By Tami Blair
GUNNISON—Once again the dogs were needed to collect the cows and calves out of the willows. The cows and calves al- ways thought they were being smart by hiding, but the dogs were up to the task. Now, we had to push the cattle across the river. It was always difficult to get the young calves to cross because it was a little deep for them. Sometimes a horse decided he wanted to take a roll in the creek. He started pawing at the water mak- ing sure his rider was given a good show- er, and if the rider wasn’t fast enough to make the horse move on then he took a chance of a complete bath along with his horse.
“Oh no, watch out for that ravine to the left out of the river. Don’t let the cows go down there,” one of the cowboys yelled to the dude pushing the cows in that direc- tion. The ravine got deep and if the cows crossed to the other side, it was quite a ways before you could cross back over. The cowboy had to take over and bring the cows back on the right side. It seemed we always had one or two dudes along for the ride. They rode up in the middle of the cows or were always on the wrong side of where they should be, and were more of a headache than help, but they sure thought they were a lot of help. Why did those people insist on coming along?
Back on the trail, we pushed the cattle slowly because the sun had come up and all of the animals, cows and horses alike, were getting hot and tired. “Come on little doggie,” someone said to the little calf dragging behind. All along the way we had been yelling, and now some of us were getting to the point of going hoarse. Up and down more hills we went. As the day wore on the dust thickened and found its way into my mouth, nose and eyes. I wondered if I would ever be able to taste anything but dirt again. But then we head into the thick timber once again, and were given a brief reprieve from the sun and the dry dust.
We finally came to the last hill. This was always the longest and hardest part of the ride. By now what started out as a cold hard seat, was now a very warm hard seat. There were sheer granite walls to the left and right and rocks in the road. The horses had a tendency to slip because the trail was very steep. The trees were thick on both sides and so it cooled off again and the cattle became refreshed and down the hill they went running. I always found it hard to keep up with the cattle and watch where my horse had to step. Shoes on the horses cause them to slip more on the rocks. Luckily, my horse, was very sure footed and always brought me home safely.
At the bottom of the hill, we were greeted by the Taylor Park pool riders who were hired for the summer. They took the cattle on up the road closer to their final destination in Union Park or Taylor Park, depending on the summer.
The One Mile Campground at Taylor River was the end of our journey. It was full of happy campers enjoying the beauti- ful landscape around them, which consist- ed of a giant granite rock slide on one side with lots of pine trees, and on the other side was the Taylor River rushing by. The campers thought we cowboys were the greatest thing they had ever seen.
I was covered with dirt and very self con- scious. All I wanted to do at this point was find some water to wash my face and hands, but I knew there was none to be found until I got home. Even being dirty, the campers insisted on taking my picture. I was so glad I would never see those pic- tures because I always cringed when I got
home and saw how bad I looked. Oh, and of course they wanted to pet the horses. Most of the horses, even the horses that tried to throw their riders off earlier in the morning, were so tired they couldn’t care less what hap- pened, so long as they weren’t chasing cows.
Usually, my mother or someone else met us at One Mile and helped haul the horses and riders home. Sometimes, if we were really lucky, my mother brought some cold lemonade. Even though it was usually only about 11:00 a.m., we all sat down, very carefully because of being in the saddle for 7 hours, and ate our lunches. It is amazing how good a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could taste after riding for about 15 miles.
Then it was time to load up the horses and head for home. Usually I was so exhilarated from the ride I couldn’t sleep on the way home. When I got home, it was a different story. After I washed my face I crawled in my bed, and it sure felt good. This was about the only time I was ever allowed to take a nap, and I laid there and thought about all of the sights and activities I had just left, and very soon found myself fast asleep.
When I had no choice but to do this ride, I moaned a lot about it. But then after I moved away from home, I found myself trying to go back each year for the River Ride. I only made it back one last time, and I held the day in a complete new per- spective. I took the time to cherish the land that lay before me, and looked at the beautiful trees, mountains, flowers and land formations I had taken for granted all those years prior.
I realized the experiences I was blessed with, most people can only see on TV. They can’t actually smell the smells, touch the things, or hear the sounds I hold so dear to my heart. The way of the rancher is quickly going by the wayside. My parents gave me things in my life I can never repay them for.
I’ve had the opportunity twice in the past few years to help other people move cattle, and I quickly jumped at the chance. It brings back so many memories I never want to forget, and it creates new ones.
I had the opportunity to travel through Taylor Park this past week, it had been a number of years since the last time I was there in the fall when the cattle roamed around before the big fall roundup. I saw the cows and was taken back to my child- hood when a tourist came out of the Taylor Park Trading Post and said, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe there are cows here.” Oh, what I would have given to be the dirty faced kid again.