There’s a long haired calf between me and my coffee

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Cooking in the West

Since our son Bret bought into our ranching operation when he came back to the ranch after college, I am no longer the right hand man in this operation. I have been demoted back to assistant nobody, which is a great title. I love my life of part-time cowgirl and part-time County Superintendent of Schools. However, occasionally I come to the conclusion that I need to get a full-time job. The problem with a part-time job is that the ranch manager/CEO/ husband person feels that since my hours are somewhat flexible that I can be on call as needed in the operation.

The other morning I was leisurely thinking about getting ready to go to work when the CEO came in and said, “That stupid fall calf is still in the wrong pasture. Do you have a minute to come help me get him back in?”

I knew from years of experience that this was a trick question on two levels. First of all, “a minute” might mean three hours, and secondly it was not a question. It meant, “Shake a leg, Woman, the truck is running, and at these slaughter cow prices we can’t afford to let it idle.”

It was spitting sideways sleet as we headed out the door. The calf that had been an “oops” born in November was born in the wild, so he believed he was wild. For some reason known only to wild bovines, he had left his inept heifer mother, crawled through the fence, crossed the bridge, jumped the cattle guard, and was now running with the wrong bunch of cows. Remi had fed the cows right next to the gate into the pasture he belonged in, and he explained that the plan was that he would rope him, and we would drag him through the gate and turn him back in with his mother. Although he didn’t ask if I had any questions, I felt obligated to ask, “Uh, doesn’t he look kind of big? I think we might need a horse.”

“Oh, that’s mostly hair,” he replied as he stepped out of the truck door with his rope.

The dog and I watched as he crouched low behind the cows until he could get a clear shot at the calf. I said to Mitzi, “This will work. We’ll be back in the house in a few minutes.” To my amazement, the first loop settled over the calf’s head like a scene out of Trevor Brazile’s dreams. However, the slack got tangled somewhere between his tattered coverall bottoms and his chore gloves, and the big calf ran through the loop. I settled deeper into the truck seat as he rebuilt his loop, because I knew the calf would be smarter this time. In fact, I could almost smell the coffee waiting for me back at the house. The second sneak and loop was even prettier than the first, and he jerked the slack with a front leg in it so the calf wouldn’t choke down. As he skidded across the frozen ground behind the calf, he was making hand gestures that indicated I should open the gate. Of course, I couldn’t get the gate open, because it was a woven wire man gate designed so that only a team of horses or a man can open it.

I grabbed onto the rope thinking that Remi would now be free to open the gate. The only problem with this phase of the plan was that the calf and I were quickly circling farther from the gate. I started to look for something to dally to, but there really wasn’t time anyway. Now, I am known for my deceptive speed--I am a lot slower than I look, but this calf was forcing my legs to run at a much higher RPM than they were designed for. Both arms felt dislocated, and I was completely winded as we made our third pass near the gate and Remi came to my rescue. We finally managed to drag the fuzzy little devil through the gate.

Now ALL we had to do was drag him through a jungle of cottonwood deadfall down into the creek bed, across the creek, and turn him loose with his mother. All of the commotion had caught her attention, and she began to bawl for him from across the creek. We drug him to the brink of a 15 foot embankment. Then we all stopped to gasp for air, which is when we came up with the brilliant plan to turn him loose now that he had surely spotted his bawling mother. The only problem with this plan was a lack of oxygen to our brains, because of course as soon as he was free, he wheeled and flew back through the open gate.

I voted that it was now half past time for me to go to work, so we should try this later today with a horse, but the way Remi was coiling the rope signaled that was not going to happen. The odds were against catching a twice educated calf between cow behinds while bundled up in coveralls, but either the roping gods were benevolent that day or he is a lot better roper than I realized, because the third loop settled perfectly also. This time, we didn’t turn the calf loose until we had pushed/dragged him down the steep bank, soaked ourselves completely “encouraging” him to cross the creek, and human winched him to a reluctant reunion with his mother who had helpfully taken off in terror for the opposite end of the pasture.

As we hobbled back to the truck, I couldn’t resist saying, “It’s a good thing he was mostly hair, or I might have been more than two hours late for work today!”

One of my favorite cookbooks is a charity cookbook we compiled for the Moline family several years back. One of the hundreds of contributors to that cookbook is my featured cook this week, Barb Berklund of Park City, Montana. Thanks, Barb!

Fluffy Wuffy

1/4 C. butter or margarine

3 eggs

2 C. milk

2 T. sugar

3/4 t. salt

1 C. flour

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in 9x13 pan. Mix remaining ingredients in blender and pour over melted butter. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and puffed. Serves 4-8. May serve with maple syrup, cinnamon and sugar or just plain. (This is a breakfast dish, but we frequently made it for supper.)

Chicken Strips

Cut as many chicken breasts as you want into strips. Put into appropriate dish or in a large zip-lock bag and fill with buttermilk just to coat well. Let sit for 1/2 to 1 hour. Drain well and discard buttermilk. Then using a clean zip-lock bag, shake the pieces lightly in flour, then dip in beaten egg to coat each piece well. Then roll in crushed Italian Bread Crumbs to coat well. Lay in baking sheets and bake 40 minutes or till done at 350 to 375 degrees.

Frozen Ice Cream Dessert

19-oz. pkg Oreo cookies

1/2 C. butter

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream

12 oz. Spanish peanuts

2 C. powdered sugar

1 1/2 C. evaporated (not sweetened condensed) milk

1/2 C. butter

2/3 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Crush cookies, mix with 1/2 C. softened butter. Pat into 9x13 pan. Freeze. Slice vanilla ice cream and pat onto crust. Top ice cream with peanuts. Freeze again. On stove over medium heat, combine powdered sugar, evaporated milk, butter, and chips. Bring to a boil. Boil 8 minutes. (It will look a bit curdled). Remove from heat and let set for 1 hour. Pour over frozen layers and return to freezer. Remember to take out of the freezer at least 20-30 minutes ahead of serving for ease of cutting.