Running Cattle down in Kettle Creek

This was their new home for the next six months, before being sold and shipped off to the slaughterhouse. But our job was not done. These young cattle did not know where Kettle Creek was located.

We would let them graze for roughly a day. By that time they got really thirsty. The calves came up to the fence where they were herded a day earlier and start bawling “like a sick calf.” My brothers and I had to drive them down to the water. There were two possible paths. One was an old road that led from the farmland plateau, the other was an abandoned road along the northern side of Kettle Hollow pasture.

With yelling and walking sticks, we chased the livestock down into the valley. When they got close enough to Kettle Creek, they could smell the water, and eagerly bolted to the running stream. Amazingly, we only had to do this one time, because they were able to remember where the water was located.

Counting the cattle was important. We heard there were rustlers about. Not the Old West rustlers on horseback that cut out a few cattle from a herd and were rebranded. Modern rustlers used pickup trucks, a cattle chute, and the dead of night. Cattle ended up missing over in Iowa. On another occasion, six cows were “lost” up in Vernon County.

Every few days one of us was assigned the task of counting the herd. I liked the job. The chore gave me a chance to escape harder jobs, like digging fence post holes or pulling weeds or working in the garden. I sure took my time! I recall walking to Kettle Hollow often. Not just to count cattle, but I also enjoyed looking for pretty rocks, cutting wood, or hunting squirrels.


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