Spring Storm

A spring storm has hit the Cowboy State, with snow and below zero temperatures.  That meant Vernon was kept busy checking the cows and calves… making sure a newborn didn’t “freeze down”.  A newborn is covered in wet slime… so landing on frozen ground can actually freeze them down to the ground… like your wet tongue on a frozen flagpole!  Their mom has to clean them up fast and the calves need to stand fast as well.
We had a hard pull on a heifer… a very large calf.  He hasn’t acted normally since he was born… and we’ve given him a bottle full of milk replacer to help get him started.  Vernon milked her out this morning just for the colostrum too.
As usual… my buddies accompany me.
This time they had to wait outside the corral as I checked a nervous mother.
I can’t resist any shot of my gorgeous gals as they wait patiently.


A few years back, while I was still working at the Ten Sleep Library, a gentleman came walking in to use our computers.  I visited with him after he finished his digital business.  He had a unique accent… so, of course, I asked where he was from.  Answer: The Netherlands.

“So what are you doing in Wyoming?”
“I’m a photographer.”
“What do you photograph?”
“Everything.  Anything.  Cowboys?  You know any cowboys?”
sure do.
We ended up inviting him to a friend’s house where he spent the next two days.  We ate supper there.  I invited him here.  We talked of places he’d seen.  People he had photographed.  The concept of “the ugly American”.  The war in Iraq.  How he loved rural people.  How they were nice.  How they were generous.  How alike they are worldwide.  It was people in cities that were “different”.  It was 2 days of a mind expanding experience.  It was great.
I continued to email him for a while…
I check his website every so often just to see where he’s been.
I had mentioned the lack of a book of his art (for his photographs surely are that!) while he was visiting Wyoming.  I am happy to see he now has had a book published.  It is on my “I want that list”.
If you love gorgeous photography…
If you love unique places worldwide…
If you yearn to capture your surroundings with a camera and an artist’s eye…
If you have a while to oooh and aaaah…
Please go to his website.
Tell him “hi” from me.
oh… and check out his “stills” section… he has a photo of “Steve’s Workshop – Wyoming” in his collection!  You’ll laugh when you see it!  At least, I do!
Thanks, Thijs!


‘ve known for a while now… and I did post it on my website… but I’ll make the announcement here…

We’re gonna have puppies!
The due date is March 24th.
I’m thrilled.
Elsa is feeling… well… fat!  Slowing a tad, too.
I will get to enjoy them in good weather as opposed to her last litter… that grew up in winter!
I am currently looking for some more working homes, but have yet to advertise except on my website and the English Shepherd Club website.  Kind of difficult to do that since I don’t know how many she’ll have, but it is good to get a headstart!
I struggle with names.
The last litter had Wyoming style names from the poem called “This God-forsaken Land” found at the bottom of the page here.
This litter… should it have old-fashioned names to help celebrate our centennial of ranching??
or more Wyoming/western names again…
or just favorite character names…
or Indian names…
About half of the puppies I named last time kept their original names…
So what do you think?

Heifer Story 2

Along the Nowood River exist many industrious beavers.  While the Nowood wouldn’t qualify as a river in most other states, it does in Wyoming because it flows a large amount of water for this dry country.  Probably because of the Nowood’s size, these beavers have developed into “bank” beavers instead of the usual “dam” beavers which most people know.  Instead of damming the river with sticks and mud, the beavers build their homes into the steep banks that edge the Nowood.  They burrow an entryway and then create a lair where they can eat, sleep, and have babies.

At some point, the lair is abandoned and sooner or later, the mighty erosion that is typical in this country opens the large hole to the surface.
On one occasion, a lair opened next to our calving shed.
The hole was perhaps 12-14 inches wide… not large… but I had noticed it.
While checking heifers one night… I was ready to leave the shed and return home.
Sometimes if a heifer calves during the day, we leave her and her calf on the west side of the shed, instead of the east side where we usually put the heifers and their new babies.
The hole was on the west side.
You know where this is going, don’t you?
I believe it was my Custer dog that chased this heifer away from the corral gate as I was ending my rounds.  I yelled for him to quit, but the heifer was immediately back and ready to fight him.  He quickly obliged her and they stood nose to nose, neither wanting to back down.
It was unusual behavior for our calm heifers.
I called Custer off of his assault.
I stood there while the heifer put her nose to the ground and bawled.  Huh?
You’ve gotta be kidding me!
I walked to the hole, turned the beam of my flashlight downwards and there he stood.  In about a foot of water, a 2 day old calf shivered in the beaver’s lair.  He must have fell with 2 feet into the hole and just slid in as the hole seemed barely big enough for a 90 pound calf to fit.
I laid down on the ground and stretched my arm towards the calf.  I could barely touch his ears.
I debated.
Sighing, I knew what I had to do.
I returned to the house.  I woke Vernon from his sound sleep.  We grabbed a rope from the pickup and both of us proceeded back to the beaver’s lair.  Vernon laid down, threw the rope over the calf’s head and pulled until he could grab his legs and together we hauled the wayward calf out of the hole.
He was extremely glad to see his ma… and she was happy to have him back as well.
Vernon had noticed the heifer earlier hanging around the corral… we have no idea how long that calf had been there, but since he seemed almost hypothermic, we surmised it had been a while.
We were lucky.
We saved that one!

Heifer Story

Sooner or later, you do a job long enough, something unusual will occur that makes the entire process glow with a new light…

So it is with checking heifers…
I mentioned before how I check the heifers sometime between 10 and 11 pm.
There are no street lights.
Moonlight and starlight exist in its phases, but believe me, no moon and a cloudy sky make for impenetrable blackness.
That is a fantastic time of night for my imagination to run wild.  As a child, I was scared of the dark.  Those horrors were based on a premise of a strange man coming and looking in my window or being in the house.  I now know, that a strange man, coming into my yard at night, would be surrounded by my pack of English Shepherds, who would give him no quarter!  That fear has poofed into a smoky memory… and as a result, new fears have had to take its place!
I get the creeps when my sister calls and talks about UFOs… or Bigfoot.  I will hurry my steps if the ice isn’t too bad… until I look at Lucas and Elsa and Dally, and know that ANYTHING strange is going to be met with repeated and threatening barking.  Sometimes the black shape of a heifer laying down is enough to set them off!  If something in the darkness is different than it is in the daytime… they let me know.  So why creep out that Bigfoot is gonna come get me until the dogs alert me to that fact??
Unfortunately, years ago, I wasn’t surrounded by English Shepherds.  I had Josie Mae.  A blue merle Aussie known for her ability to sit and “beg” until her backbone turned into cooked spaghetti and she’d flop over for a belly rub.  She was also known for her ability to trot alongside my horse wherever the horse’s cool shadow ran along the ground…  except underneath, though I’m sure she’d have liked to try!
Let’s just say that Josie Mae wasn’t a hard worker… she was sweet.  She was a companion.  She was NOT an aggressive cowdog!
Walking with Josie to the calving shed one evening… my pitiful flashlight battery was weak and barely punctured that blackness.  It would show me a few steps ahead and that was as far as its energy could project.
I checked the heifers.
I closed the gate to the corral.
A short distance away were a few unfortunate calves that had lost their struggle to be walking the earth.  As we passed by, Josie Mae, quiet-easy-going-lovable-gentle Josie Mae, went ballistic!
Hackles raised.
Eyes peering into the darkness.
As my feet returned to the earth, I made myself inhale, then exhale, and turned the miniscule flashlight beam towards the “dead pile”.  The weak light was met by two glowing eyes.  I couldn’t tell you what kind of critter belonged to those eyeballs, because, frankly, I didn’t stick around to do any deciphering!
Upon further reflection the next day, they were large (not raccoon or skunk), low to the ground (as if whatever-it-was was crouching), and wide enough to reassure me that the animal was BIG ENOUGH.
I don’t think so…
Mountain lion?
My best guess… but I can’t say for sure!
Josie and I were OUT OF THERE QUICKLY!!!
Whatever-it-was could help itself to some dead beef if it wanted!