We have a fabulous neighbour that for years, has managed to muster and fence and do all sorts of property work with a workforce mainly comprising of kids from around the district aged 15 and under. He just LOVES having kids work for him, and guide and shape them into great young workers. Although recently he has been quite dismayed by the fact that his workforce has been shipped off to boarding school and he is running out of workforce when boarding school activities are more attractive on weekends.
So it may have been with an ulterior motive in mind that he invited us and our horses down to "help" muster a small mob of cattle and process them. The kids were keen, fired up by stories from their mates, of mustering adventures at PeterFinlay's. (all one word, his christian name and surname all run together, that's how he's known around here).
He was also excited by the fact that his long and lanky mate (my husband) was getting on a horse after a hiatus of around 7 years. (I may have mentioned before he prefers his horsepower to be Honda branded!)
He took this family snapshot. We borrowed two horses, one for me (I donated my steed to The Husband), an old faithful of The Neighbour's (a nice short pony for mum! I wanted to take him home!) and the gorgeous old Red for Kate. Red is well known around the region for his general amazing-ness.
After the heat of the past weeks, it was a clear and cool morning. Lovely morning for a short ride down the laneway to pick up some cows. We had two other young ringers, old hands, along for the ride too.
The cows weren't exactly wild and misbehaving, so it was a pleasant outing for all. It did get a bit exciting when bulls started fighting, just as we were yarding up (kids riding to get out of the way all over the place, which is hard to do when the bulls are so determined, and so unpredictable) but no disaster unfolded and was a little bit thrilling for the kids.
The boy child, who is very much a chip off the old block and was lamenting for his motorbike half way home, even rode "solo" on the way home. When I say rode solo, I mean he sat on the back of old dear old Ben, who knows the drill and was quite happy to follow the tail of the mob with his passenger. Ben was quite aware of his passengers skills or lack thereof, and would stop when directed, but turning to go off the track (and expend more energy) well, he was having none of that. It was all home James, but lets not be in TOO much of a rush.
After smoko followed some drafting, and being not a big mob did not take very long. All kids, apart from the leading hand (12 years of age) penning up at the back, were put in the crows nest and didn't they think they were great with a gate each to open.
After lick runs, lunch and a spell in the heat of the day, we branded the small mob of calves.
That would be the 12 year old leading hand Toby doing the branding (I helped him out, just so I wasn't twiddling my thumbs), the rest of the kids penning up the calves and hanging off rails down the back. The neighbour and I agreed it was best to not ever look back.
The Neighbour with all of his disciplines lined up in a row. Kids had a GREAT day, and as always when not working at home, where there is always nearly a rush to get something done, and a cranky parent or two, much more was learnt. The kids were allowed to do much more and given responsibility. And despite being having an easy day, they all slept well last night. Even mum ;-)
Now they should be all trained up for when we brand in a few weeks time, when the cows come in from the bush country. We may have to bring Toby on board to keep the trainees in check, and I may well just stay at home and keep the pikelets coming, read the paper, and paint my toenails.