April Hawkes loves to be taken out on Valentine’s Day. This year was no different, as it’s one of her favorite holidays. While many a sweetheart may be satisfied with a short drive to a local eating establishment, her husband knows it won’t be quick, but there will be a lot on their plates.
April grew up on the Two Dot Cattle Ranch several hours away in the small town of Leadore, Idaho. It may sound like a small operation, but the large ranch encompasses thousands of acres covering miles of territory. She returns to help several times throughout the year as needed and whenever she possibly can. The fourth generation in her family to grow up on the ranch, it’s more than something she’s adopted or picked up as a hobby, it’s in her blood.
Brian is an active participant, as he knows this is what he signed up for nearly twenty years ago. He may secretly wish he was off on a backcountry flying adventure deep in Idaho’s wilderness, but if so he wisely keeps it to himself. This is a family activity, and it involves a lot of work, all of it outside.
The cows will be calving soon and it’s time to drive them from their winter range back to the ranch, to prepare for the calving operation which will be full scale in just a few short weeks. Nine hundred of the eighteen hundred mother cows are pushed fifteen miles right down the highway, as it is the safest, most direct route. The drive normally takes all day, and with this year’s wintry weather on tap, it’s a long cold one. The remainder will be moved in another week.
Training the Next Generation
April takes the lead with her quarter horse, keeping the strays focused and headed in the right direction. The mile markers go by very, very slowly, as do any vehicles unfortunately trapped by the drive. This is cattle country, if you were in a hurry; you quickly realize the interstate would have been a much better option. The cow kids bring up the rear, taking turns participating and warming up in one of the support vehicles following closely behind. They take an active part and another generation is exposed to the way of life which helped make America great. Life on the range may have disappeared for the vast majority, but it’s kept alive in this family.
The day following the drive, the cattle are sorted from a larger holding area, depending on how soon or if they will be calving. The cows also receive their shots at this point. Many hands make light work doesn’t necessarily apply in this situation, as the work is not only heavy, but dirty as well.