Saturday, November 1, 2014


AUGUST 13 – Last week Dani rode with Andrea and me to move the range cows up out of Baker Creek again.  Andrea and I made a short ride with her new horse early that morning, then she changed horses and rode Sprout for the long cattle drive.  We took the cows on around the mountain to better grass. 

Dani really likes helping move cows; she and Ed make a good cow-chasing team.  The next day Sam rode with us on a shorter ride with Rishiam.  He’s getting used to having more horses along for the ride.
That Sunday Andrea’s friend Robbie was here for the day.  That afternoon Andrea and Robbie helped Michael and Nick work on the new fence they are building for my brother—setting posts in a rocky hillside.
Lynn’s trough garden is growing lots of squash and zucchini this year.  We had a lot of big zucchini and I cooked and froze a dozen packages.  I will use them later to put in stew, soup, chili, etc.  The tomatoes aren’t doing as well this year; the vines are still just blooming instead of making tomatoes!
Last Monday Sam and Dani both rode with Andrea and me on a longer ride with Rishiam.  We paused on a flat ridge where Andrea and I both took photos.

Lynn took our old stackwagon to a friend who is a good welder—to fix the hole in the floor where the gas pedal goes clear down through it.  Lynn had stuck an old license plate under it to get by during haying, but it was time to fix it for real!
Wednesday evening Andrea and the girls were visiting Yoders, our Amish neighbors who live just a mile below us on the creek—when they got a phone call from Hannah Miller (another Amish family around the hill from us).  Hannah’s younger brother Sy had been rushed to the hospital by ambulance with a head injury.  He’d been helping his dad work on their hay cutter, getting it ready for their second cutting of hay.  Part of it had gotten bent during haying, and they were trying to straighten the metal.  Sy was holding a bar against it while John was pounding it with a big sledge hammer, when the head flew off the hammer and hit Sy in the back of the head. 

It knocked him down, and after a few minutes he was unresponsive, so they called for the ambulance.  Word spread quickly around the neighborhood and many people were praying for him through the night.  A CT scan showed no bleeding in the brain, and after keeping him overnight in the hospital for observation, the doctors let him come home the next morning.  He had a big knot on his head, headaches and dizziness for a few days, but seems to be recovering, so we are all thankful.

The next day, we moved the cows to the little field above our house.

Then Andrea and I rode up the creek to meet Carolyn for another ride, but her horse was lame. So we went over the middle range instead, and discovered a dead calf in some brush this side of the Bear Trough. The smell was strong, and Rishiam didn’t want to get near it, so we made a wide detour around it and come down the Second Gully. When Andrea went over to Millers later that day with Get Well cards from all of us and a gift for Sy, she told John about the dead calf. He thought it was probably Alfonzo’s sick calf that they had to cut back the day they moved cattle to the high range. He’d offered to help Alfonzo bring it home to his own corral and doctor it, but Alfonzo didn’t want to bother with it and just figured it would be ok.

Andrea and I went back the next day on Sprout and Dottie, and I held the horses while she went down into the brush to more closely investigate the body, and found the calf’s ear tag. It was Alfonzo’s calf. We also found 7 pairs that they missed when they moved their cattle to the high range.

That evening Andrea drove her little jeep up the creek to see Michael and Carolyn and the steering column locked up. It spun around in a tight circle and flipped over on its side. Fortunately she wasn’t going very fast and she wasn’t seriously hurt—just a few bumps and bruises. One of our other neighbors came down the road shortly after it happened, and used the winch on his jeep to pull her jeep upright again. She was able to drive it home.

On Friday Michael brought the backhoe down and made a ditch to divert the water from a spring across our lane below the old barn, to irrigate the little pasture below it. It rained a little that morning so we didn’t ride. The rain stopped for awhile in the afternoon so Andrea caught Willow and cleaned her feet, and did some ground work with Rishiam, leading him around the barnyard and up into the lower swamp pasture for some quiet one-on-one grazing time. Later that day it rained hard for a short time—our first real rain for more than a month.

The next morning we made a short ride (Andrea’s 15th ride on Rishiam) down the road a couple miles and back—since it was too muddy to go out over the hills. When we got back I trimmed Willow’s front feet. It was drier the next day and we rode out over the low range.

Sunday morning Michael reshod Ed for me. Then Andrea and I made a short ride out over the low range. We met our neighbor Terry Magoon, on his mountain bike, and it was the first time Rishiam had ever seen a helmeted person on a bicycle. It blew his mind for a few minutes, until Terry stopped and talked to us, and Rishiam realized it was actually a person and not an alien.

The next day I cleaned house and cooked a big dinner, and Carolyn helped Andrea clean her house. That evening my cousin Ned Moser and his wife Pam arrived (from Texas) to stay with us and Andrea for several days. Yesterday we all had lunch here, and then Andrea cooked dinner and had Michael, Carolyn, young Heather and Nick come join us at her house. We all ate too much! Today we hope to take Ned and Pam on a drive up the creek (Pam has never seen the upper part of our ranch) to show her some of our Idaho scenery.

AUGUST 20 – When my cousin Ned and his wife Pam were here, on the last day of their visit, Andrea was preparing to hike back in to Running Creek Ranch to get Emily.  Carolyn and Nick went with her, and they left very early in the morning to drive to the trail head at Paradise.  The stopped briefly at Nez Perce Pass on the way.

Nick wanted to run the 7.5 mile trail, so he took off ahead of Andrea and Carolyn, who were hiking a leisurely pace.

Nick did the run in just over an hour (with a 30 pound back pack) and he and Emily started hiking back out, meeting Andrea and Carolyn about halfway, and they all hiked out together, preparing to drive back home again.  Emily was supposed to have a week off from work before going back in again later.


Late that morning, Ned, Pam and Andrea’s other kids came down to our place for lunch, and we planned to have supper at Andrea’s house after Andrea, Em and Nick got home that evening. We had a really hard rainstorm—a major downpour—through part of the morning, and lightning struck Main Street in town, but the rain stopped before noon. Ned and Pam went to town to do some shopping and picked up some fresh-made pizza on their way home, for supper for everyone.

We waited, and waited, and finally ate supper without the wayward travelers. Andrea called at 8:30 to tell us they were stranded. They started to drive back along the Selway River from the trail head that afternoon, and took some photos of the river.

But before they’d gone very far the river suddenly changed from crystal clear to thick, soupy mud. A short ways farther, the road was washed out. The hard rain had created mud slides (the soil no longer held in place, after numerous forest fires in the area over the past few years), and the little creeks running down to the river had become torrents and washed out the road in several places.

They were stopped at the first washout, trying to evaluate how deep the mud and water was, when a road crew came along and told them they couldn’t go any farther. The next washout was worse, and their road grader was stuck in the middle of it with a broken hydraulic line.

The road crew said the washouts couldn’t be repaired any time soon, so there was only one way to come out—to drive through the wilderness area along a jeep track along the mountain ridges for 100 miles north to Elk City, and then loop back over into Montana and come out at Lolo and then to Missoula and home. Since it would be too dangerous to drive that route in the dark, they stayed in the cabin at Magruder and started that trek early the next morning. Nick was impatient because he had to get ready to drive back to college in Iowa, and this would put him a day behind, but it was an interesting adventure. Em was driving Jim’s truck that she was supposed to take to the airport at Hamilton. She and Nick followed Andrea’s truck along the ridgetops on the jeep track.

We didn’t know what they were doing because Andrea didn’t have access to the satellite phone the next morning and they had no cell service through the wilderness area. We had to guess that they were driving north rather than waiting for the blocked road to be opened again. Michael took off work that day; he and Lynn drove the long way round to meet up with them, gambling that they’d headed out that way.
They took some cans of diesel in case Andrea’s truck was running low, and food, driving 500 miles to meet up with them. Carolyn called me collect from a pay phone at the Red River Ranger Station, not far from Elk City, and then again when she had cell service near Kooskia—and then they met up with Michael and Lynn and had a picnic with the food they brought, and all convoyed home together.

While they were spending the day driving out, Dani and Sam helped me move our cows to another pasture. I fed the kids supper and they stayed here and watched a movie with me, then went home to bed. The wayward travelers finally got home at 1:30 a.m.

The next day (Saturday) they rested up a bit, Lynn went to a ranch near Challis to locate water for a well, and we all got together for a big dinner that night at Andrea’s house, before Nick left to drive back to college on Sunday.

On Monday we had a pleasant surprise visit from Harv and Wilda Koehl from Minnesota—friends we haven’t seen for many years, since Emily was a baby. We all had dinner at Andrea’s house and they got to meet her other 3 kids.

That afternoon I typed up a brief biography of my father for the Historical Society and described how he came to write Murder on the Middle Fork—his historical novel that they are reviewing this week.

We rode the next day with Sam and Dani in spite of windy weather.

Yesterday Michael and Carolyn discovered that one of their horses, Gus, has an abscess in the sole of his foot, alongside the tip of his frog. This is probably why he’s been tenderfooted off and on. They opened it up to drain, and soaked it, then bandaged it to keep the dirt out between daily soakings. They’ll probably have to soak it several days. Carolyn was going to ride him, but rode Captain instead, and met me up on the ridge in the 320 acre pasture. We rode on up Baker Creek and checked the range cows to make sure none were hanging low on our fence. The middle trough on the high range was leaking badly so I poked a stick in the hole to plug the leak.

On our way back down through the 320 we saw a cow elk lying in a secluded spot in the brush along the creek and she didn’t even bother to get up as we rode by. She’s probably the same one we’ve been seeing in there now and then; she’s so used to our horses going by that she figures she’s safe.

Today we went for a short ride over the low range with Sam and Dani riding Breezy and Ed.


Dottie and Rishiam (the gelding Andrea is training) have had 8 days of vacation from riding, with Andrea being busy with company, going into the back country to get Emily, etc. We had to make this ride fairly short, and hurried home so Andrea could take Dani to her dental appointment to have a tooth pulled. The new tooth is coming in underneath it and the old one had to come out. It’s raining this evening; maybe our dry summer is over.

AUGUST 31 – We had several days of rain last week but Andrea and I kept riding in spite of it, trying to get more rides and miles on her new gelding and get him farther along in his training.  We’ve been working on getting him over some of his fears and spooking at new things, and his phobia about bridling and taking the bridle off.  He’s doing a little better now, lowering his head enough to make it easier to put the bridle on, and easier to take it off without clanking his teeth.  He’s starting to trust us.  He is also more patient about standing tied for longer periods of time.

When Emily went back in to Running Creek after her week at home, the road was still being worked on after the washouts (no one can drive to the trail head yet) so she flew in with the pilot who was taking some hunters in and out. Andrea drove her to the airport in Hamilton early last Sunday morning but the weather was too foggy to fly until 4 o’clock that afternoon.


We didn’t get to ride our young horses that day, but I rode Ed to move our cows from the lower swamp pasture up to Heifer Hill.

On Monday we made a short ride on Rishiam and Dottie, then changed horses and rode Ed and Sprout up Baker Creek to check the range cattle and fences, and went over the top and came home down Withington Creek. We rode again the next day with Carolyn. Gus’s foot is much better but she’s still riding Captain until it’s more fully healed.

We had to move some cows up out of Baker Creek that day, and Dottie did very well; she’s deciding that she likes to move cattle and will eventually make a good little cowhorse for Sam.

Wednesday we made a long ride on Dottie and Rishiam through the middle range, and except for getting a little nervous when he had to cross a big log with a bog on the other side of it, Rishiam did very well. He’s starting to be calmer about most things, and Andrea is able to get on and off him out there. Up until now I’ve been opening all the gates, but she’s starting to get off him to open and shut the gates we go through.

On Thursday morning we sent our older bull to the sale with Duwayne Hamilton, then Andrea and I rode—a short loop over the low range before Andrea went to town for Sam’s chiropractic appointment. Sam has had a sore neck ever since she had an accident at school some time ago, and is going through a series of chiropractic sessions to try to resolve that issue.

When she got home from town, Andrea helped me trim Rubbie and Veggie’s feet and put them back up on the ditch bank pasture where they grazed earlier this summer.

Michael and Carolyn went on a riding/camping trip in southern Idaho this weekend with Carolyn’s brothers, so we did their chores while they were gone. They brought the two goats down here for us to keep track of.

We put them in the new corral across the creek. Even though the big goat, Ralph, can probably crawl under the gate if he tried, he won’t leave little Doe-Ray-Mee, and we leave her tied with a long rope to a big tire that she can’t pull around very far. Otherwise she’d crawl through the fence poles and lead him astray.

After we got the goats settled in, Andrea and I did a short ride (her 25th ride on Rishiam)

When we got home I let Sam ride Dottie for the first time, around the barnyard.

That evening Andrea and the kids left with their little travel trailer for a camp trip, to stay at Robbie’s place and go to the Fair this weekend at Blackfoot.

The last couple days we had more rain. Lynn did everyone’s chores while they were gone, and we went to church yesterday—and enjoyed the coffee hour afterward, celebrating Myra Miller’s 92nd birthday. Most of her children were there and we enjoyed visiting with them, because we all grew up together.

Andrea and kids had fun at the fair and enjoyed seeing the animals. They took photos of a miniature mare and foal.

Lynn did everyone’s chores again, then that evening as we were eating supper we had a surprise visit from a man we’d never met. Jerry Iverson lives near Seattle, Washington, and was severely burned in a vehicle accident in 2002. His sister was a good friend of my cousin David Durham’s daughter Trina (they were teachers at the same school), and when Jerry was burned his sister asked Trina to get in touch with us, knowing that Andrea had gone through this terrible trauma a couple years earlier. So we wrote letters of encouragement to his parents, and also wrote letters to Jerry after he finally got out of the ICU several months later. We never did hear from him, but we kept writing to him for 6 years. Andrea called him a few times, insisting that yes, life would be good again, and yes, he would be able to walk again, and to go hunting again—even though at that early point in his struggles he was too discouraged to care.

He is doing very well today in spite of his impairments which include a very stiff left arm. He told us that we were on his “bucket list”. Coming to meet us was something he’d been wanting to do. We visited with him until 11 p.m. last night and then he stayed to meet Andrea (who was coming back today with the kids after their camping trip to the State Fair). While we waited for her to get home, Lynn took him up the creek to show him the ranch and range and our mountains. He enjoyed seeing the country; coming from western Washington where everything is lush and green, he’d never seen dry hills and sagebrush before. After Andrea got home he enjoyed visiting with her and the kids for the rest of the day, and telling about their various hunting adventures. We really enjoyed the surprise visit, and he enjoyed coming to meet us. We don’t always know when we might make a difference in someone’s life; we’re glad we got to connect again with Jerry.

My new book is now available. It is called Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch. It can be ordered through any book seller, or from the publisher - A.J. Mangum ( 719-237-0243 ).

The publisher wanted to have it available this fall in time for people who might like to order these books as Christmas gifts.  On his website his description of the book describes it as a collection of 22 non-fiction essays about the horses that helped define the author’s life in Idaho ranch country.  “Horse Tales is a unique memoir infused with the brand of wisdom that can be acquired only through an existence built around livestock and land.  In the tradition of James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small), Thomas centers each story around a specific animal, along the way sharing lessons on life, family and stockmanship.”

Autographed copies can be ordered directly from me by calling 208-756-2841 or by e-mail
The price is $24.95 plus shipping.