Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Cattle Work

I needed to move a couple of logs this morning.  The larger was 34" at the base, 22" at the small end and about twenty feet long.  The last flood had washed it downstream onto a neighbor's land.  The oxen came in just fine, I yoked them and we took off.  I carried a cant hook.  I let let them drag the logging chain.  The first log was beside the creek.  The creek has a short, steep bank.  We have had a very wet winter, the ground is muddy and the oxen were sinking about six inches on each step.  The approach was through some blackberry brambles, too narrow for me to walk beside them so I followed and gave the commands from behind.
To get the boys hooked up to the log, I had the lead yoke go straight up to the log, "Whoa" then had them "Pivot haw" (pivot left) with Charles and William at "Whoa".  I moved them a little bit forward then had the second yoke come up to the log and do the same thing.  This gave me plenty of room to put the chain on the log.  William moved while I was hooking up the chain and stepped across the chain.  I corrected him for it and straightened things out.  All hooked up, I could not walk beside the team again so I got out of the way and told the boys "Haw up."  George took over and they started up the bank.  William balked when he got to the steep part of the bank and the whole team stopped.  I yelled at him and Charlie reached over and poked him with a horn.  In his defense, he was sinking a foot deep in the slop of the bank.  I went back down by the trailing pair and gave "Up" again.  They pulled it up just fine.  The hard part of the pull was when the log dug into the dirt at the top of the bank.  It scooped out a foot deep notch.  William did not balk at that, but he was on level ground by that time.
They had to thread their way through some cedars and more blackberries.  I just followed along behind.  George took  them back to our place just fine.  You can  tell from the picture that I am way behind the team.  George made all the turns.  Charlie did not follow as well as I like.  I hollered "Whoa" at our little parking area.  They all backed up one step on command.  I unhooked the chain.  I gave George and James a "Pivot gee" with Charles and William at "Whoa", then had the second yoke "Follow".  It worked perfectly.  The next log was smaller, and the team did better. 
The one other occurrence was that when I unyoked at the end of the work, Charlie went after William and roughed him up a bit.  William ran off.  Charlie did not follow.  I suspect that Charlie was upset at William's mistakes, but there is no way of knowing.  The team is so good that I forget that William has been with us less than a year.  He is four years old and the others are eight.  Not working for a few days is tougher on him.

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