Herding cattle is hard work. Believe me, I know. I wanted to go on a cattle drive so I could experience what my protagonist would go through.
Little did I know I was in for quite an adventure.
My sister, Jo, arranged everything. Fortunately, she had a wonderful camper that we stayed in during this trip. Still, that was roughing it for me. We arrived a day before everyone else. She wanted me to get used to riding before the real cowboys showed up. She showed me how to saddle up, how to sit in the saddle, and how to get the horse to do what I wanted. I was scared to death. But I soon learned to "cowboy up" and do the best I could.
We rode the range spending several hours in the saddle, then headed back to the camper. No one told me after sitting in the saddle so long that my knees would become spongy and weak when I got off the horse. But that was all right. I was learning and actually feeling what my main character would. Info for the book, right? Besides I needed to toughen up because the next day the cowboys would arrive, and we would round up the cattle.
Morning came and with it a surprise. A bull had wondered where he wasn't supposed to. Jo quickly saddled her horse, grabbed her lariat, and told me to open the gate so she could herd the bull into the corral. I tried to saddle my horse. And I did, kind of. I didn't cinch the saddle tight enough so when I tried to step into stirrup, it slipped sideways on the horse, and I couldn't get on.
Meanwhile, Jo and her horse were doing a scary tango with the bull. The cantankerous beast would burrow his head in the ground while flipping dirt and weeds with his front hoofs in the air. And he was bellowing, snorting, and making all sorts of a ruckus.
Knowing that the gate had to be opened, I ran over to it, leading my horse. I swung the gate open just as Jo finally got the bull heading my way.
MY WAY! I was on foot! In the path of a very angry bull!
Unable to ride my horse, I leaped up on the fence and watched as the bull passed by. I jumped down and shut the gate. Talk about a close call. But it was all good because now I had a great scene for my book.
By the time the cowboys arrived, I had fixed my saddle and was ready to ride out with them. Talk about fun! Jo assigned me the job of rounding up the calves.
Have you ever heard the term "herding squirrels" or "herding cats"? Both are pretty much impossible. Well, herding calves is much the same. But I was doing my best until one of the cowboys rode over laughing. He told me I was doing a good job, but it wasn't necessary. They always have the rookie herd the calves. It's some type if initiation or something.
Jo chuckled under her breath and tried to appear all innocent about setting me up, but it was all right. I felt like I'd passed the test.
Needless to say, it was a long hard day. I felt very fortunate to be there. Though, I was disappointed that the rancher we were helping no longer herded his cattle to summer grazing. Instead they loaded their doggies up in semis and drove them to their destination.
In my new novel, Deceived, I decided that the fictional White Eagle Appaloosa Ranch would still have cattle drives. And guess what? The scene with the bull charging is in the book, though it didn't end as happily as the experience I had.
I'd tell you what happens, but what fun would that be?
Going on that trip with my sister was a wonderful adventure. Of course, going with Jo anywhere usually is.
How about you? What kind of unexpected fun have you had?