Thursday, March 10, 2011

Headin' Out

Cow Camp is next week. A group of us from the ranch drive 2 ½ hours out onto the desert and spend 1-2 weeks gathering cattle and pushing them back to the main ranch. It’s extremely primitive, and usually darn sure cold.

There is a wooden outhouse with no door and the boss hauls a big container on a semi-truck out, which is our cookhouse. It has an old stove with grill plates welded out of old horse shoes, and a non working oven. Being hours from ANYwhere, electricity is run a short time everyday on a gas generator. A shower is nonexistent, and the ripest and least hearty of us usually drive in the third or 4th nite to wash up, before returning before dawn the next morning.

Breakfast is consumed in the dark morning hours, and horses are saddled up and ready to ride before daylight, regardless of weather or temperature, which is more often than not windy and either snowing or hailing for some part of the day.

Days are brutally long and hard, riding 10-11 hours straight, through sagebrush and rocks. Multi layered clothing is necessary to staying warm, along with gloves, long silk scarves worn to combat both the cold and the dust, and slickers. Often we cross paths with one or both herds of wild horses that frequent the area.

When the day’s riding is complete, everyone meets back at camp, where a game of cards might be played, if anyone has the energy, dinner is prepared and consumed, dishes are washed by heating water on the stove in a pot and we all climb back into our bedrolls, which is the only warm place to be found. It’s a good time, though, and everyone looks forward to it each year. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the whole ordeal is recognized as a rare treasure of an experience few people will ever get to enjoy. Stories, and memories are told and retold year in and year out, sometimes for a lifetime.

As for me, I’d like a door on that darn outhouse.

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