"It's rough country, and we'd use binoculars to find the stray cattle" He said..
I just got back from a cattle gathering, and one of my friends had offered their spare bedroom for an overnight stay. The closest hotel was 30-40 minute drive away, so I gladly took them up on their offer. I pulled into their driveway later than expected that night, and was greeted inside to the smell of tacos & margaritas, now that's my kind of welcome!
As I was trying to warm up from the being out in the bitter temps that day, and as we were all catching up, somehow we got on the subject of old cowboy stories. Now, if you know me, I could sit , drink coffee and listen to these kind of stories for hours! I was in Heaven, as Justin began to explain the "Wagons" as he called it out in Arizona. I guess I've been sheltered to this kind of knowledge, because I just sat there in fascination, as he began to tell me about the "Spring Wagons" , and the "Fall Wagons"
The Spring & Fall Wagons hire around 10 guys or so (each season) to come in, and they leave from the headquarters to go work one camp cowboys "section"( which could include miles and miles to cover) , they camp out in teepee's, sleep in bedrolls, and have their own string of horses. They do this for months...MONTHS! There's a camp cook that takes care of all the supplies needed, because the cowboys only come back in to shower every 2 weeks (There's no way I could do without a shower!) Then he said, between the "Wagons" (Spring & Fall) there is a "Clean Up Crew" , which means they hire a small set of cowboys to go gather all the strays that might have been missed between the spring and fall wagons.
Justin was hired out in Arizona for the clean up crew, and then Beth smiled at me with a twinkle in her eye, and handed Justin an old leather covered photo album to show me the images he had captured while out there. He explained how rough the country is, how you'd have to use binoculars to find cattle on a far away ridge, and then once you spotted the cattle you had to find a way to sneak around the mountain to bring them down. I know I probably looked silly, as my jaw was just dropping from amazement of what these guys did in a full days work. Justin explained about the large rocks, the cactus, the deep ravines, and having a good using string of horses was crucial.
The next thing I know, he pulls out an old "ranch" documentary ( As Beth calls it) made in the 1980's of Arizona cowboys, and their lifestyle. It truly is a lifestyle that only some could endure, and town is a full days drive, and some places have no electricity, only propane. It was quicker to pack supplies in on mules rather than drive a pickup. I couldn't finish watching the whole thing, because the next thing I knew it was almost midnight, and my eyes were so sleepy.
We awoke in the early morning hours, Beth brewed a fresh pot of coffee, and invited me to join them on their feeding dates, ha!
The beauty of the Osage in the early morning hours is an amazing sight to see. The sun glistens on the tall grass, and the cattle breath sparkles as they run towards the cake truck. It was the perfect way to enjoy a cup of coffee in a to-go cup.
As we were headed back to headquarters, a few deer ran out of the woods, and then I heard the cake truck turn on, and drop a few range cubes. They of course needed a little breakfast too!
As I was leaving the ranch that morning to head to another branding, I was driving down their long driveway, and thinking to myself "Do I have a passion for the photography, the stories, or just the experience more?"
I still don't have an answer to that question, but I think it's a combination of it all with the great folks that I've become friends with that share the passion of this lifestyle.