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Open Range: Cowboying is going to the dogs

Barrie Quallie is a Wallowa County-based cowboy and author.

Published on June 12, 2018 12:58PM

I look at a lot of this county’s steep rough country and think to myself that those guys who run cattle here must want to ranch awfully bad.

I don’t think some of it could be successfully ranched without top-notch employees of the four legged kind. Not horses, border collies.

Some of the Imnaha and Joseph Creek country give me the chills. It’s country where you need a $500 horse and a $2,500 dog. I know most ranchers appreciate a good dog not only for their ability to dig cattle out of inaccessible places but also for their work ethic.

I think the dumbest border collie is smarter than the smartest dog of any other breed (Don Kiser quote). I was gathering cattle on a ranch where the higher country was enveloped in fog. When we got up where the cattle were, I got pretty lost but found the eastern fence and started pushing cattle toward the corrals.

At times I could only hear them and my dog Blaze pushing. Blaze knew the ranch and where the corrals were. After a while I lost track of him, and when I dropped out of the fog, I could see the other cowboys with what cattle they had found and it wasn’t enough.

I pressed the cattle I had to the others and rode up to the boss. He was pretty upset that we had missed so many cattle, about 150. We were about to call it quits when Blaze saved the day, he came out of a canyon with the missing cattle and brought them to us.

A guy I worked with had three dogs that were exceptional. In rough country, ranchers gladly paid him an extra day’s wages for his dogs because they could do the work of four or five guys on horses in that country.

For all their good points there are some bad things about these dogs. They are bad about lying. Blaze wasn’t supposed to leave the ranch, and he knew the property lines.

If he were caught out of bounds, he would run into brush on the border and sneak down to the barn and then come from that direction trying to make you believe it must have been another dog that resembled him off premises.

Dan Probert has a dog that is a thief. On more than one occasion his dog, who knows at brandings there is a bag of doughnuts. When no one is watching, he gets away with them. He considers a 50-foot head start puts him out of the range of discipline.

I remember a story about a sheepherder who died somewhere south of Ft. Benton, Mont., years ago. Someone brought his body and wagon to town. His Border Collie trailed along and hung around the undertakers while the body was prepared for shipment back east.

When the casket was placed in the baggage car on the eastbound train, the dog tried to board also. Failing that, he chased the train as it left the station. The next day he showed up at the station and waited.

When the west bound train came in, he met it and went to the baggage car. From that day on he met every west bound train hoping his owner would return. The people in town would sometimes feed the dog but he never would take up with anyone and never missed a train for the rest of his life. You can’t buy loyalty like that.

The 11th annual CJD Ranch Rodeo is June 30. There is a trail ride open to the public June 29 leaving the rodeo grounds at 2:30 p.m. and a dinner that night starting about 6 p.m..

The ranch rodeo has gotten bigger and better every year with 10-15 teams made up of local cowboys you all know. Like most things such as this, it wouldn’t come off without a lot of volunteers.

Some of the people that work really hard to pull this off are Robin Lewis, Rawley Bixby, Randle Eschler, Dave Yost, Char Williams and several others. Guys like Dan Probert donate cattle for the event and make it work.

Be sure to save the date and support this very worthwhile scholarship funding event.

Barrie Quallie is a Wallowa County-based cowboy and author.


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