Dusty's Great Adventure

I was contacted last fall by a freelance writer (a Fjord owner herself!) who was writing an article about Fjord horses.  The article was to focus primarily on the Fjord's wonderful disposition as well as their versatility.  This writer had learned of Dusty's (our senior stallion) accomplishments in Cutting and Reining and asked if she could come to my ranch for a photo shoot.  She mentioned that she was primarily interested in getting pictures of Dusty cutting.  When I told her that I did not have any cattle at the present time, her response was, "Well, I do!"

It turned out that her husband was the manager of an enormous ranch (16,000 owned acres, 21,000 leased acres) just outside of Medford, Oregon.  They ship 1,600 head of yearling cattle and SHIPPING DAY WAS FAST APPROACHING!

WOW!  My heart skipped several beats!  My first thoughts were that I had never seen that many cattle all in one place and boy, could Dusty and I have fun!  Thus began the planning for "Dusty's Great Adventure."

It was a beautiful, Sunday morning in late October when Dusty and I headed towards southern Oregon to 'play'.  The further south we traveled, the warmer it got.  When we arrived at our destination, the temperature had reached 92 degrees.  In my excitement over our upcoming adventure, I forgot about the box of chocolates lying on the seat of the truck that my husband has given me for the trip.  By the time I remembered them later that evening, they had puddled into a very interesting collage of flavors!

At dinner that evening, I was told that 'something' had stampeded the entire herd of yearlings through fences and they had scattered to the four corners of the earth.  They suspected that it might have been a cougar with cubs that had been seen recently in the area, OR there was a possibility that one of the exotic cats (lions, tigers, etc.) had escaped from a neighboring ranch!  OH SWELL!

The hired hands (cowboys) had managed to round up all but 20 head.  I was told that we needed to work quietly the next morning during the loading process since the cattle were still 'edgy' and they sure didn't want them to stampede again!

Since we were to be at the loading pens shortly after sunrise, I retired to the guest house rather early hoping for a good night's rest before our great adventure at the crack of dawn the next morning.  However, as the roosters began crowing and the sun began peeking over the horizon, I didn't feel very rested.  I had had a difficult time finding peaceful sleep.  Perhaps it was because I could hear Dusty restlessly pacing his pen.  I had risen several times during the night to check on him to be sure he was safe.  Perhaps those big cats had returned?

Most probably sleep had eluded me because I had eaten half of that box of 'sweet swill, formerly known as chocolates, trying to figure out which puddle contained my favorite flavor!

Sunrise that morning found us at the loading pens where the cowboys and buyers had begun sorting and the semis began arriving.  It was quite a sight!

I was asked if we could wait until the majority of the cattle were loaded onto the semis before beginning the 'shoot' so that we wouldn't rile up the already 'edgy' cattle.  That worked well for us since that gave folks time to set up all of the cameras.  I was given a pen of culled cattle to 'play' with.

Cameras were in position and I was given the green light.  I looked the cattle over to determine which ones might give me the best work and which ones might give me trouble.  I quickly noticed two heifers with a severe case of pink eye.  They were basically blind in that one eye and would be difficult to work if we were on that side of them.  Those cattle can be very dangerous and can run right into, over, or through a horse.  If eight legs get tangled up, it can be rather painful and everyone can end up in a heap.

One black heifer really stood out.  She was one of those that wakes up in the morning, tail straight up in the air, breathing fire and blowing snot!  To make matters worse, she was one of the ones with pink eye.  It was obvious that if she were pressured very much, she would sprout wings and try to fly over the fence.  Now that I think about it, I bet she was the one that led the stampede the day before.

Dusty quietly moved around the herd as we were settling them.  At that point, I was convinced that that heifer was the 'devil incarnate'!  Her mother must have told her that cows eat horses for lunch!

Most of the time, when the cattle are as 'fresh' as these were, they'll move away from a horse until they are 'settled' and rather 'trained' to bunch up.  Not this nasty she-devil!  She'd catch sight of us with her one good eye and then she'd charge!  She was quite a challenge!

Several times while giving Dusty a breather across the pen from the cattle, I'd hear something behind us and turn around only to see this heifer charging Dusty's behind as though she was El Toro and Dusty had a big red cape draped over his butt!  Then, there was that glowing, iridescent, RED EYE!  It was a bit unnerving!  I almost thought I could see her breathing fire - well - maybe it was just her breath in the crisp morning air!

We managed to wear out that pen of cattle at the same time that everyone ran out of film so we called it a day, loaded up and returned to the ranch headquarters.

Upon arriving there, I was interviewed for one of the television stations.

After all of the activities were over, I loaded Dusty into the trailer and headed north for home.  It was a three-hour trip.  I had time to savor the events of the weekend and I came to the conclusion that this was, indeed, yet one more of "Dusty's  Great Adventures'!

 

 


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