Sunday, July 30, 2017

Harlan Checks on the Cows

Mike has pretty well recovered from his bout with pneumonia earlier this summer. We had some good family time when Prairie and Jon and Harlan came home for a friend's wedding, and everybody chipped in to help with chores to give Mike some rest. 

Mike enjoys the hammock at Hope's wedding

The wedding was classic Wallowa County. A lovely summer evening, too hot until the sunset, loads of delicious homemade food, kids running in packs in willow thickets around a pond, beautiful bride and handsome groom, rowdy band on a flatbed trailer, portable dance floor in the middle of a pasture, cold beer and plenty of revelrous guests of all ages.

Harlan, Prairie, Jon - photo booth! 

Harlan, Sara and Abby 'the hat stealer'

The morning after the wedding, Harlan and Prairie and I got up early to go check on the cow herd out on the Zumwalt.  Prairie scooped Harlan out of bed and into the truck, along with a big to-go bowl of oatmeal with dried apricots and pears which he greatly enjoyed, once he was awake.

Are we there yet?

We couldn't have timed it better. As we drove through the gate at Alder Creek, we heard the first voices of the cows coming down to water. Several mother cows came right to the truck, where Harlan could check them out up close and personal. 

Harlan calling in the herd

One of our older mother cows

Soon there was a chorus of calves calling for their mothers, and mothers calling back, as more cows and calves wandered up the draw, their strong voices reverberating through the trees. I told Harlan they were talking to each other. "Where are you? I'm over here." "Here I am. Where are you?"

Calves finding their mothers

A very gentle red cow.

I was taking a picture of Prairie and Harlan when I caught a glimpse of our big blonde bull coming up fast behind me.  I smacked my shin on the trailer hitch as I scrambled onto the flatbed. The bull wasn't really coming after me, he was just making a bee-line toward a group of cows in front of the truck, but I had Mike's admonition in mind as I made my hasty exit,"Never turn your back on a bull."

Blonde bull

Snack time in the back of the truck

The morning was cool and pleasant, but we could feel the heat building quickly.  We took looked over the herd as they began to graze back through the trees and concluded that all was well. Plenty of grass, plenty of water, all the critters where they should be, including the bulls.

Ruby, Bell, Prairie and Harlan headed for the gate and home

It was good to get Harlan out with the cows. Someday he'll be big enough to make a hand and like his mother before him, he'll have a hankering for the prairie, for the smell of the tarweed and the Ponderosa pine, for the call of the meadowlark at dawn, for the creak of the saddle and the ramble of a sure-footed horse beneath him. 

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, Home of Bunchgrass Beef

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Epizoodic and Goodbye to Zeke

After branding, Mike came down with the Epizoodic, as Sam Loftus our old boss used to say. It's a bad sickness, like the flu, and in this case it turned into pneumonia. Yuk.

Herd coming in before branding day

I went to Seattle to spend time with my 92 year old mother, and the 'cowboss' back home didn't do so good at following the doctor's orders. Resting was mostly at night and not enough. Days were already full of work.
Always weeds to dig

I pestered and badgered Mike over the phone, but I could tell he wasn't resting. The minute I got home I started pushing fluids, had him deep breathe through a straw and ordered couch rest under threat of bodily harm. He responded by saying "You have no control over me," and then he went to lie down.

After a few days treatment by 'nurse' Sara, we headed to the river to bring out the last of the horses. The canyons are nearing a hundred degrees and the river is high, but the river bars are still subbing and there is still a lot of green. A few high apricots have ripened and fallen. I found four on the ground that were good enough to eat. They will be in full swing after a few more of these hot days.
Canyon thunderstorm building

I'm afraid I'll not pick mullberries this year. They are peaking and I didn't have time to both mow and pick berries. Mowing is essential. Fire protection and snake detection.

Bullsnake inside water shut-off box

With all the windows open at night to catch a breeze, the sound of the river flowed through the house from all directions.  And I remembered long ago nights on the Yukon, the fizzing rush of the river beneath the wooden deck of our raft and sleeping pallet. A bed of water travelling beneath us as we slumbered.
Always the rushing river

This time of year makes me think of Sam, and wildflowers, and topping out at the summer range, the smell of tarweed and yarrow, the far teeth of the Seven Devils in the east, somebody telling a bad joke and somebody telling a good story.
Indian Paintbrush

I missed the trip to the summer range. Up in Seattle, I was helping Mom up and down stairs, sharing meals and games, staying up late with Udderly Chocolate ice cream and british mystery series on public TV.

Sara's Mom, Lorry at 92, ready for a walk

I thought about Gabe and Mike and Cammie and the kids trailing the cows and calves from the canyon to the prairie. Dawson riding his dad's horse and helping Grandpa herd. Abby in a front pack, when Gabe and Cammie took the cows the last stretch into Alder Creek. I wasn't there, but I could imagine it. All of it going smoothly and safely, I hoped.

Wes, Dawson, Gabe, Abby, Cammie, lunch break

Later, Gary and Gabe helped haul the steers out to their summer pasture. I was a little worried about that endeavor. Mike said it went fine. Then he said Gary had a heavy load and exploded a trailer tire on the narrow steep switchbacks and there were tourists who had to back up to get out of the way. But it worked out.

Gabe, Dawson dig wild onions

Then he told me all the dogs got cheatgrass in their ears and had to go to the Vet, twice. Punch had one taken out of her abdomen, luckily it was just below the skin. After that, Mike gave the dogs another hair cut, this one a close shave. He did a thorough job and when I came home they looked a little scalped.
Cows on their way to summer range

In Seattle I said goodbye to Zeke, headed off to Colombia where he'll be spending at least five months teaching English.  We'll miss having his help on the ranch.  A few days later, I was glad to hear that he arrived safely, albeit without his luggage. I'm looking forward to hearing about everything, his work in the city of Monteria, the people he meets, his neighborhood, the brutal heat and humidity of the lowlands, the cattle operations. And I'm thankful for Patricia, who took him on his first day to see Bogota, to share a meal and meet her family, to converse with him and understand his nascent Spanish. It is a precious gift to have friends in far away places, a role we play for those who make the trek to visit us, and one we cherish in return.

Prairie and Harlan say goodbye to Zeke

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, Home of Bunchgrass Beef