Archive for January, 2012

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like.  I have had a lot of amazing opportunities.  I have been fortunate.  And, like most people I have had to live through and endure some really difficult times.  But I always remember my dad saying, “Tough times make tough people.” I never had a day in my life when I did not respect every word that my dad offered me.  I always figured if my dad told me what to do or what not to do, it was his way of telling me that he’d already tried doing something that backfired or went well.  So I always told myself, “That’s wisdom talking and I’d be smart if I listened to the advice.”

I bring this up because of today.  Today I had 6 cowdogs with me while feeding cattle.  On, “load up”, Jewel and Hawk jump in the front seat…Jewel by the door (just like her brother Bert) and Hawk in the middle.  Bandit, Levi, Redhead and Liza hop on the Hydra Bed.  Bandit on the driver side, Redhead, Liza and Levi…left to right…all very orderly, very disciplined.  They listen to me like I used to listen to my dad.  I have transferred my ‘hanging on my dad’s every word’ theory over to my cowdogs.  They literally hang on my every word.  Things are very orderly and I like that.  Oh, once in a while one of them will make a ‘fun run’ at a heifer or cow just to make the heifer or cow kick up her heels, buck a few times and trot off.  It gives the heifer or cow the sense of telling the cowdog, “git on outta here” and it gives the cowdog that sense of, “yeah, that’s right you best pay attention to me.”

So today while the cowdogs and I waited for the heifers to show up I kneeled down on the ground and all the cowdogs came over, surrounded me, sat or stood right there with me…waiting…watching…paying attention.  Reminding me of how I used to be my dad’s shadow.  I tried to snap a couple of pictures just to capture the moment of how they respect their situation and the role of being a great cowdog, great companion, great friend and a wonderful part of my life.  At any given moment they could have sprung into action, but, a great cowdog also knows that life is more than just being a hard to handle jerk.

Sometimes my cowdogs make my life too easy.  Like me feeding hay and the cows split off and come down the wrong side of a fence line.  So, I ask the cowdogs to, “walk ’em on up” and they fall in behind the cows and walk them on up to the gate and around the corner.  What a bonus!  Even though I miss Bert, I am now able to see and say sometimes, “Life is good.”

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January 12, 2012.

Last winter, I had a national ranching magazine owner/editor call to do an interview about cattle, cattle feeding and the cowdogs. At the end of the interview, he said, “Can you email me a hi res photo of you out feeding cattle with your cowdogs?” I said, “Well, hadn’t really taken any pictures of myself. But I guess I could.” He said, “Make sure you aren’t wearing a cap.” I thought, “It’s below zero! I never wear a cowboy hat when it’s snowing, 30 mph wind and below zero. I ranch for real not for show.” I said to the man, “Well, this time of year that is not possible to catch me in a cowboy hat. My health comes first and I ranch for a living and not for show.” He sternly said, “Well, my magazine is to portray the cowboy and ranch way and wearing anything other than a cowboy hat is not acceptable for my magazine.” I said, “Well, then I can’t help you anymore. Not even for a high gloss article in your magazine.” He said, “Seriously?!” I said, “Yep, thanks for calling.”

So today, I had to once again chuckle at that day. The wind chill is -7 F. It all boils down to common sense and not freezing my ears off, not being deathly sick and not puttin’ on the dog. Seriously fella, ranching is not even remotely close to being slick and high gloss. Put your fanny out here for 24×7 freezing your tail off to save and feed the world. Probably explains why he’s “writing about the glamour” and I’m livin’ “the dream”!

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Feeding the heifers on Monday.  The day ended up being 1 degree F short of  ‘record high’.  Today we are in the mid to upper 60’s again.  A year ago, Feb. 1, 2011, we were in the throws of a historical blizzard event.  We got over 4 feet of snow…heavy, wet snow.  It was a really beneficial moisture making snow.

This year our winter is warm, no precipitation to speak of.  The weather folks are beginning to talk about how the farmers are becoming extremely concerned about the lack of moisture and that if it continues, we will be in the midst of a second year of not enough moisture for pasture, hay or row crops.  I heard on the news that central Texas has towns that began hauling in water over the weekend…their city wells have gone dry.  At this point, it is not very “optimistic” in the world of production agriculture for a large geographical area of the United States.  I guess the only think we can do is, “Stay tuned.”

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January 20, 2012.

Just another day that we were out feeding cattle.  I had taken three cowdogs along for the run.  They go along to keep the cows away from the hay bales, watch a gate while I go feed a set of cows and they stay at the gate while I am away.  Teaching your cowdog the word ‘Gate’ and the term ‘Watch the gate’ is one of the handiest features…convenience features…of a smart cowdog.  At least for me, I find it very rewarding when I have successfully taught a cowdog to stay at a gate while I go do something.  It is their job to remain at the gate and not let cattle get mixed up while I am gone.  Mr dear partner Bert was the best at this.  I’d be cleaning the growlot apron off and he’d be at the gate…at attention.  He’d get a bit bored and would sort a calf off and take it through the gate, let it go a few yards, then run ahead to turn it back and put it back in the lot.  Life was one continuous game of fun and strategy to Bert. 

Anyway.  The cowdogs and I were feeding some heifers off to the N and when I came out of the draw and topped the hill, I could see in the S distance that I had a cow standing on the hill and bawling to the S.  I had to shake my head, thinking that is the same cow whose calf got it’s head stuck in the coon den here awhile back.

I went on home and got another bale of hay.  I got 3 more cowdogs.  If that crazy heifer calf had her head back in the coon den, then it was time to step it up and make her realize that her head doesn’t belong there…afterall, this will now make the 3rd time that I have “rescued” the little rip.  On the way I stopped and got some old tin so that I could fold it and insert it in the ‘V’ of the trees.  Off we went.

Indeed, the cowdogs and I get to the far side of the SW pasture and there with her head in the ‘V’ of the trees is that crazy heifer.  Her mom had once again to come stand guard and talk to her calf.  Well, it was now time for the cowdogs to talk to the calf.  I had 6 cowdogs with me.  I sent 3 to go hold the rest of the heifers and their calves off away from the scene of the “Get ahold” practice.  Then, I had the other 3 cowdogs work on the cow who was on hand to protect her calf. Around, around, around the tree went the cowdogs and the cow.  We headed the cow, we heeled the cow, we got ahead and then the cow realized that she was not going to win.  Next, it was time to work on the calf.  Of course the cow returned a time or two, but she was getting tired, winded and of no value in protecting her calf.  After a bit of time passed, the heifer finally decided that she could raise her head on her own and get her head out of the ‘V’ in the tree.  A bit worn, she trotted off and returned to the herd. 

The cowdogs were absolutely thrilled.  They had fun, they were successful and they knew I was pleased.  They didn’t get ugly or vicious with the heifer.  They were insistent, but drew no blood and left her tail intact.  I absolutely do not like cowdogs that will just grab a tail to swing on it and be purposely destructive. 

I stuffed the ‘V’ in the tree with some tin, took a 2nd piece to close off the hole and used some “Symbolic Duct Tape” to make the statement that, “You can do a lot with duct tape, but you cannot fix stupid.”  I did have a hard time getting the duct tape to stick, it was about 15 degrees F and the tin was dusty.  But, I couldn’t resist the laugh it brought to me so I got it to hang on for a bit…at least long enough to snap a picture.

I have to say, that when I posted it to my Facebook page, I had a fella send me a note that while I thought I was being successful with my duct tape, that it would not hold and that I should have considered something a little more permanent than duct tape.  For those of you who know me…I had to laugh.  For those of you that have never met me…well, it’s been a long time since my blonde hair turned brown. 

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Straight, narrow, well traveled, a curve here and there…but taking the high road each day will always lead to a better life.

~Tammy and her cowdogs.

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The weatherman was chirping about a historical snow event that was to arrive on Feb. 1st. I spent days preparing. Overloaded with cattle. Calving about 2 weeks away. Knowing that calving could start at any minute once the barometer took a nose dive. Snowplowing equipment and tractors ready. There was no time to sleep. Groceries laid in. Wood hauled. Cowdog… bedding in the houses. Heatlamps on the pups.

This week…2012…it is going to dry and warm…mid-50’s to 60 by Tues./Wed. Daffodill bulbs are popping through and elm tree buds swelling. This has been the most wonderful January I can remember as far as day/night temperatures. Sure has saved a lot of cattle calories…what a blessing with the lack of hay in a 400 mile radius, and if found, it’s kochia weeds, foxtail, oak leaves and moldy.

Just darn happy it is not overcast and snowing!  I will look back at my digital diary here on my Blog pages and feel relieved…knowing this year is going to be different.  I’ll clearly remember back to last year and how I was so grateful that I grew up in the Nebraska Sandhills and learned there how to live with and through a blizzard.  We had lots of blizzards to deal with then. Lots of ole photos of snow deeper than the chicken house.

Tough times make tough people.  Thanks to my dad for all the knowledge he gave me while he was alive.

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Plans are in the works to host another Tammy’s Cowdogs cowdog production sale.  The dates are May 18, 19, 20.  The cowdog demonstrations and sale will be Friday the 18th.  Watch my Blog for updates as the sale time gets closer.  Previous sales information is on my Blog and website. 

We will get all the previous sale information of years past “corralled” up a bit so that it is all easier to find and follow.  Life is a work in progress at times!

Stay tuned!  Cross your fingers the winter is good (it has been so far), that spring brings much needed rain to all the areas that need rain to grow grass and crops (that includes my little piece of Americana), and that a more normal level of input costs can be recognized and that all production ag folks can make an honest living.

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