The Huntress

“English Shepherds have been bred for generations as all-purpose, working farm dogs. Their responsibilities have ranged from herding and protecting stock, to dispatching vermin, guarding the home, and watching over children.”
That is a direct quote (my italics) from The English Shepherd Club website (www.englishshepherd.org).  If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, there are multiple entries on the work my dogs do.  Elsa was caught in the act of eating a tree in order to reach some unidentified prey on this entry.  The other day, I was out photographing some Cat work we had done, as in Caterpillar – a HUGE Caterpillar.  But, my 3 shadows were along and I never can resist capturing them in action.  Under some large cottonwoods with tons of leaves on the ground, this was the scene.
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Elsa and Dally burying their noses in the millions of scents that must lay beneath leaves.  Lucas is there too, though unable to dig with his wrapped paw and disliking an uncomfortable crouching position, he often resorts to watching until the action happens.  Wish you could hear this as well… the “snuffle snuffle snuffle whish” as they inhale and then sneeze!  The scratching and clawing through the soil as they follow a trail.  But sooner or later this happens.
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The stance.  The intensity.  Elsa is onto Something.  My advice… that Something better watch out!  Within seconds…
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With the technique of a robin after a worm, Elsa pulls Something out of the ground and crunch! It is over for Something.  Eeeew.
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As all good hunters know, it is a VERY GOOD idea to make sure your prey is DEAD DEAD DEAD.  Eating Something that is still alive makes for uncomfortable swallowing.
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Just to increase the “eeeew” factor, I had to include this pic!  That little mole/vole/critter/Something should have been faster.  Because Elsa is a huntress.  She excels at “dispatching vermin”.  I can’t put her on a diet, because she does this.  But, in my book, that’s OK.  It is part of who she is, and what more can we ask of our dogs, but to just be what they were created to be.

Darkness

As a child, I was terrified of the dark.  I didn’t like going into the basement because I had to turn the light out at the bottom of the stairs and RUN up the stairs so no bogeyman could grab me.  I didn’t like cracks in my curtains where someone, or something, could peek in at me.  Who cared that half of my childhood life was spent on the second floor of our house, something could still see in, in my mind! Now I live in the country where it is DARK.  We’re a mile off the highway in a little bowl of security.  No headlights driving by.  No streetlights.  A yardlight IF we turn it on.  I only have valances on my windows… full curtains don’t exist in my life anymore.  The only thing that lights up my nights now are moon and stars and the wonderful electricity from Big Horn Rural Electric Association.  On a RARE occasion… this is what we use.
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Gorgeous lamp and an antique chair.  Amazing how dark life used to be.  Even when you do this.
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Two oil lamps and a kerosene antique lamp before a window still don’t put out enough light to really read by… not at my age with my vision!  I could have pulled out a few more… and my candle stash… and some battery lanterns… but I figured that was overkill, it was just Vernon and I and it was rather calming sitting in the dark.  Can you hear me, Mom?  I just said it was calming to sit in the dark!  Betcha she never thought I’d say that!  My favorite is always this.
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My fireplace.  Being a Girl Scout and loving to go camping probably had a lot to do with getting over my fear of the dark in retrospect.  I can still get scared in a house in the dark… and even outside on occasion if my sister and I have been discussing UFOs or Bigfoot or mountain lions.  But darkness doesn’t have the same power over me that it used to.  Darkness is more my friend than enemy.  I love the stars.  I love the quiet punctured by hooting owls or howling coyotes.  Scariness has become something other than darkness.  For instance, scary is seeing your husband hook a guy wire with his little backhoe and yank the top of a power pole off, especially when the transformer on that pole lands only 10 feet away from him.
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See… there’s the transformer on the top of the pole which is now resting on the ground.  Look really closely at the pole and you can see a crack on the entire pole.  See how the E and A is not in line with the R.  They used to be!  That was spooky.  Here it is from the angle I saw it happen.  See why I was a tad concerned?
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yeah.
whew.
Vernon safely escaped.  The power cut out immediately.  In fact, the power was out for 21 hours for us.  They got the rest of the line going, but since this happened at almost dark, we told them to not bother with fixing it in the dark.  We had a gas stove for supper, a fireplace for heat, and lamps to light our way.  In fact, Vernon felt so bad about this BIG mistake, he told them to take 2 days if the weather turned nasty.  The big REA boss was amazed we’d say that, but like our local REA guy said… “We’re survivors up here.  It’s no big deal to not have electricity.”  The darkness isn’t scary.  Scary is when you think of what could have happened.

I Love This Country!

Look at this…

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This is looking north along the Big Horn Mountains.  I am west of our Mesa pasture, and we do actually own a smidge of what is in this photograph, but I love this view.  It is probably considered much prettier in the spring when the grass is green, but hey, this is Wyoming, and grass is green here for only so long!  The chugwaters are great… one of them in this pic actually has hand and foot holds carved into it by Indians…supposedly it was a good medicine place to have some dangerous vision quests.  And when I say “hand and foot holds” I’m exaggerating.  It has *very* shallow depressions that if you are bold and/or crazy (like my husband and sons) you can climb to the top.  I stayed below in case someone needed to call 911.  And when I say dangerous vision quests, it’s because hallucinating on top of that little tiny area surrounded by a 60 foot drop, just reflects a little insanity.

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This is to your left (further west) from the photo above.  We trail cattle by here at least twice a year.  I think the left side looks like an Indian with a tremendous headdress on.  It would be more apparent had I been in a different position, but you get the idea.
What more can I say?  I love Wyoming!  Especially my hidden part of it!

The Mesa

I’m still not up to par, so I have been demoted from working partner to unworking partner!  Par…par-tner… ha!  I made a little funny…very little.  Anyway… While I was off at a doctor’s appointment yesterday, the guys had been fighting with our ram pump and gave in. You deserve a little history here.  Our ram pump is an awesome machine developed a looong time ago but bought and installed in (I think) the 1940’s.  At least I remember seeing papers on it stating other parts would be shipped but “due to the war effort” manufacturing was slow.  I’m not sure we owned the Mesa pasture during World War I – so there is my logic.  The Mesa, as it is referred to lies about 4 miles east of our home place and it is about 1000′ rise in elevation.  It is not your typical “mesa” feature, but that’s the name it was given and so it remains “The Mesa”.  The ram pump pumps water from the South Fork of Otter Creek Canyon up the side of the canyon to our pasture.  The canyon is an impressive 500′ deep.  The ram works off of water pressure – no electricity – no power other than the water itself.  The company is still in business, but doesn’t sell this large of pump anymore.  Look up Rife Ram pumps on the net if you’re interested in how it works.  But when you have over 400 head of cattle with no water, plans have to change quickly.  So that brings us back to yesterday.  The guys decided to trail the cattle off, which we would have done in a week or two anyway.  But the day was nice and they didn’t want to leave.  The stupid cows wanted to stay, but wanted water and they brushed up and gave the guys *&*%*&*.  We ended up about 40 head short.  My un-job today was to haul the guys up in the horsetrailer, dump them out, and come home.  I decided to share some scenery with you.

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First of all, this is the expression you get when you’re left in the pickup and riders are chasing cows.  That look was probably reflected on my face as well.

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So here I am, up at the mesa looking at home.  See that teeeeeny tiiiiiny little white speck in the center?  Under the humongous cottonwoods?  That’s the original ranch house… long abandoned… but very visible.  The rimrock, infamous part of Rimrock English Shepherds, is behind the house.  Does it look like it’s only 4 miles away???  There’s lots of ups and downs between here and there!

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Oh look, there’s Vernon gathering some misfits.  You are actually looking at the Mesa pasture itself… from this fence corner where we turn in clear to the shaded juniper covered slope.  Actually the canyon is in between, hidden, and the junipers are across the canyon on another ranch.  Comprende?

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Now we’re getting closer.  The red hills are gorgeous.  The ranch sits right on the edge of the grey formation and the red dirt.  The actual geological term for this iron rich soil is the Chugwater Formation.  Chugwater besides being a Wyoming town and a brand of chili flavoring (made in Chugwater) is the term given to buttes like this one.  I have heard the old story that as the Indians chased the buffalo off the cliff’s edge, they’d make a “chug” sound when they hit bottom.  See the white ranch house, the white corral fence on our calving shed, and on the left – my white tipi!!  Spiffy.  Well, when it is full sized on my way-awesome-Mac-computer you can see all that.  Just squint here and pretend.

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The road from the Mesa to home heads south for a ways then turns back on itself until you turn off to our ranch.  Driving in you come around the corner and…Aha!  Peeking above the hill are those ever impressive cottonwoods.

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Here we are.  We made it.  The house nestles in the falling leaves of the cottonwoods.  The rimrock overlooks all.  The dogs are panting in my ear.  Thanks for keeping me company from the Mesa to home.

Songdogs

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Caught in midstride, Lucas and Elsa enjoy the snow we had last week and all the delicious scents it seemed to quadruple.  Please ignore the tons of cockleburs, burdock, houndstongue, and mystery stickers imbedded in little Elsa’s tail.  I’m working on it with the Furminator, a little at a time!  And yes, I also know Elsa is overweight.  So am I.  She either shoves Dally off of her food if I cut her back, or ventures out and catches rabbits or pheasants or mice or voles.  Our exercise routines are still dampened from my illness… walks and bike rides and raking leaves seem too much to handle still.  I do drive out to the mailbox and let them run, so they get some exercise!  And last night, they were up for half of the night howling back at the coyotes before I demanded them to shutup and get inside!  The coyotes seemed to be only a stone’s throw away, probably across the creek, taunting my guardians unceasingly.  I’m SURE I heard the songdogs a few times while trying to sleep. I’m just willing to believe that and ignore the fact that neighbors on both sides have seen mountain lions this past week.  I know they are out there… I just tell myself differently.  But tonight I’m locking the girls in the kennel and the boys inside!  Yes, I agree that’s not fair, but Elsa and Dally will wake me up about 2 am and the boys will comfortably stay inside all night.  And I vote for drifting off to sleep listening to a songdog serenade me while my dogs sleep quietly in kennel and house.