Pipi’s Pasture: Bringing the cattle home
Each day now I notice the cattle trucks running on the highway next to Pipi’s Pasture, moving cattle and sheep home from summer pasture and probably transporting some livestock to sale barns already. It brings back memories of fall days not so long ago when Lyle, sons and their families, and I brought cattle down from the Morapos summer pasture to Pipi’s Pasture for the winter and spring months.
However, I can also recall an even earlier gathering time. It was when my siblings and I were growing up on the ranch. We raised Hereford cattle and each summer our ranch and others in the community pastured cattle on the White River National Forest. The ranchers had gotten together and secured a grazing permit that ran from roughly July until the first part of October. All the cattle ran together; in other words, they were all mixed up, and they were gathered that way so around the end of September the ranchers rode or took their horses by pickup truck to where the county road ended, unloaded, opened up the gate that gave access to the forest and started off looking for cattle.
Cows (bulls, too) are actually smarter than people realize. They thrive on routine and must have terrific natural senses, so when it came time to gather them, most of them were aware that it was time to go home. Maybe the weather change had something to do with it. Anyway, whatever the reason, the ranchers often found a lot of cattle waiting at the access gate. The ranchers threw back the gate and let them through.
Some years, depending on the circumstances, the men went back to their vehicles and somehow made make-shift pens and sorted the cattle their by brands and then started each group home. Mostly, though, I think they let the cattle go on down the county road. The animals knew the way. The access gate was left open.
Because it was usually relatively warm at night, my sisters and I left the upstairs window open at night, and we girls could hear the “clip clop” sound of hooves on the graveled county road, and we knew that cattle were coming home all on their own even after dark. Sometimes one of them, usually a bull, bawled as if to say, “We’re home!”
Again, remarkably, our cows and calves and bulls sorted themselves off at the metal gate that led to the pasture next to the house. Other ranch cattle went on down the road. The next morning the cattle were waiting for us by the gate. However, a bull named Ferdinand knew how to put his head under the gate, lift it up, and let himself and others into the pasture. The torn-up gate let us know that he was home.
Only yearlings and younger cows sometimes went down the road with neighbor cattle. These were brought home, and then cattle gathering went on for awhile, with ranchers often having to ride to more remote areas of the forest to find cattle that had wandered off.
Mostly, I remember those days from the “clip, clop” sounds of hooves walking on the gravel road.
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