Grandpa, a Horse Trailer and Getting Home to Milk Cows




What can I say about my grandpa?  

He was a people person.  He loved to sit and B.S. with people.  He loved to share his home and the area he lived, with others.  He had a huge heart and loved his family with all of it. He also had a temper and could be a bit rammy at times (hard headed) for those of you not from my family!

When grandpa decided he was going to do something, he would do it.  When he decided people weren’t doing things the right way he would let them know it or do it himself.  He pretty much did things when he wanted, how he wanted, and where he wanted and that brings me to the heart of this particular tale.

Moving cows.

One spring when I was in my early teens, my brother, grandpa, and hired hand had taken the cows to the mountains for their summer grazing.  Of course this was done the old fashioned way, driving them across the country on horseback.  Which in my mind is the best way to do anything!

We had gotten the cows and calves up to their grazing area in the early afternoon.  It wasn’t just my family moving their cows but several families because we belong to a grazing association.  This allows several ranchers to pool their cattle and resources together to graze on public lands.  So that means a lot of cows, a lot of baby calves, a lot of cowboys and kids, trucks, horse trailers and maybe a couple of dogs to boot!  CHAOS!!

As I said, we got the cows and calves to their grazing area and began the job of mothering the cows with their calves.  In the process of moving cattle, babies, and mamas get separated because full grown cows can travel a lot better than baby calves, so before you can just turn them out and say good luck, you have to give the mothers time to find their babies.   This means a lot of bawling by cows and calves because how else does a mom find her baby but to holler for it? During this time it is usually a good chance for you to eat your lunch and check the license plate (code for going to the bathroom).

After eating lunch and giving the cows time to mother up we started the process of cutting the pairs off from those that were still looking, plus we were still waiting for some of the ranchers to get there with their cattle.  We had been at this for awhile and some of the guys still hadn’t made it, it was getting later in the afternoon and grandpa was getting more impatient and antsy to get home.  His work wasn’t done after this, he still had cows to milk when we got home so he needed to finish up and get going.

Getting home.

Finally we saw the other guys coming and thought WHEW, now we can finish up and get home, when suddenly grandpa snapped!  I guess he figured we had done enough, those other guys were too slow and we were going home!  Just like that!  So he rounded us all up, loaded the horses into our horse trailer and got us headed for home.

We had one problem though.  Up in the mountains there are roads, some better than others and most in that neck of the woods are one-track, single vehicle.  As we got turned around and headed down, one of the late-comers trucks and trailers was coming up.  Also, compounding the problem was the fact that the driver of the other vehicle was a kid and the driver of our vehicle was…grandpa!  As I said before, grandpa had a temper, was rammy, ready to get home and so that’s what we were doing come hell or high water!

A little game of chicken?

Grandpa kept heading down the road and the other driver kept coming up the road and we were wondering what was going to happen.  The kid wasn’t experienced enough to pass another vehicle on a single track road and grandpa was pissed and impatient!  As the two vehicles got closer and closer we got more and more nervous until finally the kid in the other truck took a small dive off to the side and we whizzed by!  The four of us thought we were clear, when all of a sudden we lurched forward, there was a sickening kind of thud/crunch and our forward progress was halted.  Just then, brother, hired hand and I realized the two horse trailers had not cleared each other and were hung up on one another!  Grandpa apparently knew though because without missing a beat, instead of stopping and checking things out, he floored the engine of the Ford F-150.  There was that brief moment where time sort of slowed to a crawl as we heard the sickening screeching of metal on metal, tires spinning and spitting gravel and grandpa cussing and cursing before the final, gut-wrenching, heart pounding, shriek of the metal fenders of the horse trailers finally coming apart!  All of the work around us had stopped as everyone stared at the spectacle before them.  As the trailers came apart, me, my brother and the hired hand pitched forward in our seats before righting ourselves in time to slink down to the floor board in embarrassment,  as if no one would know who was in the pickup with grandpa.

Did grandpa stop to check out our trailer or the other one?  Did he stop to make sure the horses were alright? Did he even slow down just to see if everyone was ok?  Nope!  He put peddle to the metal and we zoomed away down the mountain in a cloud of dust and curse words!  His three passengers held on for dear life as we fish tailed around sharp corners, saying little prayers under our breath.  Finally, we arrived home safe and sound, if not a bit emotionally scarred!  Not one of us ever spoke of that day, as if we were soldiers returning from a harrowing battle that we dared not speak of.  Even though grandpa is now gone, I still love him dearly and anytime I end up on a windy dirt track with a horse trailer in tow, I break out in a cold sweat and think fondly of my grandpa!


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