On the Ranch Journal
Buddies churn butter
|June 1 - Dry as
June 2 - Moved yearlings
June 4 - Bondurant kids coming tomorrow
June 5 - Bondurant School Kids Day
June 6 - Cull cows
June 7 - No mosquitos yet
June 8 - 1989 Firebird
June 9 - Wondering if the tetanus shot is still good
June 10 - Chasing water around the meadowsoved yearlings
June 11 - Calves growing by leaps & bounds
June 12 - Dogs working hard
June 13 - The stray dog
June 15 - Frost for breakfast
June 16 - Had to pull a calf
June 19 - Lightning
June 20 - Scoop & Tramp
June 23 - Toby
June 26 - Bull meets porcupine
Thursday, June 1 The countryside is dry as hell, and the wind still insists upon blowing every day, starting about 10 a.m. each morning. The cold night air froze 1/2- inch of ice on the 5-gallon water buckets. Desperately need a good rain to wet down the choking dust and turn the yellow meadow bumps and ridges back to a hayfield green. Hauled 8 loads of heifers and calves into the Cora Valley, 12 miles away, for their summer pasture setting.
Friday, June 2 Trucked yearling heifers to the other side of the Green River. By evening time, when the wind died down at sunset, I could hear their lonesome, homesick bellowing in the river-bottom as they called out to one another amongst the giant sage and cottonwoods.
Sunday, June 4 We're getting geared up for the Bondurant School children, who will visit the ranch tomorrow. This small country school, 45 miles from the ranch, is a modern version of the old one-room schoolhouses, which used to serve the needs of the isolated, rural-area students. Bondurant is a satellite system, under the supervision of our larger, Pinedale school district. We always look forward to having children visit us here on the ranch, so we can share some of our country heritage.
Monday, June 5 Beautiful, picture-perfect day. No wind. Lots of toasty sunshine. The school kids arrived about 10 a.m., excited and ready for action! We, first, gathered at the picnic table to discuss some of the do's and don'ts of ranch life - don't step in any green puddles in the corrals, don't ride the milk cow, and don't run like wild colts through the chickens until you're out of sight - then go like heck and have fun!
First stop - we checked out the ewes and lambs. I scooped up one of the speckle-faced babies and let the wary group take turns holding it; then we bounced on to the milk barn where each kid learned how to "make" milk. Heidi cooperated surprisingly well as the ten kids began squeezing, pulling, and twisting little streams of milk into the tin pail. When it was all said and done, we'd convinced the milk cow to let down about a gallon of frothy milk, then off to Grandma's house we trotted to strain out the cow hair and tiny bits of hay floating on the milk bubbles. Grandma Pearson was busy making cottage cheese on the stovetop, so she explained the process and showed the students how the milk curds were beginning to form. She also retrieved a plastic sack full of homemade brick cheese from her refrigerator and let everyone taste it. We made about 1/2-pound of butter for the homemade bread, using an old-fashioned glass butter churn and cream that had floated to the top of yesterday's milking. We also made whipped cream from the thick, rich skimmings and spooned it on to some sour cream chocolate cupcakes - all of the dairy ingredients, of course, compliments of Heidi and the chickens.
That evening, as the sun hung low in the western sky, (after the children, the teacher, and the moms had headed back to Bondurant), the family cowboy crew branded up the last of the late calves - those young'uns, too little ("green") at regular branding time. We finished the job about the time the jack snipes and robins began to serenade the dusk.
Tuesday, June 6 The boss hauled a load of old, cull cows to the Riverton Cattle Auction. The rest of the crew stayed home, with crop irrigating in full swing on the home front (cleaning sticks and dead grass from the ditches, patching holes, and scattering water to all the dry bumps and ridges). It's very sad to report that the little crippled lamb died this afternoon, shortly after drinking its supplement bottle of milk. I really felt bad, but figured it was a blessing since the little fella had been getting weaker and weaker for the past couple of days. The other lambs are thriving like dandelions, though, and are constantly driving their moms crazy - frolicking carelessly under the fences where they can race between the saddle horses' legs and beneath the hooves of one-ton bulls. Kids just gotta be kids.
Wednesday, June 7 We moved the last of the late calvers to summer pasture this morning. Been looking for the mosquitoes to join in the fun, but the wind has been so strong and the temperature so cold, the little buggers haven't gotten a firm toehold...yet! When they finally do get a chance to settle in, they'll be lean, mean, and hungry!
Thursday, June 8 The breaks are going out on my favorite old friend - the 1980 Firebird. Took 'er on down to Stan, our reliable and very handy, local mechanic. Master cylinder problem, we're quite certain. I really like that rusty-topped antique.
Friday, June 9 More irrigating projects taking place, accompanied by the cold wind...still. Hands freeze and nose leaks, and it will soon be the middle of June for heck's sake. While cleaning trash from the ditches, Rudy snagged his hand on a rusty nail that was sticking out of an old board. Now, we're trying to remember if his tetanus shot is still good or not.
Saturday, June 10 Really dry. More chasing water around the meadows. Still windy. Still cold. Attended a cowboy wedding reception in the evening. Grand music, food, fun, and friends. One heavy heifer left to calve; had to leave the party early to come home and check her.
Sunday, June 11 Saddled up and checked the Horse Creek cows and calves. Calves growing by leaps and bounds. Lots of sandhill cranes and Canadian Honkers grazing right alongside the cattle. Spring snow runoff subsiding. Never did get to usual flood levels because of the cold temperatures.
Tuesday, June 13 A skinny, little stray Border Collie showed up at chore time early this morning. His hair is matted and full of mud, but he has a very friendly smile and shiny eyes that seem so hopeful - almost begging me to take him in. He's apparently traveled a great distance to get here. I called the neighbors. No one claims him. Put him in the horse trailer with food and water until I can determine his manners around the lambs and chickens. Put ad in local newspaper's Lost and Found classified section. Named him Tramp (every good dog needs a name and a pat or two on the head). Hope his family shows up soon... Repaired the river water gap fence in the horse pasture. Wind, even colder than yesterday. Still keep our winter coats close by. Sure needs to warm up so the hay can grow. Need a warm and gentle 24 to 48-hour rain. Counting blessings, though...milk cow in peak production, chickens laying eggs on schedule, pasture grass holding, calves and lambs thriving, horses fat and sassy, kids, cats, and dogs grinning and romping about, pretty sunsets, and a big, beautiful, full moon to light my path to the cow barn.
Thursday, June 15 Dark clouds boiled up on the crest of gusting winds in the mid-afternoon, then dumped a half-hearted dirt-dampener by early evening. Everything smelled fresh and alive. Cold wall of arrogant air settled in by dark-thirty, bringing with it, the promise of frost for breakfast.
Friday, June 16 You bet! A heavy frost iced down the summer solstice, making everyone wonder about Nature's intentions and wisdom. Late morning: had to pull a heifer's calf. Everyone is okay. One lady-in-waiting left and then my calving shift for the season is done! Yes!
Monday, June 19 Awakened at 4:30 a.m. to the rumble of thunder. Smiles! Countryside way too dry. Only a few drops, though, are squeezed from the sky as lightning leads thunder by the hand - close, too close. Lightning flashes...Thunder! No time to count between 'em. The violent pair cuts a violent path down through the cottonwoods and willows. Rips dirt and skins the bark from several trees. Misses the bulls. Spares the saddle horses, milk cows, and sheep, but then ricochets toward Horse Creek to the southwest, and mercilessly, indifferently, kills two big calves with one strike. In a flash of scorched hair and flesh, $800-$1,000 and two mammas babies...gone. (Read my poem in the story pages about an historic cow drive and the terrible predawn lightning and rainstorm that spurred across the backs of the cowboys and cowherd - BLACK VELVET HEAVEN!)
Tuesday, June 20 Took the ancient, 30-year old horse - Scoop - to the veterinarian for a tooth-floating (dentistry) job. Susie used a speculum (mouth gear) to prop his mouth open, then ground off the sharp edges on his molars - even pulled an abscessed tooth. Made the old fella feel much better. I loaded up a bag of Equine Senior feed to help put a little fat on his feeble bones before winter sets in. He's been a good horse - earned his retirement and final days here on the ranch. We'll make his last miles as peaceful as possible.
Felt sorry for the stray dog, Tramp - the little mutt that wandered into the ranch last week. Just knew he'd have to be put to sleep, so I had Susie neuter him, and then we all went home. Here's the story of how the little orphaned mutt won my heart:
Every morning and every evening, sunshine or rain, four dogs, a cat, and I head for the corral to attend the daily ranch chores. We look like a colorful ocean wave, as "all of us" pour through the corrals, gently breaking the silence of the barnyard - clearing the path of barn cats, checking for skunks and raccoons in the hen house, exercising the beef, and keeping the hardheaded ewes in that maternal state of mind. It's a tough job, but the dog herd and the Manx cat are loyal to their work. This well-oiled team fits together as smoothly as a little kid's favorite farm puzzle or nursery rhyme.
Last week, however, a ripple cut across our "smooth" operation when yet another set of paw prints turned up in the frosty corral dust. It didn't take "all of us" long to discover that the tracks belonged to a ratty looking Border Collie. When the mutt made his grand entrance, he was wringing wet and had floppy chunks of matted hair hanging from his ribs, tail, and ears. He darted about like a nervous killdeer, in and out of the dog herd, politely trying to introduce himself to my snarling pack.
When the newcomer finally spotted me bringing up the rear with the milk pail, he cut across the corral, plopped down on the toes of my boots, and I swear to you, he actually grinned up at me. His long tongue was hanging out the side of his mouth, and his bright brown eyes sparkled like dew in the morning light. And though he uttered nary a whimper, the dog seemed most anxious to ask, "Well, here I am! Aren't you just tickled as heck to see me?"
Oh geez, I thought, irritated! Just what we need - another stray mutt. But, when I touched him on the top of his head, my heart melted. He had missed so many meals and weathered so many miles, his ribs were like grandma's washboard, and his skull bones stuck out like the spikes on a horny toad. I could feel an old rib injury that had healed with a hooey; a narrow, razor-sharp backbone was all that supported his ragged, alkali-crusted black and white coat. But despite his emaciated condition, his bright eyes held such hope, as he quietly begged for much-needed love and attention.
"I shall name you Tramp," I told him, remembering the stray that had sat at my grandpa's feet and grinned up at him, many years ago.
I locked Tramp in the horse trailer for safekeeping, and then sounded the missing pup call up and down the Daniel Valley and in the newspapers. None of the neighbors were missing a dog, though, and no one bothered to answer the ad.
Five days and nights came and went in silence. Meanwhile, I weakened and invited the little dog to join "all of us" at chore time, just to test his knowledge and manners around the livestock. No wonder he was fired from his last job! After he dizzily charged around the milk cow and her calf (like John Wayne frantically circling the wagons for an Indian attack); and got too close and personal with the squawking chickens; and boldly introduced himself to the ewes and lambs - Heidi now wants to dry up, Chicken Little refuses to lay eggs, the horses whirl their butts at us, and the ewes necks are as long as a llama's, watching for Tramp's next move.
Logically, I couldn't allow this "disturbance in the force," so I sadly turned the forlorn waif over to the county animal control folks. Tramp's last stop would be the vet clinic, where he would await his fate. Would his owners rescue him? Would good folks adopt him? Or would the grinning dog with the laughing eyes have to be destroyed? I felt terrible - like a big, ugly, hooded executioner. Two other beautiful Border Collies were on the waiting list ahead of Tramp, so I knew no one would ever adopt this skinny, dead-haired, little bum. After pacing the floor, I called the clinic and said, "Please don't kill that dog! I'm comin' to pick him up."
Yep! Tramp is now home on the range, again, and after digging some tricks out of my saddle bag, and after letting the ewes "explain" the ranch rules to the new kid, by ramming him like a rifle shot through the corral gate, chore time with "all of us" is starting to work its way into adjustment for five dogs, one cat, and me. You bet!
Friday, June 23 My dad (the boss) and my 14-year old nephew, Toby, 4-wheeled to one of the Horse Creek pastures to repair an old fly shed. Toby has been working hard this summer on the ranch, and he's been mowing lawns and building and painting fences, too, with my sister and brother-in-law. After work, some evenings, he team ropes with a cousin, Cole, at several nearby rodeo arenas. Toby's getting pretty darned good at it. Placed at a couple of rodeos this summer. Having lots of fun riding his palomino horse, Trigger.
Monday, June 26 Yearling bull boldly introduced himself to a porcupine down in the willow patch. Mr. Porcupine boldly introduced himself, too. Had to corral Mr. Bull, run him through the chute head-catch, and pull about 40 quills from his tender nose and mouth. Sticky situations like this happen, sometimes.
|The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles
northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be
reached by e-mail at: email@example.com.
Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted,
Cris Paravicini, 1999-2000. Drawing of Daniel Schoolhouse by Teresa Shenefelt.
No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer.
Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.