Ranch Life: What It Taught Me

The thing about animals is that they’re animals. I don’t believe in a 100% bomb-proof horse, a completely docile cow, or a dog that won’t ever snarl. In a way, animals are a little bit like people – they have bad days, and they can hurt you.

After a week at the office that bottomed out on the low end of crappy, I took myself, my cow dog Doc, my chaps, and White Flash down to the river ranch for a day of doing what I really love. I have been blessed with friends who let me come work for free. They suffer through my snappy attitude to get my hard day’s work, and I get my head on straight enough to go back into the office on Monday. It’s a win-win for all of us – on most days.

Anyhow, I spent the morning pitching hay off a wagon, driving the team, and riding herd on my cow dog who has about eight million things to learn about being a cow dog. (Lesson #1: Don’t chase the cows unless given explicit permission.) As we were unhitching the team, one of the crew came back from taking care of the cows upriver. And he, well, there’s really no tactful way to put this: he looked like crap, covered in slop from head to toe and moving a little slow.

Turns out he’d been tagging and doctoring a new calf, and the mama decided he shouldn’t be touching her baby. She charged him and pushed him through the mud and manure for quite a ways before she finally let him be. Thankfully he was on the upside of okay, and thankfully the cow had only shoved him around and didn’t stomp on him with her hooves. That’s when bones break, and that’s when things get really out of hand.

Ranching can be dangerous. It’s just how it is. Animals are unpredictable, and many times, ranchers are working alone. Even in this age of cell phones, that method of hollering in help isn’t always possible given the remote locations of many ranches. While it would be nice to employ the buddy system, that isn’t feasible a lot of times as there is just too much to get done, and you have to use your resources in the most efficient way possible.

I think of all the times my dad sent me off alone to check cows, to bring a cow in, to rake hay, or any of the other variety of tasks needing done on the ranch. It taught me how to think through things, how to keep my head on in tense situations, how to get creative in completing my work when my first tactic wouldn’t work. It also taught me how to give it up when I’d been licked – a lesson that I still struggle with as I sure hate to admit defeat.

It gave me a healthy respect for animals, for all the people who do their best to take care of them, and – in instances like I described above – it taught me how to pray, because that’s sometimes the only thing left to do.


  1. I enjoyed your article, sounds like home and daily routine chores here. Hard to get folks to understand the difference between a bad bull and a pissed off Momma cow…Don’t ever come between a cow and her calf…

    Thank you for the share and take care of your self in the office it’s the only thing I know of that’s worse then a pissed off cow : )


  2. Thanks for your comment Annie. Unfortunately, this time of year is difficult in dealing with temperamental mommas since tagging and doctoring need to be done.

    Thanks for your support on the office life. I need all the encouragement I can get in this place! 🙂

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