I sleep in and rise to a swathe of glum faces and the sharpening of knives. One of the cows they brought in gave birth not so long ago and has a prolapsed womb. They could push it back in but they think it's been hanging out for too long and it's probably infected. It's just a matter of time before the cows dies so they figure it's best to slaughter it now and make the most of the meat while they can.
They lasso the cow, tie it to a tree outside the corral and pummel it in the head a few times with the blunt end of a Pole Axe (um, a big axe on a pole!). The cow looks stunned and a bit surprised but is very much alive, so it gets stabbed in the back of the neck. This cuts the spinal column, killing the brain. It's throat is then slit and as the blood pours out, its life literally drains away until it stops breathing. The only real grisly bit is when the manky ranch dog turns up and starts lapping up the fresh blood in full view of the cow before it had a chance to die. With no time to waste, the cow is skilfully skinned, axed and butchered. There is so much meat, it takes a cart to drag it back to the ranch. As we pass the corral the cattle are disturbingly quiet, as if they know. They just sit there, watching us walk by.
Whilst the ranch hands set about cutting up, salting and drying the tons of fresh meat, Ian and I saddle up some horses and ride out. I'm on Rambo again and am disappointed that no matter how hard I try, shout and kick I can't make the lazy horse canter, let alone gallop. Still it's a pleasant ride to a view point on the top of a small nearby hill. Then it's back to the ranch for a swim in the creek. Sarah joins Ian and I for the swim and I realise she's camera shy! Whilst they go off to do, um, their thing, I find an overhanging palm tree, climb up it and jump off into the creek.
On return to the ranch we decide to go for a ride - only this time I'm on Battle Axe! He's a fighter, has broken ears and he's a goer! Oh yes! He's very responsive and breaks into a gallop at the merest hint - fantastic! Full speed ahead captain! I try riding proper Vaquero style - in flip flops! It's a cool (temperature wise) afternoon in a wonderful setting - you feel isolated in a wild west time warp. Ian had a lesser afternoon. He had trouble with his horse Taliban, broke a stirrup and lost his shades. Oh well, at least there was fresh beef for dinner! (Spine needles stew and braised liver.)
Posted by Steve Eynon