The Real Life of a Cowboy Written by Preston Bates
I was talking on the phone with an old friend today about the old days. He asked me if I missed it - If I missed riding my ass off every day in all kinds of weather just to lose money; if I missed stressing over wolves and fighting the government. No, I don't miss that. But, I do miss spending wonderful days riding amazing horses in spectacular country. But I know I couldn't do now what I did then...
I used to keep a daily log in my cowboy days; I'd post it on my website. I was blogging long before blogging was cool. So, here's a few days of my "Cowboy Log" to entertain you and take your mind off the politicians.
Gambler and I trailered down to Snow Lake to hunt up the cattle that have been there the last month or so. Of course, when I got there, I only found three of the twenty-some that had been there. They were in the campground lounging around the boat ramp. We got them out of there and moved into the trap above the lake.
I spent the next couple of hours riding the School House canyon.
There was plenty of sign but none less than a few days old.
I then decided to check below the lake in the wilderness area. We rode down the middle fork of the Gila River about five miles finding no tracks at all but enjoying the ride in that deep canyon along the river. I saw a beaver working a tree, which was pretty cool to watch. Those guys sure have some ambition.
I gave up on the canyon and climbed out on Aeroplan Mesa. It’s a tough trail going up about two thousand feet over two miles. From the top, I glassed Canyon Creek pasture and spotted a lot of cattle out there. Only 23 bulls should be in that pasture and I counted about 50 head. They were scattered three to five miles away, so I decided it was a job for another day and headed back to the lake and the trailer, which was still a five-mile ride.
When we got back Gambler was pretty tired, but I was even more so. I loaded him up and we got home just after dark.
It was a fine day, the high was about 50 with just a bit of wind.
4/1/06 Saturday I trailered out to Canyon Creek with Porque to meet Nate to gather the strays I had seen out there. Nate rode over from his camp and got there before I did. I unloaded at Juniper tank. When I went to get on Porque I found he was in a really bad temper. He was backing up and rearing, it took a couple of tries to get on. He was just an ass all the way to Little Loco tank. Kept trying to drop his head and was squirming all around. I talked to Nate on the radio; he was about a mile south with nine head. As I headed down the steep rocky hill, I was scanning the distance trying to catch sight of Nate and it was then that Porque took advantage of my preoccupation, dropped his head, and went to town. He sun-fished and jumped hard three or four times. I had a deep seat and was doing fine but he was violently shaking his head as he bucked and the next thing I knew he had tossed his bridle off leaving me holding nothing. I knew I was done for this ride. I flew over his right shoulder and did a somersault landing hard on my back in a pile of rocks. The wind blew out of me and it was a minute or so before I could breathe. He went down to the tank and got himself a drink. I finally was able to get my feet and staggered down to him. I not so kindly put the headstall back on him and managed to get myself back in the saddle. I couldn’t breathe well so I decided to head the couple miles back to the trailer. He was fine going back but I wasn’t feeling so good. I radioed Nate and told him what had happened, and I headed home. It’s a bit over an hour drive home and by the time I got there I was feeling better but not good enough to ride Porque anymore, so I unsaddled him and caught up Gambler.
He and I headed out into Negrito pasture. On the way out in the morning, I had seen cow tracks on the road where there shouldn’t have been any. Not far into the timber I came across two heads I put into the south trap but I was seeing more tracks than two cows, so we continued on east. A couple miles farther I came across one cow near Dog Spring. She had a bag on her but no calf around. I got her moving and she headed off at a trot towards Little Fence Spring a couple of miles away. I kept her in sight but not too close. When we got to the spring there were eleven cows and her calf. I gathered them up and pushed them back to the south trap. It was an easy push along and I got them through the gate just as the sun was going down. High was 40 with a hard wind blowing. I was glad to be in the timber, which offered a bit of a buffer.
4/2/06 Sunday Nate came in just after dark last night with a calf he’d found in Loco Pasture. Believing it was orphaned he put it over his saddle, getting a boot full of piss, and rode it to camp where he put in his truck and came here. I saw the calf was about five days old and was in great shape, so I figured he had a mom out there somewhere. I loaded up the calf and Gambler, heading out before it was light driving out to Wolf Camp. The last two miles are a rough damn road that I had no business taking a trailer on but I wanted to get the calf as close to the area that Nate had found it as I could. We got there about 8 am and as I pulled through the gate, I spotted a black cow way up on T Bar Ridge. I unloaded Gambler and left the calf in the trailer. We headed up the ridge and when we finally got up near the cow, she took off at a trot headed north away from where the trailer was. I could see that she had a big bag on her and knew it was the mom of the calf. It’s really rocky and steep up there but Gambler knew I wanted that cow and was game for it. We finally got above the cow, but it was over a mile before I got her turned around and down off the ridge. We were in a trot the whole time, but it was a scary deal, I kept waiting for Gambler to stumble and fall and just prayed he didn’t hurt himself. We finally got her down to Loco Flats and fought her all the way back to the trailer. When we got there, she ran right by the trailer and jumped the fence into Canyon Creek pasture. Cussing I opened the gate, and we went after her again taking another half mile to get her turned around. Back the other way she ran once again going right past the trailer where her calf was. I slammed on the brakes and quickly got off and pushed the calf out of the trailer then jumped back on and ran to catch
up with the cow. We got her turned back and again she ran past the trailer and within 30 feet of her calf. This went on a couple more times before I got her close enough to the trailer that she finally saw her calf. Gambler and I backed off and watched as they reunited, and the calf nursed. When the calf was done, she took off at a trot headed up Loco Mountain. I let her go. I’ll try to find her in a day or so after she has settled down. On the drive in I had passed some cattle near Juniper tank, so I loaded Gambler up and we drove back to where we gathered up the cattle and started them back towards Wolf Camp. We collected 16 head as we went along. They were easy to move, I just pretty much followed them along. They wanted to go somewhere. The hardest part was getting ahead of them to open the gate. Once through the gate, I let them drift awhile as Gambler and I needed a break. When we started again, I bunched them up and headed across the flats. Gambler and I were just kinda thinking of other things when all of a sudden we were charged by a black and grey hissing ball of hair and teeth. Gambler went to the moon! It was a Badger and we had walked right next to his house. I knew from last year that he lived there but hadn’t even thought of him till he came flying out of his hole. He didn’t charge much more than five feet, but he sure woke us up from our daydreams. He is about three feet long and a foot and a half wide. Not long after this Nate and his dad who was riding with him showed up. We shot the bull awhile as we moved the cattle a couple more miles and put them through Twin Tanks gate. They headed back to camp at Fence Tank and I headed down the rough trail into T bar Canyon. When we got there, I found nine head below the gate. I gathered them and pushed them up the canyon and put them through the gate into 7HL. From there I continued west going up the long steep slope getting out on top and went into Negrito Pasture riding through that till we got home finding no cattle along the way. I got in at about 6 pm. It was a pretty nice day, the high was about 50 but a chill wind was in my face all day. Overnight was 15.
I had a meeting in town today with a lawyer, I am suing the government as if I will ever win but I need to whine loud and maybe get some attention. My mechanic also had called and told me my ’74 truck was finally ready after him having it for almost three months. I had taken it in and told him to go over it from bumper to bumper. He did and though it was a 1k bill he took care of every nut and bolt as well as replacing the radiator and doing a lot of work on the front end suspension.
Blue gave me a ride into town and by the time I got everything taken care of it was chore time when I got home.
It was too nice a day to be spent doing town stuff. High was near 60 with no wind.
4/4/06 Tuesday Gambler and I headed out at about 9 am riding east with the plan to check for more strays and pick up my truck and trailer which I had left in Canyon Creek a couple of days ago. I first rode the south trap looking over the pairs there and found everyone happy and continued on into 7HL. Just a mile from the gate I saw buzzards on the hillside, so I headed over there. I found a dead newborn calf. There were no wounds on it and it was clear by its extremely small size it was a bit premature and just died. Over the hill, I found a couple of cows, one an old Hereford with a big bag. It was one I debated selling last fall but had decided I’d give her another year. Wish I’d gone ahead and sold her then when she would have been checked as pregnant and would have been worth more. Among these cows was a week-old calf, not belonging to any of the cows. They all drifted toward Nedra tank and I followed along hoping to find the momma there. All I found was a dry tank. The momma I figured had gone to water at Elladeane tank so I moved everything that direction wanting to get all the cattle off the west side of the pasture since Nedra was dry, there was no water anywhere around. About a mile along the trail Nate showed up riding Porque. He told me he’d been a pain in the ass when he headed out from camp bucking and pitching and rearing up at one point throwing his head up into Nates face giving him a fat lip. But he got his attitude adjusted and seemed to be working fine. We picked up a few more head and were within a quarter-mile of Elladeane tank when that damn calf turned and took off back where we had come from. I cussed him but understood he was just doing what his momma had told him…stay where I put ya. I headed back after the calf and Nate went on to Elladeane to try and find the momma. A half-hour later he showed back up with a cow but as it turned out it wasn’t the mom. Fortunately, the calf followed up behind her and we pushed them to Elladeane where we found the calf’s mom asleep on the dam of the tank.
From there Nate went north to drift some cattle off Telegraph Mesa and I took the Red Rock trail down into T Bar Canyon. I went through the lower gate and found ten head of cattle scattered down the canyon, which I pushed up and put back through the gate where they belonged. From there we climbed out of the canyon and went into Loco pasture riding the flats. I found nothing there until I got to Wolf Camp gate where I found three head lazing under the cedars. I got them up and pushed them two miles to Twin Tanks gate and put them through then turned around and headed back to Wolf Camp. I went into Canyon Creek pasture and rode S.S. Basin down to where I had left my trailer the other day at Juniper tank. Gambler and I both were damn glad to see that trailer! We got there at about 5:30 pm. I let Gambler drink and graze a half hour before loading him up and heading home. As we passed the Big Loco tank, I spotted three cows up on the mountain. I really didn’t feel like going after them but knew I better get them while I had them. There was no telling when I’d see them again. I unloaded Gambler and mounted up. He was no more excited about it than I was. We went up the slope and got them moving north and went over Loco mountain and down into Loco flats where we had been four hours before. From there I let them drift satisfied when I saw them head into the canyon for water. They should stay in that area till I get back out to get them in a day or so. Gambler and I headed the three miles back to the truck. When we got there, I unsaddled him and let him get a drink and take a roll in the dust before loading him up and continuing on home. We got back to H.Q. at about 8 pm. I figure we traveled almost 30 miles and we both beat. The day was really nice, high near 60 only a light wind. It was sunny most of the day with clouds building in the west bringing the hope of some rain.
4/5/06 Wednesday I gave Gambler the day off, he deserved it after the long one we had yesterday. I took Zane out and checked the South trap cattle and then went into 7HL. I rode the west side and everything looked fine, Talked to Nate on the radio and he said things were good on his side. Zane hadn’t been out since last October and he rode along just fine. I think he enjoyed being out doing something. We got home at about 5 pm, he was pretty tired. I gave him a big rub down - he gets so into it he almost falls over. High was 55 after a low of 16. Stay tuned for more from the Cowboy Log with Preston Bates! Preston Bates is the owner and proprietor of NBar Ranch in New Mexico, one of HTCAA’s most popular Trail Destinations! www.nbarranch.com