On Monday, June 2, at the crack of dawn, Trisha leaves on a jet plane for Montana, for the week, to go on a cattle drive. Does City Slickers mean anything to you?
Horses don’t like me, and I don’t like them. So I am staying home and I am excited for her. Here is the itinerary she received:
This is what you typically could expect on each day of the June cattle drives. This is of course all subject to change. One of the hardest things we have found in doing these drives is in getting the cattle to read and follow the schedule! : )
Monday: We will meet you at the Bozeman airport between noon and 1:00 p.m. We will then travel to Townsend where we host a lunch buffet and you will have the opportunity to purchase a fishing license if you want to fish, liquor (we don’t provide alcohol but we do pack it), or any other last minute items that you might have forgotten. We will then go into a tent camp about 10 miles out of town. Guests have two options for lodging, (1) wall tents, segregated by gender or group, or (2) small dome tents. The small dome tents provide more privacy but the wall tents can be heated. In both instances, we place a ground tarp on the floor of the tent and then provide guests with a foam pad upon which they can place their sleeping bags. After a prime rib dinner, we do a general orientation and have introductions of wranglers, guests, in-laws, outlaws and hangers-on. We usually finish this evening off with a sing-along around the campfire. We specialize in quantity rather than quality singing.
Tuesday: After breakfast, you will meet with your wrangler (we assign one wrangler to 4 or 5 guests) and he or she will introduce you to your horse (we try to have guests matched prior to the drive with a horse commensurate with their riding ability). We then have a short horsemanship clinic about the do’s and don’ts of cattle driving, followed by a trail ride to assess that horse and rider are well matched and to make sure that tack fits and everyone is comfortable in the saddle. After lunch, we start the roundup. The cattle we will be moving consist of cow/calf pairs, yearlings and a few bulls. The cattle will be scattered throughout a six or seven square mile pasture. This pasture is in foothill country just off the Missouri River Valley; the terrain consists of rugged ravines filled with juniper pockets and slopes dotted with yucca and sagebrush. We will divide into several groups and ride every nook and cranny of this pasture and by late afternoon we’ll have gathered the cattle into a 100-acre pasture where they will spend the night. The entertainment this evening will usually be cowboy poetry followed by campfire singing.
Wednesday: We start the herd east into the Big Belt Mountains. We’ll follow a narrow canyon most of this day. We will gain altitude and the vegetation will change from juniper and sagebrush to the lusher and greener vegetation of a fir and lodge pole pine forest. Some of this country was burned during the forest fires of 2000 and you will be able to observe first hand some of the effects. You also should see an abundance of wildflowers this day and probably some deer and elk. We will place the cattle into another holding pen in the afternoon. The entertainment this evening should be a talk about the history of ranching in the west and this area in particular.
Thursday: This will be the longest day in the saddle. We will take the herd from Upper Dry Creek to the Battle Creek pasture. As we gain altitude today, the country will open up and guests will have great views of some stunning vistas. We will be riding past Wall Mountain and the Stewert Basin (which was the backdrop for Ivan Doig’s novel, This House of Sky). We will drop the cattle in the Battle Creek Pasture and then ride about three more miles to the Battle Creek Homestead. This ride will take us through the scenic rock ledges of the Battle Creek Canyon, which will give you the feeling that an outlaw or Indian warrior may be waiting in ambush around any corner. The Battle Creek Homestead itself is a step back in time. The log homestead, bunkhouse and huge pole barn have been restored to their original condition and guests should find this site quite interesting. After dinner this evening, guests may fly fish in Battle Creek or join the majority of us on a bus ride to the small community of White Sulphur Springs, Montana where we will visit a natural sulphur hot springs. Guests and wranglers will have a chance to soak some sore aching muscles. The sulphur water is rumored to reverse the aging process! The ride to the hot springs is usually marked by high jinx and badly sung show tunes. The ride from the hot springs is much more subdued with more than one guest nodding off on the way back to camp.
Friday: We ride back to where we dropped the herd to re-gather and bring the cattle into the corrals at the Battle Creek Homestead. After lunch we brand the late calves (June drive). Guests may take part in the calf wrestling or branding or may just choose to sit on the corral fence and take photos. If branding is not their cup of tea, Battle Creek may be fished. This stream is an excellent place to learn to fly fish because there aren’t many willows or other brush to hook your back cast. We have a barn dance on Friday evening and often have some of the locals in for this. Typically you can see three dogs, four toddlers and two octogenarians on the dance floor at any one time.
Saturday: We move the cattle from the Homestead a few miles to the pasture, which will be their home for the first few weeks of summer. On this afternoon, guests have several options: fish, nap, hike, etc. After dinner, we have a talent show and awards banquet in which we honor noteworthy achievement or lack thereof! The award presenters readily admit to being bribable. This time is usually a lot of fun. After the banquet, guests with early morning flights may leave to go to a motel in Bozeman.
Sunday: This is a departure day to transport guests to the airport. Any guests left over are put to work fixing fence!