Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Modern Horse

Farm Girl has a post up about using a horse to sort cattle that isn't fully trained, and may toss her on her butt. She is Farm.Dad's daughter, who farms and ranches in southeastern Colorado - an area that if possible, is even dryer than here...

At any rate, they are pretty much old school as far as horses go. Farm Girl's continuing education is devoted to horse training. Now, I gotta tell ya, what I know about horses is basically this - it hurts when you fall off, and they eat a lot. I got this attitude from my father, who did not keep any horses. His thinking was that we didn't have enough cattle to keep one busy, and if we did have one, he didn't particularly care to work the kinks out of it every time we needed to move cattle. This thinking was shown to be pretty wise (as far as I was concerned) because one of our neighbors demonstrated the lesson. He had a horse called "How 'Bout That" who spent most of his days lazing in the sun, eating his fill and hanging out with the cattle. He didn't appreciate being put to work once every several months or so, and my neighbor generally went tail over teacup every time How 'Bout That got saddled.

So, we just used pickups to move and work our cattle. Once we got them into our corrals, then we'd work 'em on foot, which could get lively at times. I had a trail bike that I'd use to put stray cattle back in occasionally - it usually involved moving them a fair distance along the fence line to a gate to let them back in. The bike was screwed when we got to a corner and the cattle decided to go back the way they came rather than turn. A pickup quickly thrown into reverse (or a horse, of course) could cut them off, but the ol' motor sickle had issues. Cattle can be pretty obstinate - if they think they are being driven, they might just decide they don't want to go. On second thought, make that a near certainty. Since the cattle that were outside the fence were by definition the social deviants of the herd, you could be guaranteed that your frustration levels would be high and the air would be blue.

But ATVs have changed this equation. Just about every farm has at least one. The most favored are four wheel drive with and automatic and reverse. John Deere makes a five wheel version with a bed that is a specialty version - it can haul more than the average four wheeler, the bed has an optional dump kit, and it's more comfortable to ride. It's slower and far less usable on rough terrain.

But, it's the ubiquitous four wheeled ATV that everyone loves. Make up a box with some staples (pronounced "steeples"), hammer, fence pliers (pronounce "plahrs"), some scrap wire (pronounced "wahr"), and a come-a-long (pronounced "fence stretcher") and you have a mobile fence repair system that doesn't involve a seven or eight mile to the gallon pickup. The same goes for a trip checking water in stock tanks, or irrigation circles. Mount a small plastic tank and a short spray bar plus an electric pump and you have a spot herbicide application rig - one that doesn't require a trip to the bank to finance the fuel to fire up and run (versus a tractor). When hunting season arrives, you have a mobile butt placement system that places said butt in some pretty remote areas without actually having to walk through all that rough ground. The guys that take soil samples for farmers to determine what their soil lacks (around here, think Servi-Tech and Crop Quest) all have ATVs in the bed of their pickups with a set of folding ramps to off load anywhere they park. In fact, pickups with ATVs in their boxes are a constant presence anywhere in this area - at the resturants, bars, post office, convenience stores, .gov offices, banks, grain elevators - wherever you find the elusive farmer/stockman and his main mobile office - the pickup - you will find the ATV.

ATVs have not replaced the horse completely, just yet. Most of my cattle keepin' neighbors have a horse or three and the associated necessary accoutrements - saddle, tack, horse trailers, - all the goodies. They haven't separated from their roots completely, nor will they. Horses are a part of their lives, and a good cattle handling horse is a joy to behold.

The ATVs are just so much more convenient. Just step out, check the oil and gas, fire it up and go. Horses require chasing'em down, saddling up, and work the kinks out if it hasn't been ridden in a while. Just try to put a spray rig on a horse. Horses generally aren't wired for twelve volts so much, either. Horses will always have a place on the prairie, but it's obvious how the trend is going. Remember, most of the ground out here was broken out with horses pulling plows. Not many want to go back to those days. I'm not even really trying to rag on horses here. I've never been around them much, but I can appreciate them. I've never ridden a four wheeler much, either. My experiences were with the now obsolete three wheelers - the ones that would eat a leg when you, the original motorcyle rider, dropped a leg to help in a corner, rather than leaning away, which would totally wreck a two wheeled contraption. They weren't all that great chasing cattle, either.

So, some of the romance is slipping away, again. Somehow, I don't see songs written about the sound of a putt putting four wheeler in the early dawn as the cattle moo and snort. Poems will not be written about the loyalty of a Kawasaki or the steadfast nature of a Polaris.

Oh give me a home

Where the Hondas do roam

And the Deeres and the Artic Cats play

Nope, that ain't gonna cut it.


Melissa B. said...

Nice poetry. Are you a snowmobiler, too? :) Hey there, you Superior Scribbler, you! Melissa B., The Scholastic Scribe, here, checking in with fellow Scribblers! BTW, I've got a couple of things on my mind today. First off, don't forget Sx3's a stitch! And I've got a pretty good chance of snagging a superior blog award...thanking you in advance for your support!

Bob's Blog said...

wonderful post, Jeffro. I have a suggestion: I bet if you submitted this to the Wall Street Journal, they would publish it.

Jeffro said...

Really? I wouldn't have a clue how to do that, but I'll look into it.

Thanks for the roses, as it were, Bob!