Category Archives: Ranch Stories

Fall Works and Fellowship.

fall-worksThe past few weeks have been busy with shipping calves and preg-testing the cows. We were blessed with warm, lovely weather. November is not normally this beautiful in Wyoming, so we are thankful for every sunny, warm day!

I cooked for the crew when they were working here, then went over to the boss’ place and helped with lunch when the crew was over there. Well, the boss’ wife did most of the cooking – I mostly just talked. 😀 It’s good to get together with other ranch wives, though.

shipping

shipping

shipping

This week we drove to our neighbors’ Bible study on Wednesday evening. Everyone brought a pot of soup or a salad, and we shared God’s Word over home-cooked food.

There is something special about fellowshipping over food. Sharing stories and doing life together. Laughing and eating and praying together. We read of Jesus often sharing stories and teaching around meals. He knew that eating together is a great way to be informal and relaxed.

We don’t sit down to eat with our enemies. We eat with our friends. We relax and start to open up to each other when we are seated around a table. We love Thanksgiving and Easter and Christmas in part because of the warm friendship and family times we have around good food.

shipping

shippingshipping

We drove over to our friends’ house and brought food, but they had to be willing to open their home, so we could all join in. Someone had to send that invite, make the calls, prepare food, sweep the floor, tidy the bathroom, you know — get ready for guests. No, it wasn’t fancy, (thank goodness!) it was a homey and inviting place, there was a stack of paper plates and a table loaded with help-yourself food, but the fellowship was heart-warmng. There was no stiffness or awkwardness, just simple food and warm smiles and genuine hospitality.

shipping

But someone had to open their home. We wait and wait for someone else to invite us, to organize something, to fill that need in our lives. We need to open our homes. To stop waiting for someone else to initiate and just be a friend. Invite someone over for lunch. Don’t worry if you aren’t a ‘hostess type’. Just do it. Everyone needs friends and fellowship, someone to do life with. Someone to listen and understand and say: “me too”.  Just text a few friends and say “hey, want to come over tomorrow night for tacos?” Don’t stress over ‘hostessing’, just invite friends into  your life. Open up your heart and your home, and be real.

What would happen if we all started reaching out on a regular basis? It doesn’t have to be a bible study – it can be supper. Or lunch. Or tea. Whatever you do – do that. Stop waiting on the others, and start being a blessing to those in your area.

shipping

Shipping Calves again.

red cow

We have been blessed with great weather for shipping and pregging. This morning I told myself to get with it and get outside, for once! It’s real easy to just say: “Oh, maybe next time”, but today I put on my big girl boots and bundled up to get some photos! :)
It wasn’t even that cold.
Which was nice.

They cowboys met in our yard, (yard being the general term for the parking area in and around the shop & barns) Once they were all there, they gathered around the cowboss to get instructions for the morning. Then they headed out by twos and threes, for various corners of the pasture. They got to the fenceline, then turned around and started pushing (moving) cows and calves together and towards the corrals. Some places call it a ’roundup’, I guess, in this area we call it a ‘gather’. We gather cows and ‘push’ them to the corrals. Obviously, we do not physically push them – it’s a term for herding. shipping 2016shipping 2016 ranchlife-213 ranchlife-223

I took the silhouette photo from my front porch, no joke.

cowboy sillouette

shipping 2016

Here they come – down the hill!shipping 2016

Once they get in the corrals, it’s sorting and weighing. Then loading them onto waiting semi-trucks. Sorting and moving calves down an alley is a great place to get photos – but I’m always afraid I’ll b in the way! :) So I try to stay pretty low profile. I get really nervous if I feel I am going to be a nuisance.

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There’s my man!! :) He’s my favorite. He is currenty soaking his foot in Epsom salts, because he got stepped on so hard today, that he is limping. :( I wonder if that is what people think of, when they get starry-eyed about ranching? :) I doubt it. But still, cowboyin’ is a great life, if you’re tough enough to cowboy up! 😀

Ride The Brand, my friends.

Snow on the Aspens

We had our first snow last weekend. It started with a few clouds hanging low over the mountain,  and some rain by our house. But when we woke up the next morning, the hills were covered with a white blanket of snow, studded with gold aspens.

Elk Mountain

snow on aspens snow on aspens snow on aspens

aspens in snow aspens in snow aspens in snow

 

It was a lovely drive, and I hope you enjoyed the pictures! :)

I hate snakes.

SnakesFrom an early age, I have hated snakes. Hundreds of generations of women have hated snakes. Men, too, usually aren’t too fond of them, but women in particular seem to hold a special distaste for the slithery creatures. I know – there are people who say they like snakes – but I am convinced they are just trying to prove something. Yes, some snakes have pretty colors, but when a person says they enjoy holding a serpent, I don’t really trust that person! 😀 Ever since God cursed the serpent in the Garden of Eden, I have no pity or sympathy for them. I waste no energy worrying about them. And if I need a mouse-eater, I’ll get a cat.

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “This is your punishment: You are singled out from among all the domestic and wild animals of the whole earth—to be cursed. You shall grovel in the dust as long as you live, crawling along on your belly. 15 From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers. You will strike his heel, but he will crush your head.” Genesis 3:14-15

One time when I was about 13, I was mowing our grass. Not with a nice riding mower like I have now, but with an old pushmower. You know, the kind that spit stuff at your legs and make sweat roll off your forehead like a sauna.

Anyways, so I was pushing that mower ’round and ’round, daydreaming and getting frustrated at the mower by turn. As I made a turn under a tree, the mower made a weird thumping as it mowed over something that wasn’t grass… a snake! Ew! I jumped backwards and then slowly came closer to peer at it’s mangled body. Thankfully, it was dead. But oh! so gross! I shuddered as I got a stick and gingerly picked up what was left of the snake, and carried it over to the edge of the yard, and tossed it into the weeds. I went back to mowing – watching carefully for more snakes.

Whack! Something hit me on the back of my bare leg! I screeched and jumped wildly as I envisioned the snake’s mate exacting vengeance on me for the death of her companion. When I jumped, I also let go of the safety handle on the mower, whereupon it immediately shut off. In the ensuing silence, I heard cackling. I looked over toward the house, and saw my older sister peering around the corner of the house, covering her mouth with her hand as she giggled at my antics.

I was not amused. Heart still racing and adrenaline coursing, I yelled at her:
“You are so mean! Why did you do that?! You scared me like crazy – I thought it was a snake!”
She just laughed harder. I yelled some more, then in disgust went back to mowing. Of course, she had no idea that I had just mowed over a snake. That was the ironic part! 😀 She apologized later, although to this day I am not sure quite how repentant she is! Haha! It was pretty funny! After my ruffled feelings calmed down, I could see the irony and humor, too. We’ve laughed about it ever since.

Another time, I was about 20 years old, we were newly married, and there was a snake in our yard. My husband was trying to kill it, but of course it was hiding in the most difficult places. I was trying to help him chase it out of the rock fire ring so we could kill it. I reached down to move some rocks, and accidentally put my hand on the snake!! Again, screaming and leaping back! I was overcome with embarrassment of screaming in front of my new husband, plus the nerves from having actually TOUCHED A SNAKE!, and I went crying into the house. Oh dear me. How sensitive I was! But I did calm my self and returned to help him finish the snake off.

One time, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a huge snake hanging off the hummingbird feeder that I had right by my window. I was about 8 months pregnant, but that didn’t stop me from racing out there and grabbing a hoe and chopping it’s ugly head off! I was so mad at it! The nerve!!!

I recently found a small garter snake in my house, after the wind blew the door open during the night. Talk about HORRIBLE! I didn’t trust to get into bed without checking under my pillow and blanket for weeks! Why?? Why must we have snakes? I would kill every one of them today if possible.

Anyways. There is no moral to this story, other than to say that if you ever tease me with a snake, or scare me with one, we may not be friends, ok?! 😉 And no, I do not and will not eat rattlesnake, thank you very much! If you eat rattlesnake you are just weird.

Have a happy and snake-free Thursday!

Balky and Barn-sour.

 

 

My son with the first kids' horse we owned.

My son with the first kids’ horse we owned.

The summer heat wrapped thickly around me, causing sweat to run in little rivulets down my back. I heaved the saddle up on my horse, tightened the cinch, and checked to make sure nothing was twisted or pinching. It was an old saddle, dark with age, and the skirts were curling under. I didn’t care, I had a horse and a saddle to go with it – little things like a poor quality saddle and cheap farm-store headstall meant nothing to me. I eased the bit into Sonny’s mouth, and swung up.

We were leaving Illinois for the summer – going away for work – and our friends said they would keep my horse for me. We didn’t have a horse-trailer, and my dad didn’t want to go to the bother of borrowing or renting one. He said it would be easier if I would just ride the horse over, and Mom would come pick me up.

Easier for him, anyways.

I started off briskly. Sonny always started off briskly. He jumped smartly over the deep ditch by our yard, and I liked the little thrill of jumping. He walked up the first hill quickly, head up, ears pricked. I watched the birds darting, and daydreamed about being a true horsewoman who worked with horses all day – riding, maybe racing…

But the further we went, the slower Sonny walked. He was nearing 30 years of age, which is ‘old-folks’-home’-age in human years. He still got around good, not much arthritis or other problems, but in the manner common to old folk, he was increasingly stubborn and balky. He didn’t care much about making you happy – he just wanted to be left alone to eat his grass and switch at flies, without having some kid pile on and make him walk in the 100-degree heat for miles. horse sticking out tongue

The first mile was good. The second was slower, but ok. By the third mile, I was pulling his head back around every few steps. He wanted to go home. He knew every step he took was another step he’d have to retrace, and he wasn’t keen on having to walk back all that way. This is what we call “barn sour”. They just want to go back to the barn.

We passed a little country church, white boards shining in the sultry afternoon heat, surrounded by big oak trees and patches of deep orange daylilies. We rode past a house with two yappy dogs that came darting out, barking their silly heads off. They stopped a few yards away – unsure what to do with this beast. Sonny kept plodding, uncaring of their desperate barking.

Sonny finally stopped trying to turn back, and resorted to plodding. Now, you have never experienced plodding, till you have ridden a 30-year-old horse who is on a forced march. Head down, feet dragging, steps slowing imperceptibly till he was nearly at a standstill. I’d kick him in the ribs, and he’d pick up his feet and walk for five steps. Then he’d slow down. And down. And almost stop.

Repeat.

8 miles.

8 miles of southern Illinois summer heat and humidity, sweat pouring off me, bugs and flies annoying me and my horse.

My family was not a ranch family. Not even a farm family, really, although we had a varied menagerie over the years. My dad was a logger, mainly, with a lot of travel and seasonal work thrown in. He grew up farming with horses, and grew to dislike them immensely. Said he’d looked the backside of a team too long. But he loved me, so he told my Amish cousin to find me a horse. Well, one day my cousin showed up at my door with this old nag.

Sonny was a gelding whose entire life purpose had been to give kids rides at a big tourist park. He was trained to walk nose-to-tail with other horses, and completely ignore the kids who were bouncing, yelling, and kicking on his back. He was good at that. As long as we had him, we could put little kids on his back – as many as would fit – and set him loose with a halter and lead rope. He’d wander around the yard a bit, then go stand with his nose to a tree, as if tied there. No amount of them kicking and yelling would make him go. He was great at babysitting!

But for me, an awkward 14-year-old kid who was dreaming of Derby races and barrel racing, he was far and away too slow. I had no boots, no hat, no jeans. Just a long flowing dress, tennis shoes and a Mennonite head-covering. I didn’t know tennis shoes could be dangerous, I didn’t know flowing things can spook a horse, I didn’t realize just how odd I looked.

But it really didn’t matter. I was riding through farm-ground, down dusty country roads where only the occasional house broke up the fields of corn and soybeans. The heat rose in shimmery waves from the ground, day lilies lined the road in many places. Delicate Queen Anne’s Lace nodded in the sun, and honeysuckle vines tumbled thickly over sagging fences, filling the air with sweetness.

I would have enjoyed the ride more, had I not been kicking and coaxing Sonny the entire time. The last few miles were almost torture. Turtle-speed, we finally made it to the friend’s house. I was starting to feel sorry for Sonny, but when he saw a barn and other livestock, he came alive. Suddenly he was full of vim and vigor! I was cross with him. All that long, slow ride, and here he was; nearly trotting to the barn!
I had been sad to leave my horse behind for the summer, but after that frustrating ride, I was just glad to climb in the van with Mom and go home.

As a parent now, I look back at these kinds of things and realize why me and my siblings  are pretty independent. This was before cell phones were a thing. I was 14, and my dad sent me off through lonely country roads on an 8 mile ride. I was expected to find my way, even though I wasn’t totally familiar with that route. I was given basic directions and sent off. I had no water bottle or snacks. I simply climbed on my horse and rode away. Mom was waiting when I got there. (she went the faster route by the main road.) If dad or mom were worried about me, they sure never showed it. (I really don’t think they were worried.) Therefore, I wasn’t worried. If something happened, I was expected to figure it out.

We pass our fears and concern along to our kids. We are worried, so they are worried. They are more able than we think. Give your kid a bit of rope, mama! Don’t hover. Let them try new things and experience a little freedom! They might surprise you! 😀

horse

Prime Day at Amazon

Do you have an Amazon Prime membership? I balked for a long time, but last year I took the free 30 day trial. Of course I forgot to cancel it, (that’s why companies do that, duh. I always forget!) But the fact was, I do use it a fair amount. Not sure yet if I use it enough to justify it – I sure would if we had better internet and could use the music, streaming videos, etc.

Anyways.

Today is Prime Day – some prices are better than Black Friday, I’ve heard. I figured I’d let you know about it, in case you hadn’t heard. So go on over an see what’s on sale! Buying through my link does not increase your price at all, but Amazon does pay me a tiny commission if you buy through my link. (I’d appreciate it) Amazon Prime Deals

I thought I would also share some things I have recently gotten at Amazon, or want to get! This cd was sold out at my Cracker Barrel for weeks, so I finally went to Amazon to get it! Of course it was cheaper here, too. I listen to it and cry a lot. Beautiful hymns.

 

I bought this Melissa & Doug set for my 3 year old last Christmas. Inexpensive and educational. She loves it!

This book I checked out at the library, but I want to buy it. It is a very fascinating read – not sure quite how to describe it, but it will make you re-evaluate how you think about your work. I came away from it resolving to be the lynchpin in our home. Read it, even if you get it from your library, I bet you will like it. :)

‘For The Love’ by Jen Hatmaker is a great book on mothering and life in general. If you are a mom, you will laugh your way through it. But some chapters also dig at your heart a bit, making you think. I don’t like that she uses an occasional crude word, but otherwise it is worth a read. I checked it out of the library too, and I’d like to grab a few for gifts.

Here’s a link to all today’s deals: Amazon Prime Deals
H
ave fun shopping at home! :)

When a mom goes riding.

The TA branding crew for the first day.

The TA branding crew for the first day.

Last week was the TA branding. For many of the buckaroo guys in this area, it is the highlight of the year. They have lots of calves to rope, and they head & heel them. There were people from as far as Texas and Nebraska and Colorado, this year.

Cliff surprised me by setting up a babysitter and hotel so I could go with him! It was my first time to the TA, but hopefully not the last. I’m sorry to say I did not react very well when Cliff told me that he was taking me along. I immediately said: “I don’t want to go!” He looked at me like: ‘what is wrong with you?’.
“You will be riding and I will be sitting in the dust”, I explained.
“No, you’ll be riding with me – I’m taking a horse for you.”
“But you will ride over a hill, and that’s the last I’ll see of you! Then I’ll have to figure it out alone with strange people I don’t now!” I was verging on panic. My heart was racing just thinking about it. I’m not the most rational when I am faced with the terrifying thought of being left alone to look like a dunce in front of talented people, I admit.
“No, you just ride with me. Go wherever I go,” he said calmly.
It sounded nice – kind of like Ruth loving her mother-in-law; I’ll go where you go, and stay where you stay, and all that. I relaxed a little. Maybe it would be ok. Surely he wouldn’t leave me stranded in a strange country.

We started out about 5 pm, then stopped at a neighbor’s to pick up his horse, so he wouldn’t have to drag a trailer over there, too. We headed up through the tight little valley road between Chugwater and Bosler. The sun was beaming its golden evening rays over the grassy hills, the road was nearly empty of vehicles, and the occasional homestead nestled among the willows and cottonwoods like a child curled up in a cozy blanket.

But the tranquility was not to last. About halfway through the valley, our truck lost power. We pulled over on the grass at a wide spot in the road, and shut it off. Cliff looked under the hood and couldn’t find anything wrong. We let it set a few minutes, then started it up again. Yep. Ran ok, so we continued. But the peace was gone. When you have a trailer full of horses on a winding narrow road, and it’s nearly dark and no phone service – well, it bids fair to be a long night.

After a few more minutes of driving, we repeated the scene. Lost power, stopped, sat, re-started. At this point we knew we weren’t going to make it another 2.5 hours that night without help. We turned south to Laramie instead of north to Bosler. We found an auto parts store, and had the guy read the codes with his code-reader. Then we called our buddy (whose horse we were hauling) since he was just behind us, and he came and hooked onto the trailer. Cliff replaced the fuel filter right there in the parking lot. (Shout-out to handy men who know how to fix their own trucks!) While the men tinkered and fixed and talked; I sat in the truck and read a book. I was glad I had tossed in a book as an afterthought – I had an entire 2 hours to read uninterrupted! (Yes, I am a mom, why do you ask?! 😉

Anyways, they finished just as the sun was setting and a massive thunderstorm was rolling in, obscuring the remaining light behind giant brooding clouds. We fueled up and grabbed a burger before continuing on. Our friend Tim followed us, to be sure we made it ok. Just after we started out again, the heavens opened, and it poured buckets of rain! Lightening lit up the sky, turning the low clouds a soft pink.

lightning

Cell phone lightning

We made it to the ranch about 11:30 pm, instead of the 8 o’clock we had planned. The rain had slowed to a drizzle, and we unloaded the horses in the dark. By the time we got to the motel, it was midnight, and we had to get up at 3:45 to make it back to the ranch and saddle up by 5:30…

TA Branding

The landscape was wide open, as it always is in Wyoming, morning sun streaming over the clean prairie, birds swooping and jackrabbits sitting quite still – pretending to not exist as we drove past. I soaked in every piece of it, from the tiny wildflowers to the high, long plateaus in the distance. We were driving over an hour through Wyoming’s back country, over knotty dirt roads and winding two-tracks.riding to the ranch

As we rounded a final corner, the old ranch homestead came into view, nestled beside a stand of aspens, and surrounded by tall, lush grass, dotted with black cows. There were cattle panels set up to make a branding trap, and trucks with their trailers were lining up just beyond the trap. The guy in charge of parking stopped us to tell us where to park, but he didn’t realize we were in a very mushy spot in the grass. We got stuck. And the 4×4 wouldn’t kick in. Of course. So we jumped the horses out (to make the trailer lighter), and still we were stuck. They had to pull us out.

ranch homestead saratogaSoon we were mounted, got instructions, and we were off. Mind you; I had knots in my stomach the size of baseballs. I hadn’t ridden since last September, and this was a horse I hadn’t ridden before, and I was in a group of more than 50 of the best horsemen in this area!

I started off about the middle of the pack, and my horse was fresh, as expected. As we picked up to a trot, my hat flew off. Of course. Cliff picked it up for me, and I literally wadded it up and stuck it inside my jacket. I knew the wind would blow it off again.
Then I began to feel like I was falling. I wasn’t, not really, but it sure felt like it! Here I was, in the middle of a pile – I mean a pile! – of great riders, and I am hanging on to the saddle horn! These guys swing into the saddle and trot off as smooth and easy as riding in a car. They re-coil their rope, check the horizon for cows and the best place to cross the creek, and they never mind their horse.

Then here I am, kerflopping along like a schoolgirl on a draft horse, hanging on with both hands and panicky yelling over to Cliff; “I can’t do it! Something isn’t right! I’m gonna fall OFF!”  I truly thought I was gonna fall off my horse right in the middle of all those cowboys. If I had – I hope I would’ve been run over and please be knocked unconscious, because – oh the shame! My horse was happy to be going, and she wouldn’t slow down for me, I was scared to stop her completely, for fear we’d get run over, and also, I was worried I’d get left behind and I didn’t dare go on alone, my first time to the ranch, and all.
But I didn’t fall off. I finally realized what was wrong – my stirrups were much too long, and trust me; too-long stirrups are the worst. After we got out of the pack and everyone pulled up a bit to go separate directions, we stopped and Cliff adjusted them for me. Whew. Much better!

I managed to drop back to the back of the crowd, so as to avoid being watched. I was having a hard time choking down my slice of humble pie. It was better from there out.
Till we hit the creek. The first few crossings were ok, the paint horse jumped over easily. But then we came to a wider spot, and at this particular spot, everyone was waiting till we all crossed. I came up almost last, but they were sitting there watching. Of course now my horse decides she doesn’t like to jump creeks She gingerly stepped around by the edge, until I finally poked her a little with my stirrups. She instantly LEAPED across, nearly leaving me behind! I hung on – I didn’t fall off! But it wasn’t pretty. I sure hope those guys got a little chuckle out of it, because I was sure not feeling amused. I was rather grumpy with the whole proceeding at this point. Wondering why on earth I even tried to ride… a new place, a new horse, a crowd of 50 strangers – I only knew 3 of them – what was I thinking?!

CowboyThe cowboss told me and Cliff to stay at a certain spot to guard the creek crossing. OK, he asked Cliff to watch it; I just ‘helped’ because I wasn’t leaving his side for anything! So we’re sitting there, waiting for the cows to cross the creek. After they get across pretty good, Cliff tells me: “Just stay here, I am gonna go check something.”
And there he went, trotting up over the hill.
That was the last I saw of him.horseback in wyomingwyoming cattle country
I sat there till the last of the cows crossed, then trailed slowly behind the cowboys as they pushed the cows up the hill toward the branding trap. I couldn’t see Cliff anywhere. I kept brushing my bangs out of my eyes, (stupid hat!) searching for him among the spread-out crew. But men look amazingly alike when they are all wearing the same type of clothes, wearing the same type of hats, and riding brown horses! The Paint horse had figured out by now that I wasn’t Cliff, and she decided she didn’t want to do anything. So I went from hanging on for dear life, to kicking her in the ribs to even walk. She was just moseying along, taking her sweet time and disdaining my gentle guidance.

I saw a few guys glance back at me, straggling along there in the back, like: “What is she doing back there?” So I trotted up closer, and pretended to act like I knew what I was doing, by riding the flank. Finally I did see Cliff, but he was busy pushing the slow calves, so I didn’t bother him; just kept meandering along the flank.IMG_3411

When we had pushed all 700 cows and their babies into the branding pen, Cliff helped hold them, while I actually did something useful for the first time all morning; I ran after a few calves that squirted off. I was hanging back to stay out of the way, but ended up being in the perfect spot to run after the calves. Thankfully, my horse is pretty cowy, and she liked to run after the calves, so I basically just pointed her in the general direction and she’d dash after and turn it back. I just had to hold on.gathering cattle

Well, eventually they had them all calmed in the pen, and held with a solid line of cowboys. At that point I tied my horse to the trailer, and dug out my camera. The rest of the day was spent taking photos and talking to a friend that was also there with her husband and family. It was such gorgeous weather, the breeze kept the hot sun bearable, and it wasn’t very dusty.

Ranch mommas unite!

Ranch mommas unite!

cowboys eating lunch I enjoyed myself – after those first crazy minutes running in the crowd. The thought that kept running through my head that day was: “just another chance to humble yourself, Kay. You’re really not that great of a horsewoman, are you? Just humble yourself and ask for help. Stop being so proud.”
I talk to myself a lot.
I also told myself: “Well, it’s your own fault for not crawling on a horse in the past 8 months. Get out there and start riding!”
Sure, I had a foster baby the past 6 months, but still. Now I don’t.
Now I need to ride.

 

Still madly in love with this man after 15 years!

Still madly in love with this man after 15 years!

Tell me; have you ever made a fool out of yourself? Really? I’d love to hear about it! 😀