Monthly Archives: June 2016

VACATION – Day 9

Kara Creek Ranch, Wyoming – With the weather ferociously hot, we headed out for an early 6am ride, on our last morning on the ranch. I got to ride Rabbit this morning, a cool little cow pony that I’d enviously watched Sinje, a German guest, riding all week. As she’d gone back home, I leapt at the chance to ride him, as he looked like a little sports car of a horse.

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The beautiful Rabbit

We trailed around the property, checking on the calves that we’d branded the day before and they all looked happy and bright. We put a mixed up red pair back with other red stock, as somehow she’s got into a field full of black cows and checked on the water troughs, whilst taking in the spectacular views all around.

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This place is truly like a film set of the Wild West.

After that we enjoyed a tasty brunch back in the cool farm house, had a shower, and then selected which excursions that we’d like to take in during the afternoon, with Sally Ann picking more lake swimming, whilst I chose to go to the local rodeo in Hulett.

The rodeo was AWESOME!! Bull riding, barrel racing, steer chasing, rodeo clowns, you name it, they had it. The weather was roasting, so we had to keep shuffling around the small grandstand to try and stay in the shade. About mid way through the afternoon they had the under 10s calf scramble, whereupon all the kids entered the arena and attempted to tackle young cows, to retrieve the red ribbons tied around their tails.

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A brave man's sport!

It was priceless, I don’t know how many parents back in Europe who would let their children enter a cattle filled pen and encourage then to run up behind them, to poke at their backsides, but the people of Wyoming are hardy folk and clearly want their children to be too. The kids got exhausted chasing the calves around in the deep sand so I’d imagine they’ll all sleep well tonight!

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Like an average day in Newmarket!

We met Sally Ann and the other group, who’d gone swimming, as we were coming back down the drive, so I swapped vehicles and we set straight off to Sturgis, in South Dakota, where the bull riding was being held, at the Knuckle Creek Saloon.

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What a venue!

It was the coolest way to spend a Saturday night, with the exception of the fact that it was still unbearable hot, but the two storey arena was tiny, meaning that we were up close and personal with the bulls and their riders. So close, that whilst eating my chicken in a basket, a big clod of dirt kicked up by one of the bucking bulls, hit me right in the chest and sprayed all over my food. Yummy!

The bulls were on fire and in the first round only the last cowboy to ride managed to stay on for the requisite 8 seconds. At half time we were once again entertained by local band, Brandon Jones and the Thirsty Fish, who helped keep the party atmosphere going, along with the Budweiser girls who threw free gifts into the crowd.

The bulls were twice the size of the ones that had been in action in Hulett earlier in the afternoon, and twice as mean. Sitting downstairs in the third row, Sally Ann and I accidently got into a starring match with a snorting bull that had rid himself of his rider and was ignoring the attentions of the bull wranglers. He starred us right in the eye. I didn’t know whether to try and stare him down or look away. In the end, I went with a weak, unthreatening smile to try and placate him, maintaining eye contact until the beast finally got bored and ran out of the arena still bucking, kicking and snorting. I was mightily relieved when he’d turned around, as he’d looked for a moment that he fancied a bit of crowd surfing.

Having thought earlier in the day that I’d quite like to give riding a bull a go, I’d swiftly changed my mind and was more than grateful that there was a metal barrier between myself and them.

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Ride 'em cowboy!

Finally it was time to go home, and it was the perfect way to end what had been a pretty perfect week. I really enjoyed my week’s vacation as a cowgirl and I doubt that it will be the last, but right now it’s bed and then more airports. Goodnight y’all, now I can officially say, “It’s not my first rodeo!”

VACATION – Day 8

Kara Creek Ranch, Wyoming – What a day! We had an early start, with breakfast at 6am, then it was off out on the horses to round up the cattle, ready for branding.

Having got the herd into the corral, the cowboys turfed most of the mothers out of the way, whilst Sally Ann and I attempted to keep back the irate beasts, that were severely troubled that they’d been temporarily parted from their precious babies. The cacophony of moo-ingc was nearly worse than the noise created from a slot machine tournament on the Norwegian Dawn, but eventually we were ready to start the branding process.

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With the horses tied to the fence, I was alarmed to see someone light a fire directly behind them, but these fantastic ranch horses didn’t bat an eyelid, and remained quite happily snoozing, as the smoke blew right through their tails.

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Smokey.

Everybody was given a task and mine and Sally Ann’s were to inject the calves, hers with a pink eye vaccine and mine with an antibiotic to ward off any infections from the impending branding and castration.

With everyone versed in their duties,  the cowboys started roping the youngsters by the back legs and dragging them out into the grass for the fun to begin. What could look like a brutal scene, was all done very quickly, causing minimal fuss or distress. The hot irons were placed on their backs, burning off the fur to just singe the skin enough to leave the farm’s O and sideways H marks indelible as a way of identifying them. They then had a yellow ear tag pierced into their ear, along with three shots, including my own, two into the neck and one into the rump, plus all the males were castrated with the slickest of hands, by Monte the ranch owner himself.

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The whole process took less than 2 minutes per animal, before they were released and off gambling across the paddock to rejoin their mothers. It was a formula 1 pit stop kind of affair, with people working around each other at every corner to get the job done as quickly and painlessly as possible.

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Before long, the corral was empty, all the herd were back happily eating grass, and it was time for us to ride home for lunch, happy that we’d done a good job and not got in the way. Except for when I accidently tried to stick my syringe through one of the cowboys jeans by mistake, when injecting a particularly small calf! I’m sure a little dose of cow antibiotic wouldn’t have done him too much harm anyway, especially after all the holes in him from the beer darts the day before…

After lunch it was seriously hot, and with most of the work done for the day, and the cowboys going off to assist branding at a friend’s place, we were given the afternoon off. With the heat so intense, we decided to give the sightseeing a miss and instead took two vehicles to Sandy Creek about 30 minutes away, to sit and relax by the water.

Despite seeing a snake swimming in the water as soon as we’d first arrived, it wasn’t long before we’d all stripped off and plunged into the icy creek. There was a strong current that made it virtually impossible to get anywhere, but it made a great wave machine effect and gave my muscles a good workout.

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We sat by the edge until it was too hot even in the shade, and then got back in the cars to go and see some waterfall in Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota. I was allowed to drive the big red pick up, as everyone else had enjoyed one too many beers and I felt very much like a local, sat up behind the big wheel, with country tunes on the radio.

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The waterfalls were very splendid looking with such a picturesque backdrop and once we’d made another toilet stop, it was back home to the ranch for supper.

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I got roped in (not literally) to helping make the salad, but so limited are my culinary skills, that I had to get another guest, Val, to show me how to cut the lettuce and tomatoes. The salad was good, but the home grown steak was down right delicious. It took up most of my plate and along with a huge baked spud, there was hardly any room for my hard made salad and by the time I’d finished eating, there was certainly no more room in my stomach!

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Struck down immediately afterwards by a beef coma, I left to go to bed, excited by the promise of watching some bull riding at the local rodeo tomorrow. Watching? I want to have a go!!!

VACATION – Day 7

Kara Creek Ranch, Wyoming – The morning started with a round up of cattle over at the intriguingly named Cow Camp, about thirty minutes drive from the ranch. We unloaded the 5 white bulls that we had brought with us, but were surprised to see a big black bull already in amongst the herd. Checking the ear tag to identify it as the neighbours property, two of the guys took him off back to where he belonged, as we herded the rest of the bunch down to a new pasture at the bottom of the valley.

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The fabulous Lena. I want to take her home with me!

Some of the ones that had stayed late in the saloon looked a little worse for wear, but fair play, nobody had wimped out, and everybody spent the morning on horseback. After lunch, we had an hour’s respite before we were due to start the round up and begin the main task of the day, branding all the youngsters.

With a shower to freshen up, we headed back outside into the heat and were pleasantly surprised that the branding had been postponed until early the next morning due to the intense heat, being that it was 99°F by this point. Instead we were invited to join in with authentic cowboy games, which basically involved mostly daytime drinking and clowning around. Awesome, count us in!

Not being a big drinker, I volunteered to head into town to the awesome drive thru saloon, to replenish the rapidly diminishing stocks. 48 cans of Bud Light, 12 cans of Bud Light Lime Raz-Ber-Rita margarita drink (or bitch drinks as the cowboys called them) and 1 large bottle of whisky later, and I was bouncing back down the long long stone drive to the eagerly awaiting thirsty bunch.

The main game of the day was “beer darts”. Beer darts involves shaking the can of your choice, placing it between your feet and waiting for your ‘opponents’ to throw darts at it. If your fellow contestant successfully hit the target, not only did get violently sprayed in beer froth, but you also had to quickly drink the Vesuvius like can until you reached down to the level where the hole pierced by the dart was. You then replaced the can on the floor and aimed the dart, plus any others that had missed, at some other poor unfortunate soul’s pint.

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Building an authentic cowboy beer can bonfire. P.S. Note the bottle of water I tried to play with!

This game kept us occupied for far longer than I care to admit and it was a nice afternoon relaxing, sitting in the shade in my shorts and cowboy boots (I’m the John Berry of Wyoming!!), trying not to get speared by a wayward missile.

Dinner was a delicious combination of salad, hot roasted ham and a scrumptious hashed potato gratin affair. One thing’s for certain, I’ve certainly eaten very well on this trip!

After that, it was back to the saloon for a bit of pool, then an early night as tomorrow is an early 6am start. I could quite easily see myself and Sally Ann being fully converted to the cowgirl lifestyle before the week is up!

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In fairness, what's not to love about this place?

VACATION – Day 6

Kara Creek Ranch, Wyoming – Today was a fairly easy day, and having had a couple of hard riding days, we decided to give our trusty mounts from the day before, a bit of respite, so headed to the corral to find new ponies for more bull rounding up. I selected Big Paint, the aptly named big paint pony.

Everything was going swimmingly until the time came to try and get myself into the saddle. The big horse had my saddle so far up in the air, that I couldn’t get my leg high enough to get my foot in the stirrup. Eventually, with the help of a bank, I managed to scramble onboard, and we were off to round up all the remaining bulls on the pasture near the yellow house.

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Flexibility is not my forte!

In the open land near the bottom of the creek, the bullocks were fairly easy to find and drive into the pen. I was pleased, now that I was finally on his back, that I was riding such a big horse, as 34 large, cantankerous, testosterone filled beasts looked slightly less intimating from my lofty positon, as Lena, as awesome as she is, is a good bit lower and therefore nearer to the mean looking critters.

The job then was to separate 3 white Charolais bulls into one pen, all the red ones into another and leave the remainder in the main corral. With that task completed, it was back to the main house for lunch, before heading back to load up the separated bulls and drop them into the required pastures.

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Loading them up didn’t require the need for horses, so we entered the bull pens on foot and shooed them into the trailers. I asked what we should do if these massive creatures tried to charge us, but was reassured that they probably wouldn’t. Ok then…

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Be good now please little bullies.

After dropping the bulls off to meet their herd of ladies, it was back to the ranch to fetch the horses and off out into the pastures to sort more pairs of calves and cows and move them into different fields. The weather this week has been incredibly hot, and finally a storm arrived to bring some much needed rain. We waited in the ranch house for a bit, watching the thunder and lightning, hoping that the storm would pass before we set out.

Time ran out though, so we set off on horseback with the dark sky all around, and lightening still flashing through the sky in the hills nearby. My choice to ride Big Paint now seemed not so bright, as my head was now the highest point and an inviting target for the lightening.

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An ominous looking panorama!

Thankfully the storm skirted the ranch, with the rain unfortunately missing us entirely, but at least Big Paint and I avoided becoming a lightening rod, so I wasn’t too upset about us missing the rain.

After supper we headed into the bright lights of Sundance for a drink. Sundance on a Wednesday night is not the most happening of places, but we made it into a fun night, playing pool, darts and shootin’ the breeze, before heading back home, via the drive thru section of the bar that we’d just been in,  to pick up some more liquor, having a nightcap in the saloon and then heading to bed. Well I did, the others could still be in there…

And for all you eager cruisers, here’s some more pictures of the new Dawn taking shape!

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The grand atrium.

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The casino cash desk.

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The beautiful new Dawn casino!

VACATION – Day 5

Kara Creek Ranch, Wyoming – At breakfast time today, we were given a choice of tasks to be done, so Sally Ann I and plumped for the more adventurous sounding driving cattle to a new pasture, that entailed going over some more technically challenging terrain, than the flat prairie from the day before.

Once we had our horses fed, brushed and saddled, it was once more back into the truck and trailer and off in search of some black Anguses. As we reached the main road, someone realised that we’d forgotten to pack the cooler with lunch and the drinks in it. With the house now over 8 miles behind us, we called into Sundance and picked up some water, ice and a cooler to keep us going during the long hot day.

We headed towards the famous local monument of the Devil’s Tower, getting a good view of it, on what was another spectacular sunny day, before turning off onto some steep and windy track to reach our destination.

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The Devil's Tower

We unloaded the horses on the side of the mountain and fanned out, trying to spot the cattle we were after, that were lurking in the shade of the trees and dense undergrowth.

We gathered them down at the bottom of the valley and began pushing them towards a house and the first gateway of the day. We were warned to roll the sleeves down on our checked shirts as we would be passing through some trees and wooded area.

As soon as we got the bunch of mothers and young calves through the gateway, they were off in all directions but the right one it seemed. Our task was under no circumstances to let any of the cattle back the way we’d come, especially the wayward calves as that would cause the mother to charge back in the opposite direction also.

It was quite challenging to flush the youngsters out of the brush and keep them on the uphill path, but eventually we got all the group to the next gateway and I was surprised that it wasn’t nearly as bad as the cowboys had been making out. We passed through an open pasture with our neatly organised herd before sending them up an even steeper and more densely wooded trail.

Before long I realised exactly why the ranchers had been so loathed about doing today’s job, the terrain was nearly impossible to herd cattle through. There was a steep, narrow, stoney track that led up to the next gateway, a long distance up ahead, and a sharp drop, filled with pine trees and scrub down to the left and a near perpendicular rise of more pine filled madness on the right.

I had always believed that cows were herd animals and that their default setting was to stick together. Wrong. These little c**k s**kers (the cowboys official term for them) couldn’t wait to head off on their own and go exploring. The horses were incredible, bravely pushing on through the trees, with branches tangling at their faces, trying to round up, the wayward creatures.

The heat was intense, it was 89°F out, but the “real feel”, with not a breath of wind in the midday sun, made it seem more like 105°. The plus side of the intense heat was that it had made the branches dry and brittle, meaning that they would mostly snap off, when they pulled at your body trying to drag you from your horse, as we pushed on after lost cattle.

It seemed to take an eternity to finally get them all through the next gateway, with people having to dismount and go after some of the harder to reach cows on foot, and I’d say that we’d still be there now if it hadn’t’ve been for Rose, the farms super little dog, that helped chase the wandering beasts out of the most inaccessible places.

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Not just a mascot, Rose is a key member of the team.

The next field was open and had a large water hole in the middle of it, so we stopped to let the cattle drink and took a short rest in the shade, before pushing on through another three groves before we finally had the livestock in their new pasture.

It was really fun and exciting at times and crashing through all the woodland had left my shirty smelling freshly washed due to the heavy pine scent that it had been subjected to, but my goodness it was hot and exhausting work and I had a deep resentment for one seemingly mentally challenged tiny little calf that seemed intent on going in every direction but the correct one. The poor little blighter must’ve covered three times as much ground as any of the others with the route that it chose to take, and every time it was seemingly the same damn creature causing havoc and getting lost, left behind or stuck.

Having reached the cows destination, we then had to ride all the way back to where we’d left the trailer, before we could get on home for some much needed sustenance. We passed by a drinking trough during a little short cut back over the top of the mountain and once the horses had had their fill, I too took the chance of getting some much needed fluid onboard, deciding that any water borne disease was worth suffering to quench my rabid thirst.

As we arrived back at the ranch, a little before 6pm, we were asked if we’d like to head out on one more little jaunt for the day before supper. Despite being hot, hungry and exhausted, we of course said yes and went off in search of the requested 8 black bulls.

The task seemed simple enough, but upon arriving at pasture where the bulls were, we found that five of the six bulls near the yellow house, where we could herd them in the corral to load them, were too big. We searched the entire pasture, but could only rustle up 5 of the small black kind. This meant that our easy job turned into running back and forth across the vast distances of the ranch paddocks trying to see if we could come up with three more. Eventually we found them and having loaded up the original bulls and horses at the yellow house, and set off on part 2 of mission seemingly impossible.

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This is the small kind???

It was nearly dark by the time we finally finished the days chores, with 8 smallish bulls locked into the ranch coral, and we tucked in ravenously to the delicious home farmed beef ribs and mashed potato. After that, there wasn’t much left but to shower and fall in to bed, hoping to do it all again tomorrow.

VACATION – Day 4

Kara Creek Ranch, Wyoming – Following a good night’s sleep, we had an early start and joined the others for breakfast at 6:30am. Having polished off a delicious plateful of bacon, pancakes and syrup, we caught and tacked up our trusty steeds and then loaded them onto the trailer, managing to cram in 11 horses onto one vehicle,  with the 5 young, red bulls, that we’d caught the previous afternoon, riding together in the other waggon.

The location for the day was a prairie in some ridiculously remote area of South Dakota, about 2 hours drive from Sundance, and a good way over the Wyoming State line. We drove to what seemed like the middle of nowhere, but it turned out that we were actually in the geographical centre (or center for the Americans) of the nation, and there was even a flag in the distance and sign to say so.

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The middle of nowhere, is actually a very important place!

The fact that this intriguing landmark, 7.8 miles down a dirt track, was so understated, led us to question its authenticity, but passing back through the ‘local’ town of Belle Fourche on the way home, we saw the visitors centre and museum commemorating the place, even though it had had to be relocated to ‘near to the centre of the nation’, as the real site was so far off the beaten track, quite literally.

After stopping for a picture at the authentic position, and the less popular tourist attraction, we continued for many more miles along dirt paths until we reached the middle of nowhere and then some. We unloaded the horses, jumped on and set of into the distance, to where the grass meets the sky.

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Stumbling across a beast of a black bull, Sinje, Sally Ann and I were tasked with following him, while the others went off to see if they could find anymore cattle elsewhere. We tracked the bull along a dry riverbed, hoping that it was he was heading for the herd of female cows and not taking us off on a wild goose chase.

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Despite passing some wild geese, old Derek, as I’d named him, did indeed lead us to the herd, where we waited for Monte and the others to join us. Once the group was all together again we drove the large herd cattle back into the original pasture where they were supposed to be in the first place.

We stopped for a lovely lunch of sandwiches and some much needed water, out of the back of the pick up truck and then readied ourselves for the big task of the day, sorting the neighbours cattle from our own, and sending them back to their giant field.

There was so much space out there, the entire prairie went on for miles and miles and it was like looking out over the ocean when we’re in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, with not a sight or sound in the vast expanse of blue all around, only this time, it was a sea of lush green grass. I questioned why the cattle all wanted to in the same spot. Was the grass really greener on the other side? To me it seemed to look pretty similar on all sides of the barbed wire fence, but what do I know?

The task was much the same as what we done the day before, only on a much much larger scale. There must’ve been over 200 youngsters all jostling together as the cowboys tried to sort the blue tags from the yellow tags. Our task was to stop any blue tags from escaping from the pack and to shuttle them down a horse made chute back through the gate and into their own turf.

It was fascinating to see the skill of the local horsemen and great fun trying to watch the young cows and try and second guess their next move. Although it took a while due to the sheer number of head that needed to be sorted, the job went pretty smoothly, and by late afternoon, we’d finally weeded out all the trespasses and loaded the horses back into the trucks and heading back to the ranch for supper.

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There'll be no need to count cows or sheep to send me to sleep tonight!

After some delicious beef for dinner, I was fit to drop, despite it being barely 9pm, so I sauntered back down to our little log cabin in the garden, took a nice hot shower and went straight to sleep, excited about what the next day’s adventures had in store for us.

VACATION – Day 3

Kara Creek Ranch, Wyoming – Having gone to bed early the night before, we were awake early and listening to the sound of plenty of moo-ing cows, before pulling on jeans and checked shirts and heading to breakfast. We weren’t sure if the cow sounds were actually authentic or just a tape recording placed outside our window, as a sort of alarm clock, to wake up the ‘tourists’.

We tucked into a hearty feast of eggs, bacon, and the most delicious freshly baked lemon and poppy seed muffins, before going to the corral to pick out horses. With two dozen fine looking beasts in assorted colours, shapes and sizes, it was never going to be an easy task, and we were glad when Monte, the ranch owner, came over and suggested two bay mares that would suit us.

Before long we had Lena and Marty all saddled up and ready to go, and grabbed our newly purchased cowgirl hats, before putting our steeds on the truck with the rest of the riders.

There were 8 of us in total, lead by Johnny, one of the ranch cowboys, on a handsome grey gelding named Spot. We unloaded and made our way to where he thought the missing cattle had bunked off to, and got themselves entangled with the neighbours herd.

We found all the combined cattle grazing near a little lake under the shade of some trees and helped flush them out to open pasture to begin sorting their ‘pairs’ (mothers and calves) from ‘ours’. Helpfully, we needed to take all the red Aberdeen Anguses with us, so they were very easy to spot, but not so helpfully we also needed some of the black variety too, meaning that we had to get up close and personal to identify the correct stock, as all the neighbours herd were black anguses too.

It took a good two hours to divide up the cattle and we then started to drive our own herd back to some new pasture, where hopefully they’ll remain for some time, or at least until catch our flight home anyway…

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A mixed bunch of Anguses.

Having left them near some water in a canyon, it was off home for lunch. Yum! On the way we ran into some of the other ranchers driving a group of youngsters back to the property, ready for branding in a few days time. Feeling obliged to join in and help them finish the job, we were famished by the time we eventually sat down for our well earned meal (Ok, so we’d hardly been a couple of John Waynes, but we’d managed not to fall off or get in the way too much.).

After lunch, our services were requested for a new mission to help round up 5 red Angus bulls and put them in a pen some way away. Feeling chuffed to have been chosen by Johnny, to join the select group of 4, we collected Lena and Marty from where we’d left them tied up and set off into the gorgeous green distance.

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Has anyone seen a cow?

The bullocks were ENORMOUS. I was glad that I had Lena between my legs, giving me some height and vantage point between ud and the massive hulks. We sorted 5 young red ones with suspicious ease, with just a few aggressive glances from some of the older monsters, and quickly had them rounded up and in the pen. Maybe we weren’t such Calamity Janes, and had managed to channel a bit of our inner Annie Oakleys after all. Either that or Marty and Lena were just very good and obliging ponies. Yes, that actually seems far more likely!

We were rewarded for our good work by Johnny, with a lovely scenic ride home over the rimrock, which afforded us sublime views over the entire property and beyond. Stopping to take pictures at the summit, Johnny asked us if we knew where we’d been that morning. I had no idea, so he helpfully pointed out the correct piece of green that we’d used to sort the livestock. All in all, a fantastic first day.

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Living the dream!

Having untacked and seen to our horses, we set off to the newly built Kara Creek Saloon, to donate our bottle of Jack Daniels behind the bar and enjoy a well earnt tipple. We sat there listening to and telling horse stories, until it was time for dinner and relished the delights of Taco Sunday.

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Cheers!

I could barley keep my eyes open long enough to finish my ice cream for afters and it was all I could do to stumble into the shower before falling into bed, dreaming of the next day’s assignment up on some open land some distance away, sorting some more errant cows. If day 1 exceed my long awaited expectations, I can’t wait to see what day 2 delivers!