Friday June 8, 2016…Sunny, breezy and low 80’s
The last two days have been perfect for working outdoors. The low humidity and mild temperatures were exactly what we needed for stringing barbed wire and moving cows.
We started working on both Thursday and Friday at around 830 AM and Thursday we finished around 4PM and Friday around 6PM. We were outside all day but the hours flew. There was no looking at the clock waiting for quitting time, just moving along to the next post or the next string of wire until we were satisfied.
Before we arrived here, I never gave much thought to the miles and miles of barbed wire fence you see when driving across America. I have a new found appreciation after the last two days. It is not as easy as pounding a post in the ground and tying a wire around it and stringing it down the line; fence building is not rocket science, but it helps to have someone show you the way (Thanks Cowboy Dave!) because there are many mistakes you can make. Here are some lessons we learned:
- Fencing materials are expensive so you don’t want to screw up and waste your time and money.
- Barbed wire bites….Let go of one end or cut it without standing on both sides and you can end up with some serious dingers!
- Build a strong/sturdy H with wood in the corners to make sure the wires stay rigid and the fence has stability. The corner H’s have to line up so your fence goes in a straight line, and you have square 90 degree corners.
- Reinforce the H’s with wire X’s (I know there are a lot of letters, but I promise we won’t make you take a quiz or anything at the end of this post).
- Your fence needs to be straight, which is accomplished by pulling a wire taut, snapping it and seeing it falls in a straight line. Then your T-posts have to go down that line, regardless of how many rocks you encounter when using the post cannon to pound them into place.
- Pounding in T-posts can be easy if you are on soft soil, or impossible if you find one of the Black Hills Rocks. Essential equipment includes a post cannon, jack-hammer bit and a sturdy sledge hammer, and a really strong hard working husband that just won’t quit until the danged post is in the danged hole!
- String wire from bottom to top. Tie it off, roll it out, stretch it using a fence stretcher, secure it to the H’s, and then clip it onto the T-posts. This is the cool part because once the wire is strung you look down your line and say, “Wow, that’s straight!” And then you start all over for three more wires.
- It is imperative to sit down and drink a cold beer after working on fence all day.
After finishing the fence, we went with Cowboy Dave and Linda to move their cows to the northern part of our property. The two Dave’s also had to drain and load a water tank and place it in the new location. They took the truck and trailer and Linda and I took the Mule. Our responsibility was getting the cows to follow us through the gate and over the road to the new property.
Linda grabbed two buckets of “cow cake” which is just large pellets of alfalfa and molasses and said we could easily lure them across with this. We went up to the pasture and Linda got out and started shaking the buckets and yelling, “Come on ladies, it’s MOOOOOOving day!” Sure enough, here came the cows, all of them came running at us looking for an early evening snack. We hopped in the mule and the cows followed us. It felt like we were on a float in a parade, tossing goodies to the crowd and the cows came right along picking up the cakes behind us until……
THEY GOT GREEDY!!! Our peaceful little parade float turned into the jeep scene from Jurassic Park with the T-Rex following. Those hungry hungry heifers were running beside and behind us sticking their big old heads right in the cab trying to grab the cake. One cow, Rosie, ran in front of us and kicked her back legs at the Mule, turned and mooed, “GIVE ME MORE CAKE!!!” (I may be embellishing a bit, it wasn’t quite that dramatic but it sure was fun and exciting for me!) Linda was super-cool and laid back, and she just kept driving along until we got the cows to the new location. Their little bovine brains were easily distracted from the cake by all the new tall, fresh green grass available. The men followed up with moving the big water tank, leveling it, and making sure the ladies were happy in their new digs.
We all rode back to the High Lonesome for some refreshments, and Linda made us the best burritos we may have ever eaten. She shredded chicken and topped it with onions and peppers from her garden, baked them with cheese and then covered them with her homemade salsa and fresh cilantro. One day we will have a house and we will cook for them, but I have to admit I’m a little intimidated after this awesome meal!
We left the High Lonesome Ranch around 9PM and headed past the Hoten Holler Homestead in the twilight. It was too dark to see our work but we knew those fences were out there and those cows were probably happily laying down in that thick grass up on the northern property. We were tired but full of burritos and satisfaction in another great South Dakota Day!