Cow Boss

Here at the Rafter S, I’m the cow boss. Impressive, right? Well, let’s dive into that a little deeper.

Two of the babies

A cow boss’s job is to oversee the day-to-day operations of a ranch. He assigns each cowboy his or her duties and he is responsible for the hiring and firing of the cowhands.

For the man (or woman) who holds that title at any of the few remaining big ranches, places like the Spanish Ranch in Elko County, Nevada, where 3,400 mother cows are managed on its 76,000 deeded acres, or on J.R. Simplot’s ZX Ranch in Eastern Oregon, which spans 1.3 million acres and runs 11,000 head of mother cows, the title carries significant weight.

My Little Ranchette

But here on the Rafter S, it doesn’t take much to tend to my five mother cows, and of course, there’s not much hiring and firing that takes place. And if I get too big for my hat, the real boss lets me know about it.

Miss Kay and baby (left) and Bonnie and baby (right)

A jigger boss is second in command, and upon further contemplation of my situation, perhaps that’s a more appropriate title.

Well cow boss or jigger boss, either way, I keep a close eye on the cows during the early days of spring to make sure that all goes well with their calving.


The Big Boy “Norman”

And all did go well again this year (we’ve had several years where all didn’t go well), so now we have sixteen head on the ground: five mama cows, five yearlings (which won’t be with us much longer), and five calves.

Oh, and the proud father who always gets it done, Norman.

Crazy Cindy

You’ve heard about Crazy Cindy before.

Crazy Cindy, ready to kill

She’s the only cow that gives us any trouble, but for some reason, I just can’t let her go. This year was no different.

Within the first 24 hours of a calf being born, we like to give it a shot of Bo-Se (pronounced bow-see), which is essentially Selenium which helps prevent white muscle disease. Full vaccinations will come in a month or two when we brand the calves and castrate the bulls.

All went well as we snatched and stabbed a needle into the calves of Maybel, Jackie, Miss Kay, and Bonnie, the first to calve in that order.

Giving Shots

Miss Kay and “Josie”

We usually do it at feeding time, hoping the cows will be distracted while we snatch the newborn and give it a shot.

But Crazy Cindy won’t have any of that. She consistently moves to position herself between us and her calf, and she paws at the dirt to let us know what we might expect unless we leave her baby alone.

The crew this last weekend consisted of me, my son-in-law Ryan, whom I planned to use as a rodeo clown, drawing the heat away from the rest of us (though he didn’t know that), Randi Jo, the senior nursing student whose skills might have come in handy, and Lesli, the trophy wife, and actual cow boss. She’s the one who gives the shot once we have a hold on the calf.

Taking Chances

I’ve been pushing my luck lately with Cindy. But in my defense, she’s only tried to kill me a couple of times. My wife, on the other hand, has been chased over fences and across pastures, and Cindy helped her over a corral panel one day. Sunday, I began questioning my sanity.

Bonnie’s baby checking on Cindy’s future devil child

After several failed attempts to get our hands on the cute little day-old red calf, Ryan and I split apart. Cindy started toward me, then turned toward Ryan (Atta girl, Cindy, now you’re thinking!) and I was able to snag the calf. Cindy turned and came at me, but Ryan moved in from the other side. For a long moment, she wasn’t sure who to kill.

Giving the Shot

“Hurry with the shot!” I said.

I don’t remember what Lesli said, but there was a refusal to proceed woven into her response.

“Come on,” I encouraged.

Ugliest cow on earth

She reluctantly came forward. Cindy was now inches from my nose, so I rubbed her head and told her how pretty she is. (Cindy is honestly the ugliest cow on Earth.)

Ryan had the calf’s head; I had her hind end. I told Lesli to come around the back of me, because it’s important to protect the boss.

The shot was administered, and we backed away slowly, careful to not lose sight of the devil-cow.

All is Well…

When the work was finished, the girls went back to their business.

Ryan rocking the Rafter S

Ryan and I resumed working on my truck, which may have appeared to the casual observer more like Ryan working on my truck and me drinking beer. Nonetheless, all ended well, and we wouldn’t have to risk our lives again until a month or so from now when the crew gathers to brand the calves.

And next year, we’ll do it all again. Because I just can’t bring myself to rid the Rafter S of such a wonderful mama cow, even if she does have the personality of a rattlesnake.

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Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will share it with your family and friends.


12 thoughts on “Cow Boss

  1. Well told story about a small cattle operation!

    My best friend Kelly used to keep a few longhorns up on her 60 acre property in Havilah. The neighbors promptly opened their gates to take advantage of the free brush clearance, so the cattle had about 200 acres to roam. Kelly would visit weekly to check on the cattle & put out some supplemental alfalfa bales. Kelly left some bales with an older neighbor who used to raise some Longhorns, & was happy to feed the cattle if the weather was too bad for us to drive up.

    Now, Kelly bought her original Longhorns from some gal in Leona Valley, who had kept an ever expanding herd as pets only. Which made it easy to check on this herd, they came if you called them.

    After a couple of years, it was time to introduce some new genes into the pool. My friend went to an auction up in Kern County, to buy a young bull longhorn.

    Caveat emptor! He was not a Registered Longhorn, & soon started to show that his background contained more Criollo (Spanish) blood than is optimal for easy handling.

    Before he was a yearling, we were trying to corral him, to take to the butcher, although a rodeo stock provider might’ve paid more for him, assuming we could catch him.

    We once got that sucker into the catch pen, trailer backed up. I was in the pen, trying to move him into the trailer, when he charged me. I’m tall, but carry a lot of extra weight in my lower half, yet made a surprisingly fast vault over the 5 ft tall pipe corral.

    Damn bull turned on his haunches & neatly leapt the opposite side of the pen back into the unfenced acreage.

    He was smart enough to come when fresh alfalfa was spread, but so mean we didn’t want to risk our horses near the catch pen. I guess Kelly thought it was better to risk me?

    A neighbor finally roped him from the ground & shot him, & was given the meat for his trouble.

    Kelly worried for a year or so that the Criollo bull had been mature enough to breed a cow, but was lucky.

    Actually, double lucky, in that soon after, a neighbor cut the fence to drive a much larger herd of Angus through, was careless enough to allow my friend’s Longhorns to follow & so they disappeared for a while. When the Longhorns were eventually returned, most of the next set of calves were Longhorn/Angus — a great tasting, fairly tender, low fat beef!

    1. Great story, Valerie. Cindy is a Corriente, so you know how that goes. However, we bred her to some nice bulls over the years (charolais, as you can see from her offspring Miss Kay and Jackie) and she is the last Corriente around. I used to keep them for roping but moved to beef instead. (: Thanks for the story!

  2. I’m picturing myself, and my family enfaged in this activity, and I would gladly knock back a coldy with the survivors.

  3. THANKS for the comic relief!! Nice to read something that DOESN’T have to do with sick people, government, hoarding or that ‘C’ word virus. You can’t get rid id Cindy….whata ya gonna write about?
    Congrat on the new calf..

    1. Thanks, Ed. Yeah, I had a blog all written, ready to go, but it didn’t feel right, something telling me people need a break from more news and opinion about the virus. Glad you enjoyed it and I hope many others do as well. Stay healthy, my friend.

  4. What a sweet story. Momma cow Cindy is just fiercely protective of her baby. I can certainly relate with that!

  5. Ol’ Crazy Cindy. She’s a good mama…Gotta give her that….They can’t all be the Miss Congeniality winner in the herd,
    Besides that, ain’t one mama in your herd that gives you stories like CC. Gotta have those stories, right? Gotta keep it western. Cindy’s just doin’ her part to keep reminding you that the Rafter S ain’t no dairy. 😀

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