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Spring in West Texas 2010
June 19, 2010
It has been a very interesting time for me in west Texas this spring. In this part of Texas there is a tremendous amount of cattle on wheat pasture throughout the winter and spring.
To begin with, last year through my friend Gary Huddleston, I met Shane Rodgers. Shane is a young rancher near Hawley TX that runs a lot of cattle on wheat pasture, coastal bermuda, and native grass. Gary had mentioned to Shane that he should try using me to gather some of his cattle. Shane is very interested in dogs and uses Catahoula dogs on cattle some but mainly on wild hogs. Shane was interested to see what I could do so I went to his ranch and gathered a pretty large bunch of yearlings, I donít remember for sure how many but about 300. I gathered them and dog broke them pretty easy. In a short time the cattle were easy to handle and could be penned with out any trouble if needed to be. Other than Gunny and Ruby, the dogs I used that day had never been on a large group of cattle so it was good work for them. I was pleased with the job my dogs did and Shane was very impressed with how quick and easy my Hangin Tree Cowdogs got a handle on the cattle. That was the beginning of a very good relationship with Shane. We have become good friends and I have gathered a lot of cattle for him since.
Shane has been so impressed with the Hangin Tree Cowdogs he has been putting together a pack of his own. I know he will do good with them because he is dedicated and a hard worker. I will be helping him whenever he needs it in the time to come.
Shortly after I moved to Seymour I met Chad Nuir. Chad is a young man that lived in this area in the past but now lives near Herford TX. Chad is very interested in cattle dogs and comes to my place quite often to work his dogs. Chad had talked to a local rancher by the name of Chase Carland that runs a very large amount of yearling cattle. Chase has been having a lot of trouble getting good help when shipping which has lead to having a lot of trouble gathering and shipping cattle. Chad recommended that he should give me and my dogs a try. Chase contacted me and in time we got together and went to a large wheat pasture and I dog broke about 250 head of Florida brahman cross heifers. This is the kind of cattle that most ranchers have a lot of trouble with. Chase set back on his horse and watched and Iím sure he had his doubts at the time about what my dogs could do with this type of cattle. I donít know for sure how long it took from the time we rode into the pasture but probably within 45 minutes my dogs had the whole heard standing in the middle of the pasture and not trying to run off. We rode off and left them standing and 4 or 5 days later these flighty heifers were gathered and walked to the corner of the pasture and penned in a set of Wilson portable wheel corrals and shipped. Needless to say Chase and I have had a good relationship since.
After working with Shane Roberts another rancher at Hawley TX by the name of Eugene Griffith had seen some cattle that I penned for Shane in some places that were know to be difficult. After asking Shane about this, Shane recommend that he try me. As with most ranchers from one end of the United States to the other Eugene had not seen anything but trouble with some one using dogs on cattle. I have seen this a lot when traveling around the country doing demonstrations. Very few ranchers have been exposed to good dogs that are under control. Eugene decided to give me and my dogs a try. We met one day at a wheat pasture that Eugene wanted to see me gather and dog break. It was a section and had 100 head of heifers. Shane was with Eugene and they sat in the middle of the pasture in a pickup and watched. I took my dogs and went around the outside side of the pasture, there were some cattle across the fence on the west end so I kicked the cattle away from each other then started working my dogs on them and gathered all the cattle into one bunch, then started holding them up. They ran quite a lot at the start but started to respect the dogs in a short time. I didnít think the cattle handled too bad and we had good control in a short time. I moved them around from one area to another then would stop and hold them awhile then move them again then hold them up. The cattle handled nice. After a while, I rode on over to the pickup and talked to Shane & Eugene. After we talked Eugene then told me that they had tried to pen these cattle with a crew of cowboys twice and they had got away both times. Needless to say Eugene was impressed. We made a deal to start gathering for him.
On the 15th of March on wheat pasture that was going to be saved for a wheat crop the cattle had to be off for the farmers to receive their government payment. This creates a large push all over west Texas to ship these cattle at basically the same time. This past spring was extremely difficult for the ranchers because it started raining at this time and would not stop. Most of the roads in this part of the country are dirt roads. When they get wet cattle trucks canít get down them. There were a few days it would not rain so the ranchers had to really hustle to get the cattle out.
Between Shane, Eugene, and Chase they kept my Hangin Tree Cowdogs and me on the run. There were a lot of days that I would gather and pen cattle for Chase which is in the Seymour area then load up and head south for the Abilene area, which is where most of Eugeneís cattle are and gather more. There were several days that my dogs and I gathered 3 to 5 different pastures and one day we gathered 6. To top this off to begin with the plan was to dog break the cattle ahead of time then they would be easier to handle on shipping day. This was dismissed because there was not time to do this. We gathered and penned a lot of unbroke cattle, several thousand.
It was extra tough for my dogs and me because nearly all of these pastures I had not been in before and new nothing about the type of cattle or the lay of the land or about all the obstacles of which were many. Nearly all of these pastures had areas of bad mesquite brush that was hard to get through with old down fences that cattle and dogs could get through but my horse could not. So much of the time the conditions for the dogs was really tough. Some of the wheat fields had water standing in them several inches deep and the dogs had to work in this, some times make long outruns to stop unbroke cattle. Other times some of the fields near Hawley were gumbo type and when they would start to dry a little it would stick to their feet bad. At other times later when the rain slowed down and the mud dried then the fields were solid cattle tracks about 6 inches deep that when dry my horse had a hard time walking, trotting, or loping on it and still the dogs had to make long outruns on this very rough ground.
I was very proud of my dogs through out all of this, on every gather we got the job done. When all of this started I basically had a pack of inexperienced young dogs. They certainly arenít inexperienced now. Sometimes it was extremely difficult and other times everything went easy. The easiest job we had was to move 500 head of unbroke steers to another pasture. It was very wet and muddy and raining at the time. From the time I unloaded to the time I loaded back up was less than an hour. That is the way it is with this work, you never know. The hardest job we had was one I expected to be easy. The cattle gathered fairly easy but when the cattle started into the Wilson wheel corral a couple of farm dogs came running up and chased them out over the top of my dogs. It was not too hard to stop them but they would not go back into the pens. It took a long time before they gave up and went in. My dogs were completely exhausted when we finally got this done. It takes dogs with a lot of heart and desire to stay with you on extremely hard exhausting work like this.
This brings up a point I would like to make right here. When I hear or read of people who never really use their dogs in hard demanding work start talking about breeding for insignificant traits it really turns me off, to say it mildly. Itís kind of like be careful what you wish for because you might get it.
After all these cattle were shipped by the dead line things slowed down for a while. Then about middle to late May the graze out cattle had to be shipped. This was another busy time for a while. The main concern at this time was the heat. By mid morning it starts getting very hot. Chase kept a full schedule for me so most of the gathering was near Seymour. Several days I would gather and pen one pasture then load up and go someplace else and pen another pasture. Chase assured me the other day this had been the most trouble free year of shipping he has had.
Like I said earlier, this has been an interesting time for me. A large part of the wheat pasture country is electric fences and using the portable wheel corrals due to the fact that so much of the time there are not corrals anywhere close. This is something that is never used in the Flint Hills of Kansas where I came from. Several years ago I helped Vic Milner in western Kansas dog break wheat pasture cattle and Vic used the Wilson wheel corrals a lot so I have had some experience with it. Usually you donít have a lot of options where to set it up so sometimes it is placed in an extremely hard spot to get cattle into. Having strong dogs that are easy to control with the heart and desire to stay with you makes this kind of work very enjoyable for me.
Thanks, Charlie Trayer
If you have any questions regarding the Hangin' Tree Cowdog, or training, breeding, raising, or using cowdogs in a working enviroment, email to trayer[at]windstream.net
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