Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out!

Pebbles tears along the fence line, snow flying beneath her hooves, whinnying to the round up horses as they file up the road.

A surge of Black Angus, plodding through the snow storm.

There they go, blatting and bawling: Moo..mooooo.

Hats pulled down, collars turned up, the riders urge the cows along.

Three horses and riders and a cow dog.

Each year about this time, a cattle drive--a round-up--parades past our house, coming in from the south on the main highway, turning ponderously up the dirt road and continuing on several miles to pastures at the end of the road.
We spotted the cows and the cowboys, toiling through the wet heavy snowfall of Sunday morning. We suppose the trek had been scheduled when horses and riders were available and wasn't to be postponed for a mere bit of weather. The other possibility is that the cattle were being moved from the South Pass area where the cold has already set in and the rancher didn't want to risk the weather worsening.
At any rate, it must have been an unpleasant progress. Three horses and riders, one cow dog, something under a hundred cows, [that last being J.'s estimation.] The curtain of snow was so thick between the road and the edge of our porch, where I stood shivering with the camera, that I couldn't determine the breed of the dog. A Border Collie would be likely, or a Heeler. The men had hats pulled low and collars turned high. The sound of many hooves trudging through muddy snow, the cowboys' whoops of encouragement, the smell of the beasts, all hung on heavy air.
We have encountered spring and fall round-ups in various places while traveling in Wyoming. Perhaps the most memorable cattle drive I have met head on, was a few years ago when J. and our son were constructing a half-million dollar log house at a rich man's hobby ranch the other side of the mountains. Our son had come over to visit the chiropractor and didn't feel equal to driving the 3 hour return trip, so asked me to chauffeur him. While he hunkered in the passenger seat, flinching painfully with each jolt, I happily double-clutched and roared up the mountain. Rounding a wide curve, I applied brakes and down-shifted as a sea of cattle surged downward, attended by horses, cowboys, dogs. There was no way to pull to the side of the steep road, so there we sat while several hundred Black Angus, bellering and blatting, splattering poop in their wake, milled past the truck.
While round-up is hard work whatever the weather, it is part of cowboy legend and song, still a part of the ranching scene in Wyoming.
Git along little doggie, git along
Git along little doggie, git along
I'm heading for the last roundup
Gonna saddle old Paint for the last time and ride
So long, old pal, it's time your tears were dried
I'm heading for the last roundup.
I'm heading for the last roundup
To the far away ranch of the Boss in the sky
Where the strays are counted and branded there go I
I'm heading for the last roundup.
Git along little doggie, git along,
Git along little doggie, git along.
Lyrics by Billy Hill


  1. Huloo MM,

    Aw WOW! love it.

    Now that post and the photos just sing to my sensibilities, to my sense of tradition, of continuity. Like photos taken from a time capsule, precious images brought back down the years still fresh, vibrant and alive.

    I can almost feel the thud of the hooves on snow hardened ground, smell the breath of the cattle - we would say 'kye' - hanging in the air, snorting horses, creaking leather and seeping cold, the concentration of the dogs and the wish of the whooping ranch hand to be somewhere warm with a fire and a coffee.

    Thanks. A lovely wee glimpse into an unknown world.

    Only one thing missing.....

    with a header like that you gotta have a.....


    kind regards.......Al.

  2. Very atmospheric, and I am shivering at the sight of all that snow! I will now be singing that song ALL DAY I'll have you know! I should have read this five minutes earlier, as then I would have had the authentic cow-mooing noises to accompany it as the milk herd were walking past the front gate.

  3. Those shots made me think of all the cowboy movies I watched as a child ...not forgetting 'Rawhide' ...Clint Eastwoods first appearance on our tv.
    It also makes me realise even more strongly what very different worlds we both live in. I can imagine you shivering on the porch taking these photos ....hope you had a large coffee after. The snow must be getting quite thick now.

    I can remember that song but not who sang it ...I am sure it will come to me as the tune is now rattling around in my head lol.

  4. WOW! SNOW and a cattle drive! I'm jealous! :)

  5. Oh those "westerns" of the mid-50's---I was in love with nearly every hero! J. says that Gene Autrey sang the definitive version of the song. Our part of Wyoming has a number of professional singing groups which specialize in the cowboy songs and ballads of years gone--many of them with tunes brought from Scotland and England.
    Having been part of a dairy farming operation in the 60's and 70's I know that getting a herd of cows where they are meant to be is no small accomplishment.