"Well, the day after I came home from my mission, Josh and I went up to look for cows on Cassie and Joe (horses). We were trying to get though a thick patch of scrub oak and Josh said, "Just let the horse pick its way through," which I did, and we were going along just fine until the hood of my jacket got caught on a branch. It started to pull tighter and tighter until it was cutting off my air. I got Cassie to stop, but I couldn't get her to back up, nor could I dismount because the jacket was so tight. There was so much pressure I couldn't unzip it either. With no other options, I just gave Cassie a good kick, she ran out from underneath me, and my weight broke the branch I was hanging from."
I'm sorry Joseph, I know this must have been a traumatic near-death experience for you, but I'm laughing so hard right now that I'm crying!
Ahh, good times. Anyway, here is a summary of the gathering cows out of the canyon adventures so far this year, written by my lovely guest writer, Clayton Sagers. Enjoy.
Day 1 Saturday Oct. 6: Cameron, Joseph, Clayton (Joshua joined us later).
We unsuccessfully searched the canyon only to find two cows that weren’t ours. Followed them down the canyon and loaded them into the corral. Wish that someone would do the same with our cows.
Day 2 Friday Oct. 12: Joshua and Clayton.
Rain was forecasted throughout the day. We heard there was a group of our cows just past the second gate where the pavement ends. Just after opening the gate, we noticed them off to our right. Joshua took Goose, a new gelding, to round up the cows and start pushing them through the gate. Goose was slow and did not want to head the cows off, so the cows got away and headed up the canyon instead of down. I had brought Famous Shoes (horse) with us so that she could get exercise, and was ponying her while I was riding Comanche. To “pony” a horse means that you lead the horse on a lead rope behind you or beside you while you are riding another horse. The cows decided they were going to go up the side of the steep mountain to get away. I decided to ride up only to be apprehended by the dreaded scrub oak. I ride back down, tied Comanche to the tree and told Joshua to watch the horses, and that I will go on foot to drive the cows back down to the road. Famous Shoes is loose, because we know that she will not go far without the Comanche, who is her mom. I drive down two pair of cattle but another pair decides to hoof it up the road some more. After I get the pair turned around and heading in the right direction, I hear Joshua yell, “Clayton, your horse broke the reins and they are both heading towards the horse trailer!” Not wanting to lose the bunch I’ve just gathered, I continue to drive the cows down the canyon on foot. Joshua and I are eventually able to make it through the gate with all three pair, only to find that the loose horses had not stopped at the horse trailer but had apparently decided to run all the way down the canyon.
Joshua follows the cows down on horseback while I take the truck and trailer down the road to hopefully find the horses. I drive down, expecting them to be just around the next corner peacefully grazing, but as I got closer to the bottom of the canyon, the stress of finding them injured or not finding them at all intensified. When I got the campground at the bottom, I stopped to ask some campers. “Have you seen two horses?” The camper points and says, “Yes! One horse with a saddle and one without.” Just then, I turned to see both horses running down into the campground being chased by a sheriff in a truck. After much coaxing and running around the campground, we finally managed to chase them in a corner and catch them. After the sheriff determines that I am in fact the owner of these loose horses, he takes down my name and phone number. Kinda suspicious, but oh well. I put Famous Shoes in a nearby stall and started to ride back up the canyon to help Joshua with the cows coming down. I rode over to open the corral gate to let the cows in, when Joshua asked if I had any wire cutters since Goose had managed to get barbed wire wrapped around his leg. It appears that someone had cut down a length of the fence and there was loose wire all over the ground. We cut the horse’s leg free with a rusty pair of old wire cutters; luckily, there was very minimal damage to his flesh. After fruitless searching on Center Ridge for additional cows, we decided to call it a night. We went home wet and tired.
Day 3 Saturday Oct. 13. Joel, Clayton, Joshua
The morning started out with the horses being shod. No real big problems. We then made our way up the canyon to look for cows. Sure enough, we saw a large group on Center Ridge. We would have to ride about a mile and half up Left Hand Fork, and then cut over and head south up Center Ridge so that we could push them from behind. This part again went smoothly with no real bumps. While on Center Ridge, we saw another group of our cows on one of those steep slopes. After much discussion, we decided that I would go down and try and push those cows down the canyon while Dad and Joshua would try to get the other group and push them down. I rode down the mountain, like the Man from Snowy River, but with less speed and minus the dramatic music. As I rode down, the cows ran up. As I rode up, the cows ran down. We played this game for a while until they decided they were going to go up the canyon at a dead run. I am convinced it is not as much the cows making this decision as it is the calves. To them, being pulled from the canyon is like children being pulled out of Disneyland. By this time my horse is asking me, “Seriously, are these critters really worth it?” They lead me across one hill, down into a gully and up another hill. They then head into an ugly thicket of scrub oak. We of course chase them for about 10 feet until I can no longer clear the branches. I then get off my horse, leading her through the oak jungle by breaking branches and trying to maneuver our way through the maze. Mind you this is all being done on about a 60% grade. Just as I’m pushing a large branch out of the way, I slip and fall, letting go of the reins.
My horse has had about enough of this crazy chase and decides to go straight down the mountain. I turn to panic mode as I remember the previous day’s experience with the law. I could just picture the sheriff saying, “This seems to be a bad habit you and your horse have going on.” I begin making giant leaps down the mountain since this seems to be the quickest way down to catch her. Imagine, if you will, the game Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo. Mario has a trusty lizard/dinosaur steed named Yoshi who, if he gets hurt by a bad guy, will frantically run in any direction to get away. Mario then jumps like mad to try and catch Yoshi before he runs off a cliff. My leaps were not as graceful as Mario, and I could feel a sharp pain on my backside from when I had fallen. I finally was able to get the reins and stop the horse. When I looked way back up at the top of the mountain, I caught a glimpse of the cow’s tails as they entered another scrub oak patch. I reached behind and felt my pants, which had a nice hole in them from when my backside had made contact with a sharp rock. That group of cows was a lost cause for the day.
When I got to the campground where I was to meet my Dad and Joshua, I saw that they had not gotten the other bunch of cows to the corrals yet. I called them on the phone and found out that their luck was just as bad as mine, and their cows had also escaped through some scrub oak. I made my way towards them in hopes that we would not have a total loss for the day. After some hollering back and forth, I finally located them. They were stuck on the side of Center Ridge, and the cows were about 400 yards in front of them heading my way. I was going to try and flank them on horseback, but was met with yet another scrub oak patch. I went back down a ways into a clearing, this time tying my horse with a halter and lead rope so that she couldn’t break the reins and get away. I then proceeded on foot to flank the cows and drive them down to the clearing. I call this pulling a “Last of the Mohicans” as I ran through the forest trying to head off the cows. You’ll have to watch the 1992 movie with Daniel Day Lewis to understand. There are several scenes where they are constantly running through the forest chasing something or being chased; the only difference being that I have short hair and am wearing a shirt. I’m able to drive the cows down into the clearing, and we end up being right by where my horse is tied. “Maybe it will be my lucky day,” I thought. I slowly get on my horse and proceed to drive the cattle down the mountain. Since it’s only little old me versus the dozen or so of them, the cows all move at different speeds to try to get away. Half go running right into the scrub oak, the other half decides to go down the road and then go into the scrub oak. This is about the time when my Dad and Joshua show up. After a few minutes of discussion, my Dad points out that one of the groups had doubled back and are now heading back up the mountain. I let my horse run to try and head them off. They all end up running right back into the scrub oak and kept running back up Center Ridge. They are gone for the day.
We decide to go back down the Left Hand Fork trail to see if we can find the first group that got away from me. We spotted three pair grazing not too far down the road. The only problem there was a steep ravine between us and them. We came up with a plan that Dad would ride his horse and pony my horse, while I would get behind the cows on foot and get them started down the canyon. Joshua and my Dad would try and find a good place to cross the ravine with the horses, and then I could get back on my horse and we would all drive them down. The plan, for once, actually worked well. We got the cows moving down the canyon. They, of course, wanted to make a game of it, taking any scenic route they could, which would mean that one of us would have to get off our horse and push them through more scrub oak. We got the three pair into the corrals late in the evening. Trying to be optimistic, I considered three cows and three calves a good trade for one pair of ripped pants, three tired horses, and three men who were full of scrapes and bruises. I like to think we came out ahead that day.