Good Samaritan Debbie Larose settles down a trio of David Zirnhelt’s yearlings on the loose last week. Angie Mindus photo

Stampeded cattle and adaptive penning at cow town capers

Lest we forget, Williams Lake is still a cow town, at least sometimes

By David Zirnhelt

Ranch Musings

As it has been frosting for the past week, it has prodded me to ensure all the pipes and troughs for stock water have been winterized, I get that slight sad feeling that summer and Indian summer is truly over.

But before the hard fall work of roundup, sorting and selling, we had a fall event in town to enjoy.

Our family took 15 yearlings to town for the use of the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Applied Sustainable Ranching program (ASUR). This workshop was part of the course called Skill Development and Diversification. Curt Pate was the expert brought in to teach for three days.

I really enjoyed taking the oldest grandchildren (10 and eight years old) to camp out at the Stampede Grounds. Their parents were wholly supportive of the advanced education they received from Curt Pate, master stockman.

Since many of our generation grew up yelling at cattle and some of the people (kids and spouses) while handling these cattle, I thought it best the grandchildren learn from expert “others” whenever possible.

That was a wonderful experience watching the next generation learn to start colts and familiarize cattle with being handled (held, moved and sorted) on foot and on horseback.

When we got the second load of cattle into the stampede facilities, we went for a load of horses so students who did not have their own horses could ride.

We are a host family for the TRU program and have two students with us for the winter, one from Mexico and one from Kelowna. In preparation for the workshop, I had them handle cattle on foot and introduced them to horseback riding and moving cattle.

That was a smart thing to do. So when open fence panels and gates at the Stampede Grounds allowed cattle out, they and other students were able to get 12 of the 15 yearlings back into the holding pen.

When we arrived back to town we were greeted by a police officer who had been on the cattle chase. He informed us that the students and neighbours holding the cattle needed reinforcements.

With the help of other students and some itinerant riders from the neighbourhood the rest had been followed uptown all the way to the Catholic School, which fortunately has a steel mesh fence most of the way around it.

The student from Ghana and others were now holding two head behind the Catholic school, and one solitary spooky heifer was cornered on a lawn on Pigeon, having been frightened and left the other two head in their sanctuary.

A weak spot in the corralling on the Pigeon lawn allowed the single wild thing (scared to death with all the traffic and chasers) to leap over a short fence and head off downtown generally towards the Stampede Grounds.

So much for our effort with portable panels to direct her into the stock trailer. Family members having dinner at Joey’s saw her running by on her way to the golf course, via Mackenzie and Highway 20. Really exciting for an eight and ten year old.

Social media had a field day with these cow town capers, but it didn’t lead to any hot tips on her location. The Tribune kindly ran a story with a contact phone number in it.

We rode and we drove looking for the poor creature which really needed to chill out albeit by herself. So afraid of people she was that we needn’t fear her endangering anyone.

Fortunately, the ranch and range holders in the vicinity have come to our aid and will encourage her to come in with their range cattle. This is much better than trapping, cornering and further agitating an already fearful animal.

Don’t take your cows to town, son. Now there is a funny side to this event. The grandchildren were terribly excited that the university course that occasioned the event and which they were attending, involved their family’s cows.

Lest we forget, Williams Lake is still a cow town, at least sometimes. With good training a rodeo (animals competing for their freedom) can become a rodear (a roundup or corralling).

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