It was another fantastic week out on the ranch! I have been having so much fun on that amazing place. I feel like I’m fully settled now and take comfort in being a part of the daily routine there. How fortunate I am to be a part of the magical land in the Condor Valley! Here is what I had written for the week-
Today I stuck around in Chicoana while most of the others went out to work. I had to stay behind and retrieve my ATM card that the cash machine took from me while I was making a withdraw. Getting to the bank at the next town was easy because there is a bus that goes straight there, however, once at the bank, things ceased to run smoothly. When I showed up I thought I had mistakenly arrived at a ticket office that was giving out free Metallica tickets; there was literally a line out the door. I took a number from the dispenser and it was over 40 numbers away! I don’t know if it is standard to have only three people working at a bank which has 10 work stations, or if the typical Monday at the bank resembles free pinball night at Chuck-e-Cheese, but regardless, the place was seriously understaffed. After a half an hour, a whopping 4 numbers had ticked by. Thankfully a Saint disguised as a chicken farmer had waited long enough and walked out but gave me his number while doing so. Eureka! I just jumped up twenty numbers! In the end I ended up waiting just shy of two hours- thank goodness for Saint Chicken Farmer and the number trade or I probably wouldn’t have gotten helped before they closed that day. Luckily for me, they did in fact have my card, gave it back to me, and I was on my way. That evening Tati, who had come back to town for some reason, picked me up and we headed out to the ranch. We got in late and went straight to bed.
We gathered up most of the cows that we had collected over the last several weeks and ran them through the only chute on the ranch to administer vaccinations. My job was to prod the stubborn cows down the chute, which I can attest, works much more effectively back home with an electric cattle prod, rather than the dull stick here in which I was issued. My detail also included cutting the hair off the end of each cow’s tail to signify that they had indeed received the vaccine. Luckily for me cows don’t constantly crap down their own tail’s all day long. Yeah. My favorite was when they would feel me grabbing for their rear and then whip a freshly shat upon tail across my (usually open mouthed) face. By mid afternoon we ran out of medicine so Tati and I had to run the 50 minutes into town to get more vaccines. Oh darn.
While out riding today we ran across some of the many escaped ranch horses that we see nearly every day. I swear, they can’t even know how many horses they even actually have with so many free ranging out there in the mountains. Anyway, with this band there was a few week old colt that was down with a bad infection. It couldn’t stand so we decided to go back for the tractor and trailer to get him and mama home. Two hours later we got back with the tractor. We managed to get the mare trailered up after 20 minutes of cursing and dodging flying hooves. You could tell that she had never seen, let alone been in a trailer in her life. We thought we were doing great getting the horse ambulance out to them but alas, our efforts were in vain- the colt was just too sick and died about half way back. Poor little feller. That evening I watched Tati and Luiz train a few older colts… Man, those guys sure have a way with horses.
There were seven of us riding this morning and everything started out normal. On the way out to the mountains a motorcycle passed us and everyone’s horse but mine stood completely still and contently watched as it went by. My horse on the other hand blew up and plowed headlong into the thorniest bush in the valley. Once I calmed the horse down and made sure I still had two non-punctured eyeballs, I noticed everyone was laughing at me. One of the chuckling gauchos jutted his chin at my ride and said “nuevo!” (new horse). I’m glad that they are still testing the gringo daily…
I guess there was one other green horse on the ride. Tati, the most savvy of all gauchos, was on a three year old whom was on its first ride out of the pen as far as I could tell. We weren’t ten minutes from the ranch house when it blew up and managed to kick Luiz directly in the knee. Before long his knee was bigger around than the upper part of his thigh and was unable to bear any weight. That didn’t stop him from riding all day on it though- he didn’t think it was necessary to go to the hospital until the next day. Tough bastard.
This morning I branched off on my own and took a six hour solo ride searching for overlooked cattle on the far reach of one side of the ranch. I found a group of eight around mid-morning and then a lone bull about two hours later. I also found a couple bands of aforementioned rogue horses. It was great getting out alone in order to have some time with my thoughts, the mountains, and the blazing heat. It’s spring going on summer here and temps have been pushing a hundred the last few days. Not only is the temperature high, but there must be something about the southern hemisphere that makes the sun’s rays more intense. Even with somewhat of a base tan, if any of my skin is exposed for even fifteen minutes I start looking like I tried to toast marshmallows over a plutonium rod in the core of a nuclear plant. Bust out the SPF 5000 please!