Today was a milestone for me. I finally got to saddle up next to a good ole friend, Kelley McCreery. Our history goes way back to cattle drives and brandings in the southern Big Horns during the early 1980's. I wasn't much help back then, being all of about 4 or 5. But those memories are burned into my mind. Well today, we set out to drive cattle once again.
Kelley and his wife Nadine have deep roots in Campbell County. Today, they manage their family ranch land by running another outfit's yearlings.
Kelley and Dad were friends in the oil field. He'd come up and spend time with us in the mountains.
July brandings were the highlight of his year back then, as it was for all of us. He'd take the week off from moving drilling rigs and help the Lungren family trail cattle up the Cherry Creek stock drive and brand the calves when they got to the summer range.
Kelley left the Worland area in the mid 80's and I hadn't seen him since. I knew he was living back in Gillette, so I kept my eye out for him. One day, in the spring of 2021, I spotted him in at Lula Belles. I knew him in an instant and it didn't take him long to connect the dots back to another time. Since then, we get together every once in a while and trade stories.
Today, a Lungren/McCreery duo teamed up once again. When the National High School Finals Rodeo are in town, Kelley and Nadine supply the yearlings for their team penning and cutting events. This requires them rounding up 1-2 cattle pots worth of cattle each morning to provide the contestants with fresh cattle. As providence would have it, I was able to help them round up a 1200 acre pasture and push some 650 yearlings through the gate and into the next lot. The Canada smoke is starting to roll back into the lower 48.
For a special occasion such as this I busted out my new chaps. I was planning on riding Chief, but he didn't take the bait into my catch pen this morning, so I took my big steed Mollie.
Campbell County prairie is so interesting. There are these little mounds all over the country. Most of them have scoria at the top, indicating to me that they were once smoke flues for a burning coal seam. I'd like to learn more about their geology.
Then out in the middle of things, you'll find astroid looking rocks that sit there like they've fallen out of the sky.
Slowly we started to get the yearlings bunched up.
Water in prairie pasture is everything. These days, instead of relying on reservoirs, guys have drilled wells and pumped water to a storage tank on a high point where they are able to gravity feed water to tanks all around the area.
Yearlings are fun to chase when they are going in the right direction. But it doesn't take much of a glitch to scatter the scene and make you start all over again.
We met up with Kelley's son Pat and his posse of riders, who were cleaning house from the other end of the pasture.
Once gathered together, the big rush began.
Hole in the wall gates are not easy to trail through. Fortunately this experienced crew of cowboys was one thought ahead of the girls and made them turn before they could think otherwise. Another well job done.
Long live cowboys.
My heroes have always been cowboys, and they still are it seems. Kelley inspired me as a kid and he still does today. Keep up the Good work, partner. The world could use a few more cowboys like Kelley McCreery.