We had no appreciable rain in late summer and fall that year, and the dry conditions resulted in many forest and range fires. It was almost as smoky that summer as it was in 2000. The range grass became so dry (and short on protein) that the cows were trying to come home early. Some crawled through the fence into our upper pastures, so Michael and kids took them several miles back up the creek to the high range. He bought a ton of protein supplement to haul out to the range, to try to encourage the cows to stay on the mountain and not come home. There was still a lot of dry grass, but without protein it was like straw and the cows wouldn’t eat it; they need protein for proper rumen function to digest the roughage.
In late August young Emily came to the ranch to stay a couple days and rode with me to Baker Creek on the high range.
Together we fixed a trough, where the cows had knocked the pipe out and the water was running onto the ground instead of into the trough. Baker Creek had dried up except for a few small puddles, so we had to make sure the little springs kept running into our troughs, piped from the springboxes.
Emily progressed swiftly in her riding abilities that summer, and was quite proud of her accomplishment. She was also delighted to find 3 elk antlers on various rides, and we had to lug those antlers home on our horses, of course. She held the antler for me each time I had to get off my horse to open and close a gate.
On one ride she and I gathered some cows that had come down the creek and were standing around by the gate, wanting to come home. We took them up the creek a couple miles to the protein tubs that Michael put at the top of that range pasture.
This was the first time 8-year-old Em actually helped me move cattle. She and old Veggie did very well. She had come a long way in her riding skills since early summer when I was still leading her horse from mine.
By fall Emily was a confident enough "cowgirl" to be able to go with us (Michael, Carolyn and kids and me) to help move cows on the range and look for missing cattle, so she was very proud of herself, being able to ride with the big kids.
On one of those rides we all split up to cover more territory. Nick (age 13) went with me and Emily and we were lucky; we found 6 of the missing cows and 4 of the calves, and brought them around a mountain toward Baker Creek. As we came around the mountain we were hit with strong gusts of wind that nearly blew us off the mountain, and we had to hold onto our hats to keep from losing them. I held my hat in my hand as we struggled against the wind, and my hair blew wildly in all directions, which made Nick laugh; he said I looked like an “electric grandma!”
There was still another area to check, so Nick took the cattle to a water trough to hold them there while Em and I picked our way down the steep ridge, in the wind, to a hidden saddle where we hoped to find the missing calves. They were there, along with another pair, so we brought them to join the little herd. I was very proud of my “crew” and happy to be able to ride with my grandchildren. It was a long, hard ride in steep and treacherous country, but Emily and the old horse managed just fine, and young Nick was very good help with the cattle.
The next week, all the kids were back in school, and Michael and Carolyn gathered more cattle by themselves. They had a big herd and not enough riders to keep the lead cows from going up the canyon instead of staying on the main trail. Ever since our range burned in 2003, that area is treacherous, with down logs and areas of serious erosion along the creek. One cow got her leg stuck in the fork of a log trying to climb over it, and Michael had to get off his horse and literally pry her foot out. Another cow nearly fell off a 45-foot cliff along the edge of the canyon. Three calves fell into a deep hole along the bank, but were able to scramble out.
After Emily was back in school again (3rd grade), she only had a chance to ride once, on a weekend, looking for one of Michael and Carolyn's missing cows (and calf) after we'd rounded up all the other cattle. Em and I didn't find that pair (they were on the wrong range and came home with the neighbor's cattle a few days later) but we did gather 4 pairs and a bull of our neighbors' that had strayed onto our range.
It was a tough job, and would have been hard to do with only one horse (those critters are a bit wild) so I was glad I had my little cowgirl partner along. She and Veggie waited quietly at the edge of the timber, to keep the cows from going the wrong way when I brought them toward the gate. I was afraid Veggie might fuss and whinny, being separated from my horse, but Emily petted his neck and talked to him and calmed him, and he behaved nicely for her—and she was able to head the cows through the gate for me.
We finally had rain in October, with snow on the mountains, easing into winter. We still needed to get our winter firewood, so we were hoping it wouldn’t come early and snow under our fall pasture (and make it difficult to cut and bring the wood home, having to put chains on the trucks). We were grateful for cooler weather, after all the heat we had that summer. Lynn's tomato plants and squash in his "water trough" gardens in the back yard (old rusted out water troughs for cattle, that he hauled into the back yard and filled with dirt) nearly "cooked" in the hot weather.
In early November we celebrated Danielle’s 2nd birthday, at Andrea and Mark’s place. The grandkids were certainly growing fast. Charlie was 5, Samantha almost 4, and Emily soon to be 9. She was on the 3rd grade wrestling team (the only girl, that year) and won 2 of her matches at a regional wrestling meet. Our older grandkids were busy with sports, also, with Nick doing well in cross country track, and Heather (age 15) on the track, volleyball, and basketball teams.
Lynn spent some time that Fall hauling hay; we had to buy a lot of hay because of the summer drought and being short on hay and pasture. Michael helped Lynn haul the hay we bought, but still needed to locate some hay for himself to buy and haul. We’d also been busy getting our cattle pregnancy checked and vaccinated and the calves weaned and sold, and I was also doing as much writing as possible. We were still helping our kids financially (on Andrea's house project at Twelve-Mile and Michael and Carolyn's cattle herd-building), so I was grateful for all the work that came my way that summer and fall, for article assignments and books to write. I ask the Lord to provide, and He does, and so I ask Him for strength to do the work He provides.
That fall I was also trying to find time to send a few books (BEYOND THE FLAMES) to some of the burn centers around the country to be given to burn patients and their families, in hopes it might be a source of hope and encouragement for others who are suddenly thrust into this terrifying unknown. Lynn and I had been helped by many people who had already gone through this ordeal, and by the many others we joined hands with while groping our way through that awesome detour in our lives. We wanted to help others who might be just starting this jourhey.
We hadn't been able to keep track of everyone we bonded with that summer of 2000, but I still keep in touch with Liz and Laurel and a few of the others. By 2006 Laurel was slowly healing in spirit after the loss of her daughter; she’d come a long way in that traumatic journey. The difference in her letters, compared with several years earlier when she could not handle it very well, was like night and day. And Liz had a lot of things to bear; that fall she had her hands full with very ill elderly parents and father-in-law (her dear mother-in-law passed away the previous winter after a long illness), and other ongoing challenges, but the bright spot was that her son Ty was doing so well. Her joy in watching him graduate from college that spring was incredibly wonderful for her. She and I continuously shared our mutual journey of nursing our burned and hurting children through the darkest hours of our own fears and despair and watching them take life by the horns again and eventually soar, letting none of their impairments hold them back.
Lynn spent quite a bit of time during the summer and fall of 2006 locating wells for people. He uses welding rods and a green willow, to determine location of the water, the width of the underground stream, and often can determine depth. He tries to find a spot where one underground stream crosses another (at different depths) so when the well is drilled, it hits them both. This gives more chance for a good water supply. There might be one stream 120 feet down that produces 3 gallons a minute, for instance, and maybe another stream going a different direction 100 feet below that, giving 5 gallons a minute. By hitting them both you get a well that produces 8 gallons a minute, which is adequate for a home. And sometimes those streams produce a lot more. He's found some wells that produced 60 to 75 gallons a minute, which is phenomenal for this part of the country. He's probably located more than 300 wells by now, and really enjoys doing it.
That fall my father (who had just turned 88) went to Missoula, Montana once a week all through October for more chemo drips. The doctors thought 4 treatments would be enough this time (he had 6 the year before) but after checking his blood values afterward they said he needed 2 more. Hopefully the extra treatments will bring his blood levels close enough to normal that he can go without treatments for a while again. He has a rare sort of blood disorder (Waldenstrom's macroblogulinemia). It's a cancer of the B-lymphocytes (a certain type of white blood cell), infiltrating the bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes, etc. It occurs mostly in older people and progresses slowly. He had it several years but only within the last year needed treatment for it. The 6 chemo treatments he had in 2005 really helped him; his platelet levels came back up to normal and he had more energy again, so we were hoping this round of treatments will help again for awhile.
There's so much to deal with as life takes us farther down the road. My cousin's wife (who had surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer) had a summer of remission and then was back on chemo again, but she has such a good attitude about it, such trusting faith. I struggle along with lesser problems and wonder if I could do so well. We are all in this boat together, grabbing hands and lending one another support and courage and care. It's always easier when you know someone else is there beside you. The love that connects us is stronger than the difficulties that beset us, and there is much to rejoice in and wonder at. It's all about choice. We can choose to see the blessings and be grateful for them, and the wondrous things that evolve out of "bad" things, or we can be grumpy about our "fate". I keep needing to learn and relearn many lessons, but there are some wonderful moments of peace and understanding along the way. I just wish I wasn't such a wimp regarding the frailties of growing older!