Columnist David Zirnhelt’s grandsons practice some fun roping on his granddaughter at the family ranch. (David ZIrnhelt photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

RANCH MUSINGS: Roping, is that an essential skill for a ranch hand?

We all know someone who has had a digit reducing accident while roping

“Grandpa, can you get us a steer to practice roping?” asked one of the eight year old grandkids. You can bet that at every opportunity, they would prefer to rope an animal. Second best is each other, or at least the bravest.

This is team roping, after all, so one will catch the upper body and one will try to catch the feet. I have even volunteered a time or two. They need little encouragement to practice their skills on anything that moves!

They are itching to be able to rope from their horses, but so far that is forbidden because of the inherent danger in getting a thumb or fingers caught between a rope on a strong calf and the saddle horn.

We all know someone who has had a digit reducing accident while roping.

Needless to say, the youngsters need to know a lot about the horse and the movement of even young calves.

So yesterday was a great day, as we had to put a rope on a calf to take it to a new mother cow who had lost her calf. The neighbour had a twin that could be grafted on to the grieving cow.

I allowed each of two grandchildren a toss of the rope, but that was the extent of the harassment. The first one missed and the second one caught it. They will all be ready for branding day in a month or two.

They don’t seem to mind being dragged through the fresh manure during the excitement of it all. How else does one find out just how strong a one hundred pound calf is?

Roping a calf is still really the only way to catch a calf once they have a little age and are ready for the open range, but tucker out on the cattle drive to spring pasture or have an ailment that holds them up from following the herd and need to be transported.

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These grandchildren practice and practice trying to get in the proverbial ten thousand hours of practice that it is said is needed to become really skilled at something. They are well on their way.

They can be found conferring on the phone about which of their father’s team shirts they will wear and which cowboy hats they will wear.

One mother said they chatted like teenage girls about how to get outfitted for a roping play date where they would use the plastic cow head stuck into a bale of hay or take turns on each other.

We encourage the teamwork because if you ever need to catch a calf that might be the only way. Not everybody catches with the first try!

“Don’t take your ropes to town, boys (and girl)” might have been the catch phrase the other day when a group of grandkids got to play with their town cousins at the bike park. Of course, they had taken their ‘outdated’ scooters to town.

So, when one of the young cowboys had enough of being teased about his scooter from some of the “townies” also at the park, he went to the car and got his rope. He then proceeded to successfully rope the town boy’s scooter. Perfect target, brave roper boy.

This could have turned out badly but to the surprise of the gang, the teasing scooter rider and his sidekicks thought this roper was pretty “cool.”One wonders if the scooter riders had been teenagers, would the outcome have been so cool.

If you ever visit our place, don’t take your eyes off a kid with a lariat (or lasso) or just plain rope. You just might find yourself “headed” and “heeled.”

And if the rope is a braided rawhide one, then it is mine and they shouldn’t have it.

I want to leave some treasures for them all for later on!

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.


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