Sore but contentSometimes, exhaustion is a satisfying feeling. Sore muscles, bumps, bruises, bones and joints that crack and creak, hitches in each of their respective git-alongs — it all means another calf working is complete.
By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek
TOWNER, N.D. — Sometimes, exhaustion is a satisfying feeling. Sore muscles, bumps, bruises, bones and joints that crack and creak, hitches in each of their respective git-alongs — it all means another calf working is complete.
As I write this, it’s the morning after the “calf working.” That’s the day we gather the cows, sort off the calves, rope them, brand them, vaccinate them and turn the bulls into steers. More important, though, than gathering the cattle on that day, is the gathering of friends and neighbors.
There are certain jobs on the ranch, and in life, that you just can’t do alone. Sure we invent and innovate and mechanize to turn two-person jobs into one-person jobs, or 10-hour jobs into two-hour jobs, but working calves still is best done with a big crew to do it and a big meal at the end of it.
Sure, there are ways to do it with fewer people, but they’re not faster and they’re a lot less fun. It’s not easy to put together a big crew — call everybody, pick a day that fits most schedules hopefully, help in return or somehow thank those who help you, plan and prepare a good-sized feast for after the work’s done. The reward, however, is the sore satisfaction that we have this morning after.
Scrapes and scars
There weren’t any big wrecks that day. I caught one calf kick to the face from a rather acrobatic calf. Another helper jammed a finger pretty bad in the chute when we were running the momma cows through for their vaccination and pour-on. We were the only two on the crew that drew blood.
However, I think each of us have a little more “body awareness” this morning. Sore muscles make you pretty aware of your body and parts you hadn’t thought about for a while.
Most everyone who wants to gets a chance to rope calves at our branding. We’re a catch both heels of the calf or try again outfit. So if you only catch one hind leg instead of two, you have to retrieve your rope, coil up and throw again.
Even when you’re roping well, you’ll likely throw more practice loops than you make catches to dally and drag calves to the ground crew. This will give your arm as good a workout as if you went to the YMCA to work it on a dumbbell and the resistance machines.
Once you catch, you dally your rope and turn to ride out of the pen. That’s when you’ll feel the weight of the lariat bearing down on the top of your right thigh, even if you’re wearing chaps. I’ve got a nice little bruise right on that spot today. I’m feeling very aware of both my right arm and the top of my right thigh this morning.
But, what I’m most aware of is how much it means to have friends and neighbors who’ll drop what they’re doing to come over and lend a hand when you need them. Neighbor is a broad term when some of your help trailers a horse 20 and 30 miles to come join you. The word friend takes on a true blue hue when you see it in action.
That’s what makes it all worth it. We call it a calf working, but it’s not really about the cattle. It’s a demonstration of community. And it’s one that we can be proud of.