MY VACATION AT JAMES RIVER STATE PARK


 

This may sound silly to some folks.  But I took a vacation.  At 63 years old I took a week off from work and went somewhere I wanted to go to do what I wanted to do for the first time ever.

I have scads of vacation time built up….in fact I lost some this year because I did not take enough time off, even though I take most Fridays off.

But old habits die hard.  For the last 25 years or so I have taken the week after Thanksgiving off and it gave me about eleven days at home to synchronize the cow herd and try to get an AI service on as many of them as possible.  My vacation week was the hardest working week of the year for me as I put the whole herd through the chute multiple times during that long week.  In addition I was with the cows 18 hours per day checking for heats to determine when to breed each cow.  Not complaining….it was work I enjoyed and was pretty good at.  Cows, horses and dogs have been a big part of my life ever since I can remember.

We sold the cow herd nearly three years ago now and for the last two years I don’t even remember if I took a vacation because I only have three pet cows now.

But last fall I took a Memorial Day weekend trip with Stewart to Stem North Carolina for a big fund raiser ride. That report is elsewhere on this blog.  We had such a good time that we planned on doing it every year.  Alas that ride is no more for reasons unknown to me.

So quite a few months ago Stewart came up with the idea of going to a park and camping and riding.  Originally a bunch of us guys were going.  James River State park was selected as the venue.

http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/jam.shtml#trails

A date was appointed where all four of us were available and Stewart started making reservations.  I announced in a January staff meeting that I had put a week of vacation on the staff calendar during the month of May and half of my coworkers nearly expired from shock.  We managed to pull them through it without any long term effects.  Although one refused to believe it and was still e-mailing me about appointments and calls this week as late as last Friday.

We actually only went for three days.  I did chores around here prior to going and tried to make it easy on Marie to care for the stock while I was gone.  In the days when I travelled as part of my work Marie ran this place by herself with a little help from Jack, my late neighbor.  But when I started living at home and working locally, I promised her that I would try to hold up my end for a while so she could take a break.  Until last Memorial Day weekend I had only missed two days in 16 years of doing the daily stock chores, and both of those were days when I had a surgery and was knocked out in the recliner.

But it was three days that matched our anticipation.  By the time we left, the ranks of attendees had been thinned to just Stewart and I.  But Stewart had declared that if he died he wanted his hearse to drive through the place before he was interred.  I was just about as resolute, but too cheap to pay for the extra hearse ride.

We had been planning and stockpiling goods since the inception of the idea.  Stewart is a veteran camper and had a lot of gear.  Not camping much since my retirement from two years of olive drab, I had only the essentials.  As certified old farts we both had Doctors appointments on Monday.  Mine was my quarterly Rheumatoid Doctor.  After the doctors we met at the local Walmart and we purchased the perishables we needed for the trip.

We were going on vacation and we figured there was little need for us to go to a distant and foreign place and impose suffering and hardship upon ourselves.  We planned on riding, fellowship and fun and good meals.  To that end we bought double redundancy in food supplies.  We had a week’s worth of supplies and planning and we had to try to eat it all in three days.

The weather forecast was not favorable…..but we decided that neither us nor the horses would melt in the rain and as long as there was no lightening we would ride and feast.  We set out undeterred Tuesday morning.  The drive was uneventful with little discourse as we were both driving and pulling our own trailers.  About two and a half hours later we turned in near the James River and it was up in flood and rolling and roiling muddily.  I knew there was a trail along the river and I hoped it was not under water.

Upon arriving at the check in our reservation packets were there waiting on us although there was no one at the station.  We found the designated camping area and pulled in to see it totally vacant.  Stewart and I got out and looked around and studied our paperwork and decided that there was no assignment and we selected where we wanted to set up the trailers and where we wanted to stable the horses.

We were impressed with the facilities, both human and equine.  The camping sites were nice with power and water at each site along with a permanent fire ring with a grill and a lantern hanger and picnic table.  The stalls were fabulous and Perkins came to love his, even though he did not like being shut in there alone at first.  Here at the Poor Farm, the horses have separate stalls, but they can see and reach each other.  There, the walls were at least seven feet high and Perkins could not see Loretta and that bothered him a little ……until I gave him some hay and grain.

Bathouse was as nice as it looked.

The stalls were very nice.

We went about setting up camp.  Did not take long as Stewart is an old pro and has a penchant for organizing things and has a methodology and a routine.  All I had to do was try to follow  directions.  Pretty soon we were set up and decided to have a little lunch and try to go for an afternoon ride.  We had a nice lunch of pre-prepared foods and soda.   Then we tacked up the horses and rode out.  The rain had held off and the skys were rolling clouds in and out but we decided to chance it.  Turned out we had a beautiful ride and it did not rain until after I had crawled into my blanket in the van.  Rain on the roof put me right to sleep.

The trails were absolutely beautiful.  There are three albums of photos from this ride at my webshots photos site and they are on my wall at facebook as well.  The albums all start with James River State Park and one is trails, one is facilities and the third is bill of fare.  All of these photos need to be viewed in large format to truly see the beauty.

http://community.webshots.com/user/pdfangus

https://www.facebook.com/pdfangus

The terrain is varied from long flat level stretches of nice wide trail to curling descents and inclines and most of it is through beautiful southern hardwood forest.  I was surprised to find more than a few white pines interspersed through the forest.  When we were on the Branch trail in particular the air was fresh and fragrant and I never did discover the exact source.

The first afternoon we rode the southwestern part of the park and managed to make our way to the river trail and hoped that it was not under water.  At Dixons landing we encountered some folks who were actually trying to fish in the roiling river.  I don’t know if they were successful or not but the river was way up and rolling on by.  Fortunately the river trail is high enough that it was not flooded and we embarked upon it.

Long flat ride of nearly three miles right along the river for the most part with alternating grass land and marsh on the other side.  A soaring eagle watched us for a good part of the ride.  Close enough that we could see his white head and tail as he circled above us and the river and marsh.  We rode 6.54 miles and found our way back to camp.  We hosed off and cared for the horses and put them in the stalls.  Perkins went to munching hay and took a good drink of water.  That was a relief because Perkins is usually finicky about water and on day trips seldom drinks til he gets home.  Marie says it is because he is partial to the pond water pumped in fresh daily here at the Poor Farm.  We have a solar pump that pumps water from the neighbors pond to storage tanks here for the livestock.

We washed up a little and then began supper preparations.  I think Stewart and I both surprise each other at how well we cooked and managed to get things done together.  For the first evening meal I grilled Steaks and made a fresh garden salad with mixed lettuce I grew here and Stewart fixed potatoes with butter and sour cream and chopped up green peppers and onions for the salad.

After a nice meal we cleaned up and put away and tried to bear proof things.  Checked on the horses.  Got Perkins some more water and hay and then after a nice shower, I hit my air mattress and crashed and burned to the sound of gentle rain on the roof of the van.  Stewart said he was wakened about 3:00 AM by the horses making a fuss.  He went down and checked and all was in order.  I never heard a thing.  I woke about four and turned over and went back to sleep until it started to get light.

Stewart started coffee and we tended the horses and then we got some fires going.  Five cast iron frying pans and one boiling pot can generate a good breakfast.  Omlettes, country bacon, fried potatoes with peppers and onions, fried apples, toast and sausage gravy and plenty of hot coffee.

 

After this lumberjack breakfast we cleaned up and stowed stuff and tacked up and set out for a morning ride.  Perkins had consumed at least seven and a half gallons of water during the evening and morning.   Our plan was to ride a few miles and come back for a light lunch and give the horses a break and then ride off again.  This is what we did and we had a nice morning ride on more beautiful trails.

The weather was beautiful and there were no bugs to bother the horses or the riders and we had a delightful ride.  We rode six or seven miles in the morning before finding our way back to camp.  Along the way we found a pretty little mountain stream and Perkins had a big drink of water.  This is something he never does, so my worries about him drinking went away.  We untacked and hosed the horses off.  I put Perkins hobbles on and just let him graze.  We had a light lunch and relaxed for an hour or so.  It was so peaceful to have practically the whole park to ourselves.  We ran into a couple of rangers a time or two and they said that on weekends the place was packed and that we had picked a good time to come.  We ran into a few guys doing maintenance and construction work.  We thanked them all for their work on this beautiful park and told them how much we were enjoying it.

We rode back out and did another six or eight miles in the afternoon.  I am guessing at the mileage by breaks but know we did 14.54 miles on Wednesday according to the GPS.  Stewart and I are not speed demons and we enjoy just ambling along and enjoying the beauty and seeing the sights and talking a bit.  We saw numerous deer, about a thousand squirrels, tracks from all kinds of wildlife.  We did not see any signs of bear.  But at one point the horses tensed up and were watching to the left and we did not see anything.  But there was a loud crash in the woods that sounded like a tree falling.  We concluded that it was sasquatch and had a light hearted discussion of, if we saw him should we shoot him.  After a discussion of laws and regulations and possible legal actions, we decided that if we could drag a dead sasquatch out of the woods it would be worth it.  That is just the kind of silly fun we have when riding.  We might retire and become professional sasquatch hunters.  We can not do any worse than the existing sasquatch hunters.  No one has found one dead or alive yet.

Arriving back in camp we went through what was becoming our routine.  Cared for the horses and cleaned up a little and then started some supper.  Cheeseburgers and Hot dogs with all the fixings, baked beans, fried potatoes with green pepper and onions, fresh garden salad with Kens buttermilk dressing and a couple of golden beverages.  That cheeseburger with good cheese and tomato and onion was delicious.

Clean up and stow the food.  Catch a shower.  Check on the horses again.  By now every time Perkins sees me even glance in his direction he is nickering at me to bring him a treat or some grain.  Old boy knows an easy mark when he sees one.  Then we made a campfire in the fire ring mostly to burn the burnable trash and a few sticks that Stewart had been shaggin back to the fire ring with every foray outside the camp site.  We sat and chatted for a while until the fire made me so sleepy I nearly fell out of my chair.  I hit the blankets and was down for the count.  I awoke once during the night and listened to see what had awakened me.  Hearing nothing, I rolled over and was gone until first light.  Stewart was already up and fussing with a crow that had perched over his trailer and awakened him with its cawing.

Checked on the horses and Perkins started nickering as soon as I emerged from the Van.  I don’t feed in the morning at home, but it did not take him long to acclimate to two meals a day.  He tried to hide it but I could tell he had laid down in the stall that night.  He had some flakes of shavings stuck in his sparse little mane and a few on his belly.

Breakfast the first day was so good that we did the same thing again the second day.  It was even better because we remembered to slice a tomato for breakfast.  We had a hot dog left over from dinner so Stewart sliced that up and added it to the morning potatoes.  We did not have any sausage gravy the second day.  We had sausage but decided that too much of a good thing might spoil us so we just finished off the bacon.

After enjoying another feast and while we were cleaning up and breaking camp, I threw down the gauntlet for Stewart.  I said that when we do this again we have to come up with some different menu items so that we would not be one trick ponies.  All morning and ever since we have been discussing future culinary possibilities.

We decided to strike camp and have most of the stuff ready to go.  Then we could take a morning ride and have a light lunch and then head home.  We put away most of our stuff and packed up.  We figured out what we would have for lunch and fixed it and so that all we would have to do was pull it out of the cooler and eat.  We got packed up and then tacked up and rode out about 9:30 or so.  Guessing at times as my cell phone did not have a signal and I use my cell phone for a watch.  Stewart is on Verizon and he had a good signal.

We rode nine miles and it may have been the prettiest day of the three.  Mild temperature, nice breeze, no bugs and back on the beautiful trails.  What was interesting is how much the horses bonded with us during the short stay with close association.  Perkins seemed to not be just looking for treats.  It seemed he actually enjoyed my company.  Given the choice he would rather hang out with Loretta but he liked me too.  Being home today he has nickered at me several times and after he ate supper tonight he came and put his head over my shoulder.  Stewart says that Loretta has been the same way since he has been home.  Maybe when we retire and become professional sasquatch hunters I can spend more time with my horses.  Marie suggest that any more time and I will have to move em in here with Dee Dee and Rosie.

While we were eating our last lunch, we turned the horses loose to graze.  I put hobbles on Perkins just to be safe.  We thought Loretta would stay with him.  We had already cleaned the stalls but left the doors open.  We spied Loretta going into Perkins stall and Stewart went down there to get her out and Perkins was in there as well and they were both munching on hay I had left in the rack.  Perkins had not seen Loretta in over three months, I would guess, but the two of them are fast friends.  I told Stewart it looked like she was going to have to come live at my house.  He didn’t think it was too funny….

Got home and Marie had some excitement as well.  There had been a big black snake curled up beside the house.  Marie was trying to keep miss nosy Dee Dee from fooling with it and hurt her back picking Dee Dee up to get her into the house.  Marie said the snake was as big around as her arm and she was afraid it would hurt Dee Dee.  I am on stict orders to be on snake patrol now and the dogs must not be let out of sight.

Dee Dee and Rosie did miss me.  When I was walking down the Driveway from putting Perkins in the pasture, Marie let the dogs out to greet me.  Dee Dee was a black streak running down the driveway to me.  Rose was trotting along behind after she howled her welcome home howl.

It was a great time with a great friend, at a beautiful venue with beautiful weather and good food.  Nothing busted.  No tragedy befell us.  Everything went just like we hoped.  Some have opined that it is as close as I am likely to get, when I say it was like three days in Heaven.

Baby Jim The New Puppy


  Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

                 The New Puppy

  A  few weeks ago now we lost Marie’s little dog Toby.  Toby was supposed to be a miniature Australian Shepherd, but Baby Jim’s own theory was that he was a cross between a nomadic wanderer and Sylvester the cat.  Toby was a rescue dog that came to the Poor Farm from Georgia via Aussie Rescue.  Marie saw his photo and that was the dog she wanted.  It was up to Baby Jim to make it so.  He did and Toby became an erstwhile member of the Pipe Dream Farm staff, eventually. 

 Toby spent the first year or so with us trying to find a way to get to Pittsburg or some other foreign and exotic locale.  For a long time to venture outside, he was required to be on a leash as unfettered he would simply head down the driveway and take a left on Old Ridge Road.  As an Alternative he would sometimes continue straight through the woods and cross the Smith Farm and as a breathless Baby Jim pursued alternately calling and cursing,  Marie would drive around to Coatesville Road and pick him up there.  It was not that he didn’t care for the hospitality of Pipe Dream Farm.  He just had places to go and things to see.  Baby Jim said he apparently had the wanderlust gene.  The folks who had fostered him before his arrival here said that they had experienced several explorations of the far flung reaches of their suburban neighborhood.  He had originally surfaced in a pound somewhere in Georgia after being picked up for vagrancy, with eye problems and a full complement of worms including heart worms. 

 In later years, Toby had better resisted the urge to leave.  He had become comfortable with sleeping on the bed and eating regular and he learned that Marie was a soft touch for treats.  He would occasionally look down the driveway but apparently gave up on his quest to see Tahiti.  He would however take out after the hounds that run 365 days a year in our locale.  If Toby spied them he was off to drive the marauders away from his home with 25 lbs of vicious intent.  Baby Jim does not think any of the hounds ever noticed the danger they were in as they continued their single minded quest in pursuit of the quarry of the season.  Apparently something is always in season here, because the hounds go on forever.  This weekend it has been the spring fox hunt with nary a horse in sight.  Just hounds and pickup trucks.  It was supposed to be Thursday and Friday and Saturday but it started on Tuesday and dogs will still be alternately on the trail and looking for something to eat, sad looks, anything really, can you spare a quarter, have you seen my truck?, for the next week.  

 But we digress.  Toby fell ill.  At first it was occasional incontinence for which he was always ashamed.  Pretty rapidly the lethargy set in and then he lost his appetite.  Marie would cook chicken or beef for Toby and shove a nice TV dinner in front of Baby Jim.  Finally he (Toby) quit eating and was in obvious pain and Baby Jim took him on that last ride in the truck.  The young women in the Vets office were somewhat unnerved to have an ornery looking 250 lb old man standing in their midst with a little dog in his arms with tears rolling down his cheeks and barely able to speak.  Thankfully Toby was not aware of where he was, he hated the vets office, and soon it was over and he was interred with the great company of those who had preceded him here.

 Baby Jim missed the little rascal terribly but was glad that he no longer suffered.  Marie was heartbroken.  Even Rose went through a grieving process but she did benefit from the increased attention and not having to share her people.

 Eventually Marie started dropping hints about a puppy.  Baby Jim had become accustomed to the dogs that came here with a layer of civilization already installed.  There has not been a puppy here since Maggie came to live here.  Maggy was a shy and quiet type and she had Lore who was a year or so old at the time to raise and train her.  Our Aussies have always raised and trained the young ones.  Maggy grew to be an 85 pounder who was as meek as a lamb unless she thought one of us needed protecting.  She lived a good long life with us and we buried her in 2008. 

 But…… then someone, whom Baby Jim previously had thought to be a friend, called and advised him of an Aussie Puppy in the local pound.  Baby Jim stopped by on his way home from work.  For one who has been thought of in many areas as a mean old SOB, Baby Jim does not do well in that environment.  A hundred dogs in cages all clamoring for their people, or any people, or just a little love and attention.  He tried hard to shut it out and not look at the faces…….Then the lady opens a cage and deposits a black ball of fur that is all feet and tongue and energy and love in your arms.  Once you have your face licked and your arm peed on you are pretty much committed.

 A few minutes later, Baby Jim opened the front door of the poor house and put the pup in and closed the door and went out to retrieve his gear from the truck.  He returned to the house to find Marie with her face buried in dirty stinky pound puppy hair.

  

Even though on one on earth knows what this mutt is…..she can pass as an Aussie as a puppy…… and there might actually be some little bit of Aussie in her pedigree but it is too late to care.  She is more likely a cross between a starving hyena and a manure spreader.   Nothing is safe from those needle teeth.  Not shoes or pants legs or even poor Rose.  Rose is such a great dog and accepted this new trial with grace and aplomb.   She tolerates the chewing, and jumping and stealing and wrestling and outright adoration.   Right now there is a large black fuzzy dog lying by the feet of Bay Jim and nestled up to that is a small black bundle of fur, asleep thankfully but chasing something in her puppy dreams.

 Her name is Dee Dee and she knows her name already but often still chooses to ignore those who don’t use it appropriately.  She must be kin to Marie as she is strong willed and determined to do things her way.  But unlike Toby, she took all of five minutes to claim title to her new address.  She is still exploring her new realm and finding new things to chew on.  She knows what “NO” means but has serious backslider tendencies.  She knows the kitchen counter is the source of Maries Treats.  She knows she has to sit to get a treat from Baby Jim but will snatch one out of Maries hand in an airborne leap of unbridled enthusiasm.  Rose can still seek refuge by getting up on a sofa or her table bed by the window.  But only because Dee Dee prefers not to get up there.  She can jump up because as Marie was doing dishes one evening she found that Dee Dee had jumped up in a chair and onto the kitchen table to make sure Marie had cleaned everything off.  Maries solution is to warn and chastise Baby Jim to push the chairs all the way under the table.

 Baby Jim is too old and infirm to run and play with her.  Mostly he fears that he will step on her or take a fall trying to avoid stepping on her.  Some think a fall has already been narrowly averted, but he aint talking.  He has been observed lying on the ground wrestling with her however.  Dee Dee is still not a big fan of truck riding, but she does not get car sick as so many puppies do, and she is going wherever her Rose goes, and Rose loves to ride and is also happy that she can now once again lay her head in Baby Jims lap to be petted in transit.

Into the 20th Century


We have finally joined the twentieth centuary here at Pipe Dream Farm.
Of course it took us 12 years into the 21st century to do it but that is the price we pay for living where we do.
The major step we took is that effective today we have DSL at the house.
I got it hooked up today and it is nearly as fast as what I have at work and I only signed up for the slow speed.
I still do not have it competely registered but it is working as evidenced by this post.

When I try to register it gets to an error page and it tells me to call customer service. I did yesterday and got put on hold so long that I finally was disconnected by the robot. I figure I will wait til next week when some people come back to work from the month long vactation of ThanksChristmasYear.

The thing is working, and that is what matters to me. Of course just getting it was an adventure in and of itself. I got a card in the mail a while back that said internet service was available from the phone company. Checked on the computer and sure enough it said I was eligible. Saw a phone guy working at the switch box on the corner a mile down the road and asked him and he figured out that I was eligible. There are only two other houses between me and that switch so I figured no way I could get service. The guy told me that I was on the edge but that it should work okay.
So far it is great. Boss says wait til I get the bill before celebrating……

I ordered it over two weeks ago. Then few days later a guy came to the house and did something on the box outside and told Marie we should be good to go. yeah right.
he was assuming that I already had the DSL modem which was supposed to be shipped.

I called centuary link and told them I had no service. the guy started asking questions about the modem….
I told him that it would be easier to answer his questions if I actually had one…..He told me when one had been shipped…..I told him I did not have one….

He said I will ship you another one. waited a week and still no modem….called again….another guy tells me that records show we have shipped you two and that one has been delivered…..

I asked him if he could explain why I was calling then? He apologized and said he would overnight one.

Yesterday two were delivered by UPS and I refused one and took the other…. don’t know where the third one is……

but anyhow I am now able to use the computer at home again….
Of course the laptop just lost its portability…..as that is what is hooked up.

A poor boy can’t win for losing.

Still battling the ribs….yesterday was pretty rough….today has been pretty good….but then the only thing I have been allowed to do today was unload three hundred lbs of cattle pellets and the supervisor was right there telling me how to do it…..It does not hurt to pick up a bag of feed or a bale of hay as long as I go slow. It hurts to toss a pad of hay. Had the boss doing that today. It hurts to push a button on the car radio or adjust the heater controls or reach in certain directions. I can push myself like when rising from sitting or standing but I can not reach out and pull. I will turn loose quick.
Spent the rest of the afternoon hooking this thing up and quasi watching football and napping on the heating pad.

Yesterday I had about decided to relent and go to the doctor….I did call them the other day and they said they did not have an xray tech on duty and to go to the ER. I am not going to the ER for something that happened two weeks ago. I don’t have an emergency….just a pain….If it had punctured a lung of a bowel or a kidney, I would be dead by now so I don’t think it is any of those…..I think I just tore muscles or cartalidge…If I can keep from sneezing it should be okay.

I am reluctant because last time I hurt the ribs I spent several hundred bucks for them to tell me sorry charlie, they just have to heal….Not much we can do for broken ribs…….Then they had me spend several hundred more dollars to chase phantom spots on my lungs with multiple xrays and finally an MRI, which all turned out to be nothing….Doctor enrichment and milking the insurance system to drive up my insurance costs and yours too….

Was talkin to my cousin today. he went thru college on a football scholarship. He was much faster than I was……I said I don’t know how some of these guys play after a couple of weeks with busted ribs…..He laughed and said they don’t feel anything….on game day…..makes me glad I was slow….I wrecked my body enough without doping it up to wreck it more…..but then I guess that is the price of fame and glory for those guys.

A man oughta do what he thinks is best….John Wayne as Hondo Lane
Jim Tate
pdf-angus.att.net
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3. MANAGEMENT INTENSIVE GRAZING EXPERIEMENT


Wednesday 4/21/2010
I began my cattle grazing experiment this past Sunday. Should preface it by saying that I am also using the cattle to clean up the horse lots behind the horses. The cattle on Sunday get the horse lot used during the week.
We are having a crazy week so I have not had time to take photos and document as I would like but will share some observations.
Grass has been slow to grow this spring. Barely reached ten inches at the target of beginning to graze.
Opened the first strip Sunday evening. Three cows just weaned and one bull.
Monday evening it was grazed as if it had been mown and the cows saw me walking to the area and heads went up. A simple call and they came to go to the new strip and the bull led the way.
Tuesday evening the next strip was again mown pretty clean. They left a few buttercups which are apparently pretty foul tasting and reputed to be a bit toxic. Buttercup invaded my place over the last two years and I am still figuring out if and what I want to do about it. The lot currently being grazed is mostly fescue with some clover and seedling vetch and seedling ryegrass.
Went I went to the area the heads went up and the cows called to me and started coming. Sam again was the first thru the new strip.
I walked the strip just grazed. 66 paces long and four paces wide. Roughly 165 feet by 12 feet or 1980 square feet. In walking that strip I counted 18 new manure spreads. Now my cows are not confined to the strips and still have access to the barn and to the main farm
lane and the water lane and shade in the trees. Still I think they spent a lot of quality time and left more manure in the pasture.
I think I will have a difficult time getting the area right for a small number of cattle and rapid spring growth. My area right now is too small and they had grazed it fairly closely, but grass is beginning to grow faster so more grass will mean less area needed so I may be in the right ballpark anyway. My target it to try to give them about 2000 square feet daily. I think by next week I will be close to right.
I eagerly await to observe the regrowth. Was hoping to take photos over the weekend but have to go to Roanoke for a funeral on Saturday and have to dig up a plumbing leak and try to get it fixed on Sunday.

4/22/2010
just a brief observation from last nights pasture rotation.
I changed strips at about 6:30 pm. The cows and the bull came running when they saw me go to the area. 4th day and they are looking for me to open a gate and the bull was last and came running. 1800 lbs of bull even if he is gentle gives you pause as he gallops by you to the fresh grass.
old strip had nineteen manure splashes/piles but they were mostly in the shady end of the field. Heavy fescue over there and it had not been grazed severely.
When I went in to the house right before dark I glanced down to where they were and they had already stripped enough grass that the area had changed color. I think there was grass left but in an hour and a half that had harvested a lot.
hopefully I can work half day Friday and get some photos.
Saturday is Memorial Service for Maries Brother and Sunday have a dig up the yard plumbing project.
4/23/10
Yesterdays strip was again pretty well picked over. Only nine new manure piles so I think they harvested it and went and laid in the trees or in the barn. The Mineral and the fly control backrubber and such are in the cattle stall area of the barn and they go there for shelter and sometimes for shade.
They saw me heading for the area and were there when I got there to open the new strip. I am going to try to set up four new lots this afternoon and plan to make them a bit bigger. They will be harder to measure as they will be more irregular in shape. I think the cows are grazing below the 3 inch desired limit right now. The strips from Sunday and Monday are already showing signs of regrowth and recovery.
The next fields I will go to already have more grass than where we are which is different from when I laid out these first strips.
Should add, that I have not minded limiting them a bit at first for two reasons. One is we just weaned the calves and they need some time to dry off. The second is I wanted them to clean up the last of the hay in the hay ring. I looked at it last night and they have some left but I think they have eaten what they are going to eat. Think I will move the hay ring and close that field this weekend and let it begin to recover.

PIPE DREAM FARM MANAGEMENT INTESIVE GRAZING EXPERIMENT


PIPE DREAM FARM
MANAGEMENT INTESIVE GRAZING EXPERIMENT

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

This is an aerial photo of my home, known to me as Pipe Dream Farm. For over twenty years my neighbor and I had a joint venture herd of registered angus cattle. He had the land and I had the experience and skills and we shared the love of the cows. The rascal came down with Cancer and thirty days after he was diagnosed we buried him. At least he did not suffer long. Two years later I miss him still. About that time I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Anyhow to make a long story short we dispersed the cow herd and I have a small hobby herd of three cows with calves now. We also have a couple of equines but they will not be a part of this study in any major way. They have their own area where they are rotationally grazed.
I have been practicing rotational grazing to some extent for over twenty years and have the place divided into small lots. In recent years I have subdivided lots using portable fencing. Every division gave me more benefit and ability to manage the land.
In January of 2010 I had the opportunity to meet Greg Judy and hear a presentation on how he manages pastures and makes money on cows and goats. This is no minor accomplishment.
I was inspired by what I heard and decided that the time was right for me to try to do better as well. My employer Hanover-Caroline Soil and Water Conservation District enables me to use this personal experiment as an educational tool as well.
I am working with JB Daniel, the NRCS Forage Agronomist, to do a case study and JB has already given me great guidance.
We are beginning by documenting the existing conditions.
The Ell is land that is actually owned by my neighbors estate but I still have the use of that acreage from the heirs. Similarly the paddock labeled Hermans Lot. Herman was Jack’s last Hereford bull before we switched to all angus. We built the lot for Herman to gain control of the breeding season and I housed and managed our bulls ever since and raised the heifers.

The Ell was last grazed in the fall of 2009 but after frost. We had a significant accumulation of bermudagrass over the summer when it was only lightly grazed. After frost the Bermuda was not prized by the cows and as a result a good bit of residue was left on the entire field.
This residue gives me a running start on the Judy management philosophy which is graze fast. Allow the cows to eat the chocolate and trample and fertilize the rest to add organic matter to the soil and move em on and rest the field.
Management intensive grazing is all about managing the grass and the organic matter and allowing proper growth and rest.
This field was last fertilized with bioisolids in the fall of 2008. This field is still permitted for biosolids and we anticipate another application in the fall of 2010. This is the only part of the project that is permitted for biosolids. Hopefully application will not interfere with the grazing schedule significantly.
The plan is to offer 5.4 animal units about 2000 square feet of grazing area every day and move them daily. I estimate the Ell will offer 39 days grazing.

Herman’s lot is still historically used for bulls and this past fall we had three young bulls and they grazed this and other lots pretty hard.


Again a stand of fescue and bermudagrass. The treed area is a fenced off stream that feeds the pond. There is a Mirafount frost free water trough in the fenceline but our of sight in the photo.
Hermans lot is estimated to offer 10 days of grazing.
This lot has had annual fertilizer until last year where it received none.
This field was frost seeded with Korean lespedeza on 2/27/2010

This is the front of the property and has been divided with portable fence into four lots and rotationally grazed.

The plan is to leave the center more permanent portable fence and MIG graze from gates on each end.
The front is estimated to offer 20 days of grazing.
This area has not been fertilized in three years and was limed two years ago.
This area was frost seeded with Korean lespedeza on 2/26/2010

This is the back yard field which is oddly the field behind my house.


This was used as a rotational bull lot for the last several years along with Herman’s lot and two other areas. This paddock was broadcast with ryegrass and hairy vetch in the late fall of 2009.
It has not had significant fertilizer in three years, nor lime in two years.
Estimated to have 9 days MIG.

The remaining lots along the driveway were similarly grazed and managed and are a bit wetter in wet parts of the year. They were also broadcast with ryegrass and hairy vetch in the late fall of 2009. There was germination before hard weather set in. I estimate 18 to 20 days grazing there. The trees make it difficult to estimate acreage from the aerial photo. I don’t have a current photo. The photo below shows it after our first big snow

Another significant area is known as the corner.
This .9 acre lot had cattle in it until February. Three cows with calves and one bull. This photo from 1/23/10 shows the ground cover.


This lot was broadcast to Korean lespedeza and ryegrass and vetch on 2/27/10. The corner is currently divided into two lots but is estimated to offer 18 days of MIG grazing. Pictured are Ulysses and Ursula who are both already registered and the future of my herd. They are both sired by Diamond D Sure Enough 6D.
This lot is projected to offer 18 days of MIG grazing.

The Rodeo at the Horse Show


The Rodeo at the Horse Show

 

 

Baby Jim
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

The Rodeo at the Horse Show.

When Baby Jim was a youngun and still eating vittles from his Mammy’s table, he had a few equine adventures.

Baby Jim’s Daddy had a good friend who had quite a few horses. In fact the man owned four different stallions of four different breeds and bred mares from all over the area. Now the mares this man owned were all Tennessee Walkers and that was his breed of choice. He had a beautiful big Walking Horse stallion and Baby Jim use to be the exercise boy for that horse. He was good enough that a trainer most often successfully showed him but Baby Jim rode him a lot to keep him in shape.

Baby Jim also started a lot of the walking horse colts and fillies and did the preliminary riding for the evaluation that determined if they were show horses, sale horses or potential breeding stock.

The owner also had a Shetland Pony Stallion who was used to drive to a cart and he was very pretty and well made and had a pretty good disposition for a pony stallion. He was sorrel with a flax mane and tail and was quite eye catching and popular.

There was an Appaloosa stallion that was white with the black spots and Baby Jim just never cared much for that horse. He was not very brainy and was often difficult to handle.

Then there was Lebo Judge. Lebo was a pretty little bay Quarter Horse. He was not very big but he was all horse and was a nice little stallion.

Every time the walking horse or the Shetland pony went to a show we would get several new bookings for them for mares from people who saw the stallions at the show. So going to horse shows became a small part of the marketing strategy for all of the stallions. Baby Jim and his dad usually took the Shetland or the App or Lebo. The trainer showed the Walking Horse.

We seldom took the Appaloosa as his trouble making nature did not seem to win him many friends and those who wanted his color genetics knew where he was.

We very often would take the Shetland or the Quarter horse and just kind of have em around to be seen. The quarter horse was so easy to handle that Baby Jim grew quite fond of him. He inquired if this horse had ever been ridden and no one knew. So Baby Jim decided to give him a try. It was quickly evident that if he had ever had a saddle on he had not worn it for long. So Baby Jim started to work with him. The horse was quite sensible and it was not very many days until Baby Jim was up and riding him in the practice ring. Another day or two and they were out riding around the farm.

Two things make Lebo memorable. The first was his speed. No one knew he could run. Baby Jim was out riding along a big hay meadow and let him out a little and noticed the horse was running effortlessly. Baby Jim made sure he had some brakes by stopping the horse without difficulty and then decided to see if he could run. They walked down to the far end of the field and then Baby Jim let him out. By gosh that horse could run………That was the fastest horse Baby Jim has ever been on. And when started from a standstill his power was going to pop your butt out of the saddle. He could run so fast that between the wind itself and the wind whipping the little stallions luxurious mane it was almost blinding and difficult to see without eyeware. He fit the old quarter horse description of “A sleepy little hoss that can unwind like lightning.”.

Baby Jim was letting him run one day when a bell hornet was flying in the opposite direction and hit Baby Jim square in the forehead. A bell hornet is the local term for a large hornet that is about an inch and a half long and brown and yellow in color. Their sting is ferocious but they are not terribly aggressive unless the nest is bothered. They fly very fast. The bell hornet was flying fast going south. Lebo Judge was flying fast going north and when the hornet hit Baby Jim, it did not sting him but did knock him off the back of the horse. Riderless, Lebo headed back to the barn at a high rate of speed, which is how the older generation regrettably, discovered he could run.

The other thing that makes Lebo stand out in memory was the rodeo ride. Baby Jim had not been riding him long when the owner decided that he needed to go to a local horse show to be seen. Mare bookings were evidently a little light. Baby Jim’s daddy was surprised to see Baby Jim toss his rig into the back of the truck but did not say anything. He did not know that Baby Jim had been riding the little stallion.

When they got there Baby Jim unloaded him and cleaned him up and walked him around a little to make sure the horse had brought his usual good disposition with him and to see what mares in heat needed to be avoided. The little stallion would not be any problem but sometimes those mares could cause problems on their own so Baby Jim had a policy of identifying and avoiding while at shows.

A little while later Baby Jim took the horse back to the truck and tacked him up and stepped up. Now the intent was not to show the horse but just to show him off and Baby Jim figured a good looking horse under saddle was a lot more impressive than one in a halter. Besides who wants to walk around all day at a horse show, leading a perfectly good horse. The old cowboy mantra was never walk anywhere that you can ride and you should be able to ride anywhere you go.

And Baby Jim was a good horseman and a good rider in those days and when he was mounted on a good horse it was one aspect of life that he was able to shine in and so the normally shy and plain kid was not above showing off a little bit while mounted. This tendency is what got him into trouble that day. Baby Jim rode the little stallion all over the show grounds. Thru traffic and kids and such and quietly worked on little training things and chatted with folks who noticed the little horse. He was feeling quite confident and had made several contacts about possible breedings. After all…..that was the purpose of being there. Even entered a couple of classes on the spur of the moment and Baby Jim was not a show cowboy.

It was a hot late spring Sunday and Baby Jim decided he could use a cold drink. He spied his dad along the ring watching the show and chatting with folks and he rode up to him. He said “ Hey Dad, hold this horse while I go get a soda.”. That is when the stoooopid kicked in and he tossed the reins to his paternal ancestor and went to step off. Not satisfied with one stoooopid move at a time, Mr. Hot stuff swung his right leg over the front rather than over the back. The little hoss tossed his head and Mr. Hot Stuff kicked him in the top of his neck with his boot heel.

The hoss put his head back down…….in fact he put it between his front feet and grunted and threw his butt toward the sun. And there it was. One stoooopid kid riding a green hoss with his right leg hooked around the saddle horn and no reins and the horse bucking for a fare ye well in the middle of the parking lot.

Funny how thoughts fire through the brain in times like that. Baby Jim recalls a series of thoughts. Damn, don’t fall off…..everybody is watching…….watch that car hoss…….If he runs into a car am I gonna have to pay for it……Old man will kill me……If this hoss throws me into a car he might kill me……for gods sake, Move lady…..hope no one else gets hurt…….your are still riding……get control of this hoss.

Baby Jim had quickly gotten his leg back in place from the horn but never found the stirrup. The little hoss was bucking hard but it was honest and rhythmic and actually pretty easy to ride. Then Baby Jim heard the Public address announcer calling the action in the parking lot and yelling Ride Em Cowboy. After a few near misses with automobiles Baby Jim finally managed to snag the left rein and pulled the little hosses head around and he lifted it. Baby Jim managed to lean down again and snag the right rein and had em both on the left but was back in control. Lebo quit bucking and dropped to a crow hoppy trot and they made a loop around the grounds and came back to where it all started and Baby Jim stopped him and dismounted like someone who had a brain. That was the only time that horse ever had a bad moment and it was not at all his fault. No one got hurt. No automobiles were damaged. The horse came through it without incident or injury and no lasting effects. Baby Jim rode and sat on him the rest of the afternoon to prove to prospective customers that the horse was all right and only the rider was insane.

Lebo’s speed was his undoing. Someone found out he could run and offered a good price for him. He went on the track and won a few races but as he moved up in class he began to get beat. Someone else bought him and he became a polo pony. When Baby Jim trundled off to an institution of attempted higher learning, he lost track of the fine little hoss but his love of quarter horses had been ignited.

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The Hill Side Slide


The Hill Side Slide

1969 model Star Baby
Baby Jim
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives
The Hill Side Slide
Once upon a time in our hero’s cowboy past he did a stint at a big farm in the mountains of western Virginia.
It was a beautiful place to work. The total farm was about five thousand acres and was in three tracts. Two of these were close to each other and the third was about twenty miles away. One tract was basically the side of a mountain in the Alleghenies. There, cattle were run and a little hay was made on the lower parts of the mountain and as the steepness increased toward the summit there was forest.
The main farm involved a couple of ridges that ran parallel to a river bottom and the headquarters was in the bottom along with a good bit of cropland. The ridges were in pasture where they were gentle enough to get a tractor and mower over now and again to prevent forest encroachment. The forest always reclaimed anything that could not be mowed and maintained.
This farm had a storied past in the Angus business and had a good herd of well bred cows. The farm manager who had presided over the glory years had retired and the next few managers lacked the ability to produce a vision for the operation and direct the owners toward it, so the farm was floundering in obscurity without direction. The ownership hands on management had also passed to another generation who was an absentee owner who was maintaining for the older generation. While he was a good fellow and highly successful in another field of endeavor, he lacked the passion for the farm that success required.
All of this is twenty – twenty hindsight that is crystal clear now. At that time our hero had a decent reputation in the Virginia Angus business and was looking for something bigger and better with a bit brighter future and he was lured to the operation as cattle manager and assistant farm manager, his mission was to rebuild the herd from the existing two hundred cows to four hundred cows and strive to achieve previous performance heights and reputation.
Knowing the quality of the base cowherd, he jumped at the chance. You know the old saying about fools rush in. This proved to be the yearlong experience that caused our hero to vow that he would never touch another cow unless he owned it.
While there were myriad issues that precluded achievement, it was a beautiful place to work and many pleasant days were passed on the farm. Many a morning was spent where the sun was greeted from atop a high ridge mounted on a good horse and watching the rising sun chase the darkness from the valley below to reveal the cows grazing in the luxuriant grass in the valley and on the hillsides.
Baby Jim favored using a horse to check pastures because the horse could generally go where the cows could go and the four-wheel drive pickups could not come close to doing that. On the steeper reaches even a tractor was not nearly so safe as a good horse. All the locals had stories of overturned tractors on the hillsides and there was a local hierarchy of hillside-qualified drivers and equipment.
This afternoon in March of 2010, which has been one of the wettest and snowiest winters locally on record and following the wettest fall in memory, our hero slipped in the mud on flat land and crashed into a corral panel, landing on a bad hip and an arthritic wrist. Rising from the mud, our hero declared enough of this stuff and trudged back to the house to watch a John Wayne movie. As he limped along he remembered another big slip.
It was the spring of 1980….. A little later in the year than now. The grass was just starting to green up good. There was a good sized bunch of Spring calving cows that were being AI bred. That was in the days before widespread adoption of breeding synchrony. It was our hero’s habit to observe cows often and to gather and sort the breeders each morning.
It was a rainy spell and had been showering off and on for a few days. That morning it was raining steadily as Baby Jim guided his leggy Bay mare up to the ridgetop in search of the herd. Naturally that morning in the rain they were scattered on the side of the second ridge over and were as far from the corrals as possible. Some were lying in the woods higher up and some were scattered across the hillside grazing. Baby Jim pointed the mare at the far wood line and she picked up a meandering trail that zig zagged up the hillside to the forest.
Arriving in the forest and getting above the cows, they halted to allow the mare to blow from the climb and to let Baby Jim have a few minutes to observe the cows. After a few minutes they began to stir the cows and haze them toward the corrals. Now it should be noted here that on most days, the top item on the “To Do List” of any given cow is usually not “Go to the Corral” . In fact most often the opposite is true. Baby Jim would usually try to counter that bovine tendency with some hay or silage or other cow goody in the corral but when grass is growing some cows just don’t seem to want to play by the game plan. It pretty quick became clear that today was going to be one of those days. The whole bunch resisted moving and gathering. But this was not our hero’s first gather and the big bay mare was learning her craft well and soon they had the cows bunched and moving down the far ridge and thru the valley and up the second ridge.
The only thing to worry about was that the cows didn’t top the ridge and break off to the right as the corrals were in the left corner. But that left hand side was the least steep route off of the ridge. There was a daily balancing act of motivating the stragglers and still getting to the ridge top before the leaders saw an opportunity to divert. The stragglers were particularly troublesome that day but our horse and rider topped the ridge in time to convince the leaders to continue in the desired direction.
But then the stragglers stalled again. Both horse and rider could see one particular cow that was thinking. They had to scramble back down the ridge to motivate the stragglers and then hurry back to the ridge to maintain the direction of the group. When they got to the stragglers they gave them a hard push to get them to catch the main body of the herd. The cows knew where they were supposed to go but some days they just didn’t wanna.
As they regained the ridge with the stragglers moving at a good pace it was relieving to see the leaders heading in the right direction toward the corrals. To get to this vantage point Baby Jim had passed a few of the stragglers and suddenly one cow broke back and to the right. She attempted to go behind the horse and rider and back to the woods. But having already gained the ridge top the horse was easily able to cut the cow off and redirect her toward the herd.
Now this ridge was not big enough to be called a mountain. But it was sure bigger than a hill. On the front side there was probably four hundred feet of elevation and on the back side maybe three hundred feet with slopes up to about thirty or forty percent. Dotted across the faces of the ridge were some little coves, which were basically pockmarks that were too steep or too rough to mow and they generally grew up in scrub trees.
This cotton picking cow took aim at one of those coves and took off at a gallop. Baby Jim considered letting her go but was uncertain if she was one of the cows needed, and besides that, if she learned that she could get away with such behavior it would happen every day. So they headed into the cove after her but not at a gallop because it was steep. About the time the mare got to the steepest point the cow burst out the far side of the scrub trees and hightailed it for the herd. Job well done as the leaders were near the corrals now.
About that time the bay mare lost traction. One foot slipped and then another and then all four. Baby Jim let her have her head and she tried valiantly to climb but she could not get a foot to stick to anything. There was a thin veneer of soil in that spot and underneath that soil was a solid sheet of bedrock. With the wet conditions the soaked veneer of soil was simply peeling off of the rock. Unable to go up hill the mare turned to go across the hill but the footing was no better and she nearly fell twice and Baby Jim guided her to face down hill.
The mare was alternately sliding and bracing and scrambling and steadily going down hill. Baby Jim feared that if he tried to step off that he would throw her down the hill. He also did not think he could stand and did not want to end up under her scrambling feet. RIDE AND PRAY. It was only seconds but it seemed like an eternity. Things were starting to look grim and suddenly a foot stopped sliding. Then another and the mare nimbly got stopped. Baby Jim eased out of the saddle and managed to keep himself upright. He looked up and saw that they had slid nearly a third of the way down the slope from the little cove, probably 70 or 80 feet . The mare was stopped and trembling all over but she was still slipping. No foot would hold traction on the steep wet rock for long. They stood for a moment and tried to find a way out of this jam. Baby Jim studied the landscape and tried to calm the mare. She trusted him and followed his guidance. There was a spot about twenty feet to the right that, if they could get to it, the slope eased and they could possibly get out of this mess. But it was still raining and that twenty feet was still steep and uphill in two directions and there was still a good chance of having a very bad day.
Baby Jim tried to get the mare to stand while he tried it but when he ventured forward she turned and tried to follow and she slipped. Baby Jim was ahead of her and he pulled on the reins as hard as he could and he slipped as well but gave her enough purchase to get a foot on something and she scrambled out after him and together they scrambled and clawed their way up to the somewhat flatter spot and stood there for five minutes counting their blessings.
They walked back to the ridge top and Baby Jim remounted and followed the last of the stragglers down the hill to the corral and set about the days work.
They had left a gouge in the hillside that was clearly visible from the road and it was only with great determination that Baby Jim stayed his hand later in the day when someone critically complained about what fool had caused the big gall on the side of the hill.

The Legend of Baby Jim


The Legend of Baby Jim

 

 

 

Baby Jim
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

The Legend of
Baby Jim

Chapter 1. Getting Started

Baby Jim was not really born nigh on to full-grown. But he was a mite large and just a little peculiar around the edges. On the day he was born, his Daddy picked him up and set him on the ground. Struck by this odd behavior, a neighbor inquired as to what he was doing. Baby Jim’s Daddy replied, “ With ears like that I want to see if he will run like a rabbit or kick like a jackass.” Never one to take kindly to offense, Baby Jim started life off right by biting the old man on the leg. No, Baby Jim was not born with a full set of teeth, but he did have a few to use for self-defense and tending to his vittles.

The boy had a special fondness for his vittles from day one. He was born hungry and has been hungry ever since. In the early years the situation didn’t pose too great a problem. All you had to do was feed him eight or ten times a day and everything was okay. He wasn’t too fussy and would eat most anything you needed to get rid of. He never did take a shine to beets or brussle sprouts though, and could heave them suckers clear across the room with a great show of choking and gagging and frothing at the mouth. His Mother tried hard to get him to eat them, but Baby Jim would not be fooled. No disguise could hide the abominable taste of those two commodities and they just wouldn’t go down his neck.

As time passed by, Baby Jim continued his fondness for the culinary delights of most anyone who would cook for him. Regular feeding became an eighteen hour a day event. Being smarter than the average yard ape, Baby Jim knew that he must be well rested to properly digest his food and has always required six hours of sleep. A fellow just couldn’t eat right when he was tuckered out.

This trend continued until the appetite of Baby Jim exceeded the capacity of the family income. Finally one day when Baby Jim was five or six years old his Daddy declared “ If that boy is going to eat like a man, it is time he commenced to work like a man. Dadgum it boy, get to the field and lets commence to plowing. “ That was the fateful day that Baby Jim discovered that his Daddy had decided to raise him because he couldn’t afford a mule. Course, with Baby Jim’s penchant for groceries it didn’t look like a mule was in the near future either.

Now everyone knew from early on that Baby Jim would probably never crowd in on the territory of that Einstein feller. But our hero was not the dumbest sheep in the flock either. In fact folks often commented that he looked like he had a little bit of goat in him. Baby Jim would just flash his patented smile and take it as a compliment as he knew the goat to be one of the smarter animals in the barn. But, like his Daddy, he always had that hankering for a mule. Baby Jim’s Daddy wanted a little more help, but Baby Jim just wanted the companionship. After all, he felt that he had a lot in common with a good mule.

Baby Jim took to the work that his Daddy put him to. Folks allowed that while he didn’t really look like it, that he must be some kin to his family. He seemed to have the same way with the animals that his Daddy was know for. His mother had higher expectations. She expected Baby Jim to do his lessons and keep up his school work and make something of his self. His mother was thinking things like Doctor and Lawyer and Engineer for her handsome little darling (aw come on, you know how mothers are). His Daddy expected him to do his chores and tend to the stock and keep his self out of trouble ( a troublesome kid generally ain’t no help at all.)

Pretty soon after he started school Baby Jim figured out that he probably didn’t have much of a future in Hollywood. Why the first time he saw hisself in a mirror he even scairt hisself a little bit. But even this early in Baby Jim’s life his pragmatic nature asserted itself. He knew he couldn’t make himself into one of the pretty children. He just had to take what he had and do the best he could. And by golly what he could do as well as anybody breathing was be a cowboy. Now every six year old that ever was has fancied the idea of being a cowboy once or twice. But for Baby Jim it wasn’t an idea it was a mission. At a tender age, Baby Jim had already run into a few roadblocks and brick walls. When he discovered that there were things he could do better than any kid and better than most old folks, he figured “Maybe, this is what I should do”. And lets all face it folks, Baby Jim as endearing as he might be, had a face made for being alone on the range. This was one of the characteristics, which lent itself to him being widely referred to as “A Natural”.

Now in case you didn’t know it being a cowboy ain’t all about hugging your horse and riding off into the sunset. We are talking bout the real deal here not the drug store variety. A cowboy generally is not considered to be a good cowboy until he is so stove up that he generally can’t move without creaking. Consider this, Lane Frost was generally proclaimed to be the best bull rider that ever lived. This happened about the same time that he was killed in the arena by – – – – – – – ———- you guessed it a bull that didn’t think he was so hot. Most times a cowboy just can’t get no respect.

 

Bad Day for Bourbon


Bad Day for Bourbon

 

 

Baby Jim
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

Bad Day for Bourbon

We have mentioned in passing some of the horses Baby Jim has had the pleasure of knowing in his younger days.

One of those horses was a big sorrel appendix gelding named Bourbon. He was a big rascal, well over 16 hands and 1400 lbs. He was speedy and smart and sound as a dollar and a good riding horse. In the three years Baby Jim spent with Bourbon, he never knew the big horse to not show up for work and give it all he had.

Bourbon did have one little idiosyncrasy that is worthy of note. He had learned somewhere in his past that he did not have to stay tied. He was big enough to make it true. He had learned that if he put his weight into a good pull backwards something was going to pop and he could go graze. He just sort of felt like he was wasting his time standing around tied to a corral or post.

He pretty quickly tore up two or three bridles and a couple of halters. He was stout enough that he could lay back on a heavy nylon halter and pull and shake a couple of times and something was going to pop. Either the buckle or the snap or the rope or the post he was tied to. He was big enough to know he could break something. Our hero suspected that he did it for entertainment. Sort of like a big strong redneck kid saying “Hey yall, watch this!”

Our hero had a fix for him though. He made up a neck rope out of 5/8-inch diameter polyethylene rope with a heavy duty snap and two steel “O” rings. Then to tie the horse he would put the neck rope around his neck and run the shank through the halter to keep the alignment. This configuration took the stress off the hardware and put it onto the horse. As a finishing touch he tied up an automobile tire inner tube to a really stout place and tied old Bourbon off to the inner tube to let him bust that.

Well Bourbon gave it a try. He gave it a real good try. Baby Jim feared for a few moments that he might actually bust it. He flailed and he jumped and he pulled and finally he eased up and stepped up and looked at Baby Jim with a quizzical look that all but said, “How did you do that?”. It became standard practice for a while to carry the inner tube and the neck rope on the saddle when riding Bourbon, cause you never knew when you might have to dismount to attend to something and have to tie him up. After a few months he was making good progress and standing tied fairly well and the inner tube could be left behind and Bourbon would stand tied with just the neck rope.

Baby Jim was feeling real cocky about the improvement. All this is a bit of background for an event, which happened probably a couple of years later.

Now this farm had a cow that Baby Jim will remember to his last days. She was a big cow. She was a beautiful cow. She had raised show winning progeny. She was a valuable cow. She had a couple of little idiosyncrancies of her own. For one thing she was in heat every three weeks year round, even when she was pregnant. We do not know how many times the vet pregnancy examined her and she was a good breeder but she had regular heat cycles just the same. Boss would see her being ridden and tell Baby Jim that there was a cow in heat in the bred cow pasture and Baby Jim would go check it out, and it would be her. We put her on the preg check list every time the vet came and finally Baby Jim just left her out of the bred cow pasture until breeding season was over. By and by the boss came to accept that she was a little unique and quit telling Baby Jim that he had messed up again.

The other thing about this little 1600 lb maiden is that when she had a calf, she had the sweet disposition of a tiger with a toothache. Usually only lasted a couple of days but during that first day or two she was tough. Baby Jim and Bourbon learned this the hard way during Baby Jim’s second calving season on this farm.

It was early spring and a group of cows were calving on a hillside pasture just above the house where Baby Jim lived. This was a pretty step hillside of about twenty-five or thirty acres and it had a couple of big hedgerows that served well as wind breaks for the cows and the new calves. The field also had some contour strips that ran around the hillside to prevent erosion. While it was accessible by truck, when it was damp it was steep enough that the truck would tear up the pasture so Baby Jim made as many cattle checking trips through the field as possible on horseback rather than driving.

Checking meant that the hedgerows had to be checked and all the corners and little dales where a cow might hide to calve. One spring morning just after daylight Our Hero was checking this pasture and he came around one end of the hedgerow and started up the hill checking the other side. Two contour ditches up and about fifty feet out from the hedgerow was the above mentioned cow standing placidly and chewing her cud. She looked normal and Baby Jim did not pay her much attention. He figured to ride behind her as he went up the hill and was intent on looking into the hedgerow for any calves that might be scoured or distressed in any way.

Just before the horse and rider got to that second contour furrow the cow so placid a moment ago bawled like she was being attacked and charged into Bourbon hitting him square in the shoulder and horse and rider went down in a heap. Unfortunately Baby Jim was thrown clear. This was indeed unfortunate because Bourbon quickly leapt to his feet and abandoned the area at full speed.

This left Baby Jim on his hands and knees in the field with no means of protection when he spied a black spot lying in the contour furrow. This old gal had calved and was in maternal protection mode. Baby Jim looked around and spied a rock about the size of an orange and a small stick about two feet long. He crawled backwards and picked em both up just as the cow charged again. He hurled the rock with all his might and fortune was with him as he managed to catch her right in the middle of the forehead and stunned her a bit. He ran at her with the stick screaming and kicking and managed to buffalo her away from him.

He saw that the calf had raised it’s head and then tried to hide from the commotion in the safety of the furrow. Since all was okay he decide to let the pair alone and would tend to the calf when they made the truck run through the field. He then walked a circle around the cow and went down to the barn where Bourbon was pacing back and forth in front of the gate wanting to go back to the safety of his stall.

Baby Jim checked out the big horse and he appeared to be unhurt but well rattled. Baby Jim gathered the reins and stepped back up to finish checking the field. This was more difficult than expected because Bourbon wanted nothing more to do with cows. He would not go near one and any cow that raised her head to look at him was cause for an about face and hasty retreat.

This generally is not a good attitude for a cow horse to have and it took a lot miles and hours over the summer to restore Bourbons confidence that he could drive cows. It took nearly a year to get him to handle a charging cow again.

Time passed and another year rolled around. Bourbon had made great progress in the tying department and we routinely used the neck rope and he would stand quietly almost anywhere with it. He had made great progress in regaining his confidence and was once again the mainstay of the cavvy.

Another spring day and it was time for a gather and to do a vet check on a good size group of cows. Baby Jim and Delmonte went into the rougher end of the field to move the herd out of the woods and over the rough country and Curly and a couple of other boys checked the other end of the field with the truck. As they brought the main body of the herd up to the gate into the catch pen, Baby Jim saw Curly and the other boys pushing a calf and trying to back down a cow walking backwards and on the prod. Baby Jim immediately recognized the same old proddy cow with another new calf. Delmonte was mounted on Bourbon and our hero cautioned him not to go near the cow on that horse. Did not want to set back a years worth of work. Baby Jim yelled at Curly to watch her, but there were three guys and they had her under control and one of them was driving the truck so they had a place to escape to if necessary, and Curly was a good hand.

One of the farm crew happened to be on hand for some reason. This fellow was a mechanic and machinery operator in the cropping crew. He was also a fellow who had some swagger and macho to him. He made a comment about Curly having a hard time with the cow and Baby Jim looked at him as said “Well that cow will just gitcha and curly is doing alright with her.” Baby Jim and Delmonte took the horses into the barn and tied em up in the usual place and about that time the boss rolled up and the vet was right behind him. Baby Jim went out to report on progress and to get the plan of work from the boss.

Suddenly from in the barn there came a commotion and yelling and Baby Jim sprinted in to see what was up. Don’t know how it started but Macho Man was running through the barn with his hand on the cows head and about every third step she encouraged him along with a butt square in the fanny. We must confess that he was amazingly nimble and agile to keep his feet and stay ahead of her. But as they made a pass through the barn, it was just too much for Bourbon to bear. His old nemesis on the prod again scared him and he reverted to his old self and gave a good tug on the tie rope.

There was a creaking sound and Baby Jim feared for a moment that the barn would come down But the twelve foot section of two by six lumber that Bourbon was tied to came loose and he bolted from the barn with it waving in the air like a balloon on a string. Right behind them Macho Man and the cow went out the door with him still just a half step ahead of her with his hand on her poll.

Took ten minutes to catch Bourbon and he had to start tying training with the tube all over again.

Boss wanted to know if all this excitement was really necessary. Baby Jim at that time had yet to learn that discretion was the better part of valor……..a lesson still not absolutely learned by our hero…….and he quipped back, “No it ain’t absolutely necessary, but it sure does make the days more interesting, don’t it?”

 

Monte’s No Sale


Monte’s No Sale

 

Baby Jim
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

Monte’s No Sale

We have mentioned a time or two that Australian Shepherd dogs have possessed us for over a quarter of a century. After the first one there was no turning back. We find them to be smart, strong, intelligent, obedient, loving, protective, alert, devoted, willing, laid back and they live to please their humans.

In our early days with the dogs we had a couple that were protective to the point of being perhaps a bit aggressive. They were Marie’s guardians and we called them the Gator Girls. They chose Marie as their person and they both went with her wherever she went on the property. They would even accompany her from room to room in the house.

They were tough enough that we had beware of the dog signs up and down the driveway and Marie was sure to tell anyone who came to the farm to stay in your car, cause if the Gator Girls can’t bite you they will bite your tires……and it was pretty much true. We had to put them into their room any time we had company or they would sneak up and take a little nip just to prove they could.

Those two were the toughest we ever had and frankly we miss them a good bit because Marie always felt safe with the girls, even if she was alone on the farm for days at a time.

At that same time we had our big Aussie who was named Monte. He was the first and he was the one who set a high standard for Aussies around here and he actually trained a lot of the others as to their expected role and boundaries of the farm. Monte even knew the animals and knew the livestock that belonged and the indigenous wildlife that needed to be kept at bay.

Monte would not allow a strange dog on the place. But, when we got the second Aussie, Tana, and introduced her to him, he immediately adopted her as his own and she became one to be protected. Tana was the first of the Gator Girls and as she grew older she became the ultimate protector.

Unlike the Gator Girls, Monte was very tolerant of people. He loved everybody. He was exposed to a lot of people from the time he was a puppy and was never mistreated and greeted everyone with a smile. His greeting was to cock his head and curl his lip as he trotted up to folks to be petted. He was a good-sized dog as well and tipped the scale at a hundred pounds in his prime. Folks coming down the drive and seeing the bad dog signs and then stopping in the yard to see Monte walking up to them with his smile were often frantic in rolling up windows and locking their doors.

We were content to let folks think that Monte was the bad dog. Only our close friends ever saw the real bad ones that were in the house.

A fox, coon, possum or even a skunk that ventured into Monte’s realm did so at its own peril. Over the years he even developed a hard learned technique for killing skunks without getting sprayed. We have some skunk stories.

Beside our driveway and near where we park out vehicles is a large old Cedar tree. Many of our dogs have loved to lie in the shade under the Cedar where they could watch the front door of the house and also watch down the driveway toward the barns and the road.

Monte would be there every afternoon when we returned from our labors in town and he would trot down the driveway to greet us smiling and wagging all over. Aussies don’t have tails so they make up for it when they are happy by prancing and wagging their whole body.

One evening as we came home, Monte did not come to greet us. He was under the cedar tree but he was sitting there looking up into the tree. He turned his head and snapped a greeting but immediately went back to intently staring up into the tree. Curiosity made us go to the tree to see what he was staring at so intently and as we approached he became quite animated. About ten feet up in the tree perched on a limb was a ground hog and the tree was quite scratched up from efforts by Monte to get up into the tree himself. He had finally decided to wait him out.

Baby Jim tossed a stick at the ground hog, who then determined that he must make a break for it. Big Mistake. The ground hog jumped from the limb and Monte caught him in midair and the ground hog was dead before he hit the ground.

Monte used to keep the place free of ground hogs. And then after him little Loreal, who was a sweet little dog and a natural wonder of a cow dog. But one day a ground hog bit her, and from that day on she hated them with a passion. Since we lost Loreal a few years ago Baby Jim has had to go back to shooting ground hogs to keep them in check.

There was one time that Monte did go on the prod after a person. I firmly believe that left to his own devices Monte would have killed this man just a quickly as he would have a pesky ground hog.

It was Spring time. It was a Sunday evening right on the edge of dark. We need to point out here that Monte was Baby Jim’s dog. Just like the Gator Girls followed Marie, Monte was going to be somewhere near Baby Jim.
Baby Jim was in the process of doing the evening chores and making sure that all the water troughs were full. Our hero and Monte were in the field behind the house. A gentleman had come down the driveway to inquire about a bull. He came unannounced, at dark, on a Sunday evening to look at black bulls. Engrossed in whatever they were doing neither Baby Jim nor Monte had heard the car drive in and the man had knocked on the front door.

Marie greeted the man and was trying to keep the two Gator Girls from escaping the house and consuming him and he explained why he was there. Apparently the Gator Girls had unnerved him somewhat and Marie stepped out onto the porch, and closed the door, thank heavens. She explained to the man that she knew Baby Jim was somewhere about and she yelled for him.

Baby Jim and Monte both heard her and Baby Jim yelled back and Monte took off for the house. A few moments later as he walked toward the house Baby Jim heard an awful commotion. There was yelling and screaming and the sounds of a dog fight, with growling and snarling and barking. Baby Jim ran for the house and could clearly hear Marie frantically calling his name. He yelled and ran and dove through the fence and rolled to his feet and ran the rest of the way. As he rounded the corner breathless, He found Marie on the porch on her knees with both arms locked around Monte’s neck in a death grip as Monte dragged her across the porch snarling and snapping . He wondered to himself “What the H……” and then he spied the man hanging by his toes and his fingers on the outside of a porch column as Marie tried to restrain Monte.

The Gator Girls were in the house and raising cane because their mistress seemed to be in distress. They were clawing savagely at the door and barking and chewing on the door and rattling it on it’s hinges as they tried to pull it open. Another couple of minutes and they would have chewed their way out.

Bay Jim could see that the man was clearly shell shocked and was no real threat. He grabbed Monte by the collar and calmed him and helped Marie to her feet. He told Marie to go into the house and calm her dogs and he put Monte in the house as well.

Monte calmed quickly and as soon as the Gator Girls got their mistress back they calmed to a manageable level. Occasional Gator growls could still be heard from the windows as they monitored the situation.

The man was so shell shocked that he could barley speak his name or say why he was there. Baby Jim spoke with him for a few minutes a finally figured out that the man was in the market for a bull. Baby Jim told the man what was available and explained that the bulls were out in the pasture and would be difficult for the man to evaluate in the dark. The unnerved man agreed and determined that he would come back during the day next weekend and that he would be sure to call ahead.

As the man left, Baby Jim went into the house for a better report. Marie says she was standing on the porch talking to the man when Monte bounded around the corner. Monte was surprised to see a strange vehicle and then a strange man standing near his mistress. He stopped short and barked at the situation with his hackles raised. That is when things took a turn for the worse. Marie reported that the man totally lost his composure and yelled “Oh God! Lady, don’t let that dog bite me!”

He then did the absolutely dumbest thing any human being could possible do in such a situation. He jumped behind Marie and grabbed her by the shoulders to use her as a shield from the dog.

Now Aussies are a thinking breed of dog. They think about things and then make a decision and they take the action they think is appropriate. It comes from being a herding type dog. They know what the objective is and they learn to make decisions to accomplish the objective. Little Loreal was born knowing more about working cows than Baby Jim does today after a lifetime of the work. Occasionally he would give her a dumb command and she would just shake her head and do what needed to be done.

When Monte stopped and barked, he was evaluating. But when the stranger attacked his mistress he took decisive action. He was going to protect his home and his family.

The only thing that saved the day was Marie’s decision to grab Monte about the neck and try to hold him. She said the man was dancing around her and trying to avoid Monte and still holding her shoulders. She knew that sooner or later Monte was going to have him by the leg and pull him down, so she did the only thing she could think of which was to grab Monte.

Suddenly without his human shield, the man bolted to the side of the porch and used the porch column to shield himself, which is where he was when Baby Jim arrived.

The guy did come back, but he didn’t buy a bull. He was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs the whole time he was here. He looked at the bulls and seemed to like em, and quibbled a little about the price.

Secretly Baby Jim expected that the guy thought that if the bulls were as tough as the dogs, that he would not live through the week. Little did he know that most of our bulls are pets. We currently have a bull calf, Ulysses, that is not weaned yet but still wants his afternoon butt scratching every afternoon.

The Aussies we have today are not near as tough as those old dogs. Rose will sit in the lap of anyone who will pet her. Toby will make a little noise but he is not big enough to scare a tomcat off the porch. Marie is not near as tough now as she was back then either. Or maybe she is tougher. Today if someone did something that stupid, she would probably just let the dog eat em. Baby Jim surely would.