Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tastes Like Chicken

The boss and his wife were gone so I was busy for a couple of days pitching in. There is a construction crew from across the state that has come to put a new roof on the 100 yr old barn along with a few other projects, and like anyone else working here, has to stay on the ranch and be fed, as we are 110 miles from the nearest small town. With the processing of 4000 cows beginning next week, there will be a LOT of people coming to help out as ground crew, vet, and truck drivers will be here, and all need to be housed and fed. So feeding the construction crew for a couple of days, and cleaning some of the cabins fell to me. I am also trying to get soaps made and some kind of order in our own house, so you can tell the inside from the outside. That’s a pretty tall order, for me.

When everyone was late coming back home, I began to worry. Not the cowboys, boss and his wife, nor the ranch kids, made it home by late that evening, so I bugged Randyman into calling. The possibility that ALL 3 truckloads of them had mechanical breakdowns and had no cellphone service were slim…but I knew “I” could manage it, so it was still within the realm of possibility. He called the boss’ wife and she answered, much to my relief. She was driving a backhoe at one of the other ranches, in the dark…and they would be headed home soon. Shortly after, the kids called to tell us, she had told them to let us know they were okay. They had stopped to pick up 3 hogs at the butchers before heading home from school, so all in my Oregon world was well. We were to ride out and move the yearling calves the next morning, early. (riding here is ALWAYS early…)

Before the sun rose, I jumped into my jeans and boots while Randyman made breakfast for the crew. I mentioned how the Maremma pups must have drug home a fresh coyote kill, or another piece of deer carcass the hunters had left by the ranch ‘dump’, as they both looked busy through the window, out by the animal pen.

I made calf bottles and headed out to feed the orphan calves. As I walked toward the pen, Bruno the smaller of the pups at 70 lb, continually bumped me from behind. When he has something he wants to bring to my attention, he jumps up and hits me in the back with both of his front feet. Not hard enough to knock me off balance, but much like slapping someone in the back of the head. Each time I turn to look at him, he sits primly, making eye contact, as if to communicate his thoughts, but being the denser of the two, I never have a clue what he is saying. I neared the pen, when I noted Bruno was getting VERY excited, and Cletus was gleefully tearing into his prize. It was not a chunk of deer, as suspected, but a naked chicken. Feathers were everywhere. Cider, my big, red, critter-loving, frustrated mother of a male-dog, rushed forward with interest to see what had happened, as Cletus began to growl possessively. Dropping the bottles, I jerked Cletus back by the collar, pushed Cider the other way with my foot, and picked up the poor naked, lifeless hen, who had lost her head and apparently jumped the fence onto Cletus’ side…her first and last bad decision.

I picked her up by the legs, determined not to reward bad behavior by letting him have his prize, and marched her to the ‘burn’ barrels out front, where we burn our trash. This of course, took me through the house, past the table where the construction crew was trying to eat breakfast, and out the front door. Not much was said. I returned to feed the calves their bottles and turn the other critters out to graze. I had failed to commend Bruno for his tattling, as I had seen him thru the window, partaking the fruits of the dastardly deed with Cletus earlier that morning, so I was not buying his story of innocence.

Coming back to the house with the empty bottles, I discovered Bruno lying in the garden…with a beak protruding where his mouth should be. I reached in and grabbed the part of the chicken that had been missing and went once more past the breakfasting crew, who watched in puzzled silence as I marched past. So begins another day on the ranch.

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