Day Writing by Heather Hamilton Maude: At least the cows didn’t get away
I remember it being cold that morning, so I assume it occurred in the fall. We were gathering pairs into the corral from up the creek at my parent’s house.
My grandfather believed in waiting for the sun, not the other way around, and it was common practice to be on the far side of the pasture horseback, shivering while waiting for enough daylight to discern cows from sagebrush. My father and uncle have since relaxed that particular family practice, much to the delight of my generation. It is one of those things I will tell my kids with all the pomp, flair and tragedy of the uphill-both-ways-in-snow story.
Anyway, as we approached the corral, navigating the steep banks and numerous curves of dry Doggie Creek, things picked up speed in front while calves lagged behind. We managed to get everyone beyond the last creek bend and just into the generations of junk parked along the path into the corral when calves started getting back.
I was positioned for this, mounted on lanky, honest and cowy, but oh-so-rough-riding Brownie. Here came a calf. We met him head-on midway across a dike spanning the creek. The calf cut back and forth and Brownie was right there with him. In that last-ditch-effort way of calves, he took one more lunge back to his right/my left. Brownie saw it coming and beat him there, cutting him back again, which I saw upside down as I was launched the opposite direction. I bounced down the entire dike on my head and shoulders, and landed just as the calf calmly trotted by me, headed back.
By the time I got right side up again and had my wits about me, the calf had been joined by some, then all of the bunch, and they were getting away. Brownie was waiting with one ear ticked back in obvious frustration at standing by while this took place.
I had the equivalent of box office seats to watch what felt like hours but was likely less than a minute of this bunch of cows pouring out across the creek meadow like fast moving water.
At that point, something clicked, and I quickly maneuvered the tall Brownie downhill of me on the dike and clamored back on. Away we went to stop the wreck, meeting the rest of my family members as we executed a rapidly changing but mutually understood plan of preventing those cows from completely getting away.
Thanks to the grace of God, we managed to shove them up the hill off the creek bottom and out onto a flat, at which point we stopped and held them for a good long while. After the initial excitement was over, I recall someone asking if I wanted to go the house, noting I was white as a ghost. I declined – I had never seen anyone in my family get off and go home, particularly not in a situation like that.
We had only owned the place a handful of years at that time, and have since changed how we corral cattle from that pasture. We’ve had additional cattle wrecks, though they have become farther and fewer between over the years as we have adjusted, adapted, and advanced in age.
As my family predicted would be the case, I still know exactly where I landed that day. As I reach for the bottle of Tylenol on this cold morning, I consider it a worthwhile trade. At least the cows didn’t get away.