view sourceprint? 01 Ramblings from a Ranch Wife: Spring Break on the 71

Random Thought:

"The darkest nights produce the brightest stars"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spring Break on the 71

When I married the Cow Boss I started working for him.  I moved out of my nice house and into a 1970's era camp trailer.  The heat didn't work, we had to pack water to it.  It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and when you really needed your space, you couldn't have it because if you stood in the middle of it and spread your arms out, you could touch both walls.  I loved it!  We spent 9 months out of the year in that camper, and it was a lot nicer than the company housing we had when we moved to the valley.

We trailed the cows over 100 miles every year, from the 71 desert between Twin Falls, Idaho, and Merit Mountain near Mountain City, Nevada.  There was a camp guy that lived with the cows from December to March on the 71 desert.  In March we brought the cows across the Bruneau River and Canyon (hopefully before they started calving) to the JP Point where they calved.  We branded at Sheep Creek, near Grasmere, Idaho, and then moved them to Merit Mountain.  Part of them went to McDonald Creek (camp was the Original Bieroth Homestead), part went towards Allegheny Creek (where we camped), and the rest to Sage Hen Basin.  We had all of the cows on the forest around the 4th of July.  It is roughly 80 miles around the base of Merit Mountain connecting all 3 summer camps.  October found us trailing the cows to Cat Creek where we weaned the calves, shipped them to the feedlot, and pregged the cows.  We slowly grazed the bred cows back towards the Bruneau Canyon, and then across to the 71 in December.

I was lucky enough (depending on your perspective) to make the entire rotation with the cows the first year I was married.  The Cow Boss and I made some wonderful memories, I got to see a lot of new country, and I got an education on all things cowboy.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned I was a lot tougher than I thought I was, how to really rope, and how to make a good horse.  My only regret is that I didn't take more pictures.

The first March after we were married, we loaded up our tee pee tent, all of our dogs, bedrolls, grub for a week, and 3 good horses a piece.  Final head count was 12 horses, 20+ dogs, 2 pickups and trailers, 3 cowboys, and 1 cowboy-girl.  Then we drove for what felt like forever over a very bumpy dirt road.  We finally got to Tom's camp (he wintered with the cows on the 71 Desert), with just enough light left to unload the horses and set up our tee pees.  Tom fed us dinner that night.

If you know cowboys, you know that they like to drink a little, and that first night was no exception.  Our host in particular over-indulged and made several faux pas.  For starters, he informed me that even if I was his boss's wife I really had no business being out there because that was man's work, and not to expect him to make things easier for me.  Then he proceeded to tell the Cow Boss that if he was a cowboy there would be no trailering out from camp, we would be trotting, and that he had a horse that could out trot any horse in the state.  The Cow Boss just let it all roll off his back, and I just ignored him.  I knew that I was just as capable as anyone else out there and had learned long ago that I didn't need to prove myself to anyone.  If the Cow Boss didn't think I could handle it, he would have left me home.

The next morning I asked the Cow Boss what horse he was going to ride and if we were going to trot from camp.  I learned the fall before to pick my horse for the day by what he was going to ride.  When to told me he would be riding "Snip"  I knew I had to ride "Amigo."  Snip was a piece of work.  You couldn't brand on him or sort cows.  The only thing he was really good at was taking off at a long trot and pounding rocks.  Amigo on the other hand is an exceptional cow horse.  You can brand calves on him all day, sort cows in an alley and never miss one, and he is also the only horse I've ever had that could match Snip stride for stride and go all day.  Not to mention, the most expressive eyes I've ever seen on a horse, and the most endearing personality.  He does have a few quirks.  1.  He loves to have his butt scratched, and if you didn't know him you would think he was backing up to kick you.  2.  He can be very playful.

When I would go to catch Amigo, we had a little game we played.  If you played the game he would be very easy to catch.   If you didn't play the game, he could be a challenge.  First I had to say "Hello Amigo" so he would know I was going to ride him.  Then he would make 2 laps just as fast as he could around the outer side of the corral.  After the second lap he would run right at you like the was going to paw you, stopping just inches from you.  Then he would get a sheepish look on his face, drop his head and let you tie the halter.  It was a big game, and we all knew how he was, and none of us thought anything of it.  That is except Tom.

So, here we have Hungover Tom whose head had to be pounding and couldn't hardly walk across the corral.  He saw Amigo running at me, and jumped in front of him.  Amigo just changed his course a little bit and came right at me.  Completely ignoring Tom, as we all did while he cussed my horse.  Saddled up, we took off at a long trot, and it didn't take long for Amigo and Snip to out pace Tom's horse.  We made our circles, and as we trotted back to camp later, Tom admitted Amigo was a good horse, and later that night apologised to me for his comments the night before.

That afternoon the wind came up and we ended up staking our tee pee down with steel t-posts to keep it from blowing away.  Even with our bedroll and duffel bags we were afraid it would blow away.  Then it started raining.  Before we knew it, there was 2 inches of water in the bottom of the tee pee and we had to find wooden pallets to put our bedroll and duffels on to keep them out of the water.  We had heavy, wet snow by the second morning we were there.

Long story short, I got cold.  Dang cold!  The only time I was ever warm that week was when we were trotting from camp.  I swore to myself I would never spend another week in a tee pee staked down with steel posts, sleeping on pallets to keep dry.  How long do you think that lasted for me?  =)


  1. Love it Jennifer!!! On the other hand, you're making me miss camp even more :( Same type of memories Sam and I were making out off the Owyhee.

    1. I went to Boise on Tuesday and drove through Bruneau. I was overwhelmed by all of the memories I have out there. Well worth the cold! I am so thankful that Travis and I were able to do that together before the boys. Some days I really miss it, but then I look at my boys and know that I would be miserable at camp with them this small and not being able to trot out every morning. Maybe someday we will have another camp job. =)

  2. You are very luck to get to live the life you do. I wish I could get a job like that. I really enjoy your blog.

    1. Thanks Jake! I've been pretty fortunate this far. =) It's a good job for young people without family. We couldn't do it now with our little boys!

  3. I think it is amazing you got to live like this! You are truly blessed. I feel you on the cold thing. Every place I have lived my adult life so far has been drafty and cold. I won't know how to act in warm house! LOL

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! We may not have money to burn, but we do get to have many fun adventures, and now we can take our kids with us most days, which is more important than anything else. I wouldn't trade this life for all the money in the world!