Ranching and Painting

Granddad says ranching is one of those things that brings a person closer to God. One of his favorite examples is watching our heifers (cows that have never calved) out in the pasture. They are frisky little things, running around like they don’t have a care in the world. Then they calve, and immediately their first thought is to protect their baby. They get their baby up, they clean it, make sure it nurses, and they keep it safe. Nobody tells them to do this; they just know. It is an instinct they are born with. It is ingrained into their very being to care for their calves.

This is not to say that a few first-time mothers don’t need an extra hand figuring things out. It is common for cows to go find a protected spot in the trees off by themselves to calve. But we once had a heifer who missed the point: she calved up in the front of the pasture then went and hid in the trees by herself, leaving the calf in the front! We found a slimy, hungry baby all alone. We got the cow up and penned her with the baby so she would bond with it. When we reunited them she was thrilled to see her baby and she licked him enthusiastically! She had the right idea to hide and calve, but got a little mixed up in the order of things! This happens with first-time mothers sometimes, but most of our heifers have been great mothers from the get-go. When these first-time mothers calve, we usually can tell when they are close and we trade off checking on them every few hours during the night to make sure everything is going all right. I love having a cow-calf operation and seeing the new life. Watching the babies frolic in the sunshine is one of my favorite things! This is one of the reasons I paint cattle. I love this way of life! This is another one of Cid2cd7d8b-bc89-4715-a28e-c90e9216e3b1rcle C’s cows and she looks like she is going to have her baby any minute. I’m sure she will have a strong maternal instinct, caring for and protecting her calf.

Bicycle Cow–A Ranching Memory

“A grayish brindle cow with up-right horns: that’s what your grandma’s Bicycle Cow looked like.”

orange and blue chevrons

I think this painting might resemble the cow my granddad was referring to. Bicycle Cow descended from a line of cows that had survived the flood of 1908 when the Red River jumped its banks and hundreds of cattle and other livestock were lost. This particular cow’s grandmother had managed to reach higher ground when the river flooded. The cattle stood in water up to their knees, but they survived. I like to imagine that Bicycle Cow’s grandmother was the hero and led the other cows up the hill to safety, but who knows what really happened. Grandma’s Bicycle Cow was from a long line of survivors that is for sure.

Granddad likes to tell the story of how Bicycle Cow got her name, the day that Grandma was bringing water to him while he was fixing the fence. “I saw your grandma head into the pasture,” Granddad recalls, “and about the time she came through the gate, our horned cow saw her, too. From the look on the cow’s face she had never in her life seen a woman on a bicycle and she had certainly never seen one in her pasture. That cow stood on her tiptoes, head raised, smelling the air. She headed to where your Grandma had just gotten back on her bike. When she looked up and saw the cow coming her direction, she abandoned the bicycle and climbed over the fence, letting the cow have a good long look at the bike up close and personally, while she stood on the road.” Ever since Grandma gave her bike to the cow, they always called the cow Grandma’s Bicycle Cow.

That cow is long gone, but we still ranch and patch fence. My sisters and I are the fourth generation to run cattle here. Currently we raise registered Brangus and commercial cattle. I am blessed to live this life I love: ranching and making art.