Wyoming Cowgirl - On the Ranch

On the Ranch Journal
by Cris Paravicini

March, 2001

Getting ready for calving
Getting ready for calving
"John's Home!"
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Cris Paravicini has lived and ranched in Wyoming all of her life. These are excerpts from her diary of daily life on the family Pearson Angus Ranch northwest of Daniel...

March 1 - In Like a Lion
March 2 - Icebox
March 3 - Spring
March 5 - Salt
March 6 - Blackbirds, Honkers and Skunks back
March 7 - Getting the Calving Barn Ready
March 8 - John's home!
March 12 - Project #1 & Unplanned Project #2
March 13 - Project #3
March 14 - Mini blizzard kickin' butt
March 15 - Project #5 - Premom Shots
March 16 - Project #6 - Vaccinatin'
March 17 - Bye John!
March 18 - Warmer
March 20 - Rain
The Gypsy Star
Late March - Baby moose rescue
Last Week of March - Don't eat the meatballs


In Like a Lion

Thursday, March 1 Well, good...March came in "like a lion," and now it must go out "like a lamb?" Yeah, right! But one may dream! 'Twas cold and windy the full length of the day, with furry, disheveled clouds clinging tightly to the Wyoming mountain range.


Friday, March 2 Ice box in the morning...three inches of ice on the waterholes...pleasant enough in the afternoon and evening.

Spring will be here soon

Saturday, March 3 Warming trend...The furry, windswept clouds from the other day now look like puffy, down blankets warming the horizon...The fresh smell of spring lingers... Even my son's old black dog, Lacey, senses that special "air" about us and manages to put some "spring" into her arthritic shuffle. Amazing how temperamental our weather can be - from 3 inches of ice one night to just a skim of crystals on the waterhole the next...Ha! Mother Nature can't fool me...just trying to trick me into leaving my coat and gloves at the house...Too soon...Too soon...
   Spring can't come soon enough, though, for the old horse, Scoop. He grows thinner each day, though I keep him bedded in prime hay and offer the shelter of the calving barn each night. I've upped his ration of grain and "poor keeper" supplements, hoping we can ride it out till the weather moderates. His spirits are good and he's actually fairly nimble...seems still to be enjoying retirement and my twice daily visits to tend his ancient husk...he's earned his keep...


Monday, March 5 Scattered minerals and salt...again...cows eat lots of this mixture to Who says salt ain't good for ya!supplement their unborn calves and to compensate for the climate stress...Who says salt ain't good for ya? 
   Rudy's breaking out more feedgrounds so the ground will bare up faster and provide dry ground for the newborns. 

Blackbirds, Honkers and Skunks back

Tuesday, March 6 Blackbirds and Canadian Honkers arrived at the ranch on the same early afternoon flight! The river runway has opened up...ice fell in last week...Honkers happily hit the river for a bath...Blackbirds moved into the big evergreen...
   First skunk of the season lurking in the hen house...gathered eggs after dark...stuck my head down near his tail section while closing the trap door...didn't notice the extra "company" till all was nearly lost...he didn't spray...don't know why not...missed a good chance to even old scores...grateful for small favors and skunks named Flower...opened the door and let him escape into the welcoming arms of the night...dogs just watched...Blessed be the fat, lazy dogs!

Getting the Calving Barn Ready

Wednesday, March 7 A raccoon has been tearing up grain sacks...making one heck of a mess...set live trap...gotcha! This one is a big mean, hissing, spitting critter...Fire and hate in his eyes...One of those: "I'll fight your kids, cats, and dogs!" kind.  Rabies' scare in nearby counties, so we decided to send this big boy to visit his ancestors. 
   Had to bring in a heavy heifer from her winter grounds. Another early bonus calf from "somewhere" on the way! And also, Daisy May the young Jersey milk cow will be calving soon. 'Cowboys are getting ready to saddle up as the calving season approaches.Twill be a booming Babyville around here before we know it. Seems like we just finished last year's deliveries... 
   Cleaned all the frozen manure piles from the calving barn after having used it as a "bed and breakfast" for Scoop; and Sparky the January calf and her mom; and the old milk cow; and the barn cats; and... Yep, it's time to clean "house" and get ready for the real calving job. Sure wanted to save this "little" job for son John during college Spring Break, but with the new "lady-in-waiting" arriving today, I had no choice but to "dig" in. I know, my mess, my business! Now, weight lifters of America, eat yore hearts out! This kind of job builds really mean muscles and is danged good for what ails a body. There's no monthly membership fees, no special gear...and it keeps you outta mischief and outta everyone's hair. Yep. Earned my beefsteak, mashed spuds and gravy, tonight...(and with only a little "whine" to go with it, oh yeah!)  Actually though, I admit I had help...the dog herd kept the barn cats pushed into the hayloft and outta my way...Good hounds!

We'll soon have fresh milk,
butter, and cream!

John's home!

Thursday, March 8 Son John home for Spring Break. Ah, ha! He missed cleaning the barn, but Little babiesI've saved some other projects especially earmarked for him! I'll feed him his favorite waffle breakfast and then I'll break the good news to him!

Project #1 & Unplanned Project#2

Monday, March 12 Project Number One: A typical March day...frightfully cold with a hefty wind to cheer it on. Not a good day for working with bare hands, but it's time for the two-year-old stud colt, Sunny, to become "a really, nice, saddle gelding," as our vet so tenderly described the castration process. The wind had the lanky colt stirred into brat status. Wouldn't lead through the board gate. What the heck's going on, here?! Stubborn colt. Stubborn me. Sunny Boy, you will cross this threshold come hell or high water! Can't let juveniles get away with anything. Spoils 'em, don't you know! Then it was slam dunk! Pile drive! Not Sunny, though...Me... Right into the frozen, smelly, brown turf! Well, I did tell John not to let him get away. Hang on to that lead rope, John, no matter what happens. He did. 
   When Sunny hit the end of the rope, he did a swift about face. Only problem was, I had my arm around his neck (hang right in there, Mom!) and when the colt ran outta rope, we accomplished exactly what physics says had to happen. Yep! Crack the whip! Like a pile of wild kids on a skating pond, we rattled the old bones. Sure glad the big son is here, though...made a great anchor when Mr. Colt tried to abort our plans for the impending "brain surgery"... Now, just where do all those hard-earned hours of groundwork go when the vet is about to arrive on a cold, windy day in March? 
   Well, my game plan always has been: You can't ever let 'em get away with those human-inflicted, barn pet habits...except, that is...when the vet is about to arrive for major surgery. Try the other gate...you know, Mom, the big gate down the fence a ways? Don't be a hero, and besides, you're melting my gloves every time he jerks the rope through my hands. We don't send you to college for nothin', John.   Yep...Sunny and John won this round, but only because we had to present a calm colt for the cutting. 
   Actually, we managed to keep Sunny reasonably at peace with the elements as the wind blew the girth tape up his neck and around his ears while the vet determined his weight for the proper dose of naptime medicine. After sneaking a couple of syringe loads into the jugular vein, dreamland overtook the chocolate colored colt, and he took two steps back, sat down, and flopped over onto his left side. Perfect! 
   Using a soft-twist rope, the vet took a couple of wraps and a hooey on Sunny's hind feet, pulled them forward to expose his manhood, and I settled down on his neck and head so he wouldn't try to get up if the drugs wore off too quickly. Well, my legs didn't even have time to lock up and go numb when bingo, the job was done. A whack here, and a slice there. Proud cut buttons - squealers, gone, and all the proper cords exacted. Then to satisfy an old wife's tale, each testicle was tossed ceremoniously to the front of the drunken colt as the vet muttered a blessing or two about now having a horse that would never pull back when tied up. Sounds good to me!
   I covered Sunny's eyes with my red handkerchief and let him lie quietly a little longer. We all shot the breeze while the colt finished his nap...talked about breaking colts to ride (the easy way)...reviewed what to watch for in the post surgery days, and at last, the new gelding was ready to face the world again. See what happens when you throw a fit, Sunny Boy?! 
  Then, wouldn't you know it...Unplanned Project Number Two...remember the little first-calf heifer we'd brought in the other day as an early calver, well, she had started into labor about an hour before the vet arrived. After getting the vet on his way back to town, I checked her progress. The water bag was out and I could see the calf's front feet. She was now getting down to serious labor business, but it didn't appear that the task was advancing like it should. Okay, I decided. I'll round up Rudy from his feeding job, and we'd better just help her out and pull the calf. Oh sure! Four wheeler too cold to start. Fired up the space heater. Applied direct heat to the transmission of the ancient quad-runner, and within ten minutes, she kicked over. Drove 100 yards only to find Rudy done with his cow feeding and headin' back to camp. "Gotta pull that heifer's calf," I reported, using hand and arm gestures to emphasize her status. "She ain't movin' it along, at all." 
   So it went that we eased her into the barn stall, caught her head, slipped the chains on the calf's basketball player-sized feet and started working the calf puller. Click. Click. A click at a time. With each push from the heifer, the calf was being dragged through the small bony structure. Tight squeeze! No room to spare. Nose. Bald face. Black ears, but no signs of life. Shoulders scraped through her pelvic region then the rib cage. Damn! Cow lays down. Jack handle sticks in the stall floor. Quick! Grab her tail and roll her onto her side. Click! Click! Click! Faster! Faster! Black baby hips now slipping easier. Gotcha, you little rascal! Now, hurry! Work on the calf. It ain't breathin', yet! Clean the mucous from its mouth. Stick a hay straw in its nose. Flop it around a little to stimulate the heart. Shake it up a little bit. Good deal...the little black and white heifer calf sneezes, lifts her wet nose, and begins blinking her long eyelashes. Let the cow up and step back into the corner. Hold still and be quiet. Whew! The cow likes the calf despite the pain and trouble it just gave her. She moos easily like a droning beehive and begins to mother the calf, licking the wet slime from the dripping body... 
   Time to wash up for lunch...

Project #3

Tuesday, March 13 Surprise, John, my most favorite only child...Project Number Three... We're hauling little square bales from your aunt and uncle's place in Daniel then we'll lift 'em into the loft for barn bedding. Good job to warm a body on a brisk, breezy afternoon, doncha think?!  What about your vacation? A change of pace is as good as a rest, yes?
   Heavy storm clouds brewing over the Wyoming Range at dusk...


Mini blizzard kickin' butt
(ok, Project #4 too)

Wednesday, March 14 Mini-blizzard kickin' butt at dawn's early light...feisty winds...all day snow flurries. Nothing sticks to the ground...Freezing hardheaded by nightfall...Project Number Four (at least)...split up a bunch of firewood...

Project #5 - Premom Shots

Thursday, March 15 Project Five...Gorgeous day...Pushed the first-calf heifers through the chute for their pre-motherhood shots...

Project #6 - Vaccinating

Friday, March 16 Another lovely day...Project Six...Rounded up the big cow herd and sent them under the vaccinating needle, too...Operation ran smooth as silk...done by mid-afternoon...

Bye John!

Saturday, March 17 Lost our good helper back to the college scene...Can't imagine why he left Little pig, little pigso greatly inspired to study hard and get good grades!
   Haven't seen 'em, yet, but I can hear the robins singing in the willows and the killdeers trilling on the feed grounds!



Sunday, March 18 Days getting warmer...great for little kids, baby pets, and baby livestock. Balmy days and kinder nights sure make me want to raise a couple of pigs this summer. We'll see...grain is so expensive, one can hardly afford to grow out the bacon...maybe Daisy May will give enough milk to share with a pig or two... Can't beat home-raised pork.
Big Horn SheepMy little sis, Teresa, (mom of three-year-old, Cowboy Joe) stopped by to show us her latest artwork...a pair of majestic Mountain Sheep...to be donated to a museum fundraiser. Wow! To be able to make lines and color come together like she does! 



Tuesday, March 20 Spring officially begins. Here in Sublette County, though, it sometimes takes well into June to get the job done.  Maybe this year will be different...
 Cloudy and warm, and believe it or not...RAIN!  Really drummed on the rooftops until well after dark. Sounds so nice, but oh, the mud and slop! Don't whine, Cris...drought relief...

Late March - April 12, 2001

Howdy folks! I'm finally back to the old keyboard. I apologize for my absence, but lately, it's been like a tornado 'round here with the calving season heavy upon us and the weather threatening the same heavy load. I'm sure, though, that it's just like with folks everywhere; springtime - "weather" Necessary stuffit's the calendar's version or nature's - there's always much work to do. Yep, lots of stuff happening...days all running into each other...so bear with me while I ramble about the past couple of weeks, here on the ranch...


Baby Moose Rescue

Late March First day of spring...Boss discovered a yearling, bull calf moose hung up in the barbed wire fence near the river headgate...still alive... So, while looking over his shoulder in careful watch for the still protective Mom Moose, Boss decided to end the little fella's misery and quickly pulled out his handy, dandy, always-in-the-4-wheeler-toolbox weapon (a pair of fence pliers!), and he promptly cut the wires. The gangly young moose jumped quickly to his feet and joined his wary mom in a nearby willow patch...
Next day, the sandhill cranes made their first of the season landing in the field to the south of us. What a great sound to hear them warbling and gossiping to each other about their flight from the southlands.

Don't eat the meatballs

Last week of March I mixed packets of powdered dog wormer into some little, raw meatballs and put 'em into my fridge until the dogs were hungry enough to be tricked into swallowing this twice a year medicine...I then left the house to round up some materials to build a new calf warming box. But, on second thought...hmmm...I spun around and hastily returned to the fridge where I taped a warning note atop said pan of dog meatballs... Sure didn't want Rudy to beat me back to the house at suppertime and start up a nice skillet of stir-fry or spaghetti and meatballs!
Daisy May, the 3-year old Jersey milk cow, finally had her baby! It's a sweet, little heifer with a Chocolatcocoa hide and huge saucer-like eyes. I named her Chocolat after the Academy nominated movie...Started milking Daisy that evening. Eleven milkings from now, I'll save the milk for our table. Can't wait for good, home milk! In the meantime, the dogs, barn cats, and chickens will thrive on the colostrum.
Hay pile running low...had to buy several semi loads out of Idaho...alfalfa and straw...livestock feed around our county is in high demand...short supply... First two trucks loads arrived about 8 a.m...hefty one ton bales...looks really green and smells nice and fresh. We've never fed alfalfa to our cows before, so had to work 'em in to it, carefully... Now, you need to know that we feed some really, good-quality native and tame hay, here in the valley, but when that first flake of alfalfa hit the ground, those old mommas surely thought they'd died and gone to candy heaven! Even though the hay is selling for $115 per ton, we were grateful to be able to find enough to put us through this feeding season...if we count every straw...
Cora Jack has come to live with me for a couple of years. He's a nice-looking, big, sorrel, coming-three-year-old gelding that belongs to my cousin Dave's little daughter, Andrea. Jack was green started in Utah last fall and now needs to attend Cris's "Horse Finishing School" for fine and dandy kids' cowponies. Yep! Cora Jack will stay with me, until that day when a trusted kid's horse he will be...
Snow...rain...wind...dreary, overcast skies...Still falling below zero on many nights...Typical calving weather...Feeling right at home! First calf is born in the meadow during the freezing, wee hours of April Fool's Day...little fella got right up and nursed its four-year old mom...his wet hair and hide froze dry by the dawn's early light...Gonna be one of those years...And to top it off...the doggone Daylight Savings Time begins, again...Takes me about a week to quit griping about it..

Where did that story go?!? The stories from earlier front pages aren't gone. We just move them to the monthly journal pages to make room for the latest diary entries on the front page. See the Journal Index for a listing of all previous front page journal entries!
The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Daniel, Wyoming, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, where she lives along with her husband, Rudy. Historic old Fort Bonneville, built in the late 1800s, is located next to her family's ranch. Cris is a writer and photographer for The Sublette County Journal newspaper, where you can find more of her accounts of life on the ranch. Cris can be reached by e-mail at: cowgirl@wyoming.com.

Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted, Cris Paravicini, 2000. No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.

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