© words & music by Annie Wilson
from CD Sky & Water, Wind & Grass

Album Note:  This describes an actual experience I had working with neighbors: straightening out a big cattle mix-up - in a remote pasture without any sorting pens.  This cowboy and his horse had such an uncanny ability to work with those animals that if I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.

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We were far up in the pastures    
No road for miles away 
The dawn sky gray and misted    
On this day in early May 
Spring fires-had burned the hedge posts
& the steers had crossed the fence 
So now we had to check and sort  
Through several hundred head 

We rode the heifers’ pasture first   
To gather up stray steers 
Some heifers tagged along  
although we tried to keep ‘em clear 
We brought the whole bunch thru the gate  
Where-the steers all should've been 
And took em to the corner   
Where the sorting would begin 

My heart sank at the prospect   
This job could take us days 
There-might be two hundred head here
I thought: there’s just no way 
Us riders cannot do this
With no holding pens or gates 
But then our neighbor Ray began   
To cut out his first stray 

Tall and calm on his roan gelding   
He’d separate a few 
His steps were slow and measured   
Man and horse knew what to do 
They’d guide the steers on down the fence   
And push the heifers in 
He was getting all these half-wild yearlings
organized again 

Our job was just to hold ‘em   
For if they got away 
We’d have to start all over 
surely try another day 
We watched their moves so closely   
In-case one would escape 
In our stirrups tense and ready
if we had to catch a stray 

I chased a few wild heifers   
And my horse he loved the rush 
We’d guide ‘em in a big U-turn   
And back into the bunch 
The roan and Ray kept working    
It was a privilege to watch 
Every second of their patient pace  
Saved hours of work for us 

At the end it seemed a miracle  
When the sorting all was through 
I felt just plain exhausted   
But Ray was calm and cool 
We ran the sorted heifers back   
And then all headed home 
And I knew I’d seen true skill that day   
Of Ray on his tall roan