Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Box 215, Salmon, ID 83467

December 2013
Blessed Christmas! 
We humbly thank God for His gift of Love to us, and express our gratitude for that Love in sharing it with others. We are grateful for friends remembered at Christmas.
It’s been a good year. Lynn and I are both getting older and slower, and more forgetful, but we have a lot of things to be thankful for, here on Withington Creek.
During January—and through most of the year with only a few short periods home--our son Michael stayed safe driving big trucks in horrendous weather on bad roads in North Dakota. His wife Carolyn, with help some days from my husband Lynn and daughter Andrea managed to get their cows fed, and save a calf born unexpectedly in sub-zero weather. Carolyn and Andrea found it nearly dead, hauled it to the house in the tractor, and thawed it out in our kitchen by the wood stove.
In February we got our tractor and flatbed trailer repaired after their rollover wreck, and got Lynn’s heart repaired, on Valentines’ day. He went to a heart doctor in Missoula, Montana for a “look”at his heart, after shortness of breath and chest pain. He ended up having several stents put in his heart to open some blocked arteries. They kept him there a couple days because of complications, and we had help feeding our cows for a couple weeks (including young grandkids driving the feed truck while Andrea and I threw off the hay) but he’s doing much better now.
During March Andrea and I led our two young fillies on long walks, and started riding the ranch horses again to get them back in shape. Our cows calved in April. GranddaughtersDani and Samantha (age 8 and 10) had fun naming calves—with names like Thunder Bull, Lightning Strike, Twinkle, Merrynina,Buffalope and Silver Belle. We built a house here on the creek for Andrea and her kids a couple years ago, and it’s been fun having grandkids here helping and enjoying the animals. Dani insisted on coming down to the sick barn with her mom one night, to hold the flashlight for us while we gave fluids to a calf we were treating for scours.
Michael and Carolyn’s kids came home from college in May. Nick finished his second year at William Penn University in Iowa where he has a track scholarship. Our oldest granddaughter, Heather Carrie, graduated in May from Carroll College in Helena, Montana with a 4.00 grade point for all four years. Lynn and I didn’t make it to her graduation; we stayed home to do everyone’s chores. Andrea was in Utah with her kids, where 10-year-old Samantha was at the national dance competition with her clogging class. We also did Michael and Carolyn’s chores for 2 days, including taking care of Peabody—a newborn twin calf abandoned by his mother.
Michael was home for a little while from his North Dakota job and helped Lynn clean some ditches, and shod our horses. His kids helped brand and vaccinate their calves, and helped us do ours.
Andrea and I rode nearly every day all summer, putting miles on horses we were training, taking her kids for rides, fixing fences and water troughs on the range, helping our new range neighbors’ cattle learn the range. Young Heather was busy training several groups of Rocky Mountain gaited horses for people in Montana, but managed to ride with us occasionally. She also had a job helping neighbors on their range allotment whenever they had to move cattle. She started my 3-year-old filly Spotty Dottie and did a nice job getting her accustomed to being ridden so grandma could start riding her. At my age I don’t mind having a little help starting our young horses!
Lynn got our haying accomplished, in spite of several frustrating days with tractor and baler problems, and Andrea helped with baling. For awhile we were treating a cow named Freddy who had a high fever from some mysterious illness. Our vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, but she stopped eating and drinking and we kept her alive feeding her gallons of water and“mush” (alfalfa pellets soaked in water and run through the blender) twice a day by stomach tube. She recovered and slowly regained all the weight she lost.
We had some bad fires again this year. In August and September Andrea spent several weeks working at the fire camp at Challis, as part of a weed-wash crew, washing trucks coming and going from the fire area. While she was gone young Danirode range with me numerous times and was proud to be able to help grandma move cattle. 
I continued writing numerous articles for horse and cattle magazines, and contributed a chapter to the new book The Real Wolf, which is coming out in January.
Nick went back to college in Iowa for his third year. Young Heather continued training horses through the fall, and is helping Carolyn with their cattle this winter. I’ve been riding Spotty Dottie for 5 months now, often riding with Andrea and/or young Heather on her training rides. We quit riding for awhile in December when temperatures dropped well below zero.
Michael was home briefly in early October and while he was here he helped us put down 2 of Andrea’s old horses. Snickers was 29 and going blind. Fozzy was only 23 but had malignant growths and was very thin. Michael also put down Molly (age 31) and Chance (age 30 and very thin) for Carolyn and Heather. It was time to say good-bye.
Andrea and Emily flew to Rhode Island to attend the World Burn Congress again, with scholarships to help pay their way. It’s a wonderful, amazing experience, this time with more than 1000 burn survivors, families, and caregivers. Both Andrea and Emily have found blessings in being able to help other burn survivors and family members who struggle with various challenges. Emily (nearly 16 now) wants to help start a support group for children of burn survivors, since they have their own unique needs.
November was busy, with Andrea’s kids starting hockey practice, Charlie singing and placing third in the junior Salmon Idol, Lynn and Andrea tracking an elk herd and Lynn managing to get his cow elk. At age 70 he was pleased to be able to do this again; he and Andrea haven’t hunted elk since before her burn accident 13 ½ years ago. 
Then for two weeks Andrea helped friends put a new roof on one of the local churches. It was a great team effort, finishing the day before Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving day we had a lot to be thankful for; we had all of our family around our table—the ones who were home. Nick couldn’t make it home from college in Iowa and Michael was driving truck in North Dakota, but they were with us in spirit and will be home for Christmas. Family, and the love we share, is truly the greatest blessing on this earth. Looking back, the best of the best times spent this past year for Lynn and me have been the times we spent doing things with our family.
[forupdates on our lives see www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.comand to read some of my “critter” stories, see my posts on http://insidestorey.blogspot.com ]
With love and best wishes from Withington Creek, Heather and Lynn Thomas

Sunday, December 8, 2013

September 2013 Diary from the Ranch

AUGUST 27, 2013 – Andrea had a tough time for awhile after losing the fragile skin on the sides of her knees; the pain was excruciating—like being burned all over again.  She has been to the doctor several times and was put on antibiotics because her legs became so hot and swollen.  They are doing a little better by now and it looks like the raw areas are starting to fill in some skin around the edges.

Young Heather and I are coming along with Dottie’s training.  This past week we got her used to wearing a breeching (to hold the saddle in place because she doesn’t have enough withers to keep it from going up onto her neck when she’s going downhill).  The first day we put it on her and started to walk her around she spooked and tried to run, making speedy circles around Heather at the end of the lead rope.  At least she didn’t try to pull away—she was just running as hard as she could go in a tight circle.  When she finally calmed down she realized it wasn’t hurting her, and from then on she was ok with it.  We gave her one lesson in the corral and now we’re riding her with it and no longer have to get off and reset the saddle several times when going downhill!
Freddy (the cow that almost died) is doing better now but still very thin.  She’s been covered with horn flies lately, so last Friday I put some delousing pour-on along her back when I fed her some alfalfa hay, since it will also kill flies.  By the next morning there were NO flies on her.  We’re still keeping her separate from the other cows so they won’t beat up on her as she continues to recover and regain lost weight.        

On Saturday we moved the herd from heifer hill to the swamp pasture, then Dani rode with me for 4 hours up through the 320 and high range to check gates, troughs and Michael’s cattle.  That night we had a birthday dinner for Charlie (12 years old!) at Andrea’s house.
Sunday afternoon Andrea, the girls and I went for a very short ride—Andrea’s first ride in over a month (since before she went to work at the fire camp).  She bandaged her raw knees but they were still so painful that we only rode for about 30 minutes.
Today the kids went back to school.  I rode Dottie on a short ride on the low range, with young Heather riding Ed as my “baby sitter horse”.  Afterward, while she waited for old Chance to eat his mush of watered alfalfa pellets and senior feed, Heather worked with Sprout (the 7-year-old spoiled mare we bought last year), teaching her better ground manners.  The first time she worked with Sprout, a few days ago, the mare—who is very stubborn and independent—didn’t want to trot in a circle and reared up and tried to strike at her, so Heather got after her with the popper on the end of the halter rope and made her work, trotting in circles, stopping and turning the other direction, etc. on command.  By the end of the session Sprout had a lot more respect for her handler.


We’ve been pasturing Chance and Molly here for Heather this summer.  They’ve been eating the grass in the hay stack yard, grazing the tall grass behind the barn, etc. and currently they’re grazing along the ditch bank above the little pasture where Freddy and her calf are living.  Chance has bad teeth and can’t chew his food.  Heather feeds him a big tub of “mush” once a day and it takes him an hour to eat it.  So while she waits for him to eat, she does ground work with Sprout and Willow (the yearling filly).  Both of them are coming along nicely in their training program.

Molly finishes her grain/pellets much quicker than Chance, and then tries to eat his, so Heather brings Chance through the gate into the pasture so he can finish his mush without help.  But today Freddy realized Chance had something good and she marched up there and started eating with him.  I wish I’d taken a photo of them eating together—the skinniest old horse and the skinny cow sharing a tub of mush together!  I hurried up there to chase Freddy away from Chance’s feed, and locked her and her calf in the orchard until Chance could finish his meal.

SEPTEMBER 7 – Andrea had a big abscess on her leg last week (staph infection from the raw areas) and went to the doctor to have it lanced and drained.  She is on antibiotics again.  The raw areas are healing now, and getting smaller.  She also had to go to the dentist for emergency repair/covering of two molars that broke—and will eventually need crowns.  By this week the pain in her legs and her mouth is more tolerable!  She is riding Sprout again, with thin bandages over the raw area on her knees, and managing ok. 

Heather and I have been riding Dottie every morning, making longer rides on the low range.  Some days Andrea rides with us.

Last Friday I rode Dottie and Heather rode Ed, then later that day Andrea, Dani and I rode Sprout, Ed and Breezy 4 hours to check on the range cows and gates, and moved some cattle around the mountain to better grass.  

When we headed out through the sagebrush from the big salt ground, Breezy got caught in a snarl of old wire and it scared her; she jumped and bucked and tried to bolt, and nearly fell down.  Fortunately the wire broke and she kicked out of it before we had a bad wreck.  This is some of the wire the BLM left out there after they made a temporary fence to keep the cattle out of the area that burned up in 2003.  The wire has been a serious hazard, being dragged around by wildlife and cattle.  Michael and Carolyn rolled up a pick-up load of it a few years ago, along the ridge above our 320 after getting their horses in it, but there was still some left out there.

It was strung all through the sagebrush where we were riding that day.  A couple minutes after Breezy tore loose from one tangle of wire, Dani spotted another big wad of wire just ahead of her horse, and was able to stop in time and didn’t get into it.  Moments later Andrea’s horse got her hind feet in some wire, but stopped and Andrea got off and picked up Sprout’s feet and got the wire off her hind legs.

Last Sunday Lynn, Andrea, Charlie and a friend took 2 4-wheelers up on the high range and spent the afternoon rolling up as much wire as they could carry home on the 4-wheelers, after fixing one of the water troughs that was leaking.  Charlie enjoyed helping. The next day they went back up there and rolled up more wire. 

While they were doing the wire, Heather, Dani and I rode through the middle range to give Dottie another training ride.  We’ve been riding her every day and she’s coming along very well.

Thursday afternoon a big storm went over the mountain (and missed us—we only got a little bit of rain) and knocked out the power line into our valley.  The power was off for 17 hours.  We didn’t want to use much water in the house because the pump couldn’t run, so Friday morning we carried water from the creek for flushing the toilet and got several gallons of drinking water from my brother’s spring above the upper place.  We took some of the horses to the creek to drink.  We were about to haul water from the creek to the rest of the horses—after our short training ride with Dottie—when the power came back on that afternoon.  Our phone still doesn’t work, however.  Something happened during the power outage to mess up some of the phones and computer lines and the phone company is working round the clock to try to get everything fixed.  

Today Andrea and I rode Sprout and Ed 5 ½ hours to check troughs and cattle on the high range.  It was a hot day and Andrea stopped at a water trough to fill her water bottles.

We spent most of the afternoon rolling up more of the old fence wire.  Actually Andrea rolled up the wire and I held her horse.

We had 3 rolls—one tied on my saddle, one on Andrea’s and she was carrying another.  She got off Sprout to lead her down the very steep hill going down to Peach Pit trough from the ridge between Baker Creek and Withington Creek and put the loop she was carrying over the saddle horn.  Going down the mountain Sprout tripped, and the loop of wire sailed off the saddle horn, over her head, and bounced.  The mountain is so steep at that point that by the next bounce the roll was several hundred feet down the slope.  It bounced again, right over the top of an old dead tree!  It bounced a few more times down the draw, gaining momentum at every bounce, and finally came to rest half a mile from us, where the draw makes a bend.  Our horses just stood there entranced, watching the spectacle.

SEPTEMBER 17 – Our phone finally started working again last Sunday afternoon and I was able to do the 3 interviews early Monday morning that I was supposed to do the Friday before.  Afterward, Andrea and I rode Breezy and Dottie up the ridge to the 320 to check the fence—because Carolyn had mentioned that a cow was hiking down the mountain behind their house just before dark the evening before.  When we rode up toward our fence we encountered 5 pairs, but they were range cows that had come down from the high range.  As we got closer to the 320 we saw the gate was wide open.  Someone had cut all 6 wires and taken the gate out!  The range cows had come clear through our place, so we knew there must be a gate open at the top of the 320 as well.

Michael and Carolyn and young Heather were riding that day on the range across the canyon, helping those ranchers round up, and we could see them bringing a bunch of cattle out of Cheney creek, above our fence corner on that side.  Andrea called Michael on his cell phone (fortunately we had cell service up on our ridge and he did, too) and told him what we’d discovered.  We had tied up the gate temporarily with baling twine (which I always carry in the jacket tied to my saddle) and were heading home to switch horses—since Dottie was too inexperienced to do any cow sorting--and come back to check their cows.

Michael, Carolyn and Heather cut short their help for the neighbors and hurried back across the canyon to their corrals to grab some wire and come fix the gate.  We got home with Dottie and Breezy, grabbed Ed and Sprout, and trotted back up the ridge to the 320.  Almost all of Michael and Carolyn’s cows were down in the northeast corner, which was strange.  None of them had come out the cut gate on the ridge.  We hurried on up Baker Creek and found 4 more pair and a calf, and the gate in Baker Creek was ok.  So we knew the leak had to be the top ridge gate.  We hurried up through the timber to the ridge and met up with Michael, Carolyn and Heather heading up to check that gate.  With the cattle we’d seen in Baker Creek all of their cows and calves were accounted for, which was a relief.  None had gone out the open gates.
The top ridge gate had also been cut and thrown open—with cattle tracks, horse tracks and 4-wheeler tracks coming through.  Someone had taken cattle from the high range and pushed them through our 320 acre pasture to the low range!  We rebuilt the cut gate, then rode back down Baker Creek and checked the 2 side gates (both ok) and rebuilt the bottom ridge gate.  There were 4-wheeler tracks coming down through that gate and on down the ridge—which Andrea and I hadn’t noticed earlier.

So it’s still a mystery.  Did hunters cut the gates to come through on 4-wheelers?  Did a rider bring the range cows down through and cut the gates or do it after the gates were already cut?  We’re not sure exactly what happened, but we are glad none of Michael’s cattle got out and no range cows stayed in the 320.

The next day Andrea and I rode Dottie and Breezy up through the 320 to check on things, and on up into the high range, coming home through the middle range.  It was Dottie’s longest ride so far (nearly 4 hours). 
Andrea has been riding with me on Breezy or Sprout nearly every day, and Dottie is coming along nicely in her training.  Michael, Carolyn and Heather have been riding for more than a week helping round up cattle on the other range.  There are some fences down and some of the cattle have scattered into other allotments and will take awhile to find them all.

On Thursday we put a temporary electric fence (3 strands) across Willow’s pen to split it, and put Dottie in this end of it.  We had to get her out of the pen next to the house and elm tree before the elm starts shedding its leaves this fall.  Dottie loves to eat the leaves and this spring ate so many (before we trimmed the low-hanging branches she was reaching up to nibble on) that it made her a little sick.  I trimmed Willow’s feet while we were keeping her at the far end of the pen as the fence was being built.

Friday Dani rode with Andrea and me on Dottie’s training ride.  We met some hunters on horseback, and then another group that had just shot 2 elk as the herd came up out of our neighbor’s fields in the early morning.  The man we talked to was a volunteer for a Wounded Warriors program, taking handicapped war veterans on various hunts.

On Saturday Alfonzo and the Amish rounded up their cows off our range.  They had 15 riders and took the cattle the longest way home.  Instead of bringing them home the short way through the middle range like Galen Kossler (our old range neighbor) used to do, they took them clear up over the mountain at the head of Baker Creek and down into Withington Creek—then all the way down the creek.  They sorted them above our upper place, and broke the fences in several places, then brought them down in two groups.  They dumped Alfonzo’s cows into the old Gooch place and brought Miller’s cattle on down the road and over to their place.  They are still short some cattle and will probably be riding several more days to try to find them.

Saturday afternoon my cousin Ned and his wife Pam came to visit and stayed a few days.  They are on their way to Fox Island (in Puget Sound, near Seattle Washington) from Texas.  Pam is making some really nice curtains for Andrea’s house—for all the kids’ bedrooms and living room.

Yesterday Michael and Carolyn rounded up their yearlings and brought down to our corral for overnight.  We got in our small herd and sorted off the pairs with calves we are going to sell, and put them in the orchard.  This morning at daylight we sorted off the calves and sent them with Michael’s yearlings to the sale at Butte, Montana.  The calves are only 5 months old and not very big, but hopefully they will bring a good price.

Later we weaned the rest of our calves—the heifers we are keeping, and 2 bull calves, and put them in the little pen below the barn, next to their mothers in the adjacent field.  There’s good grass in that pen so they won’t need to be fed hay.  Freddy’s bull calf is already weaned (5 days ago) and out in my horse pasture, so in a few days we’ll put the other 2 bull calves with him.  The heifers can live with Freddy in the little field above the house; we saved that grass for them.  Hopefully Freddy can gain back her lost weight.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


JULY 22 – Spotty Dottie is coming along nicely in training. Last Sunday we started getting her used to going with another horse; I saddled Ed and rode with young Heather and Dottie in the little pasture above the corral. Then we started riding both horses daily out on the low range, and also led Dottie from Ed a few times.


I’ve also been getting her used to having her feet handled for shoeing, smoothing them with the rasp, placing a shoe on her foot and tapping on it with a hammer.

Andrea turned hay Sunday afternoon, and then she and her friend Mike took 4-wheelers up through the 320-acre mountain pasture and sawed up the huge tree that blew down over the main trail in the timber on the high range just above our place. Lynn got the turned hay baled and hauled.

On Monday Dani rode with Andrea and me (Dani on Ed, Andrea on Sprout and me on Breezy) for 4 hours to check troughs on the middle range—the longest ride this year for 8-year-old Dani. We worked on a couple springs that were no longer running into the troughs.

That evening when Andrea drove past our cows in the swamp pasture on her way to Em’s graduation from drivers’ education class, she noticed Freddy lying by herself, not looking very well. She’d lost a lot of weight—apparently relapsed from whatever was wrong with her earlier. Lynn and I brought the cow and her calf down to the corral and took her temperature. It was 105 degrees F. We gave her LA-200 and an injection of Banamine to help reduce the fever and make her feel better. She’s not eating very much, and not chewing her cud. The next day her temperature was still high (104 degrees) so we gave her more Banamine. By the third day her temp was 102.4—nearly down to normal, but we treated her again. But she still wasn’t eating much, nor chewing her cud.

The next day her temperature was up a little more, so we switched antibiotics, giving her Baytril every day for 4 days. Her temperature is normal now, but she’s not eating at all, and losing more weight. Yesterday we gave her some baking soda and water by stomach tube, in hopes to normalize the pH in her rumen, but she’s still not eating or chewing her cud. She’s very weak and dehydrated. So today I soaked up a couple pounds of alfalfa pellets and beet pulp and we gave her several gallons of water and “mush” this morning by stomach tube, and again just before dark.

Michael drove home from North Dakota last week, to be home for awhile and catch up on things here. On Friday he helped Lynn work on our baler all morning. The frame was cracking so we had Bob Minor come over and weld it. Andrea turned hay in the field below the lane that afternoon and by evening it was dry enough to bale—and the baler worked! Lynn baled till dark and got it finished.

On Saturday Lynn hauled hay; Andrea rolled some of the bales out of the wet areas so he wouldn’t get the stackwagon stuck. Yesterday he cut our last field of hay, the lower field across the creek. Michael is busy re-shoeing all their horses, and shoeing the young horses Heather is training for various people.

Today we moved the cows down into part of the lower field that we didn’t cut for hay. When we brought the cows down through the lane next to the horse pens, Dottie and Willow both ran around bucking, then Willow stomped her water tub and got both front feet in it. I rinsed it out but now she thinks splashing in her tub is a fun game. Lynn and I got out the old tires we used years ago to resolve the same problem for a couple young horses—one tire on top of the other, putting a rubber tub inside the top tire—at a height that makes it much harder for her to get her feet into it.

This afternoon Bob Minor got called out to work on a huge fire that started near Challis (60 miles away), to do the weed washing; all vehicles coming and going from the fire must be power-washed to prevent spread of weed seeds. Andrea went to help him.

AUGUST 2 – Andrea has been at the fire camp in Challis for 11 days now, working long hours (from 6 a.m. until dark—about 10 p.m.) and we’ve been taking care of her younger kids, with Emily’s help.

We continued to keep Freddy alive with feedings by stomach tube (into her nostril and to the back of the throat and down into her stomach), soaking alfalfa pellets into a mush and then running the mush through a blender. Mixed with several gallons of water (and a little molasses for added calories) the mush goes readily down the tube. But with her rumen not working, nothing much was going through. The 3rd day of “instant meals”, we also gave her a gallon of mineral oil and a quart of castor oil, in an attempt to get her gut working again. Within 36 hours her rumen was “empty” and she was passing manure again! She was still terribly weak, but started eating and drinking, and chewing her cud. We tubed her a couple more times with “mush” but after that she was strong enough in her protests that we stopped putting her in the chute for her food. We gave her some good alfalfa hay, and she is eating a little better.

She dried up her milk a couple weeks earlier when she first got sick, but we kept her calf with her—for company. They are both happier being together, and less stressed than if we’d separated them. But as soon as she started eating again, Freddy came back to milk production and her calf started nursing again. She’s so thin that we considered separating them, but decided that the psychological benefits of keeping them together outweigh the physical drain on the cow. On Sunday we moved them to the little pen and lane by the calving barn, where there’s some green grass.

Young Heather and Dottie are making good progress. We’re making longer rides now, with me accompanying them on Ed. We’ve been taking Dottie all over the low range, up and down the hills, and trotting on some of the trails. There’s still a little water in the upper crossings in Baker Creek and Dottie had to learn that she can walk across the mud and water and doesn’t have to try to jump the creek. We made one ride into the middle range and Dottie had her first experience with Heather opening and closing a wire gate. On the steeper hills the saddle kept sliding forward and Heather had to get off a few times to reset the saddle. We’ll need to use a breeching to hold the saddle in place.

Last week Lynn finished baling and hauling, so we are done haying. Emily helped me put tarps on my 2 little stacks of horse hay—the load that fell down and we re-stacked next to the horse pens. Michael and Nick chopped larkspur in Baker Creek in the 320 so it won’t kill any cattle when they put their cows in there. Yesterday they branded their 4 late calves and took their herd up there.

Last Friday Dani rode with me for nearly 2 hours; she rode Ed and I rode Breezy. We discovered one of John Miller’s cows on the wrong side of the fence (she’d crawled into the low range). There were about 30 cows gathered by the gate wanting to come through, but we chased them away from the gate and Dani held them back while I got the wayward cow through the gate. Then we checked the water trough to make sure it was still running enough to water the 50 pairs in that area.

On Saturday Dani and I rode again, for nearly 4 hours, checking more water troughs. The cows have tromped and broken the plastic pipe going into one trough. We tied our horses at the Green Trough and ate our lunch there, watching bluebirds going in and out of a hole in a dead tree, feeding their babies.

A couple days ago Michael reshod Sprout and Ed for me. Then Dani and I made another 4 hour ride, checking the range and working on several water troughs. On the way home she wanted to try to get off to open the little metal gate the bicyclists put on their trail, and was proud of herself to be able to open and close that gate.
We don’t have enough hay of our own this year, so we bought 55 tons of hay from a ranch family 100 miles from here. The son and grandson hauled it in two trips with their truck and trailer and a semi. It is nice grass/alfalfa, and a reasonable price ($185 per ton, delivered) considering the high price of hay this year.

Yesterday Dani and Sam both rode with me (Sam on 27-year-old Veggie) to check water troughs in the 320. Today I helped young Heather move her old horses to another area behind our calving barn where they can graze for a few days.

AUGUST 18 – A couple weeks ago Alfonzo and John Miller and family moved their cattle from the middle range to the high range. They apparently put a big group up along our 320 fence on their way; a couple cows got pushed through the fence into our pasture. The grass is really dry this year; usually it’s still green on the high range when the cows go in there, but not this year. Our creek is very low, and we had to shut off our water on the upper place. Michael and Carolyn can’t have water in the ditch that goes through their corral, not even enough for their horses to drink. So they are piping water into a tank for their horses.

There’s only enough water to service the 2 lower places (with earlier water rights). We have enough water to try to grow a little pasture on some of our hayfields on this place, but the big field by Andrea’s house has no water and will remain dry this fall.

Last Monday Michael reshod Breezy for me, and put shoes on Dottie—her first shoeing. She did well, thanks to all the foot-handling and getting her used to hammering on her feet. The next day he headed back to North Dakota to his truck driving job.

That Friday, Nick helped Lynn put a big tarp on our new haystack, then the next day he drove back to college in Iowa—a 22 hour drive. That day Dani rode 4 hours with me. We went up through the 320 and pushed some range cows up Baker Creek a ways; they were hanging down on our fence, very thirsty. Then we came home through the middle range and found 5 pair that John and Alfonzo missed, and took them a mile up the mountain to the high range. Dani is delighted to be able to move cows with grandma! She loves riding and herding cows.

Carolyn and young Heather were gone for a couple days, to attend Carolyn’s brother’s wedding. That Sunday Lynn took the kids to Challis to the fire camp so they could see Andrea briefly.

On Monday Dani made another long ride with me, and helped me move the range cows more than a mile up Baker Creek. They were short of water so we took them clear up to the top trough that John Miller fixed a few days ago. Now his cows know where that trough is, and if they stay in the high country they’ll have plenty of water. Dani helped me again last Wednesday; I worked on the springbox for the top trough in our 320 (the holes were plugged and the trickle of water was missing the box) and then we moved a bunch more range cows clear up to the big trough at the head of Baker Creek.

We were going to move our cows to heifer hill but Lynn discovered that 2 big trees had fallen down over the fence between that pasture and the Gooch place, so he had to saw out the trees and fix the fence. Dani helped me move the cows the next day, after he got it fixed.
On Thursday both girls rode with me (Sam’s longest ride this year on old Veggie) and I worked on the lower trough in the 320. We checked the upper one I fixed the day before (still working!) and ate our lunch in the shade with our horses tied to trees.

The fire near Challis is finally under control. The fire camp disbanded yesterday evening, and Andrea was able to come home. The skin on the inside of her knees is rubbed off, however, and very painful. She always wears shorts when working outside in hot weather, because her grafted skin has no sweat glands and she overheats horribly if her legs are covered. She managed fine until a new supervisor at the fire camp insisted that she wear long pants. The combination of heat (97 degrees in the afternoons) and the abrasion of cloth against her delicate skin rubbed the grafted skin off and now she has huge painful raw areas. We hope she doesn’t develop infection.

Monday, October 14, 2013


JULY 5, 2013 – We had several days of cool, rainy weather last week after we scattered the cows out on the middle range pasture, and they stayed scattered, doing very well for awhile. Granddaughter Heather rode with Andrea and me one day to check on the cattle and gates.

As we were going up through our 320-acre pasture, we nearly stumbled over a pair of elk calves hidden in the sagebrush. One of them jumped up and took off immediately, but the other one lay low, thinking we couldn’t see him—until Heather’s horse took a step closer. Then he, too, bolted away.

We skipped Dottie’s lessons while it was cold and rainy and her pen was wet and slippery. Andrea caught Willow a few times and brought her out of her pen to let her eat grass and be brushed, and I trimmed her feet. I hadn’t trimmed her feet since winter and they were getting too long.

Andrea and I took time to re-locate some of the salt blocks that our range neighbor Alfonzo put out on the middle pasture. He put them in odd places where the cows might never find them, and on steep hillsides where the cows were rolling them down into the creek bottoms in their attempts to lick salt. We carried those blocks to the traditional salt grounds in areas where the cows need to be—we’ve always used the salt to entice them into areas that need to be grazed. On one long haul Andrea tied her sweatshirt around a block and tied it to her saddle, and I led Sprout while Andrea carried the smaller block by hand. Another day we rode up to the top of Mill Mountain and put the fence back together. Every year we have to fix it; hunters take it apart every fall. We led our horses down the other side, down the elk trails through the rocks and thick mahogany brush.

After the weather cleared up again, our Amish neighbors started haying, using their draft horses to pull their swather, rake and baler. Lynn took photos of them using the horses for haying.

Heather and Nick drove 4-wheelers up into our 320 to haul several bundles of steel posts up to the Baker Creek side. They spent a couple days fixing some of the bad spots in the fence where elk have been going over it. The fence was leaning and about to fall down. We don’t want range cattle getting into that pasture; we need it for Michael and Carolyn’s cows later this summer.

Last Thursday we brought the cows into the corral, sorted off the 4 yearling heifers and put them with the little yearling bull in the orchard and horse pasture, and put the 4-year-old bull out with the cows in the lower swamp pasture. Sam and Dani helped us move the cows, and Sam tripped in the rocks and skinned her knee and elbow. A few of grandma’s Bandaids fixed her up nicely.

We started working with Dottie again, after skipping her lessons for a week. Heather got on her again and I led her around in circles. The second time, Dottie was a little nervous and she jumped around a little, but didn’t buck, and soon settled down and Heather was able to ride her in circles around her pen as I led her. The following days she did very well and soon Heather was riding her solo around the pen without me leading or longeing her. Within a few more days she was able to start doing a little trotting in circles, with me at the center of the circle holding the lead rope. After her first bit of panic, Dottie settled into it and by the next day didn’t need me anymore.

Last week Lynn drove his 4-wheeler up the creek to our high range to check the gates on the road, and discovered about 40 pair of the neighbor’s cows in our high pasture; they’d come down through some open gates. The next day Andrea and I rode up there and moved the cows back out. The cows were easy to herd, but it was hard to get around the fallen trees in several places we needed to go. The old trails up the creek bottom have been obliterated by downed trees. The dead ones, killed by the terrible fire we had 10 years ago, keep blowing down over the trails and fences.

We managed to get the cows out and shut the gates, but the fence is flat in several spots, mashed by fallen trees. We tried to take the cows over into Mulkey Creek where they belong, and had trouble getting them down those trails through the timber—more fallen trees obstructing the trails. We got them part way down that creek, and then climbed out of Mulkey Creek (leading our horses up the steepest part of the mountain) and back onto our own range.

We made a place for Molly and Chance to graze above our stackyard; there was a lot of grass there going to waste. There isn’t a very good access to the creek, so Heather is hauling water for them.

Last Sunday Andrea and I rode to check the range after giving Sam and Dani a short ride on Veggie and Ed. We went up into the high range and discovered that the windstorm and/or lightning strike had felled a huge tree across the trail up through the timber above the 320. We had to make an awkward detour through the trees, to get past it. When we came back through the middle range after driving some high cows back down, we checked the troughs that John and his family recently worked on. Lynn had told him how to get one of those pipelines working again—by digging it down farther to prevent an airlock. It was still working nicely; they got it repaired successfully. We also found the binoculars that John told us his friend left hanging in a tree by the other spring box they’d worked on. Andrea carried them home, and Lynn took them over to John’s place that evening.

Andrea and her friend Mike took his 4-wheeler up on the range that same evening and sawed out several trees that have fallen over the main trails through the timber in the middle range.

Our weather turned very hot and dry—up into the 90’s—which is quite hot for our part of the country. On Monday Andrea and I rode to the upper place to meet Carolyn, Heather and Nick and help them bring their cows down from the south half of the 320 pasture. One of their last 2 pregnant cows had just calved the day before, and we had to find that new baby before we brought the herd. He was barely able to travel that far and was hot and tired when we got them down to the upper corral. We let them rest while Carolyn, Nick and Lynn took their stock trailer down to our place and loaded up our 2 young bulls (2-year-olds) and hauled them up to the corral. Dani came up to the corral with Lynn and Mike on the 4-wheelers, and she waited with us, sitting on Sprout, while Andrea helped Heather sort out 3 yearlings to leave in the corral.

When we unloaded the bulls we put them with the cows and took the herd across the fields and over the hill to the Cheney Creek pasture. The new baby got tired on the way, so we left him and his mama in Gopher meadow. On our way home I let Dani ride Ed and I rode with Lynn on his 4-wheeler.

On our various rides recently, we saw the cow elk a couple time, with the twin calves, in Baker Creek in our 320. The twins are really growing and have now lost their spots.

Yesterday, Lynn and I helped Carolyn, Heather and Nick dehorn, band and brand one of their little yearlings, and deloused both of them.

They didn’t brand or castrate Opie. He is the twin that almost died last year when his mother abandoned him and the magpies ate his umbilical cord and pecked his belly open. He was nearly dead when Carolyn found him, and she and Michael stitched him up. Part of his sheath was completely gone, however and they had to leave an opening for him to urinate. He still just dribbles urine, but has managed to survive and grow and stay healthy. They will eventually have to butcher him, but in the meantime he’s having a good life and growing bigger. Carolyn and kids hauled the two yearlings up to the wild meadow in their stock trailer and turned them out with the other yearlings.

Today is the anniversary of Andrea’s burn accident 13 years ago. Last year we celebrated this day with a picnic ride with her kids. This year the 3 youngest kids are with their dad this week, so we will have a celebration later, when they come home.

JULY 13 – Heather is making nice progress with Dottie. Last week we started taking her around to the new corral Michael built for us when he tore down the falling-down round corral that was built more than 100 years ago. The new corral isn’t round, but it’s bigger than Dottie’s pen and has better footing for training horses. Heather has been riding her there, working on walking, trotting, turning, stopping, and general flexibility. She’d been using just a halter with reins and then started using a bridle a couple days ago, giving cues with both the halter and snaffle reins to start making the transition. Now she is riding her to and from the corral, always doing something more and different each day.

Last Saturday Andrea and I rode 4 hours to check the range troughs; some of the springs are running less water in this hot weather, and lower Baker Creek is drying up. There were 40 cows trying to drink at Withington trough (which only runs a trickle and can only water about a dozen cow per day at most), so we moved that group of cows over the hill and down to some other areas with more water.

Lynn hooked up the swather to our big John Deere tractor and started cutting hay. He was able to cut heifer hill and the field below it. He turned off the rest of our irrigation water to start drying out the other fields so he can cut them, too. Sunday evening we went up to my brother’s campsite for a picnic supper.

Monday was a full day. Andrea took Emily to town for her driver’s education class, went to the dentist for a temporary covering over a broken tooth and scheduled an appointment for a root canal and crown. She got home about noon and we rode Sprout and Ed for our usual cow-checking. Lynn started cutting the big field of hay above the corrals and discovered a hydraulic line was leaking, and had to fix it.

There were too many cows at Withington trough again, with no water, so we herded them over the mountain and down to the Bear trough area. Some of them didn’t want to go the right direction. When we got down toward the brush above that trough a bunch of them ran into the brush to go the wrong way. Andrea galloped Sprout to head them off and chase them out of the brush while I was chasing the wayward cows on the other side of the herd.

I heard her holler from the brush, saying she was in trouble, so I galloped around the hill to come see what was wrong. She’d run into a sharp tree branch that had stabbed a couple inches into her thigh, clear to the bone, and broken off. It was spurting blood and she had her hand pressed over the gash to slow the bleeding.

While she held pressure on it, we dug out the bandages in her saddle bag and I got 3 dishtowels (that I use for scarves in cold, wet weather) from my saddle bag. I got a big square bandage ready to slap onto the wound the instant she removed her hand, and we wrapped and tied the scarves around her leg to hold the bandage in place and put pressure on the area to help stop the bleeding. Then we rode home, cleaned it up a little, and she went to town to the ER at the hospital—where she had to wait several hours. The ER doctor flushed and suctioned out a lot of wood fragments and tree bark, and put some internal dissolvable stitches into the flesh (since her graft skin is fragile and wouldn’t hold stitches very well).

She asked about antibiotics but the ER doctor thought it wouldn’t be necessary, and by Tuesday night the leg was hot and red and she had a fever. So Wednesday she went to the clinic and the doctor there didn’t like the looks of it and immediately put her on an antibiotic—and checked her again yesterday to flush it out some more.
They also took an x-ray to see if there were any fragments left in the wound, and to see if the puncture damaged the bone (which was the only thing that stopped the branch from going clear through her leg). The x-rays were encouraging; the bone seems ok and there were no obvious foreign bodies.

The only things that showed up were a fairly large number of staples that are still in her flesh from the graft surgeries 13 years ago. After the grafted skin “takes”, the staples holding it in place are removed, but there are always some that end up under the skin and get missed—and over time they tend to migrate around through the tissues. Over the years Andrea has had numerous staples removed when they showed up in bad places, like under a tendon or pressing into a blood vessel.

Tuesday evening Lynn finished cutting hay above the corrals and started baling the hay on heifer hill and the field below it—until he had a flat tire on the tractor. We moved the last few bales out of my hay shed, to make room for new hay. When Andrea went to the doctor on Wednesday she picked up several more boxes of baling twine.

Grandson Nick came down that morning and helped Lynn change the tire on the tractor; fortunately we had a spare, because the old tire was ruined and we had to order a new one. Nick ate lunch with us. When Lynn went out after lunch to bale hay again, the tractor wouldn’t start. It’s had some problems before, but not this serious. We had to call Jake, the tractor repair person who fixed that same tractor after it was badly damaged in the trailer tip-over wreck.

While we waited for him to come out to fix it, we moved our herd of cows from the little pasture above the house—since we’ll need to drive through there with the loads of hay from the fields above it. As the cows were coming down through the gate (coming eagerly because they knew they were going to a new pasture), Freddy was still up in the pasture. She’s usually front and center when we move the herd, so this was unusual. I walked up there to bring her to the gate, and she seemed a bit dull. I had to make her hurry to catch up with the herd that had already left the field. When she trotted she made a grunting noise. Her udder was empty; she’d gone dry.
So when we moved the herd through the barnyard and corrals to take them to a different pasture across the creek, we held Freddy and her calf back, and kept them in the corral for observation. Her calf was bawling and hungry. Freddy was not interested in food, just picking at the hay we gave her. For a cow that isn’t eating, she was very full.

She was worse the next morning—dull and lethargic—and still very full. She made soft grunting/burping noises when I made her walk to the chute so we could take her temperature. It was 102.8 which isn’t a high fever, but more than a degree above normal. So we treated her with LA-200 (long-acting oxytetracycline) and also gave her Banamine (an anti-inflammatory drug that reduces fever) in hopes it might help her feel better and start eating again. Our vet was unable to come look at her until late that afternoon, and by that time she was feeling much better (thanks to the Banamine), acting like her normal self, chewing her cud. He checked her for mastitis and hardware disease, but she seemed fine. His guess was that she had temporary indigestion from something she ate. That would explain why she wasn’t chewing her cud and was full of gas.

We kept her in the corral overnight for observation, but she was eating a little better again and seemed normal, and had some milk again for her calf, so we turned them back out in the field again the next morning.

Meanwhile we were still having haying challenges. Jake got the tractor problem figured out and it started again. Lynn was able to finish baling the field below heifer hill—almost. The baler quit working just before he got done. He couldn’t get it figured out, so he hauled a load of hay on the stackwagon. They didn’t load very well, being a little smaller and lighter than normal, and trying to load them on a hillside. By the time he got the stacker loaded, it was late evening, so he didn’t unload it in my hay shed, but waited until morning when he wasn’t so tired. When he tried to back it into the shed the next day to unload, the bales started falling off it. When he pulled forward, more fell off, and he finally just had to dump the rest in a pile.

Nick came down to help him try to fix the baler. But it only worked a short while and quit making bales again. Andrea and her friend Mike helped me load the dumped bales in the jeep and take them around to stack by my horse pens—to get them out of the way--and Nick helped us finish loading, hauling and stacking them. Since we had to wait for Jake to come again and look at the baler (and Jake didn’t make it out here that day), Lynn got another load of hay and was able to get it safely unloaded in my hay shed without mishap.

Yesterday he hauled more hay while he was waiting for Jake, and got all the hay off those 2 fields except for the last windrow that isn’t baled yet. Andrea rowed the bales to make it easier. Jake finally came late afternoon, worked on the baler a couple hours, and got it working again. So Lynn baled hay until dark, to finish the field across the creek. He also baled the little bit of hay left on this side, and picked those bales up in the jeep in the dark—using a flashlight—so he could turn the irrigation water back onto that field before the creek drops any more. Our creek is really low and we need to get some the fields watered again (after haying) to grow fall pasture for the cows. He finally got done last night at 11 p.m.

Today young Heather had a good session with Dottie, riding her around the barnyard, corrals, and up into the little pasture above the corrals.

Then Andrea and I rode with John Miller for 6 ½ hours to show him the high range—the larkspur that needs to be chopped before the cows go to that pasture, and all the water troughs, fences and gates. There are several troughs and fences that need fixed. Some of the troughs are rusting out and need to be replaced, and more trees have fallen down over the fences in the old burned area. It will be a major project to fix the fences.

Lynn tried to haul more hay, and had another problem with the stackwagon, dumping part of the hay. He laboriously restacked those bales onto the wagon and got it unloaded. That wore him out so he didn’t try to haul any more hay. It was another “bad hay” day. The next load tried to tip sideways but we were able to prop it and then push the top tiers back into place with the 4-wheeler and a long pole.

We finally got all the hay off that field, and hope to cut the two lower fields tomorrow.