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I Know Why Cowboys Sing Sad Songs
 By Winniefield Park   •   14th Aug 2013   •   7,746 views   •   1 comments
Horse Short Story

A few years ago, I wrote an article for a travel magazine about holidays on horseback. One of the “holidays” was cattle herding. My research was to actually experience the holiday. So off I went, and I arrived to find a small sorrel tied to the hitching post, saddled with a big western saddle. The plan was to accompany two ‘cowboys’ as they moved eighty cow/calf pairs to new pasture.

I quickly found myself heading out into open pasturelands on a well-behaved Quarter Horse, in a big slippery western saddle. As we rode along I tried to forget how uncomfortable I was and how much I was missing my skinny Arab wearing an English saddle. It wasn’t long before I was humming a hurtin’ song. However, I figured with two experienced ranch hands along, I really hadn’t much to do besides keep up. And that wasn’t hard. Cattle herding is not fast work. In fact, it is tediously slow.

Despite the fact I live in farm country, I don’t know much about cattle. I learned a lot that day. Cattle can’t be hurried, especially cows with calves. I was warned not to ride at the herd too fast, as they can easily spook. A shout or waving arms might scare them too. No problem, I was more than glad to keep my head low. The cows and calves shuffled along and all I had to do was follow the herd. Then someone spotted a sick calf.

The calf needed to be moved back to the barn, now about a mile away. For some reason, it required two riders to guide the calf back to the barn. I was left in the middle of a field with seventy-nine cow calf pairs with the instructions “Don’t let them go into the trees.” At the north end of the field were the trees; a rock strewn bush of low hanging cedars. I didn’t think that would be too hard. All the cows seemed to be more interested in grazing.

But, as soon as the other riders were out of sight, each cow decided it must stand beneath a low-hanging cedar. I started riding back and forth trying to head them off. Remembering the warning, I approached them slowly. I pictured making a mistake and having the herd charge back up the trail with their tails stuck straight up over their backs. One thing I know about cattle is that they can run with their tails sticking straight up. I rode back and forth weakly begging the herd to go back to grazing. I know now why cowboys handle the reins with one hand. It’s so the other hand can be used to wave gently at the cattle while saying, “shoo, shoo, don’t go in there, please, shoo...”

By the time the other two riders returned, about one-third of the cattle were in the rocks, and a few more minutes would have given them time to get into the bush. The host asked me why I let them get up that far. He took one look at my panic-stricken face and didn’t press for an answer. It took them a few minutes of galloping through the stones and scrub to get the herd back together and aimed in the right direction. Where was the pasture we finally left the cattle in? I suppose a good cowboy would know. But, of one thing, I’m sure: I know why cowboys sing sad songs.

Image Credit: © Altaoosthuizen | Dreamstime.com
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  Winniefield Park
Valkyrie   MOD 
I grew up a farmkid, so I can understand your frustration haha.

Let me introduce you to the song of my people ...
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