Vagneur: When clocks don’t mean a thing |

Vagneur: When clocks don’t mean a thing

Waiting for the herd to arrive, we were looking into the black abyss — no sound, except the sound of darkness — and then through the night, a faint echo of a bellowing cow, then more cows and bellows, but nothing to see except the blackness. At about 100 yards away, we began to pick up the vision of the cattle, but not as one might see them in the daylight. Instead, it was just a line of darker blackness in the already totally black distance.

We had a lot of work to get done before 10 a.m., and that’s why we were out there at an insane time of the morning trying to round up black cows in pitch blackness. As the veterinarian said, after a plea from us to come at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m., “Well, I reckon you boys have a lot of work to get done and you’re gonna need some daylight to get it done. But I can’t pregnancy check all those cows in a day if we wait any longer than that.”

That’s what daylight saving time will do for you. Most ranchers hate it, all of us are forced to live with it, and there’s a guy over in Mesa County who actually says he likes it. Ranchers and their animals work around the sun, not a damned clock.

Back when I was a teenager, I had a 3 p.m. date with the Pitkin County Courthouse over a speeding ticket. Coincidentally, and independently, the town of Aspen had gone onto experimental daylight saving time, the only town in Colorado, and maybe the entire nation, to do so.

Naturally, the courthouse, although within the town but not bound by its rules, did not embrace monkeying around with the clock, and I missed my appointment with the law. A warrant for my arrest could have been issued for failure to appear, but being the type of man he was, Justice of the Peace John Mathias called me on the phone to get the situation straightened out.

If I correctly recall, that early 1960s stunt with daylight saving time, well before Richard Nixon mandated such a trick on nature, was one of the first inklings, statewide if not nationwide, that maybe Aspen had its governmental head up its proverbial ass.

Soon, the half-light of early dawn began to creep its way over the mountains and at last we could partially see the bovine beasts we were after. But in that no man’s light, where nature takes a break before dawn, the cattle bunched up and refused to go any further. Peripheral vision alerted us to the occasional attempt of a black shadow to flee the herd, perplexed at being jostled so early in the morning.

Eventually, the sky lightened a bit more and we got the cattle into the corrals exactly where we wanted them. Still, it was too dark for us to begin sorting them, so we made our own little herd, mounted on our horses, just waiting for the orb of ever-sustaining life to finally begin its ascent over the horizon.

I’m riding a new horse, a nifty red roan that has been referred to as “Easy” as his real name, although I continually refer to him as “Bud.” There’s no explaining names, I reckon, and he doesn’t get all manic about it if he gets called something else because that’s just how it is.

Brad Day of the McCabe Ranch built some fantastic new corrals for working cattle and we got a chance to try them out for the first time. Man, good corrals make everybody look good. Instead of trying to hold cattle in alleyways based on the coordination of your horse and the will of your heart, there are now various gates that can be closed and opened to keep the cattle where you need them to be.

That means opening and closing numerous gates from the back of your horse, a job that is pleasant and works quite well. It also cuts down on a lot of cussing and yelling at recalcitrant beasts. A horse good on the gates is essential, and my new ride, Easy, has clearly been trained in that regard. He’s only five, so the finishing touches haven’t really been put on him, and from our day’s work, it appears Easy has been trained by a right-handed person, simply by the way he sneaks up on a gate. He’s a right-handed horse and I’m a left-handed rider. By the end of the day, we had reached agreement on many issues. He won some, I won a few, and we got the job done, either way.

And by the time we got trailered home and finished for the day, it was once again pitch black. We didn’t appear to save any daylight that time.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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