The double gates swing wide into The Lane, and receive the cow herd we’ve pushed down from the uplands with along the way an overnight stay for them at Elna & Jimmy’s on the bank of Hot Springs Canyon. It is of course fun to participate in such a now-rare thing, and the help offered and given by Saguaro Juniper members is grand–a few people on foot, some in vehicles and stocktrailer rig, three on horseback. In the era of wildly hazing (yee … haw) cows, calves, bulls, heifers and steers sardine-style into trailers, taking off and being done with it, while I rode along I wondered if we aren’t the last holdout in Cochise County of such an “Old West” way. We are in part pushed into it by the cost of fuel, and a poverty of facilities, but equally so by wanting to stay with something that is in direct touch with the animals we raise, the horses we ride, and the landscape we ride–and stride–across.
“The Great Cascabel Cow Move of June 2013” goes smoothly and sweetly on a surprisingly “cool” morning (60 degrees at dawn) and our Foxtrotter, Loompy, performs gorgeously beneath me, but fretful and watchfully, tightly wound I’ll always be in such an affair. The years have gone by since these lands, past which we bring the herd, have been taxed according to their value for growing beef instead of taxed according to their value for growing real estate profits, and the fences along the gravel road reflect this: mostly, they are down, caught by the grader and torn into messes, or gone completely including water gaps where a canyon’s opening would be a natural temptation for a cow to peel off into. Owner’s aren’t so concerned now about keeping livestock in because mostly they don’t have any, or concerned about keeping someone else’s out. It would be easy to have a wayward animal lead a bunch off to the hills to the East, or crash into the River bottom and have them all disappear into a hopeless tangle of saltcedar, mesquite, willow and cottonwood, which would turn a fine day into near endless misery. Cascabel Road isn’t much of a cattle highway any more, but everyone handles the reality superbly. When those Mason gates swing and close behind, I let out a great lungful of air, give thanks for all those people around me, give thanks that we and our fellow livestock are all whole, Molly didn’t have her calf in the road, and the young ones had kept up (sometimes Loompy nudged their butts to keep them motivated.) There is romping and bellowing and running as the herd that’s brought in runs in with the herd that has been at Mason’s through the winter and they work out the points of becoming a single unit.
In the late afternoon I return to check on the state of peace or conflict, and find the Brown-headed Cowbird population already increased proportionately with the “new” herd size! Up in #3 Pasture, our very own distelfinks–Lesser Goldfinches–are massing on the seeding heads of Malta star thistle, feasting, joyously twittering or giving out lazy, satisfied notes. That won’t be enough to get control of the nasty weed, but the birds are most welcome to stay for this dinner.
Lots of Purple Martins are overhead after the sun is gone, their number over the spring being few up til now.