Some times on Sundays friends would come out to the ranch – a few from San Antonio – Dixie Collins, a friend of mine – lived in San Antonio – We would pack a lunch of fried chicken, saddle the horses and ride across the big pasture to the Nieces River which bordered the ranch.
We kept a flat-bottom boat tied up there. We would spend the day fishing, boating and swimming. The Nieces was six or seven miles from the Six-Mile Ranch.
Once when we were out on the river in the boat, a herd of deer, with several fawns, came down to the water on the other side of the river to drink. They didn’t seem to be afraid of use, or to pay any attention to the boat.
The best time to watch the watering animals is late in the evening, but we couldn’t stay that late, because we had to get back to the ranch house to do the chores, feed the stock, milk the cows, etc.
On the way home, in the open meadows, we usually raced – but Ray always won, his horse, Eagle, was a spirited, headstrong horse and much faster than any of the others. Usually our friends were not much used to riding horseback. They would write us how sore they were for days.
Ray and I had much riding to do. We had to keep a close check on the stock for any signs of Anthrax – sometimes called charbon or blackleg. Every rancher dreads this disease. However, we didn’t have any outbreaks of it while we were there.
There was four thousand acres in the big pasture. In the Spring there were hundreds of lambs and kids. Bobcats and coyotes raided the herds almost nightly. Sometimes several nannies or ewes would be killed, leaving their kids and lambs orphans. These orphans were called “sanchos” – a name given them by Mexican sheep and goat herders.
So we would have to provide them with “foster” mothers – other nannies or ewes that had kids or lambs about the same age. We had to put the mothers in pens and the kids and lambs in another pen. At feeding time we would have to hold the mothers and allow her own kid or lamb to suckle on one side and an orphan on the other side. Some of the mothers would accept the “sanchos” after it lost the scent of its own mother and acquired the scent of the new foster-mother by association with her and her own “child.”
Lambkins was born very early in the spring when there were no other nannies with kids, so we had to bottle-feed him.
Once when we were riding the big pasture and several miles from the ranch house, we were caught in a rain and electrical storm. When we left the ranch house that morning the sky was clear and no sign of rain, so we didn’t bring along our ponchos – they are especially designed to protect the horseback riders from rain and bad weather.
We always took along food and a canteen of water, for we were usually too far away to return to the house for lunch. Being Spring, thunderstorms can develop quickly, and this one did.
There was a lot of hail in this one which frightened the horses. It was hard to hold them to a walk. But we knew if we allowed them to run they might slip in the mud and water and fall and there was real danger of them breaking a leg – or falling on us. A horse has to be destroyed when it breaks a leg. And, too, we had to keep control of them to avoid any big trees that might be struck by lightning.
That was a long, cold walk home. We were wet as the proverbial wet hen.
But before we could go home we had to go by the goat and sheep pens to take care of kids and lambs. When they are very young they chill easily and die.
That done we went on to the ranch house and changed our wet clothes before doing the chores.
After that experience, we rolled and tied our ponchos on the back of our saddles so we would not again be caught without them in a rain, but as it happened we didn’t need them again.
The calves are born in the Spring and the little white-faced Hereford calves are beautiful. They are gentle and docile and seem to love to be petted. I was always getting off my horse to pet one and sometimes their mothers took a dim view of this. And after a few foot races back to my horse, I learned to keep him near with the mounting side toward me. After the calves are a few weeks old the cows are not so protective.
We had to examine all the newborn calves to make sure they were not infected with screw-worms which can kill them. This is a great problem on all ranches, especially during that time when there wasn’t the Federal program to combat the screw-worm as there is now.