Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas 2012 Newsletter

Christmas 2012 & Happy New Year 2013
P.O Box 215
Salmon, Idaho 83467

Dear friends,

We are thankful for blessings we celebrate at Christmas, and grateful for God’s love that gives us Hope, Peace and Joy–and strength to continue or complete our journeys. We are especially thankful for the many friendships that enrich our lives.

Last winter we accomplished several projects before we started calving in April. With the help of our son Michael we rebuilt several ditches, fences and pens. We didn’t have much snow; our cattle grazed until mid-February before we had to start feeding hay.

It’s been nice having Andrea and kids here on the ranch in their new house. Young Dani (just turned 8) loves the cattle, and her favorite thing is helping Grandma do chores and feed cows. She “adopted” a gentle old cow named Maggie as her special friend, because Maggie lets Dani walk up to her and feed her a bite of hay or grass.

Dani had never seen a calf born, so she made us promise we’d let her be present when Maggie calved—even if it meant getting her out of school, or getting her up in the middle of the night. She had her clothes handy in a pile by her bed, ready to jump into and come to our place.

Maggie calved Easter Sunday morning (April 8) at 5 a.m. and we got Dani down here in time to witness the birth. It was a cold, snowy day so we had Maggie in the barn. Dani and I sat quietly in the next stall, and Maggie wasn’t a bit nervous having extra people around—she just lay there peacefully and calved. Later that day (before we put Maggie and calf in the field with the other cows and calves) Dani spent a lot of time in Maggie’s pen petting the calf and the old cow didn’t mind at all. She is very tolerant of that little girl.

We spent many days repairing and cleaning most of our ditches (hiring Michael to help us rework the ditch heads with our backhoe, and hauling countless loads of rock from our upper place to rebuild ditch heads and put in headgates and weirs). Michael also finished the new road to Andrea’s house, down through our field and barnyard, and hauled many dump truck loads of rock to finish it. It now has a better slant and surface. No one will get stuck in the mud or go shooting out over the field when it’s icy in winter.

Summer was busy with riding and haying. Granddaughter Heather was home from Carroll College in Helena, Montana and trained horses all summer. Her brother Nick helped his folks on the ranch and also worked at University ranch north of town Now they are both back at school, Nick in his second year at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa on a running/track scholarship, and Heather in her senior year at Carroll majoring in the Human Animal Bond (psychology department).

Andrea’s kids enjoyed the summer, riding around in the tractor with her while she was baling hay, and riding. Samantha rides 26-year-old Veggie, Charlie and Dani ride a 20-year-old mare named Ed. We bought a 6-year-old mare nicknamed Sprout that turned out to need a lot more training before the younger kids can ride her, but she is making a good horse for Emily.

On July 5, the 12th anniversary of Andrea’s burn accident, and start of “the rest of her life”, we all went on a ride (6 miles up into the mountains behind the ranch) for a picnic. A friend came along and brought an extra horse, so we had enough horses for all the kids. Lynn and Andrea’s friend Rick drove the jeep up there to meet us at a meadow in the timber, brought all the food, and we had a great picnic. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the fact we still have a daughter, and 4 wonderful grandkids (3 of which would never have been born if she’d perished in the fire).

Late summer ended up hot and dry, with many fires. Andrea worked on a fire camp pressure-washing crew (weed-washing vehicles coming and going from the fire) at Big Piney, Wyoming and at the Halstead fire near Stanley, Idaho. It was almost as smoky in our valley as it was 12 years ago. The Mustang fire north of town threatened homes along highway 93 north toward Montana and burned more than 340,000 acres.

Andrea left the fire camp at Stanley early, and she and Emily went to the annual World Burn Congress Sept 11-16 held this year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The WBC was such a wonderful experience when Andrea and I attended 4 years ago; we always hoped to attend another one. This summer we felt Andrea and Emily should go. Em was now old enough (mentally and emotionally) to benefit from this--possibly helpful for her in dealing with issues that stem from that summer her mom disappeared and was gone for 2 months. It was also a great chance for her and her mom to do something together.

They came home exhausted and inspired, with many new friends. Emily (who is normally shy) came out of her shell and made friends among the young burn survivors. She realized they were more insecure and shy than she is, and she bonded with several of them that she plans to keep in touch with.

Now the kids are all back in school: Em 9th grade, Charlie 5th, Sam 4th and Dani 2nd grade. The youngest girls are busy with dance and gymnastics. Em, Charlie and Dani are playing hockey. This fall I got two young Morgan fillies—a weanling and a 2-year old—and the grandkids are helping Andrea and me work with them. A fun project!

Carolyn works at a local veterinary clinic and Michael has been driving truck in North Dakota (near Crosby and Williston) in the oil fields since October and came home for a short break at Christmas. Weather and roads were bad. On his way home his car slid off the icy road near Livingston MT, but fortunately just tore a tire off and didn’t roll.

While he was home he tried to get caught up on all his cattle work—hauling hay, bringing cattle home from rented pasture, hauling yearlings to the sale at Butte, Montana and preg-checking, vaccinating cows and calves.

Snow and bad weather created a challenge bringing cattle from the leased pasture to corrals for hauling—one cow slipped off the road, rolled down a 20 foot bank, upside down against the fence. They got her pulled back up to the road but she’d broken her hip and had to be butchered. Hauling hay was also a challenge but we got it safely hauled, until Michael went back to get our tractor and loader. Again, it was snowing and horribly slick roads. The truck couldn’t make it up the grade and spun out, sliding backward. The trailer with tractor slid off the road, down over a bank, landing upside down. Fortunately the twist in the tongue popped the hitch loose and the truck (with Michael and young Heather in it) stayed on the road and wasn’t dragged down off the bank, too. We are SO thankful that it was just vehicles and equipment damaged/totaled and nobody was hurt. We hold our family close to our hearts, in gratitude.

Life is full of setbacks and struggles, but we rejoice in the Love of One who continually cares for us, and leads us through the tough times as well as the good ones.

[for updates on our lives see and to read some of my “critter” stories, see my posts on ] With love and best wishes from Withington Creek, Lynn & Heather Thomas

Thursday, December 20, 2012


JULY 24, 2012 – Two weeks ago Andrea went to help our neighbor Bob Minor on a forest fire at Big Piney Wyoming. They are pressure washing all vehicles and heavy equipment that come and go from the fire. This is a Forest Service regulation to prevent spread of weed seeds.

She was gone for 9 days. While she was gone, Lynn and I helped Rick take care of her kids, and Emily rode with me several times to check fences and fix a couple water troughs.

Em has also been earning a little money this summer helping me sort and file articles, trim the brush around my stackyard, and other odd jobs indoors and out. For a few days she helped me flush the old abscess on Sprout’s right hind heel. That mare bruised her heel in the rocks and has been lame for 2 weeks and we haven’t been able to ride her.

Michael and Carolyn and kids chopped larkspur in the 320 in Baker Creek, so it won’t be a danger when they move their cows in there. We also need to fix the fence so the range cows won’t get in there when they get moved to the high range.

The weather has turned hot and dry. Last week we finally started haying. This was about 3 weeks later than planned, because we needed to keep irrigating some of the fields a little longer, due to shortage of water in our creek this summer. On Saturday Rick helped me move the rest of my hay out of the hay shed (and we made a little stack by the horse pens) so we can put new hay in the shed. Andrea started baling and Lynn stacked, and we got my hay shed filled again.

Lynn put the rest of the hay in the main stackyard across the creek. Yesterday Dani rode Veggie for a short ride around the hayfields while Lynn was stacking hay.

When we got done haying Andrea rode with Dani, Sam and me. Today I rode with young Heather and Carolyn while they led and rode a couple of the green horses Heather is training this summer.

I also made plane and hotel reservations for Andrea and Emily to fly to the World Burn Congress in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in September. Emily is old enough now to benefit from this experience. It will help her to better understand all the things that happened when her mom was burned 12 years ago—when her mom disappeared from young Emily’s life for the rest of that summer. Andrea and I have wanted to attend another WBC ever since our first one in 2008, but this time its best that Andrea and Em do it together. We are scrambling to find the money to send them this year.

AUGUST 5 – Friday a week ago our neighbor Alfonzo told us he saw a big red steer out on the low range. Michael was missing a steer from our mountain pasture, so the next morning Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed and checked the low range. We saw the steer’s tracks near the far corner, and found him in some brush next to the middle range fence. He tried to go through the fence and join some range cows but we were able to get him away from the fence and around the hill. We took him 2 miles back to the 160 acre pasture where he belonged.

That evening Lynn and I went to my 50th high school class reunion dinner. We went to another get-together picnic on Saturday—and a brunch on Sunday.

Andrea helped Alfonzo and Lowell move their range cows from the middle range to the high range Sunday morning. That afternoon she and I rode again to gather more cattle the neighbors missed. Breezy worked 12 hours that day. We rode again the next day to move a few more cattle that got missed.

Michael and Carolyn moved their cows and calves into the Baker Creek side of the 320, now that the range cows and bulls are not pressing that side (they are on the high range instead). They had to take one cow home that lost her calf the night before—drowned in the new water trough. Her calf probably got knocked into the trough when the bulls were fighting, and couldn’t get out. They grafted their spare twin calf onto her. This is the calf named Opie that Michael rescued and stitched its belly back together again after the mother abandoned it and magpies ate the calf’s navel and belly skin.

Weather continues hot and very dry. More forest fires are cropping up nearby. Andrea left last week to help Bob on another fire near Stanley, Idaho (the Halstead fire). Rick has been going to the woods nearly every day to cut firewood to sell, and we’re hoping the Forest Service doesn’t close the forests to vehicles because of high fire danger. While Andrea was been gone, Em rode with Sam, Dani and me a few times.

Veggie had a close call last week. During the night the 26-year-old gelding got on his back in the ditch by the barn—in the little pen where he’s been grazing. He must have struggled awhile to get out, bruising his back and ribs, and neck. He probably lay too close to the ditch and rolled. Fortunately he was able to get out, or he would have died, stuck on his back. I gave him bute for several days (dissolved the pills and mixed them with water and molasses). This helped ease the pain, swellings and inflammation. He was feeling better enough that Sam was able to ride him again yesterday and today, on short rides. She loves that old horse and I’m glad he survived!

AUGUST 17 – Sprout got over being lame and Em started riding her, but the mare still gimps on that foot once in awhile in the rocks. We may have to give her more time off to completely recover from the stone bruise.

We loaned Michael and Carolyn our big flatbed truck to haul hay for their horses, but yellow jackets had built a nest in the driver’s door—which made an interesting challenge getting in and out of the truck without getting stung! Michael had to spray the nest.

Nick drove back to Iowa last week to start his second year of college at William Penn University. He has a running scholarship, and went a couple weeks early for cross-country practice with their team.

Andrea drove home late one night after working on the fire at Stanley, to see the kids briefly, then left at 4 a.m. the next morning to drive back to work. She hopes to do that again tomorrow night; she’s been on that fire now for 18 days and is really missing the kids, and they miss her.

On Saturday Michael helped me put new shoes on Breezy and Ed. We’ll wait on Sprout to see if she gets over her foot problem—before we put new shoes on her. Yesterday and today Michael helped Lynn and Rick set posts for a new fence.

Granddaughter Heather left for college yesterday—her final year at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. She and 2 friends are renting a small place not far from town where they can keep their horses. Michael and Carolyn will haul Heather’s horses over there tomorrow.

Yesterday Sam and Dani rode with me in the morning before the smoke from the fires got too thick, and today Emily rode with us also. We try to ride in the mornings before it gets so hot and smoky—we hope to do a few more rides before school starts next week. Where did the summer go?

AUGUST 26 – Andrea is still working on the Halstead fire near Stanley. It’s still burning out of control (approaching 100,000 acres) and the firefighters are trying to contain the portion that’s threatening people’s homes along the highway and the river. While Andrea’s gone, Lynn and I have been taking care of her kids. The girls have been riding with me, and helped move the cows to a new pasture. Lynn took 11-year-old Charlie to his hunter safety field day and he passed all his tests. A friend took Emily and another young hockey player to hockey camp for a week in Portland Oregon. Emily enjoyed that experience and placed 2nd in the speed-skating.

Last Saturday a week ago Andrea drove home from Stanley (a 3 hour drive) late in the evening—to have a chance to see the kids—and drove back again in the early morning after only 2 hours sleep. We were afraid she might be too tired to drive, so Rick went with her. On Sunday Lynn and Charlie drove to Stanley to get Rick, and Charlie got to see the fire camp where his mom does the power washing, and he got to ride in a pumper truck. Dani and Sam helped me wrap birthday presents for Charlie.

On Tuesday we moved the cows again—up to heifer hill—after taking them to the corral to sort out the bull and leave him in the corral. Sam and Dani enjoyed riding Veggie and Ed to help move cows.

Sam and Dani helped me bake a birthday cake for Charlie. Andrea drove home Thursday night, to surprise Charlie for his birthday. We had a late dinner and invited Jane Minor to come for cake and ice cream. It was wonderful having Andrea here briefly again, and she left at 4:30 the next morning to drive back to Stanley.

The girls rode with me to check the cows in their new pasture, but it’s been so smoky these past few days that we didn’t ride again. It’s hard on their lungs to be out in the smoke, especially with their asthma and breathing problems.

Emily got back from hockey camp yesterday, after stopping at the fire camp at Stanley on their way home. She visited briefly with her mom in between truck washings. We had a thunderstorm this evening but it wasn’t much moisture. The lightning started a few more fires.

SEPTEMBER 4 – The kids started school last week. With Andrea still gone, working on the fire, Lynn went to the kids’ teacher meetings and orientation and got the information packets for Andrea to fill out. Emily helped us get their school supplies.

Emily went for one more ride with me the day before school started—since it was less smoky that day. She rode Breezy, since Sprout is still lame. I cleaned out Sprout’s feet that day and discovered that she’s starting to shed the frog on the lame foot.

Lynn has been using oxygen at night and this past week he started using a C-PAP machine (that keeps the airways open when a person with sleep apnea stops breathing while snoring). It may help keep his oxygen level from dropping so low at night.

Emily has been helping get the kids to bed early, and up early for Lynn to take them to the school bus. Andrea drove home Wednesday evening, and the road was closed right after she went through—due to smoke and no visibility. She spent a couple hours searching through her papers to find Emily’s birth certificate, which she needs in order to get a photo ID for the airplane flight later this month to the World Burn Congress in Wisconsin.

The next morning Andrea signed the necessary forms for Emily’s ID, and went to school to meet with all the kids’ teachers. She left at noon to drive back to fire camp at Stanley. The road was still closed but they let her through because of her job there.

Meanwhile, the Mustang fire the other side of Salmon has been steadily growing, threatening some of the homes and ranches along highway 93 north. Our valley is filled with smoke from that fire.,br>

On Saturday we took shoes off Sprout and cleaned her sore foot again, and found it’s oozing serum from the area under the point of the frog. We thought we got the earlier abscess cleared up (that broke out the back of her heel) but there must still be some infection. We scrubbed up the foot and put another poultice on it, and wrapped it—and put a protective boot over the wrap.

Our range neighbors who have cattle on the Forest Service above our BLM allotment have been rounding up their cattle early—to get them out of harm’s way in case of fire. Their range burned after a lightning strike in July 2003 and they lost some cattle in that fire. They want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Yesterday evening when we did chores, we heard a calf bawling down below our field across the creek. Lynn drove out there with his 4-wheeler and discovered that one of our calves had gone through the fence out to the range, to join some of the neighbor’s range cattle drifting homeward. So we called our cows up the hill toward the fence, and their bawling attracted the calf back up the fence to our herd. Lynn cut a couple wires and let the calf back through, then put the wires back together. We’re glad our cows and calves are gentle and easy to handle. We took them to a different field until the range cattle are no longer going back and forth along our fence.

SEPTEMBER 11 – This past week the smoke has been so thick we can’t see the hills around us; it’s like heavy fog. The Mustang fire north of town continues to grow—now up to 281,000 acres burned. It’s the largest fire in the U.S. right now, and larger than the Clear Creek fire that burned here 12 years ago. Most of the people living along highway 93 north have been evacuated, and firemen are trying to protect the buildings.

Last Thursday we changed the poultice and boot on Sprout’s foot, and again on Sunday—and by then we were able to see part of a wood sliver sticking out from under the frog area, and pulled it out. It was a greasewood thorn about 1 ½ inch long, jammed into the bottom of her foot at an angle. That’s probably why the infection never did clear up. Now that we have it out of there, her foot can get better. We put a new poultice and bandage on it.,br>
Andrea came home from the Halstead fire on Sunday to get ready to leave for the World Burn Congress. Michael and Carolyn branded the last of their late calves, and borrowed our other bull to put with a dozen late-calving cows on the upper place. They hauled him up there Sunday afternoon in their trailer.

Andrea and Emily left Sunday night to drive to the fire camp at Stanley, where a fellow from north Idaho wanted to do a video about Emily the next morning—with interviews before and after her experience at the World Burn Congress.

After filming the first segment at fire camp, Andrea and Em travelled to Boise yesterday evening, stayed with my brother overnight, and this morning he drove them to the airport at 5 a.m. They are off on an exciting new adventure!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


JUNE 1, 2012 –It’s great to have our two oldest grandkids home from college for the summer. Young Heather finished her 3rd year at Carroll College this spring (still with straight A grade-point) and is again helping her folks on the ranch--and training horses for various people as an additional summer job.
Grandson Nick finished his 1st year at William Penn University in Iowa, where he has a scholarship from the track/cross country program. He plans to go back again this fall (the athletic program offered him more scholarship money, to return, since he’s one of their best runners). This summer he is helping his folks with irrigation and fence-fixing, and working part time at the University Ranch on the other side of town.
Last week our son Michael helped Lynn put in one more weir, so all our ditches now have headgates and weirs for measuring water. The heifers got out of the swamp pasture again, so we put them in the little pasture by the house overnight, then put them with the cows and calves in the field below the lane. A few days later Lynn walked around the fence in the swamp pasture and found where they’d gotten out. Someone had cut the wires—where the fence goes through the brush—to make a trail for deer. The person who vandalized the fence also cut the wires on one of the gates.
Andrea and I have been riding nearly every day (even on cold, rainy days) to check gates and fences on the range and to put a lot of miles on April Sprout—the young mare we bought at the horse sale for Dani. We take turns riding her and our old dependable mares (Ed and Breezy). On a couple of rides Emily rode with us.

Sprout is interfering badly, however (hitting her right hind fetlock joint with her left hind foot), so we started using protective “boots” on her hind legs. These help; the bloody raw area where she kept striking her fetlock joint is starting to heal.

Michael spent a few more days hauling rocks and finished putting the final surfacing on Andrea’s driveway behind her house. We had cold, windy weather, and a little rain—with snow in the high country. Andrea’s friend Rick went up in the mountains to cut wood and got his pickup stuck in 10 inches of new snow. Lynn and Andrea drove up there in our jeep and took him some chains and he was able to drive out.
Yesterday we went to Emily’s 8th grade graduation ceremony at school. That afternoon when Lynn was irrigating in the field above the house he found the carcass of a freshly killed deer. This morning Andrea and Rick saw a young wolf traveling up through the field but didn’t have a chance to shoot at it.
This afternoon we took Sammy and Dani for a ride—with Sam riding 26 year old Veggie and Dani riding Sprout. I rode Rubbie for the first time since she injured her stifle joint a year ago, and she seems sound again (finally!) on that hind leg. Maybe she will be sound enough for short rides this year.

JUNE 24 – Andrea and I helped Alfonzo and Lowell (our range neighbors) move their cattle from the low range to the middle range pasture. Their friend Bob missed a bunch of cattle in the area below our 320-acre pasture where he was gathering cattle, so Andrea and I moved them the next day. Two of Alfonzo’s cows had just calved (one calf was only about an hour old when we found him and his mother) so we left them behind—and went back a few days later to move them. These past 3 weeks we’ve been riding nearly every day to put more miles and training on Sprout—checking (and shutting) gates, fixing water troughs and fixing fences. One day was so windy it nearly blew us off the mountain.

Granddaughter Heather is busy training several young horses for various clients. She also spent a couple days riding Gus (the 9 year old gelding that bucked off the fence posts during our packing project, building fence last winter). Andrea and I rode with her the first day, and Dani rode with the 3 of us the second day, on Sprout. She was delighted to be able to ride with her older cousin.

Michael and Carolyn went to several cattle auction sales this month and bought some pairs, some pregnant cows, and a few yearlings. They paid reasonable prices at the Montana sales; that region has been very dry this spring and short on grass, and some ranchers are cutting down their herds. We’ll loan Michael and Carolyn our 2 yearling bulls this summer to breed their cows. They will be using our upper place (the meadows, and the 320 and 160 acre pastures). This past 2 weeks they’ve been rebuilding and adding to the little corral on the upper place, so they can brand and vaccinate the cattle, and Rick has been helping set posts.
Last week Rick and Andrea drove up into the 320 with her little jeep and sawed out the down timber that was blocking the jeep road. Rick also sawed out the brush along the fence in our swamp pasture so we could fix the fence where someone cut the wires.
I put front shoes on Rubbie so I can continue to use her on short rides without her getting tenderfooted. Andrea and I took all the kids for a ride over the low range—with Dani on Sprout, Emily on Ed, Charlie on Breezy, and Sam on Veggie. We made several more rides these past few days, and the kids are all doing better with their horsemanship.

Michael and Carolyn’s new cows are calving. One cow had twins and abandoned one of them. Michael found it the next morning, nearly dead, with its belly torn open by magpies that had been eating the navel cord. He brought the calf home, fed it colostrum by stomach tube, gave it antibiotics and Banamine (an anti-inflammatory drug), and sewed up the belly. The calf is doing much better now, and living in their basement until they fix a pen outside.
Yesterday Michael put new front shoes on Sprout, and put new hind shoes on her today. That mare is getting much better about having her feet handled.
JULY 10 – Michael, Carolyn and kids got their cows and calves branded/vaccinated, and moved them to the 320 acre pasture. Michael, Lynn, Rick and Lynn worked for several days putting in a new water trough in the fenceline between the 320 and 160. We had an old water trough there for many years, but after the earthquake in the early 1980’s, that spring went farther underground and there wasn’t much water for the trough.
Lynn water-witched at that location and discovered that the water is now 7 feet down, so Michael dug down to it with the backhoe. They put in a new springbox and water line, and a new trough—and now it’s running about 2 gallons per minute. A week ago Saturday young Heather, Andrea and I drove to Leadore and up Holly Creek to a cow camp to look at a mare for sale. She’s had several owners and her current owner had sent her to the range riders at the cow camp to put more training on her but they discovered that she was totally inexperienced. She’s about 7 years old and still very green. After the range riders realized how green she was (hasn’t been ridden), they knew they didn’t have time to work with her.
The price was cheap ($400) and we decided to gamble on her—and I am hiring young Heather to start riding her. So now “Angel” (the name Dani gave the mare) is at Heather’s training corrals as a pupil for the next few weeks. Heather has been saddling and bridling her, ponying her out in the hills, and has ridden her a few times in the round corral, and so far the mare is doing well.
This past week Andrea and I took the kids on several rides. Then on Thursday we did a “picnic” ride 6 miles up into the mountains behind the ranch. Lynn and Rick met us up there with the food (in coolers) in the jeep. We tied the horses to trees and had a really nice picnic in the forest, then rode home again.

This was a very special event, marking 12 years since Andrea’s burn injuries on the night of July 5, 2000. With this ride, we were celebrating her survival and the fact she was able to go on with her life. We are grateful for being able to do this as a family, with 3 little grandkids that would never have been born if she’d perished in that fire. Our “picnic ride” was a fun and special day!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Early Spring 2012 - Moving closer to present day—bringing readers up to date on what has been happening with our family since my book Beyond the Flames was published in 2004--this installment looks at early spring of 2012.

MARCH 29 – Last month I mentioned the inverter (tilt) table that Lynn uses to help his back and ease the pressure on his sciatic nerve. We’ve had several calls from people asking about this. There are many brands and models available at a variety of prices. Lynn paid $120 for his, which is probably less than a person would spend for two visits to a chiropractor!

In mid-March we had snowstorms and several inches of new snow.

Some of the cows were starting to develop udders so we brought them down from the field and sorted off the ones that were due to calve first. A week later, however, some of the rest were also showing udders, so we brought them all down. We don’t want any of them calving up there in the snow—with the coyotes and wolves! We had to put chains on the feed truck to get around in the snow and deep mud. Even though April calving is supposed to be easier than January, it looks like we’ll still have to put some cows in the barn to calve, so Michael helped Lynn put straw in our barn stalls. Michael, Lynn and Rick finished hanging new gates in the second day pens. They also set new posts and rehung the gates in the maternity pen; they are easy to open and close now.

Lynn is still having serious problems with his shoulder, so last week the doctor ordered an MRI to see how much damage there is. Part of the attachment is torn. We’re hoping he won’t need surgery.

Last fall an Idaho potato grower who bought a big ranch in Texas (and wants to grow potatoes there) asked Lynn to fly down there to locate water for wells. We were so busy with fencing projects that Lynn didn’t want to go. Last week, however, the farmer called again and talked Lynn into flying to Texas. Andrea and Emily drove him to Idaho Falls Monday evening, and he got on a private jet Tuesday morning. By that afternoon he was locating spots where they could drill wells. That area of Texas is really dry.

The farmer flew him back to Idaho Falls yesterday afternoon, and Andrea drove down to get him. He was really tired, and went to bed early. Then at 11 pm we heard a cow bawling and I looked out the window with the spotlight, and saw Cub Cake wandering around the maternity pen, bawling. We put her in the calving pen in front of the house, but it was so cold and windy that we decided to put her in the barn. She calved at 3 a.m. this morning—a nice bull calf. So we are officially started calving!

This afternoon Michael helped Lynn put up the yard light that we took down last summer when we took down the old rotten pole by the horse pens. They hooked it to the top of my hay shed. Andrea and Rick put a new floor in one of the calf houses that Lynn built in 1968. The old boards had rotted out. The little kids helped, and Dani picked handfuls of new green grass (which is just starting to grow!) to feed Maggie—the gentle old cow who eats it out of her hand.

APRIL 11 – Weather was still wet and cold for several days after we started calving, and the first calves didn’t get to go out to the field right away. We put straw in the shed barn across the creek, and used it for a second-day shelter for pairs after they came out of the calving barn.

Last Saturday we saw that our neighbor was preparing to move his cattle down to the field below our place, so we moved our yearling heifers around to the swamp pasture, where they won’t be adjacent to the neighbor’s cattle and bulls. We don’t want any cattle tempted to go through the fence. We don’t want our heifers bred this early, and also don’t want them to get trich. The neighbor had a problem with that disease last year, in his herd, and we he didn’t have all his bulls trich-tested. I called our heifers in from the field, and 7-year-old Dani helped follow them around to the swamp pasture. She loves to work with the cattle!

All the kids enjoyed “helping” during the week they were out of school for spring break, riding their bikes down here from Andrea’s new house. Dani was hoping to see a cow calve, since she didn’t get to see one born last year. She especially wanted to see Maggie give birth. She made us promise to get her up if Maggie started calving during the night. Dani had her clothes in a pile by her bed, ready to jump into at a moment’s notice. Maggie started calving on Easter Sunday morning, so Andrea brought Dani down at 5 a.m. Dani and I sat in the next stall in the barn, and watched Maggie calve. Later that day she and Sammy both sat in the stall with Maggie and the calf, and then Dani sat in the pen with Maggie and her calf (after we put them out of the barn), petting that calf. Maggie is so mellow and gentle, and she tolerates those little kids very nicely.

Dani has been helping us name most of the calves. She named one little heifer Shyterra, and was delighted that this calf would come up to the fence and sniff her hand. Emily enjoyed seeing Buffalo Girl (her old pet cow that we raised on a bottle); that cow always comes up to Emily to be petted.

Rishira (a 16-year-old cow) calved 15 days early—a very tiny bull calf. Andrea had to break the amnion sac that was still intact around his head and get him breathing; the placenta was detaching and coming out with the calf. He was very frail, so we put the pair in the barn, and had to help the calf nurse. He had trouble nursing, and we had to help him for several days, every 6 hours through the days and nights. He got pneumonia when he was only a day old, and we had to keep him on antibiotics for a week. Finally he is feeling better, and actually nursing without help.

Michael hauled more rocks with the dump truck to try to finish Andrea’s new road, then started working on two ditch heads on the upper place—clearing out a bunch of trees that blew down during a winter windstorm and hauling rocks to create a better spot for the headgate and weir we need to put in.

APRIL 23 – Last week Andrea took Sam to Pocatello for a dance competition, and Dani stayed with us. She enjoyed helping me do chores and feed the cows, and we put some of the cows with new calves up to the field. Michael did more work on the ditch, until the backhoe blew another hydraulic hose and he had to go to town to get a new hose. I went to the Salmon Select Horse Sale with granddaughter Heather and her roommate (they drove home from college for the weekend, to go to the sale), and bought a gentle young mare that will hopefully become a horse for Dani. Michael and Carolyn hauled the mare home in their trailer. Her name is Whatzit but we call her April because she was born April 15 (Michael’s birthday). We soon started calling her April Sprout and her nickname is now Sprout. Dani was excited about the new horse, and led her around and brushed her. Andrea rode the mare a couple of days and she seems pretty mellow. Dani rode her the next day, to the end of our lane and back, with Andrea walking alongside.

Last week Lynn started irrigating, and is enjoying how easy it is to turn the water on, with the headgates and improvements we made at each creek departure. We’ve had some warm weather, so the creek is rising.

Today Michael put shoes on Ed and Breezy for me, and then took the dump truck and backhoe up to the upper place to try to finish fixing one of the ditch heads before the water gets too high. All of our cows have calved now, except one. We are still waiting on Freddy. We are hoping she has a heifer, because ¾ of the calves this year have been bulls!

May 1 – Last week I dewormed the horses and Michael put shoes on Ed and Breezy for me. Andrea and I rode April Sprout a few times; the mare is still a bit green and inexperienced and needs more training.

Emily’s allergies and a bad cold suddenly escalated into pneumonia and she couldn’t breathe. Her oxygen level dropped dangerously low so she spent a few days in the hospital on IV antibiotics and oxygen. Andrea stayed with her during the nights, and Lynn took the other kids to the school bus in the mornings.

Lynn has been cleaning some of our ditches with tractor and blade, and getting more irrigation started. For several days we had cold rainy weather; then it dropped well below freezing for a few nights and slowed down the snow melt on our mountains, and the creek is no longer so terribly high.

On Saturday, Andrea came down to ride with me—and noticed that 2 of our heifers had gotten into the field above our cows and calves. We rode Breezy and Ed to round them up, and put all the heifers in my horse pasture until we can figure out where they went through the fence. Then we rode Sprout and Captain King (a horse we were trying, as a possible horse for the grandkids) on another training ride for Sprout. Captain King is spoiled and stubborn, however, and balked when we started up the driveway. When Andrea urged him forward, he bucked, then reared when she wouldn’t let him buck—and she had to spin him around to keep him from going over backward. She got him under control and we continued on our ride, but decided we don’t want that horse for the kids to ride! The next day we took Dani on her first real ride on Sprout—making a loop through the low range. When we got home, Andrea took Sammy for a ride on Breezy.

Yesterday was cold and rainy again. We’ve been watching Freddie at nights (our last cow to calve) because the weather has been so miserable. We want to be able to put her in the barn if necessary.

MAY 7 – After the ground dried out, Michael hauled more rock surfacing for Andrea’s driveway, and smoothed it out with the backhoe. Now it won’t get so slippery, deep and muddy when it rains.

The 4 grandkids were trying to guess which day Freddie would calve, and Dani won; her guess was May 3rd. Freddie went into early labor before midnight, but didn’t calve until afternoon. She had a black whiteface bull. On Friday night we went to the annual dance and gymnastics program and watched Dani and Sammy in their various dances and Charlie in the gymnastics.

Yesterday Michael put new front shoes on Sprout. She’s apparently had some bad experiences in her young life, and doesn’t like her feet handled, so Andrea and I have been picking up her feet a lot, trying to get her over her bad attitude. Michael was very patient while shoeing her, keeping each foot up for only a short time, and letting her put it down when she’d start to get nervous. She has to learn to trust us; she’s apparently been abused and is always expecting a fight. But with patience we got her front feet shod without resistance. We’ll do her hinds another day. Handling her feet in short increments works pretty well, and she’s becoming more at ease about it.

Yesterday afternoon our neighbor Alfonzo rounded up his cattle from the fields below us and took them up to the Gooch place to brand the calves. His corrals are flimsy, and partway through the afternoon 8 calves got out and came down through our fields, trying to get back to the lower place. We captured them in our corral and helped Alfonzo load them in a trailer to haul back to their mothers. Then he put his cattle back down below us again, but inadvertently separated several more pairs. That evening one old cow crashed through the wire gate into our field trying to go find her calf. We had to lock her in our calving pen and have Alfonzo come get her.

Young Heather got home from college in Montana, and this morning she, Michael and Carolyn left on their trip to Iowa to get Nick from college. It will take them 3 days to get there and 3 days to come back—and Lynn will do their chores while they are gone.

MAY 16 – Last week Lynn, Andrea and Rick spent a couple days working on the ditch on Lynn’s folks’ old place north of town, and I picked up the kids off the bus after school. They were eager to see Freddie’s young calf and thought he was cute, being the only whiteface calf this year. Dani enjoyed helping me do chores—feeding the horses and watering the cows. She loves to walk through the cows and calves, and pick grass to feed Maggie, who gently takes it out of her hand with her big rough tongue. It froze hard again for several nights, but now the weather is hot. Last Saturday we vaccinated the cows, calves, bulls, and yearling heifers, and put the heifers back up in the swamp pasture, now that we’ve fixed the fence where we thought they got out, and branded calves. Dani helped, by handing me syringes. While we got ready to brand the calves, she sat in the barn with them while we strung out the extension cords. The calves are so accustomed to her, they didn’t mind when she was helping gather and push the little bunches from the barn into the holding area by the calf table.

On Monday Michael put new hind shoes on Sprout and she was even more trusting (and less resistant) than when he did her fronts. She’s learning that we aren’t going to hurt her when we handle her feet. Later that day Michael and Lynn started hauling hay; we bought 50 tons for next winter, to make sure we’ll have enough. It’s last year’s hay, and reasonably priced at $130 per ton. It’s a nice mix of grass/alfalfa. They finished hauling it today. While they were hauling, Andrea and I made a long ride on Sprout and Ed to check range gates and part of the 320 fence—and repaired some places the elk knocked down. This afternoon Lynn and Michael put in a weir at the headgate of the uppermost ditch on our upper place. Now we have only one weir left to put in.