Summer 2005 finished with getting the rest of our hay baled and hauled, and rounding up the cows off the range. Young Heather and Nick took their horses (Chance and Mr. Kay) to the 4-H horse show at the Fair, bringing home 8 trophies between them. They also did very well in the 4-H working ranch classes—ranch roping, cattle sorting and team penning.
It was a very dry year and we had more forest fires that fall, some of which were out of control for several weeks, filling our valley with smoke. It was a huge reminder of the devastating summer 5 years earlier. Then in mid-September we had a sudden change in the weather, and some long-awaited rain, with snow on the mountains.
I helped Michael and Carolyn round up cattle, bringing them down to our own mountain pasture
We spent several days finding and gathering some that had strayed to the neighbor’s range—cattle that had gone through several gates left open by hunters. On one ride we found one pair and a bull, sorted them out from the neighbor’s cattle, and brought them down to where we used to have a gate between the Forest Service and BLM allotment. But when we got there we found that the Forest Service crew who rebuilt the boundary fence earlier in the summer (after it was all burned up in the fire 2 years before) had eliminated that gate.
We started taking our little group on down the fence, but the bull charged back through our horses. Michael rode after him, and Carolyn and I took the cow and calf along the fence to another gate. Then we rode through more of the burned area trying to find the other strays.
After several long days of riding and sorting cattle, we found nearly all of them, and went out again to search for the rest. We split up to search more country. Carolyn and I found no cows on our side of the mountain and headed back to Baker Creek to pick up a few pairs we’d gathered in that area. As we started back that direction, we saw Michael in the distance, leading his horse down off a ridge. The fact he was leading the horse and not riding, we realized something was wrong. Carolyn rode back to check on him while I gathered another little group of cows we’d found in the timber.
Michael’s horse, Classy, had gotten her hind leg caught between two logs, while scrambling through some down timber on the other side of the mountain. She’d ripped her leg open, exposing the back tendon. The wound was spurting blood when Michael dismounted to examine it, and the tired mare was trembling and glassy-eyed, going into shock from the pain and sudden blood loss following the day’s exertion. Michael took off his heavy flannel shirt and ripped the back out of it, tearing that big piece into 4 strips. He wrapped the biggest strip tightly around her lower leg to cover the wound, and tied it on tightly with the other strips. This pressure, and the thickness of the layers, slowed the blood flow—which had already formed a large pool on the ground.
Classy held her leg up the whole time he was bandaging it, but she did not try to kick. After he got it wrapped, she relaxed and put her foot back down on the ground, and within a few minutes she was not so shaky. Michael was able to lead her out of the timber and over the hill to Baker Creek to join us.
After we brought the gathered cattle out of Baker Creek and around the mountain toward our upper pasture, Michael and Carolyn traded horses. Carolyn led Classy down the steep mountain, following the cows down to the gate, while Michael and I rode on around toward the rough cliffs above Withington Creek and found a few more pairs. We got all the cattle down into our upper pasture and Michael then led Classy down to the road, where he redid the makeshift bandage, which was starting to slip. We met a hunter driving down the road, and he gave Michael a ride 3 miles down to their house, so Michael could get their pickup and horse trailer--so he could haul Classy to town to the vet.
The makeshift bandage had kept the wound clean, and even though the tendon was nicked, it was not completely cut and would heal. The vet was able to staple the skin back into place over most of torn area. Michael kept the wound bandaged several weeks (changing the bandage daily) and gave Classy penicillin shots for a couple weeks, and it eventually healed very nicely.
We had good weather for a while in October, and young Emily spent several days with us that fall (on a couple weekends and school vacations), and she had several riding sessions on one of my old horses (Khamahn--nickname "Veggie"--a 19 year old grandson of old Khamette, the mare my own kids learned to ride on, 35-plus years ago). Veggie had never had a kid on him before and was a little nervous the first time, but he soon got used to Emily and they got along great. At first I led "Veggie" around while Em got used to how she should handle the reins.
Then she progressed to riding him solo around the barnyard in familiar surroundings where he felt at ease. Then I took her on longer rides, leading Veggie from my own horse, traveling several miles over our low range and back.
We have to go a little ways along the country road before we can get to the range pasture, and I didn't want to take a chance on Em not being able to get the old horse off the road in time when traffic (including logging trucks) came along; it was safer leading him from my horse. But she did very well (using the same little child's saddle my kids learned to ride on) and was soon able to ride Veggie without being led from another horse. She was a little older and stronger than my kids were when they learned to ride.
When my kids were little and just learning to ride, their legs were still too short to reach below the saddle pad, and old Khamette couldn't feel them kicking to try to make her go. I led her from another horse, and we'd ride all day checking cattle and gates, or moving cattle. In summer, Lynn was busy haying and I'd take the kids with me to ride range all day, as soon as they were big enough to sit on a horse that long. By the time Michael graduated to a horse he could ride solo, Andrea (2 years younger) was ready to start riding Khamette. I could lead her alongside me as we trotted or galloped—while chasing a cow--or let her drop behind on a narrow single-file trail through the trees. The kid gained confidence and riding ability but I had the horse in tow so the old mare couldn't just stop and eat grass. .
One afternoon while Em was at the ranch, she hiked with Lynn and me to check on the cows in the pasture above our house and was delighted that Buffalo Girl (a big yearling) remembered her. They hadn’t seen each other since Buffalo Girl was a bottle-fed orphan the year before. The heifer walked right up to Emily to be petted and tried to lick her face. On another hike she and I collected leaves for her school project, and put together her leaf collection.
We weaned our calves in October and hauled the steers to a sale. We kept the heifers, and put them in the little pasture above our house. We worried that they might get sick because the weather turned suddenly cold and wet, with several inches of new snow. But they stayed healthy, thanks to their pre-weaning vaccinations.
That fall we received a newly published book, written by one of our friends—a young woman who lost her husband in a freak accident. Lynn and I appreciated Julie’s very clear way of expressing her faith and her feelings. We got several copies of her book (You Only Think God Is Silent) to give to other people, knowing it could be an inspiration and encouragement to others going through soul-wrenching trauma and loss.
Tragedy does indeed thrust us onto a wondrous detour that opens up new territory--and places us on a pilgrimage from which there's no turning back. It can bring us grace and compassion and open us up to the love of God in a way we could never fully experience nor comprehend before. We might think we understand God's love with our minds, but until we experience and feel it in our hearts--after we've completely run out of self-sufficiency and can only depend on Him--we really don't "get it". How wondrous are the gifts He gives us.
We wanted to share Julie’s book with several friends, including some who had lost spouses to cancer. We were glad she was able to write it, and share her story. This kind of life-changing experience (coming through tragedy and having it mold and hone us) sets some of us on a mission, to spend the rest of our lives trying to help and encourage others.
Another book we often share is called The Last Dance But Not the Last Song, written by Renee Bondi, a young woman who has also created several music CDs. Her story is a fantastic, awesome example of spiritual triumph over tragedy, and her music is wonderful.
We stumbled onto her story by accident, or actually by "God incidence" as she puts it. Renee feels there are no "coincidences". The summer after Andrea was burned (2001), Lynn was on our upper place irrigating, and ran across a young man who was here working for the summer for a company doing contract work for the BLM. Mike was hiking through our range, doing "fuel mapping" for the BLM (evaluating the amount of dry grass, dead timber, etc. for future fire danger). After Lynn found out what his job was, Lynn told Mike about Andrea's burn accident in the terrible fire at 12 Mile the year before (a fire that got quickly out of control because of the horrendous amount of dry grass in that area). That side of the mountain, all along the Salmon River, had not been adequately grazed for several decades. The BLM and Forest Service had reduced or eliminated the grazing rights of those little ranches along the river.
Lynn told Mike about Andrea's burns and her progress in recovery (one year out from the accident) and mentioned that I had started writing a book about this experience. So Mike told him that his wife Linda's cousin (Renee Bondi) had just published a book about her own accident (which left her paralyzed) and her spiritual journey. The book had just come out and Renee had sent Linda a copy. We wanted to read it, so Mike called his wife, Linda, and she sent Mike the book to loan to us, before she herself had even had a chance to read it!
Thus began a wonderful friendship with Mike and Linda, and after reading Renee's book we ordered a copy for ourselves, and all of her music CDs. We found her music so inspiring (especially since she overcame great odds to eventually sing again) that we got more of her music to give to friends who might be helped and inspired by it. We also keep ordering more of her books, to give away. Her story is one of hope, courage and triumph (and surrender to God's love), and her music is filled with the joy of that God-centered life.
I still like to listen to Renee's music when I get "down" or out of focus, getting too caught up in trivial things or feeling low or sorry for myself, or small and petty or not being open to love and joy and thankfulness for my many blessings. Her music gets me back on track again. I have a special connection to it because it's all tied up together with the trauma our family went through, and the unexpected, long journey we were launched into.
Knowing how much Renee has come through, and how much we are all loved, and guided, and blessed by the One who loves us most, her music wipes away my doubts, my fears, my pettiness, and helps me reconnect with what I am supposed to be. Why walk, when you can fly! Why burrow inward when you can help someone else and try to be an instrument of God's love.
I sent Renee’s book and music to my cousin’s wife Leanne, who was diagnosed that summer with a serious form of breast cancer. She had surgery and then was on chemo for several months. She was scheduled to have more surgery the day after Christmas, and then radiation. She was feeling badly that she didn’t have the energy to do the things for Christmas she wanted to do for her kids and grandkids. But she had already given them the most special gift, of love--and I admired her calm faith and serenity in handling her fight against the cancer. She is still fighting it, 5 years later, and has dealt with it matter-of-factly, and with great trust.
Her battle has been truly a marathon (sort of like a cross country run through all kinds of terrain), with some hard climbs and slow spots. I keep praying that her body and spirit and determination carry through for the journey and that when she gets to the finish she will have "won"! A long marathon like this is taken one day at a time (sometimes one hour, one moment, one step at a time), but I am confident that her faith and trust in the One who cares most will carry her through.
The "NOW" is what's important, living in the NOW and accepting the love and strength that God gives us, moment by moment. That's the only place peace can really wrap round us. I think we all tend to live too much in the future and trying to deal with the "what ifs", and we forget to live in the NOW. But things like cancer or any serious life crisis can help us focus on the NOW and on reaching out to God (who is always reaching for us) to carry us through this moment. True peace is only achieved in the now.
Leanne was such a help to me and to little Emily (cheering us on, steadfastly) during our traumatic summer in 2000, with Andrea’s injuries. Leanne and her daughter Karen and little granddaughter Sarah wrote to me and called frequently on the phone, and sent care packages for helping entertain 2 ½ year old Emily. Sometimes Sarah would talk to Emily on the phone
These past several years, in humble gratitude for their prayers and care during my time of need, I have tried to take my turn to be supportive to Leanne. She is in my thoughts and prayers every day, as she still continues to battle her cancer. It's been my turn to be part of her "support" crew, to "be there" for her however I can. Life has an amazing way of bringing us round to the fact that we do not make this journey alone... we are meant to help one another.