April 8:  We spent the first part of April traveling, taking our new Coleman tent trailer on a trip to Las Cruces to visit friends.  It's a 500 mile drive to Las Cruces and this was our first expedition with the entire family along.  It worked out okay, although we had to cut the trip short because one of my hearing aids died and because we all started coming down with hacking coughs.  As of today, it's been raining slowly and steadily for several days and the driveway is muddy and wet.

Coleman Royale popup camper


April 10, 7:30 am.  Results of the storm so far.  This is great moisture- came down slow and steady and has really saturated the ground.  After we get a week of sunshine, the grass is going to just take off.  I don't like to drive around the pasture when it's this wet because it just tears up the roads.  If there's nothing really pressing, I prefer to just wait for things to dry up a little bit.


This is a good day to stay inside and work on guitars!!

Same place, the next day!  April 11.  Yessir, this weather is just so predictable and ho-hum... <g>

Mid April, I took a break and went to the Dallas Guitar Show.  I'm a big dirt bike fan and there's a Supercross race in Dallas in April, so I checked the schedule and YES!!!!  The race was the same time as the guitar show.  I lined up tickets and headed off to Amarillo where I met up with friends Tim McGaughy and Dan Harper.  They drove from Amarillo to Dallas, which made the trip very fun for me!

Photo by Tim McGaughy

Here I am at the show checking to see if I have enough money to buy this row of 1950's Telecasters.  I...uh....didn't!  I might've been able to afford one of the strings off of one of them, maybe!  This is cool, though, and part of the reason that guitar shows are fun.

Photo by Tim McGaughy

I'm bending the ear of Harry Moore (left) and his buddy Mike, proprietors of the booth in the background.  Harry setup and runs the SKFC scholarship fund.

Photo by Woody Pope

I got the chance to play onstage at the show with Gerald Jones.  Here I am waiting for the mics and such to get setup.  Astute flatpickers will note that I'm holding my Proulx OM/D with a Tortis "Clown Barf" pick in my mouth.

Photo by Woody Pope

Here were are onstage!  It was EXTREMELY noisy and we really couldn't hear a thing.  Joe Satriani was playing to the left of this photo and he ain't quiet.  It was still pretty fun, though.

After my little break, I'm back at work on the ranch and just finished installing a new 5,000 gallon water tank.  Below is a shot of the new tank, with the backhoe and old tank in the background.  I used the backhoe to level a pad for the new fiberglass tank and to push dirt up against the sides of the tank (helps prevent blow-out under the tank).  I need a couple dump loads of caliche, but this will have to do for now.

Looking the other direction (W), you can see some ominous dark clouds rolling in:

Hmmm.....let's see what Weather.com has to say:

That's some pretty serious green just above me.  Weather Channel says 90% chance of precip for tonight and tomorrow w/ accumulation of up to 6".  We'll see what happens!

Job 37:5-6 "God thunders with His voice wondrously, Doing great things which we cannot comprehend. (6) "For to the snow He says, 'Fall on the earth,' And to the downpour and the rain, 'Be strong.'

Here's a shot of the floats I've been using for the past 3 years.  They're "Jobe" floats from Australia.  The cool thing about them is that, when open, they give a full-flow of 3/4", rather than the measly little 1/16" flow that many floats give. The float is on a string, so cattle can't break it, and the more pressure behind the float, the better it shuts off.  Great floats- they've been almost totally trouble-free for me.

April 22: I just got a call that cattle are coming in next Thurs.  14 truck-loads with 110 head each.  Gonna be busy!  I'll spend the next week getting all my floats on, checking fences, and taking deep breaths.  It's going to get hectic pretty quick here....

April 28: 14 truck loads of cattle showing up tomorrow!  This is my last day to get ready.  First thing to do is get the portable loading chute in place (below).  This set of pens opens into 3 pastures and we'll unload cattle here and then let them out into the appropriate pasture.


Okay, time to drive the fence.  I'm looking for things like this:

This is a hole in the gate.  The post has broken and created a pretty big gap.  I could easily end up with 400 head of fresh cattle stacked up in this corner, so it's probably a good idea to patch this hole up.  Done.

Driving on down the fence line (it's only 8 miles long....) I found a couple of broken wires.  Here I'm using my handy dandy fence stretcher to pull the ends together.  In the old days, we'd loop the ends like this, but on old rusty wire like this fence, the loops would frequently break.  I've found a better way....

....I use sleeves and a modified pair of bolt cutters to make a much better repair.  I'm using a little new wire here because I had to cut out some of the old.  I cut the loop off, slid the sleeve over both pieces and clamped it down.  This repair is very solid- I've stretched wire with one of these clips in-line- and works SOOO much better on rusty wire.

Here's a close-up of the clip:

I also found some spots like this:

What's going on here is that a post is broken and there's a big gap in the fence.  Steers will find this open area and push thru, so what I need to do is drive a new steel post, and that's what I'm doing in the picture below.  That driver weighs about 45 lbs and believe me, you drive posts with that thing for awhile and you'll find new muscles.  I left this picture full sized so you can see the huge expanses we've got out here.  Quite a contrast in weather from last week, huh?

And here's the patched up section of fence.  The telephoto effect makes the gap look uneven, but it's really not. If you look carefully between my new post and the next post (there's two real close together), you'll see a pronghorn antelope scrape.

Here's a closeup of the scrape.  What we have here is a buck marking both sides of the fence as his little territory.  You can clearly see where he's worn a path under the fence, scraped a little bit, and the urinated and defecated in the scrape.

In this next picture, we can clearly see hoof marks (left side)  in the scrape where he's pawed the ground:

I patched about 1/2 dozen holes and drove a couple of posts.  The fence actually looked pretty good and since this is such a big pasture, the cattle rarely crowd it.  I should be okay.  We'll see what tomorrow brings!!!  Stay tuned.

April 30, 2004: CATTLE ARE HERE!!! Most of the cattle arrived yesterday via 14 semi-trucks.  The weather cooperated, it didn't rain, snow, or hail, and all 14 trucks got here safely.  Thank you, God!  This is the sight that greeted me at 5 am:

There are 14 trucks lined up on the dirt road in front of our house.  At first I thought there were only 12, but there are 2 in the middle with their lights off.  At 6:30 am, I drove over, and led them down the road to the pens where we were unloading.

Below, we have a dark shot of a truck backed up the loading chute.  I'm surprised at how dark the remaining pictures are- the light wasn't as good as I thought!  Of course, here I'm shooting directly into the morning sun, but still.....

Again, a dark shot of cattle coming off the truck.  My job is to stand here and count them as they come off.  That's the brand-inspector to the far right- he's also counting and looking for brands and diseased cattle.  That's my pastor just past him.  He came over to help me just in case something came up.  Everything went smoothly and that's good!

Here's a small group of 200-ish cattle in the portable pens.  I released groups of 200 out into pasture and Pastor Bart and his son Kyler used  horses to slow them down and direct them a little bit.  This bunch was pretty well behaved, but I've had some years when they ran out of the pens and didn't stop running for a long ways, like over the cattleguards and over the fences!

Below, shooting again into the morning sun, are cattle breaking for freedom into the pasture.  They don't just gently and slowly walk out!

And here's a line of cattle in the pasture.  This is what I don't like to see- a line of cattle strung out and running.  They'll follow the lead steers forever.  But, we watched these and as they started going over the horizon, they slowed down and started grazing, so I was happy about that.

And later on, I went out to check and found cattle spread out and resting.  This bunch is laying down, chewing their cuds.  That's good!

So, all in all, the unloading went extremely well.  Nothing broke, no one was hurt, no one got stuck, the numbers matched, and we were done by 10 am.

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