Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Padlock Ranch Report

April Showers Bring May Flowers: But What Does Rain in May Bring?

I have been in a bit of a quandary these past few weeks as I have reflected over the well known statement that “April showers bring May flowers”. I was well and good with that as it was raining in April and we do have some flowers now that it is May. The trouble I have now is what will all of this rain in May bring us in June, hopefully not more rain. Personally, I have visions of sunshine and green grass and lots of it.

I certainly do not mind the rain and please forgive me if it sounds as though I am complaining; I am not. It is well needed for the crops and rangeland grasses. I was just telling someone this morning that the rain is not the problem. The problem is all the things the rain impedes us from accomplishing. For instance, our farm crew has great aspirations of planting 1400 acres of corn this year. They have scheduled the month of May to do that. It is now the 17th and they have successfully planted 400 of the 1400 acres. The rain or the muddy fields have impeded any further planting. There are also things such as cleaning pens in the feedlot, welding feed bunks, and fixing up around our horse barn that are all on stand by on account of the rain. The comical thing about all of it is that just when it looks like it might be dry enough to get out and work on a few of these projects, it starts to rain again.

As long as I am on the topic of rain I should share a small experience we had last week with our friends the Gleeson’s from Australia.

We had the noblest intentions of beginning to gather one of our pastures and moving them to an adjacent pasture as a part of a scheduled pasture rotation. We refer to the pasture we were gathering cattle from as Dan’s pasture. They are moved south to the Pete Leon pasture. Dan’s pasture heading north from the Pete Leon pasture starts in the Slater Creek basin and then rises up through some rough steep breaks before reaching a large plateau on the north side. Under normal weather conditions this country can be difficult to traverse by horse.

The plan for the day was to trot out from the Wolf Mountain Camp and head for Slater Creek drainage where we suspected we could gather up some of the low lying fruit on the creek bottom, “bump” them across the creek and through the gate into the Pete Leon. The Wolf Mountain crew, including the Gleeson’s headed out from the camp in heavy rain and a fairly stiff Wyoming wind. I managed to trailer out from my house and met the crew on Slater Creek. We were surprised to see the normally dried up Slater Creek creek bed to be rushing a fast torrent of water. Jesse explored a few plausible crossings, none of which proved to be very safe. Especially when taking in to account the cattle we needed to cross.

Our official calving date begins about the first of May, so these 620 head of cows are heavily into the calving process. There is a mixture of heavy cows still in calf and cows with very young calves, even just a few hours old. Not knowing for sure what the outcome would be we decided there was one crossing we would give a shot at crossing with a small bunch of cows. There were two cows with calves and a couple of heavy cows. The cows crossed without any difficulty. The first calf made it a cross, but found himself swimming for a few strides in order to reach the other side. After seeing that first calf going for a swim I think both Jesse and I decided this was a bit too risky for these small calves. We left the other cow and calf and went searching for other options. There were no other safe crossings to be found and our plans were changed. The crew headed back to camp.

I often strive to explain how difficult it is to predict just how things are going to turn out in this business and this is just one example of how forces of nature have the ultimate say. I should have thought of that as one of the reasons for the Padlock Ranch being the ultimate working ranch vacation.

The Gleeson’s and the rest of the crew, after a romantic ride in the rain, returned to the Wolf Mountain Camp nearly soaked and half froze. As Jesse sings in one of his songs, “being a cowboy is something you earn”, well, they earned it that day. The big fire in the fireplace back at the lodge was a welcoming site indeed.

Thankfully the weather improved and Slater Creek went back to a more manageable flow and our cattle move was soon met with greater success. We’re still working on moving these pairs and with the looks of the forecast I am hopeful we will not once again find the creek banks overflowing.

These events make for great memories. It is very rewarding as I see our guests leave as close friends with memories to last a long time. I hope everyone reading this will soon have the chance to come and create their own memories as a member of the Padlock crew. There are still some openings for 2011.

Hope to see you here!