Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ranch Diary: October 1 to October 20, 2015

Diary from Withington Creek 

October 10, 2015 – Michael and Nick have been working on several custom fence-building jobs and Robbie helped them for a few days. We’ve had some nice fall weather with just a few cold nights that turned the tree leaves from green to gold. We had a dusting of snow but it’s mostly melted.

The day after we preg-checked the cows and took the heifers’ mothers to the 320-acre mountain pasture we put the heifer calves in the horse pasture, and the two bull calves in the old orchard pasture. They are content to graze, having been already weaned with the nose flaps while still on their mothers. There’s a lot of green grass this year in the orchard and horse pasture, thanks to Andrea’s diligent irrigating during the dry summer. That evening we put the steer calves and their mothers in the hold pen above the corrals. Later that night we had a hard rain. It didn’t last long, but put down a lot of water—which created new gullies down some of the hills and trails on the range.

Last Friday we brought the steers into the corral before daylight, sorted off their mothers, and when Michael and Carolyn brought their steers down we were ready to load ours (and the open heifer and one open cow) into the trailer with theirs—to haul to the sale at Ramsey, Montana, near Butte. On the way over there, the trailer had a flat tire and they had to change it, so they didn’t get there at the beginning of the sale as hoped.

The steers sold pretty well. The market is off from what it was earlier this summer, so they didn’t bring as much per pound as last year, but they weighed a little more than our steers last year.

That afternoon Lynn looked out the window and saw Sprout stuck on her back. She’d rolled too close to the side of her pen and had her feet up against the mesh wire and couldn’t get up. We have some old tires along that side to keep her from lying too close to the fence, but she managed to get herself stuck anyway. So we rushed out there and looped a rope around her opposite foreleg—and with both of us pulling we were able to tip her back over, away from the fence. Then she was able to scramble to her feet. She’d been there a little while, and was glad to be rescued. We put a few more tires along that side of her pen, to discourage her from rolling there.

Dani and Andrea rode with me on Ed and Sprout later that afternoon, up to the 320, to check on the cows. We moved a few that were down low, and took them up the ridge where there’s a lot of grass they should eat before it gets snowed under this fall.

We hurried home, trotting most of the way, to get back in time for Andrea to take Sam and Charlie to play in the band, for the high school football game.

On Saturday Andrea and Robbie helped Michael and Carolyn haul more hay for young Heather’s horses; this is the last load of the hay she bought for her horse-training program. Dani rode with me and we checked the cows on the 320 again, and also made a loop through the low end of the middle range, along Baker Creek. The moisture this fall has started a little green regrowth of grass.

We were curious to see what happened to Alfonzo’s cow. She must have regained her strength enough to get up, after Andrea, Em and Robbie got her unstuck from the hole in the creek, because her body was no longer right by the creek. She’d moved quite a ways from that spot by the time Alfonzo and John Miller went out 2 days later to do something with her (and shot her).

Dani and I moved a few more cows up the ridge to the high end of the 320, then came home the long way, down the road. Weather had become stormy—with a strong wind. If we had been coming down the ridge, the wind would have blown us away!

On the road, we met a neighbor, Jeff Minor, with his horse trailer, hauling some of John Miller’s big draft horses up the creek. The Amish will be using some of them for skidding out firewood logs, but are also pasturing 10 of the big horses this fall and winter on the 160-acre mountain pasture next to ours (that Alfonzo leases from Colstons).

The weather was cold by the time we got home. Lynn had built a fire in our stove (our first fire this fall), which felt pretty good when we came in from putting our horses away. Dani had a peanut butter sandwich and then worked on some puzzles until Andrea got back from hauling hay.

On Sunday Andrea shut off a couple of our ditches; we are done irrigating those fields and just have a couple fields left to finish watering before we shut the ditches off for winter—so they won’t create ice flows across the fields.

Robbie put Lynn’s pickup back together; the part we ordered got here last week and now it’s all fixed and working again.

We have a group of ruffed grouse spending a lot of time in and under the old crab-apple tree by my hay shed, eating the little crab apples. They are not very wild; they don’t try to fly off unless you get really close to them. When I walk through there to feed my horses, they just stand still and think I can’t see them! Yesterday morning a group of females was pecking around in our front yard, and I took photos of them through the window.

Now that Andrea has turned off the water that was coming through the little field above the house (where the 16 heifers and Cinnamon Bear are now living), and horse pasture/orchard, we’re watering them in the trough and watering the two little bulls in the orchard with tubs. They have never drunk from tubs; the little bulls grew up on the upper place and always had the creek or a ditch, or a big water trough. They were really thirsty but too leery of the plastic tubs to try to drink from them. For a couple of days I gently herded them down to that corner where the tubs are, and they finally got brave enough to stick their noses into the water.

On Tuesday Carolyn and Nick brought their trailer down and we loaded the steers’ mothers to haul to the upper place. We left Buffalo Girl (she’s getting old and a little thin) and Magrat (the cow that was lame this summer) home—and put them in the lower back field so they can have an easy life this fall on green pasture, and not have to climb the mountains.

Andrea and I got our horses ready to ride to the upper place and I discovered that Dottie had lost a front shoe. So we rode carefully up the road (avoiding rocks and gravel as much as possible) and met up with Carolyn and Heather at the upper corral. They’d put their cows (mothers of the steers they sold) into the corral and moved their two old cows to a different pasture. We put our two little groups together and herded them up to the 320 to join the other cows we put up there last week. I took some photos of young Heather following the cows up through the timber.

We took them all to the top trough in Baker Creek and came home down the ridge. Dottie was getting a little tenderfooted by the time we got home, so I put another shoe on that foot. Even though Michael now does most of my shoeing, I’m glad I’m still able to shoe my own horses if necessary, at age 71.

Andrea and Carolyn left early the next morning to drive to Idaho Falls for Andrea’s appointment with her pain doctor, and an appointment with the custody evaluator. The custody case will probably drag on for several more months.

On Thursday Andrea and I rode Shiloh and Dottie to check cows on the 320 and ended up moving some low ones up again. With all the hunters out and about, we wore red, and draped red shirts over the rumps of our horses, to make sure no one would mistake us for deer or elk!

Shiloh has never been around cattle but she’s not afraid of them, and didn’t mind following the herd as we moved them. She got upset, however when Dottie and I had to go a different direction to gather some other cattle. She got a bit excited on the slippery, frozen hillside and Andrea had to bail off her and try to keep her calm, not wanting her to fall over backward with Andrea on her. When we got the whole group of cows back together and Dottie was nearby again, Shiloh calmed down and we finished moving the cattle to the top of Baker Creek. Then we had to hurry home so Andrea could pick up the kids after school and take them all to their dental appointments.

Yesterday young Heather drove back to Canada to spend a month with her friend Gregory and his family. That evening at chore time I discovered the heifers had pooped in their water tank again (this was the second time we’ve had to bucket it out, dump and rinse it) so we started some water in their ditch, putting a little down through the corner of that pasture so they can drink from the ditch and not have to worry about the trough. By the time we have to shut that ditch off (to keep it from freezing), we’ll have them in a different pasture.

Today Andrea and I rode Shiloh and Dottie for 3 1/2 hours to check the cows, and also took along some spray paint to paint our fence posts orange along the ridge where hunters keep trying to drive, and also sprayed the gate posts by our locked gates. We don’t want people trying to go in there hunting while we have cattle grazing. In years past we’ve had several cows shot, so we want the hunters to know it is private land. While we were up there Andrea worked on the springbox again at the top trough in Baker Creek. It gets plugged with mud and fir needles occasionally and quits running.

After we got home, Andrea, Lynn and Robbie drove up to the upper corral to get her little jeep. It quit running (dead battery, and out of gas) the night they drove to the 320 to hunt a couple weeks ago and had to hike home in the dark. It seemed strange that it was out of gas, because they’d filled it recently, but a couple of their vehicles had mysteriously ended up low on gas and they suspect someone may have “borrowed” a little gas at some point when no one was home, or maybe during the night.

At any rate, they went back a few nights later and pulled the jeep out of the 320. Andrea coasted it down the road to Michael and Carolyn’s corral, where it sat until now. With all the hunting traffic on our road, and a lot of strange people going and coming, Andrea didn’t want to leave the jeep there, so this evening they brought it home.

Robbie and Lynn pulled it to the top of the hill by the Wild Meadow, and then Andrea coasted it the rest of the way home (about 2 miles—all downhill). As she came along the road by our place, Alfonzo was riding his mule in front of her, and apparently neither he nor the mule heard her coming until she was right behind them, pulling around them to go past. The mule startled and leaped up the steep bank above the road, with Alfonzo practically falling off over its rump. Andrea yelled at him, “You ok??” and he yelled back, “I ok!” as she whizzed by. Fortunately the mule was surefooted and didn’t fall down backward on that steep rocky cliff, and managed to turn around and come back down. We have our differences with that neighbor, but Andrea didn’t want to accidentally wipe him out!

OCTOBER 20 – The carpenters are coming along with good progress on my brother’s house (3 miles up the creek from our house). It is nearly finished; Rocky and Bev are living right now in their camper trailer up there, and eager to move into the new house before the weather gets cold.

Last week Michael put new shoes on Ed for me. Her feet were getting very long and her shoes were worn out. I’m hoping Dani will be able to ride with me a few more times this fall, checking cows on the 320, so I want that mare’s feet to be in good shape, with plenty of traction on frozen ground—and not too long. We don’t want her tripping and stumbling.

Last Monday we went to Myra Miller’s funeral. She was 93—and the last of my parents’ generation. Her family and mine have been closely associated since I was a tiny baby, when my parents moved here to Salmon (when Dad came here to be the preacher at the federated Methodist/Presbyterian church—and then a few years later started building the Methodist church). My brother and I grew up with Myra’s kids. It was great to see her kids again, gathering here for the celebration of Myra’s life. And a great life it was—an inspiration to all of us.

In her later years she spent a lot of time helping out in the grade school, reading to kids, and the little kids loved her. After she “retired” from helping at the school, she still helped out at the city library. When little Dani was a timid, backward child, starting first grade and way behind in her reading skills, Andrea felt badly that Myra was no longer working with kids’ reading at school, but Myra offered to help Dani. Andrea took Dani to the library to work with Myra after school, 2 days a week, for 2 years. Myra helped Dani with her reading, made it a fun thing, and then read her a story (as a reward) after every session. She made a huge difference in that child’s life, and is the reason that Dani is a good reader today.  

Dani insisted on going to Myra’s funeral, so we picked her up at school and took her with us. Andrea braided her hair on the way to the church, and took a photo of her.

After the funeral Andrea went to get Emily’s car (where she’s working) and took it to town to have a tire fixed. That tire has been leaking air; it had a piece of metal in it.

Lynn went to the skin specialist again, to have a few more pre-cancerous lesions frozen off. The good news was finding out that the growth on his eyelid (which Dr. Carrington removed a few weeks ago) was benign.

Michael and Nick went deer hunting that morning, and Nick shot a buck. That afternoon Andrea and Carolyn took Andrea’s truck and Michael’s 4-wheeler up Haines Creek to help retrieve it.
Michael and Nick actually saw more elk that day than deer (but didn’t have elk tags) and one big bull elk came walking right up to Nick in the timber—within 15 feet.

Last Wednesday Lynn went to Challis with Bill Allen to find a new location for a well on some property there. The old well had gone dry. Andrea and I made a fast ride to the 320 on Shiloh and Dottie to check the cows, and moved a few low ones back up to the high end of that pasture. This time Shiloh did a lot better following the cows and didn’t get so worried.

The springbox was plugged up again at the top trough, so Andrea dug out around it more, and got the water running into it better again.

A couple days ago there was a lot of shooting in the lower fields just below our place (even though the landlord doesn’t allow hunting on his property), so Andrea checked on our 2 cows in our back field to make sure they were ok.

Dani had a friend stay overnight, and the next morning she took her friend for a short ride on Ed. Dani brushed and saddled Ed, and led her around with the friend riding, and they took turns riding that good old mare.

Andrea and I rode again to the 320 to check the cows, and Andrea took her rifle (strapped to her back) in case we saw a buck. The cows were all high that day, and we didn’t have to move any, but we did have to work on the water trough springbox again, and this time dug out around it better, with the shovel we leave underneath the trough. On our way home we saw 15 does and fawns, but no bucks.

The Amish families have spent several days getting firewood up the creek, and that evening they had a flat tire on one of their trailers. Lynn was driving down the creek (after checking on the progress of Rocky’s new house) just as 8 of the Amish young men and women were abandoning the trailer and trying to figure out how they could all ride on the little tractor that was pulling it. He gave most of them a ride home.

On Friday Michael put new shoes on Sprout for Andrea, and Sam helped me take the shoes off Breezy. She held that old mare for me, in her pen. Breezy’s feet were getting really long, so I took her shoes off and trimmed her feet. She won’t need shoes for the few rides she’ll have this fall.

Then Sam ate lunch with us, and afterward rode with Dani, Andrea and me for a short ride around the low range. It was Sam’s first ride since breaking her ankle early this summer. She missed out on a lot of riding while she was on crutches.
On this short ride, Andrea rode Shiloh and Sam rode Breezy (who has been missing her rides!) and then she and Andrea switched horses out there—to give Sam a chance to try out Shiloh.

Sam did just fine riding Shiloh, and is looking forward to riding Shiloh quite a bit next summer. Breezy will be 25, and she’s getting a bit stiff, so it will be good for Sam to have some other options next year. Sam and I can trade off on Dottie and Shiloh.

On Saturday Michael and Nick went hunting again in the high country but this time didn’t see ANY game, just a wolf-killed carcass. That morning Andrea had good luck, however, shooting a buck in our field below her house. This is about the 5th time in the past dozen years that she’s shot her deer in her bathrobe, right from her house (the first was when she was still living out at 12-mile). She and the girls took it over the dump hill to gut it out and then hang the carcass in the shade by her shed.

Dani and another friend rode Ed around the barnyard again, and Andrea took Sam on a short hunt—and Sam was able to shoot her very first deer. We have a lot of whitetail deer living in our fields (the ones that try to eat our haystacks in the winter, and eat a lot of the alfalfa we feed to the heifers), so Sam was able to shoot a small whitetail buck in the field below Andrea’s house. Sam made a very good shot; she’s going to be a good hunter like her mom. Again, the girls helped Andrea take that one over the hill to gut out and hang by the shed.

Saturday was Rocky’s birthday, so I gave him a copy of my new book Cow Tales as a birthday present. Some of the early chapters include reminiscences of cattle he and I grew up with on the ranch, so he’ll enjoy reading those memories.

I’m hoping people will want to buy my two new books (Horse Tales and Cow Tales) to give to friends as Christmas gifts. Anyone who would like a signed copy can contact me by phone (208-756-2841) or e-mail (hsmiththomas@centurytel.net).

It has been freezing hard at nights, but that night was very warm—the one night we needed it to be cool for the 2 deer hanging by Andrea’s shed! So the next day (Sunday) she spent most of the day cutting the meat off the bones and putting the meat in coolers with ice packs.

Sam rode with me to the 320 on Sunday (since Andrea was busy cutting up meat), to check the cows. Breezy did fine without shoes. We hadn’t checked the cows for several days, and wanted to make sure they were doing ok with all the hunters out and about. We saw all the cows, and checked on the gates (riding up the ridge to check the gate at the very top). We checked the water troughs, and this time the upper trough’s springbox was still working.

Yesterday it rained off and on. Andrea and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls for Andrea’s appointment with her pain doctor (and received 6 steroid shots in her lower back, to help relieve some of the extreme pain that keeps her awake nights). While they were there they stocked up on dog food, cat food and groceries (most things are cheaper in those big stores than here in Salmon) and bought a new fly mask for Breezy. We keep a mask on her all the time except when she’s being ridden, to protect her one eye from sunlight as well as from flies in summer.

Dani had an asthma attack and seriously impaired breathing at school, and didn’t have her inhaler with her. The gal at the school office called us, since Andrea was still in Idaho Falls for her doctor appointment. Lynn drove to town and took an inhaler to Dani, and then she was able to breathe better, and go back to class.

I made a big pot of stew soup and fed the kids supper after Lynn got them off the bus. Dani helped me do chores in the rain, feeding the horses, and then Andrea and Carolyn got home soon after. Andrea and Sammy got the rest of their deer meat ground into hamburger last night. We are all out of meat, so they plan to share it with us and with Michael and Carolyn. Deer season is nearly over, but Michael, Dani and Charlie still hope to fill their tags.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ranch Diary: August 24 through September 30, 2015

SEPTEMBER 1 – We’ve had a lot of hot weather, and most days we are immersed in thick smoke from nearby fires. Andrea and I have been riding nearly every day, training Willow, and today was Willow’s 28th ride. The 3-year-old Morgan filly is doing very well, and her tough feet are still holding up nicely without shoes.

Andrea has been doing most of the irrigating now, and sometimes the kids go along with her. When they were changing water in the back field where the cows were grazing last week, Emily and Dani enjoyed letting the cows and calves come up to them. Some of the calves are brave enough to come up and be petted.

 I’ve been working on my next book of ranch stories. It will follow Cow Tales – More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, the book that came out this summer. My first book in this series, Horse Tales – True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, came out last year, and now I’m writing the 3rd book. It’s a collection of dog stories, cat tales, pig tales and other crazy critters.

Last week a couple people from the Idaho Department of Water Resources came from Boise to GPS and check all the water diversions, headgates and weirs on our creek, and they saw the illegal diversions that Alfonzo is using that need to be filled in. Alfonzo was still using one of them. The water problems continue to be an issue.

Michael reshod Dottie for me. Her feet were getting too long and her shoes were also wearing out. Later that day Andrea and I rode Dottie and Willow up to the 320 mountain pasture to check and make sure no range cows had gotten in, then we rode on up into the high range for a short loop. It was Willow’s longest ride so far and her first experience up in the timber (and she was a little spooky and skittish at first), but she did very well. Her feet are amazingly tough; she still doesn’t need shoes.

Young Heather rode Shiloh a few times and I rode with her a couple times, then she rode Shiloh down here to leave her in the new pen that Michael and Nick built for her, by dividing Rubbie and Veggie’s pen.

Shiloh is the Arab-Morgan mare that was given to Heather by her college professor, Anne Perkins—the mare Heather trained for Anne 5 years ago, and Heather is giving the mare to us.
Dani helped us put an electric wire along the top pole of the new pen (so the horses won’t try to fight/bite each other over the fence, then rode Ed bareback around the barnyard. Then Dani saddled Ed and rode her down the road and over into the low range—by herself. She’s gained a lot of confidence, riding that old mare. Dani rode with Andrea and me last weekend, to check the 320 fences and gates, and made a loop through the high range.

We saw some horribly thin cows of Alfonzo’s; they must be very old or sick. Some are probably the thin ones he turned out this summer after not feeding them enough last winter, and they didn’t gain weight on the dry range.

We sold our range permit last year to John Miller (the Amish family who bought the old Kossler ranch) and it’s sad to see the state of things on the range now, with many troughs not working this year. There are many areas that were under-grazed due to lack of water and many areas severely overgrazed because the cattle all stayed in those areas. Alfonzo and the Millers don’t ride out there often enough to check on things, not taking responsibility for the continual maintenance that’s needed on water troughs and fences.

Andrea and I took pity on those poor cows and fixed a couple of the troughs ourselves. One of the plastic pipes was broken, so Andrea took it apart at the elbow and took the broken piece out.

We were working on one trough when Dani was riding with us, and she decided to take a nap on Ed while she waited for us to finish fixing the water line. It took us awhile, because we had to route the pipe straight into the trough above ground, where it would be at risk for cows walking over it and breaking it again, so we piled logs and old posts (from an earlier decrepit trough) around it to protect it.

Andrea took Sam to the doctor a couple weeks ago for another checkup on her ankle (that she broke while playing on the trampoline at Mark’s house), and x-rays showed a 2-inch fracture in the growth plate of the long bone. She’ll have to be in the compression boot and on crutches for several more weeks. Fortunately it is starting to heal now, in spite of the fact that Mark refused to take her to the doctor when she broke it, and told her to keep walking on it (for 6 days—until the kids came back home to Andrea). Sam is doing well maneuvering with her crutches, and now that school has started she has friends who help carry her books.

We went to Andrea’s place for a pizza dinner, and their friends Jade and Anita and boys were there for Charlie’s 14th birthday celebration (August 24). That young fellow is growing up fast, literally. He’s now much taller than any of us!

On one of our rides with Willow this past week we discovered a cow and calf of John Miller’s that had come down into the low range. She had been down there a couple of days and was looking for water; Baker creek is completely dry down there this time of year. We eased her partway over this direction, and this was Willow’s first experience following cows. The filly was starting to get a little nervous so we left the pair and continued our training ride loop. After we got home, Andrea had a meeting with a lady from Child Protective Services (who was investigating the situation with Sam’s broken leg and Mark’s neglect), so Dani came down to our house on the 4-wheeler to ride Ed. She and I went back out on the low range and found the cow and calf and brought them over to the fields and the creek so they’d have water. Lynn drove around the hill to Millers’ ranch to tell them about their cow that we’d brought to the lower place so she’d have feed and water.

The next day Dani rode with Andrea and me and we went up through the 320 pasture and into the high range (Andrea riding Shiloh).

We checked some water troughs, including a couple that are still not working, that Alfonzo and Millers haven’t repaired this year. We saw more skinny cows, and a few cows with brand new babies. Alfonzo’s poor management results in a lot of open and late-bred cows!

On Thursday Andrea and Robbie set 7 steel posts in the fence below heifer hill, to repair it where the wildlife had knocked it down, then we moved our cows into that field—to graze the regrowth after putting up the hay. Our green grass will last until we sell the steer calves, thanks to Andrea’s diligent irrigating this year, and stubbornly not letting Alfonzo steal most of our water like he’s done the past 4 years (ever since he started leasing the ranch next to us).

We had a bad windstorm Saturday night and by Sunday morning it had completely shredded the tarp on my little haystack next to the hay shed. Andrea and Robbie came down to help me put a new tarp over it, which was a challenge because there was still a wind blowing. The billowing tarp spooked Rishiam (Andrea’s Arab gelding) in the pen next to the stack, and he ran around the pen and leaped over the gate. He didn’t go very far, however. He stopped by the driveway to enjoy some green grass. We finished tying down the new tarp before we put him back in his pen.

Andrea and I have been making several rides on Shiloh and she is making progress in some of the training areas she lacked, and she’s getting over some of the bad habits she picked up while being handled and ridden by inexperienced students at the college. She’s a very energetic horse (not lazy like Sprout!) and fun to ride. She’s very alert, and likes to watch vehicles moving on the highway miles away, in the valley.

Michael used the backhoe to smooth out the deep ruts in our stackyard (created when the ground was wet last fall) so we can maneuver in there to unload the alfalfa hay we’re buying. The hay will be delivered next week. Andrea and I hurriedly cleaned house, before some guests arrived. Ray and Jeannie Bullock stopped here midmorning for a visit (and lunch). We met Ray at the World Burn Congress in North Carolina in 2008—the first WBC that Andrea and I attended. Ray’s son is a burn survivor and we have kept in touch since that first meeting.

That evening when Andrea and Dani were irrigating, they found a mule deer fawn caught in her bridge (with its hind legs down between two of the logs). They managed to get the fawn out of the bridge, but one hind leg was broken. They took it home, cleaned up the injury and splinted the leg, fed the fawn a bottle, then took it to the vet the next morning and told a Fish and Game officer about it. He took charge of it after that.

Michael and Carolyn brought home our bull that they’d borrowed, and we put him in the corral with Thunderbull. We put the 2 bred heifers (that were keeping our bull company in the corral so he wouldn’t try to jump out) back to the field with the other cows and heifers.

SEPTEMBER 15 – Michael and Carolyn rode up to the 320 last week and turned loose some beetles that eat knapweed. That noxious weed has spread up into our upper pastures from the county road during the past 20 years and we’re going to try to control it before it takes over those pastures.

Andrea and I rode through the high range again and took pity on Millers’ and Alfonzo’s thirsty cows and fixed another water trough. I held Willow while Andrea worked on the trough.

Two weeks ago when we started to move the cows to another pasture we noticed that one of the bred heifers we’d put with them a couple days early was breathing hard, like she had pneumonia. We took her gently down to the corral and around to the chute and gave her antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. Then it started raining that night. In the morning we put the sick heifer in the barn, out of the rain, and also called the guys that were going to deliver our hay that day and told them not to come—because our barnyard and stackyard were too muddy to drive in there with the semi.

We treated the heifer again that evening and gave her fluid by stomach tube since she wasn’t eating and drinking and had a high fever. The next morning we had our vet come out and look at her because she wasn’t responding at all to the treatments, even though she seemed bright and not dull. He listened to her lungs and figured that she probably had emphysema (from the change of feed—going from the corral and eating hay, back out to the lush green pasture). This problem is unusual in a yearling; it’s more common in older cows. But she was running out of air because her lungs were so compromised. We didn’t even try to take her from the barn to the chute for treatment; she couldn’t handle the exertion. Indeed, she didn’t last much longer; she died that afternoon. The next day Nick helped Lynn load her on the flatbed and haul her off to our hill pasture.

Michael, Carolyn and Heather were gone for several days over the weekend with their horses, on a camping trip with Carolyn’s brothers. Andrea and Robbie took the kids to the State Fair that weekend, so Lynn was doing all their chores until Nick got home from a track meet. He’s coaching the cross country runners now at our local school.

Last Tuesday Andy and his son hauled hay for us—two trips with the big truck and one smaller trailer. The stackyard had dried out enough to get around in there and unload it. Then on Saturday and Sunday Michael helped us haul the grass hay we bought locally, to augment the hay we put up. Since we no longer use the range, we are pasturing more of our fields and putting up less hay—and have to buy more hay.

Andrea has been diligently irrigating our fields with what little water we have left in the creek that’s being shared between the 1st and 2nd water rights. She and her 5 dogs go trekking through the fields; they love to go with her 4-wheeler to irrigate.

She’s kept our pastures green and growing (so they will support our cow/calf herd all summer), greener than they’ve been for several years, because she hasn’t let Alfonzo steal as much of our water this year. But we discovered last week that he’s still using water on the Gooch place (3rd right) even though it’s supposed to be completely shut off.

I’ve been finalizing the chapters of my next book of ranch stories, printing them out for Lynn and Andrea to proofread, and to help come up with a few more details about certain critters that they remember better than I do.

Last week we moved the cows from heifer hill to the field by Andrea’s house and the easiest way to get them through the hot wire was to lift it up really high and let them go under it. They were so funny; they respect that electric wire so much that some of them didn’t want to go under it, even though it was several feet above them. The last young cow reluctantly ducked under it and hunkered way down toward the ground!

Andrea and I made a longer ride with Willow (4.5 hours) on a loop through the high range. We tried to come home through the middle range by way of High Camp trough and discovered that the last big windstorm (probably the same storm that shredded my hay tarp) had blown down a lot of big trees across the trail. It was a jungle of down timber and we ended up weaving through it a different way, with Andrea leading Willow. The filly led very willingly, stepping/hopping over the down trees. I didn’t try to take any photos while we were weaving our way through all the down timber, but I took a picture of Andrea and Willow on our way home.

SEPTEMBER 30 – It rained off and on for a couple of days and now we have a little green regrowth in the old dry grass. We won’t have to buy any protein supplement for the cows on our upper mountain pasture.

Alfonzo and Millers rounded up their cows off the range a week late, but missed some—and also had to leave one skinny old cow lame that was too weak to travel very far. The next day Lynn helped Alfonzo put another crippled old cow and her calf into his field when he brought her down the road.

Andrea and I rode through the high range and saw some of the cattle they missed, and also saw a group of elk in the timber.

Andrea’s kids all had elk tags for the depredation hunt (any cow elk within a mile of private land) and they went out several mornings and evenings without success. Then a week ago Dani was able to shoot her first elk. The herd was coming up out of a neighbor’s field, onto the range. Dani and Andrea were lying in wait for them, early that morning. Lynn took our old jeep over there to help retrieve it, and Dani helped hang it in our barn and skin it. Last night she was helping her mom process it.

On Thursday Carolyn helped us round up our cows and run the calves through the chute for their vaccinations, and we put nose flaps in all our heifer calves, for easy weaning. These work great; the calves get to stay with their mothers for comfort and companionship while the cows dry up their milk, and none of them are stressed.

Michael and Carolyn put nose flaps in their heifers (and the 2 bull calves they are keeping—one for them and one for us) on Friday.

Andrea and Robbie took Sam and Charlie out early that morning to hunt elk; they saw a nice group of elk but didn’t get a shot. That evening they went to town for Sam and Charlie to play in the band for the Homecoming game. Sam is doing really well with her trumpet and Charlie is very talented—and the only trombone player in the band.

On Saturday Andrea and I made a long ride on Sprout and Dottie and found a couple of bulls that Alfonzo left out on the range, and also saw the skinny crippled old cow (and her calf) that he’d left out there. The cow was in bad shape. The next day Em rode with me and we discovered that the old cow had fallen down in some brush and down trees and was stuck in a hole in Baker Creek. Em and I tried to pull some of the logs out from under her but couldn’t. The cow was in an awkward position and very miserable.

So we rode home, and I called Alfonzo to tell him about the cow, but he didn’t do anything about her. We hate to see an animal suffer, so that evening Andrea, Em and Robbie went up there with ropes and a pulley and worked for 3 hours to try to get her out of the predicament. They were able to pull her out of the hole she was stuck in, and got her in a more comfortable position (with her hind legs underneath her instead of spraddled out behind her). But they couldn’t get her clear out of the creek. Emily was covered with mud after pushing and pulling on the cow, and very sad that they couldn’t get her up. But the cow was at least in a much better situation, no longer in such pain, and was comfortable and chewing her cud by the time they left.

They hiked back to their jeep, and then discovered that the battery was dead and it wouldn’t start. So they hiked home (more than 3 miles) in the dark and finally got home after midnight.

The next morning I called Alfonzo again, and Andrea called John Miller. Two days later, John and his boys went out there to help Alfonzo deal with the cow. She hadn’t traveled very far, and must not have been doing very well, so he opted to shoot her, but they were able to capture her calf and bring it home. It’s hard to understand how someone can own cattle and neglect them so badly. Alfonzo had several crippled old cows that were in no shape to go out on the range this year.

Today we brought our cows in from the field. Michael, Carolyn and Andrea helped put the calves through the chute to vaccinate and delouse, and Michael took out their nose flaps.

Our vet Bangs vaccinated the heifers, then preg-checked the cows. Then we put the steers and their mothers in a new pasture until we sell the steers in a few days. Buffalo Girl’s calf, that Emily named Gilbert, is the biggest steer.

We put the weaned heifers in a little pasture below the barn, and the 2 bull calves in the orchard pasture. It’s nice to have them already weaned with the nose flaps; they went right to grazing, not missing their mamas at all.

Michael hauled the heifers’ mothers (2 trailer loads) up to the upper place, and I rode up there on Dottie. Carolyn, young Heather and I moved them (along with their heifers’ mothers and bred heifers) up to the 320-acre mountain pasture, where they can spend the rest of the fall until that grass snows under. The cows and yearling heifers were happy to be up there. When we came back down, we put their cows with steer calves out of the corral and back to pasture.

Later that afternoon Michael and Carolyn took salt up to the 320 on 4-wheelers, and got the upper water trough working again; they cleaned the mud and fir needles out of the springbox, and the dead mice out of the water line. There’s lots of grass, and with a bit of green regrowth the cows will do fine up there for the rest of the fall.