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