I’ve been gone a while… having a unique opportunity to work a camp sponsored by my employers, Eleutian.com. We managed to have a dozen young Korean students and tour northern Wyoming for a week. We did team building activities on a low ropes course at Mickelson Station, Powell, Wyoming. We toured Yellowstone. We toured the awesome Buffalo Bill Historical Center, floated the river, and then attended the night rodeo all in Cody, Wyoming. We went to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center and swam in the hot springs of Thermopolis. We studied bats with the Wyoming Game and Fish Dept., hiked to an ancient pictograph site, and toured a local dinosaur dig site north of Ten Sleep, Wyoming. We also viewed the cutthroat and rainbow trout at Wigwam Rearing Station. We ate Japanese food, fried chicken, pizza, delicious Korean food, and too many sandwiches! We loved ice cream and shaved ice! It was a great learning experience and cultural lesson… but when it all comes down to it, when I’ve been gone a while, there is no place as quiet and relaxing as this place, where there are no other people, or streetlights or sirens or traffic or *anything* but a loving family and doting dogs.
When I was in second grade, I did something that would impact the rest of my life. I joined the Girl Scouts. What followed were years of day camps, troop camps, primitive camps, and wildlife camps. I went to camp every summer of my life. My last years of high school were spent at camp learning to be a camp counselor. At age 19, I had the amazing job of being a horse wrangler at the now defunct Girl Scout National Center West in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. We, as strong young women, prided ourselves on sleeping out under the stars every night on our horse packing trips into the Big Horn Mountains. We disdained our tents except for the one night it rained and rained and rained and rained! We did stay in tents when in main camp… and the smell of canvas and pine trees is a combination that breaks my heart… I am no longer involved in Girl Scouts.
But it gave me an appreciation for sleeping outdoors which continues to this day. Thankfully I have a husband that knows I am not rejecting him… but I need this for my soul. I have taken my children up the hillside to watch the Perseid meteor shower every August of their young lives. Rarely will one accompany me now, preferring a soft bed to a cot or lawn recliner…
I have migrated to a 14′ tipi…with blowup air mattress and buffalo robe! I can start a little fire if it’s chilly, or huddle under my buffalo robe. It is located about 75 yards from my house through some trees…and it is easy to believe I am all alone. OK, that’s an exaggeration! I forgot, I have 3 English Shepherds! Lucas, Elsa, and Dally take it upon themselves to be my guardians. Lucas sleeps outside the tipi, but as close to my head as he can get. I hear him breathing. I hear him scratching. I hear him sigh. And at least twice a night, he runs off unseen threats to me with his bass voice that vibrates the tipi walls. Elsa is the silent ninja… I can’t hear her, but she is there, her high pitched bark backing up Lucas when he takes off. Dally is the only one who starts off the night inside the tipi with me. She minds her manners, except for one thing… I have found Dally to be a sweetgrass thief. I have had two braids out in my tipi, and both have disappeared. Sweetgrass must taste as good as it smells! In that I can’t blame her, sweetgrass is a favorite scent of mine, but she needs to share! Dally is the only one that can find her way, for the most part, in the doorway between the tipi and liner. Sometimes she gets lost and winds up between my tipi and liner…but like Lucas, gets as close to me as she can, and sleeps until her daddy chooses to scare off some “booger”. I woke up the other morning, walked to the back of my tipi and there was Lucas and Elsa laying in the shade on guard. Dally was lost between the liner and tipi and only her legs were visible out from under the tipi. I called her name, woke her up, and she shoved her pretty little head out from under, astonished that I was now OUTSIDE the tipi. She wriggled her way out and happily gave me a good morning greeting.
Soon I’ll take my buffalo robe and move to the trampoline, and watch the Perseids until I fall asleep. I’ll have 3 dogs sleeping underneath me…and a blanket of stars above. “Tuck a cloud up under my chin, Lord, blow the moon out, please.”
During noontime breaks, when you’ve been working since 4:30 AM, you find the closest shade and take advantage of it! And around here, sometimes trees are scarce. Pickups aren’t! It has been HOT and DRY! We cringe when thunderstorms approach, dreading lightning and the wildfires they bring. The wet spring brought tons of grass, but we haven’t had much rain lately and everyday hits the high 90’s. Our handheld radios constantly scan for fire and ambulance calls… and we constantly hope we don’t hear a thing!
Lucas found early in his life the benefits of juniper shade…
Dally and Elsa choose bigger trees to shade up under!
But best of all is the fact that we live between a creek and an irrigation ditch, so at any time of day, the dogs are welcome to visit either… here, even our visitor “D” learned of the joys of the ditch. Notice Elsa with her face completely underwater! We will continue to try to avoid the heat…
Heading to the bog….
Lucas at the end of the day… tired boy!
Just in case you’re under the impression that there is only one working dog on this place… Lucas was along for the trip to the mountain too! Unfortunately, he’s badly worn his paw again, twice losing his boot on earlier small gathers. He was left at home the day before because of that, and such a pitiful howl, you’ve never heard. He is just shocked and in deep disbelief that I would forget to take him and he couldn’t get to me, so the howling continued for quite a while according to my guests that were lodged outside in tent and tipi “spare rooms”. He lost his boot early into the day, and though I had packed extra materials to rebuild one, it was in the pickup, and he worked at least an hour before the pickup and herd crossed paths. He then was relegated to “spoiled pickup dog” status, until I rewrapped his paw and he was needed for a big push up a steep hillside. After that, and after a break at lunchtime, he again rode the Ford. Finally, the trail ends, but the last half mile is alongside a boggy little creek, very scary to ride your horse by! I’ve seen horses bog down in it with rider soon plastered with black mud as they are unseated! I prefer to send my dogs! It is hard muddy work, but Elsa and Lucas and Boomer were thrilled to cool off in the creek and bite cows along the way. Just in the last half mile, the three earned their food for the month! It was much easier to shush them up then get off with sticks and slingshots to push the cattle from the bogs on foot! I’ve done that, too. Besides, I hate getting my cowboy boots muddy! Just in case you were wondering…
It has been a year since Butcher’s Foothills Elsa has come to live with me on
the ranch. At first glance, she was small but quick, slightly nervous, definitely prone to
barking in situations that make her nervous, lost, looking for love, and willing to please
someone since she had left her Oklahoma home. Within this year we have gone head to
head on a few things…I won the big fight about corrals and calves, Elsa won the fact she
will STILL chase the horses away if they get within 30 feet of the house but now she at
least acts guilty when caught! She loves me and *hugs* me with a lean in and nose and body
touching me as much as possible. She isn’t as nervous finally getting used to
Wyoming, my loud teenagers, and a busy lifestyle. She still barks when pressured by
stock, but it has been cut by 80%, and she will hush on command – well, OK, just for a
bit…but we’re working on that still! We have raised a fine litter of puppies together…
me in awe that her little body could feed 10 puppies handily. I can send her in the direction
I want… not necessarily verbally… but by waiting for her to be aimed in the right
direction and then with verbal commands… we’re working on that too! She is a jealous dog who
needs to be reminded I’m in charge and I can pet whoever I want! She loves the time I spend
grooming her free of grass seed and extra hair and the bits of mud that cling like
cement. She will down and stay with ease, but if I move *too* far away in her book, she will
slink to within range and settle, and I never hear her. She can be in the house and suddenly
appear behind me without notice…Lucas and Dally are too noisy to get away with that!
But I never trip over Lucas and Dally! She waits all day for a “Let’s Go!” and is thrilled
to go do whatever, whenever.
Good girl, Elsa Dear!