Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Diary from Sky Range Ranch – October 1 through October 20, 2016

OCTOBER 7 – Last Friday we had strong wind that blew shingles off Andrea’s house. It also ripped and blew the tarp off my haystack—the part of the stack that didn’t fit under my shed. The wind shredded the tarp and blew bits of it all over the barnyard. Weather was nicer by Saturday and I trimmed Veggie’s feet. We’ll be putting him down in a few weeks; his arthritis is getting worse with the cold weather. But I want him to be as comfortable as possible until then, without the extra strain on his joints from long toes.

Robbie helped Michael fix his truck. Now they just need to find time to fix the hydraulic leak in the backhoe. It takes about 5 gallons of hydraulic fluid each time Michael uses it.

That evening Andrea and Robbie took Lynn and me to the movie “Sully” about the pilot who was able to land his crippled plane on the Hudson River and saved all the passengers. Lynn and I had not been to the movie theater since 2004!

Sunday the weather was colder. I fed the heifers a little hay just to start gentling them. That afternoon Andrea and I rode Breezy and Dottie to the 320 to check cows.



Andrea on Sprout, checking cows on 320
The upper water trough wasn’t working, so Andrea cleaned out spring box and took out a dead toad that was blocking the outlet into the pipe to the trough.

That evening the power went off while I was cooking dinner for the family (it’s been traditional to eat at Grandma’s house when Andrea’s kids get back home from a weekend with their dad). We started a fire in our wood stove for first time this fall, not only to warm the house but also to help with cooking supper. The power came back on at the last minute and we didn’t have to eat by candlelight. After supper all the kids went out to see Veggie, they will soon have to say goodbye to him.

Monday it rained all day. That afternoon we let Veg out of his pen to graze in the barnyard next to the pen, where the green grass has grown back a little this fall. He will enjoy the green grass as long as it lasts.



Veggie Grazing
Charlie has been getting some practice driving, when Andrea takes the kids to school. If they are a little late to make it to the bus, she lets him drive all the way to town. This is about the only time he gets driving hours (toward the required hours he needs—driving with a licensed adult in the car) since his dad won’t let him drive any of the vehicles out at his house.

Tuesday Andrea took Sam to Dr. Carrington, the skin specialist here in town, and he took a weird mole off her head. He wants to check it again in few months.

Wednesday we moved the 16 heifers to the field above the horse pasture. It’s grown back, thanks to Andrea’s irrigation. Hopefully it will have enough grass to last until we put them in the field below the house for winter. Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie to check cows, and on our way up the ridge to go to the 320 we took pictures of the heifers in the green field below.



Heifers in field above house
When we got up to the 320 we found that the storm brought most of the cows down to the lower end of that pasture. We checked the lower trough and discovered that it’s not working at all. The spring box probably needs to be dug out and the water line unplugged.

Thursday evening Charlie’s choir sang the national anthem before the volleyball game. Today Dani had running practice after school, and Sam and Charlie played in the band in the Homecoming parade and again at the game.



band playing at the homecoming football game
Phil Moulton hauled us 3 trailer-loads of hay today, and we stacked it in the hold pen by Shiloh and Veggie, to feed the heifers this winter. He will bring a couple more loads tomorrow.

OCTOBER 14 – This last week Andrea’s kids and friends went to the Homecoming bonfire and festivities and I took a photo of them when they stopped by here.

Sam & Dani and friends
Charlie went to the Homecoming Dance, and he looked very nice, all dressed up. His mom took a photo of him before they left home, and when they stopped by here for us to see how nice he looked, I took a photo, too.


Charlie before the dance
Charlie ready for the dance

Lynn moved our stackwagon (which was parked for winter beside the old 2-ton flatbed truck) so we could stack more hay in the hold pen by the horses. The next day Lynn located water for guy who wants to put a well at his ranch near Northfork.

Someone in town advertised an old piano free to the first person to respond, and Robbie saw the ad. He and Andrea went to get the piano and put it in the basement playroom. Sam has been teaching herself to play the piano (playing our old piano every time she’s here at our house) so now she has her own to practice on. Charlie and Dani may also try to learn how to play.

On Sunday the girls rode with us to check cows on the 320 and I took photos as we rode up the ridge from our house.


girls and Andrea riding up the ridge
girls riding up to the ridge gate at lower end of 320
riding up into the 320 from the lower ridge gate

I also took photos as we rode into the Baker Creek canyon and crossed Baker Creek, and Andrea was taking photos of the girls, too.

heading for Baker Creek
crossing Baker Creek
Here are photos as we rode on up Baker Creek to check the trough at the top. We took lots of photos that day, not knowing whether the girls would be able to ride with us any more times this fall, since they now spend most weekends with their Dad.

Sam & Dani riding up Baker Creek
We checked the water trough at the top end of the 320 and checked the cows; they were spread all over and doing very well. We saw 3 elk just above the 320 on the Preacher’s Spring side, and spent a few minutes looking at the elk, and took a few photos, even though they were a little too far away to get good pictures.

looking at the elk
Andrea taking photos of the elk
Andrea took some photos with her phone, and I took a few with my camera, and here’s the bull elk, cow and calf elk.

three elk on skyline above 320
bull elk on skyline

After we got home the girls went home to rest, then Sam came down later and spent time with Veg, brushing him and combing his mane. She is the one who rode him the last 3 years before he was retired from working, and the two of them have a special bond.


Sam & Veggie
We are trying to irrigate the rest of our fields before winter, but we’re still short of water. Alfonso has been using water on Gooch place even though that 3rd right is supposedly shut off.

Michael and Nick went hunting on opening day of deer season and got a small buck. Everyone is short on meat right now, so hunting is of great interest!We aren’t going to shoot any of our little mule deer family however; we have 2 does and their 3 fawns that are always hanging around the horse pasture, barnyard and house. Here are photos taken through the window, of deer in our front yard in the early morning.


doe & fawn in front yard

Here are photos of the deer another time, in the back yard, taken from the dining room window. The fawn was standing in the old water trough that we used to use as a vegetable garden, but it’s now growing weeds—and the deer seem to love those weeds!

 
doe in back yard
fawn in back yard
doe & fawn in back yard
Alfonso moved his cows out of the fields below our place a few days ago, with a multitude of cowboys to gather them and take them down the road to pasture somewhere else. He failed to have someone out on the road to head them the right direction, and the whole herd came up the road past our house instead of going down the road. It was quite a rodeo, as one rider came galloping through all those cows, scattering them every which way, to try to get to the front of the herd and turn them around after they’d gone more than half a mile the wrong direction--and nearly put a bunch of them through the fence.

Dani hurt her wrist at school in P.E. and the school office called Andrea, who drove to town and took Dani to the ER to have it x-rayed. The wrist was very swollen, and the doctor wanted to make sure it wasn’t broken, but it’s simply a sprain and she needs to keep ice on it and wear a brace for a few days.

Dani with a sprained wrist
We had some more rain, which was very welcome as we try to finish irrigating some of our dry fields before winter. We are still short of irrigation water, and haven’t had a chance to irrigate the field by Andrea’s house for many weeks, so we had the watermaster switch our allotted use from ditch #9 to ditch #8 which comes down to our place through the Gooch place. Alfonso apparently thought it was for him (even though his 3rd right should all be shut off since the creek doesn’t have enough water to fill our 2nd right. He took it all, to water his fields above ours. We had NO water in that ditch a couple days ago, and Lynn had to hike up the ditch and get our water back, since Andrea was gone that day to Idaho Falls, to her pain doctor. The water problems on this creek seems to never end!The watermaster had to tell Alfonso to not use that ditch, until there’s enough water in the creek.

Michael went back to Dr. Carrington again for a checkup on his nose. The biopsy report was malignant, but Dr. Carrington thinks he got the entire lesion removed.

Wednesday was Dani’s last track meet, and she ran well in spite of her sprained wrist (fortunately a runner doesn’t need to use the wrists!)In her cross-country race she came in 19th out of 78 runners (6th, 7th and 8th grade). This is her best time so far, and it was pretty good, running against kids 1 and 2 years older. She loves to run.

Our little family of mule deer continue to graze in our yard every day, and these photos were taken out the bathroom window when they were eating weeds in the area between our house and the horse pens. In one picture the horse’s water tub in the background makes it look like the doe is wearing a hat!

fawn next to horse pen
doe next to horse pen
doe wearing a hat

Early yesterday morning Michael and Carolyn cooked a big breakfast for the high school cross-country runners, who came up to the ranch for a run. They came out here two mornings in a row to practice running at higher altitude, running up the road from Michael and Carolyn’s house on up the creek, going several miles up the mountain.

Charlie took a trip to Boise with a few other students to check out the college there. The bus broke down on the way home, at Baker, so Andrea was able to go pick him up there (just 2 miles from home), rather than have to wait a couple hours at the school (another bus was sent out to pick up the stranded kids).

OCTOBER 20 – Andrea helped her friends Jade and Anita and their son Jack butcher and haul out 3 elk that they killed during the bull season. They had incredible luck, running into a huge herd of elk that morning. All three of them shot their elk on Stormy Peak above Lynn’s parent’s old ranch. Andrea posed with little Jack and his elk for this photo.

Andrea, Jack and his elk
Last Saturday Lynn located a water source for a well on Diamond Creek, where some folks from Texas bought property and want to build a house. Lynn has now located about 350 wells.

We had a pleasant surprise on Sunday when my nephew Matt Smith came to visit; he came for a few days, to celebrate his dad’s 70th birthday. He’s Andrea’s favorite cousin, and we hadn’t seen him since he was here for my mom’s funeral (his grandmother) in 2010. He and Andrea drove to cemetery to look at the graves of their grandparents.

Andrea cut up Nick’s deer that afternoon and ground it into hamburger for Michael, Carolyn and Nick. Lynn went to town that evening and got the kids from Mark and we all had supper here, but Dani came home sick. The kids almost always come home sick from their dad’s place because the smoke is bad for their lungs, especially since they all have asthma and respiratory problems.

She stayed home from school on Monday, still sick. Monday night Lynn and I went up to my brother’s place for an informal birthday party. Andrea came also, and brought a couple of young cats to Aaron, who has been wanting some kittens.
The next day Michael brought a load of firewood for us. Andrea and I rode again to check the cows on the 320, to make sure they still have enough grass.

Andrea riding Sprout to check cows
We discovered that the upper trough was not working at all. There were more toads in the spring box this time, and one of them probably went down the pipe and plugged it. She tried to take the pipe apart at the trough, but we needed more tools. We may have to use compressed air to blow out the line.

That evening the weather was stormy; it was snowing and blowing at chore time, which made it harder to give Veg his bute (squirting the medication into his mouth). He was miserable in the cold, wet blizzard and didn’t want to stand still. Fortunately the storm didn’t last very long, and we didn’t get much snow.

It all melted off by the next day, so hopefully the cows are still doing well on their upper pasture and not wanting to come home!

The deer are back again in our yard. Here are photos of a couple fawns next to Rishiam’s pen and one fawn looking at Willow in her pen. The deer are not afraid of the horses at all, and go through some of the horse pens as they wander back and forth through our yard and barnyard.

fawns next to horse pens
fawn checking out Willow
Andrea’s old car (a 2003 Ford Explorer) has more than 220,000 miles on it and is wearing out—after all the travel to kids’ hockey games and other activities, out-of-town doctor appointments, trips to the World Burn Congress, etc. We found her a newer used car –a 2010 Chevrolet Traverse, with only 67,000 miles on it, at a reasonable price. We set up the purchase on a long-term contract with a low interest rate, so hopefully this car can last her a long time.

Andrea's car

My cousin Ned and his wife Pam called us a couple days ago, to give us an update on their various health challenges. She has just come through multiple sessions of chemo, surgery and radiation in her battle with cancer (and is doing well right now) and Ned recently underwent open heart surgery and is recovering. It was good to hear from them and to know that they are both doing better.


If anyone would like to order some of Heather’s “critter stories” books as Christmas gifts, here’s information about her three most recent books and she’d be glad to provide autographed copies.

Ranch Series by Heather Smith Thomas

Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch (the original book in this series) is a collection of 22 stories about the horses that helped define the author’s life in Idaho ranch country. Press release stated: “Horse Tales is a unique memoir infused with the brand of wisdom that can be acquired only through an existence built around livestock and the land. Thomas centers each story around a specific animal, along the way sharing lessons on life, family and stockmanship.” 282 pages, paperback. $24.95

Cow Tales: More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch (325 pages; $24.95) was published in July 2015. The press release from the publisher states: “Following the success of her acclaimed nonfiction collection Horse Tales…Cow Tales is an entertaining and compelling line-up of autobiographical essays detailing her family’s adventures raising cattle in the challenging ranch country outside Salmon, Idaho. In the tradition of James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small), each story centers on a particular animal or aspect of animal husbandry, offering insight into the resourcefulness required to manage a cattle herd, and a heart-warming look at human-animal bonding.”

Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters, the third book in this series, was published December, 2015 (273 pages, $24.95) and consists of stories about memorable ranch animals and wildlife. “Each humorous, heartwarming and insightful tale is centered on the unique bond that forms between people and the animals—livestock, pets and wildlife—that populate a working ranch.”

Order any of these books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from the publisher: The Frontier Project Inc. (phone: 719-237-0243) thefrontierproject@gmail.com

Signed copies are available from Heather Thomas, Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467 (208-756-2841) hsmiththomas@centurytel.net [price: $24.95 plus $3 postage – Idaho residents add 6% sales tax. For all three books - $70 plus $7 shipping]









Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Diary from Sky Range Ranch – September 8 through September 30, 2016

SEPTEMBER 15 – We’ve had a preview of winter with a few cold nights and freezing temperatures.   Last Friday Andrea took Dani to town at 7 a.m. to get on the bus to go to her first cross-country meet. That kid loves to run and their little team is doing well.

Dani running
Dani at cross country meet

Andrea and Carolyn have been busy working on various things to assist the lawyer for the custody trial. On the weekend, Charlie went with Steve Harris to work on the ham radio tower on Baldy Mountain and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Eric Simonson, the government trapper, came out to the ranch that day and we showed him photos of the wolf-killed calves up Baker Creek. He will start checking the area more frequently to try to apprehend the wolves.

On Saturday, friends from Ontario, Canada (John and Joan) came by to visit, on their way back home from a trip to Washington State. They’ve been reading my column in Grainews for many years and wanted to meet our family and see the ranch. We had a delightful visit with them and fed them lunch. They brought us a box of peaches and a big bag of apples from Washington.

Sunday morning something must have spooked Carolyn’s yearling filly, Peaches, because she jumped out of the horse pasture above the wild meadow (where she was living with her mother-Carolyn’s old mare Thelma) and got out on the road. Several boys on bicycles came down the road, and one of them was chasing poor Peaches as hard as she could run. Fortunately she didn’t try to jump the cattle guard and hurt herself, but instead made a sharp turn off the road and ran up the lane to Michael and Carolyn’s house. Carolyn witnessed it all from her window and was upset that someone would be that malicious. The little filly was exhausted, panting with her tongue hanging out, when she arrived at the horse corrals at the house. Carolyn ran outside and let the filly into one of the corrals.

I cooked a big dinner Sunday night and fed the kids, but they all came home from their dad’s place sick (with bad colds). We had an extra guest at dinner. Mark Sheehan, the guy who ran the Zamboni at the Sun Valley ice rink where the kids played hockey the past several years, came through here on a trip to Montana with his motorcycle and sidecar and stopped by to visit.

Monday morning Andrea and Carolyn drove early to Idaho Falls to meet with the lawyer to prepare for the custody trial. We fed the kids supper again after Lynn got them off the bus after school, and Nick brought Dani home from cross-country practice.

Tuesday was the court case. Before it started, however, the Judge talked to kids, and they told him they didn’t want any changes, especially not for the school week, since that would too disruptive if they had to be at their dad’s place part of the school week.

Yet the judge was swayed by Mark’s lawyer (who insisted that Mark needed more “opportunity to be a parent”) so now Mark gets them for 3 days each weekend instead of 2, and has them for twice as many weekends as Andrea does. Mark also gets another 30 months to continue to try to refinance his house and get Andrea’s name off the mortgage, and doesn’t have to spend any more time in jail for contempt of court. He was found in contempt of court earlier this summer because he was ordered to get her name removed from his mortgage when they were divorced (nearly 7 years ago) and had made no attempt to do so.  

Yesterday we moved the cows to the swamp pasture and they were happy for new grass. We’re hoping we have enough green grass left until we can sell the calves and then take the cows up to our 320-acre mountain pasture.

SEPTEMBER 22 – Last Friday Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie to check our 320 to make sure no range cows had gotten in.

Andrea riding Sprout through the 320 to check gates and fences
After checking our fences and gates, we rode up through high range and took photos of the very skinny cows. It’s a shame that Alfonso and Millers haven’t taken very good care of the range and their cattle this year; they didn’t keep the water troughs working, so the cows congregated in the few areas that still had water. They also moved the cows to the high range almost a month too soon, and they ran out of feed too early.

neighbor's skinny range cow
Our neighbor (Jack) below us with the first water right on the creek quit irrigating for this season. We no longer have to supply water to him and can use a little more of our 2nd right, which has been reduced for several weeks. Hopefully we can get the rest of our fields irrigated before freezing weather.

On Saturday Michael and Carolyn went to watch Nick run in the cross-country marathon at Challis, and he came in 1st in the men’s division. Andrea and Robbie took out the steel posts and hot wire along our lower field so cows can clean up the edge next to the horse pens.

The Amish and Alfonso rounded up their cows off the range that day, with 22 riders. They brought the cattle over the top from Baker Creek into Withington Creek, brought them down Withington Creek into the 160-acre pasture next to our upper pasture, and sorted the cows there. They cut a hole in fence and brought the cows down the road in several sorted bunches, putting Alfonso’s cattle into the Gooch place, and brought Millers cattle on down past our place. They had those cattle grouped in such compact mobs they ran into and damaged the fences and crashed the telephone boxes next to the road. We don’t understand why they move cattle in that fashion, jammed together in a tight mob, since cattle travel so much better if you let them string out, the way they travel naturally. Then the cows can keep track of their calves, traveling as pairs, and not getting upset wondering where their calves and mamas are.

That night it started raining, and we were glad for the moisture!! It rained through Sunday morning. The storm cleared off by afternoon, however, which was nicer for our preg-checking and vaccinating the cows and putting nose flaps in the keeper heifers. We locked the big bull in a side pen and put poles across the two gates (low spots) so he wouldn’t try to jump out, and put the yearling bulls in the swamp pen next to their corral—so we could use both corrals for sorting/holding cattle.

Michael, Carolyn and Nick came down to help when Dr. Cope arrived at 2:30. We preg-checked and vaccinated the cows and Bangs vaccinated the heifers. After we finished with our cows, Dr. Cope went up to Michael and Carolyn’s place to do theirs, and Robbie went up to help them. Andrea and Dani helped me and Lynn sort ours—putting the two open heifers and the yearling steer in a pen to send to the sale. We put the 9 replacement heifers (with nose flaps) and their mothers in the field below the lane and put the other cows back up in the swamp pasture. Andrea helped Lynn get a few bales of hay to feed the yearlings in the corral. The nose flaps are the best way to wean calves because they don’t have to be separated from mom—so it’s not stressful. They just can’t nurse, so after a few days the cow dries up her milk and the calf is weaned.


nose flap keeps calf from nursing
calf with nose flap
On Monday Michael hauled the yearlings and our big bull to Carmen Creek (the other side of town) to load on a semi of cattle going to the sale. Andrea helped me bring the rest of the cattle back down to the corral where we sorted off our bred keeper heifers and left the cows with calves to sell in the corral and hold pen and fed them some hay. The brand inspector came out late morning to inspect the calves.

Early Tuesday morning Michael and Carolyn came down with their calves in the trailer and we added our 11 calves to make a full load. They hauled the calves to the sale at Ramsey (near Butte, Montana) but had a flat tire on the way. They got there later than planned, which meant the calves sold late in the sale and didn’t sell as well as calves sold early in the sale. But they did fairly well, considering how bad the market and how young those calves are (born in April).
Andrea and I rode that afternoon to see if the neighbors left any range cows hanging on our fence, but several riders that morning had gathered up the strays—and we didn’t find any left behind. The high range is almost denuded of grass, from their overgrazing, however.


Andrea checking condition of the high range
On our way home down the ridge toward our place, I took a photo of Andrea as she rode past the corner of our hill pasture above the house—and the little maple tree that the kids named “Mable” several years ago. Mable was in glorious golden splendor, now that her leaves have turned color.

Andrea riding past Mable
Yesterday we put a little more hay in the feeder in the corral so that when the cows come down into the corral bawling and looking for their calves they can have something to eat.

Emily’s dad, Jim Daine, came over from Montana and brought about 200 pounds of packaged elk meat for Emily, to store in our freezer for her and for us.

Today we had a little more rain. The dry grass on the hills is actually starting to green up, so we may not need protein supplement for the cows when they are on the 320 later this fall.

The new parenting schedule set up by the judge isn’t working very well, with the kids going to their dad’s place on Thursdays right after school instead of Friday evening. Mark and his girlfriend grab the kids out of their classes, and don’t want Andrea there for the exchange, even though she has to bring them their things for the weekend that are too cumbersome to bring on the bus and won’t fit in their lockers. She also has to bring them their prescription medications (for their asthma, etc.) for the weekend because it’s illegal for them to bring medications to school. Another problem is that they can’t get their homework done at their dad’s house. They always were able to do their homework on Fridays, until now. Many of their classes require use of the internet, which Mark does not have at his house. They come home tired on Sunday night and still have most of their homework left to do.

We seem to go from one problem to another. Today we went to court house for a hearing regarding our neighbor’s trespass water development on our property.


SEPTEMBER 30 – Last Friday one of the heifer calves lost her nose flap, so she was still nursing her mother. She’ll have to be weaned again!

On Saturday Andrea and Robbie drove to Boise to attend Dani’s track meet. Nearly 300 kids in her cross country race (from multiple schools) and she came in 158th place—in the center of the pack.

Dani in race
cross country team
Dani at cross country
On Sunday we put more hay in the feeder in the corral and sorted out the 3 cows to sell (Magrat and Emerald are open, and Cub Cake is old and has a bad udder). We left them in the corral after we brought the 9 pair in from field below the lane and took the nose flaps out of the heifer calves. We put the calves in the pens below the calving barn where there’s good grass, and put their mothers back up in the field by Andrea’s house with the other cows.

Sunday afternoon Lynn and I went up to Rock and Bev’s place and enjoyed a couple hours looking through a few of mom’s old diaries. We had a great visit, and also found the dates we put in the original water system for the house that my folks later sold.

Monday we moved the heifers to the orchard pasture. They are enjoying more room and more grass. The Brand Inspector came to look at the 3 cows in corral and later that day Michael and Carolyn loaded those cows (with their 4 open cows) to haul to the sale in Montana.

On Tuesday Michael, Lynn and I all went to Dr. Carrington (skin doctor) to have various lesions checked and removed. Michael had a lesion on his nose that has been gradually getting worse for at least 2 years. Dr. Carrington sent a biopsy to be checked, since he suspects it is malignant.

Andrea and Carolyn had a conference call with our lawyer regarding the problems with the new custody schedule and how it is negatively affecting the children and their ability to get their homework done on the weekends they are with their dad. We may eventually have to revisit this issue in court and ask the judge for a better resolution.

Then Andrea irrigated (with the little bit of water we still have) and went to town to pick up Dani after her running practice. Michael and Carolyn put their cows back into the corral, took the nose flaps out of their heifer calves, and hauled the heifers down here to our place. We will winter their replacement heifers with ours again.

Lynn went to the bus to pick up Charlie. When I did chores that evening Rubbie was lying down behind some tall weeds in her pen and didn’t get up when I went to feed her. I walked over to check on her and discovered she was very ill with colic and didn’t want to get up. She’d been sweating but the sweat under her belly and thighs was cold and clammy. Her gums were purple-gray instead of bright pink, and she had very slow capillary refill, meaning that she was dehydrated and in shock.

I went back to the house and alerted Lynn to the fact that she was very sick, and I gave her an injection of Banamine (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that also helps ease pain). She then got up briefly, but staggered out to the middle of her pen and plopped down again. I hoped that her pain might be relieved enough that I could lead her out of there and take her to the pen in front of the house where she’d be easier to monitor and treat through the night if necessary.

But she didn’t improve. She rolled, and lay on her back in an effort to relieve the pain in her gut. Andrea got back from town with the girls and helped us get Rubbie off her back and in a more comfortable position. Lynn called Michael and Carolyn, who came down to our place and brought a couple horse blankets to put over her, to keep her from chilling, since by then it was starting to get dark and cold. I gave Rubbie an injection of dexamethasone, to try to help alleviate some of the effects of shock, and Michael gave her an IV injection of Banamine.


Rubbie in pain from colic but on her feet after the injections
We called our vet and left him a message, and he came out about 8:30 p.m. The medications we’d given the mare eased her pain a little—enough that she got up briefly a few times—but the relief was very temporary. The fact that her condition was continuing to deteriorate did not bode well.

Rubbie in pain from colic but on her feet after the injections
Dr. Hayden gave her additional medication, checked for gut sounds (very few) and then did a rectal exam and determined that there was some displacement of the gut. All of these signs, plus her age (29) didn’t make for a very good prognosis. Rather than try to keep her going and just prolong her agony, we opted to end it. We tearfully said goodbye to her while Carolyn went home to get Michael’s pistol, and he mercifully ended her life.


saying Goodbye to Rubbie
We covered her body with the horse blankets until we could bury her the next day, and staggered off to bed, exhausted.

We’d always figured that Veggie would have to go first, being older and more crippled up with arthritis. I wasn’t going to try to get him through another winter. We’d worried about how Rubbie would react to his absence, since they are so closely bonded and have never been able to cope with being apart. Now Veggie will have to cope without her.

He knew that she was gone, after we put her down, but he wasn’t frantic, thanks to having Shiloh as a buddy in the next pen. Thank goodness we’d made a pen for Shiloh right next to the old gray horses, when Shiloh arrived last year. Veggie and Rubbie were spending the summers together grazing, but these past few winters I’ve had to separate them because Veggie eats so slowly that Rubbie would have eaten most of the hay. So they had gotten used to having an electric fence between them, and not being together.

Wednesday we had to move the cows to the 320, so early that morning Michael put front shoes on Captain for Carolyn to ride. Andrea and I sorted our cows again. We left 6 of them here on pasture—the ones that we will sell later as bred young cows—to cut down the herd and cull out some that we know will eventually have bad udders. We rode Sprout and Dottie and started moving the main herd up the road to go to the 320. We wanted them to go slowly since it’s a long trip, uphill several miles, and weather prediction was for a very warm afternoon (mid 80’s); we didn’t want them to get too hot and tired.

We had a hard time getting them past the old Gooch place, however, without losing some of the cows through the bad fence along the road. We had to hurry them, because they wanted to go into the fields and join Alfonso’s cattle. It was a miracle that we got past several sections of fence that were leaning over or completely flat; Alfonso still hasn’t fixed the flat fence where his tractor coasted off the hill and went through the fence. Carolyn joined us on Captain as we went by the upper place. Michael went on ahead with his 4-wheeler and opened the gate from the corral as we approached, so their cows could come out on the road with ours, and he drove on up the road to head the herd up the big draw toward the 320.

Our cows were wearing out by then, and some were very hot and panting, breathing with their mouths open. They still wanted to go too fast, however, so we made them stop and rest a couple of times while they climbed up the hill to go over to Baker Creek.


letting the cows rest before they start up the hill
climbing up the hill
Then we let them rest a little at the top before they headed down into Baker Creek.

Carolyn & Captain letting the cows rest a moment at the top

taking the cows over the hill to Baker Creek side of the 320
The dry grass up there is looking better, with a little green regrowth after the rains. The cows were happily grazing as they started down into Baker Creek. We probably won’t have to buy any protein supplement. We just hope the grass will last several weeks before we have to bring them home to feed hay.

grazing as they went over the hill to Baker Creek
Michael started the backhoe during heat of the day (it won’t start when it’s cold) and brought it down early afternoon to dig the hole in Rubbie’s pen and bury her. We will bury Veggie right beside her in a few weeks, because we plan to put him down before the weather gets very cold. His arthritis is bothering him a lot and I have to give him a daily dose of bute to alleviate the discomfort. He’s still a bit stiff, but without the bute he is so lame he can hardly walk. The time has come—when quality of life diminishes to this point—that it’s kinder to let them go. As someone once said, when considering timely euthanasia, its better a week too soon than a day too late.

Veggie and I comforted each other while Michael was preparing the hole to bury Rubbie; we had our own private memorial on that beautiful fall afternoon.


Veggie & me comforting each other as Michael buries Rubbie
Veggie alone now

Those two horses had long, full lives, and we will miss them; those two old grey horses are the last of our babies that we raised. Veggie’s mother was Andrea’s first horse, and his grandmother was my first foal (Khamette) born in 1959. Khamette’s mother was Scrappy, a little black mare that my dad bought from Lynn 10 years before we were married, and Scrappy was a foal at side when Lynn’s dad bought her mama (Misty) when Lynn was just a little boy, 68 years ago. A lot of family history, coming to a close with this final chapter.

Yesterday Andrea and I rode again, making a fast trip up the ridge to the 320 to check on the cows we put up there, and check the gates and fences.


Andrea and Sprout crossing Baker Creek to check cows in 320
The cows were doing fine. Our yearlings and Michael/Carolyn’s yearlings and two-year-olds were all hanging out together, happy to see each other again. They spent winters together at our place and being together again on fall pasture was like a big reunion!

That afternoon Alfonso hauled several trailer loads of cattle up to his 160-acre pasture next to ours and then cut the fence again to bring them down the road. We found out later he had a wild cow up there that came down off the range, and he couldn’t bring her on down the creek with his horse because she was too wild. So he took a bunch of cows up there to put with her so he could bring them down in a herd.


Michael and Carolyn took 3 blocks of salt (in their little pickup) to the 320 yesterday evening for our cattle, and a chain saw to remove the old aspen trees that blew down over our jeep road in the bottom of Baker Creek. They got home just ahead of a rainstorm. A little more rain would certainly help our dry grass!



If anyone would like to order some of Heather’s “critter stories” books as Christmas gifts, here’s information about her three most recent books and she’d be glad to provide autographed copies.

Ranch Series by Heather Smith Thomas

Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch (the original book in this series) is a collection of 22 stories about the horses that helped define the author’s life in Idaho ranch country. Press release stated: “Horse Tales is a unique memoir infused with the brand of wisdom that can be acquired only through an existence built around livestock and the land. Thomas centers each story around a specific animal, along the way sharing lessons on life, family and stockmanship.” 282 pages, paperback. $24.95

Cow Tales: More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch (325 pages; $24.95) was published in July 2015. The press release from the publisher states: “Following the success of her acclaimed nonfiction collection Horse Tales…Cow Tales is an entertaining and compelling line-up of autobiographical essays detailing her family’s adventures raising cattle in the challenging ranch country outside Salmon, Idaho. In the tradition of James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small), each story centers on a particular animal or aspect of animal husbandry, offering insight into the resourcefulness required to manage a cattle herd, and a heart-warming look at human-animal bonding.”

Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters, the third book in this series, was published December, 2015 (273 pages, $24.95) and consists of stories about memorable ranch animals and wildlife. “Each humorous, heartwarming and insightful tale is centered on the unique bond that forms between people and the animals—livestock, pets and wildlife—that populate a working ranch.”

Order any of these books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from the publisher: The Frontier Project Inc. (phone: 719-237-0243) thefrontierproject@gmail.com

Signed copies are available from Heather Thomas, Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467 (208-756-2841) hsmiththomas@centurytel.net [price: $24.95 plus $3 postage – Idaho residents add 6% sales tax. For all three books - $70 plus $7 shipping]