A cow camp vacation leads to lessons in patience, multitasking, remounting and not talking.

I spent the last three weeks at a remote cow camp in southern Nevada with my family, including two young cow catchers, mostly because we’re too cheap to go on an actual vacation. Our kids are going to grow up, discover that Disneyland is real, and be really mad at their dad and me.

“What?! The ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ isn’t sitting on the back of whatever half-broke bronc you guys caught for me to ride that day, and wondering if a maverick bull is going to run back up my rope at me and try to eat my shin bone for lunch?! My whole childhood was a lie!”

But that’s a conversation for a later date. Right now, we’re more focused on trying to get the kids to not have conversations, particularly while catching wild cows with their dad. At ages 5 and 8, this is about as difficult as you’d imagine.

young cow catcher
Five-year-old Milo Young went out to catch wild cattle with his dad.
Photo by Jolyn Young

At the beginning of the first day, we issued each child a two-way radio. We instructed them to keep the radios on a string around their necks at all times and to use them only in case of emergency.

Five-year-old Milo lost his radio before they found the first cow. Later, Jim led a maverick bull down a rocky canyon when his radio beeped under his coat.

“Daddy?” came our 8-year-old daughter’s thin, high voice through the battery-powered channel.

Jim pushed the talk button and held his dallies as the black bull snorted and slung his nose against the leg of his chaps. The bull had lived in a desert canyon like a wild animal for all of his seven years. His tail switched and his eyes widened, looking around for the strange new sound.

“Yes?” Jim hissed into the radio.

“I love you,” Grace said.

“I love you, too,” Jim whispered back.

Then he released the button and threw the radio into the brush, where it could be reunited with Milo’s for all eternity or until his children learned the definition of the word “emergency,” whichever came first.

Jim took the kids to spook for him again while he led a pair of cows and a calf out of a different rocky canyon. Milo got limbed off his pony right away, then waited for his dad to dismount and throw him back into the saddle. A couple of hours later, Jim was leading a cow and saw Milo’s black pony run past him. He looked behind him and saw, once again, Milo sitting on the ground beneath a cedar tree.

Jim hollered at our daughter to cease chasing the pony. He approached and gingerly grabbed the reins, then handed them to Grace, all the while still leading the cow. Jim then attempted to coach Milo through the process of remounting while using a large rock, encouraging the boy’s sister to help as necessary. 

At this point, we have established two things about my husband.: 1.) He is a very patient man (or just shorthanded and willing to work with whatever type of help he can get). 2.) Men actually can multitask. I feel like the whole “I can’t change a baby’s diaper and prevent it from falling off the changing table at the same time” act dads have been pulling for years is just a ruse.

Jim wound up retying the cow to a tree and stepping off to help his son. He now conducts remounting clinics on a daily basis, including how to select a suitable rock and leg strengthening exercises.

Also, we have a strict no-radio policy.

Author

Jolyn Young lives with her cowboy husband, Jim, and their three kids near Fallon, Nevada. She chooses to focus on the comical side of life, because her family is going to laugh at her anyway.

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