Thursday, February 4, 2010
Moving some Cows up to Skull Mountain!
With Spring quickly approaching...I am beginning to miss being in the Mountains of British Columbia. There was always an Adventure to be had...you just had to seek them out!
One of the Adventures was helping two local Cattle Farmers. Ian and Anja Mitchell. The proud owners of Mitchell Cattle Co. A family business since the 30's. Ian's Father started the Ranch...and to this day there is still a Mitchell running it (Thompson you better be once your Dad has decided his body hurts too much...like that will ever happen). Both Ian and Anja are two of the nicest people I have ever met...and I dont say that about alot of people! Truly honest decent people who just want to share their love for Beef and Cattle with everyone they come into contact with. I really appreciated the time they took with all of us...they taught me alot..and I will force the info onto almost every cook I come into contact with. Even the Mountain Oysters Ian haha. A cook learns how the Rancher develops the meat characteristics we are looking for if he gets out on the land.
Our previous hotel purchased Beef from the Mitchell's. Eventually the call came that they needed help to herd the cows up the Mountain...and would any of the cooks be interested in helping out!!! Ohhhh F@ckin' Yaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It had been years since I had been on a horse. I had never been around Cattle very much as a kid...but I was all into inflicting pain on my ass and seeing what movin Cows (the Angus are truly a stupid animal...the Simmentals were not) was all about. You cant get a better teacher than a Rancher. Sometime's it is a Ranchers Daughter that is your Mentor....my riding coach for the Day is Leanna .. Ian's Daughter. The cutest lil blonde girl in the Mountians she is!! Even with that riding helmet her Mother made her wear. She stuck by my side as I rode...offering me advice the whole way. Always pointing at one of the baby Angus with a stick and saying "Dinner!!" haha. We think alike!!
They started moving them out of the holding pen and onto the road leading up the Mountain...we were moving them to their Summer Pastures on the top of Skull Mountain. There were about 80 head total counting all the newborns...just part of their herd. One mother of a Bull had already been driven up to the Pastures...one was going to be driven up behind us. They aren't the quickest of animals...but if you have 80 of then coming full tilt at you and your supposed to block their path and up a mountain...they can scare the shit out of ya a lil bit. This was the case at the Pass ...where we wanted them to leave the road and head up a rocky trail into the woods and up to another road which led to their Pastures. We blocked the road with the Truck and a chain of us waving tree limbs drove the cows up the Pass...with Ian chasing them from behind on his Quad.
We lost a few babies here..their Mothers towards the front of the herd lost them and the newborns just too tired to make it up the steep embankment just lied down and refused to move..no worries eventually the Mothers realize they have lost their kids and wander back down the mountain to find them. I dont know how the cows didn't get lost in the thick brush as they made it to the final road...but they didn't. As we waited...you could hear them coming. Loud cracks and crunchs...twigs snapping..whole trees being pushed over. With Ian, Wayne and Anja yelling at them the whole time. All of them talking to each other as they trot thru the woods to us. Ian's Mother yelling at us to keep the hell out their way as they broke out of the Bush.
At this point I need to mention the Dogs. Especially one of them..."Timber". Now everyone has heard of herding dogs...but I never really understood them till this day. Timber is an OLD dog...but been Ranchin his whole life. He has bad hips and cant walk much less run very well. Put him with a bunch a bunch of dense Angus Cattle and all of a sudden he becomes SuperDog!! He chased the herd half way up the mountain. Nipping at their heels when they slowed down....I still dont understand how he wasn't kicked to death a thousand times. Half way up the mountain Anja had to lift him into the truck he was so worn out...and for the next twenty minutes he was goin nuts as he watched the other dogs chasing the cows...then he had had enough gawking and just jumped out of the truck and resumed his job. If I ever own a dog...I want one just like Timber.
They made it...and we resumed moving them via dirt road. We all took turns riding Paco...the least skiddish of all the horses. When not riding we were happily walking...running the odd time to catch a wanderer. The whole time waving our tree limbs yelling "UP COW..UP Cow!!" The whole thing is quite the site.
Marg showed us all the local edibles and flora of the Mountain.We all had a quick snack..then headed back down. She stayed up to make sure everyone was settling down with their new food supply. If anything went wrong she would just radio us.
So back to the Ranch we went. Here is where Ian and Anja showed us real Mountain Hospitality. Ian asked if I would cook the Steaks...."Special Steaks" they were. We all enjoyed a few beers and wines by the river as we sat down to a small Feast...gotta keep the help well fed. Truly one of the most enjoyable days ever!!
We went back to help many a time...sometimes it was just me and Ian's Mom...sometime it was the Clan. I miss the Ranch...I miss the People...I miss the Mountains. One of these days I will get to bring Thompson down to the river to play again...watching the pollen swirling thru the air...the alfalfa blowing in the breeze....him showing me how the mud on the edge of the Thompson river sucks his feet in.
I am sure the Oil Sands will hold their own adventures this Spring for us...but right now I am just dreaming of Cows and Great People! If your ever in the North Thompson area...check out Mitchell Cattle Co. Tell them Ken sent you!! http://www.mitchellcattle.com/index.html