January 9, 2009

South Dakota at Sunset

After a couple days at home waiting for a load, we were dispatched to haul cattle. It was an early morning call on Wednesday that left us rushing to throw our things in the truck, and in my hast and concern that I get all the girls things, I left my coat hanging by the back door. Nice move!

We drove to Steve's office where we got the pleasant instructions to hook up to a triple axle trailer. You see, these bull racks come in tandom, like a normal trailer and thats all we've ever hauled. The guys like to tease us about hauling the baby trailer. Its all in good sport, but its a dissappointment too because the bigger trailers haul more weight which means your making more money. The other options are triple and quad axles or a spread axle and most of the other guys haul the 3's and 4's. No one could ever figure out why Steve didn't have us on a bigger trailer, but that was his choice and I guess he had his purposes.

So its back to the cattle trail from various points in Montana to various points in Colorado and there abouts. We loaded east of Billings and took fats (feedlot cattle) to the kill plant in Fort Morgan, CO.
It's good to be back on cattle. I like it. I like the country we travel and I like traveling with people we know. Yesterday on our way back north we traveled with three guys we'd delivered with. We all stopped to eat together and fueled together, and even when there was no one talking on the CB, it was still nice to see the truck in front and the truck in back and know that you were traveling with buddies. Its a nice way to be.
From Bowman, ND they all went north to Dickinson, but we were sent west to Miles City, MT where we ran into another buddy, Doug, and parked next to each other and breakfasted together. I guess the down side of this cow haulin' is we don't see the house as often and its more tiring because its more constant driving. But honestly, for now anyway, its worth it. And round about the time I'm getting burnt out on it and wanting to get a shower more often and do some laundry, things will die down again and we'll be sent home and back to reefer more than likely.

Cows are supposedly going to be moving good till the end of the month and maybe into February.
As far as the weather goes....its weird, and thats my personal opinion. Yesterday was balmy, in the 50's actually! Talk about a thaw! And of course when things thaw it gets all mushy, wet, muddy, and nasty. So that part was a pain in the you know where when it came to taking the girls out. I was reduced to taking them one at a time just so I could hold their muddy feet away from me so I wouldn't get dirty.

We came north through Nebraska and South Dakota because the wind was bad in Wyoming and too risky of a blow over. So we all headed that way, and it worked out nice cause we were able to stop in Belle Fourche and meet Malcolm's parents and sister on their way to Rapid City to run errands. Rachelle had brought her new cat, Luna, with her so we could see her. She is SUPER neat! Can't even begin to explain how neat. She's one of those Sphinx cats, the hairless ones, and if you ever get a chance to go see one, please do! Its worth it.

Heading back north it was questionable what was going to happen the next day. Reports from other drivers, called in to our traveling companions cell phones and such, said that it was "raining like hell" and twelve degrees in north-eastern Montana. Didn't sound good for western North Dakota where we were heading. But for the time being, it was open country, open road, and a glorious sunset in South Dakota.
The sunset as seen from the passenger side mirror. We were heading the wrong direction to have a frontal view, but it turned the surrounding area, with the snow and sage, all pink and purple wich was just as beautiful.
The open road. Driving north on Hwy 85 in South Dakota you can see ahead of you for miles from the top of each rise. Thats Crow Butte ahead in the distance.

Looking east across the plains you can see Bear Butte standing out in the mist of evening. There is an indian legend that connects Bear Butte with Devil's Tower in Wyoming, but I can't remember the exact story at this moment.

Arriving at Bowman, after our traveling companions had come and gone, we called in to Steve to see where we needed to head. By that time it was 43 degrees and drizzling rain. The other three, who had left us in Belle when we stopped, had gone to Bellfield and had called in to Steve that it was nothing but black ice up there. So we were sent to Miles City where we were supposed to call in and maybe go to Malta in the morning to load. We got there around 8:00pm and parked next to Doug who was asleep. Steve said head for Malta, so we ran into McD's to get a snack for dinner, and just as we were leaving, Steve called and said hold up there for the night. The wind was blowing in Malta and the shipper didn't know if he could get the cows in.

This morning it was 12 degrees when we got up, and all that drizzling rain and melting snow had turned into a nightmare in the parking lot. It was "slick as snot" as Malcolm often says. We had breakfast with Doug, who was told to hold up there for the day (so he's going home to Shepherd because its only 120 miles and he's ready to be home for a day to see his kids) and we were told to head to Sidney, and then to Dickinson....yes thats right, back to where the other three guys were going yesterday. The road....well the interstate is a little slick, left lane iced over pretty good, but the right lane, the one we're in, is just patchy. Nothing out of the ordinary. I checked the internet and up there around Sidney (the area where it was "raining like hell" and 12 degrees yesterday afternoon) its supposed to be "no unnecessary travel". I've learned that many things don't apply to cow haulers, such as stop signs, speed limits, and most other road and traffic laws. And so off we go to travers the "no unnecessary travel" roads. And what I've also learned in this business is that often the road conditons are over exagerated, plus we weigh lots more than common cars, so we'll probably just be fine. You just take it slow, don't make fast moves, and don't be foolish. When it gets too bad you stop and call and tell him its too bad, and he is understanding and tells us to use our judgement and not take risks.

It was stupid, all this traversing the country side. We took a very round about way to get to Dickinson, and that stinks because in the cow haulin' part of this job, we eat the empty miles. Its just part of it though. We're always going the round about way, avoiding wind in Wyoming when we're empty, dodging storms and such like last night and this moring, and going to loads that get canceled mid-way there and having to change directions. Just part of the game we play.

Its a world of men. Among all our cow haulin' buddies, I'm the only woman. They are nice to me, these rough and rowdy guys. They tone down their language, most of them, and seem to mind their manners a little more, and so forth. I know because when we first started last year a lot of them didn't know I was in the truck and they'd get to going on the CB and one of them that did know I was there would get on the CB and holler at them to "tone it down, there's a lady present." And they arn't all rough and crude. Some have a tough exterior and are just really great guys on the inside. Some are weathered gentlemen, and then some are rough and crude, adn some are clean cut and clean mannered. They are, despite their rough ways, good guys, most of them anyway. And basically the only people I know in Montana other than family, so I'm kind of attached to them. There are stories there....another post for another day.

1 comment:

Meagan said...

Hey! Your pictures are amazing - as always! the second is my favorite and is totally worthy of your photo blog! I have started just posting random good pictures, even though I still want to do the class!! The second assignment is throwing me for a loop and I think I really need a second set of hands to try the shots I want!

I am following your blog officially now! I would have sooner, but I didn't see it down there!

Love the slide show!!