From time to time I would help out a couple local ranchers when they moved their cows to or from the high country. Most often it was with Donny and his cousins who own ranches next to each other and share the same Forest Service grazing permit. This was nothing like in the movie, City Slickers. This was going through some rugged country with a lot of hours in the saddle.
This one time we were bringing the cattle out of the mountains. Donny and I were by ourselves and had our work cut out that day. We started from the top of Lost Creek Pass and worked our way down. I took one drainage and he took the other and the plan was to gather all the cows lower down where the two drainages came together. I had gathered up a hundred or so and was waiting for Donny to bring his bunch down. All of a sudden I could hear him yelling and he was half way up to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. He kept waving for me to come up. I really didn’t want to go up there as my horse was just about spent, but he kept waving and he was the boss. So I urged my poor tired horse on up. When I got close there was Donny looking down this hole in the ground. It turned out to be an old vertical mine shaft about 25 feet deep and their was a calf in the bottom of it. I took my rope, made a dally around the saddle horn and Donny lowered himself down to tie it around the calf. When he got to the bottom I threw the other end of the rope down to him and said “now just how good a friends you think we are and how about that raise in pay we been talking about”? After some kind of language that I wouldn’t care to repeat, he threw the rope back up to me. He crawled back up and between the two of us we hoisted that poor calf up. It must have been down there awhile as it looked like the last of ten thousand. We took it down the mountain a ways and left it by this small spring as there was no way it was going to keep up with the herd and we had to get moving to get them down before dark.
The next day we rode back up to get that calf but he was nowhere to be found. Either a bear or a mountain lion had found him first. These things happen in the high country and sometimes Mother Nature can be very cruel.
I guess the morale to this story is if you lower yourself down a hole and the only way back out is with the help from your friend, you better make sure he is a good friend and if you owe him any money, throw up you wallet first.