Contrary Cows

Jun 23, 2022 by Tempe Javitz
Contrary Cows:

Every cowgirl will tell you that advertisements on TV showing
contented cows are only half of the picture!  Of course you can
hardly blame the cows for not wanting to be driven to a new pasture
just as they are sure where the best water, grass, shade, and 
scratching posts were located.  Oh, and don’t forget the best thorny
brush patch to hide in. 
When gathering cattle there is always the necessity to separate out
different brands before branding, or sort the cattle for shipping. 
Some lucky cowboy or girl gets to hold this separate bunch, which is
called “the cut.”  I’ve spend many an hour sweating in the growing 
heat of the day holding the cut.  Of course, some of those animals are
determined to return to the herd and their buddies.  No sleeping on 
the job allowed.

      My great grandfather, Willis M. Spear, cutting out a cow from
    the main herd. One poor cow and four cowboys to make her behave.

I called this photo “Recalcitrant Beef”, from August 14, 1928. 
Were these cowboys just showing off or did they find this bad boy 
in the wrong pasture and were making haste to return the critter 
to the right side of the fence?   Needless to say, cattle love to
rub on fence posts and crawl under a loose wire wherever the
fence sags.  Some will try crossing a cattleguard on the road,
especially when dirt has built up between the cross pipes.  It gets 
boring just grazing along on your way for a drink at the spring.  
Walking the fence line apparently is fun.

These two riders are attempting to turn this youngster around and 
head it in the correct direction.  This is what cowgirls and cowboys
do all day as they drive the herd to the summer or winter pasture.
I used to spend hours each weekend in the winter driving the weaned 
calves down to the feed ground.  They would climb the hillsides where
the wind had blown the snow off the grass during the day and camp out
under the trees at night.  All very good, but why just stand there 
bawling as Dad pitched hay on the feed ground below.  I had to ride my
pony up the steep, slippery hillsides and push those silly calves off 
the hill to the awaiting piles of beautiful hay.  

“I don’t want to take a train ride!”  Spear Siding shipping pens, circa
1921.  Looks like our cowboys are avoiding a confrontation with those

Mother cow on the fight in early March of 1924.  There may be a calf
nearby and she is defending her baby from these intrusive cattlemen.  
One of my uncles is trying to scare her into moving by flapping his reins
in her face.  I don’t think that was working well.  Grandmother was 
probably chuckling to herself as she grabbed her camera to capture this

                                  "You want me to go where?"

Bulls of any breed are quite sure about their personal power.  You don’t 
want to “lock horns” with them.  Jessamine took this photo on February 3,

            "I don't want to cross that creek!"

It’s cold, the ground is frozen, and that creek may hold ice that will 
break under your weight.  This cow in February 1929 is quite reluctant
to move forward.  These photos reveal that cattle, like us, don’t behave
well in stressful situations.  Believe it or not, there are many articles
online addressing how to work cattle without upsetting the animals.
Excessive stress leads to reduced productivity, loss of weight, high 
susceptibility to disease, and even low milk yields in cattle.  Cattle 
are more like us than you ever imagined!

Cowboy Jargon:  
Snorty:  A contrary or belligerent cow, an irascible man, or a high
spirited horse. 
Snuffy:  Cattle or horses that are wild, spirited, and likely to cause
Sod-Pawing Mood:  A cowboy’s expression for anger, because that’s
the way snorty bulls act.