Sunday, January 19, 2014


SEPTEMBER 28, 2013 – The kids are back in school and enjoying their classes, but also enjoy the weekends they get to be home, here on the ranch.

The calves we sold through the auction at Butte, Montana a couple weeks ago did fairly well, considering they were only 5 months old.  The biggest steers averaged 480 pounds and brought $1.78 per pound and the smaller steers averaged 420 pounds and brought $1.82.  The heifers were smaller and brought $1.88.  That night it rained, the first real rain we’d had for quite awhile.  The heifers and 3 bull calves we weaned that day got cold and wet, but didn’t get sick.  The didn’t want to graze the wet grass in the little pasture below the barn, so we fed them some hay in tubs to keep them from wasting it, and they ate the dry hay more readily than the wet grass.

Andrea and I have been riding Sprout and Spotty Dottie nearly every day and their shoes were worn out.  Michael put new shoes on them, and reshod Ed and Breezy before he went back to North Dakota for another stint driving trucks.  Last weekend Andrea and I took Sam and Dani for a ride.  Veggie was colicky the night before—and we had to give him a shot of Banamine—so Sam rode Breezy instead of Veggie.

On Sunday Andrea and I made a ride through the low range, taking Dottie some new places she’d never been before, and discovered a dead cow belonging to our neighbor Alfonzo.  It looked like she might have died this past spring, possibly while trying to calve.  That afternoon we moved the weaned heifers to the little field above the house to live with Freddy (the old thin cow that nearly died a few weeks ago, now regaining weight), and put the 3 bull calves in my old horse pasture.

Last Monday Andrea and I made a short, fast ride on Dottie and Sprout.  Carolyn and Heather made a loop through the low range, too, with Heather on a gaited horse nicknamed Romeo—one she’s training for some people in Montana. 

Carolyn called Andrea on her cell phone to mention they were going to move their cows.  We hurried home so I could change horses and ride Ed to help them gather and move their cows down from the 320-acre mountain pasture before the weather got bad.  A snowstorm and cold weather were predicted.  If the north slopes freeze or gets snow-covered, it will be harder (and more risky) to gather those cattle.

The next day was cold and stormy but Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie down the road a ways, not wanting to skip Dottie’s training ride.  Both horses were goofy in the wind and spooked at birds and other “normal” objects.  By afternoon it was raining hard—and snowing in the high country.  We skipped our training rides for the next 2 days during stormy weather.

With the rain and snow the creek has risen a little, and we had a little more irrigation water.  Lynn is trying to water a couple of our dry fields before the ground freezes up.  Yesterday it was cold but not raining, so Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie for nearly 4 hours.  It was too muddy to take Dottie out in the hills so we went up the road about 6 miles, almost to Mulkey Creek, and back again.  Today we rode again, this time with young Heather, riding the horse she’s training, and rode more than 3 hours—up the right fork of Withington Creek to the top gate on the jeep road through our high range

OCTOBER 5 – Last Sunday Andrea and Lynn butchered Opie for Michael and Carolyn.  He’s a big yearling that had a very rough start in life.  Born a twin, his mother abandoned him when she had the second calf, and he never had a chance to nurse.  Carolyn found him after the calf was at least half a day old.  He was chilled and unable to stand up, and magpies had eaten his umbilical cord and pecked a big hole in his belly.  Carolyn brought the calf home on her 4-wheeler and called Michael, who was helping a neighbor.  When Michael got home they tubed the calf with colostrum and tried to clean up the gaping hole and sew his belly back together.  They had to leave a gap for him to urinate through, since his sheath had been eaten by the magpies.

The stitches didn’t hold very well and they treated him with antibiotics.  He was soon able to nurse a bottle, but still had an infection in the umbilical area.  A few weeks later, they lost a big calf that got knocked into a water trough on its back and drowned.  They brought that cow home and grafted the orphan calf onto her.  She was high strung, however, and kept trying to crash out of the corral.  Even though they still needed to keep treating the calf with antibiotics, it wasn’t going to work if they had to keep the pair confined any longer.  So they gave the calf a final dose of antibiotics and let the pair out in the field with the other cows, and Michael said, “Hope he lives.”  The person he was talking to didn’t hear quite what he said, and thought “hope he” was “Opie” so that became the name of the calf.

Opie survived and grew big, in spite of the hole in his belly.  He couldn’t be sold with the rest of the calves last fall, so they planned to butcher him.  Andrea volunteered to do that, and cut up the meat for them.  It was interesting to see how the inner wall of his belly had healed, with a lot of scar tissue on the outside to protect it.  Opie also had unusually big joints, probably from septicemia (similar to navel ill or joint ill)—the infection that nearly killed him as a baby.  Otherwise he was a nice big healthy yearling.

On Monday I took off Rubbie’s shoes and trimmed her feet.  I probably won’t be riding her any more this year; I only rode her on short rides when Sam rode Veggie.  The rest of the fall and winter Sam will probably ride Breezy.

Tuesday Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie up the right fork again, in spite of the cold windy weather.  We picked a sample of the strange new weed that appeared all over our range this year, since our county extension agent was unable to tell what it was from the photos we took.  Andrea took it to her, and she was finally able to identify it as Elk weed or deer ears.  The variety on our range looks like the type that’s called Monument Plant.

Elk season is open now in our area and we’ve had a horrendous amount of traffic up and down our road, and 4-wheelers going all over the range.  On our ride Wednesday we met 5 4-wheelers coming down out of the middle range.  That afternoon I went to the eye-doctor because my vision has suddenly become blurred in my right eye.  The doctor says I’m starting to get cataracts. 

Andrea finished cutting up the meat for Michael and Carolyn, but slipped with the knife while cutting through a leg joint, and sliced her forearm.  Emily helped her bandage the spurting wound.  They put butterfly bandages across the cut to hold it together, and it looks like it will heal ok that way without stitches.

That evening Lynn and I lured the cows out of the lower back field and brought them up to the little pasture above the corrals for overnight so we could preg check them the next morning.  It started raining at midnight and rained all night.  The next morning it was snowing when Duwayne Hamilton brought his truck and trailer to load our big bull to haul him to the sale.  We decided to sell him because he will be 5 years old next year and is starting to get too aggressive.  We have some younger bulls coming on.  The old bull was belligerent and angry when Lynn tried to bring him out of the back corral, and Lynn had to grab a pitchfork.  Andrea and I helped herd him through the main corral to load him, and it was a good thing there were 3 of us; the bull thought about charging at us, but we had him outnumbered.  It was a relief to have him safely in the trailer!

It was still snowing when Lynn and I brought Freddy and the heifers around from the field above the house, and the 3 little bulls from the horse pasture.  We locked them in side pens.  When the vet came to preg check, we had all the cows in the holding corral to preg check and vaccinate, then vaccinated the bull calves and heifers.  Carolyn and Heather came down to help.  Then Andrea went up to their place to help vaccinate and preg-check their herd.  A couple of neighbors (the ones Heather has been riding range for all summer) also came to help.  All of their cows were pregnant.  Our cows were also pregnant (except for Freddy, who was sick during the time she should have been with the bull).  Two of the heifers where questionable.  They are either open or just recently bred, so we may check them again later.  It was a wet, miserable day with the wind and snow, but we’re glad to have the cows worked.

Yesterday was clear, so Andrea and I rode Dottie and Sprout, in spite of the deep mud.  We made a loop over the low range; a good experience for Dottie in learning to try to keep her footing and balance on the slippery hillsides.  She’s come a long ways in her training in the last 2 months.

Today Andrea finished grinding the hamburger from Opie.  Lynn and I moved the cows down to the lower back field, holding back the two questionable yearling heifers.  We put them above the house with Freddy and the heifer calves.  We may check them again to see if they are pregnant; we don’t want to sell them unless they are truly open.

This afternoon Andrea and I made a short ride on Sprout and Dottie, and I changed Dottie from the broken snaffle (a training bit) to a Pelham—using the snaffle reins on the Pelham.  Now I can eventually transition her into the curb.  A Pelham is actually a curb bit (with shanks) and snaffle rings.  I can now use 4 reins and gradually get her used to the curb bit and finish her training.

OCTOBER 14 - Last Sunday afternoon after church Emily rode with Andrea and me.  She rode Sprout and Andrea rode Breezy. 

That evening Andrea took Sam’s turtle out to Mark’s place (those 3 kids were with their dad that weekend) so Sam could say good-by to the turtle.  Andrea turned it loose by the ponds where Sam found it this summer, so it could hibernate for winter.

Monday it was warm, so Andrea and I rode and Sprout for 3 hours—up the ridge to the 320-acre mountain pasture to check the gates and make sure they were still shut with all the hunter traffic.  It was the first time I’d ridden Dottie in very much snow.  Both the top and bottom ridge gates were shut and we decided not to ride down into Baker Creek to check those gates because the snow was very deep on that timbered slope.

We were expecting a check in the mail that day from the bull we sold, but all we got was a note saying the check was being held for lack of proof of ownership!  We were flabbergasted, because the bull had our brand on him (branded as a calf, since we raised him).  We called our local brand inspector, who knows our cattle, and he called and talked to the saleyard’s brand inspector and got it straightened out.  We got our check a few days later.

When Lynn went to town that day for mail and groceries he talked with a person who saw 7 wolves a few days ago--in the field over the hill from us, just through the fence from our low range.  That’s way too close for comfort!  I just did an interview with a ranch family a few miles the other side of town who lost a horse to a pack of wolves earlier this fall.  The horse was in a pasture with several other horses and a herd of cattle, and the wolves singled out this horse and killed it.

Michael drove home from North Dakota; their job was shut down for a week and he decided to come home and get caught up on some things rather than stay there in the truck.  He got home in the wee hours Tuesday morning—the morning Andrea and Emily were going to drive to Boise to catch a plane the next morning to fly to Rhode Island for the World Burn Congress.

We’d planned to put down the 4 old horses before winter (Chance and Molly—Heather and Carolyn’s old horses—and Andrea’s Fozzy and Snickers) the next time Michael was home, so we quickly decided to do it now.  The weather was still decent; a nice time to do it instead of in the cold and snow.  Andrea and Em postponed their drive to Boise until afternoon.  Early that morning she came down and we took photos of Fozzy (her crippled 23-year-old gelding) and Snickers (the 29-year old mare that was Andrea’s best cowhorse in earlier years).

After she’d had a chance to say good-by to each of them, Michael came to help.  The kindest final gift a person can give a beloved animal is a merciful release from pain and infirmity.  Fozzy had been unsound for several years.  More recently he’d developed several cancerous growths up under his flank and they were getting worse; he was losing weight and didn’t have any fat under his skin for insulation.  He was shivering and miserable during cold nights.  Snickers was becoming unstable on her feet and her vision was failing.  It was time to let them go.

A well-placed bullet to the brain is the most instant and merciful death, quicker than the veterinarian’s sedation and lethal injection.  Michael did this act of mercy for his little sister’s beloved horses, and then used our backhoe to dig a grave for them beneath some trees along the stackyard across the creek—a nice final resting place.

Andrea and Emily drove to Boise that afternoon, on the first leg of their journey to the World Burn Congress, a special event that would help Andrea fill the void and ease the pain and grief of loss.  Early the next morning they flew to Chicago and then on to Providence, Rhode Island. 

On that day, Michael performed the same kindness for Chance and Molly.  Chance was 30 years old and has had bad teeth for several years, unable to chew hay very well.  He spent a couple winters here while young Heather was in college, and I fed him grain, alfalfa pellets and senior horse pellets, and cut fine grass hay into inch lengths with scissors--a couple buckets per day.  He did ok on soft green grass during the summer, but needed help with his winter diet.  This past summer he was losing weight even on green grass, so Heather fed him a special mush every day—soaking the pellets so they’d be easier to eat.  He’d become extremely thin by this fall, in spite of the pampering, and his eyesight was failing. 

Molly, 31 years old, was one of Carolyn’s first horses growing up. After she married Michael her kids both learned to ride on Molly.  It was hard for them to say good-by.  Michael dug their grave below the big fallen tree along the edge of the Wild Meadow on the upper place, and set a big rock—with the backhoe--to mark the spot.

Later that afternoon Heather rode down here on the horse she’s training, and I rode Dottie.  We made a loop over the low range.  Riding out there on these young horses was good emotional therapy after the morning’s sobering finale for the old horses.

When we got home I helped Lynn make a dividing fence (using two electric wires) for Rubbie’s pen.  We put Veggie on one side and Rubbie on the other.  I’ve had Veggie separate from her all summer in an adjoining area—so they could be next to each other but fed separately.  For winter we need to be able to drive through that area to feed cattle, so we just divided their old pen.  Veggie, who will be 28 years old in the spring, eats slower than his sister who is a year younger, and we don’t want him to lose weight during winter.  Last winter she got too fat and he became thin, just because he eats more slowly and she got more than her share.

Andrea’s younger kids are spending this week with their dad while she and Emily are at the World Burn Congress, and Lynn is feeding the dogs and cats while everyone is gone.  Andrea and Emily arrived at the WBC the first evening in time to go on the walk of remembrance—a special time of remembering friends and loved ones lost.  She and Em walked in remembrance of Jeff Allen (son of Bill and Diz Allen—friends of ours here in Salmon) who died fighting a forest fire 10 years ago, and Sara who died after suffering burns over 100% of her body in an accident in Yellowstone Park, the same summer Andrea was burned.  She also walked in remembrance of the team of firefighters who died this year in Arizona—all of whom Andrea met last year when she was working at the Halstead fire. 

Andrea and Em enjoyed reconnecting with people they met last year, and some that Andrea and I met at the WBC in 2008, including George Pessotti.  Em wants to help start a support group for children of burned parents.


While Michael was home he borrowed our flatbed trailer and hauled big round bales (purchased from a neighbor) for Heather’s horses, and a load of small bales.  While Andrea was gone, Heather rode with me so I could keep training Dottie.  Our second ride out through the low range, Dottie got mad and grumpy at having to follow the other horse on the way home and she bucked up the hill and passed him, and I had to spin her around to stop her.  That’s the most she’s ever misbehaved!  She did better the next few rides.

While the younger kids were staying with Mark, the deer season opened, and Charlie (age 12) shot his first deer.  He was very proud of that accomplishment.

Lynn took down some of the old tangled electric fence around Snicker’s pen, and put up new ones before we put Dottie in that pen.  I picked some of the big rocks and moved them, and dug out some of the noxious weeds that Snickers didn’t eat—that Dottie started eating.  After we moved Dottie to the bigger pen, we took down the temporary divider fence in Willow’s pen so she could have her whole pen again.

On Saturday Michael drove back to North Dakota to resume his truck driving job.  Lynn turned off our irrigation water.  With it freezing hard at night we don’t want ice flows across the fields.  I helped him cover our woodpile with tarps, in preparation for winter snow.

Yesterday morning Andrea and Em flew back to Chicago and then to Boise, and drove home late last night.  They had a wonderful time at the WBC and met a lot of new friends.  Nearly 1000 people attended, from 7 countries.  They hope to keep in touch with some of the special people they met.

 This morning Andrea and Em were sleeping after their late drive home, so Lynn took the kids to the school bus.  Carolyn and Heather rode down here late morning and I rode Dottie and went with them for another training ride.  Later after Andrea had a chance to catch up on some sleep she wanted to ride, so we took Sprout and Ed for a short loop over the range.  I fed everybody supper this evening.

OCTOBER 23 – After Andrea and Emily got home from Rhode Island we had some nice weather for awhile.  Last Tuesday Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie up the creek to meet Carolyn and Heather, and we rode with them about 6 miles up the creek.  They brought along two of their cowdogs, and it was the first time Dottie had been around dogs.  It was good for her, to get used to the dogs.  We also met a lot of traffic on that narrow little jeep road in the canyon, with hunters coming and going.

The next day Andrea and Lynn drove to Idaho Falls for Andrea’s monthly appointment with her pain management doctor, so I rode with Heather for Dottie’s daily ride.  Andrea and Lynn got back in time to get the kids off the bus, and Andrea took Charlie to town that evening for singing practice.

On Thursday Andrea and I rode for 3 hours, making a loop through the low range and stopped to take a picture of a rattlesnake—unusual for them to be out this late!

The next day, with no school, Sam and Dani rode with us on Breezy and Ed for a short ride over the low range.

Lynn set tall posts to make a capped gate into Veggie’s end of the pen he shares with Rubbie.  Andrea helped him put a pole across the top.  It’s handy to have a gate there; I no longer have to climb over the net wire fence to get into that end of the pen to break ice on their water tubs, and it will be nice to be able to bring Veggie in and out without having to go through the division fence between him and Rubbie.

On Sunday we took Dani and Sam on a much longer ride, into the middle range, with Carolyn and Heather.  We decided it was safer to ride out there in the mountains than on the creek road, with all the hunting traffic.  We rode past a couple water troughs and the dogs enjoyed cooling off in the water.

Monday I had a severe nosebleed after I got up in the morning, and couldn’t get it stopped for several hours.  Lynn helped me do my morning chores.  By afternoon I was doing better, and managed to make a short ride on Dottie.  Our weather has been so nice I hate to skip any days with her training. I know there will be a lot of days this winter we won’t be able to ride.

Yesterday Andrea and I made a much longer ride, through the middle range and into the high range, to see where the elk might be, since Lynn drew for an elk tag in the cow hunt next month.  We checked the gates on our 320-acre pasture on our way home, to make sure hunters haven’t tried to go through. There’s some snow on the high range and the ground was frozen and slippery in places; we led the horses down the steep slope off the ridge, down into Baker Creek, in case they fell down.  Dottie managed fine and led nicely down the steep, slippery mountain.  I’m glad I led her a lot last winter during her early training and groundwork.  Coming down Baker Creek through our 320 there were dozens of big trees blown down and broken off from a recent storm, with some trees down over the trail.  The horses had to jump over some and plow through a bunch of downed tree branches.  Dottie didn’t hesitate to go over and through the obstacles.  She’s coming along very well in her training.

Andrea’s kids are looking forward to Halloween and Sam and Dani gave us a preview, posing for us in their costumes.