For “Jeff” – Because this Story is about “Jeff”

I love him like he is my little brother. By Carole Mercer

I am no longer sure how Randy Wolf organized this local cattle gather on a Saturday afternoon, but he did. Randy organized Jeff and me into helping move a herd of about 50 cows from one field to the next field. Randy also needed to pull a bull off the pasture.

These fields run right next to the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. These fields are also located next to the sewage treatment plant. The fields are liberally laced with downed wire fences placed to interfere with any easy movement of cows from one pasture to the next. You have to watch for wire with every step. The wire tangles the gather sometimes. Also sprinkled across the fields are grapefruit sized rolls. The rock are from a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The rock help in hindering the movement of cattle from one field to the other. The footing for the horses is terrible and you must move the cattle slowly.

Anyway…on with the story. Jeff and I arrive to help Randy in my, new to me, shiny, red, very clean, four wheel drive 1985 Ford F250 pickup truck. I am overly proud of my truck. We pull in with my old bumper pull stock trailer and two of my Morgan horses loaded up and ready to go. I don’t even remember which horses we brought .I’ll have to ask to Jeff jog my memory about the horses. Jeff is twenty years younger than me so he can still remember everything.

I do remember that we start this gather about two pm and the sun is out. I must be home by six pm so I can go to a Shakespeare play in Ashland by eight pm. By four thirty the sky is tossing down water in buckets and has been throwing water at us for the last forty five minutes.

I have no idea what I am thinking. Never make any plans when you are going to do a simple job of moving cattle from one field to the other. If you have plans and a time where you have to be somewhere something will go wrong.

We start to gather. Jeff is up on a great Morgan horse. I’m pretty sure he is riding my really good cow horse, the Morgan mare, Birdie. I have no memory who I am riding, but you can be darn sure it is a Morgan mare. Randy rides some kinda young, half broke quarter horse colt…The horse is a big chestnut colt. Randy’s red hair matches the color of the horse he is riding.

Somehow after lots of false starts we manage to get the herd of mama cows bunched up on the hill above the sewage plant. I keep reminding the men that I have to go to the “theater” and be cultural. My swan song of “going to the theater becomes a joke.” We have yet a bull to gather.

Randy and I leave Jeff in charge of the fifty cows and calves on the hill. We ride off to pick up a young bull that just doesn’t want to go along with the cow party. Holding a herd of mama cows is NOT easy. Jeff just keeps them contained. To this day the silhouette of Jeff sitting quietly on the hill holding that herd is imprinted on my mind’s eye. He is doing a perfect job. He’s quiet. The horse remains quiet and the cows are happy to just be still. Jeff has it all under control.

Randy is a cracker jack of a cowman. He can ride anything and he can and will rope anything. Randy ropes the bull off the green redheaded colt. I am not sure of what all happens next because a lot is happening. At one point, Randy, the colt and the bull are all in a race of some sort. The colt is to bucking and the bull is charging the bucking colt and Randy. Now Randy has dallied on pretty good so where the colt goes so does the bull…

I am the cheer leader to this sporting event. I yell at the top of my lungs. “Let go. Get off! Let go.”

Randy is a true Wolf. “Get off or let go” is not in his vocabulary…yet somehow Randy is off the bucking horse, on his feet and holding onto the end of the rope. Imagine a small boy running in huge leaps behind a Great Dane dog and you get the mental picture of Randy holding a rope leash with a bull on the other end. They run over the grapefruit rocks and through and over the downed wire. I don’t know how they all stay up in this race, but no one goes down .

Back to Jeff on the hill. Jeff is watching all of this activity from the top of the hill where he has managed to hold and settle fifty head of mama cows and their calves for a good 45 minutes of our bull hunting and finding. Jeff stares in total disbelief. The bull, Randy and the bucking colt decide that the finish line to this pasture race is the herd of mama cows and calves…

What you must understand in the last two minutes- all of Jeff’s quiet work comes undone. Randy, with the bull on the leash, races towards the herd on the hill. The colt races behind Randy and is still bucking.

I race behind, Randy, the bull, the bucking colt and shout to Jeff. “Hold the herd.” .

The bull arrives at the “finish line” just a nose ahead of Randy. Randy runs really fast holding onto the bull leash. The colt comes in next and I am dead last. But the bull, Randy, the colt and I all blast into the rapidly evaporating herd of mama cows and calves. Poof…the herd disperses. Jeff’s holding pattern disappears. Randy somehow manages to tie the bull to his trailer. I have no idea how he got the bull snugged up that fast, but like I said, Randy is a Wolf… Jeff just smiles and shrugs. Jeff has been on lots of gathers before.

Randy is barking orders!

“Jeff. Get Carole’s truck and trailer over here we have to block this bull. I can’t hold this rope much longer.”

I have no idea how Randy has enough air to bark orders, but bark he does.

Jeff thrusts Birdie’s reins into my hands. I am left holding the horses while Randy’s colt races around me and bucking. The colt is having a ball. He’s not mad. He is just having a good time.

Jeff catapults into my NEW truck and guns the engine and goes leaping and bounding across the rocks and wire with my truck and trailer to where Randy and the bull are playing a game of “Bull fight.” Jeff pulls my truck up right next to the trailer. The men have now made a bull pen with the trucks and trailer…My NEW truck and my trailer are part of the pen. It is now raining and everything including my NEW truck is muddy and wet.

“Keep that colt out of here” barks Randy.

Like “Sure!” I think. I have my hands full. I’m on a horse, holding horses with a loose young horse wanting to play. I cowgirl up and catch hold of the colt. He stops .I smile. I have been on lots of gathers before too.

Again I am the cheer leader. “Don’t hurt my truck. Keep that bull away from my truck.”

The two men have managed to get the bull into Randy’s trailer and slam the trailer door shut. “Bang.” The bull is not happy in the trailer. We are happy that the bull is in the trailer. It took two men to wench the bull in with the rope. I am so glad I am tending to the horses and not the bull.

“Let’s go get those cows” says Randy as he gets up on the playful colt.

“OK “says Jeff. Jeff is always ready to ride.

I look at them both and say “I have to go to the theater. I have to be home by six. “It is now 5:00pm. Mother Nature continues to throw water at us. We are soaking wet and covered with mud.

“We’ll get it done.” Says Jeff

And we do. Cows and calves are moved. Bull is captured. I get home by six. My truck is fifthly. I love gathering cattle with these young men. They are good men. I am an old gal. And I fall asleep watching Shakespeare.

7 Responses to For “Jeff” – Because this Story is about “Jeff”

  1. Spoken verbatum. Exalted the ride, the terrain and the weather. Fantabulicious gatherin story. When is Carole starting her short story book?

  2. wow,
    what experience!
    [...some people have no idea what a cowgirl/cowboy life is...]

  3. Paula says:

    So, when is the next gathering??? Only you could have so much fun with two cowboys!!! Don’t forget, I get the first copy of your book!!!
    Keep up your writing. I look forward to reading it.

  4. Yvonne says:

    As more than one veterinarian expressed about Herriott’s “All Creatures Great and Small” tales, Carole has plagiagized every cowboy/cowgirl’s life, and with great style and humor.

    Yvonne

  5. Leah Young says:

    Hi again Carole!What an exciting read!

  6. Jeff Wilding says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my boots!! Not the very bottom, because we all know what is there! It was great to re-live that glorious day and feel again like a true cowboy. Thanks, again! I look forward to the next adventure, whatever it may be.

  7. ramonabrave1 says:

    This is one of your best and I also want a copy (or so) of that book!

    Marjorie Hazelwood

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