I will continue with diary entries and memories, as I gradually catch up these blog installments to present day—filling in what’s happened between when I wrote BEYOND THE FLAMES: A FAMILY TOUCHED BY FIRE, and what our family is doing today:
AUGUST 20, 2009 – Last Tuesday Andrea came out to the ranch and rode with me to round up cows on the upper place and bring the 4 year old bull home. Our breeding season is over and we want to sell Posie because he’s becoming aggressive and unpredictable. We brought a few of the yearling heifers with him, to create a little herd so it would be easier to bring him. Otherwise he would not have come willingly by himself—he would have tried to go back to his cows.
When we got the cattle down to the corral, we sorted off the bull and put him in another pen (to send him to the auction next week), then rounded up the cows in the swamp pasture to sort off 6 heifers to take to the upper place. Those cattle didn’t want to come down to the corral; they ran through the brush and across the creek. The brush was too thick to go through on horseback, so Andrea went on foot to herd them back across the creek and out into the open, and I led her horse. The cows tried to run the wrong way when they came out of the brush. Rubbie, Breezie and I had to trot quickly through deep bogs to head them off. Breezie came along very nicely as we floundered through the bogs, and didn’t slow me down much as I led her from my horse, so I was able to head the cows and we got them down to the corral. We sorted out the heifers and took them (along with our decoy heifers we brought down with the bull) to the upper place.
Last Saturday I helped Michael, Carolyn, Heather and Nick round up cows off their Sandy Creek range. We trailered horses over there (15 miles) and rode all afternoon gathering cattle. It was the first time I’ve ridden on that range allotment. We sorted off Don Hatch’s cows and took the rest of the herd to Michael’s leased place on Sandy Creek. Young Heather rode one of the green horses she’s been training this summer for another rancher. Nick rode Chester—one of Michael’s best cowhorses.
On Monday I put hind shoes on Breezie; she’s too tenderfooted for any more rides without shoes. I’d forgotten how obnoxious she was about shoeing her hind feet! When we bought her as a 5 year old (12 years ago) she was challenging to shoe, but gradually improved as I worked with her feet and shod her several times each summer. But the spring of 2000 was the last time she was shod. After Andrea’s burn accident that July, she didn’t ride Breezie any more that year, and only a few times each summer after that—not enough riding for the mare to need shoes.
This summer Andrea rode more often, and Breezie was tenderfooted. She was ok with shoeing her front feet, but her hinds were a different story! She kept trying to take her foot away from me, and I’m not as strong as I used to be—she jerked the first one away when I had only 2 nails it. She caught my wrist with a nail (I hadn’t had time to twist it off) and tore a gash in my wrist, and scraped my arm. I had a serious “talk” with her and finished the job, then went to the house and bandaged my wrist. After time off from being shod for 9 years, she apparently reverted back to phobias she arrived with. She was always worse about her left hind foot, perhaps because of bad memories. There’s an old scar above the hoof; maybe she had painful experiences being treated for that injury, and perhaps used that as an excuse to not let anyone handle that foot.
Michael and Carolyn took Heather to Helena, Montana to start her Freshman year at Carroll College. She’s enjoying all her classes, but her favorite is the Human Animal Bond course, which is part of the psychology program.
Lynn took the turner rake off our small tractor, to put the blade on, to clean out the barn (which we didn’t get cleaned this spring before it flooded and was too boggy to drive in there with a tractor). But some yellow jackets were nesting in the attachment hookups on the blade, and came swarming out. He used a can of WD-40 spraying them (it works great as a bee/hornet killer) but wasn’t able to get rid of them all. He went out at night in the dark to hook up the blade when the yellow jackets were inactive.
Today Andrea came to the ranch and rode with me again. We checked troughs on the high range and I was glad to see that the ones Em and I fixed last summer (that had been vandalized) are still working. This was the first time in 10 years that Andrea has been back to the high range--since before her burn accident--and she enjoyed being out there again. It was nostalgic for her—and for me, happy to have her riding again.
Then we checked the 320 and 160 fences and patched numerous places where elk had broken the wires or knocked wires off posts. On our way back down the mountain we could see down into our fields.
We noticed cows in the wrong place, above our fields, so we gathered and took them back where they belonged, and found a big hole in the fence by the ditch. Someone had taken it apart. Andrea and I spent about an hour putting logs and branches across the gap and tied everything together with baling twine to make a fence that would last until Lynn has a chance to repair it with poles and steel posts.
SEPTEMBER 11 – Michael and Carolyn finished hauling our big bales, and their bales on the Gooch place, but their big truck got stuck in the creek. Michael came down and borrowed our backhoe to pull it out. Then they moved their haying equipment over to the Maurer place they are leasing, and Lynn helped them haul and stack a field of second cutting. They still have 4 smaller fields left to cut.
I trimmed Veggie’s feet. Em hasn’t ridden him enough this summer to keep his feet worn down and they were getting too long. I’m hoping she can ride him a few more times this fall, and I don’t want him stumbling because of long toes.
Granddaughter Heather came home from college for Labor Day holiday and brought a friend from her dorm. Samantha loves horses, too. They had a great time riding all 3 days, to move cows and check the range gates up Withington Creek. They also helped Michael and Carolyn work cows on the Maurer place—vaccinating and preg-checking. It was the first time Samantha had ever worked with cows but she enjoyed it. She got a crash-introduction to cattle work and really enjoyed learning how to help put cattle through the chute.
Young Heather enjoyed riding in special performance last Friday at her college; it was a “dances with horses” production--put on by professional dancers (Equus Projects). These dancers come to various communities around the U.S. and practice with local horses and riders for a week, then put on a performance that involves 6 riders and 4 dancers. Several of the HAB students got to ride in this production, and Heather rode one of her professor’s Arabian geldings.
Her professor, Anne Perkins, is head of the psychology department at Carroll and the HAB curriculum is her brainchild. Anne was impressed with young Heather’s riding ability--which I’m sure has been helped by growing up with horses, riding all kinds of horses, and training young horses.
Andrea’s girls stayed with us Monday and Tuesday while Andrea took 8 year old Charlie to Salt Lake City for a doctor appointment. She also visited some of her old nurses at the burn ICU, and had the contractures on her shoulder and finger checked. She needs surgery to release those; her little finger is being pulled off to the side and the contractures at her shoulder are pulling her backbone out of line. But the surgery will require more skin grafting, so she keeps putting it off.
The girls enjoyed helping us do chores while they were here, and playing with their cats—and the new kitten they hadn’t seen before.
Sam and Dani had fun being rabbits, taping ears and rabbit “teeth” to their faces.
They also enjoyed “typing” on one of my old typewriters, which has been “retired” since 1995 when I started using a computer for writing my articles and books.
Lynn took Em and Sam to the school bus Tuesday morning, and Dani helped me all day; her preschool classes don’t start till next week. The days are getting shorter and feel like fall. It froze hard a couple nights ago, and my hose for watering the horses was full of ice. I guess it’s time to start draining it again every day.
SEPTEMBER 19 – It’s really hot and dry. We’ve been short on irrigation water for more than a month, unable to water the fields again after getting the hay off. Right now we’re down to one ditch (out of 6 ditches coming out of the creek at various elevations, to water our many small fields) and the water hasn’t made it across the field yet after Lynn set it there more than 2 weeks ago.
Michael and Carolyn worked their Sandy Creek cows last week, to preg check and vaccinate. They were short one calf off that range. It might have been killed by wolves; ranchers on that range found several wolf-killed carcasses this summer and fall.
Lynn has been working on our corrals and fixing our squeeze chute, in preparation for working our cows. On Thursday Andrea came out to the ranch and helped me gather our cows off the upper place. We brought them down to the swamp pasture above the corrals.
Yesterday I helped Michael and Carolyn start rounding up cattle off our high range. We got 49 pair and a bull from the Baker Creek side, putting them down into the 160 acre pasture.
We got home before dark and I helped Lynn feed a few bales to our cows and calves to lure and lock them in the lower end of the swamp pasture to be easier to round up at daylight. This morning we sorted off the calves and were bringing our orphan calf (Shiny) around to the corral when our vet arrived to preg -check the cows and bangs vaccinate the heifer calves.
All our yearling heifers and cows were pregnant. We weaned the heifer calves and several bull calves, and put the cows with steers in the field above the corrals where there’s good grass. We’ll be keeping the heifers, and selling the steers in late October, shipping them with Michael’s calves.
SEPTEMBER 30 – We kept the weaned heifers in a pen for a few days, where they can’t crawl out. There was a little green grass and we also fed them some hay just to get them gentled. They were used to us walking amongst them last spring when they were babies, and are pretty gentle, but feeding them with a wheelbarrow got them REALLY gentle. The bull calves were confined in the grassy pen below the barn, but Freddy George (the biggest, tallest bull calf) jumped over a panel so we locked him in the calving pen next to the house until we could put them all out at pasture.
After 4 days the cows were no longer worried about their weaned calves, and Andrea and I rode Breezie and Rubbie and took the cows and pregnant yearlings to the 320. It was a hot day and we took them slowly, especially up the last steep hill. But when they got to Baker Creek—with shade and green grass--they were happy.
There isn’t much water in Baker creek, due to the hot, dry weather—barely enough for the cows to get a drink. Andrea and I rode again the next day and worked on a water trough that had been vandalized (just like the range troughs last summer); someone had taken apart the elbow on the plastic pipe that goes into the trough. Andrea was able to put it back together with a temporary “fix” and Lynn went back the next day with tools and a new elbow and fixed it better.
Michael and Carolyn got their second cutting baled (though they had to fix a flat tire on their baler) and hauled. Lynn helped haul, driving one of the flatbed trucks. We got done in time to go to town late afternoon to watch Nick’s cross-country track meet. Nick did the 3-mile run in just over 18 minutes, and came in 8th out of more than 50 runners. He was the first Salmon runner to cross the finish line.
On Friday I helped Michael and Carolyn round up more cows. Some were in the neighboring range; several gates between the Forest Service and BLM allotments were left open by 4-wheelers. We rode to Mulkey Creek and found 3 more pairs and a dry cow, but as we were sorting them from neighbor’s cattle in the timber, the dry cow got away and ran down the mountain with the neighbor’s cows. I held the 3 pairs while Michael and Carolyn tried to get her, but the terrain and timber were challenging (and the group she went with was very wild) so they had to give up. We brought the 3 pair down along the steep canyon above our range, and down to the 160—where we gathered the 150-plus pairs that were already in that mountain pasture. It was 6 pm when we started gathering them off the mountainsides, and by the time we rounded them up and brought them 5 miles down the road to the lower fields, it was dark.
Michael and Carolyn rode again for several days and found a few more of their cows and calves in Mulkey Creek. The rest came home with the neighbor when he rounded up his cattle—all but one calf that’s still missing. Last night we had rain (the best rain since early summer), with snow on the upper place and 320. There was 1.5 inches of water in Shiny’s grain tub this morning. We desperately needed this moisture.
OCTOBER 14 – We’ve had some cooler weather (down to 4 degrees) and Lynn has been sawing firewood. Our power went off for several hours last Sunday. The wind blew two lines together and burned them up, and it took awhile for the power company to find the problem. I always get up early and type articles, but that morning there was no power for the computer or lights, so I lit several candles and wrote letters at the kitchen table, and Lynn and I ate breakfast by candlelight. We couldn’t water the horses because the pump wouldn’t work, but fortunately most of them still had water from the day before. Lynn carried 2 buckets to Breezie from the creek because her tub was nearly empty.
Last Monday I was on the Martha Stewart radio program. She’d seen my book Stable Smarts, and asked my publisher to contact me for her program. She has horses and wanted me to talk about how I became a horse person, and discuss various aspects of horse care.
On of my publisher (Storey) talked me into doing a “blog” on their website, where several of their authors and editors post thoughts and comments. I’ve never done anything like this before, but all I have to do is send my “installments” and photos to the person who does their website. My installments are posted every 2 weeks. In the first one I introduced myself and told about my first horse. The second one tells how I became a cow person. To view my blog, go to http://insidestorey.blogspot.com and click on my name in the list of authors on the right hand side of the page. I guess I’m finally entering the modern world of internet communication.
One more update: Andrea finally decided to have the surgery on her arm that she’s been postponing for several years, to release the contractures (from the skin grafts)—the shortening and thickening scar tissue that’s pulling her little finger and her shoulder and spine out of line (giving her a lot of pain, backaches, headaches, etc.). She’ll probably have it done in November or December. It will entail more skin grafting and a long recovery.