Not only that, but no one has seen 8 or his cows for three days. By American prices that would be about 5,000$ that had disappeared. He was less nervous about that than I would have been.
So we're off to find the cows, but first have to round up the horses. Sunny and his son each were mounted, but I wasn't. So they pushed the whole herd close to the river where we would have the best chance at catching one. Thankfully I was able to catch mine. Sunny also caught a fresh mount, since he'd been riding his for three days. I had my saddle and bridle with me, and soon we were headed up a rocky crag in the nearest hill.
We crested a hill and rode along a ridge with golden grasses dancing in a light breeze. No cows. Sights set on the next ridge, we descended into another rocky draw. As we crested that hill, a cow became visible on the next hill over. But it turned out to be part of someone else's herd.
So we rode all the way down to another bend in the river, where there were a couple cow's watering, also someone else's. From there we turned north and headed for high ground, pushing our horses along paths ridden with basalt rock and loose gravel. My horse didn't appreciate the steepness or the footing.
A mile or two later we approach a jagged peak of a hill, and the horses naturally want to rest. Directly below beneath some brush in a gully, some cattle are visible. We circle back around on the same face we just climbed. Going down the footing is even worse. It feels more like a snowboarding than equestrian. But we make it alright to find the missing 8 in question.
They look fat and unapologetic for having wandered 6 miles from home without coming home for three nights. It made for a nice ride anyway.
On the way back we stopped at Sunny's dad's homestead, a couple felt tents and a shed, with a horse tied out back. I followed Sunny into the ger. A man of 70, he leaned up in bed and talked with me the whole time I was there. Someone said I was a Jesus person, and he said "hallelujah", and pointed to his New Testament sitting on his bedside table.
After we left, he said his dad hasn't been able to get out of bed for some time. Yet still, here he is living 10 miles from town on the prairie, with his wife to take care of him, at least a mile from any other herdsman family. These people's toughness amazes me. Their wealth would surprise you too. Sunny said to me as we rode away his dad owns over 1000 livestock, whereas he himself only has 200 or so.
I turned my horse loose on the open prairie, put my saddle back in my car, and said goodbye to Sunny. Drove back up to his tent homestead, picked up Maggie, and drove home thinking.
It occurred to me that this simple life, not much changed from three or four hundred years ago, still must risk loss to produce a financial gain. I guess his life isn't all that different after all.