Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Barnyard Acrobat

What are you looking at?!


I never used a saddle.
I had seen a movie, ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’ and the sister in that movie only used a riding pad. I though that was cool and copied her.
Tacking up was amazingly easier. Riding much more natural.
And no stirrups to get in the way.
But it afforded other . . . complications. For one thing you could never use a rope.
Nothing to dally to.
Chasing down and securing a calf presented . . . certain challenges.
But nothing I couldn’t handle.
I simply rode up beside them and leaned off to one side, catching said calf by the tail. Then I slid off on top of him. Or her.
It was fool proof.
Until I met Cow 175.
Head on.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The day started out much as any other. I was 'riding herd'. Checking to see if anyone had calved, or needed help in doing so. I came across a small, obviously newborn calf hidden in the tall grass.
I should explain that a new mother will instruct her new calf to lie quietly until she returns.
I don't know how they do this. But they do.
The new little calves will simply lie there while you vaccinate them and check them over.
But the final step, the one where the calf is officially identified and tagged to match mama, is the trickiest.
Because this requires the attendance of said mama.
Imagine trying to pick out the mama when all the cows and calves . . . look the same.
I found that the best way was to straddle the calf and make 'distressed' noises. Guaranteed to encourage any mama to come on the run.
It worked.
She came.
She saw.
She attacked.
Now I should mention here that my Dad raised Polled Herefords. The breed known for their gentle dispositions. Oh, and also a breed that has no horns. Thus the word 'polled'.
They don’t need them.
175 hit me with the pointy part of her head. The part made entirely of bone. Really hard bone.
I saw stars and quite a bit of the prairie as I left the calf.
In a summersault.
Backwards.
The culprit and her offspring wasted no time in vacating the area.
I got to my feet and stared after them, fuzzily. I had lost my glasses in the encounter. But that didn’t even slow me down.
I piled back onto my horse and started after the two, quickly nabbing the calf once more. This time, I took the precaution of dragging it beneath my horse.
Something else you should know is that throughout my years on the ranch, I was known for riding really . . . ummm . . . green horses. Usually radically unsuited to ranch life.
GollyGee, my mount of the moment was totally in keeping with this reputation. She was an ex-racehorse. Tall, lean, fast, and really . . . not smart. Usually, a person walking anywhere near her would have sent her, by the most direct route, to the moon.
And a person dragging something towards her? Jupiter.
Perhaps the anger radiating off me in waves had a stupefying effect on her. Perhaps she was merely trying something new. Self preservation.
Whichever. She stood like a rock as I dragged the 50 pounds of protesting red and white calf beneath her.
Now most cows are afraid of horses. Fortunately for me, this particular cow was only over-protective, not suicidal.
She did laps while I injected and tagged her calf.
Then I stood up, releasing the baby, but before it could regain its feet and rejoin its mama, I walked over and booted her. Twice.
I don't know what it did for her, but it made me feel good.
Then I watched as the two of them headed for some human-less spot.
Riding back to the scene of the crime, I searched around until I finally discovered my glasses. Miraculously undamaged.
Then I rode home and stabled my horse.
And here is where the story really gets interesting . . .
My Mom was the daughter of a rancher. Her years of ranching experience were many and varied. But she could still be shocked.
Something I did.
On a regular basis.
When I walked in the kitchen door, she screamed. And ran for a towel. It was only then that I realized that I could feel the tip of my tongue.
Through my bottom lip.
And that my shirt was completely covered in blood.
Huh. How did I miss that?

10 comments:

  1. Yikes! I think if that was the first thing I saw when one of my kids walked through the door, I would of done the same thing.

    Amazing what the adrenaline does for us. The pain doesn't seem to hit us until much later. IS that a good thing? Not sure. ; S

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I was so angry, I don't remember the pain AT ALL! That's okay. Because Mom suffered enough for both of us . . .

      Delete
  2. That particular horse and I didn't get along. More than once I was very tempted to give it a sedative, something about .300 in. diameter x .750 in. long with a point on one end and propelled with 100 + grains of white powder, administered by a black syringe about 4 feet long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shoulda done it, Big Bro! Saved the world a lot of trouble!

      Delete
  3. You were some tough cookie! Did it hurt more when you realized what happened?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But I don't EVER remember it hurting. It must have done! I can't even visit the dentist without pain for the next three weeks. I'm actually a wuss! Now you know . . .

      Delete
  4. What Delores said; you were focused on tagging the calf.
    But geez, your tongue right through your lip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was kinda neat. For a very short period of time . . .

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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