Friday, November 4, 2011

Summer 2009

LATE MAY – We had a long, cold spring and the grass wasn’t growing. The cows ran out of grass on our small hill pasture, so we sacrificed the hayfield below the house and brought the cows down to graze it until we could fix fences and install a new water trough on our 320-acre mountain pasture.
I trimmed Rubbie’s, Breezy’s and Veggie’s feet and the next day Andrea and Emily rode with me to gather cows on the hill pasture and bring them down to the field. We hoped the hayfield would last the cows about a week, until we could move them to the 320—and then grow back for hay later.
We moved the 12 yearling heifers to another small pasture but were still feeding hay to 7 pairs (the last cows that calved). This was the latest we’ve ever had to feed hay! That Saturday we branded/vaccinated those calves and vaccinated the cows. We took out Rishira’s stitches while she was in the chute. Her incision, from the surgical correction of the uterine torsion, had finally healed.
The next Friday evening we went to our granddaughter Heather’s high school graduation to hear her Valedictory speech. We were very proud of her! Hard to believe that we’d been grandparents for 18 years!
That week we also attended granddaughter Samantha’s graduation from Kindergarten. We were very proud of her, too.
On Saturday Andrea helped Lynn take a new water trough and springbox to the 320. They dug out a spring in the upper draw and installed the springbox to collect the water, to pipe it into the water trough. Over a course of several days they finished putting in the long plastic pipe, and set new posts to fix the fence on the south side of the 320.
MID-JUNE – Michael and Carolyn moved their cows off the low range to the middle range on June 4, and that afternoon we moved our cattle to our 320-acre pasture. Andrea and I gathered our pairs and yearlings, leaving 3 cows (with the youngest calves) home. It was a long trip for the calves (more than 4 miles, uphill) and by afternoon the temperature was hot. We took them as slowly as possible. When we got to the 320 we let them rest and graze periodically as we took them the last mile up the steep mountain to the new water trough. Some of the calves and fat yearlings were panting with their mouths open, and we didn’t want them to suffer heat stress.
It rained hard that evening and we hoped none of them would get pneumonia from the stress. We checked them the next day and they all seemed fine. They were happy to be up on the mountain pasture.
The rain washed mud into our new springbox, and there was mud in the pipeline. Lynn cleaned out the springbox and put a valve on the end of the by-pass pipe, so he can open it whenever necessary to flush out the mud.
Weather warmed up and the grass grew—and the water in the creek was finally dropping enough that the calves wouldn’t drown if they tried to cross it. So on June 11 we let the cows have access to the 160-acre pasture next to the 320. The only water in the 160 is the creek, down in the bottom corner. We were afraid to let the cattle use that pasture until the creek went down to safe level. Now they could use both pastures, watering at the creek in the bottom, and at our new water tank near the top of the 320.
One of Michael’s friends and range neighbor, Don Hatch (age 59), was severely injured that week, when he was bucked off a young horse while riding range. It was a cold, windy day and something spooked the horse; it whirled and took off running down a steep mountain. It was too steep to safely pull the horse around to stop it (the horse would have fallen down if Don had tried to pull it’s head around) and it started bucking. Don tried to control the horse, but split his pelvis during the jarring impacts while trying to ride the bucking horse. When he finally bucked off, he broke his arm in 10 places when he landed on the ground. The horse kept running, but the dogs soon came back to Don. He tried to get up but couldn’t, and lay on the cold ground for 6 hours.
His wife Kathy was worried when he didn’t come home, and phoned Michael and Carolyn at 8 pm. They only had a couple hours of daylight to try to find Don. Luckily they knew which range allotment he was riding. Michael and another neighbor, Bill Andrews, drove 4-wheelers up parallel ridges and Bill saw Don’s horse down in the canyon. In the wind, it was hard to hear anything, so Michael turned off his 4-wheeler to try to hear what Bill was hollering. Then he heard a faint cry for help, farther up the canyon. The wind was blowing just right, or he never would have heard Don hollering. He found Don just before dark, which was a miracle, because Don was severely cold and going into shock, and would not have survived the night.
Actually it was one of Don’s dogs that saved him. She’d snuggled up against him to help him keep warm. Don is hard of hearing and didn’t hear the 4-wheeler, but the dog heard it and suddenly lifted her head. Don raised up to see what the dog was looking at, and at just that instant Michael was going along the ridge above him--at about the only place where Don could see him. Don started hollering, and it was just then that Michael turned off his 4-wheeler. Otherwise he never would have heard Don. Everything lined up perfect; otherwise no one would have found the injured man that night.
Michael drove down off the ridge in the direction of Don’s hollering, and found him lying in the sagebrush, then went back up the ridge to where he could find cell phone service, called Carolyn—who called for help. She and Kathy directed the Search and Rescue vehicles up a jeep track to where they could get to Don. Then the EMTs used a 4-wheeler and cart with a backboard to take him up to the ridge where they found a place for a helicopter to land, setting out lights in the dark, to mark a landing spot in amongst the tall sagebrush. Don was life-flighted to a hospital in Missoula, Montana, where he was treated for hypothermia and shock, and had extensive surgery on his fractured arm. He would recover, thanks to friends and neighbors and a miracle—and a good dog.

EARLY JULY – We put our bulls out with the cows. Andrea rode with me and we took the 4-year-old bull “Posie” 3 miles to the upper place with Rishira and Lilly and their calves to keep him company on the trip. We put them in the small corral, then rode farther up to the 320 and gathered those cattle down to the gate. Lynn met us there on his 4-wheeler.
With 3 of us it was easy to sort out the cows and heifers we wanted to breed to the yearling bull and we brought that small group down to the corral. We then took Posie and his companions up to the 320; they’d had a chance to rest, which made the trip less stressful on the two calves. We then came home again, and took Rosie (Posie’s mother) and her calf up the road with the yearling bull (Buffalo Billy) to the upper place to join his breeding group, and took them across the fields and over the hill to Cheney Creek.
It rained most of the day, and we were soaked by the time we got finished, but the cool weather was easier on the cattle (for their long trip) than being hot. The only bad part was when we first started out, when Andrea and I herded Posie and cows off the road so a vehicle could get past the cattle—and Posie suddenly turned and threatened Andrea’s horse. He rooted his head at Breezy, ready to charge and hit her, but Andrea spurred Breezy to make her hold her ground, and I charged at the bull with my horse, and we both yelled as loud as we could. The bull backed off. If Breezy had flinched away from him, the bull would have taken advantage and rammed her. He was grumpy, from being in the corral by himself, but that kind of behavior is intolerable and we decided we’d sell him after that breeding season.

JULY 5 – I wrote a letter to my friend Liz on July 5, and told her: “Today is the day that always (ever since 2000) makes me pause and reflect upon my entire life and purpose; it is the 9th anniversary of Andrea’s burn injuries and our nearly losing her—and I think this is a bittersweet day for Laurel, too, because this was Sara’s birthday. Such a journey this has been, and I am eternally grateful for the friendship between the 3 of us mothers—you, me and Laurel—because this wonderful, extraordinary friendship has been a very big part of the strength that has sustained me throughout my “detour” into frightening new territory. I thank God for friends, and for the Love that has kept me going and has blessed me, these past 9 years. I know I could not have struggled through that “wilderness” on my own. I think that by trying to help each other, and by accepting the love we offered one another, we became stronger. For this I shall be eternally grateful.”

MID-LATE JULY – Strong winds blew the big tarp off our straw stack. Lynn secured it again and put big bales against it to hold it down.
Our grandson Nick was driving many miles a day to irrigate several ranches, so we sold him our little red pickup (Ford Ranger) for $250; it uses much less gas than the vehicle he was driving. He helped his dad get the red pickup running again. It needed a new starter and fuel filter. Nick was excited to have his first vehicle of his own.
Emily rode with me to check cows, and when we rode across the Gooch place to go up Cheney Creek we had to cross a boggy area next to the ditch. Rubbie tried to jump the ditch instead of walking through it, and when she landed on the other side in the bog, her feet sank so deeply that she couldn’t make the next stride to catch herself. With her front legs sunk up to her knees, she plowed into the mud on her head, throwing me down into the mud right next to her. I rolled quickly off to the side--to be out of her way as she floundered and scrambled to her feet just inches away from me. Em was scared, watching Rubbie and grandma go headfirst into the mud, but it was a soft landing and Rub didn’t step on me as she struggled to get up, so we were perfectly fine. That’s the softest landing I’ve ever had, coming off a horse!
We continued on our way after I got back on Rubbie, and checked the cows in Cheney Creek, then rode on up to the 320 and checked those cows.

Michael and Carolyn started haying, and borrowed our big tractor and flatbed truck to haul and stack their big round bales. We had more stormy weather; one night a big branch blew off the tree in our yard, hit the house and broke out the screen door window, but luckily it didn’t come through the main door.
Granddaughter Heather spent the summer helping her folks irrigate and haul hay, and training 5 young horses for several ranchers.
Michael helped her for a few days with the 2-year-olds that had never been handled, getting a halter on them and starting to halter-break them. She rode a couple of the older fillies nearly every day, getting them accustomed to riding out on the range and following cattle. One Saturday Andrea helped me bring the cattle down from the 320. The water quit running for the new trough, and the best grass was nearly gone, so we moved them down to the meadows on the upper place.
Then Andrea hurried back to town so she could get to work on time. She was working 4 days a week (3 pm until midnight) as a waitress, and enjoying it. She loves serving people, and they enjoy her cheerful spirit. She worked as a waitress 20 years earlier (after she finished high school), and many of her old customers are delighted to see her again. Em was able to look after the younger kids while Andrea was at work, making sure they had supper and got to bed on time.
Andrea and Em rode with me the next Wednesday to our Cheney Creek pasture, to check cows and get pairs back together (some of the cows found a hole in the fence where trees blew down and smashed it), and the 3 younger kids stayed with grandpa.
When we got back, we gave each of them a ride down the road on Veggie, with me leading him alongside Rubbie. It was the first time Dani (4), Sammy (6) and Charlie (7) had ridden a horse, and they were very enthusiastic. I told them they were riding a grandson of the old mare (Khamette) that their mom learned to ride on when she was a little girl.

AUGUST – We finally started haying. Michael cut the fields above our house with his swather. When Lynn hooked up our baler to start baling, he discovered one of our big tractor tires was completely worn out--the tube was poking through. So we had to wait for the guys from the tire shop to bring out new tires ($650 apiece) the next day and replace the old ones. It rained that night, so the hay was too wet to bale. Two days later the hay was dry enough, and Lynn started baling—and the baler quit working! We couldn’t get parts for it over the weekend, so it was 3 more days before we got it fixed, and then it rained again. After it dried out a few days later, he baled part of the lighter hay, and Michael baled our heavier hay as big round bales.
Lynn got ready to haul the small bales to my hay shed (and we moved the last few bales out of it, in preparation for stacking new hay) and the stackwagon wouldn’t start! He tried to charge the batteries but they wouldn’t take a charge, so he went to town and get new batteries. Then it started, but the tilt tables wouldn’t work. Michael helped him later that day and they got it working, but before Lynn could haul any hay it rained again—and rained for 3 days, thoroughly soaking the little bales clear through. We had to let them sit in the field a week to dry and quit heating, before we dared stack them—and they were too moldy for horse hay. Lynn stacked them for the cows this winter. Michael helped us haul and stack the big round bales.
He cut the rest of our hay with his big swather, and baled some round bales. Lynn managed to bale enough small bales for the horses, but the baler had another problem; it caught the hay on fire and nearly burned up! Then the stackwagon started leaking hydraulic oil when he was hauling the 4th load to my hay shed. It would be a major fix job, so we had to borrow a stackwagon to finish. We’ve never had so much bad luck trying to put up such a small amount of hay!
Michael and Carolyn contracted their calves through the video auction, and we planned to sell our steers with theirs to help fill one of their loads. The calves would be shipped in late October.
I reset Rubbie’s front shoes and the next day reset her hinds. I’m getting too old to shoe all 4 feet at once! Her feet were getting long and needed to be trimmed and reshod. I didn’t want her stumbling and falling down chasing cattle.
Michael and Carolyn and kids were nearly done with their haying, and most of their fields had more hay than the year before—thanks to the great job of irrigating done by the two kids. The rain stopped them for a week, however, so they took time out from haying to move cattle to the high range. That first evening they got 40 pair gathered and moved, shut the gates and fixed a water trough—and got thoroughly soaked in a thunderstorm downpour. The next day they rode again and moved about 60 more pairs in the rain. I rode with them on Saturday and gathered 40 more. We rode again on Sunday afternoon for 6 hours. Young Heather rode two of the young horses she was training for another rancher—a different horse each day, and it was great to see how nicely they’re coming along. She and I gathered and moved cattle from one area while Michael and Carolyn gathered a different drainage. Our group was a challenge, with several cows trying to run the wrong way or back down the ridge, and Heather and her young horse did very well.