An homage to the older cow and horse hands out there

The other week, I took this photo of photo of three relatively young men heading out to tag newborn calves at Partido de Resina and some of the comments that were made about the photo on twitter said how good it was to see young people working on the ranches. This got me thinking about the generational divide that’s supposed to exist in Spain regarding the bulls. The gist of the typical narrative is that young people are not interested in the bulls and the fan base for the bulls is ageing. I’m in no position to either cite or rubbish statistics. I do my research in a small corner of the world of the bulls and I’m not trying to assess things on a grand scale. However, being an anthropologist, I suspect that the full story is somewhat more complicated. In the heartlands of bull-breeding I’m sure there are more young people involved than elsewhere – I imagine it varies somewhat depending on regional history too. I suppose the bulls might also sometimes be something that people come to appreciate as they get older.

The youngseters

The younglings sally forth after a mid-morning snack to catch, identify and tag newborn calves. Though Cabezon, the grey horse in the middle is a veteran on the estate and has the opinions and work ethic to go with this status.

The foreman at Partido de Resina is a little older than me (I’m 26) and people of his age and younger often come to help out on the ranch. Also, on big days (like the herradero), there are often children about. However, if there’s one group of people who have been most patient with me, it’s the older vaqueros (stockhands) and aficionados (fans) who work on the estate. Though these venerable and wise fellows are also the ones most likely to make a joke at my expense. I’m never quite sure what to do or say, other than go red, when they insist that the best way of learning Andalusian Spanish would be to have a local girlfriend or friend with “touching rights”.

José, man of many talents, with his horse Bandolero herding youngstock on an Autumn morning.

José, a man of many talents, with his horse Bandolero herding youngstock on a cold Autumn morning. He has not only taking me under his wing in terms of the handling of fighting stock in the corrals, but has also been kind enough to let me ride his horses at his home in order to learn how to ride like a proper vaquero.

Moy, who can get his tractors to do just about anything. He is making the bulls' winter breakfast, mixing cereals with water and straw. It's through working with Moy on the tractors that I've slowly come to know the many different fields and the different groups of cows and bulls they contain.

Moy, who can get his tractors to do just about anything. Here, he is making the bulls’ winter breakfast, mixing cereals with water and straw. It’s through working with Moy on the tractors that I’ve slowly come to know the many different fields and the different groups of cows and bulls they contain.

What I’ve most appreciated from people like José and Moy is that although they are more than willing to correct me when I do something wrong, they also tend to be sensitive to my predicament and the frustrations of trying to at once learn very practical things and a language. Sometimes that means leaving me to work something out on my own. Or sometimes leaving me to stew when I’m past the point of being able to listen when I can’t do something right! Sometimes it’s a much needed slap on the back when I go quiet and my eyes glaze over as we wait for the riders to bring a group of bulls in. Juan, who frequently pops over to help out, is particulary good at this back-slapping and always has pockets bursting full of mandarins to offer to overwhelmed anthropologists.

So, here’s to all the older stockpeople out there, upon whose shoulders us young upstarts stand. Working outdoors in all weathers is not easy and I admire the passion that leads people do work in such environments for a lifetime and still find joy in it. José, Moy, Juan, and lets not forget Cabezon too – I salute you!

More photos of our heroes follow.

José chasing the bulls and bullocks/steers up towards the corrals. The animals in the lead are used to "guide" the bulls and keep them in herd-mode rather than fighting-mode. Though sometimes they have their own ideas about where they want to go. You can see how active José is (he's 80-something I think!).

José herding the bulls and bullocks/steers up towards the corrals. The animals in the lead are used to “guide” the bulls and keep them in herd-mode rather than fighting-mode. Though sometimes they have their own ideas about where they want to go. You can see how active José is – he’s 80-something I think!

Cabezon, enjoying the extra time off he got over the festive period. Looking pretty solid for a horse supposedly over twenty years old!

Cabezon, enjoying the extra time off he got over the festive period. Looking pretty solid for a horse supposedly over twenty years old!

José and Bandolero riding back to the stables after a morning's work with the garrocha (lance).

José and Bandolero riding back to the stables after a morning’s work with the garrocha (lance).

Riding through the dust in the wake of a herd of fighting stock. Not just for young men.

Riding through the dust in the wake of a herd of fighting stock. Not just for young men.

Until next time,

Robin

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This entry was posted in Appreciation, Corrals, General/Introduction, Horses, Learning, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to An homage to the older cow and horse hands out there

  1. saraannon says:

    The ‘pillow dictionary’ is a time honored tradition…works pretty well for ladies too!

  2. Pingback: What counts as fieldwork for an anthropologist in Andalusia? | Anthropology among the bulls

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