The days are short and it's freezing hard at night. Our kids finished their custom haying jobs and brought their machinery home. For a few days in early September, however, Michael was unable to do any haying, due to illness from a rattlesnake bite on his leg.

He didn't realize it was snakebite at first. He suddenly became weak, dizzy and chilled, thinking he had the worst case of flu ever. He spent two days in bed and several more recovering.

The second day of illness he discovered the tender, feverish knot on his leg and two tiny fang marks. Then he recalled pushing through the brush (getting stray cattle out of the creek bottom in our lower range) the day before he became ill, and having a lot of thorns stuck in his pant legs. He probably was bitten then, and didn't notice.

One thing that may have helped him through it was that he'd been taking antihistamine for allergies, which possibly reduced the effects of his reaction to the snakebite.

He was weak and wobbly during his last haying jobs, but able to run the machinery. I helped him put new shoes on Carolyn's horse in preparation for rounding up cattle, since he was not strong enough to accomplish that task by himself.

Andrea, Carolyn and I started gathering range cattle Sept. 15, bringing in 50 pairs. The next day, Michael rode with us and we put in 115. We rode 11 hours that hot day, and he was feeling the effects by mid-afternoon (weak, with a bad headache).

Andrea went back to a timbered area to find some we'd missed, while Michael, Carolyn and I brought the herd down into our hill pasture. Once there, we spent a few minutes in the shade by the creek, so Michael could put cold water on his head. We then rode up Withington Creek and found a few more cows, getting them down to the pasture before dark.

Andrea had good luck also, bringing several from the area she'd gone back to search. That left only three cows and two calves, which we found the next day.

This was our month for injuries. During the roundup, Carolyn's horse fell with her, twisting and bruising her leg and shoulder, but she was able to continue the ride. I had a branch flip back and hit my eye while charging through the brush on my horse. It didn't injure the surface of the eye much but bruised it badly.

It was so sore I had to keep it closed the rest of that ride, and kept it covered with a makeshift eye patch the next four days while working cattle. It's still not quite right, but it did no permanent damage to vital structures, so I was lucky.

Fall Preconditioning We brought the cows down to the main ranch Sept. 19. The next day, we preg-checked and vaccinated them, vaccinated all the calves and weaned them, and took most of the cows back up to our upper pastures before dark, riding home in the moonlight.

The calves were left in a well-fenced holding pasture. A few days later, we trailed them to a pasture of hayfield aftermath until we ship them later this month.

We tagged the pregnant yearling heifers with their permanent numbers (brisket tags), then took them to another hill pasture. It was definitely time to tag them; four of the 45 had already lost their calfhood eartags (we use eartags on the calves, with their mama's number).

We prefer brisket tags for permanent numbers, since the brisket tags almost never pull out. We've been using them in our cows since 1968, and have only lost four tags in that time. If a cow stays in the herd until she's 16 or 17 (as some of our long-lived crossbred cows do), she still has her tag.

Last week, we hauled a stock trailer load of cull cows to the sale at Rexburg, ID. The cow market has been off a little, but these cows sold very well. Michael and Carolyn drove down the day of the sale and said they looked as good as any that went through that day. It pays to haul them down a day or two before the sale. They always look better and sell better if they have a chance to regain their shrink, fill up again and clean up.