The recent rains are proof that we just can’t predict what the weather will be like from year to year, even month to month. Out here, in the area around Pipi’s Pasture, the short grasses have gotten enough moisture so that they’re green again, much like spring. Our lawn is emerald green, just as it is in May.
As we make plans to gather cattle, we can’t help but wonder what gathering day will be like or how many times the date will have to be changed because of adverse weather conditions. I can remember a year that it rained so hard, luckily after we had gathered the cattle to my brother’s corral, that backing up to the loading dock left deep ruts.
Other years, there was some snow on the ground — enough that the cows were glad to be going home and didn’t give us any trouble in coming out of summer pasture and being herded down the county road. Those years, it was likely that gathering day was postponed from one weekend to another because it was snowing or we thought the weather might be better after a few days.
However, nothing compares to a September of years ago (none of us can remember the exact year) when my siblings and I were growing up on the ranch at Morapos. I was probably a teen then. I’m not sure I remember the details accurately.
It snowed sometime fairly early in September. Everyone was surprised. I don’t remember just how much snow fell down at Morapos, but it was fairly deep on the White River National Forest where the neighborhood cattle were being pastured. The ranchers knew what would happen. The cattle would think it was past time to go home. After all, their feed was covered up with snow. So they would head home on their own.
The ranchers saddled their horses and headed for the gate at the forest boundary. Sure enough, they met up with cattle — a lot of cattle. I can’t say exactly what they did next, but I know that they leased some pasture from a neighbor who lived at the end of the county road, and they put the cattle in there, hauled them hay and fed them. The idea was to hold the cattle and feed them until the weather cleared. The ranchers knew that the snow likely would go off, and the cows could stay on the forest a little longer.
However, cattle still were coming down off the forest, so the men got tents and set them up right in the county road so they could spend the night and catch cattle that headed down country. I remember this part because we girls helped Mom fix food for the men. It was an evening meal that we took up the road in the pickup. I don’t remember what we cooked or if we took them breakfast the next morning.
The sun came out, the snow eventually melted and the cattle were returned to the forest until the “regular” gathering time. As is true today, the more time the cattle could spend on summer pasture meant more fall pasture once they were at home. In the long run, it meant that the cattle wouldn’t have to be fed hay quite so soon.
So, one can’t help but wonder what the next weeks will bring. We plan to bring cattle home in about two weeks. Will we make it before it snows? Only time will tell.