Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Fire and The Wedding

In late August, as the drought set in, a hot wind picked up flames from a lighting-strike on the Snake River. We were worried about Ramsdens out north and then we heard how they had fought it in the beginning, when it seemed they might contain the flames. Shoveling, beating the smoldering grass.
But then one acre became a hundred and then a thousand and then ten thousand. They lost their winter feed, evacuated cattle from their summer ground. It brought back memories I don't like to think about.

Years ago, when we were working at the Steen Ranch, we'd been surrounded by a fire. I remember opening gates, trying to find horses and cattle in the thick smoke, praying the wind would shift. And in 2007, a fire burned our winter range, threatening the house and barn. And afterward, we struggled with the expense and toil of finding replacement feed, of having to hold cattle in the valley,  feeding hay and chopping ice during the long dark months.

Fire-burned spring, 2007

Now as Prairie's wedding approached, the Cache Creek fire shifted east and south toward the Imnaha. The Forest Service closed the road to the ranch. The fire had already burned fifty thousand acres and Prairie and Jon had to face giving up their wedding in the canyon. We irrigated around the ranch house, mowed fire breaks and watched the smoke boiling towards us up the river.


Jon and Prairie at the River
As luck would have it, the winds shifted and our winter ground was spared. We gave thanks while at the same time grieving our neighbors' losses. The road was still closed, but the Forest Service let us bring Jon's family in for a sweet little gathering alongside the river.

It all worked out. The next afternoon, in a golden swale at the foot of the Wallowa mountains,130 of us shared a community vow at Jon and Prairie's wedding. Afterward, we feasted and danced the night away in our barnyard under a blue moon.

Late night revelers, Cammie and Dawson

Prairie and Jon's All Homemade Wedding Menu

Slow-braised Bunchgrass Beef
Whole Grain Rolls
Spicy and Sweet Barbecue Sauces
Sheepherder Beans
Local fresh crisp veggies
Erin Donovan's famous Green Goddess Dressing
Vinaigrette Cabbage Salad
Aunt Sissy's Texas Cole Slaw
Our Guests' Best Salads
Blackberry-Peach Cobbler
Vanilla Ice Cream

Gabe swings the bride

  From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef