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AMY KIRK: Moving cows with the family

Over the years, moving our cows out to summer range has gone through some changes, beginning with diaper changes.

As my husband and I evolved from a couple to parents, the dynamics of our cow-moving crew has seen some changes, although my husband's job has always stayed the same: ride herd on cows and crew. For several years, I was demoted from horseback rider to driver, slowing down oncoming traffic when it was necessary and bringing the pickup and trailer with what was left of our picnic lunch after kids had snacked their way through the good stuff. My position in the saddle seat got moved to the pickup seat in order to tend to my motherhood duties of our cow kids. During their diaper years, I herded them more than I helped herd our cows. I was in charge of bringing the pickup, trailer and lunch, and meeting up with the riders.

I must come clean with my selfishness: It was hard to give up my seat in the saddle. I liked the job I had from the saddle seat better, because wrangling from the pickup seat was much more work. Our tots wouldn't take naps, and keeping them occupied and satiated was an ongoing challenge. A few times, changing dirty diapers on the pickup seat required improvising because I had forgotten to bring baby wipes, but I will say that our kids were always good about keeping my mind off my old job as a horseback rider. Whenever there was a lull in the cow-moving activity or their snacking, they would say to me, "Are we done yet?"

Moving cows out to summer range was asking a lot of our youngsters and cut into their playtime, so I developed a ploy to get them excited about moving cows by telling them we were going to have a picnic once we got the cows moved, and there would be pop and candy bars (stuff I normally tabooed). This excited them, but the drawbacks in telling them were that they remembered, and within half an hour they wanted to have something from the lunchbox. There were never enough snacks to satisfy their boredom and as long as they knew I had food and pop, they weren't interested in taking any naps.

Once my husband and I felt our kids were old enough to withstand the lengthy horseback ride, I got my old job back and the whole family saddled up, so I started bringing our lunch in saddlebags. The first few years our kids rode along they liked asking me questions about trailing cows to summer range such as, "Are we almost there yet?" or the more popular question, "Can I have a snack/pop?" They couldn't wait to dig into the snacks as soon as we had cows gathered and headed down the trail.

Now that our kids are self-sufficient teenage riders, moving cows has become a lot more efficient. Our kids are good help, know what to do and can tolerate the long horseback ride to move cows all the way out to summer range then ride back home. Our kids have helped us carry on the tradition of moving cows to summer range every June 1: They still ask if they can have a pop and candy bar before we get there.