This painting is based on moving cattle up and down the Milk River valley. River crossings (even small ones) are a hazard to most domestic animals. Some times they need a little persuasion. In this case the story comes from discovering six or eight yearling steers stuck on an island.
It was June, it was cold, it was blowing and there was a ferocious current. After some debate, split along age lines, the old guys were sure the yearlings would starve to death. The young guys had a different opinion. The cattle were coming off. Now!
An attempt to get a couple of dogs over wasn’t too successful.
Plan B. Two guys (old) take horse up stream. Strip to the cotton lederhosen and commence to a quick drift. It works! Sort of. The guys make it up the island cutbank. The horse is going down for the third time. Horse makes one last frantic scramble. One guy is pulling horse up, the other guy is running for his life as horse gains ground.
One guy on foot, other guy on horse, start hazing. Both modes are hard on feet and other sensitive areas. It doesn’t work. Yearlings are starting to feel important.
Plan C. “Put a rope on and start pulling”. Six laps later it’s done, but there’s just one small problem. How do you jump horse off of cutbank and pull at the same time without getting hung? Young guy (dry, dressed, and on shore) offers some advice- “Put another rope on” good idea! Young guy wades in on horse and spins loop out to island. Roped yearling stands on the slack while the ropes are connected. That’s a bit of luck! Young guy dallies up, the steer feels the rope move and proceeds in the other direction as fast as four legs can move. CRAAA CK! The ropes hold. Steer and young guy communicate. A little more hazing, and the steers acquire swimming lessons on a pull, a plunge and a drift.
The old guys board horse for another swim, drift, whatever, put clothes back on, and we all get back to work.
The other source for this idea came from the same setting. Two of us (and a dog or two) were moving a couple of hundred, when it came time to cross. I was at the front, and after some pushing, pulling, and discussion of water levels and my skill level with a rope, common sense reared its ugly head. We opted for an extra couple of miles and the use of a plank bridge. Some adventures are better left as paintings.