Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 17, 4/11/09 -- Cowboys

After our late-night fill, Jeff and I got up at 7AM for our planned field trip (Milligan got up too; we dropped him off at the high bay at 7:30). We were invited by the guy we're renting our house from to attend a calf branding on his son-in-law's cattle ranch. After driving for ~20 miles on dirt roads, we arrived at the pen where about 15 ranchers and ranch hands were well into the process of lassoing, vaccinating, castrating, tagging, and branding roughly-4-month-old calves.

The men there were remarkably efficient -- a guy on a horse would lasso a calf by the hind leg and drag it over to where 3 guys were waiting. One would give the calf a good shove on the shoulder with a boot while another grabbed it by the tail and whipped it over to get the calf on its side. Another guy would grab a foreleg and put his knee on the calf's neck while the guy who grabbed the tail then got a hold of a hind leg, removed the lasso, and immobilized the back end of the animal with his foot. Then four other guys would swarm in -- one with a vaccination gun, one with a gun for putting RFID tags in the calf's ear, one with the branding iron, and one with a knife. The guy with the knife slices off the bull's scrotum and presses on the calf's abdomen to get the testicles to pop out, and then he just slices them off. The calf, needless to say, doesn't like this one bit...but once released, the calf just went about his business as if nothing happened.

The guys there were VERY skilled -- they would shift jobs, but usually the younger ones were doing the roping, holding, and castration while the older ones dealt with the vaccination and tagging. All of them seemed to be very proficient riders -- in fact, everyone there, including the kids of a couple of the guys there, were excellent riders. All of the help were just neighboring ranchers, and they help each other out every time this sort of thing needs to be done. Afterward, we had lunch (prepared by our landlord, the rancher's father-in-law) and chatted with them for a bit. All in all, it was a great way to spend the morning and see something that I thought only existed in movies these days.

When we got to the high bay, we found people working hard. Milligan managed to reconfigure the high bay's networking hardware to make our internet connection to the outside world MUCH faster. In the morning, Michele gave our massively over-designed truck plate to the CSBF machinist here who removed a whole bunch of metal as well as added holes to better interface with the CSBF rigging. We filled helium and then Hannes and Fran├žois needed to fix some cables so we lifted the whole cryostat plus cart up with the crane and set it on our scaffolding so it wouldn't move around (with the crane still connected, of course). While they worked on cables, Matt, Ilan, and sometimes myself worked on understanding some issues with our low-temperature thermometry electronics. Jeff and Ilan got most of the functionality of commanding the half-wave plate electronics figured out, and Jeff and I fixed a small issue with the new elevation actuator mount. It looks visually like the helium boiloff may finally be settling down -- perhaps one more late-night/early-morning fill tonight, but hopefully no more after that.

Ranch pictures:
Lab pictures:

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