For the photos that grace this blog, I often rely on the kindness of strangers. And family. And friends. And random people that I meet. If you have a camera and a pulse, I consider you to be fair game. What you see here are photos from a recent cow day over at the Link Bar Ranch, better known as Sam and Monica McDowell’s place, near Bluewater Creek. Sam, Monica, their daughter Heather and her husband David, Heather’s friend Erin (different Erin than me) and Cliff Knighton were all conscripted to ride out, round up some cows, work them, and then head back .
To gather cattle:
1. Pick a day, preferably a weekend where you can gather up spare city-folk friends that might consider this sort of work to be fun. You get bonus points if the day has excessive rain, a recent blizzard, or six inches of mud in the corral. The McDowells get points for picking a day with snow on the ground, but points taken back because it was obviously sunny and beautiful.
2. Find the cows, riding towards them. The snow actually works to Cliff’s advantage here–it’s hard to black cows stand out against arctic conditions.
3. Try to get to get all of the cattle headed in the same direction. Trust me, this is harder than it looks. Like small, recalcitrant children, cattle like to wander off, lag behind, get bogged down, and generally make a nuisance of themselves.
4. Make certain that all of the gates are open, and because they probably are not, don’t forget Cliff Knighton. Cliff is a champion fence vaulter, as demonstrated by his fine technique here. Note how he matches his Carhartt jacket and overboots. When doing ranch work, it’s important to look your best. He’s also hoping for a Carhartt sponsorship for next season’s endeavors.
5. Get your cows moving through the chutes. Notice Same and David’s hand-on approach. This is the optimal and most natural method.
6. Return the cattle to pasture, and don’t forget to stop and smell the apples. In fact, your horse might need a snack, too.
Heather and I are of the same mind in that it is a far, far better thing to be the official photographer/documentarian when working cattle as “it offers some protection from the yelling and judging that happens when I let cows back or otherwise fail as a ranch hand because I’m too busy taking pictures!” She’s right, you know. Hilda Thomas once laughed herself sick watching dad and I move the ornamental longhorns from one pasture to the other. Watching that comedy of errors was enough to keep her in grins for a week while Dad suddenly felt that me moving to Chicago had perhaps been a good idea after all. So should someone ask you to “help” at the ranch next weekend, don’t forget your camera–it’s the safest place to be. (And um, if it’s not too much to ask, could you please send me the photos?)
And finally, this last photo just because I like it. Thanks for taking all the photos here, Heather!