Ranching In the Open Range Days
It is the rare privilege of the cowboy to un-roll his tarp on the sweet smelling turf and gaze in peaceful quiet at the myriad of twinkling stars; to feel the indefinable touch of the daylight air; to see the east throw its kaleidoscopic colors across the firmament in colors no man can paint, as the orb of day heralds its coming light.
To sip the coffee fresh from the pot, to have a zest for real old chuck-wagon fare. To stretch up the ropes around 150 cow-ponies, rope them out till the Foreman yells; “Every body got ?” To witness the bridling and the saddling of 25 ponies for the regular morning drive, with many horses bucking and all hands whooping it up, “Hang ’em in ‘im.” To go off in a high gallop like a troup of cavalry men, over the bushes and the badger holes and rank grasses still wet with the morning dews that sparkle like a million diamonds in the rays of the rising sun.
To be dispersed in squads or singly along the way by the wagon boss to cover all the country to be driven that morning, till the men have spread out like a fan, to converge to the common center, which is the round-up ground, the main watering place for the-cattle on that strip of country.
To see the hundreds of white-faced cattle in a great herd and hear the constant bawling of the herd, with the throaty bellow of a bull throwing his challenge to all bulls within hearing, and smell the cattle smell of the milling animals. It all gets in the blood of the cowboy, and is a part of his life.
A couple of boys usually stand watch over the herd while the rest of the boys head for the remuda which the horse wrangler has brought in from the grass. Everybody changes off onto his best trained mounts and if chuck has not been called, they head back to the round up, though cattle are moved out away from the watering place ; here the Foreman gives the orders as to who will ride in to cut out the strays, the unbranded calves with their mothers, and any shipping stuff which is being held to be thrown into holding pastures till market time.
All calves of different brands have been cut into different bunches. These are penned in the separate corrals, the strays and shipping cattle are thrown into their respective pastures and the boys head for the chuck wagon for the noon meal which is called dinner. There is no formality in the cowboy circle, though few men have more natural gallantry and consideration for the other fellow than the range raised cowboy, his ways are as broad as the country he rides.
The real work of the day commences when 300 or more wild and kicking calves, weighing from 300 to 400 pounds have to be ‘laid on their sides by the husky flankers or tailers, after the irons have become red hot in a branding fire.
In a big out-fit there are usually three sets of flankers, two branders, two markers and one man with book and pencil to keep tally of each calf branded. Two ropers become busy dragging calves up as fast as the boys can handle them, the calves are thrown by tailing flanking, or jawing down; two men to the calf.
When the sun sinks to rest, the tired old boys, after a good wash and a hearty meal, stretch out full length on the unrolled, welcome beds, and let Mother Nature restore to them the pep and energy for the coming morning and another strenuous day, just like yesterday, but always different.
The nights were given over to merry making, listening to fine music, dancing and eating the dainty refreshments prepared by the girls till near midnight.
The chuck prepared by two Mexican cooks, and all kinds sweets by the ladies. Generous rains fell all over the plains and the slickers were used many times. All the way around it was one continuous round of work and pleasure, long to be remembered.