It’s been a while since I wrote about some mysterious winter visitors that I thought could be wild horses. A friend had recently told me about encountering wild horses near Merritt in the 60s, and the idea of wild horses is very romantic, so I guess I wanted the creatures at Monkey Valley to be wild horses. I’d seen a herd of these beautiful creatures after my first vision fast in southern Wyoming, and loved the idea that they might have been wintering on my ranch.
What happened was my mom, sister, and I were at the ranch for the first time since winter, celebrating my mom’s birthday. I noticed some droppings near the house that looked like horse apples. Round, dry droppings, all around the outhouse and near the steps to my back deck. So we tracked the droppings, following them south down the valley. There were lots of droppings, making it seem that a small herd spent the winter here.
Finally, near the south end of the valley we came upon the herd. It was cows. What, cows again!? The poor things had gotten locked in when I left Monkey Valley in December. They had managed to survive the winter by eating dried grass under trees, where the snow didn’t fall. Unlike horses, cows don’t know how to paw at the snow to get to the grass underneath. So it was very lucky that there wasn’t too much snow this winter, and the cows could find some grass to eat. And it was the dryness of their diet that made their droppings look like horse apples instead of cow pies. Yum, apple pie, anyone?
I called the Douglas Lake ranch, and my cowboy friend Steve came out with another cowboy the next day. They were rigged up on horseback, and they herded the four cows out the gate and up to a small pen they had erected on Dillard Road, where they gave the cows some hay. Once they were fed, they loaded three of the cows into a trailer. One cow, which my mom thought was the leader of the small herd, collapsed after she was fed, as if now that she’d led the herd to safety, she couldn’t take another step. It was fascinating to watch the cowboys use their horses and ropes to drag the last cow into the trailer. Even though all the cows were skinny from their sparse winter diet, that’s still a lot of weight!
I later learned from Steve that the downed cow gave birth within the next few days, and another cow did too. How lucky that they were rescued just in time! How lucky that my mom and sister and I went to Monkey Valley for my mom’s birthday!