Anybody who has worked cattle in the brush country of South Texas knows that consistancy isn’t really part of the deal. Sure, there’s a plan when you get started, but you never know what’s going to happen.
Before I get to far into this story, let me set the stage a bit. I head south from San Antonio, Texas every Thursday to a place I like to call Quincy. Sometimes I am tasked with riding as many horses as humanly possible before 3:00 or 4:00 pm, roping till dark, and then heading back home. Those are the days I live for. Most days though, we work cattle. Truth be told, I live for those days as well.
Well yesterday we worked cattle. I headed out around a quarter till 6:00 after I fed the horses and loaded up some old roping calves that I was returning to the ranch. Just south of Pleasanton the sun started to rise and I knew it was going to be a beautiful day.
The calves and I arrived around 8:00 am and I met my dad, Morgan, at his house. We fed some of the weanling colts and headed over to the Murphy to drop off the calves and put out some round bales.
“So what do yall have going to day,” I asked him.
“We’ve got some trapped over at the Cat and Pop’s got some over in Little Quincy and the Coots,” was Dad’s response.
Translated for those of you not familiar with our place, this means we’re in for a long day. Just kdding the gist is that there are water traps, or small (5-10 acre) pastures with water sources in them wher the cattle come to drink. We set a special set of gates that cattle can go in but not go out. They’re at almost every water well.
Now then, one of the places we were headed is a pasture run by Five O’s (my Dad, Aunts and Uncles) called the Cat Pasture. And there are two other pastures on the list today that are operated by my Grandfather, John Morgan (or Pop to his children and VERY close friends), called the Little Quincy and the Coots.
That’s enough background.
Dad and I pull up to the pens at the headquarters and Mick and Dick, my twin uncles ask Dad where we’re headed first. See, they’ve been trappin the last two days and already knew we had four different places to work. (there are two traps at the Cat)
“James and I are gonna head to the Cat, set gates and see if anything is outside. We’ll be back in a minute,” Morgan siad.
When we pulled up to the front trap, there was a nice yellow bald-face bull calf outside. Probably, 550 lbs. “When we come back through, if he’s still out, I might get you to put that dog on him,” Dad said.
‘That Dog’ is my right hand man, Gus. He has earned his keep and then some many times over. For some reason though, Dad rarely calls him by his name. He’s doing it more now than he used to though. It’s kind of humorous.
Anyway, we head to the back and close the trap gates. The cattle in the trap couldn’t come out, but now no more can go in either. We head back to the ranch and when we got to the front trap, there stood ol’ yellah. Still outside.
“Think you can put Gus on him?” Morgan said.
“Well, hell yes I can, “I told him.
And I hissed him with a whistle that is hard to describe with words other than ‘I hissed him with a whistle.’ Out of the truck bed he went and hit the ground running. That bull calf turned tail to run and there stood Gus in front of him letting him have it. He went to back up and there was Gus behind him biting at his heels. So through the fence he went right into the trap.
“Damn… that didn’t take long, ” Morgan said about halfway under his breath.
I called him back and told him to get in. He jumped back into the truck and we never even had to get out. Score one for ol’ Gus.
When we got back to the pens everybody was already saddled and loaded. Dad and I hooked up the rolling pens and went to catch horses.
“Who you want me on? ” I asked.
“Catch that bay mare of Steve’s and use her this morning” Morgan said, “and get that paint horse for this afternoon.”
Translation, this afternoon may get interesting. The bay mare belongs to Steve Koehler. He’s a family friend and currently has a three year old bay filly he calls Lilly down at the ranch to get some seasoning on her. The paint horse is a little older and has been roped on a couple of times. Crossbred and commercial cattle in the morning. Mostly purebred Brahmans in the afternoon. And the brahmans VERY RARELY see people. Most of them will get in your back pocket if you’re not careful.
We headed over to the Cat. My grandfather and Felix in the 4-wheel drive Chevy, Dad and I in his 4-wheel drive chevy pulling the rolling pens, Jessie and Tony in one ranch rig (white Ford with John Deere green stock trailer), and Mick, Dick and Kelley in another ranch rig.
We went to the back first. We arrived, set up the pens gathered the cattle, sorted the shippers, and prepared the pens for travel again in less than an hour and a half. Smooth sailing so far. The front of the Cat was next and we still had plenty of time before lunch. The rolling pens stayed out of the trap this time since this trap had a set of pens in it.
After we got the dogs watered, we penned the second set of the day. Smooth sailing again. The calf Gus put through stayed in and we loaded the trailer with shippers. We were too full but were headed to the pens at the headquarters to shape up before going to the auction barn anyway. So Jesse and Tony headed for the house with the cattle and Gus and I went to get the damn dogs off of the cattle we turned out. You see, Cur dogs and Catahoullas (or Leopard dogs) are fantastic for working the extreme heat and brush situations in South Texas, but they aren’t the most brilliant dogs on the planet.
So I send Gus to where the dogs have cattle bayed. The brush is so thick that you can’t see them until you’re just a couple of feet from them. Once I was there, I called Gus off. The other cowdogs usually follow him back and today was no exception. So with dogs in tow, the little paint and I strike a trot for the trucks, load up and head to the ranch for lunch.
Two traps. No escapees. No injuries. Two for two. Good so far, but this morning was the easy part. Part 2 coming tomorrow.