Revisiting Ranch Country

It’s time for a trip back to ranch country which means another lesson in the country’s language (you can read the first lesson at archives section). The following are more words and popular slang terms used by natives of ranch country.

Gather: To scatter in all directions or spread out. By doing so, horseback riders can search for cows in a large area. As riders find a few head of cows here and there, cows are pushed in the same direction and merged into one large herd to be brought into an enclosed area such as corrals for sorting or loading purposes.

Broken mouth: If you overhear two ranchers talking about their broken mouths, they aren’t referring to the bar brawling days of their youth. They’re comparing their old cows—specifically the cows that are getting old and starting to lose their teeth.

Hustle: To move NOW; move fast, with great speed; quicker than a super hero; often spoken by the rancher in charge who needs you to hurry over to a particular spot very quickly.

Bulling: The behavior of a very anxious cow whose biological clock is ticking.

Foot Rot: Often mistaken for the foot rot found in humans of developed countries, mostly the U.S., and associated with excessive walking during shopping, where people experience lameness in the feet from extensive mall shopping/walking. In ranch country, it’s a type of lameness in cattle. Caused from inflammation of the skin, foot rot usually occurs at the cleft of a bovine’s foot that’s gotten infected due to a puncture wound of the foot or extremely wet conditions that have softened the skin, making the area more susceptible to infection.

Get the gate: Means you. He’s driving.

Smooth mouth: Has nothing to do with a rancher who is a smooth talker. Just that his cow’s a gummer. She has no teeth. She’s old.

Dry Cow: There is the distinct possibility that a dry cow could also be thirsty, but in ranch country, dry generally refers to a cow that is no longer lactating.

Bluffing: A necessary means for getting a cow, bull, heifer or steer in for necessary care, observation, or protection. Bluffing is commonly used in order to avoid the animal’s skirting past the handler and getting away, thus making the task increasingly more challenging.

Ground Hay: A type of hay that sits on the ground in piles and has been run through a hay grinder for cattle, especially calves, which makes hay easier for them to consume.

Chaps: A term with two totally different meanings and pronunciations. 1) (Pronounced shaps) Leather legging outerwear worn by horseback riders to protect and/or keep their legs warm. 2) (Pronounced chaps) To become highly irritated—as in “That really chaps my…”

I need your help for a sec: A warning; a signal to be on high alert; a sign of severe trouble that you are about to partake in. A term that is used only when a native has been unsuccessful in doing everything possible to accomplish a task alone, especially with cattle, and out of desperation, has come to the realization that outside help is needed in order to complete it.

That concludes today’s lesson. Proper studying and memorization should boost your communication in ranch country and enable you to “go native” with confidence.

column originally published February 21-27, 2010

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