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Published July 01, 2015, 07:30 AM

Season’s end

TOWNER, N.D. — I’m not sure how many calves we’ve roped and branded in our neighborhood in the past month or so. If I did know, I probably wouldn’t say anyway. It’s not polite to ask someone how many cattle they have, and I don’t suppose it would be polite to tell anyone how many calves there are in the neighborhood in case they know how to do division. It was quite a bunch anyway.

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I’m not sure how many calves we’ve roped and branded in our neighborhood in the past month or so. If I did know, I probably wouldn’t say anyway. It’s not polite to ask someone how many cattle they have, and I don’t suppose it would be polite to tell anyone how many calves there are in the neighborhood in case they know how to do division. It was quite a bunch anyway.

A lot of people would say it’s the best time of the year on our part of the prairie. It’s usually our best weather of the year. The skies are blue, the grass is green. It’s easily our most social time of the year. People, pickups, horse trailers, kids, horses and food all descend on a place like a cowboy sting operation.

The keys to enjoying the calf working season are kind of natural and obvious. You have to like cattle, horses, neighbors, kids, food and conversation. Cattle are cattle — sometimes they do exactly what you want, other times, maybe not. You have to roll with it without losing your cool. Horses are easily the best tool around for gently and expertly roping the two hind legs of the calves to bring them to the calf working crew, but, again you have to respect them for their mind and the constant cues, and teaching a rider gives a horse in a new setting. They’re not machines, but they can get a little better, and more valuable, with each ride and each calf pulled from the pen.

Apart from those animal components, it’s up to us humans to allow ourselves to enjoy the company of neighbors and kids, and the satisfaction of good food and conversation.

I remember a story our friend and minister shared at my father’s funeral. Wally was helping Dad work a handful of older cattle through the chute on a hot day, and Wally offered to round up his kids and my sister and me from the yard to come help, and Dad said, “No, just let them play. They’ve got their whole life to work, let them play.” And we continued to run around the yard, climb trees and swing on the swing set.

Later, Wally and Dad sat down on the ground with their backs against the barn wall to rest and maybe have something cool to drink. They were sitting there watching us kids run and play, and Wally said Dad’s gaze landed on us and he softly said, “Aren’t they beautiful?” It was one of those tender admissions of a father, and what I believe every father thinks to himself when he looks at his children. But, not to let the emotion of the moment get out of hand, he followed up a little later with, “How’d a couple of ugly so-and-so’s like us get so lucky as to have kids like that?”

I think of that story often when I look at my own children. Of course, I know that I can thank my wife and the genetic process for the beauty of our kids. And I thank the life I’ve been given to have had my father’s love, that story, and to be able to share that same fatherly love with our own kids who run and play, and work calves.

At the end of the calf working on our place, I appreciated the comments of “Your calves looked really good, Ryan,” or, “Boy, the cows were sure slicked off nice and in good shape.” It was a nice sight to see so many good horses tied along the corral. The food and drinks were good and plentiful, and our friends and neighbors were in good spirits. But nothing beat seeing a yard full of kids, sometimes helping us in the branding corral, sometimes just running and playing and laughing like kids ought to.

Dad was right. They are beautiful.

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