The second ride to gather cattle from the range was another long day. I fed the horses before daylight, so Ed (the mare I’ve been riding) had time to eat before we left. Michael and Carolyn picked us up with their truck and trailer at the top of our lane. Farther up the creek we picked up our new range neighbour and his friend Bob, and Carolyn’s brother Brian, and their horses. We hauled the six horses to the top of Withington Creek, then rode down Mulkey Creek and through the timber. We sent Bob and Alfonzo over the open side of the mountain, since they’ve never ridden in that area and don’t know the trails. We gathered a dozen pairs of Alfonzo’s cattle and a few of Michael’s, and brought them through the timber, back to our own range. Michael and Brian went to look for cattle on the steep timbered side below our range fence.
Carolyn and I sorted off extra cows that had joined our group, then took the cattle into our range, around a steep mountainside and over the hill from Peach Pit trough into Baker Creek. This was challenging, because Bob’s dogs were either chasing the cows too fast or circling in front and balking the herd. An untrained dog is worse around cattle than no dog at all. We let the cattle rest at Peach Pit before making the steep climb over the top. They’d been stressed and hurried too much and several were panting with their mouths open.
Near Baker Creek, Bob and Alfonzo picked up more cattle to take around toward our 320-acre pasture, while Carolyn and I went into the Basco drainage to look for more cows, and to help Michael and Brian. I checked through the high timber.
Coming back down the ridge through tall sagebrush I ran into snarls of old electric fence wire that had been dragged a mile (by cattle and wildlife) from where it was originally put up in 2004 by the BLM. This had been a temporary fence along the ridge between Withington and Baker creek to keep cattle out of the burned area for a year — after fire destroyed part of our range. The electric fence wasn’t effective, cattle went into the burned area anyway — and onto the Forest range because three miles of boundary fence burned. The BLM never gathered the electric wires after their temporary fence was no longer needed, and it’s been a hazard. Michael and Carolyn rolled some, but the rest is strung all over. My horse got her hind legs caught in the wires, but she stayed calm and I got off and lifted her feet out of it.
Meanwhile, Michael found cows (mostly Alfonzo’s) scattered through timber on the Mulkey Creek rim, and was able to get them back through the fence onto our range. Carolyn and Brian helped bring those cows out of Basco. We eventually got everything gathered and down to our 320-acre pasture, where we let Michael and Carolyn’s cattle in, and sorted off Alfonzo’s cattle.
I rode with Michael, Carolyn and Brian again the next day, and we gathered all the cows from 320 and 160 to bring down to our corrals. They sorted the calves out for weaning and hauled them to the Maurer place, leaving the cows in our corrals. A day later, on Wednesday, they preg-checked and vaccinated cows at Maurer’s (the herd from Sandy Creek), and on Thursday preg-checked and vaccinated cows at our place. On Friday they hauled the open ones to Maurers (to sell later) and I helped take the herd back to the 320 for fall pasture. Last week Lynn took his four-wheeler on the range to gather all remaining salt to bring down to the 320 for Michael’s cows.
Meanwhile, Andrea spent time in the hospital. A couple weeks ago she got a spider bite causing her hand to swell. She tried soaking to get the infection out, but that didn’t help. Finally she went to a doctor, who prescribed antibiotics pills. Two days later it was much worse and the doctor lanced the area and drained out a huge amount of pus, gave Andrea an injection of antibiotics and another prescription. Tests showed a staph infection (MRSA, the worst kind). The next morning Andrea had a fever and was vomiting, and the doctor put her in the hospital, on IV antibiotics, keeping her arm elevated. They kept her in the hospital three days. The day after she came home, her hand and arm swelled again. They started IV antibiotics again, she goes to the hospital morning and evening for IV antibiotics — a procedure that takes about 1-1/2 hours. Today the doctor increased the dosage.
I rode again with Michael and Carolyn today, this time to help our range neighbour, Dan French, who runs cows on the Forest range next to ours. Dan broke his leg this summer and can’t ride a horse yet. We helped his son, grandkids and a couple friends gather his cattle out of Mulkey Creek.
Dan French was still missing a bull, so Chad Stephenson and his wife (who helped with the roundup) went back the next day, found the bull, herded him to their stock trailer, roped the bull, and got him into the trailer to haul home.
Michael and Carolyn have been spending long days helping several of their friends work cows and ship calves. Lynn took more salt to their cows on the 320, sawed a fallen tree from the jeep road, and cleaned the spring-box to get the trough working again in upper Baker Creek.
Two weeks ago Sunday we brought Andrea’s three youngest kids home from church with us. They took turns riding 24-year-old Veggie across the low range with me. I led Veggie until we got to a flat area where I let each child ride solo, learning to guide the horse left or right.
Andrea’s friend Rick came out the next day and helped Lynn set posts in the line fence between our place and the new neighbour — where the fence is getting old and tired. Rick helped again last Saturday, taking posts and wire up the steep hill on the 160 with our four-wheeler, to set three new brace posts where the fence had fallen down. Emily rode with me that day to check cows.
The three younger kids came out again yesterday and took turns riding Veggie. Charlie and Sammy rode solo their whole ride. When it came to Dani’s turn, however, the old horse didn’t want to go again, and stopped to eat grass. Her short little arms weren’t strong enough to keep his head up, so I led him.
Andrea finished a 10-day course of IVs and the swelling/ infection in her arm seems to be resolved. She’s been helping Rick get more loads of firewood. Then she spent four days helping Bob Minor pressure wash fire-fighting equipment. The Forest Service was doing a “controlled” burn and the fire got away from them — burning hundreds of acres along the Salmon River. Firefighters were brought in, and Bob was hired to wash all the trucks and equipment (to prevent spread of weed seeds), with Andrea as his assistant.
A group of 20 young men from the state juvenile correction facility were part of the work crew. Andrea and Bob befriended them and tried to encourage them. The boys were inspired by Andrea’s cheerfulness, seeing her burn scars and the fact that she doesn’t let her impairments slow her down. She gave books (Beyond the Flames; A Family Touched by Fire— the book I wrote about her burn accident and how it changed our lives) to some of them. Today she received a letter from one, thanking her and Bob for “taking the time to treat us as people.” This young man has been in and out of prison since he was 11. He said he’d never met anyone who actually cared, and that those four days meant a lot — he would never forget the encouragement she and Bob gave him.
Granddaughter Heather was home for a week (fall break) and enjoyed helping her folks work cattle, including preg-checking and vaccinating our small herd. It was great to see her again. She’s enjoying her second year at Carroll College.
Nick has been doing well in track meets this fall, always placing first for Salmon on the 5,000 metre cross country races. Lynn and I watched him run at his home meet a week ago, and Nick was first for Salmon again. It was an exciting finish as he and a boy from Leadore came in third and fourth, with Nick coming up from behind and almost passing him at the finish line. Today is the district meet in Boise.
Last Sunday Andrea’s kids came home from church with us again, and went for another ride. This time I was able to take two at once. Emily rode Ed while Dani rode Veggie, then Charlie rode Ed and Sammy rode Veggie. Andrea brought Dani out again one day after kindergarten and the three of us rode for more than an hour, with Dani riding solo all the way. The old horse took good care of her and didn’t try to jump the gullies or hurry home.
Michael and Carolyn are trying to stretch their pastures until they ship calves later this month. They need to find a place to buy, rather than leasing several little places and travelling back and forth so much. They’ve been looking at ranches for sale on the Internet and will probably take a trip to Wyoming later this fall to look at several. Ranches in our valley are too high priced to ever pay for them by raising cattle. We hate to see them moving farther away, but we also want them to succeed — and they can’t continue to operate in such a strung out situation with such high expenses. We hope they can find a place they can afford to buy.
HeatherSmithThomasrancheswithher husbandLynnnearSalmon,Idaho.Contact herat208-756-2841