Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Cattle Drive - Days 6 & 7

Click here for The Cattle Drive - Day 5

Friday morning, our last full day in Montana. We got up early for no apparent reason. It was cold, windy and rainy. It cleared up after lunch time and the cowboys went out to bring in the horses.

That was a sight that made the trip worth while all in itself! We found our horses and saddled up to get ready for some competition. Eighteen green horns would have their chance to use their new skills in a fun cowboy tradition....team penning. One of the wranglers brought me a new horse for the day...and even better horse than "Big Al". His name was "Dandy"...and he sure was!

We all lined up and drew numbers to see which team of three we would be on. Dad was teamed up with the older gal Polly and one of the Irish girls, Therese. My team mates were the non-rider Frank from Boston and the go-getter Irishman Ciaran.

Team penning was fast and furious fun! There were 20 steers in the corral. They were divided into 10 pairs, marked with numbers that were painted on their rumps. As the team crossed the starting line, the starter called out a number. The team had to sort out those two steers and pen them in a small pen that was set up in the corral.
Three of the wranglers went first to show us how it all worked. Riding hard and fast into the herd, finding their pair, separating them out and driving them to the pen. Whew.

Each team had two tries. The times were added together. Each attempt had a 4 minute time limit, most teams went over that time. Here is my dads team on their first run.

He rode hard and fast...but didn't get much help from his team. There were a lot of factors involved in the outcome....the steers, the horses, the riders, and most of all a lot of luck!

My team went out with a plan. Frank, the non rider, would block the gap in between the pen and the corral, Ciaran and I would round up the steers. It worked pretty well...we had a really fast time! Was it for real, or was it just a fluke??

Here's round two for my dad's team....

...they had some troubles gettin' er done. But still had a lot of fun.

And then it was our turn to prove to everyone that it wasn't just a fluke.

Same plan...Ciaran and I did the sorting and herding them to the pen.

We got them in without a hitch...except for the extra one....I ran that one out and got myself back to the pen in a hurry....

And the champions are...a Minnesota girl, and Irishman, and a green horn from Boston.

Our times for both runs were about a minute each. There was an awards ceremony, we were each awarded a trophy and bragging rights. We even got to take a victory lap, pretty exciting for a then 40 year old housewife!

And even though it's kind of silly...my team penning trophy is still one of my most prized possessions.

With our fast times, we challenged the ranch hands to take their second run. They couldn't let us beat them could they?

They went out hard and fast, trying their best. The fans got into the competition and helped by spooking the steers when they got them to the right end of the pen. There was a lot of hooting and hollering and a lot of laughs. When all was said and done, their final time was 2:13....ours....are you ready? 2:04....truly the champs! Oh, those poor cowboys got some ribbing. But it was all in good fun.

The Montana skies saved their best show for last. The sunset on our final night was spectacular!

For our last night, the Nelson's put on a steak fry and dance for us, the cowboys, and their neighbors. Almost 150 people came for the steak fry. The band played until almost 1:00 a.m. After the guests left, the cattle drive pals enjoyed one last roaring fire, some singing and the telling of tall tales into the wee hours of the morning.
We woke up to cold and windy temps of 39 degrees. It had snowed in the mountains where we had come from. We packed up our gear for a final time, warmed up with some hot coffee, and said our goodbyes.
Here's my friend cowboy Amos. After spending a week with everyone, they truly did become friends.

Then it was time to board the bus for the 2 hour drive to Billings. The Irish weren't singing as many songs on the ride out. I think that the bus ride was the roughest one of the whole week! We arrived at the airport at noon, flew out at 2:00 pm and were in Minneapolis by 5:00 pm.

Our week in Montana pretending to be cowboys was done, but the adventure we had together would live on. It won't be forgotten.....ever.

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