You Can’t Ride That Hoss !!!

You can’t ride that Hoss !

Baby Jim
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives
”You can’t ride that horse!!”
In his advanced years our hero is a doddering old fat man who is troubled with arthritis and sinus problems and resulting balance problems. In recent times he has been known to fall on his nose while bending over to pull on his boots.
Some days are better than others but to say that riding ability is diminished is a slight understatement.
Back in the day Baby Jim was a rider. A good bit of college was financed by making good horses out of other peoples problems. Now our hero was never an outright bronc rider or rodeo cowboy and he was subject to being rudely deposited upon the ground more than once in his adventures; and it is some of those adventures that no doubt contribute to the particular achy spots enjoyed in doterage.
Even at a tender age, Baby Jim’s own father took particular joy in saying “My boy can ride that Hoss!” Then it was up to our hero to live up to it. Most of these horses were not bad horses but simply spoiled horses that had developed a behavior problem that they were successful in getting away with, and that sometimes took a good seat, a strong will, a strong hand and a little bit of horse savvy to correct.
Over the years we did run into a couple of evil horse and perhaps we will relate those tales at another time. But most of the time it was just unknowing riders and spoiled horses. Sometimes the owners were so perplexed that they could not adequately convey what the bad behavior was. As an example our hero was once presented with a horse that was supposed to be barn sour. He saddled up and climbed aboard and had very little difficulty in riding away. The horse did try to balk and turn back but it was easily directed and Baby Jim was in the midst of wondering what the problem was and had ridden about a half mile away when the problem manifest itself.
This loony mare was not barn sour………….She was a cotton-picking run away. She was an intelligent runaway too. She had learned over the years a lot of methods of relieving herself of her unwanted burdens.
The bridle was of no use. If our hero pulled her head around she just continued to run blind. The braking system had obviously either never been installed or it had failed years ago. This crazy mare had little regard for her own safety and when brushing trees failed to accomplish her goal, she would run into them. Our hero spent time standing in one stirrup off of alternate sides of the horse to avoid mashing and one time she went thru a tight spot and he had to throw both legs up over her croup and ride thru it laid out on her back.
The final obstacle was one she obviously had used before because when she broke out of the wooded patch she made a beeline for a clothesline. Baby Jim saw it coming and tried the brakes and tried the steering again and neither one responded in the slightest. She knew where she was going and what she wanted to happen. So our hero simply laid off to one side with his arm across the seat and hoped that she would clear it and if so he would too. The saddle horn clipped one wire of the clothesline and it almost threw the off balance pair before it popped. But that was the last obstacle and she roared up to the barn and did a sliding stop that any reiner would have been proud of.
By now she had peeved our hero a bit, and he put boot to her and reins across her butt and decided that we needed to run some more. They galloped a couple of more miles this time down a dirt road and gradually the steering came back and eventually the brakes did as well. Once control was restored they quietly walked back to the barn with several reversals of course along the way.
Baby Jim had about ten years of that type of experience under his belt before he took his first cattle job out of college. We should point out here that Baby Jim had some obstacles along the way and managed to cram a four-year course of instruction into eight short years so he graduated a bit older than the typical student. His first job out of college was at a big cow outfit where he was the herdsman for the cowherd. Breeding, calving, fencing, feeding, general cow care and accurate cow records were the primary charge. Our hero took a couple of his personal horses with him and there were three horses at the barn at his residence that were farm horses available for use.
Baby Jim had been told that the previous herdsman had used his own horses, so the farm horses had not been used much. When our hero inquired of some of the guys he worked with about the farm horses, he got some funny looks and not much information. Once he got settled in there came a pretty spring Sunday afternoon and our hero decide it was time to try these broncs. The first was a big appendix bred sorrel QH gelding who was probably better than sixteen hands and who weighed better than 14oo lbs. He was fast and we later learned that a few folk had fallen off of him and so he was tagged as a runaway. But he could just run faster than some of them could ride. With a little work he became the horse that Baby Jim could put most any of his help on to ride. His name was Bourbon and he became the mainstay of the string. When we were doing horse work it was a rare day when Bourbon did not go out.
Bourbon’s mother was next. She was alleged to be prone to rearing in her past but had not been ridden in years. She was a sorrel mare but not quite a big as Bourbon. She was not real old but she had some lameness issues and was not useful beyond a walk. She could walk all day and was useful for evening heat checking but she was not handy enough to use for gathers and drives.
The third was a beautiful bulldog type bay mare. She was a bit over 15 hands and stout and you did not have to be around her long to see she had some spirit. She was the third horse Baby Jim rode that afternoon and she was just a prancy high stepping lifey mare who had a lot of energy. But she had a pretty good handle and a smooth ride and Baby Jim enjoyed riding her very much. She had a little foolishness about her and she had a hard time standing still but our hero attributed this to lack of use. These horses had not been used at all in three or four years.
Over the next couple of weeks Baby Jim used his own gelding and Bourbon for routine field checking. Bourbon came around very nicely and got to be a real solid mount. Baby Jim was basically using the Bay mare that he named Spicy to do evening checking and work when he was alone so basically no one even knew he was riding her. Apparently she had a bad reputation.
There came a day when the boss decided that he wanted to move a good sized herd of cows to another part of the farm. These were cows that had calved and they needed to go to larger non-adjoining pasture. Since it was a large group of cows with small baby calves, it was decided that the best way was to drive them down the road. Since they were going down the road it was decided that all hands on the farm were needed to keep the cows out of the few neighbors yards. The boss laid out the plan and made work assignments and then asked Baby Jim if he thought it would be of any benefit and if he would be comfortable to be mounted in case a cow ventured somewhere a vehicle could not go. Baby Jim offered that he thought if he were mounted, he could be useful in the gather and should lead the parade to keep the cows directed and in check.
The appointed day came and Baby Jim went out early mounted on Spicy. He gathered the herd to be moved and had them in part of the pasture near the gate and was riding around them keeping them bunched while waiting for the rest of the crew.
The first guy to arrive sees Baby Jim riding Spicy and says “You can’t ride that hoss!”. Baby Jim became concerned as the owner’s family had some personal horses and he feared that he was confused and was riding one of those horses. So he replied that he had been told that this was a “farm horse”. The response was “It is, but you can’t ride that Hoss!”
When the next guy arrived the same conversation ensued. This was repeated with several arrivals to the scene. The owners two teenage sons arrived on four wheelers and repeated the mantra – “You can’t ride that Horse!” Baby Jim asked them if she was one of their family horses. “No, she is a farm horse but you can’t ride that horse.” The question of “Why not?” generated the response of, “Because you can’t ride that horse.”.
A few moments later the farm manager arrived and Baby Jim rode over to him and related that everyone there had told him he could not ride this mare and that he understood that this was one of the farm using horses and inquired as to why he could not ride this horse.
The boss laughed and said, “Well……….( a long drawn out weeeelllll was one of his speech habits) since you have gathered these cows and have them ready to move, it is pretty plain to me that you can ride that Horse. She has dumped everybody else that has ridden her.
He then asked if all the cows were accounted for. Baby Jim told him that he had not been able to get a good count but that he was certain there were no more down in the woods or elsewhere in this field as he had gathered from all parts of the field and was pretty sure he had made a clean sweep. He also knew he had the cows with the youngest calves which are the most difficult to gather. The boys on the ATVs were sent to make another reconnoiter just to be sure.
The boss sent the blockers to their assigned positions and motioned for Baby Jim to lead em out. The cows galloped out the gate but Baby Jim was well mounted and kept ahead of them and kept them contained and slowed down to a jog. The drive down the road was relatively uneventful except a few yards did get a little trampling as cows tried to venture into them for some spring grass.
The Spicy mare went on to become Baby Jims favorite mount and she learned to cut cows like nobody’s business. She was real tender sided and ticklish which had led to her reputation. She was not a bucker and never threw a buck but she was so quick she could step out from under you. And she seldom stood still while mounted.
This was a northern crew and they took great delight in good natured ribbing, so for a good while after that, when Baby Jim came across one of the rest of the crew while he was mounted on the Spicy mare, he was not above telling them on occasion…..
“You can’t ride this Hoss!”

Marie’s First Calf

Marie’s First Calf



Marie’s First Calf

Reading the story of when Tana saved the day, where we visited about Blanch and her bull calf, Marie reminded me of when that calf was born.

That was so long ago that I had almost forgotten about it. But for the unknowing about us, a little background is in order before recounting the story.

While she is half Cherokee Indian, Marie was raised as a city girl. She had never seen a horse or cow in person and up close until she had the misfortune of making the acquaintance of Baby Jim. We must give her credit that she adapted and embraced the life pretty quickly but the learning curve was pretty steep at first. Over the years She has become quite attached to the relative peace and quiet of country living and has learned how to deal with the different lifestyle of living with someone immersed in animal culture. Icky hands, muddy boots and hay chaff have become part of her daily challenges, which are now handled in stride.

The three heifers, which were the foundation of our herd so many years ago, actually took up residence here before we did. We had cleared enough of the jungle that was this place when we bought it, to put up some electric fence and we got the heifers here before the house was fit for human habitation. Our house is an old house and it was in a state of disrepair when we bought the place. Lamentably it is not a great deal improved now but we have managed, so far, to keep most of the weather and varmits on the outside and us and the dogs on the inside.

The three heifers were all Registered Angus and came from the Lynn Brae herd in Troutville Va. They had fancy registered names but we called them Mildred, Blanch and Black Betty. Black Betty was the one who paid the bills because she never had anything but bull calves. She had nice bull calves and we sold almost all of them as bulls, but we never got a daughter from Betty to replace her in the herd. We did use some of her sons as cleanup bulls behind AI over the years so we do have a bit of her influence way back but we don’t have any direct daughter descendants. While we now only have a couple of cows just to keep us broke and off the street we do have direct female line descendants of both Mildred and Blanch.

Betty’s last calf was a heifer and we tried to keep her as a replacement to keep the line going but it just did not work out. Betty had her as an old cow and the heifer, which we named Hillary, because she was a real pain in the ass, just could not cut it in our herd. We actually kept her for a few years and gave her special treatment but she still could not produce with our other cows. We even got an AI daughter out of Hillary by the Riptide bull, who otherwise did well in our herd, but that calf who came to be named Hillary Junior was eventually sold as a commercial cow. Hillary and Hillary Junior both led lives of misadventure and required a lot of human intervention and so both became pets, who were constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time and always in the way. But unlike their namesake, these under achievers could not earn a place on the roster.

But to correct course from an old mans tangential walk down memory lane, lets get back to Maries First Calf. As a side note, our late partner, Jack, had a nice cow that he named Marie after my own spouse, and she was a very good cow until she succumbed to a sudden illness quite a few years ago. Jack had a penchant for naming animals after people he knew. All of his English setters were named after his grandchildren and friends. One bull was named after yours truly. There were reported references to similarity in density of skull and determination of attitude. Jim was a very nice bull.

Another course correction. So technically this was not Marie’s first calf ( the cow Marie) we are embarked on reporting on but rather Blanche’s calf which was the first calving experience for dear spouse, Marie. That is why we don’t name animals after living people. Gets too confusing to determine what or whom you are referring to.

Back in those days Our Hero’s employment kept him traveling a good bit. This involved frequent overnight travel away from home. As luck would have it Blanch delivered her precious baby during one of those forays. Baby Jim was at some multiday meeting in some locale hours away.

As was the norm he called home at about nine and got no answer. That worried him a bit but, he called a while later and a breathless Marie answered the phone. To say she was excited was an understatement.

Marie had come home in the late afternoon from her labors in town and she discovered that Blanch had found her baby that day. Mildred had previously delivered and Black Betty was not yet due. Marie had already learned to observe for signs that the baby had nursed and that the mother was duly attentive and had claimed the calf. Blanch was so attentive that Marie had some difficulty with the first task but then she later observed the calf nursing so she was relieved of that burden. All was well.

But just after the edge of darkness the weather turned against us, and a freezing rain began. This was the year before Baby Jim switched the herd to fall calving and eliminating weather related problems.
Now our hero had instructed his spouse not to go into the field with the new mothers. She viewed them all as pets and had no respect for the power or the maternal instinct that could kick in, even in the calmest cow. And Blanch was not our calmest cow. Since the Rockwell scale rating of our hero’s spouse’s cranium approached the rating of our hero, he had issued his caution in the strongest terms possible saying that she might be killed. Mildred had been a somewhat docile mother and so Marie had been skeptical. But when Blanch bellowed at her and pawed up a little earth while Marie tried to observe if the calf had nursed, Marie became more of a believer.

It is significant to point out here that while we had no facilities we had lots of woods and natural shelter and our hero had tried to instruct his wife that all would be well in terms of weather. And it would have been…………….

If the dadgum calf had stayed in the field with his mother.

Marie let the dogs out at about 8:30 in the evening to answer the call of nature and they began barking and chasing an interloper in the yard. Marie was horrified to see that it was the new calf. It took off down the driveway and away from mama with the dogs in pursuit. Freezing rain is still coming down and it is getting slick. Marie was actually pretty quickly successful in getting the dogs to abandon their pursuit and return to the house, but where was the calf. In emergency mode, she puts on the flip flop things she calls shoes and pulls a light coat over her bathrobe and no hat and goes out to find the calf and get it back with mama. Now the cows were contained by electric fence, and calves, especially new ones, are famous for walking thru them. But the cows honored them pretty well. Blanch by now is pretty agitated but thank goodness she did not come thru the fence. I hate to think what all might have happened in that event.

Marie found the calf pretty easily but it was a good ways from mama. For those that don’t know, baby calves pretty much have two speeds in these type situations. They either run blindly as fast at they can and always in the opposite direction from the one needed, or………. they just stand. This one had already run away and when Marie found him he had gone into stand mode. So she began to push him back to mama. This is an arduous process as the calf balks with every step and 120 lb woman trying to push an 80 lb calf was not at an advantage, especially when the calf was balking in four wheel drive and she was pushing in two and slipping on frozen ground and ice with every other step. As she got the calf closer to the lot, Blanch espied her baby being attacked by yet another threat and she came roaring down the fence line making such a commotion that she terrified the calf and he bolted away again. This scenario repeated itself three or four times and each time the calf went further away and finally, exhausted, Marie realized that she was not going to get this calf back with mama by herself. She went to the house and called a dairy farmer neighbor who lived about a mile away.

That good neighbor came out in the miserable weather with his son to assist the damsel in distress. Both of these gentlemen are now deceased. By now the calf had gone into full flight mode so catching the calf became the difficult part. The son caught the calf and as he herded it into sight Blanch resumed her maternal aggression and came roaring up to the fence. Marie reported that she told the neighbor what Baby Jim had warned her, “To stay out of the field or the cow would kill you.”

The neighbor reached up and broke a limb out of a tree and flailed Blanch about the head while the son pushed the calf back thru the fence and mother and baby both took off into the woods and the black cattle disappeared into the darkness. The neighbor reassured Marie that if the calf had nursed they would be all right. Marie thanked him and they departed and it was as she was coming back in the door that the call from Baby Jim rang in.

She was somewhat agitated at the time and it took a while to get the whole story in logical order. But as she told the story and answered questions from the absent troublemaking spouse, she calmed down and aforementioned troublemaker assured her that all would be well. She won’t admit it but she probably went out there two or three more times to try to find the new pair but she did not go in the fence. She had taken a chill and when our hero returned home a few days later Marie had a terrible cold that lasted for weeks

In the intervening years we have probably had a thousand calves born around here and Marie barely notices when one hits the ground anymore. We have had numerous sets of twins. Marie has raised orphans on the bottle and one year she raised three. We have had cold calves that had to thaw out by the woodstove and weak calves that required special care and Marie has learned how to do it all. In recent years our hero has been gainfully employed at work that allows him to be closer to home so all the burden has not fallen to our spouse as it did so often in those early years.

But we all remember Marie’s first calf.


Life Under a Black cloud

Life under a black cloud

this is a little piece I wrote a couple of years ago after a particularly trying period. All the events are true…..
It is just another chapter in…….
Life under a Black cloud.
Ann in my office and I have had an ongoing debated about attitude and outlook. Now let me preface by saying that Ann has also had her share of ongoing opportunities for quality of life improvement and not every day is cheerful and rosy for her.
But she strives mightily to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook on life. She is trusting and carefree and has great faith in humanity and a positive outcome. She says that to look at life any other way would be just too depressing to bear.
On the other hand, I view myself as a realist. Ann views me as a pessimist. I have a sense of humor, but I guess it is a bit warped. But like green lumber lying in the sun in a humid atmosphere, I am warped by my environment.
When I was young, I used to arise every morn looking forward to yet another great day. But over time so many of those days have turned out to not be so great, that I admit the youthful enthusiasm has waned woefully. I have long subscribed to two great truths of our society. The first is Murphy’s law. I have even postulated my own corollary, that “Murphy was a cockeyed Optimist.”
The Second is the “Peter Principle”. Both of these were widely disseminated theories of popular culture of my youth. I leave the inquiring reader to investigate them for themselves if further understanding is needed. Suffice it to say that I firmly believe that both truths are alive and well and exhibited daily in our life.
One of the aspects of Murphy’s law is that “left to their own devices things will always go from bad to worse.”
Allow me to illustrate by not so briefly recapping February to date.
Junior has been lame for three weeks and while I have attempted to treat his affliction every day I can not find a cause or problem. Not having a spare $500.00 to throw at it, I have not called in a Vet to tell me that they can’t find the problem either.
End of January, frame on my livestock trailer has given way from overuse and neglect. It is unusable. replacement cost is several thousand dollars above what I can muster. determined to try to fix it myself and ordered 300.00 worth of steel.
Feb 3. Marie said “I think there is a leak on the back porch.” It was more like the tide was coming in via the hot water pipe. Spent that weekend doing yet another plumbing repair. At least this one did not involve excavating pipes under the house to dig up the leak.
Feb 10 Marie said “I think the hot water tank is leaking”. Feb 11 was spent in acquiring and replacing a new hot water tank.
Feb 14. While I did not forget a remembrance for my valentine, mother nature and brother Murphy remembered me with an ice storm that dropped trees on every fence on the place and cut the power in the community. But the generator started and I got the 120 volt current in the house going. The generator carried us through the day and toward days end struggled and finally died. Fortunately the power came back on for us shortly afterward. the generator will not start and is currently in the shop and they will get to it in a week or two. Estimate another 300.00.
Feb 17 Marie began the day with “I think we have a leak upstairs.” The water dripping through the ceiling downstairs was her clue. I looked and did not find the leak and concluded it must be the upstairs toilet discharge. Still battling to get trees off the fences before the livestock vacated the premises I relented and called the plumber. “I can’t get there til the first of the week.” “Fine.” I said and I shut off the water to the toilet.
Feb 20 awoke to the sound of the ceiling in the downstairs front room collapsing from the water damage. We cleaned that up and proceeded through the day. At days end, still no plumber. Marie called him this time. She reported that it had “slipped his mind”. I thought she was very restrained in her encouragement of him to come and fix the damned thing. After all her trifling husband was content to let water run all through the damned house, while he only worried about the damned cows.
Feb 21. The day at work was uneventful by all comparison. Upon leaving I asked others in the office to wish me luck in surviving, if the plumber had not arrived.
Little did I know.
Let us say it is not a good sign to find a firetruck stuck in your front yard.
Apparently the heating element to the electric range had shorted out and started a fire in the oven. Marie closed the door and shut off the power. I will testify that her unswerving faithfulness to cleanliness had probably saved the day. She keeps her oven spotless and there was nothing in the oven to catch fire save the biscuits she was baking. Had there been a greasy buildup we would have most likely lost everything we owned. The fire expired due to lack of combustible material.
The firemen had checked out everything and were reassuring her when I arrived. Marie is the sort who falls apart after the emergency.
But the fire truck tried to turn around to leave and yep it was stuck. I went and got the tractor. Let me state here that I do not have a big enough tractor to pull a fire truck out of the mud. So I went and got Jacks tractor. Just for the record Jack also does not have a big enough tractor to pull a fire truck out of the mud. Using rednek know how and stick- to- it- ness we hooked two tractors to said fire truck. You guessed it. Jack and I together don’t have big enough tractors to pull a fire truck out of the mud……….
At least one still carrying a thousand gallons of water. Once we made that discovery and drained the water from the truck we were able to extricate it and only turned the entire front yard into an archeological dig and future landscape project.
That done, I returned Jack’s tractor and had supper and fed the stock. Yep Junior is still lame after walking a bit better yesterday.
Came in to find Marie doing something with the small freezer where the Hamburger from the recently slaughtered beef is stored. Upon inquiry she informed me that the freezer was not working, and she had discovered it when getting a pack of hamburger for meat loaf. We transferred all that meat to another freezer and she insisted on throwing away about fifty pounds that she was “afraid of”. Small price to pay….but then I ,……stupidly,…… ignorantly,…… thoughtlessly, reminded her that I had warned her a year ago not to unplug that freezer just because it was empty….Yeah….I know….open mouth and insert foot…….
This was a direct violation of a third undeniable truth of life. I call it Tate’s Truthful Tennant….” When dealing with women, it is always best to keep your mouth shut and your head down.” This is a hard one for a once bold man to always observe, but every time I violate it, I live to regret it. I have observed that women are more resentful than men about having any shortcomings observed…..especially observed by a man. But I digress and the day is not over.
The plumber did come and did repair the toilet……the one that was not leaking after all. But he did determine that there was a pin hole leak in the pipe in the wall and he did not have something he needed to fix it… the ceiling was still dripping…..I asked Marie if he determined if it was hot or cold water. She said that he said it was cold. I asked if he turned it off. She did not know. I went to the valve that he must have had his hand on to determine which pipe was leaking and turned off the cold water to the upstairs bath. The ceiling had stopped dripping by morning.
Before retiring, Marie opens the door to the woodstove to put in some wood, and the gasket falls off the door. Now this gasket must be glued on and can not be done on a hot stove. So I put it back in place and got the stove door shut enough to hopefully prevent a fire and have to call the firemen again, as I know they would dump the water before coming in here again.
But when everyone comes into the office …..especially Ann…..I will be smiling and cheeerful……most likely sickeningly so.


Baby Jim
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

The Timed AI Experiment.

Baby Jim has always been a little bit progressive minded. He never has been what you would call a pioneer but when something new comes along and it shows the promise of some improvement in some aspect of life, Baby Jim is usually ready to at least consider it. You would expect somebody who looks this much like an alien to embrace technology.

Take for example breeding cows. Baby Jim has been breeding cows by artificial insemination since the early 70’s. Now that does not make him a pioneer, but Baby Jim did learn the trade from a few of the industry pioneers. Baby Jim realized pretty quick that if he could master the technology he could extend his bull buying power immensely and afford a much better bull if he only bought the part he actually needed to get his cows bred. So he set out to learn to AI breed cows and he furthered his trip down the road to ruination.

Now our hero has been AI breeding cows for what is going on to thirty years. Over that time he has been involved in a lot of situations. Some were very good. Some were very bad. Some were dangerous and on the edge of deadly. Some were enjoyable. Some were lamentable. Some were highly successful. Others were dismal failures. Every now and then a situation comes along that is a combination of the above and ends up hilarious. This is the story of one of those times.

Baby Jim was involved in the annual fall breeding of a herd of cows. For those of you who have lived normal lives, a little background is in order. Back in the day, breeding cows meant five or six weeks of living with the cows. The reason for this is that cows, like most animals have a reproductive cycle that involves Estrous, or what is commonly called heat. This is mother nature’s way of birth control and another instance where the female controls everything in life. Basically the estrous period is when the animal is fertile and the only time she will have anything to do with the male.

To have a successful AI breeding season, the first step is to be able to breed the female when she is fertile. To do this you must observe the animals often, and well, to determine which animals are fertile, or in heat. Since the bovine animal has roughly a 21 day estrous cycle it normally takes a period of a minimum of three weeks to go through a bunch of cows. Additional observation and cattle working time before and after make AI breeding a major investment in time.

For about twenty years, science has been working on a way to get the animals to cooperate and be fertile in groups so that labor could be maximized or ultimately so that cows could be bred by appointment. Well that time has pretty well arrived. Over the last couple of years technology has evolved to make appointment breeding a reality.

Baby Jim had an appointment to breed a small group of cows. Now the down side is, once the scheduling is done and the cows are prepared and the appointed day of fertility arrives, there is no delay or rescheduling without significant expense. And one thing is true of appointment breeding – – – once the appointment is made the timing is critical to the success – – – the appointment must be kept.

On the day of this appointment, Baby Jim awoke to a freezing rain. It was foul and the TV news folks were warning everyone to stay home and canceling schools and sending everybody scurrying for bread and milk, the staples of modern inclement weather survival. Baby Jim has often wondered how many perfectly good automobiles have been wrecked on icy roads in the quest for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.

But the appointment had been made weeks in advance and needed to be kept. Baby Jim knew the mornings work would be outside and dressed as best he could for the weather. The cows were easy enough coaxed into the pen for some feed. Baby Jim had set about the task at hand.

At this time, we should point out the conditions of the cow working pen. The pen was outside. Wooden fence with several pens and with a basic chute and headcatch. Of course there was twenty years accumulation of Bovine fecal products, which the cow hooves were churning into a six to eight inch deep soup with freezing rain and the melting snow and a thin glaze of ice on everything just for good measure.

But things were going along pretty well. Everybody and everything was wet and cold except the neighbor who had on an excellent set of high quality rain wear and was cheerfully loading the cows in the chute for Baby Jim to work his magic. Got down to the last couple of cows. Did I hear you say UH OH? You should have.

Baby Jim was recording the breeding of the most recent cow. He noticed that there was not a cow in the chute. He heard a commotion in the back of the pen and figured that he better go help with those last two cows. Baby Jim was starting to the fence to go over and help when he saw the neighbor gently herding the two recalcitrant cows toward the crowding alley. Baby Jim observed that everything appeared to be under control and stopped in order to not spook the cows. This provided him with a perfect vantage point for what happened next.

Now this neighbor has a pretty nice herd of cows. They are big and growthy and he feeds them well, and they were usually pretty quiet animals. But one of these fourteen hundred pound maidens saw no useful purpose to her going in that chute. The two cows walked up to the gate at the crowding alley. They looked in. They paused. There is an old saying that is sometimes particularly appropriate in the cow business. “He who hesitates, is lost.” It has been the experience of Baby Jim that in a tight situation, if you give a cow a chance to think, she is most likely to out-think you. Well this gal did just that. In about a heart-beat she faked right, stepped back, pirouetted 180 degrees with the grace of a ballerina and the power of a D9 dozer and headed for the other end of the pen at a pretty good clip.

Good neighbor thought he was ready. He had his cow driving stick and he reached out to try to deter her turn. But that moment of hesitation had given her the edge. He reached out in front of her with the stick, but she was determined and she was powered by four wheel drive while neighbor had his feet stuck in the soup. He had leaned just a bit to intercept her. He was just a tad off balance. That old girl went by neighbor like a tornado through a trailer park. Now she never did touch him, but she did put some pressure on the cow stick and he was off balance and his feet were not exactly stuck but a little gummed up. Over backward he went. Right into the deepest part of the soup. It wasn’t quite deep enough for him to go under. Baby Jim was clambering over fences as fast as a beat up old cow man could and he could see neighbors face and knew he wasn’t drowning, but he laid there stuck in the soup with both arms and both feet stuck in the air, numb from the shock of semi frozen cow soup rendering his rain suit useless, rushing in through every gap, crack and crevice and embracing most of his body in a cold wet stinky mess. An instant image, that is engraved indelibly in the mind of Baby Jim.

Surprisingly very few evil words were uttered. Baby Jim helped neighbor up and determined that he was okay. Then Baby Jim had to take his tongue firmly between has teeth and bite down hard to keep from falling over laughing. Neighbor is a good fellow but would not take kindly to be laughed at in such circumstances. The final two cows were then penned and attended to without further incident, while neighbor went off to see about how to get himself cleaned up.

Several days later, Baby Jim is still waiting for neighbor to pronounce that, “Next year, I think we will just go back to using the bull.”


Baby Jim
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

The Mean Cow

Many years ago, Baby Jim did a stint of working for a cow outfit up in Yankee country. Worked there for about three years till the winter of 77 / 78 finally convinced him that God never intended for a good southern boy to spend that much time in the great frozen north. Now, Baby Jim was not all that far north, but it was danged sure far enough. In three years of living there, Baby Jim left the house every morning wearing a jacket. In the summer it came off pretty early, but every day started with one on.

Now we are not going to name the cow outfit or the location to protect the names of the innocent. It is a big outfit though, and if you have ever picked up a bull catalog and spent some time with it you have seen the name of the outfit. Quality operation from top to bottom. Had to be……After all our hero was working there.

Now Baby Jim was working in the capacity of the cow man on this farm. In this capacity Baby Jim was responsible for a sizeable cow herd of valuable cows and a small crew of men. It was up to Baby Jim and his crew to tend to the needs of that cowherd. Anything needed by a cow was Baby Jim’s responsibility. Now the upside of this was that about half the year, Baby Jim got to watch the sun rise sitting on a knoll somewhere astride of a cowhorse puffing on a Marlboro and waiting for enough light to see the cows. Got to ride about half a day everyday. Checking heat, gathering cows, riding fence lines, moving cows from pasture to pasture. All in all, a wonderful life.

The down side was the second season. The endless WINTER. Now this farm was pretty well set up for winter from a cow standpoint. It snowed a heap there every winter and so the idea was to just keep the cows up and have feed close at hand and try to keep it simple. There were big feedlots with silos and hay close by and a good sleeping barn for the cows to get out of the weather. They just went into the lots and hunkered down for the winter with about a hundred cows in each lot. The biggest chore for most of the winter was to make it through the day so you could do it all again the next day and hope the infernal snow didn’t completely bury everything again overnight.

The real fun started in February. That was when the calving started. Now Baby Jim doesn’t like to have calves in February in central Virginia. He sure as the devil didn’t think calving in February in 23 feet of snow was a good idea, but the boss reminded our hero that when he had his own cows he could calve them any time he wanted to, but til then he reckoned we would start in February. Now the rub is that you can’t just have baby calves in a lot where cows have been confined all winter. It would be a death sentence for a good many of them. The close up cows had to go to a maternity barn where there were proper amenities for such things. Heat lamps for thawing out frozen calves and frozen cowboys. Maternity pens to allow cows an opportunity to bond with their own baby rather than the other dozen just born. Sick pens for weak calves and most of all, a relatively clean environment.

The plan was that when the weather lightened up in March the early calves and their mamas could go right out to pasture and we could cleanup and run another bunch in. It all worked pretty well most years. Sometimes we had to have a dozer clean a path to walk a bunch of cows from the winter lot to a maternity barn, and a late spring could cause problems with cows and calves stacking up, but these are a part of life’s little management challenges.

Baby Jim and his guys lived with the cows during calving and breeding season. Breeding season was generally in warmer weather though, and the day was usually over by nine or ten PM. During calving, Baby Jim spent many a night sleeping in a calf hutch in the barn under a heat light, piled up with a half dozen calves while waiting for some other old cow to bring forth new life. Had to check em at midnight and 6 AM and there was always one fixing to go into labor, so sometimes it was just easier to snooze and cruise than to make the trek four or five miles back home. Told you, this was a big operation.

One winter there was unusual snow fall and that winter for some reason a bunch of the cows insisted on going outside to the far end of the lot to calve. Of course a cowboy had to be Johnny on the spot to get the calf into the barn or the poor critter would expire from the temperatures and exposure before it ever got up. To alleviate this the crew fenced off an even smaller area outside the barn, which allowed the cows to get to water but severely limited their ability to roam. Put up two strands of electric wire and made a lot about 100 feet by 200 feet.

One particular morning in late February the crew was in a hurry to get all the cows checked so they could move on to something else that was pressing. Everybody split up and went in different directions to check the various groups. Delmonte took the “Cow Truck” and went one way. Baby Jim grabbed another truck and went to check the far bunch. Everything had been pretty quiet out there the night before.

When Baby Jim arrived he heard a cow carrying on something terrible. She was bawling and bellowing and snorting and did not sound a bit happy. Baby Jim bulldozed his way through the new snow, pushed the new drifts away from the door and finally rolled it open. All quiet in the barn and that awful noise was coming from the lot out back. Baby Jim stepped out the back of the barn and there was a cow with a new calf and she was protecting it. To this day no one is sure just what she was protecting it from, but she was in protection overdrive. The calf was laying in the snow and every time it tried to stand she would knock it back down. Now it was well below zero and the wind was blowing and that calf didn’t have long or much will left.

Baby Jim started out there to get the baby and get it in the barn. Mama had other ideas and she met our hero about half way and hit him somewhere between the belt buckle and his heart. She knocked him down and pounced on him with the intent of pushing him through the snow and into the dirt. Oddly enough, probably the only thing that kept Baby Jim alive was the hated snow. It was slick enough that while the cow was stomping and mashing as she pushed down, Baby Jim just sort of skidded along in front of her.
Now he was a kicking and a flailing and slugging and grabbing and cussing and trying to figure out how to get out of this mess, and the cow never lightened up in her attempt at murdering the infidel transgressor who approached her baby. If this cow had horns there would have been a short and heartfelt funeral service a few days later. As it was, the cow mostly just stepped on Baby Jim’s toes a few hundred times, about up to mid thigh.

As they made the second lap around the lot, Baby Jim saw the barn coming at him. Couldn’t get caught against that wall. Then there was the door. Baby Jim saw his chance. He grabbed a handful of nose and an ear and twisted clockwise with all his strength. The Cows head turned a bit and he rolled in the door and behind the wall.

Without her new nemesis, the cow returned to her previous occupation of knocking her calf down every time it moved.

Baby Jim crawled through the barn and out the front. The other cows were not thrilled with that, but fortunately none took serious exception. Had to get a rope to get that calf in the barn. Damn. Delmonte had the truck with the rope in it. Baby Jim called him on the radio. No answer. Wait a little bit and call again. No answer. Wait a bit and call again. Still no Delmonte. He must be having problems too. Call again and this time Curly answered. Baby Jim told him that he needed a lariat bad, and that Delmonte had it in the cow truck. The Boss came on the radio. “Weellllll, why do you need a lariat?” Baby Jim related the situation. “I’ll be right out” the boss said curtly. Baby Jim said that would be fine just don’t forget the rope.

A few minutes later the boss pulled up and got out of his truck with a cow stick and …….no rope. By this time Baby Jim had regained his feet and was hobbling about. The boss said “Weellll, what seems to be the problem. Baby Jim pointed to the zealous mama and her new baby and the problem was apparent. Now the boss was a young and proud man, as well, and he liked to lead by example and he was going to show this southern boy how to do this. He started toward the cow and Baby Jim warned one more time, “ Now, she will get ya.” The boss made it a little closer than Baby Jim had, and he was prepared. She charged and he cocked his stick back and she hit him. She hit him a little lower than she got Baby Jim. She got under him and she threw him. She threw him pretty high. And she threw him about fifteen feet distant. The only thing that saved him is that she threw him onto the electric fence and he came down on it on his back. Baby Jim can still remember trying hard to stifle a laugh as the boss stiffened and yelled “Ah……You…..Ah…..old……Ah……bitty……Ah” every time that pulse hit him before he could roll off of it.

About that time Delmonte and Curly arrived with the lariat and Curly roped the calf and dragged it into the barn and all ended well. Those boys never could figure out why Baby Jim got this curious snicker every time anybody mentioned a mean cow. The boss’s dignity eventually grew back, but he wasn’t quite as eager to step up after that, if Baby Jim was stepping back.

Tana Saves the Day

          Baby Jim

  Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives


                 Tana saves the day.


Marie and I have had Australian Shepherd dogs since 1985.  I intend to have one for as long as I can provide a home and take care of one.


In my life I have had all kinds of dogs.  My Daddy raised beagles for running rabbits and his dogs were good enough that his friends would call me when I was but a child and ask me to go hunting with them.  Didn’t take long to figure out that they wanted me to bring a couple of dogs too.


Over the years I have had Beagles, Fox Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters, German Shepherd, Great Dane and Saint Bernard as well as crosses of several descriptions.  But when I got Monte, who was my first Aussie, I was hooked on Australian Shepherds.  Rose and Toby lay here around my chair as I pound on this keyboard. 


I find the breed to be loyal, faithful, obedient, intelligent, protective, athletic and thoughtful.  Yes I said thoughtful.  They are the first breed of dog I have ever been around that are innately capable of assessing a situation and making a decision and taking action.


Monte was my first Aussie.  He was a big black tricolor and his sire was a red tri show dog and his mother was a Blue Merle, if I remember her correctly.  I got Monte when he was eight weeks old and he was my faithful companion until his death of old age.  Monte was the only Aussie we have had that lived outside.  He liked it better outside.  As a pup we lived in an apartment and when we bought the farm and he could get out and run he preferred to stay outside.  He soon learned the boundaries and adopted the farm and it became his territory and he protected it from all intruders.


Monte was here when I was traveling a lot.  Jack and Marie did the chores when I was gone.  Monte was a fair cow dog.  He was a bit big to be real handy but he was smart and knew the routines.  He would take the stock to the barn in the afternoon so Jack or Marie could do the feeding and chores.


Tana was our second Aussie.  She was a little red ball of fire and she was the first of the Gator Girls.  Tana’s real name was Montana Crystal and she was a daughter of Charlie Glass who was a famous stock dog.  Tana would have been good too, but she was Marie’s dog and Marie’s shadow, and Marie did not want her chasing cows.  I got Monte in 1985 and we bought the farm in 1986,  I guess it was 1987 when we got Tana and she also came here as a weanling pup.   Now Monte was a big old boy and in his prime topped a hundred pounds which is big for an Aussie.  Tana was maybe 45 lbs in her prime.  She got fat in her old age but don’t we all.  Monte was a good soul.  As long as you were acting right he was a kind and loving dog.  He would protect us from anything that did not look right to him though.  He also had a habit of curling his lip that we called smiling.  He would curl that lip and shake his head and trot over to us to be petted and he looked like an attacking mad dog.  But that was his pet me mode.


Tana did not have a pet me mode.  She lived for Marie and she tolerated me, and the rest of the world was infidel transgressors to be dealt with harshly.  She would even bite at Jack who knew her from her puppy days and she him.  Tana stayed in the house with Marie and I use to tease Marie that they were a pair of mean bi____s.  Tana even bit me once when I affectionately spanked Marie on the fanny as I walked by.  During the years that I traveled, I sometimes came in late at night.  Tana knew my car and me and whenever I came into the house late, she never barked but always greeted me by bumping my knee with her snout.  He way of telling me that she was on duty.   Tana was so tough that we felt compelled to warn the world and we put up bad dog signs even though we kept her in the house.




People would see the signs and then drive up and see Monte walking up with his head turned and his lip curled up and they thought he was the bad dog.  They were worth their weight in gold in deterring salesman and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons trying to save my soul.  Add in my penchant for carrying guns and one night threatening to kill two young men who knocked on the door at three AM to use the phone, and we got a pretty tough reputation.


 Tana loved to play Frisbee and she loved to swim and a great day to her was a combination of the two.   She thought she was a retriever.  She would dive in the water at full speed and swim furiously to retrieve whatever was thrown out there.


In the early years before we could afford to build the barn we didn’t have any cattle facilities.  W e started with three cows we bought from Lynn Brae in Troutville Va.  Two were Hungry Jack daughters and the third was Blanch who was an R&J Blastoff dauhter.  Blanch had a bull calf and when he was about 350 to 400 lbs he came up lame.  I let it go for a few days but it got worse rather than better.  The only thing to do was rope him and try to evaluate and treat the problem. 


I gathered up the necessary supplies and told Monte to stay in the yard and went to catch the calf and treat him.  I caught the calf on the first toss and was feeling real cocky.  I took a dally around a tree and was going to try to reel him in a bit so that I could throw him and treat the sore foot.  Well that little fellow did not think I was there to assist him in any way.  He was running in circles and bucking and bellowing.  I could not gain any rope so I tied him off and started to go down the rope toward the calf.  Well he made enough noise that he got Blanche’s attention and she went into maternal protection mode.  As I made my way done the rope trying to get to the calf and get a hand on him, Blanch started up the rope from the calf toward me.  She came hard.  Long story short, Blanch put me into the trees and we were having a nice game of tag and she was trying hard to tag me with 1400 lbs of maternal protection fury.  I was dodging from tree to tree with my hand on her head and kicking her in the snout and jumping behind the next tree.  The calf was still balling and running and fighting the rope and Blanch was getting madder and showed no signs of letting up.


Monte could not stand it.  He came thru the electric fence, which he was not normally inclined to do.  He grabbed Blanch by the hock and she kicked him.  She wheeled and he snapped at her nose and she rolled him.  I was afraid that Blanch was going to kill my dog and I was flailing on her with whatever I could pick up.  Blanch took turns charging at me and then at Monte.  The calf continued to ball and run in circles and fight the rope. 


Out of nowhere there appeared a red streak that attached itself firmly to Blanche’s nose and succeeding in getting her attention.  Tana was clamped onto that cow and trying to throw her.  Actually Tana did not have a foot on the ground but she was trying to shake that cow like a rat and so she was hanging off the cow and convulsing in mid air.  Blanch thought better of her plans and wheeled, dislodging Tana.   Tana hit the ground and made a pass at the back heels of Blanch and down across the field they went.  Tana chased Blanch to the other end of the field and then came back and posted herself between Blanch and I, and she sat there growling until I finished with the calf.  Monte took the worst of it but he was not severely injured.  He did cough up a bit of blood  he did not have any broken bones and he shook it off and went down to back up Tana. 


I first thought Marie must have come to the door to check on the commotion and accidentally let Tana out.  But after the commotion I noticed that Marie was conspicuous by her absence.  She would have been in the middle of it trying to protect Tana if she had known.  She was in the Kitchen and was horrified when she learned that her baby had been in the cow field.  I informed her that her baby had saved our collective butts out there.


That was well over twenty five years ago and to this day we have not figured out how that dog got the door open and came out there of her own accord.  But I was sure glad she did.  Building a catch pen became a little bit higher priority.  Blanch turned out to be a good cow and left us some nice daughters who became important in our herd.  That bull calf became the first of many bulls we sold from our herd and he became a pet to the farmer who bought him.    And now a fat old man fondly remembers the time that Tana saved the day.




A helmet would have prevented that !!!!!


Many of you over the last few years have been kind enough to share with me your opinions on how much safer I would be if I only wore a helmet while riding my perfectly dependable old gelding Palladin Perkins.

I had an incident over the weekend where I had an aha moment………..

I was walking on a wooden sidewalk early in the morning with my cowboy boots on and I was carrying an item that was not heavy but it was in both hands. I stepped on a frost patch on the sidewalk and my first clue that something was amiss was when I saw the toes of my boots in front of my face.

The second clue was the crashing thud of me landing on the sidewalk.

The third clue was the intense pain in my right rear ribcage.

As I lay there gasping for breath that would not come, my first thought was how bad is it…….

And I can not help it but my second thought was, “if I had only been wearing a helmet.!!!!”

Same area I crashed on the last time I came off of a horse. Yep…no helmet then either.

yeah…something is busted….I can not tell if it is bone or just torn cartlidge or muscle. Have been hearing a popping sound internally for 24 hours and last night something gave loose. Now it hurts a bit. Not much can be done about it anyway except ease around and not put undue pressure or strain on it.

It hurts enough that I sure wish I had been wearing a helmet. What can I say…If only I had been wearing a helmet…..

 A man oughta do what he thinks is best….John Wayne as Hondo Lane
Jim Tate

Emergency Fence Repair

My old blog service deleted my account.  I guess the images and discussion of agriculture and riding horses was just too intense for them.

I hope to find copies of the articles I had posted and post them here.

Anyhow here is a new article written last night.

Emergency Fence Repair


On the evening of 12/7/2010 we had thunderstorms.  We had showers all day but they were light and as is normally the case the real storms wait until I arrive home to do the chores.

Such was the case last night.  When I arrived home the rain turned into a deluge.  Fortunately right now most of my feeding is under roof either in the barn or the stable.  So I did not get real wet, but the rain was coming down and by the time I got back to the house the wind was howling.  We even had thunder and lightning.  The power blinked off and on a few times with the attendant worries.  But it never stayed off long.  The wind was fearsome.  On the morning news the reports were that winds were clocked in excess of 70 miles per hour.  75 mph is the level of Category 1 hurricane winds.  Eventually the storm passed and things calmed down and our power was still on so I went to sleep on the sofa in front of the idiot box as is my custom. 

About 10:30 pm Toby woke me as it was time for the dogs to make their last trip outdoors for the night.  Whichever one has to go will wake me, and we go out ,and then I put some wood in the stove and we go to bed.  As I stood on the porch last night waiting for them to take care of business, I noticed something amiss.  The old Persimmon tree was down. 

This old persimmon tree was real old.  It had quit fruiting years ago and two years ago it died.  It has served as a corner post for the fence since about 1987.  I did not have anything nailed to it but I had taken sections of black plastic water pipe and run high tensile  wire thru them and around the tree and it had been a steadfast corner for many years.

But the wind had taken it down and with it the fence.  Horses are in that lot and I was pretty sure they would not cross the electric fence even if it was down, so I went on to bed.  Had there been cows with access to it I would have needed to go out and fix it last night as cows love to escape and frolic and go play in the road or raid the feed stores in the barn and crap on everything.  Once a horse learns where a fence is they normally will honor it for a good while even if it is down.  Especially an electric fence.

As I went to bed, I was thinking about how to best make the repairs once I got the tree cut up and off the fence.

The corner was really where it needed to be and there was little room to move it without having to reconfigure the entire section of fence.  It was going to be difficult to build a brace assembly there because digging thru the stump and roots of the old tree would be gruesome work.  Just before dozing off I hit upon an idea of building something possibly temporary that might work.  I decided to put in a corner post and brace it with floating braces on both sides of the turn.

Off to lala land until Toby woke me again at about 6:00 am.  I put the dogs out and noticed that the horses were where they were supposed to be and that no one had cleaned up the mess during the night. 

After a quick breakfast, and a call to the boss to explain my absence (boss was stuck at home with trees down across her  driveway and no power) , I began gathering tools and materials and inventorying what I had available and figuring out if I had to go buy stuff, or if I had materials to make do.   After gathering and thinking I revised my plan.  I didn’t have enough 4X4 treated posts.  But I did have some steel posts.

The fence is a three wire high tensile electric fence and it is only 38 inches tall.  I decided to use the steel post as the corner, use the two treated 4X4s as the braces and I found a piece of treated 2X6 for the floats and dug up a couple of wire ratchets, one used and one new and a piece of scrap two inch PVC pipe.

  1.  I cut the tree off of the fence and cut it into fire wood size slices.  Now I have some more splitting to do.
  2. Loosen the pressure on the fence by releasing the ratchets.
  3. I went to the outside edge of the stump hole and drove the steel post into the ground until I had a little less than four feet sticking up.
  4.  I slid the scrap piece of PVC down over the steel post as an insulator for the fence and left about six inches of the post sticking up above the PVC to apply the braces.
  5. Put the wire over the new post to get it on the correct side and in the correct order.
  6. Cut two 24 inch long pieces from the 2X6 for the floats.
  7. Trial positioned the 4×4 braces.
  8. Placed the floats along side the braces on the ground and marked the ground line to cut the brace post to fit somewhat flat on the float.
  9. Trimmed the 4x4s where I had marked.
  10. Positioned the floats on the trimmed post and lagged them together with a 3/8 x 3 inch lag screw in each one.
  11. Drilled a hole about three or four inches from each end of each 4×4.
  12. Stuck some scrap pieces of insultube in the holes.
  13. Ran the tightening wire and added a ratchet to each one.
  14. Tightened the ratchets to the braces
  15. Ran a safety wire to keep the braces from sliding off the steel post
  16. Tightened the fence ratchets.( each wire is about 200 lbs tension)
  17. Cleaned up my tools and was so proud of my fix that I decided to take some photos of it and share with the world.   It took me longer to gather tools and materials together than it did to make the repair.

The only thing I did not have that I would like to have used is some high tensile wire for the brace tensioners.  I did not have any and used regular 14 gauge galvanized fence wire.  I probably won’t last more than ten years but it will be easy enough to replace if I am still living.

Photos below.