LATE MAY 2008 – Lynn hauled our big tractor home on the flatbed trailer, from the ranch on Sandy Creek—where Michael had used it during winter to load hay. Lynn used it to smooth out manure piles on our upper Wild Meadow before he started the irrigation water on that field. We hauled manure up there from the corrals several years ago but never took time to spread out the piles, so it’s nice to finally have that accomplished.
I was working on the edited manuscript of my next book, checking the edits and adding clarifications and a few more illustrations. I finally got that finished and sent back to the publisher, and had more time to write articles for horse and cattle magazines.
Our weather finally warmed up and leaves came out on the trees. Everything was about a month late that spring, including the grass. Michael and Carolyn had to buy several more semi loads of hay to get through the spring till grass. There was no extra hay for sale in our valley. It had to be hauled from Montana, making it very expensive.
We were still feeding our cows until mid-May when we moved them to the pasture above the corrals. We locked them in the lower end, away from the creek, to eliminate the chance for any calves drowning, in case they tried to cross it. With the warm weather, the snow on the mountains is melting and the creek is very high.
We had more snow than usual this past winter, and this is the first big run-off after the 2003 fire. Though grass is now growing in the burned area, the soil is still not very stable; a lot of silt came down the creek and into our ditches.
Michael and Carolyn spent several days sorting pairs (on the Maurer place) and hauling them to summer pasture—some to the Sandy Creek place, some to leased pasture at 17 mile, some to our range, using 2 stock trailers.
Lynn and I hauled water tanks to the State Land pasture and pumped for those cows. That pasture has no water, but we can pump water from our ditch in the field next to the county road. We put a long pipe through the culvert under the road and string out hoses to hook up to it—from the pump in the ditch, and then to our tanks in the dry pasture. We have enough troughs to hold water for several days.
JUNE – Granddaughter Emily played baseball on her school team, and we went one evening to watch her last game of the season. It rained hard during the end of the game but the kids kept playing, and we held plastic garbage bags over our heads to keep from getting soaked.
We finally got Boomerang (the handicapped calf) out of the barn and into the back yard. He was walking much better, and needed to learn to eat grass! The weather was so wet and cold that we made a shelter in one corner of the yard, using an old canvas tent, and plastic tarps over the top of it to make sure it doesn’t leak. He spent a lot of time in his shelter when it was raining or windy.
Lynn and I drove up on the State Land pasture with the 4-wheeler one Sunday to check on the grass and the cows and discovered Peggy Sue had foot rot. We’d seen all the cows a few days before when we were pumping water for them, and she was ok, but was now severely lame. We started to bring her and her calf down the steep hill to the road, following them on foot, but her calf ran back to the herd. So I brought Peggy Sue down by herself (she was too lame to try to run off) and Lynn went ahead with the 4-wheeler to open the gate. We brought her a half-mile down the road to the corral and put her in the headcatcher, giving her antibiotics. Then I followed her back up the road and put her back into the State Land pasture.
In early June I trimmed the horses’ feet in hopes Emily could come out and ride with me, but the weather was too wet and cold; it snowed one day, and never got above 40 degrees F for several days. We had a fire in our wood stove nearly every day that spring, and ran out of firewood, so Andrea and her friend sawed and hauled a trailer load of wood from up the creek. Usually by mid-June many ranchers are cutting hay, but not that year. The hay crop was way behind.
In late June Michael, Carolyn and kids branded and vaccinated the last of their late-born calves. Lynn and I branded and vaccinated our group. The calves were about 2 months old and had grown so big that it was all Lynn and I could do to tip them, on the calf table, to brand them. We’re not as young and strong as we used to be!
The next day Lynn and I moved the herd on our upper place, putting them across the creek to the field next to the mountain. The creek had finally dropped enough that there was less risk for drowning calves. Moving our cows is always easy; all we do is call them and they’ll follow us anywhere. They followed Lynn to the gate panels by the creek and waited for him to open them.
My nephew, Matt Smith, spent several days with us in late June, coming from Seattle. He had some good visits with my mom (his grandmother) at the care center. It’s nice that mom is a little stronger and more lucid than she was during the fall and winter; she appreciated his visits.
Andrea finally made a trip to Salt Lake for long overdue appointments with a couple doctors—to check on her skin graft problems and to have a large lump checked in her breast. The breast lump checked out ok so we were relieved. And the mole mapping on her legs gave no indications of problems this time. It had been 3 years since she had those grafts checked and the doctors prefer she check them every year, since periodically they’ve had to remove malignant tissue. She had some mole growths on her back that were removed prior to her burn accident, but some had apparently been left. When skin was taken from her back to graft over the burns on her legs, some of that tissue was transferred with the grafts. She’s had several crops of black moles appear on her legs, and those moles had to be removed.
One of the highlights of her trip this time was reconnecting with some of the nurses, physical therapists and others at the burn center who made such a difference in her life that summer 8 years earlier when she spent so much time in the burn center struggling to survive. She made a point this trip to look up many people she wanted to see again, and they were delighted to see how well she is doing.
She had good visits with several of the burn ICU nurses, including some that were no longer in the ICU (like her 2 most favorite nurses—Kim, who was now at the cancer center and Matt Harringer who was now a flight nurse, helping bring seriously ill or injured patients to the University hospital). She was so delighted to reconnect with them. She said this trip was really special, seeing many of those people again.
There were emotional reunions. In her earlier trips down there for checkups, with Mark, he wasn’t interested in doing things like this, and never wanted to take time. Now that Andrea was no longer with Mark (though the divorce is not yet final, and he was putting her through a lot of emotional and financial trauma trying to gain custody of the kids) her life was easier now in some ways, and she hopes to do more things she’s wanted to do—such as help encourage other burn survivors as they struggle back toward a more normal existence. Someday she’d like to help with burn camps--to help encourage young burn survivors, and maybe attend one of the burn conferences. Her life will be more her own, once she gets this divorce behind her.
While Andrea was gone for 4 days, the 3 little kids stayed here at the ranch with us. The oldest, Emily, was spending part of the summer with her dad, Jim, in Nevada. He moved to Tonapah a couple years earlier. Andrea planned to drive down to get her before school started. Emily enjoyed helping Jim in his shop, learning how to cut and polish turquoise stones that he puts into some of his antler lamps and chandeliers.
While Andrea was in Salt Lake for her doctor appointments, Charlie, Samantha and Dani had fun here, helping me do chores, helping feed the crippled calf in the back yard, painting pictures to send to their big sister Emily. We got 2 postcards from Emily, so the little kids wrote her “letters” and made pictures to send back to her. The highlight for them seemed to be playing with and feeding the calf in our yard. Little Dani would ask me several times a day if it was time yet to go feed “maa maa”. His name was Boomerang but when we called him we’d say “maa maa” (and he came galumphing out of his tent to come suck a bottle), so Dani thought his name was maa maa.
A few days after Andrea got back from Salt Lake, she came out to the ranch while the kids were at the Mahoney House (the family safety center where Mark had supervised visits with them once a week), and rode with me. It was the first time she’d had a chance to ride her horse since we were rounding up cattle off the 320 and 160-acre mountain pastures the previous fall. We only had time for a short ride, since she had to be back to pick up her kids after a 3-hour visit with their dad. We rode Rubbie and Veggie to the upper place to check on our cattle up there. It was great to be able to ride together again.
Michael was extremely busy that summer, doing custom hay cutting. It was a hectic year for him, taking on 5 leased ranches and trying to get things functional (old falling down fences, broken sprinkler systems). Our grandkids Heather (age 17) and Nick (15) were good help; they put in long days helping with the irrigation and changing sprinkler pipe. In early July, however, Nick was preparing for a 2-week trip to Australia and Hawaii for international track meets--a wonderful opportunity for a 15 year old kid. One other boy from Salmon was going, and they each had to raise almost $5000 apiece for the trip. They did a lot of fundraising projects, and Nick worked odd jobs for various people, and also had donations from family and friends to make the final total. This trip would be quite an experience for a kid who had never been on an airplane, never seen the ocean, never traveled very far from home (only to track meets in our region).
Lynn was helping Michael that summer, wherever possible, on some of the irrigation and fence fixing. He took our stackwagon to a ranch north of town to stack hay for a client of Michael’s (a job Michael didn’t have time to do). I kept writing as many articles (for horse and cattle magazines) as I could, since we were definitely not to the point yet that we could slow down in trying to help our kids financially…
As we tackled all the projects that summer, we were grateful that we had children, and were still able to help them—glad that we DO have kids and grandkids! And another
blessing has been the ever-widening circle of friends and loving people whom we would never have met but for Andrea’s burn accident and the way it changed our lives. We now have a lot more empathy for other people, and more understanding about the truly important things in life, and this understanding helps us strive to keep things in proper perspective.
We weep with others when they have trauma, and we rejoice with others as they find healing or peace. In late June we received an e-mail from an older couple who were at the burn center when Andrea was there 8 years earlier (Royce was severely burned in a methane gas well explosion, and was in the room next to Andrea in the ICU… and nearly died several times from his injuries and from pneumonia). Royce and Marie live in Georgia and they had a good friend with a child that had severe seizures from a very young age, and had recently undergone surger. A wide circle of friends has been keeping that family in their prayers.
Royce and Marie sent me an e-mail forwarded from the mother of that child:
“Today marks the 3rd week since Catherine’s brain surgery and the 20th day with no seizures. I am in such amazement as I watch her play and interact, learning anew how to engage with her world. We’ve coaxed a few chuckles. Then suddenly, today, she offered smiles from nowhere; she’s attempting (very humorous) to run, and is responding to us in new ways. She is more “here” with us than I’ve seen in the last 2 years.
“I feel like I’ve walked out onto a beach after a storm. The air is fresh and peaceful but the view is littered as the water recedes. Upon closer inspection, it isn’t all refuse. Strewn around are remnants and seaweed I wish to cast back into the tide, never to be seen again, but beachcombing also reveals treasures from the depths that I could never have imagined.
“The depth of my understanding and certainly of God’s love and mercy now have nothing to do with whether this reprieve in Catherine’s seizures is permanent or whether they will return to torture us all again. The joy I have in simple, uncomplicated days is steadfast and rich. The experience of His enduring presence will ever outshine the best of any outcome we could ever seek on Catherine’s behalf. These are miracles and treasures of immeasurable value.
“As I take in all that I am able, I know my portion is for today. For whatever lies ahead, whether calm or storm, the portion will be ample to fill the need. And this time I am breathing in deeply the fresh aroma of His promise to supply that ample portion.
“Many blessings and thanks to those who beachcomb alongside and help us fill our buckets with treasures. I pray that you enjoy them as much as we do.”
Lynn and I felt that her words were worth sharing, since we know how wondrously surprised a person can be, at times, by joy—and treasures unimagined that are suddenly given to us as we travel though days that sometimes threaten to overwhelm us with adversities…