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Bull problems, and a wonderful trip

SEPTEMBER 22

It’s been freezing hard every night. Andrea and a friend helped us get some firewood. Winter is on it’s way! I’ve been working on a revision and update for my book Storey’s Guide To Raising Beef Cattle. My publisher (Storey) likes to update their books, and since it’s been 10 years since this book was published, they want to put out a new edition. A few days ago received the page proofs for my next book (Cattle Health Care) to check over.

Last Saturday, Emily rode with me for four hours to check the water troughs we fixed the week before—the ones that had been vandalized. The big trough in Baker Creek was still working (the elbow I put back together and clamps on the pipe ends were still holding), and the one at the head of Baker Creek was still ok (the twines I wrapped tightly around the slashed pipe elbow were still there and only a little water was leaking through). But one of the other troughs was empty; the pipes I put together were apart again, probably because I hadn’t been able to get the clamps tight enough using my pocketknife as a screwdriver. This time I took the proper tool and was able to fix it better. We found another trough had also been sabotaged, with a hole jabbed in the upright pipe—all the water was leaking out the hole instead of going into the trough. I patched it by forcing a stick into the hole to create a plug.

While Emily was here at the ranch she helped me feed the crippled calf (Boomerang). He’s really growing in spite of the fact his leg bones are disproportionate and too long, with a bow in his back.

On Sunday we moved our cows to a new pasture on the upper place, so they wouldn’t be next to the range cows drifting home along the fence. We didn’t want the bull fighting other bulls through the fence down or getting out on the range. Michael and Carolyn worked about half their cows on Monday, the ones that summered on their leased places at 17 mile and Sandy Creek (vaccinating, preg checking). They were pleased with the pregnancy rates on the young cows.

On Wednesday Bob Minor helped Lynn fix the fuel tank on our old stackwagon. It’s been leaking this year and the leak is getting worse—which is not a good thing with the price of diesel! They took the tank off and welded the hole.

These past few days Michael and Carolyn have been rounding up their cattle from our range, and are only short a couple of pairs. Those may have gone into the neighbor’s range while the gates were open earlier in the fall.

Two days ago we had a hard rain, the first really good rain this fall. Michael and Carolyn rode all day in the rain, moving their Sandy Creek cows. One of their bulls got out of the upper 160 acre pasture (where they put the cows they gathered off our range), came down along the fence, and got into our field below the barn. We opened the gates and let him go on down into their big field. We put our small group of cows in the field above our corrals and Lynn set a few posts to patch the fence where wildlife mashed it down.

OCTOBER 6

We’ve had a lot of wind. One of the wheel lines on Michael’s leased place blew off the hill and he and Nick had to get it back up onto the field and stake it down.

Last Sunday Emily rode with me again to gather our cattle off the upper place and bring them down here to put with our smaller group. On the way through the corral we sorted off Michael and Carolyn’s bull that was with our cows all summer, and started to take him down through the barnyard and pasture to put him with their other bull on the lower place. He wanted to fight and threatened to take on our horses and Lynn—who was on foot opening gates. About that time Lynn stumbled onto a ground nest of yellow jackets and they flew around his head stinging him, and one stung Emily on the ear. We left the bull and came to the house to put antihistamine ointment on Em’s painful swollen ear, and Lynn’s stings, and gave Em Benadryl tablets to counteract the reaction. The bull, meanwhile, came back through the fence into our field. Since he was too dangerous to handle, we left all the gates open into our lane and hold pen and the next morning he was up bellowing at our bull in the corral. Lynn slipped behind him and shut the gate. The bull was still on the fight and dangerous. We talked to Michael and Carolyn and offered to buy him to butcher, since he might hurt anyone trying to load him to send to market. They decided to trade him for the 4-wheeler of ours they’ve used all summer to irrigate, so that was an acceptable trade.

Later that day Michael, Carolyn and their friend Don brought their cattle down from the 160 and 320, to take to the Maurer place to preg check and vaccinate. On the way down the road a couple of their bulls were fighting and one went through our fence. Don came into our pasture with his horse to get the bull but the bull didn’t want to come down to the gate; instead he ran up the ditch, back out through the fence and up the road. Michael tried to turn him with his horse— but the bull just kept charging past the horse. They finally gave up on the bull and let him go back up the road (and he ended up in the Gooch field) and took the herd of cows on down the road.

I worked for a week to finish checking/correcting page proofs for my new book, to send back to the publisher last Monday, and finished several articles to meet their deadlines for horse magazines. Last weekend I put hay around by the gray horses, and for Breezie, enough for a week—to make it easier for Lynn to do chores quickly and easily while he took care of Andrea’s four children here. Andrea and I went to the World Burn Congress in Raleigh, North Carolina.

This is an annual gathering of burn survivors, family members/ caregivers, hosted by the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. Ever since Andrea’s burn injuries eight years ago, we’ve wanted to attend one of these conferences, but never felt we could afford it (financially, and timewise). But a friend in Canada, Pete Wiebe (a burn survivor who wrote with encouragement after Andrea’s accident, and whom we became acquainted with by letters and met last January when he and his wife stopped by) attended the conference last year, in Vancouver, BC, and felt Andrea and I just had to go, this year. He and his wife encouraged us and helped make it possible for us.

Early Tuesday morning Andrea and I drove to Missoula, Montana to catch an early afternoon flight. We got to North Carolina late that evening and were there for 4 days, flying back yesterday. What an experience! There were more than 700 people, mostly burn survivors and family members. It was an intense time of sharing—the ones who are farther along on their journey (life after a burn) encouraging the ones who are still struggling to cope with the physical and mental pain/trauma of a serious and life-changing burn injury. Andrea is somewhere in the middle, far enough along to be a big inspiration to some who are still struggling, and inspired by those who are farther along than she is. It renewed her desire to help other burn victims and this is something we both shall be doing for the rest of our lives.

OCTOBER 19

Lynn managed fine with the grandkids while we were gone, getting them to school, kindergarten and Head Start. Emily was a lot of help with the younger kids, helping them do their homework, etc. I’m still trying to catch up with everything but I am really glad that Andrea and I were able to go. We met many wonderful people we’ll keep in contact with.

Michael finished baling the last of his hay and got it hauled, just before a big snowstorm. We put our crippled calf in the barn; he had trouble walking in the slippery snow, and without any traction he kept falling down. We put our cows in the swamp pasture, and discovered two cows and a calf were missing. They’d gone under the fence at the ditch and into a lower field, so we rounded them up. The next morning our vet came to preg check and we vaccinated and deloused/ dewormed the cows, thankful they were dry enough (no new snow!) to apply the treatment. We weaned the calves, hoping the stress of bad weather wouldn’t cause illness, but they all came through it fine. We kept the cows in the swamp pasture for four days (to get over the weaning, so they wouldn’t try to come back home to their calves), then took them back to the upper place. We had just one open cow (a first calver) and are waiting to send her to a sale whenever our local cattle hauler has room for her on a load. Cattle prices are really off and she won’t bring much, but we don’t want to winter her because we are short on hay.

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband Lynn near Salmon, Idaho. Contact her at 208-756-2841.

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