SEPTEMBER 24, 2010 – Our second ride to gather cattle from the range was another long day. I fed the horses before daylight, so Ed (the mare I’ve been riding) would have time to eat before we left. Michael and Carolyn picked us up with their truck and trailer at the top of our lane. Farther up the creek we picked up our new range neighbor (Alfonzo) and his friend Bob, and Carolyn’s brother Brian, and their horses. We hauled the 6 horses to the top of Withington Creek, then we rode down Mulkey Creek through the timber. We sent Bob and Alfonzo over the open side of the mountain, since they’ve never ridden in that area and don’t know the trails. We gathered a dozen pairs of Alfonzo’s cattle and a few of Michael’s, and brought them up through the timber and back to our own range. Michael and Brian went to look for cattle on the steep timbered side below our range fence.
Carolyn and I sorted off extra cows that tried to join our group, then we took the cattle into our range, around a steep mountainside and over the hill from Peach Pit trough into Baker Creek. This was challenging, because Bob’s dogs were not obedient. They were either chasing the cows too fast or circling in front of them and balking the herd. An untrained dog is worse around cattle than no dog at all. We let the cattle rest at Peach Pit before making the steep climb over the top. The cattle had been stressed and hurried too much and several were panting with their mouths open.
After we got down toward Baker Creek on the other side of the mountain, Bob and Alfonzo gathered more cattle to take around toward our 320-acre pasture, while Carolyn and I went into the Basco drainage to look for more cows, and to find Michael and Brian and help them. I checked through the high timber.
Coming back down the ridge through tall sagebrush I ran into snarls of old electric fence wire that had been dragged a mile (by cattle and wildlife) from where it was originally put up in 2004 by the BLM as a temporary fence along the ridge between Withington and Baker creek. They built it to keep cattle out of the burned area for a year—after fire destroyed part of our range. The electric fence wasn’t effective; cattle went into the burned area anyway—and onto the Forest range because 3 miles of boundary fence burned up. The BLM never gathered the electric wires, and they are a hazard. Michael and Carolyn rolled some up, but there are still some wires strung all over. My horse got her hind legs caught in the wires, but she stayed calm and I got off and lifted her feet up out of it.
Meanwhile, Michael found cows (mostly Alfonzo’s) scattered through timber on the Mulkey Creek rim, and was able to get them back through the fence onto our range. We eventually got the cattle down to our 320-acre pasture, where we put Michael and Carolyn’s cattle in, and sorted off Alfonzo’s cattle to take along the fence a half mile--to let them down into his 160-acre pasture.
I rode with Michael, Carolyn and Brian again the next day, and we gathered all the cows off our 320 and 160 to bring down to our corrals. They sorted off the calves to wean and hauled them to the Maurer place, leaving the cows in our corrals. A day later, on Wednesday, they preg-checked and vaccinated cows at Maurer’s (the herd from Sandy Creek), and on Thursday preg-checked and vaccinated cows at our place. On Friday they hauled the open cows to Maurers (to sell later) and I helped them take the main herd back to the 320 for fall pasture.
Meanwhile, Andrea spent some time in the hospital. A couple weeks ago she got a spider bite and her hand swelled up. She tried soaking it to get the infection out, but that didn’t help. Finally she went to a doctor, who prescribed antibiotics pills. Two days later it was much worse and the doctor lanced the area and drained the pus, gave Andrea an injection of antibiotics and another prescription. Tests showed a staph infection (MRSA, the worst kind). The next morning Andrea had a fever and was vomiting, and the doctor put her in the hospital, on IV antibiotics, keeping her arm elevated. They kept her in the hospital 3 days. The day after she came home, her hand and arm swelled up again. They started IV antibiotics again; she goes to the hospital morning and evening for IV antibiotics—a procedure that takes an hour and a half. Today the doctor increased the dosage.
I rode again with Michael and Carolyn today, this time to help our range neighbor, Dan French, who runs cows on the Forest range next to ours. Dan broke his leg this summer and can’t ride a horse yet. We helped his son, grandkids and some friends gather his cattle out of Mulkey Creek
OCTOBER 9 – Dan French was still missing a bull, so Chad Stephenson and his wife (who helped with the roundup) went back the next day, found the bull, herded him to their stock trailer, roped the bull, and got him into the trailer to haul home. Michael and Carolyn have been spending long days helping several of their friends work cows and ship calves.
Two weeks ago on Sunday we brought Andrea’s 3 youngest kids home from church with us. They took turns riding 24-year-old Veggie out across the low range with me. I led Veggie until we got to a flat area where I let each child try riding him solo, learning how to guide him left or right, etc.
Andrea’s friend Rick came out the next day and helped Lynn set posts in the line fence between our place and the new neighbor—where the fence is getting old and tired. Rick helped again Saturday, taking posts and wire up the steep hill on the 160 with our 4-wheeler, to set 3 new brace posts where the fence had fallen down. Emily rode with me that day to check cows.
The 3 younger kids came out again yesterday and took turns riding Veggie. Charlie and Sammy rode solo their whole ride. When it came Dani’s turn, however, the old horse didn’t want to go again, and stopped to eat grass. Her short little arms weren’t strong enough to keep his head up, so I led him.
Andrea finished a 10-day course of IVs and the swelling/infection in her arm seems to be resolved. She’s been helping Rick get more loads of firewood. Then she spent 4 days helping Bob Minor pressure wash fire-fighting equipment. The Forest Service was doing a “controlled” burn and the fire got away from them—burning hundreds of acres along the Salmon River. Firefighters were brought in, and Bob was hired to wash all the trucks and equipment (to prevent spread of weed seeds), with Andrea as his assistant.
A group of 20 young men from the state juvenile correction facility were part of the work crew. Andrea and Bob befriended them and tried to encourage them. The boys were inspired by Andrea’s cheerfulness, seeing her burn scars and the fact that she doesn’t let her impairments slow her down. She gave books (Beyond the Flames; A Family Touched by Fire—the book I wrote about her burn accident and how it changed our lives) to some of them. Today she received a letter from one, thanking her and Bob for “taking the time to treat us as people.” This young man has been in and out of prison since he was 11. He said he’d never met anyone who actually cared about him, and that those 4 days working at the fire camp meant a lot—he would never forget the encouragement she and Bob gave him.
Granddaughter Heather was home from college for a week (Fall break) and enjoyed helping her folks work cattle, including helping preg-check and vaccinate our small herd. It was great to see her again. She’s enjoying her second year at Carroll College.
OCTOBER 21 - Nick has been doing well in track meets this fall, always placing first for Salmon on the 5000 meter cross country races. Lynn and I watched him run at his home meet a week ago, and Nick was first for Salmon again. It was an exciting finish as he and a boy from Leadore came in 3rd and 4th, with Nick coming up from behind and almost passing him at the finish line.
Last Sunday Andrea’s kids came home from church with us again, and went for another ride. This time I was able to take 2 of them at once. Emily rode Ed while Dani rode Veggie, then Charlie rode Ed and Sammy rode Veggie.
Andrea brought Dani out again one day after kindergarten and the 3 of us rode for more than an hour, with Dani riding solo all the way. The old horse took good care of her and didn’t try to jump the gullies or hurry home.
OCTOBER 30 – Last week I rode with Michael and Carolyn to look for their missing bull--the only animal that didn’t show up this fall. The last time he was seen was when we were moving cattle from the middle range to the high range. He was fighting one of Alfonzo’s bulls and when Carolyn tried to bring them with the cows, Alfonzo’s bull charged at her horse. The bulls wouldn’t quit fighting and we had to leave them. Later, one of the neighbors found Alfonzo’s bull, but we haven’t found Michael’s bull.
All the gates have been left open by hunters, so we thought the bull might have traveled to a different range, but last week an elk hunter mentioned he’d seen a black bull on our middle pasture. So we rode out there and found fresh tracks, and manure. We spread out, searching, and Michael found the bull in a grove of chokecherry trees. The bull was content where he was, and didn’t want to leave, fighting the dogs and threatening our horses. We’d hoped to take him up over the mountain to our 320 acre pasture, to put him with the cows there, but we realized he’d just try to fight us. We decided to take him the long way home—down to our corrals--on a more level grade around the mountains. That way we could stay behind and below him at a distance, encouraging him to keep traveling, but far enough away that he wouldn’t charge at our horses.
Lynn was taking more salt on his 4-wheeler to the cows on the 320, but Michael was able to reach him on his cell phone as we came to the ridge about a mile from our house. Thus Lynn knew we were bringing the bull to the corrals, and was able to get home ahead of us to move our bulls out of the corral and get all the gates ready. After we got the wayward bull into the corral, Michael and Carolyn hauled him to their place in their trailer.
Last Saturday I rode with Michael and Carolyn on Sandy Creek to gather some of their cows from the neighbor’s place, and found 6 other strays that had gone through the fence and back out on that range.
Grandson Nick did well at the District track meet that week, placing 4th in the 5000 meter run (his time was 17 minutes, 35 seconds). Today the Salmon team competed at the State meet, and earned the 2nd place medal for their school. Nick placed 11th in his cross-country race, in a field of more than 100 runners.
On Sunday my mother passed away. The care center called my sister at 5 a.m. to say mom had a stroke and was unresponsive. My sister drove to town to sit with mom, and called me. I went to town after doing my chores early (in the dark), to sit with mom while my sister went home to do her chores. I’d only been with mom about 30 minutes, when she slipped away. I was glad I was able to be there with her. My brother and his wife drove up from Boise, through snowstorms and bad roads, to help make plans for the memorial service. They stayed a couple of days.
It was a busy time, as we contacted relatives, and Lynn helped Michael rebuild part of a corral at Maurers (in preparation for shipping calves), and we also helped Andrea with her kids. She was ill with diarrhea for about a week and finally got so dehydrated and ill that she had to go to the emergency room at the hospital for IVs and anti-nausea medication. She’s doing a little better now.
NOVEMBER 9 – Last week I scanned some old photos and e-mailed them to my brother; he is putting together a slide show for mom’s memorial service.
Twelve-year-old granddaughter Emily took a hunter education course this fall, and went on her first deer hunt. Her dad gave her a rifle for an early Christmas/birthday present, and Emily did some target practicing with it. Andrea took her hunting last Sunday afternoon, and Emily shot her first deer—at about 300 yards. She’s a good shot, just like her mom.
Michael and Carolyn sold their calves last Monday, sending 3 semi-loads. Their calves weighed the best ever, thanks to better grass this year on the range. The load of big steers averaged 660 pounds and the smaller group averaged 585. Their heifers averaged 558 pounds.
On Wednesday I was planning to ride again with Michael and Carolyn to bring their cows down from their leased ranch on Sandy Creek, and went out before daylight to feed the horses, so my mare would have time to eat some hay before we left. Andrea’s old mare Snickers whinnied at me strangely, and came walking slowly to the hay rather than galloping and bucking like she normally does. After I finished feeding, I went into her pen and checked her more closely, in the dark, and found she had a piece of wood jammed into her hindquarters, under her tail. I grabbed hold of it and pulled it out, discovering that it was a foot long—and most of that length was embedded into her. It was the broken-off end of an old pole that had been underneath the fence. Snickers had apparently pawed it out into her pen. Maybe she rolled on it, breaking off the end, which jammed into her hindquarters
I cancelled my ride to help move cows (some other people were helping and Michael thought they could manage without me), and called Andrea and the vet. They both arrived at sunup and the vet examined Snickers. We feared we’d have to euthanize her, but the vet sedated the mare and examined the wound. She pulled out more wood slivers and put her hand into the wound and felt the extent of the hole and said it missed Snickers’ abdominal cavity—so she would not get peritonitis.
We flushed it out and gave the mare two kinds of antibiotics and Banamine, and continued with those daily injections for several days. By the second day of Banamine Snickers was feeling a little better and eating more normally, but still having pain when trying to pass urine or manure.
Thursday was Danielle’s birthday (6 years old) and we had a birthday party for her—and gave her a little saddle.
She was very excited, and had to try it out the next day, on old Veggie, when Andrea came out to help give Snickers her shots. Snickers doesn’t like the shots, but tolerates them if we feed her a little green grass. Amazingly we still have green grass this late in the season!
We had snow last night, but not too deep, so the cows are still able to graze. They are running out of feed, however, so today we let a few down into our upper fields—the ones that came down to the creek for water.
NOVEMBER 18 – We had more snow, so for several days we drove up the creek twice a day and let cows through the gate if they were down at the bottom of the mountain. We let them come through the gate and across the road and through another gate into our upper place. We eventually moved 121 that way, and the final bunch managed to find enough grass until Michael and Carolyn rounded them up.
Friday we had the memorial service for mom, and it was very nice. We three children and some of her grandchildren gave our remembrances, and afterward we had a wonderful visit with relatives, sharing old memories.
We had more snow the past few days, and a cold wind. We are no longer giving Snickers any medication and she’s healing, but the vet thinks she may need some surgical repair now that the swelling has gone down.
Lynn has been splitting wood, and Andrea and Rick are cutting up meat from the steer and old cow we butchered last week. Colder weather is predicted for this weekend, so we need to get ready for winter!