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Gathering Wild Cattle

IMAG0024For those who have never had the experience, gathering wild cattle is very different than handling gentle cattle. Sometimes you have to forget everything you think you know about handling cattle.

When I worked at the Robbers Roost in Southeast Utah, we ran cattle on the same range year round. There was never a time when we gathered everything. The country consisted of big grass flats surrounded by cedar trees and big, deep canyons.  The cattle learn how to get away from you.

A.C. Ekker was the best hand I’d ever been around for handling wild cattle.  That goes for on the end of a rope, or trying to corral them. I learned a lot from him in both regards.

The Robbers Roost area was kind of famous in Southern Utah. We always had a lot of people that wanted to come out and help us on weekends. We always appreciated the help, but sometimes it was quite frustrating for us and them. Most people who volunteered had either only been around gentle cattle, or were team ropers who thought they would get a chance to chase something.

Cowboys who hadn’t done it before didn’t understand how to handle wild cattle, especially when you were trying to corral them.  When you first approached these cattle they would just start trotting in every direction. Scattering like deer. They didn’t all go the same way like a herd.

A.C. would give everybody a game plan, or tell everyone what we were trying to do, and which direction we were going to go. When we would approach the cattle, and they would scatter is when people would get lost.  Most people would just try to point the cattle in the right direction.  Our first priority was to get every thing stopped. Our weekend help would see us running around the cattle from one side to the other trying to hold them up, and they thought we just couldn’t decide which way we wanted to go.

I remember one guy getting frustrated and finally hollered “which way do you want to go?”  A.C. hollered back “I don’t want to go, I want to stop.”

This seemed to work pretty good to get the cattle stopped and let them settle for a bit. Sometimes we would let them settle for thirty minutes or more. Then when we started to move them we could usually handle them for a while.  If they started going too fast or trying to quit the bunch we would stop them again and let them settle for a while again. I think it had something to do with adrenaline in the cows.

I remember one time just A.C. and I were trying to corral a small bunch by ourselves. We ended up with both of us in front of the cattle, one on each side to keep them slowed down. We didn’t even need anyone to drive them. They had plenty of drive.

When we had a lot of help is when we tried to corral cattle. When we didn’t have so much help we would go road hunting. We would find some cattle we needed to gather, try and get them to cross a road, and catch them and either tie them to a tree, or tie them down Then we would try to catch another one before they got too far from the road.

The first time I ever did this I thought I was doing pretty good. I had caught one got him down and got him tied down. I got back on my horse and looked around and A.C. already had two tied down and was after another. I got better as we went along.

Some of the help we got really learned to love it, and came back every year. Others thought it was a little too western for them and didn’t ever come back.

Overall the four years I spent out there were some of the best, and I wouldn’t trade the experience. It was truly a once in a lifetime learning experience.

Thanks A.C.IMAG0006

Comments

  1. LaurieAnn & Gary Nelson says:

    THANKS DON, GREAT STORY……BEEN THINKING OF THE ROOST & AC AND ALL THE LIFE LESSONS ( GOOD & BAD )THAT I LEARNED OUT THERE WITH WILD CATTLE AND THE GANG AND A DIFFERENT HORSE EVERY DAY. WOULD NOT TRADE IT FOR THE WORLD…LIKE THE TIME THE WILD CATTLE WERE KEPT IN BY TOILET PAPER ( CUZ THEY ARE SO SKIDDISH) DIDNT SLEEP ALL NIGHT WORRYING IT WOULD RAIN AND MELT THE TOILET PAPER FENCE….LOVE TO YOU AC & FAMILY…LOVE TO YOU DON , DENISE, & CHEZNEY…OXOX GARY & LAURIEANN NELSON

    • Thanks for taking the time to read this. I think a lot about those days. Wouldn’t trade them for anything. It would sure be nice if we could get together sometime and catch up on things.
      Don

  2. Frankye Pepito says:

    Great read, Don. My daughter and I helped move cows on the BLM near Kanab one year and, you’re right…this was not the same as moving my granddad’s gentle Herefords who practically came when you called them. She was only 11 or 12 at the time and we’d top a hill, see a pair on the next hill and they’d run like deer. We managed to gather that pair into the main herd but it took us all morning. Our poor horses were pretty tired, but man, what a ride!