On the Ranch...

On the Ranch Journal
August, 2000
by Cris Paravicini

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Super C Mower
Super C Mower
The month of the fires. . .

August 1 - Wildfires
August 2 - First day of haying
August 3 - Spanky
August 4 - Dog manners
August 5 - Tramp's education
August 7 - Where only a tractor can tame
August 10 - Fires
August 12 - Major metal fatigue
August 14 - Fires everywhere
August 16 - Halfway mark
August 20 - Dog Clinic
August 21 - Wild Wind Whippings
August 22 - Confused Wild Critters
August 25 - Finished Horse Creek
August 26 - Blind Bull
August 27 - DONE haying
August 28 - Chores
August 29 - Catch-up
August 30 - Friends
August 31 - Something BIG in the coop

Rib-Stickin' Ranch Vittles
The Littlest Hay Hand
When A Pony Dies

August Journal

Rustic reflections
Rustic reflections...


Tuesday, August 1 Still hot, dry, and smoky!  Many fires are burning in our neighboring states, and several forest fires, caused by lightning or campfires, are raging in our own mountains. The sunsets, though, have been awesome! Winds have stirred the wildfires into great columns of swirling smoke that dance before each setting sun. This evening, old Sol looked like a giant, inflamed eye peering through the veil of smoke. Its somber, burning stare made the river look like a long crimson-red ribbon. Despite my burning eyes and the tangy smell in the air, the painted atmosphere is beautiful. 
   Weather seems to be changing, however. The air was sultry this a.m. and a few dark clouds boiled up in the West. Cross your fingers! We need the moisture, even if it is our haying season.

First day of haying

Wednesday, August 2 Our first day of haying. We started mowing hay in the Cora Valley. Really stirs up the meadow-fresh scent of clover and timothy. We'll roll up the cured grass into 3/4-ton round bales within the next couple of days. And every evening for the next 3 - 4 weeks, we'll listen to that old, familiar hum of grinding sickles and watch the sparks fly as the sharpening stone smoothes the nicks and blunt edges from each sickle section.


Thursday, August 3  More clouds forming, but quite windy and much cooler. The gusts will further dry out the countryside - but - maybe the wild wind is just trying to blow in a rainstorm; I can hear the mournful lowing of the West Wind and smell its sage perfume as it curls its way through my window screens.
   The hay is still too green to bale, so the stacking crew trimmed horses' hooves this morning. With his founder foot condition, it was time for Spanky the pony (and some of his big horse buddies) to pass by the nippers. Spanky's about 10 years old and quite possibly could live for another two decades, so we want to keep up on his manicure appointments. We once had a little, white, Welsh pony named Sugar that lived well into her 30s; raised lots of kids - including my son - and taught 'em how to race the wind with nary a kick, bite, bounce, or bobble. When she died several years ago, we mourned the loss of this great family member. (Read "When A Pony Dies" in the storybook pages.)

Dog manners

Friday, August 4 Nice rain during the night! Put us out of the hayfield for most of today, but welcome any time! 
     The dog herd and I are still practicing our manners and heeling lessons on the corral critters. Unlike the sheep and chickens, Belle, the milk cow calf, really is quite patient with all my fumblings and failures in trying to convince three young cowdogs to work in harmony. As the dogs do their cowdog thing, Belle just rises and stretches and ho-hums one or two circles around the corral, then makes her way out the gate to the pasture. Belle's indifferent. The dogs are thrilled. And I'm proud of 'em all - sort of... We are definitely making good progress with each passing day, but the three dogs got together the other day and entered me in the working cowdog clinic at our County Fair tomorrow morning. Guess they think I need a few lessons to help me understand exactly what's on their minds whenever all hell breaks loose at the corral. Tramp, the orphan, drew the short straw and will accompany me to the new Ag Barn tomorrow morning for more training. Maybe the pros can line us out a little bit. I shall let y'all know how much dust we stir up!

Tramp's Education

Saturday, August 5 The Education of Little Tramp: Tramp and I headed off to the County Fair this morning.  I know. I should have been in the hayfield, but I just couldn't miss the working cowdog clinic today. And as I scanned the crowd of dog lovers, who had gathered in the new, awesome, climate-controlled Ag Center, I could see that other folks were equally interested in this event. They brought along their big dogs, little dogs, good dogs, misunderstood dogs, dogs that knew the ropes and those that didn't. There were polite nippers and flesh eaters, and hounds of bloodlines that I had no idea would even be interested in a sheep or a cow. Yep! But, we all had one thing in common: We loved dogs! And we had but one goal in mind: Have fun while learning more about what's really going on between the ears of our dogs.

Our instructors - Stan Slagowski of Manila, Utah and Mark Henderson of Deer Trail, Colorado, both dog trial winners, working stockmen, and experienced clinicians, had traveled a great distance to give this clinic.

I was impressed with Stan's opening demo. With only a special whistle that sounded much like a lonesome curlew with the hiccups, Stan sat on horseback at one end of the arena and put his award-winning dog, Dot, through a series of effective maneuvers on three head of range yearlings. By using varying whistle chirps, Stan coached and encouraged Dot to quietly move the cattle toward him. "This is a working partnership where neither one of you is on your own," he emphasized.

Throughout the morning, the level of excitement for the dogs was tightly wound - much like turning a bunch of country kids loose at a three-ring circus or herding them into a classroom on their first day of school. While Stan gave lessons on the cattle, Mark and his good dog, Birch, commandeered the sheep pen, where we each waited for our turn to stir up some well-fed, sporting sheep. 

At home, I had "untrained" Tramp's natural instinct to dizzily circle the critters, then run 'em over the top of me. Because I figured that most of the time we'd be driving cattle down the trail - away from us and not to us, I had happily proceeded to break up what I saw as a bad habit. 

I learned, however, that there is a time and a place for "circling thewagons," as I shall call it - times when you want to stop and mother theherd or shift directions or bring a handful of livestock into the bunch from the sides. But, the main thing I gained from the day (and what I feel is most important) is to get good control and respect from your dog - bond, if you will - before showing him much livestock of any size. Especially, though, do not rush his training sessions.

When it was Tramp's and my turn to enter the sheep ring, the little stray was asked to circle the sheep a few times. Then, in an effort to drive the ewes and lambs toward us, Mark stepped into a stance that caused the dog to make only half-circles behind the flock. Tramp actually did a
pretty, darned, good job. He only heeled the instructor once in his excitement to latch onto something. And whenever his energy made him temporarily deaf, and he shoved the ewes up way too close and personal, they would bleat notes that sounded something like this: "H-e-l-l-l-p

The entire morning seemed to "fair"ly well bounce right along. I'm glad I played hooky from the hayfield, because I got to meet and visit with lots of nice folks and learned much from two knowledgeable men who were willing to share their expertise. And it sounds like more of this exciting, heel bitin' action might be happening at the Sublette County Ag Center - when the work's all done this fall! 

Where only a tractor can tame

Monday, August 7 Yes, we're heavy into haying, and about now, we start recalling all the past seasons of the hay and the many hay crews that have passed over these hallowed fields. In fact, one of our former, little lady hay hands emailed me the other day. What she said was so  beautiful, I just have to share it with you. Beth wrote, "Around this time of year, my heart goes
into a special beat that only a tractor can tame, my soul and being long for the days of sun kissed labor, and I desire to see my accomplishments strewn about. I really missed haying."

Yes, many hay hands have come and gone over the years - young ones, old ones, men, women, boys, and girls. Each one always touches a special spot in our hearts. And hopefully, as each hay hand heads into his or her next adventure, somewhere down the road, each will carry along a little piece of our hearts.

Please read my story-poem - THE LITTLEST HAY HAND - about a young boy, who one haying season wanted a job so badly, he could hardly stand it.


Thursday, August 10 Fires burning all around us in our mountains. We can see all of them as they start up, from our vantage-point in the hay meadows. Watching the little curls of smoke awaken and swirl skyward, then become angry, out-of-hand wild fires makes us feel very helpless. Lucky for us, the valleys and meadows are still green and damp from the summer's
irrigation water. Because of the fires and smoke-filled valleys, many of the mid-August birds - the blackbirds, cowbirds, sandhill cranes, and blue herons have disappeared. Must have packed their bags and headed out early, somehow sensing the fire danger. But, we hayhands just keep going to and from the fields, rubbing our burning eyes, watching the horizon for more fires to sprout, and trying to round up the short hay crop.

Major metal fatigue

Saturday, August 12 One of our mowers, a Super C Farmall, keeps breaking down. It's nearly ready for retirement - old, brittle, and petrified with major metal fatigue.

Fires everywhere

Monday, August 14 Despite lots of sunscreen, the hay hands' lips are splitting and bleeding and noses, peeling. Even the full moon's face appears sunburned from the heat and smoke.

If not for the fires and smoke, though, it would be considered a nearly perfect hay day - hot, dry, lots of sunshine, and not too much wind. Prime hay-curing weather. 

I went to get the mail at dark-thirty, tonight. To the East, I could see an enormous red glow from the Half Moon Lake fire. Then, on the way home, to the West, a fiery ball loomed on the horizon from the Upper Hoback/Blind Bull fire. And there's a "bonfire" spitting flames to the South of us, too...

Halfway mark

Wednesday, August 16 Seems we're burning up. And what a waste! All that firewood, fence posts, housing material, and wildlife - up in flames and smoke - and especially, the risk of human life as hot shots and smoke jumpers walk and jump into the eye of the flame. Thanks for their extreme efforts! 

Dang, with all this smoke and heat, I feel like a bug in a smudge pot or a turkey in a smoker. But, we Sublette County dwellers are tough old birds, and we ain't done yet!!

 ...On the bright side, we're just past the halfway mark with our haying effort and are "clipping" right along...

A big boar
A big boar

Dog Clinic

Sunday, August 20 Time and fires were racing each other last week, so we didn't get to share Cris, Stan and Trampthe dog clinic pictures with you. Here, Tramp and I are doing our level best to learn something!

Wild Wind Whippings

Monday, August 21 At the crest of evening tide, a strong wind threatened to blow the hay windrows into the next county. But, we fooled it - only had about ten rows raked ahead of the baler, so Rudy quickly caught up and put 'em in such a form (1/2-ton bales) as to defeat the wind's wild whippings.

Round Baler
Confused Wild Creatures

Tuesday, August 22 I'm raking beside Horse Creek today. The poor creek has dried up in many places, but springs do intermittently feed it, keeping the livestock and wildlife's thirst satisfied. Currently, about 150 antelope don't know whether to sit tight or pack up and head south. They'll bed down in the fresh grass stubble and chew their cuds for a while, then jump and run like their tails are on fire. Might be, with all the fires surrounding us. Not only the antelope, but all the wild creatures seem confused and scared by the smoke, fires, shriveled food sources, and vanishing water. Their instincts, though, appear to be guiding them to the last fresh blades of hope in the valleys. This fall, it seems we'll be sharing our meager waterholes, hay crop, and pasture grass with the wild game. Been there and done that before. Wouldn't turn 'em away even if we could. Desperate times.

Finished Horse Creek

Fixin the CFriday, August 25 Finished the Horse Creek hay project and will move the equipment to the home meadow while tomorrow's morning dew is on the swathe (mown hay at rest). 

Blind Bull

Saturday, August 26 By dusk, a heavy, woody smoke from the Blind Bull forest fire rolled silently across the valley floor, swallowing everything in its path - sage, willows, cottonwoods, milk cows, chickens, kids, dogs, and the hay crew. But, shortly, a glowing orange and copper sunset made us forget our burning throats and watery eyes, and our pitifully dry, Dry, DRY countryside.

DONE haying!

Sunday, August 27 Yea! We finished raking and baling this afternoon beneath a bank of foolishly dry, but teasing, black clouds. Just have some round bales to stack and we are done, Done, DONE haying! Yes! 
     This evening, I bid my little pony adieu. He'll be living with my sister and brother-in-law for a stretch of time, because my little niece and nephew are now old enough to learn to ride with the wind.


Monday, August 28 Stacking round bales, putting machinery away, mowing dry yard grass (a huge fire hazard)...


Tuesday, August 29 Again, stacking bales, cleaning and freshening dog kennels, hen houses, and barns. Dusting forgotten furniture, folding piles of clothes, and fixin' supper for the stacking and bale hauling crew... (Check out the new section: RIB-STICKIN' RANCH VITTLES!)


Wednesday, August 30 At dawn, overcast skies and dripping dry rain. But, it is promising to be a set-in drizzle...perchance! 
     And just when my spirits can't decide "weather" to "spring" or "fall," a happy, little email drops like a warm rain from Heaven and lands softly in my drought-ridden mailbox.  Maxine Goede - a friend of mine from my little hometown of Daniel - sent me this hopeful message.  I would like to share it with you: 
      "Don't you just love fall?!!  I do.  It seems everything is breathing a sigh of relief; the crops are in (mostly!), the animals have produced their new offspring, we have enjoyed the warmth & sun & flowers & green grass & blue sky & now it is time to prepare for a new season of God's & nature's gifts.  The brilliance of summer is now waning into the warm shades of fall.  Rich golds & gentle browns & soft greens seem to caress our senses, filling us with "Thanksgiving" for all our blessings.  It is our gentle time before the harshness of winter.  Even the sounds have changed.  The leaves in the wind whisper in a dry voice, warning of more cool, frosty nights to come.  The birdcalls carry an urgency, warning that all must ready for migration to warmer climates.  And the beasts of the forests become restless, answering their built in urge to finish their foraging or search out groups for breeding in order to carry on their natural cycles.  It is a good time; a time of fulfillment, a time of slowing down, a time of reflection. Fall.  Even the word brings to mind a downswing of the pendulum of life. Hope you have a great week." 
     Don't you just love friends?!!

Something BIG in the coop

Thursday, August 31 Still raining! Big puddles! Yes! Fires begone! 
     Grain-hungry blackbirds have been stirring up dusty trouble in the hen house every night at closing time, and now, during the wee morning hours, something BIG is trying to steal into the coop! The beast pulls the door open (until now, I've just been propping it shut with a pitchfork), then it stirs in the grain and leftover table scraps. Makes one devil of a mess and doesn't even close up when it leaves, come first light. Chickens (all still alive, but flighty) are scattered from hell to breakfast each morning. Guess I'd better set a live trap and see what turns up. Hmmm...?
   Now that haying is over, I've got my eye on Sunny. Yes, Sunny, the beautiful, but forgotten colt, now nearly eighteen months old! I've sorely neglected to keep you updated on his progress, and I apologize. Next week, I'll fill you in on the missing months of Sunny Boy...

Rib-Stickin' Ranch Vittles

The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be reached by e-mail at: cowgirl@wyoming.com.

Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted, Cris Paravicini, 1999-2000. Drawing of Daniel Schoolhouse by Teresa Shenefelt. No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.

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