Thursday, September 19, 2013


In the fall we spend quite a bit of time working cattle here on the ranch.  Working cows usually means that the cows and calves are brought in from the pastures and into the corrals.  Working cattle can mean anything from giving vaccinations, pouring insecticide, weaning, or doctoring.  At our place it means bringing the cattle down an alley and catching them in a chute or head-catch so we can do the thing we need to do.  These last few days we have been vaccinating calves with their booster shots, and we've been pouring them with insecticide.  We poured the mama cows too and did a little sorting.  We've had a rash of pink-eye in the herd this summer on-and-off, and we're not the only ones.  Last week we went to buy tetracycline, and the store was all sold out.  From what I understand, pink-eye in cattle is caused by flies that carry the infectious bacteria.  There are always flies here, but some years are worse for pink-eye than others.  This happens to be one of those years.  We boosted the pink-eye vaccine in the calves but it won't take effect for a couple weeks so we had to doctor some of them with tetracycline and eye patches.

Through the process of working cows and calves, I figured out something about my job description.   I am a Cowpoke.  Yup.  I don't know why I never thought about it before, but last night I went to bed with my arms and shoulders and armpits aching from poking up cows.  It was then that it dawned on me where cowboys derived the name Cowpoke -- one who pokes cows and calves down an corral alley.  I'm not totally sure that's where  the name came from, but it makes sense to me.  When the kids were home, they were the main cowpokes, and now that I'm the main help, I poke up calves.  We don't have to poke the cows so much because they are older and smarter, and they know the routine that you "have to go in to get out." They've done it many times before, but the calves don't know squat.  They only know they don't want to go.  Instead, they back up or turn around or balk and do nothing.  I have a particular poking stick that I use to get them moving -- it's not too long, not too short, and it's good and stiff.   The last couple of days working cows, I nearly had to twist every single tail or poke each calf all the way up the alley.  Let me tell you, these 51 year-old arms and shoulders are either getting stronger or weaker from being a cowpoke.  Tonight I feel better than I did last night.  Perhaps, then, I'm getting stronger.

I'm also the one to pour the cattle.  That's what we still call it since long ago we used to have a dipping cup that measured out the insecticide to be poured on.  It was nasty stuff called Warbex.  We poured a cupful on each cow's back as it went down the alley.  Nowadays we have a container with a gallon of ivermetin with a tube and a squirt handle on it.  It's much improved over the dipper method for safety, but my hands get so tired of squeezing that squirt handle.  I used my left hand as much as I could today to get it strengthened and to give my right hand a break. 

 That's what I do.  I suppose there are other things a cowpoke does too.  I'm an ever-ready helper when the men need a hand, and I love my job.  This particular cowpoke cooks lunch after poking up cows, washes manure splattered blue jeans, shirts, and boots after poking cows, and gets to cuddle grandbabies when her work is done.

I'm also known to poke sheep up the sheep corrals, but I've never heard of a sheep-poke, have you?


  1. I love that you're a cowpoke! What a fine thing to be. And I love the picture of your cows and their gorgeous faces. Must feel good to go bed tired from a hard day's work.

    See ya later, Pokey!


  2. I like that you are a cowpoke. It is those times when I remember how much work our kids did and now that I like you am the number one field hand, I know about getting tired and how my body does things work wise it didn't when I was thirty.
    I remember years when the pink eye was bad. I hadn't thought about that in years. It is true too. Once we got calves from Kansas and they had Warbles. Is that what you call them? I remember watching those grubs come out. We don't have them out here. I thought then it was fascinating. I hadn't thought of that either.
    I hope you can rest soon and don't hurt your sewing hand. :)

  3. You're so cute -- cowpoke and all. Indeed, I've never heard of a sheeppoke, but I'll bet you're a good one. I can just imagine how much your hands hurt with the squeeze bottle -- repetitious squeezing is one of the hardest chores for me. Sorry about the pink-eye -- I hope you guys are getting the upper-hand with it!

  4. That is very very cute and it makes sense to me .

  5. Poking, pouring, squeezing and squirting - that is hard work! I notice that my hands do get worn out much sooner these days from all the housework and gardening, not to mention giving deep massages to my husband. If I had been a cowpoke or something like that at your age, maybe I'd be stronger now!

  6. Sounds like hard work to me Jody! I bet you sleep well at night after all that fresh air too! xxx

  7. You are the best worker ever, Jody!

  8. Oh Jody, just reading this post I feel so weary. There is nothing more satisfying than a good night's rest after working so hard all day. Hoping that comes to you.


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