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Old Horses Reunite In Retirement


We had a lot of wet, stormy weather last week. We left one cow and new calf in the open-front barn a couple days so they’d be out of the wet snow and wind, then put them in one of the outdoor pens where there’s a windbreak.

Last weekend Andrea’s friend Rick helped Lynn replace two heavy panels with metal gates. It’s nice to have swinging gates into those two fields; we no longer have to break our backs trying to open and close those old pole panels!

I spent several days typing my next blog instalments for the web-site http://heathersmiththomas. created for me by the publisher of my bookBeyond the Flames: A Family Touched by Fire.These instalments are posted every two weeks, gradually bringing the reader up to date on things that have happened in our family since I wrote that book about Andrea’s burn injuries and how it changed our lives.

Wednesday Rosalee (a four-year-old cow) calved about 3 a.m. in the maternity pen. Her calf had nursed and was fairly dry by daylight when we moved them to one of the side pens. Later that morning we moved the cows down from the field above the house and sorted a few more (that look like they’ll be calving soon) into the maternity pen, and put the rest below the lane again.

Lynn plugged the tractor in that morning, and by afternoon it started, so we could put a big bale into their feeder, and also took two more bales up to Michael and Carolyn’s horses in the swamp pasture. He was able to move their other feeder down out of the boggy area to dry ground without getting stuck.

While we were feeding those horses, we noticed that Molly (Carolyn’s old mare that’s about 30 years old) had lost a lot of weight. The other horses chase her away from the feeders. So Lynn and I caught her and brought her down to the main corral where we can feed her separately and give her some grain.

Chance (granddaughter Heather’s old horse that we’ve been feeding pellets) is living in the backyard, and was delighted to see Molly again — just across the creek in the corral. He nickered at her all day and all night, that first night she was there. Those two old horses have been buddies for many years. Chance has really bad teeth and can’t chew hay (all he can do is wad it around in his mouth and spit it out), and it takes him a long time to eat pellets. He still craves more roughage, however, so I started cutting up some our finest grass hay into inch-long pieces, with scissors. It only takes about 10 minutes to fill a two-gallon bucket with “chopped” hay and he can eat it.

Our oldest calf (Zippedy Do-Da) had diarrhea, but cleared up after we gave him a daily dose of neomycin sulfate solution (given orally by dose syringe in the back of his mouth to swallow) for two days.

Today Lynn put two strands of electric fence along the side of our field above the house, so the calves can’t get to the ditchbank to eat gravel, and also can’t stick their heads through the elk panel along that fence. We’ve had calves get their heads caught in those panels, and we don’t want that risk.


We ran out of hay and bought a trailer load of big bales from a friend up at Leadore. It’s nice hay — a mix of grass and alfalfa — and he delivered it for us.

Last week we had a snowstorm again, and I was glad to see that all the calves up in the field were using the calf houses. They stayed warm and dry through the blizzard. They came out in the morning and had fun running and bucking in the new snow — rather than being cold and miserable.

Last Sunday Andrea and Rick took Andrea’s kids to a pond to fish, but there was still a lot of slushy ice. One of their dogs tried to run out on the ice and fell in. Emily jumped in to try to save the dog, and was immediately in deep water up to her neck. It was very cold and she panicked and came back out again. Rick took off his shoes and coat and went into the pond to grab the dog.

Monday Andrea left Sammy and Dani here with us when she drove to Idaho Falls for doctor appointments — to see the ear-nose-throat specialist again, and the pain management doctor. Rishira (our oldest cow, age 15) calved that afternoon and the little girls were delighted. They spent a lot of time at the window watching the new baby trying to get up and nurse. I had to run out once and rescue the little heifer when she staggered and flopped down in a mud puddle. I dragged her back to dry ground, and when she eventually got her “sea legs” I helped her nurse the cow. Rishira’s udder is saggy and it’s hard for a newborn to get onto those teats! The girls wanted to name the new calf Mary, so now she is Merry Mary.

Wednesday afternoon Buffalo Girl (Emily’s pet cow) calved and we put her in the barn to calve because it was raining hard. It’s sure nice to have a good barn, even though we’re no longer calving in January! The pair was still in the barn the next day when Lynn brought the two little girls out from town to stay with us for a couple days. They helped do chores and were delighted to be able to pet Buffalo Girl’s new calf. The first thing Dani did the next morning when she woke up was run to the window to look out at the cows in the maternity pen to see if any more were calving.


Michael finished his night calving job at the ranch near Leadore and is starting to catch up on his sleep. It was a hectic calving season, calving out more than 700 cows and a lot of heifers. More than half of them calved at night, with Michael being the only person on the night shift. He had some interesting experiences, pulled a lot of calves, and had to deal with some mean mamas.

Lynn started our old backhoe last week and cleared manure and old hay away from the fence in our hold pen so we can drive through there without getting stuck; it’s been boggy since the snow melted. While he had the backhoe running, he loaded two truckloads, a pickup and a trailer load of manure for neighbours with gardens.

Last Friday Michael, Carolyn and Nick rounded up their 11 horses from our swamp pasture. They hauled six of them to turn out on one of the backfields on our upper place, and then hauled the other five — the ones they need to start riding for working cattle — to our upper corral.

We started working on the new fence along the southeast side of our lower place, hoping we can get it finished before the neighbours turn cows out on the range adjacent to us. Lynn, Andrea, and her friend Rick spent much of last week setting posts (in spite of several snowstorms and three inches of new snow on Saturday), and the kids came out on Saturday and Sunday. The girls helped me bake applesauce cake, cook lunch and supper, and do all the chores. They enjoyed seeing the new calves. Yesterday Rick helped Lynn work on the fence again, setting more steel posts and some wood posts for braces. I trimmed Rubbie and Veggie’s feet, so we can soon start riding them again. In spite of the snowstorms, some days are feeling like spring!

HeatherSmithThomasrancheswithher husbandLynnnearSalmon,Idaho.Contact herat208-756-2841



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