It's round-up and branding season again. It's a good time to see what life is like here on the High Plains, and have some fun at it, too.
I enjoy the sights and sounds of these days. Neighbors and friends gather to help with the work, and then to share a "feed" and good conversation. It's hard, dangerous work but it's gone at with skill and enthusiasm. It's considered a good day if no one gets hurt and the work gets done with cool efficiency. Funny, but at these events there is hardly ever any direction given by the hosting rancher. He doesn't have to. Everybody just swings in and does what needs to be done. No questions asked.
These round-ups and brandings are indeed hard work for all, but they are also the social events of the year.
That was a popular Confederate marching song. There are several more verses.
I am partial to salted-in-the-shell peanuts and I brought a few pounds of them back on my latest supply run. The dogs share my interest in goober peas. Actually, that is an understatement. They are passionate about them!I can't sit on the deck and have a few without the "peanut gallery showing up and wanting their fair share. I'm aware of the cautions about nuts for dogs, but a normal shucking session doesn't give them more than about a half dozen each— while I struggle to get a few for myself! (I've experimented with just giving them the peanuts in the shell. They will crush the shells and extract the nuts, but they would rather I do that for them.)
By the way, a shelled peanut is about the only comestible that changes Mag's usual exaggerated food-caution. If I offer her a morsel of steak, she will sniff it and inspect it for a second or two before taking it. And there will be the same ritual for the second, third, and fourth helping. But a peanut she snags without delay, inspection, or suspicion. Goodness, how delicious!
The buffalo are well into their calving season. These little guys can run within scant minutes of birth. Great fun watching them enjoy their new environment. Moms and Pops are extremely vigilant at this time and it pays to keep your distance. They are not normally aggressive, but this time of year they can get very cranky and are picky about the company they keep.
The First of May and what do we wake up to? Four inches on the ground and still coming down right briskly. The day before had been shirt-sleeve weather. That's the High Plains for you. And this might not be the last one either.
The fire that almost burned me out last August swept across a swath about twenty miles long before it got to me. This is a view of what it left behind. Nothing. Hardly a blade of grass in sight, and it goes for miles. Even with a wet spring and summer it will take ten to fifteen years for this part of the range recover. Maybe longer. Meanwhile, the sand is moving, moving. In places it will cover the road in a year or two. This may seem like tough, hardy, robust country and in many ways it is. But it's also as fragile as tundra.
A few days ago I noticed that the dogs were very interested in something over behind some big bales. I was unhappy to find it was a dead muley doe. It looked like an older deer and there were no signs of anything but a natural death. The coyotes had already been at her pretty good and the dogs found the whole thing fascinating— even Mags, the Boston. (It isn't polite anymore to call her a "Boston Terrorist.") I hooked it up to the Rhino and we towed it out on the prairie. I haven't checked, but I'm sure that by now (two days later) there is nothing left. Coyotes are fast and thorough workers.
One of my neighbors also has a Shorthair and he and his and Jack and I spent last Sunday tramping the hills and doing a little bird hunting. It's very pleasant to have 90,000 acres all to yourself. There were plenty of birds. One rise had at least fifty birds and most of them appeared to be roosters. The dogs had a wonderful day and it was great fun to watch their pleasure and enthusiasm.
A very welcome thaw over the last couple of days. Almost a heat wave compared to what we have been having. 35° at 10 a.m. is a gift indeed. Today it pushed up toward the mid-50s by noon with wonderful sun and balmy breezes. The dogs were over the moon with happiness. I could hardly get Jack to come inside all day.
We usually have a False Spring in January. Sometimes it lasts a week or more. According to the weather boffins this one is supposed to come and go for a while. As long as it stays within reach that’s OK by me.
Jack and Emma don't take No for an answer when it comes to the afternoon ramble. We GO, and that's all there is to it. Mags, however, has been begging off in the intense cold we have had lately. She has no tolerance for it, and more than once I have had to carry her back to the house when she bit off more than she could chew in her "go with" enthusiasm. She's a pathetic sight hobbling along on what she claims to be frozen tootises.
If you click on the picture of Jack and Em it will enlarge and you can see the deer up on the mountain, watching our progress down below. The dogs more or less ignore them, even when they're in the yard. They do not chase them, and I'm glad I never had to break them of that bad habit.
I guess that's what some folks would call where I live: "the unpopulated zone." But that just applies to people. Otherwise, there's nothing unpopulated about it.
I had to go to town on some errands y'day, something I rarely do, and on the way home I saw the scenes above. The mulies, 16 of them, are clustered near an old ghost town about three crow-fly miles from me. The antelope were a couple miles north of that point.
I glassed the deer to see if any of them were from my bunch that hangs around the house. None were that I could tell. That's probably because when I got home I found my nine all hunkered down on the front yard. The antelope bunch was one pod of a large herd of about a hundred that split up as my truck got near. They are lots spookier and more skittish than the mulies.
Sub-zero almost every night. Even Action Jackson doesn't want to stay out for very long. We still get our daily ramble but lately they have been very short indeed. We're do for a False Spring and it could come at any time for all of me. -16° gets old mighty quick.
Yesterday when we went out for our ramble (the same day we discovered the GHO), the dogs had been very antsy about getting out of the house and went right to the old shop/garage that is close to the house. Later I discovered the reason. I saw a shape against the dying light and when I went around to the other side I found a cat up in the shop 'attic' watching me through the copious spaces in the ramshackle old building's shake roof.
It didn't seem particularly alarmed and I chatted at it for a few minutes. I'm not really keen on having cats around, but if they are pulling their end and stay out of the way of the dogs (and do not use the garden as a sandbox) I try to be tolerant. I have no idea where they come from, but they rarely stay long. Eventually the coyotes get them.
By the way, that old dilapidated, dirt-floor shop building, about 15x20', is said to have been the first building on the place. The original homesteaders lived in it for the first two years while they were proving up the place. So says their grandson. This would have been about 1913. Those would have been some hard, hard winters.