Story by Cris Paravicini
"I don't think that one's gonna live, do you?" My husband Rudy peaked over the side of the heated box, shook his head, and offered his evaluation of the newly hatched pheasants. "Why, it can't even hold its head up," he continued, further dampening my spirits. "It doesn't look so good to me."
In a maternal attempt to save the puny little bird, I plopped it down the front of my shirt and sat down to watch a movie. By the closing lines of the picture show, it seemed to have done the trick, and by the next day, the cute little fur ball, which to me looked like a baby killdeer, was skittering about with its siblings.
For 23 days I had carefully tended the incubator and the 15 eggs nestled within. Twice each day, I'd faithfully turned the eggs and watched the temperature and humidity gauges to keep a climate consistent with the bottom side of a mom pheasant. The incubator sat patiently on our kitchen table all this time, its motor whispering sweet, maternal nothings to the eggs, day in and day out. We, and any guests who'd stopped by, dined in the grand company of "peasants under plastic." (I always teased my six-year-old nephew by calling the birds "peasants.") I'd even played our local KPIN radio station's country-western radio music each morning to make the chicks feel at home. Then, on the 22nd day, six of the dainty eggs had pipped and the hatch had begun. I eventually had to pick away at the brittle eggshells to assist their birth.
Last spring, my sister had raised 30-40 little ring-necked pheasants, by nature, wild as March hares, which had then matured and laid eggs this spring. I got the even wilder idea to try some of the fertile eggs in my incubator and attempt to raise them in a calm setting geared specifically to growing quiet, well-mannered birds. Nothing calm ever happens around this house, so we'll see how the project goes...
And while we're on the subject of young'uns, 50 kinderkids made their annual trek to the ranch to visit the little hen, Diamond, who had successfully hatched five chicks in their classroom. We had a blast!
Every darned day the cursed wind blows and blows and blows, further drying our thirsty countryside and fully irritating the now most unwelcome and stubborn deadly drought. The atmosphere had been still and peaceful for so many months that I'd begun to think the wind was lost to another land. Blessings, though, are present in everything that comes to pass, as the mosquitoes now have a mighty rough time hanging onto my hide when there's a gale blowing up their back side! And with the drought and windy conditions, hopefully, the dreaded West Nile Virus won't be able to sink its dangerous "teeth" into my critters or family this summer. We vaccinated the horse herd against the virus this spring, and now we joke that they'll make it through, but without a human inoculation, we might not be around to feed 'em...
Since we last visited, I acquired a pet ferret named Bandit. He needed a home and guess who "really needed" another pet? Yep! But, what an amazing and entertaining little character he is! A touch of wild instinct and a whole lot of personality make him truly pleasant company. I do have to rotate most of the dog herd outside when Bandit gets "time out" of his condo cage, for lo and behold, the ferret harasses the dogs! My friends and neighbors, Dee and Jim, have three little girl ferrets. Bandit and I visited them once during the winter. All four furry ferrets found fun and friendship!
We had a good calving season. Lost very few calves and virtually had no sickness-another plus in the drought. Had a great time on branding day. 'Twas warm and sunny with lots of willing help and intriguing stories from the outside world. Son John had moved into town in early March, so he brought along several friends from other walks of life-kayaker, physical therapist, Air Force serviceman, geologist, journalist, retired schoolteacher, and environmentalist... They were great sports in a "strange land" and quickly caught on to the special "art" of calf wrestling, inhaling branding smoke, and the tasty rewards of a hearty branding meal.
The cattle are all out on summer pasture, now, and we are happy to say that we didn't have to buy extra hay last winter, since the fall and winter were so mild and dry. Like I said before, if one looks hard enough, one can always find something good even in the middle of a desert.
Oddly, it seems we have many more birds of unusual "bloodlines" than normal hanging out in our area. Even have a resident humming "bug" bird/insect/creature/whatever) fervently drinking nectar from the lilac bush. And what a lilac year it is! The bushes are heavy with the bounty of beautiful, fragrant, lavender blossoms. My mom's pride and joy!
Not sure yet what the story is behind the busy bird airways, but we certainly are enjoying seeing all the baby offspring and are crossing our fingers that our huge fox population doesn't fatten up at their expense.
We narrowly escaped a four-vehicle smash up a few weeks ago, when two cars and a heavily loaded semi-traveling in opposite directions quite suddenly made a snap decision to allow a mom Sage Chicken to cross the highway with her ten little ping pong-sized babies. The fourth "auto," another huge semi, popped over the hill behind us, as the grouse frantically tried to keep a tight formation on her brood. The truck apparently could not or would not accommodate the "bird protection project," as all too quickly "MACK" on his grill read in my rearview mirror like the top line on a senior citizen's eye chart. He veered to the right at the last minute, choosing the parking lane-by now, the "bird" lane!-instead of the potential four-vehicle pileup lane. When the "dust" had settled, my son and husband quickly eyed the brushy roadway shoulder and commented in unison. "Well, she made it!"
Now, back to the subject of fattening up critters; our horses and dogs enjoyed such a mild winter that they're about as pudgy and sassy as I've seen them in a long time. I guess they're just laying 'round the shack till a job turns up, then they'll put their heads together and consider if it's really exciting enough to roll out of the recliner or the barn to attend to. Dream on!
Had a great lamb crop this spring. I'm so proud of how well everything worked out! Every ewe was with lamb or twins or triplets, and as of this writing, none have perished. One older pet ewe looked up at me shortly after the birth of her very own little private "flock" (triplets) and seemed to say, "Can somebody help?!" Now comes the great task of watching over the herd. Unfortunately, more and more wolves are moving into our civilized areas. A pair recently killed one of our neighbor's young calves as the beasts cut a bold swathe through the valley. I'm sure hoping that they don't get a hankering for a tasty lamb chop... Even one night of Lobo's fun and feast, and I literally would be stripped clean of woolies...
It's been a year now since the shattered finger episode. The docs finally got it pieced back together and pinned and screwed and glued into what looks like a fairly nice digit. Problem is, and probably always will be, it has decided not to bend much anymore. I guess after all that abuse, it simply went on strike. Son John reminds me, though, that at least I do have a finger. He most certainly is right and I am grateful!
Currently, we are struggling to help the growing numbers of newcomers to understand the historic ways of the West - of its cowboy and ranching and mining and logging heritage, and especially that of Wyoming's water laws. When all is said and done, we hope our new neighbors will come to know just how important this land's water rights are to our very livelihoods and ways of life - ways of life that they say they admire and now wish to embrace and explore. Do I dare say to them: "Welcome, Dorothy, but, you aren't in Kansas anymore." Or: "When in Rome..."?
Since the time of the trappers and mountain men, I feel that we-old, deep-rooted souls that we are-have carefully tended the mountains and streams, plains and valleys of our great state so that what the eye beholds, it beholds in awe. We may be short on dollars and cents, but we're rich and strong in heritage and common sense. And for many of us, who are wed and rooted to the land, the only big "bucks" we'll ever see are silhouetted in our western sunsets.
I'm proud to live in an historic valley of professionals - longtime irrigators and ranchers who've never failed each year to tend their fields and streams and livestock - sharing water, sharing work, sharing time-much as a "band of brothers"-to make green the wide expanse of the Valley of the Green. These folks know that all too soon, the short-lived snows of nearly 15 winters of drought will shrink and shrivel to mere teacup proportions. When shared in good faith and friendship, though, we've found that a teacup goes a long, long way...
Folks, I humbly apologize for being gone so long... I sincerely hope you are healthy and happy! Everyone here at the ranch says, "Howdy!" and is pretty much none the worse for wear. As I'm sure you can all attest to, every year seems busier, or is it perhaps that we just simply are not as young and speedy and organized as we used to be?
Till next time...!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cris Paravicini, 2003. No part may be reproduced without permission
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