legend living in his own time. His name is synonymous with cowboy in many circles, and I think a lot of folks who know of Joe Fox aren’t even sure if he’s a real person or a Western-mythological hero. But I assure you he’s real, and he truly is among the very best of the best horsemen and cowboys past and present. Riding colts and green horses? He’s one part artist, one part magician, two parts consistently disciplined in all areas of his life. He sets both his horse and himself up to win — even if that means rising at 2 a.m. to start loping circles before the day’s work. He could’ve coined the term “wet saddle blankets make good horses.” Working cattle? He’s smooth, seemingly effortless, but in reality ever-so-intentional. He never does anything haphazardly, but always moves ahead with the maturity of his horse-of-the-day, as well as the safety of the least capable member of the crew, in mind. Some days he doesn’t talk at all. Some days he’s goofy as a pet lizard. He frets when a greenhorn is riding a green horse, but he’s willing to help someone out if that someone is willing to learn. All in all, he is a good man, and with pride I associate with him through the PV. I was intimidated by him when I was a little girl, but these days a bit of glue sticks the two of us together — because we have, laughably perhaps, become the old-timers around here. Though I have absorbed only 1.1% of what he knows, I have been privileged to ride next to him more times than can be counted. And now my son:
Joe did not approve the paragraph above and I kinda hope he’s not mad at me for mentioning his name. But he doesn’t read blogs, does he?
Speaking of 6-year-old Asher, he just couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to be in the pen while the guys were roping yearling bulls. He even shed a few tears over the unfairness of life.
Emi, though, was happy to watch from the back of the 4-wheeler:
Yep, last week’s work and the green on the hills are sure signs: We’ve made it through another winter.
© Tami Blake