They say, ‘hard work never killed a man.’ That person has never been to Saddle Mountain Ranches outside Othello.
Dawn breaks and the melody of moos proliferates from the edge of your conscious until it’s the only thing noticeable. And the only reason you weren’t up all night enjoying nature’s finest chorus in the bunkhouse 100 yards from the cow-pen, well, you’ve been averaging 14 hour days for a straight month. Just ask Devon or Darin Michel, owners of Saddle Mountain Ranches. Their last day off was March 12th. The next day off is predicted to be in June sometime. Predicted. Such is the life of a cattle rancher in America today.
And here you thought the bacon wrapped filet you had on your date last night magically appeared in the restaurant’s kitchen as if it dropped from Heaven itself. Out here that mentality receives a friendly chuckle, and then they get back to work. This year the dust has been dampened by the unusual late spring torrents which only increased our labor load and slowed the process to one muddy boot-print after another.
After 15 years of running this show with experienced cowboys, we rookies with gloves couldn’t upset their efficiency.
Our first day started late, (8am) due to said rains and the screaming wind, with a six mile cattle drive in from the many acred pasture north of the ranch. About 2pm the bunkhouse was in sight and soon the cows were grazing mildly and lunch was ready. Tana Mielke, chef de cuisine here at Pomegranate, along with Devon’s fiancée Nicole, and Lisa Dupar helped to prepare some of the best chili ever tasted by man or woman. Of course Washington State beef played the star, and beer from the graying-at-the-temples ice chest outside chilled our supporting cast.
Refreshed and ready to finish herding and then pairing the mothers and calves, we got right to work. At sundown we focused what remained of our energy and corralled the herd and then headed in for dinner. Tonight’s menu: Berkshire pork. Baked potato soaked in olive oil and coated in crushed garlic and salad with farm fresh vegetables. This is the only way to eat if you ask me.
In the early morning as the sun was searing the dark, but wispy cloud cover, we got to it. First order of business was separating the mother from her calf. The calves need a range of procedures from color-coded ear tags linking them and their mother, to; shots, branding and castration.
Another full day of back breaking duties to fulfill faithfully. That’s the code out here for these cowboys. Day in, day out, they labor with a love most of us non-cattle ranchers ever see. The other code out here where natural beauty runs deep, ‘it ain’t bragging if you can do it’. I didn’t see any bragging in this bunch, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Especially when it comes to rope skills, I heard. That, and eating Tana, Nicole and Lisa’s contribution from the kitchen.
I, on the other hand, was a great supervisor, and I’d just like to say here that everyone was amazing to me. After a trip like this, a new appreciation and wonder will occupy the 20,000 acres you graze, too.