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Before the cows come home

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Photos and text by Jane Bachrach

Carbondalians love it in the fall when the cows come through town on their way from summer pastures on public land to their winter digs back on the ranch. When folks heard the cattle calls and clip clop of hooves on Oct. 19, they poured out of homes and businesses to snap photos and enjoy the unique scene that harkens back to the days when this kind of thing was no big deal. For these onlookers, it’s a sort of show. But there’s a lot of hard work that happens first that people don’t see or know about.

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The Nieslaniks all turn out their cows together during the summer, so they’re obliged to sort ’em by ear tag in the fall so they end up at one of three ranches: Paul and Ted’s, Marty, Parker and Johnny’s or Mark’s. To make that happen, they’re brought down to the sorting pens the day before, but the process continues the day of the drive. Those with missing tags are roped and their brands checked to see where they belong. Ranchers and friends and or family members that are helping break for lunch, some nap, then leave the pens with one herd following another, cowboys, cowgirls and cattle.

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