In mid-May 2006 Lynn and I helped Michael and Carolyn round up their cows and calves (100 pairs) from the field below our lane, to haul them to rented pasture on a ranch/range 10 miles up the valley. Some of their friends came to help. With 6 stock trailers, they only had to make 2 trips.
The next day Lynn and I went to town to join Andrea and young Emily on the annual MS Walk to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. We’d lost several good friends to MS in the last few years, so this is a cause we always support. While we were in town we bought more grain and milk replacer for the 5 bottle babies.
Michael and Carolyn had grafted several "spare" calves onto cows that lost theirs that spring (calves lost at birth or to coyotes). But after having 5 sets of twins and a few other orphans (a couple heifers didn't want to be mamas and no one wanted to take the time and effort right then to make them change their minds) and some other freak things, we still had spare calves. In early May one of their young cows died eating poison plants, so that left another orphan. So we had some pets that summer. Andrea's kids always enjoyed coming out to the ranch and helping feed the bottle babies.
In late May Michael and Carolyn turned more cows out onto our range, from our upper pastures. Later we put 17-year-old Rhiney (our baby-sitter cow) and her calf with all the orphan calves in a small pasture. We put up an electric wire to keep Rhiney from eating the calves’ grain. The calves were small enough to walk under the wire and come to their grain tubs. Eight-year-old Emily stayed with us several times and helped feed the calves their bottles and grain.
I finally got Andrea out here a couple times to ride, that summer. Emily had been learning to ride Veggie (a 20-year-old grandson of the old mare my kids learned to ride on, more than 30 years earlier).
Emily started going with me on some fairly long rides to check and fix water troughs on the range.
In late June Andrea came out to ride with us. I'd been telling Emily how her mom used to ride range with me all day when she was little, and how we'd take our lunch and a canteen full of frozen lemon-aid. It would thaw out but still be cold by late afternoon after riding in the hot sun. Emily wanted to have a "picnic" ride, so we did. Andrea got a babysitter for her 3 younger kids and rode with us. This was Emily’s longest ride so far, and only her third ride solo on Veggie, without me leading him from my own horse.
For me, having Andrea out here riding again was a joyous "milestone" in our journey since her accident 6 years before. This was the first time Andrea had REALLY ridden range with me since her burns. She made a few short rides with me the spring and summer of 2001 (the year after her injury), just to prove to herself that she could still do it, but she was still very, very fragile and impaired. And since then, she'd been so busy with all those little kids that kept arriving. She only rode her horse once in 2003, for some family photos when a photographer was here taking pictures for an article about our ranch for SUCCESSFUL FARMING magazine.
So, that summer's ride in early July was a special occasion--3 generations of us, riding together.
We were able to give Emily her "picnic" up in the mountains, with our horses grazing in the grassy, shady meadow while we ate our peanut butter sandwiches beside a stream. It was great to see Andrea back up to strength again, riding her fractious mare Breezy, who hadn't been ridden for 3 years (and was snorty and silly after such a long "vacation”). It was gratifying to see Andrea riding again with all her former confidence and skill, and getting on and off to open and shut all the difficult gates. She also cleaned out one of the springboxes where the pipe had quit running and one of the water troughs was empty. It was almost like old times.
I realized that the last time she rode with me doing routine range work was on July 4, 2000, the day before she was burned. On that ride she helped me round up several pairs to bring home (bull calves and their mothers) to wean the calves. Those cows gave us a real challenge and we were glad for good horses--to outrun and outmaneuver those devious cows as they tried to run down the steep hills or into the brush to get away from us. Our cows love their mountain pasture and hate to come home!
We had a really good ride that day rounding up the young bulls, with great teamwork, great companionship. I always loved riding with my daughter because we were such a good team, whether training young horses or gathering or sorting cattle. We shared many thoughts and feelings on those daily range rides--while we were checking cattle, fences, gates, water troughs, making repairs to fences or water sources, or bringing home an occasional animal to doctor for some problem or another, or the young bulls to wean. But that wild, good roundup ride on July 4, 2000 was our last one; it was the very next evening that she was burned. So, riding with her again, 6 years later, was like a special gift.
We 3 rode again a few weeks later--an even longer ride--to check water troughs, and we spent time fixing several problems. We found 4 little frogs at one spring, which Emily wanted to catch, so we brought them home in a plastic bag. We'd taken our lunch along, in a plastic bread sack tied in my coat behind my saddle. When we found the frogs, Em just HAD to have them, so we emptied our lunch sack (by eating the last muffin) and put the frogs in it, along with some water from the spring. Emily had wanted to find some frogs all summer. Andrea carried the frog bag home on her horse (5 miles) for Emily. So it was a fun, wonderful day.
Life is certainly different now (after the burn) but oh, so sweet, in ways I never envisioned before. Early on, I grieved for the loss of what we'd had before, and the fact that our lives were changed and I might never be able to ride range and train horses again with my daughter. Then I finally resigned myself to never having it again. I was just so utterly GRATEFUL that Andrea survived and could have a LIFE, and kids, and pursue some of the dreams that had kept her fighting for life when she so nearly died. She told us later that she couldn't give up, because there were still so many, many things she wanted to do.
So, a tiny gift like being able to ride again with her, was almost like old times, but even more special because we had Emily along with us and we were doing it for Emily. It was a wonderful thing--one of those special milestones that I will always keep close to my heart. It will lift my spirits and serve to remind me (in future) when I need to remember that all the plusses outweigh the tough challenges that come along on some of the turns in the road. I keep thanking God for his many gifts along the way.
Meanwhile, we got our haying finished that summer while the weather was hot and dry. The creek was low and our irrigation water very limited. Afternoon storms often brought lightning, but very little rain. The lightning started several fires, including one at Twelve Mile, close to Andrea’s and Mark’s house and the fire department worked for 2 days to protect the homes along the river. BLM crews dumped water on the fire with several helicopters scooping water from the river.
During July we had extremely hot weather, up to 100 degrees, lasting longer than usual. We can usually cool our house off a little at night by opening windows, but several nights were too hot or smoky to do that. There were several big forest fires in eastern Idaho and the smoke drifted into our valley.
In early August Michael was still busy doing custom haying so I helped Carolyn and their kids for several days gathering cattle off the middle range pasture, to move to the high range. It was great to be able to ride with those grandkids, too. They were becoming excellent cowboys!
All through that summer I was busy writing articles and books and then signed a contract to do two more cattle books for Storey Publishing--a calving handbook and a cattle health care handbook. I started first on the calving book, working at it every morning in the wee hours before chores. But it was a fun one to write, since this is a topic dear to my heart. That summer I tried to do at least 5 to 8 pages on it a day, sandwiched in amongst working on articles for various horse and cattle magazines. With fewer cattle, Lynn and I depend more on my writing to help make ends meet, so my writing became become a full-time job.