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Good And Bad News In The Month

JANUARY 27

Last week when Lynn and I took another big bale of hay to the cows above the house, I hiked through the deep snow and across the creek into the upper swamp pasture to check where Michael and Carolyn are wintering their horses. With the cold weather, the water holes have been freezing over, and Lynn has been chopping ice.

In spite of the deep snow and cold weather, Andrea and Rick have made several trips up the creek to get loads of firewood to sell. With the cold winter, many people need more firewood and Rich has had lots of calls for wood. The frozen snow up there is about two feet deep, but they’ve managed to keep a “trail” open on the jeep road, and are able to get up there with the jeep chained up on all four tires.

We’ve been feeding some alfalfa hay to granddaughter Heather’s young filly, along with some grass hay, and a little alfalfa to her 30-year-old gelding, Chance, along with his senior feed and alfalfa pellets. His teeth are so bad he can’t chew the hay, but he likes to sort through it and eat the leaves. Then I gather up the stems at the next feeding and put them through the fence for Snickers, who eagerly eats them.

At least Chance can eat pelleted feed with no problems. The magpies like it, too. One of them is always waiting with him for the morning and evening feeding, and eats all the pieces he spills, and sometimes eats out of the tub with him, too. Chance’s “pet magpie” often sits on his back as they wait for the food!

The big bale of alfalfa that I use for Chance and Tornado (the filly) was sitting on our flatbed truck, parked below the driveway. The deer started coming in at night to eat it, so we moved the truck into the calving pen by the house and shut all the gates; the deer are more reluctant to come into that pen.

Last week Lynn helped Michael haul several more loads of big bales from one of the neighbours — taking it to our upper stack yard by the wild meadow. Michael is buying some hay to make sure he has enough for all their yearlings this winter.

We went to granddaughter Samantha’s birthday party (six years old!) at the hockey rink, where she and her friends were skating and sledding. Emily’s 13th birthday was a few days later, and we took gifts and cake to the hockey rink after practice that evening, where she shared cake and ice cream with her hockey team.

After a long siege of cold weather we had several warm days, and the creek started flooding down one of our upper ditches where the dam washed out. It was flooding Gordon Binning’s cellar, so Lynn and Nick went to the head of the ditch and chopped out enough ice to put in a new dam, then siphoned six inches of water out of Gordon’s cellar with a hose.

Our weather got cold again (better conditions for hauling hay — not so slippery) and Michael hauled one of our tractors over to the place he leased on Sandy Creek, and plowed a trail to that haystack, leaving the tractor there for loading hay. Lynn helped Michael and Carolyn for several days (hauling with two flatbed trucks and the flatbed trailer). They brought those bales home to our upper stack yard.

Sunday evening, after coming back from Mark’s place for the weekend, little Dani had a bad cough and a fever. Andrea took her to the doctor Monday morning but the doctor thought it was just a cold. By that night she could hardly breathe, however, and Andrea stayed up all night with her, using a nebulizer to help keep her airways open. She took Dani to another doctor Tuesday morning, who diagnosed pneumonia. Dani’s blood oxygen level was dangerously low. They put her in the hospital for three days, on oxygen and IV fluids, antibiotics and breathing treatments. Andrea stayed with Dani the first night in the hospital, and Mark stayed with her the second night. This morning she was doing better and the doctor let Andrea bring her home again.

FEBRUARY 8

Last week was really cold again, but the road conditions were good for hauling the last of the hay from Sandy Creek. Lynn had to break ice on the creek again for the bulls and cows. Hiking up through the field to the creek he discovered a huge snowball. When the weather was warmer, the cows had been rooting under the snow for grass, and apparently kept rooting and pushing. The snow must have been just the right temperature to stick together, and one of them must have pushed this big snowball down the hill to the fence.

We gave Dani some puzzles for “get well” presents. That kid really loves putting puzzles together — the more challenging they are, the more she likes them.

Nick ran another cross-country race (5,000 metres) in Missoula, Montana — a race with 170 runners — and came in first. This is the second race he’s won in Missoula, and we are really proud of him.

Lynn plowed snow up through the field behind our house so Andrea could drive up there with her truck and take more things up to her old trailer house to store them. We will be building a bigger house up there for her and the kids this spring and summer, and she’s packing up some of her things and getting them moved.

Michael worked several days helping weigh and ultrasound bulls for some purebred breeders in preparation for their spring bull sales. Now he’s starting another job, night-calving for a big ranch 50 miles up the valley. It’s a long drive back and forth. He doesn’t get much sleep during the day, feeding their yearlings, and doing other chores. He and Carolyn bought 49 more feeder calves at a sale in Dillon and plan to get more at another sale.

This past weekend we had friends staying here from Canada. Pete and Bev Wiebe recently spent two weeks in Panama helping build houses, and before that, Pete was in Haiti helping rebuild an orphanage that was destroyed by the earthquake. They usually go south every winter to work on other projects — rebuilding homes destroyed by fires, hurricanes, etc. — and we enjoy having them stop here on their way. We met them after Andrea’s burn accident in July 2000. Pete is a burn survivor and he contacted us that summer to give us hope and encouragement.

The weekend they were here they also visited Andrea, and we all went to see some of Emily’s hockey games. The Salmon team won two games and tied their third game, and Emily made the winning shots. She really likes hockey, and her skating has improved tremendously.

FEBRUARY 18

This past week has been traumatic. Lynn’s younger sister Jenelle had to take their mom, Virginia, to the hospital in Missoula. She’s had a serious infection in her foot, and the doctors discovered that the main artery down her leg is collapsed. The only options were to just bring her back home to die, or amputate the leg above the knee. They chose amputation. Even though she’s 88 years old, this would give Virginia a chance.

The surgery went well, but she’s had some complications. They put in a feeding tube the second day after surgery because she wasn’t eating well, and it was in the wrong place and she aspirated fluid into her lungs. She’s also had a small stroke and isn’t doing quite as well as she was the first couple of days. We hope she can bounce back from these setbacks.

Meanwhile, we had a tragedy here, involving young Heather’s filly, Tornado. Last Saturday night we had a lot of wind — and some horrible gusts that sounded like a freight train. Tornado was running around in her pen, and hit the fence, but we didn’t know it until the next morning. At first light I looked out the window and saw her lying flat on the ground. I opened the window and yelled at her, but she barely raised her head and plopped it right back down. Lynn and I ran out there to try to roll her upright, but she wouldn’t budge. I called Michael and Carolyn.

We couldn’t get her up, so Carolyn called the vet, who determined that the filly had seriously injured her neck. We could tell where she hit the fence — with such force that her feet shoved a big log (at the bottom of the netting) about a foot into the next pen. The diamond mesh netting has some give, but she probably hit it just wrong and popped her neck. The vet told us it was hopeless to try to save her, and Carolyn called Heather (at college in Montana) and let her make the decision to put her down. The filly had suffered enough, in the hours she laid there on the ground. We all wept, not only for the filly, but in compassion for Heather’s loss. This was the first foal she’d raised of her own, and she’d spent a lot of time, effort and love this summer with Tornado and her early training.

HeatherSmithThomasrancheswithher husbandLynnnearSalmon,Idaho.Contact herat208-756-2841

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