Today was one of my last days at home on the ranch before heading back to the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center to begin my competitive season. Last minute I decided to go home and help out, because I knew things were going to be a bit harder this year with the drought in the high plains of Kansas. Feed prices, corn, and overall care of the cattle is going to be a challenge this year. Dave Frisbie, one of my father’s good friends, started my father in the cattle business, and he needed some help.
His cows were put on grass south of Goodland, Colorado, but had run out of grass to eat and needed to be moved. There were 90 pair (90 cows and 90 calves) and 6 bulls to be moved to some conservation reserve program (CRP) land on the opposite side of the town and an hour drive from where we live in western Kansas. The objective was to round up the cattle on four-wheelers, sort them, load them on semis, drive them to the CRP, and take the bulls home.
Sounds simple, but nothing ever goes as planned. The first round-up was quick, but then sorting them and loading them onto the three semis took some time. The calves were so big that the three semi trailers were not enough! We had to load the rest on to the trailer we brought our four-wheelers on. So, we left our four-wheelers behind in the snowstorm and unloaded the 90 pair on another farm about 40 minutes away. Along our route of dirt roads, one of the semis did not approach the first hill fast enough. The dirt had turned to mud due to the sleet and snowstorm, so the semi started to spin out and roll backwards. We were behind him, and Eddie (Dave’s 16 year old son) was driving us. Luckily he’d been driving farm vehicles for at least 6 years so knew to stop early, to wait and see if the semi would make it up the hill. My eyes got big as I watched the semi jack knife on the muddy hill. I kept thinking, “What will happen to the 44 cattle in the trailer?!” Help was on the way…in minutes the residents of a local farm were already there in a big green John Deer Tractor. The semi had managed to wedge it self sideways on the road with the cab facing up the hill, but the trailer was perpendicular to it, taking up the entire road. The tractor just went around, hooked up to the cab with a chain, and pulled the whole thing straight and we were on our way. I had never seen anything like it – people took care of each other, with no need to ask.
Once we unloaded the cattle, we went back, loaded the bulls and the four-wheelers, and went back to the CRP. In the meantime, the cows had gotten out of their pen but needed to be taken farther to another pasture. We jumped back on our four-wheelers in the sleet and snow and chased the 190 head of cattle another 5 miles. As we worked our way deeper in to the CRP, leading them to water tanks, a three-legged dog jumped on my four-wheeler and rode with me to the end.
Once the cattle were finally settled we loaded up and headed home, after a long 15-hour day of work.