Our Hat Creek Ranch
...of Cowpies and Minesweepers...
My family has been in the cattle business in Texas since 1821. In all that time, if we have learned anything, it's that a Texas longhorn (cow) will eat just about anything. Just like other things they eat like mesquite peas, 'possum persimmon and prickly pear, they have a particular liking for plastic. If a ranch worker leaves a rubber hose running in a water tank, it become spaghetti noodle, rubber trim on vehicle bumpers is just so much like pull toffee. I swear I once had to attached a hitch a "come-a-long" (block-pully-and tackle) to a wooden post and pulled a carpet runner out of the throat of a two thousand pound ox.
I don't sit on a horse as comfortable as I once did. My shattered hip never healed quite right, so I do my fence riding on a Mule (aka All-Terrain-Vehicle with a small flat-bed). I carry tools, splicing wire, varmint rifle and occasionally, feed (usually peanut hull and molasses cubes). Every time I get down to check a snare or mend a hole, you can expect a cow easing up and nosing around in the bed for a tidbit of hay bale or partially emptied feed sack. One thing I never liked about the Mule, is that it has an ignition port like a golf cart and a tiny little key. Well, I lost one key already. To keep from loosing the spare key, I attached to it a bright yellow plastic tag. You can see where this is leading.
The "Mule" note the twin seats
One afternoon, after I finished feeding my two geldings (neutered male horses), I passed through the barn and there in the trap were half a dozen cows poking around my Mule. I shooed them off with a buggy whip, sat down on the seat and reached for the ignition. NO KEY!!!
I checked my pockets, pushed the Mule aside and searched underneath, I grabbed a rake and scratched around in the sand and gravel. Nothing. I was definitely afoot. The hunt would renew at dawn.
Shortly after sunrise, with stout walking shoes and topped with a broad straw hat and armed with a brand new 12 volt metal detector, I started at the head of the lake and moved up the canyon, sweeping cowpies (their equivalent to carabao pie or "tae ng calabaw"). In the cool of the morning, the freshest cowpies are steamy and attract butterflies. Picture this poor old cowhand, shuffling and swinging that infernal gadget like a scythe afoot in the deep grasses, watching ahead and besides for the next tell tale cowpie. Some days a half-section of land can loom awfully large in relation to the task at hand.
I had left enough hay out to keep the herd in close to the pen along the creek bed. Yet, before long the August sun's hot eye would clear the rim wall and the rock flats would turn into a white hot anvil. Mid day temperatures could reach 105°easy. It could have gotten rough.
a view to the creek
Thank heaven..... it wasn't very long before my metal detector got a 'ping'......
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