Chapter Seven

I really did not plan to write about another cow working episode. I was scheduled to work with some folks who faced enormous challenges of their own and I had originally planned on blending their stories with Lynx’s. After spending time with them however, I realized their struggles were not mine to share and anyway this is about Lynx, who absolutely rocked it this week.

Three of us saddled up before daylight on Sunday morning, intent on taking some cow/calf pairs out to a remote summer pasture. It would be about a four mile trip as the crow flies, which is close to the limit of what I believe a young horse should do on any given day. 
I have learned the hard way not to put more than a quarter of a day’s work on a colt and not too often at that either; some green horses will become disheartened if overworked and you may see a definite souring of attitude that can be permanent.

On this morning I was not worried though: the temperature was cool, the calves were mothered, the cows knew where they were headed and I am becoming extremely confident in Lynx. Whoever ends up adopting him will be getting a great horse! Little did I know we’d soon be fending off a herd of wild four-wheelers and an unsunny neighbor.

Our trip out to summer pasture was uneventful, which is to say just the way it should be. Lynx and I worked the leads. The cows knew the way so that was not an issue but we did have to cross a neighbor’s ranch to get where we were going. Lynx and I rode on ahead and pushed their cattle out of the way. It was a wonderful feeling to be partnered with this young horse as the sun came up; so tuned in was he that even though we were all alone he never once called out to his horse friends for support and as far as I could tell, he never felt like he needed to.

We reached our destination and turned the cows loose. They walked about five steps beyond the gate and stuck their heads down in the deep, green grass. It was dead quiet—four miles through hills and timber and not a calf was calling for his lost mom. Not to brag or anything but the three of us were feeling like pretty good cowboys just then.

As we rode back and topped a ridge we could see that the neighbors were starting to gather their cattle. Sigh…it is the custom of the country that if you come across a neighbor working you lend a hand. The day had gone so well that Lynx still had a little work left in him; there was no excuse. Sending the other two home with my dog (these folks don’t use dogs and don’t like them) I rode off to help.

Their crew was a mix of horses, four-wheelers and motor bikes, which made me cringe a little. From my vantage point I could see a bunch of about fifteen cows had given them the slip in the timber so Lynx and I headed over to get them. By the time we caught up to the main bunch they were just reaching the corrals. We threw the cattle we had in with the rest and looked back in the direction from which the others had come. Two red dots in the distance, heading the other way. Sigh…again. Lynx and I turned to go after them.

“Where the hell you goin’?” 

Apparently that meant good morning. I pointed. In an instant the world erupted with screaming, two-stroke engines as a brigade of motorcycles and quads blew by us. I’m not sure but I think one of them brushed my stirrup with its handlebars. Lynx did jump at that but to his credit he settled down as soon as the dust cleared and off we went.

The two red dots turned out to be two calves on a “run-back.” When panicked and separated from their mothers, calves have a tremendous instinct to go back to the last place they nursed, usually at a run. Hence the term run-back. A four-wheeler directly in front of a calf on a run-back won’t stop him; he’ll flow around it like rushing water. In this instance the mechanized brigade wasn’t having much luck; two rushing rivers are even harder to stop than one.

There is a trick though, to stopping a run-back. Approach from the back or the side and slow bend the runaways in an arc. The arc needs to be wide enough that the calf or calves do not realize they are being directed. Lynx got them on his good side and slowly took over. Our arc was about a half-mile and the wheeled cavalry dropped off and let him do his job. We ended up not twenty yards from the gate and there were plenty of folks to help finish penning the calves.

What happened next was very interesting to me. The crew was friendly if the boss was not. They all came up to say their hellos. One of them, a big, bluff guy whom I really like, came up rather suddenly and gave Lynx a hearty pat (cringe once more) on the neck. It came out of the blue and on his blind side so I’m fairly certain Lynx never saw it coming but he lowered his head for another pat if he could get one. You see, Lynx really likes people.

Then I rode over to visit with the boss—who was, as usual, surly and not at all sunny. Lynx would not let this person near. In mid conversation this person suddenly exclaimed, “Hey, did you know there’s something wrong with that horse’s eye?” (It was hard but I refrained from making any reply containing the word “Sherlock.”) This person tried to pet him then but Lynx, the people lover, would have none of it. He could feel the angry aura of this person and shied away from it. I let him. I never interfere with good horse sense.

Next week: learning the ropes…