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

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