Desert cattle drive

I’m sitting in the middle of the desert waiting for the ‘cowboy’ students, professors and ranch manager to bring the cows home from the dry lake bed at the west side of the valley. There has been more drought than usual for the last couple years and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has requested that cattle not graze there.

I’m not sure when they’ll get to me, they’re nowhere in sight. All I can see are some dirt devils down by the lake. The valley is about 10 miles long, and you can see from one end to the other, which is somewhat disconcerting when you’re driving through it, it seems like you will never get there. I’m used to only seeing perhaps a mile ahead (on the interstate), not 10!

How to describe this quiet? No airplanes, no jets (although you can occasionally see them miles overhead, you cannot hear them), no Harley’s, no trucks, no cars, no dogs, no children, no power saws, no lawn mowers. Only the occasional wind gusts (and the ringing in my ears). I keep thinking I’m hearing hoofbeats, but I think that’s just Tonto talking in my head urging me to lay down and listen with my head to the ground.

At night, many coyotes call back and forth, barking, yipping and howling, mainly early in the evening and again when the rooster crows at dawn. Almost like they’re saying, chow time (they feast on gophers), then come on, time to go back to the mountains.

As I was making my way through the desert to the dry wash (the only place there is much life showing-Sage and Rabbit Brush-west coast equivalent to Goldenrod), I was reminded again about boots. Sand and dust is everywhere. It seeps in through window cracks, it comes in the house on the bottom of your feet, particularly if you’ve recently walked through an irrigated patch. AND it gets into your sneakers – right through your socks. I’m really tired of emptying my shoes! I understand why everyone wears boots out here. Plus, I think many of those holes I walk past may contain snakes or scorpions. Maybe the boots would protect against bites?

The horse trailer and pick up just went by with 4 saddled horses heading home; they were the horses that worked gathering the herd this morning. The rest of the riders and herd are still FAR away. Darkness falls pretty early here- around 6:30. As I started back through the desert on my bike (tummy is saying its getting close to dinner), I finally started seeing the tips of the horses heads as they crested the rise to the west.

Now that I finally see them, I realize I should have brought my biggest lens, instead of the slightly lighter one. This wasn’t a job for the iPad or iPhone because I had to stay far enough away so as to not spook the cows.

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One Reply to “Desert cattle drive”

  1. This terrain is so foreign to me. The dust sure makes for interesting photography! Barb, I think you need to invest in a pair of boots. You might run over a rattler while on your bike and you are too busy looking at the scenery. Snakes coil up pretty good when run over by a bike. It happened to my sister while she was riding her bike – not a poisonous snake, it did not bite her, but it the two ends came up off the ground.
    I can’t imagine no sound. I guess it is too late for me because I have the ear ringing. Actually, I think having sound is better because it helps to cope with the ear ringing. I do wish I could go back and wear earplugs while working at the Balloon!


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