May 31, 2007

I'll Just Have to Pay Myself

I spent Memorial Day weekend putting cattle out on our summer pasture in Island Park. I run a seasonal operation - buying yearling calves in the spring and selling them in the fall. Their springtime average weight comes in at about 550 lbs more or less. They will gain two pounds a day through the summer grazing season of 100 days. In mid-September I will sell them to a feed lot in Lewiston, Idaho, where they will be "finished" - that is fed high quality hay and grain until they reach 1100 - 1200 lbs prior to slaughter and entering the human food chain.

This year as in years past I bought my calves from one of the largest farmer/ranchers in the Teton River irrigation district - Alvie Christensen of Rigby, Idaho. Alive has a well deserved reputation for honesty. This year’s cattle are Black Angus and are of uniform weight and appearance. I hope the market holds up and I hope that the grass holds out. It is extraordinarily dry this year. I have three ponds on my place in Island Park and they are already down about 25%. When they get too low, I end up going out with a shovel and digging them deeper to get closer to the water table. I have yet to go completely dry.

After selecting this year’s crop of calves, we ran them into the corrals and alleyway that leads to the squeeze chute. One by one we branded them and gave them each a booster vaccination - amid the burning hair, the kicking and the bawling. My brand, which is registered in Idaho, is the Lazy Quarter Circle K on the left hip for cattle. You can see the iron to the left of this post. In Utah, the brand goes on the right shoulder. After the branding, we loaded and weighed and were off to the high mountain pastures for the summer.

This poem recounts a little experience that happened on what was once one of the largest ranches in Island Park - the Railroad Ranch, owned by the Harriman and Guggenheim families. Lee Jacobsen, now 97 and living in retirement in Idaho Falls, whom I bought my place from, worked on the Railroad Ranch as a young man and came to know the Harrimans and S.R. Guggenheim on a personal basis. He always had twinkle in his eye when he told this story, which I have set to rhythm and rhyme. Lee is the cowboy pictured here.

I'll Just Have to Pay Myself
by Paul Kern

Where privileged folk used to come to recreate,
Lee, the Harrimans and Guggenheims would congregate.
He was a workin’ cowboy - Lee was - up on the Railroad Ranch,
A simple man, a good rider too - decked out in blue jean pants.

Now one evenin’ S.R. Guggenheim had made it known,
That on the morn he’d bring down a herd ridin’ out alone.
Then deep furrows appeared on Mrs. Harriman’s brow,
For S.R. just barely knew to tell horseflesh from a cow.

She pulled Lee over tellin’ him to take care of old S.R.
Have him ride her blondy mare – don’t let him get too far.
Take care of him; Lee surely did for as the day dawn broke,
S.R. still had not appeared for he still had not awoke.

Lee rode out early on and gathered up a bunch,
Settled ‘em down nicely, and then returned for lunch.
S.R. by then was up and ready - to ride on out somewhere,
They rode out both together - S.R. on the blondy mare.

Lee pointed to a place where cattle just might be,
And told S.R. to take a look, he’d wait there by a tree.
S.R. took off all alone astride that gentle mare,
And found to his delight Lee’s bunch just waitin’ there.

He herded ‘em to the corral with a little help from Lee,
And got ‘em in at their own pace as easy as could be.
S.R. was proud as any peacock on this earth had ever been,
And quite oblivious to the fact that pride’s an awful sin.

Lee came ridin’ over just to check on S.R.’s fun,
Do you think they’ll pay me for the work that I have done?
Lee said that Guggenheim didn’t need much more wealth,
To which S.R. replied – Then I’ll just have to pay myself!

free hit counter script

No comments:

Post a Comment