On a Ranch Working Cattle


Today Martina, my exchange student from Milano, Italy, and I went with my students of the Wildorado Cattle Company to work cattle on a ranch west of Amarillo.   When I posted this on Facebook, a city friend asked what does working cattle mean.  These were calves of various sizes, both male and female, all Angus.

First, a person on horseback heels a calf (ropes it by its hind feet) and drags it to the branding area.  Then, depending on the size of the calf, a few persons flank it (hold it down) while a person gives it shots, e.g. vaccines, vitamins, another brands it with a hot iron, and someone else ear tags it.  If it is a male, its testicles are cut off. Having raised cattle, this was not new to me.  However, for a girl from Milano, it was the definitive Texas ranching experience.

I think we worked over a hundred calves during the morning which started at a chilly 47 with a strong West Texas wind.  Later, in the afternoon it warmed up about 30 degrees.  The wind just now finally quit; it is 8:54.  Here are a couple of photos of the day’s activities.

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Three people from the National Angus Association headquartered in St. Joesph, Missouri, were there making a documentary.  Although currently I live in the country in the Panhandle of Texas, I grew up on a farm about 30 miles from St. Joesph.  Small world.

 

Day 127


Tan grass stretches miles and miles as far as eyes can see.

The water in the indigo bird bath evaporates in one day.

Playa lakes, full last summer, surrounded then in emerald grass, lay waterless.

Thirty-five miles an hour winds create fog-like clouds of dust across the horizon.

Grit, wind hurled, buffets cars and trucks driving down the long, straight highways.

Dust-fed sunrises and sunsets clad skies in orange, hot pink, vermillion, violet, mauve.

Day 127 with no measurable precipitation.

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Note:  I wrote this ten days ago.  That evening it rained .01 inches.  None since then.  We are approaching four months with just that .01 inches, nothing more.  Every time it warms and the winds come, the weather forecast mentions high fire danger.  All counties and state parks near here have burn bans.  March is a windy month.

Rita Blanca National Grassland


Today, three of us drove up into the northwest corner of the Panhandle of Texas to visit this national grassland which adjoins the Kiowa National Grassland in New Mexico.  The two grasslands together equal more than 200,000 acres.  Originally, created after the Dust Bowl in an attempt by the government to mediate the destruction caused by the giant Dust Bowl storms, the grasslands are now managed by the US Forest Service.  The US acquired much of the land when its owners gave up and left the land owing money to banks.  As a consequence these national grasslands are interspersed with privately owned grassland.  Ranchers, some of whom refer to themselves as grass farmers, can lease this land and graze it along with their adjoining property.  Moderately grazed land often supports a more diverse wildlife and plant population than overgrazed or ungrazed land.

To reach the Rita Blanca we drove past Dalhart, Texas, and turned on a Farm to Market road which led to an area with camping and picnic tables plus restrooms.  Campers and picnickers must bring their own water.  The only trees are those deliberately planted in days long past.  We saw or heard many birds there, including orioles.  Below is the entrance to the Thompson Grove camping and picnic area.

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After a comprehensive briefing from the park ranger, a wildlife biologist, and a range specialist, we took a hike across the grassland.

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While this may look like a boring green sea to some, upon close inspection, this land teams with many species of grasses and flowers.  Flowers I saw today include Fineleaf Woolly-White, which is not white but bright yellow, Prairie Zinnia, Broomweed, Sundrops, Engelmann Daisy, Mexican Hat, Winecup, Tansey Aster, all of which I have at my own place an hour and 1/2 away.  However, I saw two flowers I have never seen before, White Pricklepoppy and a native Morning Glory which has huge hot pink flowers. While the Pricklepoppy has spectacular, large white flowers with gold centers, the plant looks like a very prickly grayish thistle.

Although I knew some of the species of grasses there, I could not identify the others.  However, the park ranger knew them all.  I might remember some with the help of a book.  Many I have around my land but still cannot identify all of them.  I do know blue grama, side oats grama, buffalo grass, and a few others.

Many grassland and wildlife research projects done there produce useful information.  One current project deals with seismic activity.

If you are driving cross country anywhere near Dalhart, Texas, or Clayton, New Mexico, take a short break and head to these grasslands.

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