Friday, January 19, 2007

Ranching 101

We enjoyed a big surprise at the Last Stop, the other day…

The birth of Fiesta de Blanco, our newest longhorn!

The surprise?


Who knew? Phana wasn’t fat! She had no bulge in her belly. In fact, she looked bony.

But the other day she didn’t show up at feeding time and dad began to worry. There weren’t many good reasons why she would miss her very favorite time of the day, but there were plenty of bad reasons. Did she get out of the fence?

Dad got on the 4-wheeler and searched all over for her, until he found her way far away from the barn, over on what we call Scorpion Ridge. As he approached, he finally saw the cutest little bright, white calf prancing around his mama. The little guy was bright white with liver brown ears, nose and feet. Adorable. Way to go Phana.

But we had no idea Phana was pregnant when we got her 8 months ago.

The back story is this. My friend Tim raises Spanish Longhorns and when he decided to downsize his operation he wanted to find good homes for his cows. He didn’t want them to be sold to the slaughter house, or used as ropers at a rodeo. He wanted them to have a good home where someone would treat them more like pets. Now that’s a hard sell. For most ranchers, the cow business is BUSINESS, and it’s not like giving away a puppy. A longhorn can’t exactly live in the backyard, so finding a taker who promises to treat the cows like pets is a challenge.

But as luck would have it I met Tim, we discovered our common interests, and I knew that mom and dad wanted a few cows on their place, so it all came together and Tim gave us Phana, Gala (Phana’s girl calf), and Rena. They came to live at the Stop in May of 2006. This month we picked up another bull calf from Tim named Wesson, who’s a real cutie and promises to grow into a big, beautiful bull. And just last week, Phana gave birth to Fiesta (As the first male longhorn born on the Last Stop we wanted to give him the name “Holliday”, so we used the Spanish version, “Fiesta”, as a nod to his Spanish heritage).

Now you have to add to the mix the regular, non-longhorn cows mom and dad already had. Dandy, Miss Moo, Laz, Cloudy and Sky (all named by a very young family member, in case you’re wondering).

This means there are now 10 members of the Thundering Herd at the Last Stop. Eventually, some of them will have to go away, but it’s pretty fun for right now.

And we are total suckers.

While the original idea was to have a few cows that would birth calves that would be sold and add some extra income, we treat them just like pets. They get lots of good food, scratched around the horns, and the majority of them will live out their lives in safety at the Last Stop.

Okay, truth be told, I love the cows but I’m much more skittish around them then mom and dad who get right up there and scratch their horns, feed them special cow cake and talk baby talk. The cows follow them around like dogs at their heels. It’s really funny. I’m always convinced that the Boss Lady, Dandy, is going to charge and trample me and Dot, all for that little piece of food in my hand.

I swear that big hog weighs 2,000 pounds and she’s so spoiled that she thinks she can get anything she wants. So I yell at her to “GO AWAY DANDY, YOU BIG SPOILED GIRL BULLY” and she just looks at me, inching ever closer for whatever I’ve got in my hand that I’m trying to give the younger, less bossy cows. “YOU ARE A MEAN, MEAN COW, DANDY”. Closer, closer. “YOU STOP IT RIGHT NOW YOU UNGRATEFUL DEVIL BEAST”. Closer, closer. “I AM GOING TO WALK ALL OVER YOUR HIDE WHEN I USE IT AS A RUG IN MY HOUSE”. At this point I fling the cow cake at her and Dot and I run for our lives. Ah yes, I’ve got the makings of an awesome rancher woman.

Oh well, I guess if I’m supposed to go out by being trampled by a gianormous cow named Dandy who’s chasing me for a tiny piece of food in my hand, I think there is a lot of humor to be found there, and I could live with that. Or die by that. Just make sure you enjoy the Dandy hamburgers that will be served at the luncheon following my services.

It’s cold and snowy right now at the Last Stop, so I’m surprised that mom and dad don’t have all of the cows bedded down inside the house, with the calves wrapped in blankets. Unlike the birth of a calf from a mama we didn’t know was pregnant, it wouldn’t surprise me.


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