Day Working Cowboy
- September 11, 2017
- Tiffany Schwenke
One of the things I enjoy about this cowboy life is day working on other ranches. For this day working cowboy its about riding in new country and exploring what is over that next hill. It is food for my soul. It’s like therapy. It helps a person keep their mind in the middle. Getting paid for what you love to do is my definition of living the dream.
Of course like any job it helps when the person that hired you is a down to earth, good person. Luckily, most ranchers are this way. They work hard taking care of their livestock. They have been around long enough to see tough times, accidents, and days where nothing seemed to go right… which is what usually makes them very understanding and grateful for good help. However, you will still find some people with tempers and who do a lot of yelling. Most of the time the yelling is directed towards the cattle because, let’s face it, the bovine species can be a bit frustrating.
When working in corrals and alleyways I like to study the set up and see how efficiently livestock flow through them. You can always be learning things even when it just looks like you are pushing livestock up to the chute.
Before a big gather, a good cow boss will give you a quick instruction on the general direction you are headed towards. When gathering a pasture you have never been in it’s nice to know the game plan, where the gates are, and who’s going where.
I was taught to top out on high hills, when possible, to get the lay out of the land. Up on a high point you can look for other riders and look for livestock that might have been missed.
At any cowboy job there are a couple unwritten rules. #1 – Never ride in front of the boss. #2 – Hustle. Hustle to get on your horse. Hustle to the gate. Hustle to the backside of the pasture you are gathering, but when you find that first group of cows then you get to herd them at a leisurely pace. No rancher wants the weight run off their calves so you try to get them to string out. Going slow and steady is always best.
As a cowboy you are expected to pay attention. You need to look for pairs, look for sickness, look at brands, and to always be looking for anything out of the ordinary.
Most ranches with rough country use it to their advantage and you generally gather down and out the big draws. This gives the livestock a natural flow until they get to the bottom and try to wrap around it and back up the draw next to you… sometimes it can be tricky to beat them around the corner.
A day working cowboy generally has several horses in their string. Horses that are in different stages of their training. Most ranchers are okay with you riding a younger horse to put miles on them as long as you are hand enough to handle your own and still be helpful. However, sometimes you need to bring ol’ trusty and have a solid horse. It is best to communicate to find out what the job is and then decide what horse to take.
It is fun when riding in the middle of nowhere and you come across old homesteads, line shacks, rock buildings, barns, and remnants of days gone by. Your mind wonders about those who came before. People who were pioneers to this land. People who had real adventures around in these hills.
Working with livestock can be unpredictable and especially in rough country there are many challenges. There are steep ravines, cliff embankments, and sharp rocks. Even in the rolling hills and flat land there are washouts, holes, cactus, and things that can go awry. Although, amidst the danger there is beauty that abounds. Wild animals, wild flowers, and wild landscapes that create a sense of peace within.
Waiting at the end of the work day is usually a delicious meal. I think getting to enjoy the good food in great company is always a treat!
If you are lucky enough to be a day working cowboy, then you are lucky enough.
About Tiffany Schwenke
My family has been ranching and raising horses for over 100 years. We raise, train, and market AQHA horses at North Four Mile Creek Horse Ranch. We produce the annual event WYO WILD RIDE RANCH RODEO. I am a wife and a mother to 3 amazing...