Anthropologists have found that cavemen and modern rodeo cowboys have similar skeletal damages. Not all cowboys are rodeo cowboys and some are in fact cowgirls, or as I like to call them, cowhands (because it has been a few years since I was a girl). In addition, Dad’s primary mandate on the ranch was “make a hand”. Standing by and watching someone work was not really an option. However, as with most things in life, ranch work and the people who do it change over time. Sure, handling livestock and the associated equipment can indeed be dangerous. Anthropologists as well as occupational record keepers have noted that farmers and ranchers hurt themselves worse than in any other occupation. Logically than, to avoid maiming or dismemberment or worse, safety is important. Whoever said cowhands were logical?
Dad modernized our operation over time by putting a DoAll Loader on our 1030 Case, buying a Ford with a DewEze, and later putting a Hydra Bed bale loader on a Dodge. Then we needed a few round bale feeders. Then I talked him into a portable head catch because pulling a calf alone with that rope around a hitching post was going to cost me a finger. Then we decided we had to have some of those portable panels. Dad was a genuine cowboy for sixty years before he trailered his horses anywhere, but that gooseneck fifth wheel trailer sure looked fine. We lamented not having a gun rack in the cab on which to hang our ropes. We were real ranchers now! We discovered with some trial and error that all that awkward heavy stuff had to be moved and sometimes further than one wanted to road a tractor. The Hydra Bed became our favorite tool. With a couple of small six-foot chains with hooks on either end, we could move anything with the arms of the Hydra Bed.
Moving panels is a difficult chore that absolutely requires working TOGETHER. Dad pushed, I pulled, we would stumble, there were words …. We would lower and widen the arms of the Hydra Bed so the spinners on the ends were close to the height of the panels. We would stand the panels in a stack just under the spinners at the end of the arms so the weight of the panel was against the arms. When we had the desired number of panels chained on the spinners, we would lift the whole mess for transport. That sounds reasonable enough except the hydraulic pump on the Hydra Bed would lose oil and unless the pickup was running, the arms would settle. Unfortunately, the Dodge did not have a reliable emergency brake so we could not leave it running. If we did not have the panels balanced perfectly, the whole shebang would crash to the ground. That is about 800 pounds that one person simply can not or should not attempt to hold up. Hence, Ranch Rule Number One: Let Go and Jump Back! Eventually, stacking the panels against something other than the Hydra Bed arms before we chained them for transport became the norm.
The Dodge became the chief workhorse on the ranch and gave rise to many interesting adventures as well as Ranch Rule Number Two: Sometimes You Just Have to Ride Away. More on that later.