Most people call me petey. That’s because most of the people I know, live in my computer. My husband Randyman, and I, live on a 250,000 acre ranch in SE Oregon, 110 miles from the nearest small town. The closest neighbor is 20 miles, but they are actually on the same ranch. We are ranch hands here…well…technically, I am retired, so all I do is feed and doctor orphan calves, help gather, brand, and process cattle, tend the vegetable garden, milk our cows and goats, raise a couple sheep and cook for crew when they need me. In my spare time I make soap. Ah yes! The life of leisure! Don’t be fooled into thinking I am any good at any of this. It’s just what I do. Awesome what you can pick up on the internet!
The ranch runs 4000 head of mother cows, which means between the cows, calves, and bulls, there can be close to 10,000 head at a given time. The owners have 5 kids (15-18). Yes, those are their ages. They have a set of triplets, so their mama had 5 babies under 5 years old, 110 miles from town, and cooked for a branding crew of about 19 everyday, which lasts pretty much all summer long, considering we only do about 100 calves a day. As you may know, ranch people are tough. They are a pretty solid illustration of what real America is all about.
The kids here used to do the lion’s share of the work. They were home-schooled until high school, now they attend the closest school, which is 84 miles away. It’s a public co-ed boarding school for ranch kids as this is a pretty remote area, 2nd only to Alaska. They come home on Thursdays and work thru the weekend, then head back to school about 5 am on Monday morning.
With 4000 cows, we average about 10-20 orphans a year, which is not too bad, all things considered. This year however, there were lots of first year heifers on the desert, which calved early, so I had to raise 25 bottle calves. Miss Dolly, my Jersey cow, helps out with 2 at a time and I DID manage to graft a couple onto a nasty, mean nurse cow, before kicking her loose.
Cowboys tend to be a bit on the transient side, so we have had quite a variety. My observation has been that they have all been very ‘clean cut’, have impeccable manners, solid faith and a strong work ethic. It saddens me to hear they are a ‘dying breed’ as those I have known are some of the neatest people on the planet. With the exception of one cowboss, who was kind of a jerk. He wasn’t here long. I know there are exceptions to every rule, but this has been our experience. I prefer to assume they call me ‘ma’am’ because they are polite, not because I am old. Don’t burst my bubble.
We live far enough out that only the boss has a real phone. We have a ‘satellite’ phone, so he can contact us, but otherwise, our only communication with the outside world is by satellite internet. Cell phones don’t work here, because of the mountain. . Unfortunately, Randyman doesn’t type or use computer, so I have to read his mind, or his lips, cuz he doesn’t talk much either, and when he does, it’s at a volume that can only be picked up by canines.
For obvious reasons, we raise our own meat, eggs, dairy and a lot of our vegetables. Fast food means something fleet footed enough to race out of gun range.
We drive 4-5 hours to grocery shop, as the nearest town is so small they don’t carry much. We are only supposed to make this trip every 3 months, however, we did make a couple of extras when I broke my shoulder riding thru a slough…and another when my mare broke all my ribs. Funny how one notices the ruts in the 50 miles of dirt road between here and the highway, under some circumstances. But, I had 5 hours to calm down before the rush to surgery, which was a good thing.
There is a large dry lakebed at the south end of the ranch. This has brought some nice perks, as people sometimes come out to play on it, and often invite the kids to join in. Being sort of a kid myself, I also get to take part in these festivities. I have a whole slew of pictures taken from a hot air balloon. Unfortunately, I also have a fear of heights, so most of them have the top edge of the basket as a border, because I am not that tall from on my knees. Nice as the balloon was, it paled in comparison to the little red helicopter we got to ride in. Flying over antelope herds, and chasing after a coyote in helicopters is a pretty exciting thing, especially if you have a fear of flying. There is something special about going rapidly from horizontal to vertical that stirs the blood…does a number on the gastric system as well.
Living on this much land gives us the opportunity to keep lots of critters. Having the milk cow is wonderful, but we decided we’d best get a couple of goats to fill in the gap during her dry spells. Of course, that meant we had to have protection for them, as there is a lot of predator pressure here, with coyotes and cougars. Our first year here, a cougar, 3 bobcats and a badger had to be dispatched in front of our house. The cougar had attacked one of the cowdogs. Goats would just be an appetizer. So, for the 2 goats, we bought 2 Maremma sheperds. That made us feel silly, as there was a dog per goat, so we bought a couple of sheep too, being great lovers of lamb. Yes, I do get attached to the critters, but if I know they are destined for the freezer, we just name them after politicians. No problem there, although there are a few we find so unpalatable, we won’t even name our livestock after them.
There are always the day-to-day pleasures on the ranch, such as seeing the BOSS accidentally rope a cow with his good leather riata, and watching her plow thru a fence with everyone still mounted, in hot pursuit. That stops a branding in a hurry. Nothing left but the ground crew and a cloud of dust. It’s a great life.
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Thank you Petey for the fabulous guest post today!