Thursday, August 3, 2023

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - July 11, 2023 Ammarie's Story -Tragic End for a Sweet Baby Girl

Ammarie’s Story – A Tragic End for a Sweet Baby Girl

My apologies for being so far behind with our family news. My granddaughter Emily is the one who posts my blogs for me (since I don’t have a clue about how to do it myself), and she has been very busy these past few months. Then in mid-June our family was thrust into a tragic situation and we all began a very difficult journey after losing Dani’s baby girl.  

Even though we may eventually catch you up on the family news (my diary from this past winter and spring) I want to share the recent traumatic events so that you will know what our family has been going through.

This will be a brief synopsis of that baby girl’s short life, and an explanation telling what happened to her.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN - Dani met Roger on a trip when she was visiting another friend, and then spent some time with him in Oregon at his sister’s place. Roger charmed her, and he became her new boyfriend. His sister brought him here to visit and he stayed at Andrea’s house. They helped me feed cows for several days when Andrea went with Emily to Idaho Falls--when Christopher (Emily’s 3-year old boy) became very sick with pneumonia and was taken by life flight to the hospital in Idaho Falls.

Dani and Roger helped me while she was gone. I paid Roger for his help, but he never cashed the check. We found out later that this may have been because he had no ID, no driver’s license. His sister came and got him after the week he spent here, and took him back to Oregon. He was living with his sister and her husband and their little kid in Ontario.

Later his sister brought him back again and he stayed with Dani, sometimes at Andrea’s house, sometimes with Dani’s father (Mark) when Dani was staying out there, sometimes with friends. He didn’t have a job and talked about doing job applications but never followed through or got a job, maybe because he didn’t have a driver’s license or ID. He helped us occasionally on the ranch, a few hours now and then, and I paid him for his help, but he never seemed to want a real job. Dani had several jobs over the course of the months they spent together (and worked in the clothing department at Murdochs), but Roger was more interested in going off to do things with Dani’s friends and ride their motorcycles.

Then he announced to all of us that he was taking Dani back to Oregon to “emancipate” her so she could have fun and just “be a kid”. She was 17 and he was 20 and this probably wasn’t legal to take a minor to another state, but Andrea didn’t try to stop them because Dani was going through a rebellious teenager stage and Andrea didn’t want to alienate her daughter.  

When Roger and Dani came back from Oregon, she was pregnant and he was a little nervous, telling Andrea at one point that he was not ready to be a dad. Andrea tried to be supportive and upbeat—trying to be helpful, trying to encourage Roger to step up to his responsibilities and take care of Dani and the coming baby.

Friends found them an old house in town to stay in –they could work on fixing it up as part of the rent. Dani got a job at the Discovery Care Center in the kitchen, and Roger got a job with Chris Bird at the local tire shop. He stuck with it for a few weeks. Dani sometimes took him to work, and sometimes he drove an old beater car he acquired, but he was driving it without a license, insurance or registration.  

Chris was really good to him, and gave him a bonus the first week, trying to help him out. Roger had to have someone (usually Andrea) cash his paychecks for him at the bank, however, since he still didn’t have an ID or a bank account anywhere.

He didn’t work at that job very long. He told several people that Chris wasn’t paying enough money, so he quit and said he was going to get a job at the beam plant. He didn’t tell any of us he’d quit; he kept going somewhere like he was going to work.

The Saturday afternoon that the house they were staying in caught on fire (caused by problems with old wiring) he discovered it ablaze and woke Dani up ---she was tired after her part day at work and was taking a nap. Once the fire was put out, friends helped salvage some of their stuff out of the house after the fire crew let them go back in.  

The house was destroyed so they stayed a few days with Mark (Dani’s dad) until Mark and Jennifer didn’t want Roger there anymore. They (and Charlie) had little tolerance for Roger because he was lazy and arrogant. Andrea let them come live in one of the bedrooms in her basement until they could find another place and Roger could get another job. They never could get another place and Roger didn’t get another job. Dani was still working in the kitchen at Discovery Care Center. Roger spent his time playing video games and goofing around with friends (usually in the evenings because most of their friends do have jobs).

Dani was pregnant and working and always tired. Roger slept all day and dragged her out to party with their friends in the evenings. They were always coming home late, and she had to get up early in the mornings to go to work while he stayed in bed until noon or later. Dani’s health suffered and she was constantly tired.

He never did get another job. Andrea tried to help him with job applications by getting a copy of his birth certificate so he’d have that for ID, and got a copy of his high school transcript, which he needed to get a job that he’d applied for, but he still needed a driver’s license—and he did not try to get one. We began to wonder if there was some reason in his past that would prohibit him from getting a driver’s license.

He helped us occasionally and I paid him for his time, trying to help him and Dani financially, but each time after he got paid he didn’t want to help again for long periods. Dani was supporting them both and Andrea was providing a place for them to stay since we all wanted the baby to have a safe place.

Roger did go with Dani to her doctor appointments while she was pregnant and after the baby was born, but he’d just sit there doing his video games. He was more interested in his video games or doing things on his phone than he was in the baby.

Dani and Roger argued a lot, but he’d always convince her that they should stay together. She was easily manipulated and he was good at controlling her mind.

In mid-March, Andrea and Emily hosted a baby shower for Dani. She would be having her baby in mid to late April, near the end of our calving season, and the baby was going to be a girl.  

Early morning on April 14th  Dani broke her water and Andrea drove her and Roger to the hospital. Dani had her baby fairly quickly—after only 17 minutes in hard labor. She had a little girl, 7 pounds 10 ounces, 20 inches long, and named her Ammarie (pronounced Ah-mah’ree) Ray Lynne. After the baby had safely arrived, Andrea came home to get some things for Dani, and clothes for the baby—stuff they hadn’t taken time to grab when they rushed off to the hospital.

We were glad that our calving was nearly done; our last heifer had calved, and the two older cows were still on hold (and probably wouldn’t have any calving difficulty) and Andrea wasn’t really needed here. She could devote her time and energy to helping Dani with the new baby.

That next morning Andrea helped me feed the cows then went back to town. She brought Roger and Dani and baby home from the hospital that evening. They stopped here at our house so Lynn and I could get a peek at that new little kid on their way home.

Charlie came out that evening to Andrea’s house to see the baby, and so did Lynn’s sister Jenelle, and she brought some baby clothes.

The next day, Sunday, was warmer—the warmest day we’d had all spring—up to 70 degrees. The snow was melting and just about gone from our fields. Andrea came briefly to help me feed cows; she was very tired, having been up most of the night helping Dani with the baby, since Dani was exhausted.

April 17, Andrea took Dani and baby to the doctor for a checkup; Dani had a fever and wasn’t feeling very well so the doctor prescribed an antibiotic. She was still trying to breast feed the baby, but pumping milk also, to have some for bottle feeding.

Dani was frail and anemic but trying to take good care of the baby in spite of lack of sleep. Roger wasn’t much help and mainly wanted to keep up his social life with their friends.  

On June 4 Dani and Roger took the baby to the ER in the middle of the night. The baby had burped up fluid and aspirated some of it into her lungs. They took an x-ray and realized the right lung had fluid in it. They suctioned fluid out of the back of her throat, and the baby spent a couple hours in the ER and then Dani and Roger brought her home again.

None of them got any sleep that night so Andrea tried to get a little rest the next day, in between helping with the baby—rocking her and trying now and then to feed her with a bottle. Ammarie was having trouble swallowing and would only nurse a little bit now and then.  

Then Andrea called us at 7 pm to tell me that they were on their way to the hospital again with the baby, who was having trouble breathing and she looked really bad. There was a different doctor this time in the ER and he realized the baby’s lungs were severely compromised. A respiratory nurse put a tube into the lungs and suctioned out a lot of stuff. They were able to bring the baby home again before midnight.

The next morning (June 6) Andrea called to tell us that Dani was very ill with a high fever—she had mastitis due to not pumping enough for the baby during this traumatic time. The clinic had called to say the doctor could see them at 10:30. Andrea took Dani and the baby in, and the doctor was appalled at how serious this baby’s breathing was; he noted on her record that she’d been brought into the ER three times, and said she should have been sent somewhere else a lot quicker. He sent them to Community Hospital in Missoula, where there’s an excellent pediatric ICU and he wanted them to get there immediately. Rather than have to use a life flight, Andrea opted to drive them. She came home to get Roger and then took them all to Missoula.  

At that hospital they did more thorough checking. She was doing better by the next day, however, and Andrea was able to bring them all home again. Andrea made arrangements with Apria Health Care to get an electric suctioning device (like the nurses had used in the hospital) to suction fluid from the back of her throat in case the baby suffered another swallowing problem and choked. They never did have to use it.

Ammarie seemed to be doing better for a while. We were all hoping the baby’s health was improving and that she would outgrow the swallowing problem. After the baby was born there were times Roger seemed like he might actually want to grow up and become responsible, and sometimes he was really good with the baby, rocking her, feeding her, etc. but also times he was moody and angry and impatient with the baby and rough on her if she wouldn’t stop crying.  

Dani was either oblivious or in denial of the possibility that Roger hurt the baby because she always defended him. He had a mind control over her and manipulated her a lot. And some of the trauma to that baby probably occurred when Dani was napping (she was always tired—she had health issues and anemia during the last stages of pregnancy and afterward; she was trying to nurse the baby and have enough milk). Roger was often babysitting Ammarie while Dani slept, and took the baby in the other room.

THE FATAL NIGHT - Dani and Roger took garbage to the dump late that afternoon on June 21, and Andrea babysat Ammarie—rocking and feeding her. The baby seemed fine and was a little sleepy when Andrea gave her back to Dani after they got home and went downstairs. Dani was very tired and went to bed. The baby started fussing so Roger took her in the other room to rock her. Andrea, upstairs, also went to bed, and for a while she heard the baby crying--and then nothing, and she assumed that Ammarie went to sleep. The next thing she knew, Dani was rushing upstairs, and was screaming, “She’s not breathing!” Roger had woke Dani up to tell her the baby wasn’t breathing. She was blue and lifeless.

By then it was about 9:30 pm. They called 911 and rushed off to town with the unresponsive baby, and were met by the ambulance and EMTs who worked on the baby all the way to the hospital. She arrived not breathing, with no heartbeat. The medical team was able to get her heart beating again but Ammarie was by then intubated and on life support. Family members had been called; Dani’s father and brother Charlie, and Emily came to the hospital. Mark and Andrea both suspected that Roger had treated the baby too roughly.  

Andrea called us from the hospital to tell us that the baby was being flown by life-flight to Idaho Falls and that she was going to drive Dani and Roger to Idaho Falls; they left Salmon about midnight.

The sad thing is that the baby was already brain dead, probably by the time they got her to the hospital here at Salmon, but the doctors and nurses tried their best and sent her on to Idaho Falls. The doctor there said they could not treat her in Idaho Falls; the trauma to her head was too extensive, with bleeding on her brain (and he suspected shaken baby syndrome). They gave Ammaria a transfusion and a lot of medication and sent her by life flight to Salt Lake at 5 a.m. that morning—and Andrea drove to Salt Lake with Dani and Roger.  

It soon became obvious to the doctors in Salt Lake that Ammarie had suffered significant trauma; not only to her brain but also her ribs. The x-rays showed broken ribs in various stages of healing, some occurring as much as two weeks prior. So this became a crime investigation as well as a medical situation. Our Lemhi County Sheriff’s department sent two people to Salt Lake to question Roger and family members. It was a sad and horrific time for everyone, grieving over what had happened to that baby—and the terrible feelings about what had been done to that child—and trying to support Dani in her grief. The two days in Salt Lake were a nightmare. Everyone was also being questioned by the investigators and the social worker to try to put together the facts of what had happened to that baby.

Andrea requested that a Chaplain come in and say a blessing for Ammaie. Emily left for a while to go shopping and got a beautiful gold butterfly, for Dani to keep, in remembrance of that little girl who was only in our lives so briefly.

Ammarie was finally taken off life support Friday evening after family members had a chance to come and say good-by to her. Charlie, Samantha, Emily and one of her close friends, Mark and Jen, Mark’s mom and Mark’s older son Dusty were able to get there that afternoon or earlier (Dusty and his wife had to go back before the final gathering), but they all had to wait until evening for Roger’s parents to get there from Oregon before they did the final good-by. We would have come, too, but Lynn and I are not up for driving that far anymore, and we were the ones staying home and doing all the chores.

That evening everyone gathered around the baby and many of them sang to her, played special music, and said their last tearful good-byes. Andrea called us on her cell phone and had it on speaker so we could listen; even though Lynn and I couldn’t hear much, we were “there” in the room with them all, sitting quietly at home but feeling like we were a part of that gathering to honor and say good-by to that sweet baby. She was finally taken off life support at 10:36 p.m.

Everyone was emotionally and physically exhausted. Andrea had gone 3 days without sleep or eating much, trying to help Dani, and had spent the nights in the hospital room with the baby, sometimes taking a tiny cat-nap in a reclining chair. Nurses came and went, monitoring the tiny little body on life support. After Ammarie was taken off life support and taken away (for an autopsy, as required by the circumstances of her death), Andrea stayed at the hospital; it was wee hours of morning before everyone else left.

Dani went with Roger and his parents and his step-dad’s son to stay with them at their motel. That next morning—Saturday--Andrea tracked down where they were and waited until they got up, to know if Dani would be coming home with her. Dani chose to ride home with Roger and his parents, so they convoyed back to Idaho.  

Since Roger was under criminal investigation for murder, the deputies in Lemhi County were alerted regarding their time of departure from Salt Lake, and two of them were waiting at the Baker store when Andrea turned off the highway, followed by Roger’s parents’ pickup. The deputies followed them up the creek and arrested Roger as soon as he got to Andrea’s house, and took him away to jail.  

Roger’s parents and little brother went to town and bought booze and came back to spend the night at Andrea’s house. They became obnoxious and Andrea, in her exhausted condition, finally snapped and had to leave. She went up to Michael and Carolyn’s house, then they brought her back and had a good friend stay with her to protect her in her own house, and the next day Mark and Jen, Charlie and Carolyn came to Andrea’s house to diplomatically convince Roger’s family to leave. We gave them money for a motel, to get them out of her house.

Roger’s arraignment had to wait until the official autopsy report on the baby, but it was accomplished quickly. That next day—Monday—he was officially charged, had a court-appointed lawyer, and bail was set at $500,000. A hearing has been set for July 25th, to determine if he will go to trial at a later date. 

This has all been extremely hard for Dani (especially now that she is finally beginning to admit and realize that her boyfriend killed her baby). She is no longer trying to defend him. It’s also been very hard for Andrea, who bonded so closely with that beautiful little girl during the times she was taking care of Ammarie when Dani was sleeping.   

This has hit Andrea really hard, as she grieves for the loss of that precious little grandchild and also is trying to help her daughter through this loss. It is very complicated and made more horrific by the fact that it was basically murder, and now the parents of the boyfriend are trying to blame Dani and doing many nasty things. It’s a heavy load for a young grieving mother to bear.

We are all hit hard by grief. Andrea is reminded constantly of the loss because sometimes she took care of that baby and so many things in her house remind her of that little girl. The moments of deep grief for anyone who has ever lost a loved one are overwhelming—the gut-wrenching emotions that tear at your heart, bringing forth uncontrollable sobs of utter desolation and bottomless grief. It’s as if the tribulations and sorrows of the whole world are weighing on your very soul. 

It takes a lot of time to get past our vulnerability to such deep emotions. Earlier experience makes me realize that these feelings will still erupt many times. It is a long journey. Our only solace is knowing that the One who loves us best will be walking alongside us the whole way, even when we are so immersed in grief that we may be unaware of His love and comfort until later.

Dani is a fragile, devastated young mother who loved her baby dearly and tried hard to do her best for that little girl. She was very young and insecure when she met Roger, and easily swayed by his smooth talking, false front and lies. She is also the victim in this terrible tragedy, but is starting to see the realities. She spent several nights with friends, and then with her oldest brother Dusty and his wife and family in Pocatello after Dusty drove to meet up with the officials bringing Ammarie’s body back to Salmon to the funeral home. Dani and Dusty were allowed to convoy with them to bring her baby home. Dusty and Emily have made all the arrangements at the mortuary so that Dani’s parents didn’t have to deal with it.

The bright spot in all this is the love and support from family and friends; this tragedy has brought Dani's family together in a wonderful way, to try to shelter and protect her and give her the help she needs--in order to come to grips with what happened and to hopefully find her own equilibrium again. She also has support and protection from the law enforcement people who are prosecuting the boyfriend and keeping her safe from Roger’s vindictive parents who are trying to blame Dani. There are many things helping move her fragile condition and emotions in the right direction and to make sure she gets some professional help and grief counseling as well as love and support.

There will be a memorial gathering for Ammarie at a later date when family and friends can get together again. Some of us have tried to put our feelings into words, and this is what I’d like to say at that memorial:

Memories of a Precious Baby Girl

When Grandpa Lynn and I first heard about the baby that would arrive in April, we were excited.   

When Dani and Roger had us guess whether it would be a boy or a girl we were hoping for a girl---our first great granddaughter. We have four great grandsons and we thought it would be very special to have a little girl.

Dani and Roger gave us a pink heart and a blue star, to have us guess, until they knew what sex the baby would be. When we found out, we put the little pink heart on our calving calendar that hangs on the kitchen wall, and wrote “It’s a Girl” on it … and that little pink heart is still there as a reminder of that special time.

When she was born on April 14, on Carolyn’s birthday and a day before Michael’s birthday, we thought that was special, too—a birthday that would be easy to remember in the family “cluster” of April birthdays—including her 2nd cousin Joseph and her great uncle Nick.

My favorite photo of that little girl is the one Emily took and sent to us the day Dani’s baby was born—with that smiling young mother cradling that precious new little girl in her arms.

Grandpa Lynn and I got to see her when Dani and Roger brought the baby home from the hospital; Grandpa and I went out in the driveway as they drove past our house on their way home to Andrea’s house, and they stopped briefly so we could get our first close-up look at that beautiful sleeping baby.

She was a sweetie, and charmed everyone who saw her and got to hold her.

When Grandpa Lynn was at Andrea’s house this spring, on several occasions, to help babysit Christopher (Emily’s little boy who sometimes spends time out here), he got to see little Ammarie also, a few times, being held and rocked.

We grieved deeply when we all lost that little angel, but there was one bright incident amid the grief. There was a beautiful butterfly fluttering around our windows in the sunshine the afternoon before Ammarie was truly gone. Lynn noticed the monarch butterfly that continued to hang around our kitchen and dining room windows for several hours, as if her little spirit was saying good-by.

We shall miss her deeply, and regret that we won’t have a chance to see her learn to crawl, and walk, and grow into a lovely young woman. But we shall cherish the moments we were able to enjoy her, in her short life, and the brief memories, and hold her forever in our hearts.

Postscript: We have been immensely helped through all of this by the prayers and love of family and friends. Many people have asked how they could help. We want them to know that Emily set up a special account in Dani’s name, for people who want to donate toward the expenses of the baby’s cremation, etc.

Details for donating…

Baby Ammarie”. Please donate or share with others—any help is greatly appreciated and will be used to help with the existing medical expenses Dani will have to cover. Thanks in advance for your kindness and support.

Here’s the link:



Emily's fiancĂ© Aj  

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Diary from Sky Range Ranch – November 16 through December 14, 2022

NOVEMBER 26 – Last Thursday morning it was snowing hard when I got up, and we had 2 inches of new snow. It was still snowing at chore time. Michael called to tell us he was worried about us trying to take our trailer to Montana the next day, to go to the bull sale, because the roads would be really bad, and we’d have to chain up the truck and trailer to make it over two of the passes. We realized that another problem would be the cold weather. It was predicted to be 30 below zero at Three Forks, Montana (and about 10 below zero here) and we realized Andrea’s diesel pickup would need to be plugged in over there or it wouldn’t start. We called the hotel where we’d be staying and they said they didn’t have any way we could plug in a vehicle. We might have been able to plug it in at the stockyard but then we’d have to hitch a ride back and forth (10 miles) between there and the hotel. So we decided to take Andrea’s car instead; it has good tires and starts ok in cold weather. The bull we buy could be delivered to a sale yard near Dillon, Montana (just over the mountain from us—a 3 hour drive) and we could go get him later on a day trip and not have to have Andrea’s truck plugged in overnight.

That whole day was cold and windy, with more snow expected, and Lynn was relieved that we decided not to try to travel with the truck and trailer. We were also glad our straw got delivered the previous day; Steve Herbst would not have been able to bring it now. And the weaned heifers were enjoying their big straw bale; they already had some of it broken down to bed on, and I spread more of it with a pitchfork so there is room for all of them to lie on it, and alongside the calf houses, out of the wind. Winter arrived with a bang.

That afternoon and evening we got everything ready for our trip, with lots of warm clothes, and I cooked some things Lynn could have for meals while I was gone. Charlie came out and spent the night at Andrea’s so he could go with us. Our original plan was to have him come along in case we needed help chaining up the truck and trailer or had a flat tire, but we decided to have him still come with us in the car, in case we had any problems.

Friday morning it was 6 below zero when I went out in the dark to feed the horses and check the ice in the bull pen with a flashlight (the little open area in the ice where he drinks) and be ready to leave at 6:30 when Andrea and Charlie came down from her house. We loaded my stuff in her car, and I had a blanket over my lap in the back seat; it took a while for her heater to warm it up back there. She’d made sandwiches and had food in a cooler, and we ate snacks on our way.

It was barely daylight when we were driving along the river and starting up toward Lost Trail Pass, and we had to stop for several groups of elk crossing the road. One herd had more than 100 animals in it, lined out crossing the highway—leaving the river and going up the mountain into the timber.

There wasn’t a lot of new snow on Lost Trail Pass but the next ones were bad; we realized we probably would have had to chain up the truck and possibly the trailer to go over Joseph and Homesteak Passes in Montana, so it was good we chose to take her car.

It was 27 below zero on those passes and in the Big Hole as we headed toward Butte, Montana. We got to the stockyard near Three Forks at 10:30 a.m. and spent a few hours walking around looking at the pens of bulls. The crew was still sorting and putting them in the pens in lots of five. I’d already made notes in the catalog on the ones I was most interested in (best scores for calving ease and disposition) but made additional notes looking at the bulls themselves. It was hard to write with gloves on, and my fingers got so cold they didn’t work very well. We were dressed warmly (many layers!) but still got really cold and didn’t quite get finished looking at the bulls before we gave up and drove to the Sacajawea Hotel (ten miles away) to check in. It took us a couple hours to get warm, in our room! 

We ate sandwiches and rested, then went out to the lobby to meet some of the other folks (all the people coming to the sale were staying at that hotel). I enjoyed meeting Kit Pharo (Pharo Cattle Company, who was putting on this sale) because I’ve known him for more than 20 years (interviewed him for several articles, and then bought a bull sight unseen from his Colorado sale 2 years ago) but had never met him in person. Andrea took a photo of us.

me & Kit
Kit’s program in raising seedstock is to produce efficient cattle that do well on grass and are profitable—not requiring expensive feed, and not needing assistance at calving, staying in the herd for a long time—with good dispositions and easy to handle. 

We attended the “Meet and Greet” meeting that evening. There were folks there from several states and Canada, and one guy from Australia. Some were cooperator breeders (raising bulls for Kit’s program) and some were people who came to buy bulls.

Afterward I talked to several of those folks, including a guy from Canada that I will interview sometime for an article. Also had a great conversation with the wife of the auctioneer; she and her husband are from Missouri and he raises bulls for the Pharo Cattle Company program. I eventually got tired and went to bed, but Andrea stayed up longer and talked to many more of them, and took a few photos.
Kit & friend
It was hard to get any sleep that night, however. This old historic hotel was built in 1910, with thin walls and ceilings, and we could hear people talking in the lobby in the middle of the night.

Saturday we ate breakfast in our hotel room (we took food with us so we wouldn’t have to spend money on food) then Andrea and I drove out to the stockyard again to finish looking at the bulls before the sale. Charlie chose to stay in the warm motel room and just relax, explore the hotel, etc. The temperature at the stockyard was only 12 below zero that morning (instead of 20 below) and this time Andrea loaned me some knitted gloves that were flexible enough to write with and still keep my hands a little warmer. We finished looking at the rest of the bulls and made notes. We wanted to get a bull that isn’t too closely related to “Babe”--the one we bought 2 years ago--since we need the new bull to breed Babe’s daughters. We also want a bull with a really mellow disposition and guaranteed calving ease. We’re getting to old to have to pull calves!

Andrea drove back to the hotel to get Charlie, and I waited in the heated sale barn and talked some more with some of the folks we met the night before. We all had lunch there (free lunch for the folks who came to the bull sale) and then the sale started The 86 bulls sold in less than an hour. It was a cowboy auction, in which each buyer had a bidder number. We just held our number up for the desired bull, and only pulled it down when the bid went past what we wanted to pay. The first 18 bulls were all on my “first choice list” but they all went past my budget (selling in a range of $10,000 to $25,000) but on the 19th bull the bidding stopped just as I pulled my number down (at $6500) and I ended up with that bull. It was a little more than I wanted to pay but I also didn’t want to end up empty-handed or with a bull I didn’t really like. As it turned out, the final price was only $6110 with the “drought” discount Kit gives for folks in areas that were severely affected by drought this past year.

There were some bulls later in the sale that went cheaper, and a couple that I would have really liked to have, but we were still happy with the one we got. Andrea and I went back out to get another look at the bull we ended up with, and decided that he was ok, and definitely a mellow fellow with a good disposition. Andrea took a photo of him down on his knees reaching as far as he could to eat hay from the pen manger.
reaching to eat hay
His registered name is Jurassic Park, but we immediately nicknamed him Barney (like the friendly purple dinosaur). So now we have Babe and Barney.

Bulls were being loaded out immediately after the sale, to be taken home by buyers, and the Pharo Cattle Company crew were loading bulls to be delivered to various points in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. Our bull was headed for Dillon, Montana (a lot closer to home for us) with free delivery. We made arrangements with the stockyard at Dillon to keep him until Monday since there was no way we could get home and take our trailer over there immediately, and we’d planned to stay one more night at Three Forks and head home early Sunday morning.

So we went back to the hotel late afternoon and visited again with some of the folks we’d met who were also staying another night (with long drives the next day). We celebrated our purchase by ordering hamburgers from the downstairs restaurant to eat in the lobby, and during our visit with other folks that evening one of them took a photo of the three of us.
our celebration meal
me, Charlie & Andrea
We talked to Lynn again on the phone to tell him how it went, and he gave us an update on the home front. It had been really cold but he’d managed to get the chores done and water the horses and bred heifers. Dani and Roger got their water pipes thawed (the pipes in the old house they are renting in town froze during that cold spell).

Sunday morning we headed home, and it was only 3 below zero. We had an uneventful trip but noticed the huge ice buildup on the river by North Fork, which showed how cold it had been on our side of the mountain while we were gone.

When we got home we offloaded my stuff, and Charlie and Andrea went home to plug in his truck and hers. I chopped all the ice out of the horse tubs that had built up during those 3 days and watered them, and checked the ice in Babe’s pen—and had to open it up a little so he could drink. Andrea got her truck started by late afternoon and brought it down here, hooked up the trailer, and parked it by our shop so it could be plugged in all night.

Monday morning we left early (after I did chores in the dark) to drive to Dillon to get our new bull. Charlie and Lynn went with us. Lynn and I sat in the back seat (actually just half the back seat since the other half was full of extra clothing, blankets, food snack cooler, etc.) and we were plenty warm. Charlie took a photo of us snug in the back seat, and another photo as we started up Railroad Canyon.
snug in the back seat
starting up Railroad Canyon before the end of the pavement
It was another cold day, below zero as we went through Railroad Canyon from Leadore and over Bannock Pass. The pavement ends partway up that canyon, and the 15 miles of gravel road up over the top is very rough and washboard bumpy. Our top speed was only about 20 mph but it had been plowed and graveled and we didn’t need chains.

When we got to the stockyard at Dillon the owner helped us load the little bull, after we spread a bale of hay in the front part of the trailer for him. We locked him in that front part (and had a tarp tied to the divider, to provide protection from the wind, and put an unbroken hay bale against it to help hold the tarp down and completely block any wind coming in the back. Even though the sides along the top were open, he was down out of the wind and when we checked on him a couple times on the trip he was lying down in the hay, quite comfortable.

It was really slow coming back over Bannock Pass because we went even slower over 
that rough road with Barney in the trailer. Charlie took one photo as we were heading back up over the pass, and then he took a nap. Andrea took a photo of him snoozing along the way.
starting back up over the Pass
Charlie sleeping
We got home early afternoon and unloaded him into the pen with Babe, and he went right to the feed manger along the fence and started eating hay. Andrea took a photo of him.
Barney went straight to the hay in the fence manger
Babe came over to check him out but they didn’t even think about fighting; they acted like long-lost brothers and were good buddies from the start.

We cleaned the bedding hay out of the trailer and Charlie backed it up into its parking spot at the loading chute. When Andrea looked in at the bulls again they were both napping peacefully in the corner shelter.
napping together
Babe & Barney in their shelter
Andrea went to town to do all the town errands and check on Dani and get some firewood for her and Roger. That afternoon coming home from work, my brother Rocky slid off the road before he got to his house. As he rounded the corner just above Yoder’s house, the setting sun temporarily blinded him and he couldn’t tell where the edge of the road was. His jeep started tipping off the bank but was caught and held by the fence and some brush, or it would have rolled down off the bank and into the ditch below. As it was, he was stranded with the jeep almost on its side, with the driver’s side door buried in the snowbank and the passenger door up in the air. 

He’d recently had knee surgery and wasn’t able to try to climb up out through the passenger door. Fortunately Yoders were home and a fellow who had been delivering something to them saw Rocky’s jeep and told them about it. They came up onto the road and pulled Rocky out of the vehicle through the back door. He wasn’t hurt, but the jeep was banged up a little.

Tuesday was not quite as cold, with 10 degrees that morning and a high of 24 degrees that afternoon. I spent the day catching up--typing interviews and articles after Andrea helped me break ice out of all the horse tubs and the heifer’s water trough above the house. Then we fed the weaned heifers a bale of my horse hay, and some flakes of alfalfa from the big square bale by their round bale stacks. With the snow and cold weather, it was time to start feeding them a little; the grass in their pasture is almost completely covered with snow. Andrea went to town that afternoon and took Dani to the ER; she has bronchitis.

A whitetail doe and her two fawns have been spending a lot of time in our back yard eating weed seeds, leaves, etc. and I took photos of them (through the bathroom window) while they were eating leaves off a fallen branch of the elm tree, next to Rishiam’s pen.
fawns in back yard
fawn eating next to Rishiam
Wednesday was warmer; it actually got above freezing for a little while that afternoon. Andrea chopped holes in the ice along the little water channel (fed by springs) in the back field and we moved the 9 bred heifers over there, since it will be easier for watering them (the water tank above the house will just keep freezing up) and the grass where they’ve been is just about gone.

The last few nights have been cold, but not quite down to zero. I’ve been feeding the weaned heifers a little hay every morning with the sled—some grass hay and some alfalfa. On Thanksgiving day Andrea, Jim, Lynn and I went to her friend Russ’s place; he cooked a nice dinner. Yesterday I started feeding the little heifers twice a day with the sled. They are still grazing a little, but it will soon be time to give them a full feed of hay.

Today we had our family get-together for a belated Thanksgiving dinner at Andrea’s house in the late afternoon, since this was the day her kids could all be there (except for Sam, who couldn’t get off work in Twin Falls). We also invited Nick.

Lynn had to locate water for some folks above town, who need to put in a well, and I did chores when he got home, then we went up to Andrea’s house and took a fruit salad and jello. Emily, AJ, Christopher, Dani, Roger and Russ were there, and after dinner some of us played a few rounds of Tripoli. It was a fun day. Here are a few of the photos Andrea took:
Roger, Dani & Charlie
Dani & Charlie
good food

DECEMBER 5 – Last Sunday was windy and I did evening chores in a blizzard. We had new snow and drifts. I sent one of my books (Beyond the Flames: A Family Touched by Fire) to one of the gals I met at the bull sale at Three Forks, and she called that evening to let me know she got it and was looking forward to reading it. We’d shared a lot of things about our lives and various challenges, when we talked that weekend, and hope to stay in touch.

Lynn had a serious painful, itchy area on his lower leg when he got up Monday morning—a big red area the size of a quarter—and it looked like a nasty spider bite. Some of the skin was coming off, with a deep, raw ulcer. Jim took him to the ER and the doctor thought it probably was a spider bite and gave him a prescription for an antibiotic in case it becomes infected. We’ve been changing the bandage on it a couple times a day and checking on it.

Dani and Roger came out to Andrea’s house to get some of Dani’s things, and Roger brought several more sacks of pellets (for the pellet stove) into the house from the barn across the driveway.

The next day, Andrea helped me get a load of little bales from my hay shed, onto the feed truck, to take down by the gate to the heifer pasture, so I can continue feeding the weaned heifers some grass hay twice a day (plus a sled full of alfalfa hay every morning). They seem to be doing ok with that ration but we’ll soon give them more.

Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent some photos she took when they were hauling their last bales of hay from harvest, and a photo of baby Ian.
bringing home bales - Nov 28
Ian - Nov 28
Thursday was storming with snow and wind. When I did chores that morning I took a pitcher of hot water to pour on the base of the 3 step-in posts I used earlier this fall and winter to create a fake electric fence around the haystacks by Sprout and Shiloh’s pens so I could let Sprout graze the grassy area next to them. The ground is so frozen that it was impossible to get those posts out of the ground without breaking them, but the hot water thawed it enough that I could loosen and pull them out. They had to be removed so we can get to the haystacks with the tractor (whenever we have to start feeding those big bales to the heifers) without running over those posts.

Andrea checked on the bred heifers in the lower back field. They are still doing ok, grazing the rough feed that’s sticking up above the 6 inch deep snow.

It started snowing hard at 4 p.m. and I did evening chores in a blizzard. Andrea came down again and helped me put more bedding hay in the corner shelter in the bull pen, and another irrigation dam over the top to make a little more roof so both bulls can be out of the storm.
bulls in their shelter
She also checked on the pellets in the barn (for the pellet stove). There were only 5 more sacks out there, so we’ll need to buy some more.

This was the day Michael and Carolyn were driving to Jackson, Montana to get a mini excavator he is buying. He’s had to rent one for some of the fencing jobs, and spent enough in rent over the past few years that he could have purchased one, so he decided to buy one—and found a used one in Jackson that will work, and be better than the one he had to rent. It was a rough trip to get it, with the snowstorm and bad roads, pulling his flatbed trailer. There was 8 inches of new snow on the passes. He had to chain up for about 50 miles, each way, with very slow going. They finally got home late that evening.

With the new snow here we thought we might need to start feeding hay or plow driveways so Lynn plugged in the tractor that evening, but we only had about 3 inches of new snow (but it was really cold that next morning—almost down to zero). The cows were still able to graze, but we took the last of our protein blocks down to the bred heifers in the lower back field. The protein supplement will stimulate them to eat more of the rough feed that they can still get to, with all the snow.

The gate to the lower field was impossible to open, with the wooden uprights frozen into the thick ice where the spring has flooded out into that lane. But Andrea’s 4-wheeler fit through the small space between the gate post and the first upright (we could open it that much) to take the protein blocks to those heifers.
protein for heifers
Then she and Lynn took a big bale of straw to the cows with the tractor, putting it in the brush at the edge of the field where they like to bed. They can bed in the straw and eat some. Lynn plowed the snow away from our mailboxes up on the main road, then he went with Andrea when she took her truck up to Scott Kesl’s place to get 10 more blocks of protein (100 pounds each). They stopped on the way to say Hi to Bob and Jane and pick up a check for some things they wanted Andrea to get for them downtown. Andrea tries to do their town errands whenever she can, so Jane won’t have to drive on bad roads. 
Bob is getting around very well now in his wheel chair and working hard at increasing his upper body strength, realizing that he may never be able to walk again.

When they got home with the protein blocks, we put 8 of them in the back of the brown jeep (with its covered top) and took a couple blocks to the cows by her house. Then she drove to town and to do all our town errands and get a ton of wood pellets for our pellet stove. Charlie came out that evening to help unload the pellets into the barn. Jim came along about that same time (he’d been up the creek hunting) and he and Charlie and Andrea got the pellets unloaded and stacked in the barn across the driveway from the house. While unloading the first of the sacks, however, they discovered that the ends of the sacks were not properly sealed and were coming open. They had to use a lot of duct tape to patch them so they wouldn’t leak the pellets out. Charlie brought a bunch of the sacks into the house so it will be awhile before we need to get more out of the barn.

Christopher spent some time at Andrea’s house, and she took photos of him playing with his trains. He loves building track all over the house.
playing with trains
Saturday was colder. Andrea helped me break ice out of all the horse tubs that morning and reload the little sled (for the weaned heifers) with as much alfalfa hay as it will hold (big heavy flakes of hay). I am still feeding them two sleds of hay in the morning (one full of alfalfa and one with a bale and a half of grass hay) and a bale of grass hay at night.

Then Andrea called us at 3 p.m. that afternoon to tell us the old house that Dani and Roger are living in was on fire! She was rushing to town to try to help them. Dani had come home from work (she works part days on Saturday) and was taking a nap when Roger came home and discovered the smoke and woke Dani, and they got out (with their cats). Andrea and Emily got there soon after the fire department crew arrived.

The fire started in some old wiring in the attic and had already burned through the ceiling into the laundry room. The fire crew broke a hole into the front of the house and were able to get the fire out within a few hours.
house on fire
firemen breaking in to put out fire
Eventually they allowed friends and neighbors to go in briefly and get as much stuff out as they could salvage, though much of it was smoke and water damaged. Andrea got all of the clothes to take home to wash and filled the back of her truck with some of their other belongings. Dani’s dad and Charlie filled their trucks and some of the neighbors helped, too. The bed and couch will need to be cleaned before they can be used again, but most of their things were gotten out. Andrea took a photo of Em & Charlie and some friends waiting for the firemen to allow them to go in and retrieve Dani and Roger’s possessions.
waiting to go in to salvage Dani & Roger's things
The house was destroyed, so now they need a place to stay. A friend who works at a motel arranged for them to stay that night at the motel. Charlie and another friend brought some of their things out to Andrea’s place to unload it that night.

Yesterday was down to zero. Andrea took her truck back to town to get all the firewood that Jim had taken to Dani and Roger a few days earlier.

Today was a little warmer but it snowed again. Dani and Roger came out to Andrea’s house to get some of their things and clothes that Andrea washed, so Dani would have something clean to wear to work.

DECEMBER 14 – Last Tuesday we started feeding the weaned heifers their big alfalfa bales. Andrea pulled the bale feeder out to their field with her 4-wheeler, and she and I cut the deer netting and made a “gate” we can open easier to get into those stacks. Lynn took a bale out to the feeder with his tractor, and also plowed a patch of snow away by the machinery parking area, next to the corral across from the bull pen. He was able to get a big square bale (first cut alfalfa) from the stackyard and put it there, next to the corner of the corral where I’ll be feeding the little bulls (the two young ones we kept this year) for the winter. Andrea took photos as he brought the bale for the little bulls.
bale for the bulls
The 2nd cutting alfalfa round bale we gave to the heifers was pretty rich—mostly leaves—and we hoped they wouldn’t bloat. They were somewhat adjusted to eating alfalfa (the flakes I’d been giving them daily for more than a week) but it wasn’t this rich. I checked on them a few hours after we gave them the big bale, and they were all very full and a bit bloated, but none seemed in danger of fatal bloat. I checked them again just before dark that first day, and they seemed ok.

The weather continued cold, and the straight alfalfa wasn’t adequate for generating body heat (ruminant animals need more roughage for that) so I have been giving those heifers a little grass hay, especially in the evenings. They are not as cold in the early cold mornings. I took photos of them eating the extra hay, and a photo of one of them (Melanagastor, daughter of Magdalena and a great granddaughter of Maggie) when she came to the water tank to drink.
heifers eating the grass hay
Andrea and Jim helped AJ and Emily put up a hot wire around their yard, to keep their dog from jumping over the fence and going to the neighbor’s place or out on the street (at risk for being hit by a car).

We had more new snow on Friday. The cows and bred heifers were still able to graze, but we gave them more protein blocks. Saturday was a little warmer but the water for the heifers in the lower back field was becoming an issue. About the only place they can drink now is some little spots where a spring comes out of a patch of brush on the hill, and a place where Andrea has been able to break ice for them near the gate where another spring is making a huge ice flow. Andrea checks them every day and breaks ice for them, and monitors their grass; by Friday she could see that they’ve eaten most of the rough feed in that field. I took a few photos around the barnyard—looking down toward the calving barn...
old blacksmith shop in front of calving barn
lane toward calving barn
…and the view toward my hay shed…
hay shed
hay shed & pens
..and a photo of Sprout by her gate, and our old freight wagon parked along the lane.
old freight wagon
I finished writing our Christmas letter for this year and put some photos on a thumb drive for Emily to work her magic and put photos on the backside of the letter, like she did last year. Andrea took the thumb drive to Emily when she went to town Saturday to pick up Christopher. Here is our Christmas letter for this year:
That evening we invited Nick to join us for supper, so we’d have a chance to visit with him again, and also play a few rounds of Tripoli. Andrea and Christopher stopped by for a few minutes on their way home from town, but Christopher was eager to go on home to “Gammy’s house” where he could play with his little train and put it together.

Sunday was the warmest day we’d had for a long time (32 degrees that morning, and up to 37 degrees by afternoon) so we decided it was a good day to vaccinate the bred heifers (their first scour vaccine, so they can have a booster shot before calving—when we give the cows their annual booster). The heifers need a two-shot series of the scour vaccine, to help them create the antibodies against E. coli and rotavirus and coronavirus in their colostrum—to give their calves protection against those common pathogens.

So Andrea called Charlie to see if he could come out and help us. He said he could probably come in the afternoon, after he shoveled some snow off his dad’s leaking roof. Andrea and I took her 4-wheeler and sled to the lower back field, to bring back what’s left of the protein blocks and salt block, and bring the heifers up to the corral. The gate uprights (in the wire gate out to that field) were frozen in the ice that’s flowed out from the spring above it but Andrea was able to chop around them and get them loose so we could open the gate completely, and make it safer to try to get the heifers through the gate without them falling down on the ice. 

We called them from where they were grazing at the lower end of the field, and they followed us (and the sled with their protein blocks) out through the gate and up to the corral. While we were waiting for Charlie, we took the feed truck around to the stackyard to load with little bales for the bulls, and broke ice on the creek in the corral. Andrea took the sled with the protein and salt up to the field by her house (where the older cows are).

When Charlie got here we put the heifers through the chute and vaccinated them. Dani and Roger came out, too, and helped; Charlie caught their heads, Dani ran the tailgate and squeeze, while Andrea and Roger brought the heifers up the runway to the chute, and I vaccinated them. Andrea took photos as Charlie and Dani worked the chute.
Dani putting cow into chute
Charlie catching the head & Dani shutting tailgate
team effort
ready to bring the next one
It was a smooth team effort and we were done in about 10 minutes. Then we took the heifers up to the field to live with the cows; they can hopefully all keep grazing for another 3 weeks or so (if the snow doesn’t get too deep) before we have to start feeding hay. Andrea took a photo as the heifers went through the corrals and past the haystacks.
taking the heifers from the corrals to the field above the stackyard
Charlie and Roger finished loading the feed truck and stacked the bales next to the bull corral for Babe and Barney. Andrea, Dani and I got the little bulls (Blindy’s son Blind Man Bluffer and China Doll’s orphan Kung Fu) from the field below the lane, sorting them out from the weaned heifers, and put those young bulls in the main corral, where they will live for the winter, and I can feed them in the corner feeder in the adjacent pen across from the big bulls. We put a bale of coarse grass hay for bedding in the protected area next to the chute, out of the wind. Then Andrea fed the kids lunch at her house before they left. Jim took care of Christopher while we were working the cattle, and Charlie took Christopher back to Emily and AJ’s house when he left.
kids at Andrea's house
Christopher having a snack in Charlie's truck
Before they left, they also posed with Chewy, the very old dog that Andrea got for the kids about the time Dani was born.
Charlie, Dani & Chewy
Dani & Chewy
Monday was a little stormier (a little new snow) but still fairly warm. The two little bulls in the main corral were too timid to try to drink from the creek, since the shore ice was several inches thick and they didn’t want to step down into the creek. So we opened up the little water hole pen at the end of the alley to the chute, broke out some of the brush, and opened up that area of creek. It’s protected there with all the brush and the ice wasn’t very thick—and the bank was more gradual. The young bulls could walk right into the creek to get a drink. After we got that situation resolved, we put more bedding in the big bull’s shelter.
more bedding for Babe & Barney
Andrea sent me a photo of one of the raccoons that regularly eats the cat food in the “cat house” and is often in there when she goes in to feed them.
extra cat
Later that day she went to town to do all the town errands and also went out to visit Cope and Terri and take them some things from the grocery store. Cope is still doing fairly well; that morning he’d preg-checked cows for Jenelle (reading the ultrasound from his wheelchair while his helper ran the ultrasound probe), and recently preg-checked cows at a neighboring ranch, where Jenelle took some photos—and sent them to me. Cope has always said he will continue doing everything for his clients that he can, for as long as he can still get around in his wheelchair.
Cope preg checking at Slavins - photos by Jenelle Thomas