If you're looking for sympathy, look outside a family of cops, or ranchers. We've seen it all, so copious amounts of blood just aren't that impressive unless your arm is actually lying in the dust. And that is only impressive because it means driving the 4wheeler will be more difficult, thus the working of cattle will go slower.
And so it was that despite the rapid drip of blood all over my shirt and the 4wheeler, I pressed onward. Being a crime scene investigator brings a certain skill set. As I crashed through the brush, I glanced down from time to time to check the bleeding. Nope, no arterial spurting, just the steady heavy flow of dripped blood. No worries there.
"Just a flesh wound!"
(For the younger crowd, google Monty Python and watch it.)
But I'm getting ahead of myself. As all bloody adventures begin, this one began with cattle. Regarding building fences, it is said that if you can throw dishwater through it, a goat can get through it. The same can be said for keeping cattle on a large piece of property in North Texas. Since everything they need and more is provided on the 133 acres we own one would think they have no reason to wander, but cows don't reason like that. They also have two great allies in their quest for adventure: the creek and the hogs.
A lazy little creek meanders through our property like an anaconda in the Amazon. Most of the time the creek is bone dry, but when it rains, this creek can turn into a raging force of nature, capable of moving large trees which crash through fences like battering rams. Then you add the feral hogs. These hogs can grow to enormous numbers and proportions. They use the dry creekbeds as highways and consider the fences across the creek as mere speedbumps. In time these Porky Pigs create holes in a fence big enough to drive a truck through, or at least a large heifer.
As is my habit, each morning the dogs and I drive the property on the 4wheeler. And each morning I saw fresh evidence of cattle: tracks and cow patties, but no cows. Each afternoon would find the whole group of them chewing their cud under the pecan trees by the big pond in the pasture. Since the property is so wild, it is entirely plausible we could lose an entire herd of cows, or lions, tigers, and bears, in the forest and never find them, so it wasn't until we were packing to leave that we realized we had a problem.
Other Half happened to look across the fence at the neighbor's property and saw a couple of our cows staring back at him. Rut ro!
"Houston, we have a problem."
Since the property they were on was bigger than ours, and just as wild, finding everyone and getting them pushed back onto our ranch was a massive undertaking which would have been impossible without the Border Collies. Fortunately most of this group started life as show cattle and were tame, so we began shaking feed sacks and calling them like puppies. The biggest chow hounds began to emerge from the brush. Then we had to convince them to follow us down a fence line, down a deep dry creek, up a deep dry creek, and down acres and acres in the opposite direction of the metal cow feeder. It was an arduous task which required patience, a great deal of acting, an empty feed sack, and dogs.
When we discovered the cattle were out we just had Trace the Troll and Ranger the Blue Heeler in the pickup. I raced off on the 4 wheeler to open the north gate so we could call cattle to that open gate. Once they walked ALL THE WAY TO THAT GATE, they would then have to retrace their path on the opposite side of the fence (our side) to return to the exact same spot they had just left but on the other side of a field fence. Try explaining that to a cow.
I did manage to get one in that way. The other one petered out about half way through the journey and announced that,
"Fat girls can't walk that far."
I almost cried when she turned back around, but I continued on with the one greedy chow hound who was convinced the empty feed sack would produce goodies if she just walked a little farther. I got her to the feeder where she was rewarded with actual cattle cubes. Then I returned for the other one. She was well on her way back to where she started. And that's when I saw a little red streak. Other Half had deployed the Heat-Seeking Missile.
Trace the Troll/Norman Bates the Psycho/Red Feather the Nasty Ranch Dog had been jettisoned. He raced through the brush so far away from both of us that he was a mere red dot in the distance. He found the cow, picked her up, and headed her back toward Other Half, then turned her into the creek where the water gap in the fence was down, and his job was done. Just like that, she was back on our property. He was huffing and puffing and proud of himself. Ranger had also been deployed but he apparently had only run part of the distance before announcing,
"Little Fat Blue Dawgs don't run this far!"
And thus, he returned to the truck where he was benched for the rest of the game.
In time the rest of the adult cows threaded their way through the brush and came home. Everyone came in except for five calves.
Yep, five calves - four little calves born this summer and Little Bully, a bull calf born last winter. He was destined to be a replacement bull for his father who died last winter. We had no idea where the calves were. There were hundreds and hundreds of acres to cover, in land rich with cactus, briars, brush, heavy forest, feral hogs, copperheads, and rattlesnakes. We had nothing but a pickup truck, a 4Wheeler and three Border Collies, thus, we had everything we needed.
We went back to the ranch house and traded in the Benched Blue Heeler for Cowboy/Snidley Whiplash/Old Dog With A Bad Back. I picked up my favorite Trunk Monkey and we bounced off in search of calves while Other Half cut a hole in the water gap so we could drive the calves through it when we did find them.
So Lily and I drove and drove and drove. We followed the trail of fresh cow poop and in time found the calves bedded down in the forest not far off a gas pipeline easement. We then returned to get reinforcements. There was a wide range in ages. The youngest calf was two weeks old. Guess who his momma is? Yes, Paisley. What other crackhead would leave a two week old baby alone in a forest with coyotes and cougars?
Paisley is a dumbass. Forgive me, but she is. She is a crack momma with little or no maternal instinct and needs to be cut from the team. I don't care what she looks like. She left her infant in the care of a teenage boy.
Little Bully really stepped up to the plate. He assumed the role of babysitter for an infant and three toddlers.
And after watching him with the Border Collies, there is no doubt in my mind that Paisley's calf is still alive because of this bull calf. He is very serious about protecting calves - serious enough to go Bowling For Border Collies. He rolled Cowboy for getting too close to the calves.
Other Half scooped up the old dog and put him in safety of the pickup truck where he supervised the rest of the mission.
We soon worked out a suitable method for moving the calves. Lily and I rode on the 4Wheeler just outside their flight bubble. The bull calf kept himself between the infant and the dog. As long as they were moving in the right direction, we just rolled behind them. When they stopped, Lily hopped off the bike and stalked forward. Once inside the bubble, they would start moving and Lily would back off and hop back on the bike.
This was successful while the gas pipeline easement had heavy forest on both sides, but once it opened up to heavy brush with scattered trees, the calves decided that they were going to make a break for it.
And that's when I made the decision not to lose what we'd already gained. I had to take off on the left flank and head them off before they scattered. There was no trail, just brush. I gunned that engine through the brush, saw just a small opening, and took it.
The vines draped over the opening turned out to be briars. The tree turned out to be a thorny tree. The 4Wheeler was caught. I gunned it and pushed forward before we lost the cows. And the blood flowed.
Lots and lots of blood. I think I left part of my face hanging in those briars. But the important thing is that we caught the calves and turned them around, and as the blood flowed down my face and dripped across the front of the bike, I left a blood trail in the sand. Unfortunately the calves overshot the water gap and walked all the way down the fence line to stand across the fence from their mommas. Since the pickup couldn't go down the steep bank of the creek to help retrieve calves, it was up to Lily and I. Imagine now trying to push tired, irritated calves AWAY from the mothers and down the fence to a water gap,
and yet that little dog did it. Every time they stopped moving, she hopped off the 4Wheeler, entered the bubble, and held her ground patiently while waiting for Little Bully to decide to move forward. It was a dicey game. Push him too much and he'd bow up on the dog. Get too close to the infant calf and he'd bow up on the dog. And so acre by acre, Lily pushed the calves away from their mothers and toward the gap in the fence. Once Little Bully found that gap, he led the calves through it and back toward their mothers.
Oh Happy Day!
Lily and I did the High-5-Snoopy- Happy-Tushy-Dance. Then and only then could we clean up a bit and examine the damage to my face. Ironically even though we were in the middle of nowhere, in bumf@!%* Egypt, Other Half somehow managed to have cell phone reception and that evil man put my bloody face on Facebook! Did he give credit for the successful mission to the hardworking Border Collies? No! He showed his buddies what his wife did to her face while working cows! Grrrr....
While fixing the fence he would periodically stop working, look at my face and proclaim how bad it looked. Hmmmm. . .
I finally got annoyed enough to ask him which he would rather I have done - save my face, or not lose the calves. He agreed that he would rather I not lose the cows. Nuff said.
I'd rather give credit where credit is due - the dogs. Without the dogs, we'd have had to wait until that evening when the cows came to the water on our property. That meant fixing the fence in the dark and driving 7 hours home all night long so we could go to work (real paycheck jobs) the next day. Egads. Not something anyone wanted to do. Even with the Border Collies, this little adventure still took 5 extra hours.
So the moral of this story is if you have a ranch, you need a good ranch dog, or two or three.