Back in “85” I was entertaining my friends at the Golden’s bar in Cederville and Tom Espil shows up, wants to take me out to the lower Solder Creek Ranch to get a walkin cooler going.
In the early 1960s I went to high school with the Espil boys in Cederville, California, a small cow town near the Oregon/Nevada corner of California. John was a classmate, Tom a couple years younger and Brent a few years younger.
So we gather up my gear and head out south on the Gerlach Rd to the ranch a hundred miles out into the desert. Got introduced at the ranch but Tommy had to go to Susanville, be back the next day. So I examine the job and got started, Brent and his giant dog have to work the local range cattle, without help, so he is very busy, but his wife Vicky is a good hostess and I get the job done by afternoon the next day…..but no Tommy.
Brent sets me to servicing the generator and then fix a couple of tractors, clean and organize the shop, but, After 4 days still no Tommy and I’m running out of things to do. Brent says they are doing a big roundup the next day and invites me to join as a rider. Ok, I can ride.
We get to the campsite before dark and set up for the night along with the rest of the crew. Before light we roust up and wake up the remuda, the horses no happier in the dark cold morning then the rest of us. I get assigned a horse and gear, Saddle him up, draw up the cinch but leave it unbound as I walk around, talk to the horse, check the gear, drink the last of the coffee, get instructions. Day light comes, time to get to work. Walk back to the horse, draw up the cinch strap tight and bind it up. Now when you first saddle up a horse they will swell up and after they relax you wind up with a loose saddle and real problems if the horse moves abruptly. Hence the delay in binding up the cinch. UP into the saddle and we start out down the trail to the flat, my horse starts crow hopping and dancing around.I let him get a few good jumps in and come down hard with heels and the tails of the reins to force the horse into a run and now we run into a circle in the brush back to the posse. Guys were smiling at their entertainment, guess I, can ride.
As we enter the valley the riders spread out. Across the flat, maybe 25 riders from 5 outfits are gathering 600 pairs of cattle for brand marking and medication treatment of the young calves. As we work our way across the prairie gathering the cattle, Antelope bucks are gathering their harems of does with young and moving them behind us. Antelope hang out with the cattle because those big cows will help keep coyote away from attacking the tiny young kids . One buck passes near me with his 5 does, He has the tallest horns I have ever seen, near 30 inches! Wow ! The gathering herd is moved towards a natural arena in the rim-rock where the ground crew is setting up their equipment and fire pit to heat the Irons. The riders keep the herd milling within the “arena” while the real Cowboys begin working their way through the herd selecting the pairs that need attention. The head roper catches the calf and moves it toward the ground crew. As they near that crew the second roper catches it’s hind legs and pins it in place so the bulldoger can drop it and tie the legs. The ropers instruct the ground crew as to the outfit the calf belongs to as the bulldoger removes the ropes for the ropers so they can pick up the next pair. The smell and sounds of cow and horse, sagebrush , fire and sweat. A real Rodeo out in the desert as cowmen do their work. Is this fun or work?
As long as they can work from the back of a horse, Cowboys will work any hours under any conditions. Sometimes even pay for the privilege of working on a real ranch doing cowboy things chasing real cattle! I always thought a horse was a poor means of transportation. Very dangerous as well. On the Espil Ranch, cowboy was the lowest level of employment. If you were good at that job you could advance to being a sheep herder. A job of greater responsibility and a lot less work under better conditions.
While we were working the cattle, The sheep operation was doing similar work in corrals further to north east tending to bands of Espil sheep
We are done before noon and head back to break camp and head out on a rough 8 mile track east through the rimrock to the upper ranch. There is a Bar-B-Que at the upper ranch! The Espils know how to throw a party. Beer and wine, Desert Oysters, Barbecued Beast and a vast array of fixins…pg
Oh yes, Tommy shows up at the party, he is in a hurry to return to his place near Eagleville 😦 as well as take me home. …pg