I have mentioned working for Sieben Ranch previously. It was a great place to work, and the foreman, Clark Atkinson was really a great stockman and boss.
It was a big ranch with lots of different country, lots of different employees, and John Baucus was a real good boss that left us alone to do our job.
John and Nina Baucus
We lived about 10 miles from headquarters, but I spent quite a bit of time there doing cattle and sometimes sheep work. They had a cook and cookhouse, and the bell rang at 6,noon, and 6. If we were working and got to a good place to stop for dinner, Clark would shut things down and we would head to the bunk house to wash up and wait for the bell. Sometimes it would be an 45 minutes to an hour early. Clark would use this time to discuss some plans he had, or just to share ideas to improve ranch operations. We never had formal meetings, but got lots done in these visit sessions.
There were stacks of Western Horseman magazines in the bunk house. Sometimes we would just pick out one and read (or look at the pictures).
I saw a article about two California fellows loading bulls in a trailer out in the pasture. I later met Joe Wolter and Brian Newbert and still admire the things they do.
Well, I couldn’t wait to get to loading bulls. We had bulls out on the “Sieben Flats” and they were good size open pastures with some timber and brush but not much, and you could get pretty much anywhere in the pasture with a trailer.
The first bull I tried to load, (I can’t remember if he had foot rot or pinkeye, or I just needed him somewhere else) I pulled the trailer up next to the fence, and opened the gate against it and loaded the bull. It took quite a while, and I figured out that I was trying to “make” the bull get in. Later I learned to go about it so the bull “decided” to go in.
The next time I went out, I parked right out in the middle. Then I drove the bull real careful, so as not to get him to trying to get away from me. Once I got him to the trailer, I would get him to the back entrance and if he looked in I would back my horse up a step or two. If he went by the door I would just put a little pressure on take him for a little trip around the pick up and when he got to the back gate and looked in, step back. It didn’t take long and he got in all on his own.
I had really been working on my horsemanship and was really aware of the release of pressure, so it was easy to figure out. I had gotten real good at getting horses to load, and I used the same mindset, I just didn’t have a halter and lead rope, but the principle was the same.
I got really good at loading bulls by myself out in the pasture. One time I loaded one older bull, shut the center gate, and went to loading a younger bull. Every time the young bull would step up to load, the older bull would blow snot and send him away. I worked at it for quite a while, got the old bull to quit running the young bull off, loaded the young bull, then put my horse in and headed to the headquarters. I remember how good I felt about what I had accomplished. No one around to see, just me and the animals I was working with.
These things took quite a while at first, but I got better and better at it, and pretty soon I could load a bull real easy, because I learned by doing how to put the right pressure on, and how much to take off or let the bull take it off. It became a real time saver, rather than driving them all the way back to the main ranch corrals.
One time I was riding up “Little Sheep” checking on some young pairs we had up there. I was about a mile or so from the trailer and I came upon a young bull that had pinkeye in both eyes and couldn’t see a thing. He was real gant and I new he hadn’t drank for a while. There was no way to get the trailer up the draw to him. I rode up to him and made a little noise and he left and would walk right into a tree. I would start him walking and just before he ran into a tree I would say “hey”. If didn’t take that bull long to figure out that he needed to turn when I said “hey”. I got him down to the road and the creek. He got a drink, and believe it or not, I drove that blind bull the couple miles to the ranch, and it got to where I could keep him on the road just by noise.
We purchased 18 young bulls one year. We were riding some young horses, and in one of our bunkhouse meetings, and I suggested we put our trailers in the middle of the bull lot and get some good work for our colts and teach the bulls to load. It took a lot less time than I thought and you couldn’t keep those bulls out of the trailer. They new that was the best place to be when we were in the pen with them. I don’t think I ever got to load any of those bulls as I went out on my own not long after that, but I bet they were always good to load anywhere.
I can’t think of a better opportunity for me to learn than those days at Sieben. I would work by myself a lot and really learned how to be a better horseman, stockman and dog handler. I was as gung ho on learning as you could be and it was the perfect place to learn. Clark as the boss, and John Shelby (great California trained cowboy)and myself roped, doctored and moved cattle as a good team.
All those experiences really thought me to learn and think for myself. The horsemanship, as well as Clark’s strong influence from the sheep world ( he was the camp tender [sheep boss]for years before becoming foreman), and working solo lots of the time, really helped me to figure out many things with stockmanship. If I heard about something hard to do, I did it. It was a great time of learning in my life.
That’s also about the time I got real interested in a better type of saddle. I remember one saddle catalog that had a poem on the front of it, and a picture of some young cowboys. It’s the only “cowboy poetry” I ever learned and I still remember it.
“Dream back beyond the cramping lanes to glory’s that have been,
The camp smoke on the sunset plains, the riders loping in.
Loose reined and Rowelled heel to spare, the wind our only guide,
For youth was in the saddle there, with half the world to ride!”
Well, that was me. Learning and loving the work.
I know the value of being able to load bulls out in the middle of a pasture. Thanks to that article in the Western Horseman, it got me started doing something I might not have ever done. I gained so much confidence being successful at it. Bulls will teach you about proper pressure better than any other class of animal. I feel it probably helped me improve my stockmanship more than anything else. That was all started a long time ago!
For the last few years, I have been promoting the idea to bull producers that are selling bulls that they should get the bulls trailer broke and that would raise the value of the bull. Well finally someone took me up on it. I’ll share the story in the next loop I throw out there.