Monday, February 11, 2013

Memoir: Chapter 22: Daddy and I ride down to drive some cattle on King's Bench up on little Sinking Water Bench to take advantage of the snowfall

During my last winter at home during childhood, when I was twelve, Daddy deemed me experienced on a horse enough to promote me to some long distance jobs of cow punching. A heavy snow fell during the early winter and that night he did some thinking. The next morning he asked me if I wanted to take a ride down to Kings Bench. He said that he wanted to put some cattle upon a little bench called Sinking Water because they would be able to eat snow for water and could browse the good feed up there. 
He and Grandpa King and some of those other Boulder cattle ranchers were probably the only men in the world who thought such jobs needed doing. I argued with him. I did. I was nervous about being his helper and as it turned out I was right to be concerned.
But as I said once Daddy had an idea concerning the well being of his cattle, he could not be deterred. So we set off for Kings Bench at quite a fast clip the next morning. Apparently there was access to water on Kings Bench. I don't really know.  I wonder now about water for the stock to drink on all those benches where they used to run their cattle
By this time, the winter range had been divided so Daddy and Cecil, Grandpa's main hired man, wouldn't have to camp out together any more. Ever since Daddy took away some of Cecil's precious upper pasture which really belonged to Grandpa, Cecil's resentment could not be contained. Cecil did see to it that he and Grandpa got the best winter range, which was Bounds Bench, further on down, but Daddy agreed as he had gotten to hating those long rides on horseback down to their benches.

Once we got up to Kings Bench, Daddy started rounding up a herd of cattle including an old cow or two he said he been up to Sinking Water before. He said when we got to where the cattle were going to have to go up this trail that wasn't really visible to me at all I was to push the herd from the back while he herded the old cows in front toward their destination. 
Well, the first time I was being too timid to push them Daddy said rather mildly as the cattle broke away from me and scattered, but the second time they broke away, he let out some pretty good curses. We had not come all that way for nothing so I knew I better settle down and follow his directions better or we would be there all 'god damned' day as he put it.
When he yelled, “Push 'em, push 'em!” the third time, I spurred my horse determined not to let one critter turn back. 
 I saw the cattle jostling that heifer toward the edge but I couldn't believe it when she tumbled off into what sounded like a bottomless canyon. You could hear her bellering a long time after she fell! I had killed that heifer for sure!
 I kept on pushing at Daddy's command and we got all but her up on Sinking Water, but I could see Daddy was mighty disgruntled over what had happened to that heifer.
He was so disgusted he cussed practically all the way home. I remember he said once that that heifer's death just wiped out all the profit of him and me coming down there and boosting those cattle up on Sinking Water to get that good feed.

He was mad enough that I did not dare argue with him. I did hope it would be quite a while before he thought up some other giant cow punching job for him and me to do. Fancy cow punching out on the winter range was proving to be considerably harder than just driving them along a trail !