Live (and work) on a cattle ranch

After the hair raising journey from having to fly in propeller powered airplane from Vancouver to Williams Lake, I then had to travel by road to the seven hundred and twenty acre ranch I’d be soon referring to as ‘Home’.

Jet lagged but excited I climbed into the pick up truck belonging to my friends girlfriends sister. Ste was an old friend I’d came out to stay with. A long time travel companion who’s shared in many adventures, including partying all night in Las Vegas and other Australian fun times.
Dan, Ste’s partners father and owner of the ranch was away on a fishing trip and wasn’t due back till after the first week of my stay, so most days for the first week consisted of catching up on sleep and finding my way around the land, this was generally done on quad bike, loads of fun unless you don’t see the electric fence you’re about to hurtle into!

By the time Dan arrived I was in full awareness that my time spent on the ranch wouldn’t be as pleasurable as I’d hoped. Not because of Dan – he was fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for a better host – it was my hayfever. Part of the reason I’d chose this time of year was in the hope of escaping the UK’s dreaded pollen. Little did I know I’d be jumping right into the hornets nest by living on a cattle ranch. You see, cow’s eat hay, and so do horses, and when you’ve got almost a hundred of the beasts combined, that’s a lot of hay to feed them. I genuinely couldn’t have picked a worse time hayfever wise, as the hay was to be cut down and raked the duration of my stay. I managed to survive (without my dignity) by stuffing small balls of tissue up my hooter to prevent it dripping like a leaky tap the whole time. It was effective but didn’t stop the itchy eyes and that horrid feeling of being run down. Not to be outdone by a little allergy I managed to get on with most things. When the cows escaped – which they did frequently – I was still able to jump around, arms flapping to guide them back into where they needed to be. Not without Ted though. Ted was the ranch pooch. An adorable sheepdog/border collie that had the brains (and look) of some educated humans. So clever he made all other dogs look like a lesser species.

Rounding up cows was his favourite thing in the world, pretty fortunate seeing as that was his purpose of being there. When he wasn’t rounding up cows he’d practise on the chickens or cats. A source of never ending amusement for anyone watching. Occasionally he’d get to close and nibble there ankles causing the chickens to turn and attack him. Seeing a chicken frightening a big dog is comedy gold. Anything involving animals acting out of the ordinary is funny to me, but the look on Ted’s face in particular was priceless!

Sadly a pack of wolves had turned up the year previous and been killing the cows. In an attempt to prevent Dan losing his livestock traps had been set in various places to entice the wolves and capture them (harmlessly). They needed to be checked every few days and re-set if necessary.
The first day we went a cayote had been caught, I’d have thought with his skinny little legs he might’ve wiggled his way out but he must have already been malnourished and dehydrated as he perished in the heat. We all felt sorry for him, Dan included. You don’t think of farmers as having much love for animals with the fact they sell them for us lazy sods to eat, I say lazy because we’d hardly have the motivation – or the skill – let alone the resources to go out and hunt them ourselves. Dan wasn’t like that though, there was genuine affliction in his eyes when it came to that cayote, and the welfare of any animal for that matter.
After disposing of the body, we re-set the trap and put on disgusting smelling scent to entice the wolves. Setting the trap was a tricky little manoeuvre, you had to hold it down while putting a pin in, then tickle the pressure plate with a stick to get it right on the edge of releasing and snapping shut. If it closed you had to go through the whole procedure again. This happened the following week after a night of heavy rain. I’d be lying if I said the sight of wet mud and wolf turd launching up from the ground and covering Ste’s chevy chase didn’t amuse me. ‘Seduce the pressure plate. Don’t molest it’ I told him. He gave me a deadpan side glance whilst spitting out the last bits of dirt and faeces.

Because there was so much haying to be done that I couldn’t get involved in it meant I had plenty of downtime, this was spent maintaining the vegetable patch or occasionally going out onto the lake fishing. Sometimes I’d help prepare dinner despite my non-existent culinary skills.
One particular evening before dinner Dan had come back from a long day cutting hay complaining that one of the rollers in the haybailer had cracked and needed replaced. Now, I’m not an allergy expert but I wouldn’t advise someone allergic to dogs to go sit in a kennel, so there was a lot of angst on my part when I was asked to climb inside the very machine that was causing me so much suffering. ‘I’ll be ok’ I thought, ‘Should only take a minute’ …not only did I almost die from hyperventilation afterward, but I also almost lost a digit when the the heavy rolling bar landed on my index finger

Worse things have happened I know. In the grand scale of things the hayfever and the flattened finger were a small price to pay for one of the best experiences of my life. The company, the country and the general lifestyle is the best life has to offer and I can’t wait to go back.