Monday, June 27, 2011

The Great Spirit's light-show

We've been having regular sky shows out here for the past couple of weeks. Thunderstorms move through, sometimes lighting up the late afternoon sky in spectacular fashion, and then pass on. But last night took the cake. The whole sky, across the entire horizon, was ablaze with other-worldly color, and all moving at impressive speed. Photographs (And these are not Photoshopped! Taken a few minutes apart, one to the north and one to the south.) cannot come close to doing justice to the massive expanse and reach of the spectacle. I've never seen anything quite like it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

That turkey hen... still hanging around, after more than a month. I mentioned before that I have seen her with a couple of wee poults, but I haven't seen them in quite awhile and I fear the worst has happened to them as she appears to be alone now.

The other day I cut grass in front of the shop building and the next morning she spent about an hour pecking through it looking for goodies. Later I went out and spread some cracked corn and mixed birdseed for her.

Then, the very next day, I was watching the dogs run around the front area and suddenly became aware that she was perched on a piece of lumber near the target butt, apparently watching the fun. The dogs seemed oblivious of her presence and I suspect that turkeys do not put down much scent or they would have been on to her. I've also noticed that when Jack watched her from inside he doesn't get very excited about her. I suspect she may be too big for him to associate her with "bird." Emma had a similar ho-hum reaction a couple of years ago when we flushed one out of some tall grass near the house.

I don't want her to get too comfortable here, as that could be dangerous for her. But she's welcome to stay as long as she likes.

(You might have to enlarge the photo to see her perched in the right background. Just click on it to do that.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prairie weather— and plenty of it

Shortly after my last post I succumbed to some sort of fast-moving virus (I assume) donated to me by a kind soul who chose to come to the branding while ailing. Thus I have been absent for a while...

Lately, we've been getting our share of "prairie weather" and then some. Every day, in late afternoon or early evening the sky darkens, the winds ramp up, and the clouds begin to rush by. Sometimes it sounds like freight trains are running right by us, throttles wide open, wheels flashing sparks in the wild air. It can be very scary, but it is also exhilarating. It's also instructive to be reminded from time to time just exactly how small and insignificant you really are.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Big doins'

I went to a 25-rider round-up and branding today on a friend's ranch. Ever since I busted myself up five or six years ago being foolish, I no longer do any real work at these things— except for pushing the shutter button. Nevertheless, the noise, the dust, the smoke, and the need to be always watching for careering high-strung horses and excited cattle just plain wears me out.

I missed few round-ups while I was in Ireland and now I'm sorta playing catch-up.

But its great fun to meet the neighbors, see some fine horsemanship and roping, and listen to a lot of lies and then all go back to HQ and have a big feed afterwards. Part work, part social.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New momma

Turkeys come through here all the time, sometimes in flocks of a dozen or more. But for the past couple of weeks there has been a lone hen here that I've seen a couple of times a day. Lately she has gotten more and more skittish and wild and yesterday I discovered why. I saw her in the grass out by the mailbox and this time she was with two wee poults. Two was all I saw, but there could easily have been more. No pix of the babies yet but I'll keep watching for them.

GSP + barbed wire =

At least I suspect it was wire. Em has been very good (or very lucky) about barbed wire in her life and this is the first real gash she's gotten. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to have gotten into ligament or beneath the first couple of layers and is clean wound. Also, doesn't seem to be bothering her at all, even when I cleaned it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Birthday Boy

Later this week my lad Beau Jack (Jack for short, sometimes "Hey, you!") turns one year old.

It has been an interesting year with him. I was more than a little leery of adding a third dog to the family, but it was time to bring on an apprentice for Emma as she ages and Jack was "available." The winter with a new pup was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. He learned quickly, was housebroken with relative ease, and seemed to genuinely want to please and do the right thing. These are characteristics not always associated with male GSP puppies.

In retrospect I am so glad that I was foolish enough to take the checkbook when I went "just to look" because all-in-all Jack has been a delight. He got along famously with the girls from day one and continues to be a joy-bringer: his tail going a mile a minute most of the day. I don't think he's had a grumpy day since he came to us. He likes other dogs without any need to be either aggressive or submissive. He's a great watchdog, but if I say they're OK he's accepting of a stranger on the place. He's a good traveler and thinks the Rhino and the truck belong to him and that he lets me use them from time to time.

In addition to all this, he is crazy for birds. Any birds! In the front area he will stalk robins, sparrows, whatever, for hours on end— striking the most stately poses and points and thoroughly enjoying himself. I sit on the deck and watch him, relishing the pleasure he takes in everything. This fall should go down a treat for both of us, as well as Em who lives for those cool mornings and the sight and sound of a Browning sliding out of its case.

Happy birthday, Jack. Many, many more to come, bud.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The old craft

Today I spent a part of a beautiful morning out in the shop molding up some bullets and making some ingots from my raw lead stock. A long, long time ago I used to mold all my bullets because it was the only way I could afford to shoot as much as I wanted to. My dad bought me one of the first Ruger Blackhawk .357s and a couple of bullet molds and I was hooked.

Later, when I had a little money I gave up the molding and bought ready-to-load lead bullets from several suppliers, in bulk. In 2008, with the election of our current anti-gun president, and facing a shortage of store-buyable reloading components I decided to re-institute my bullet-making capability. I bought a bunch of molds to go with the ones I already had, a new furnace, all the other gear, and was in business again.

Lead hasn't been a problem. Like many reloaders who come out of a relatively poor childhood I am an addicted brass and lead scrounger. I never weighed it, but even before I stared molding again I probably had almost a thousand pounds of lead in the shop and keep getting more all the time. The primer shortage may have finally broken, but I already had a good supply on hand.

It's nice to be back in the molding game. I have molds for all my principal firearms and feel downright self-sufficient.

[The bullets in the photograph are .452/255s and .357/158s. They were all thrown from Lee aluminum molds, something I would have sniffed at in the old days. But they do an excellent job and I am now an enthusiastic fan of them.]

The acid test

Dogs like to chase deer. The deer run; the dog chases. Until I broke her of it my first Shorthair was a passionate deer-chaser.

Today I was molding bullets and casting lead ingots in the shop when I looked up to see three whitetails about 60 yards away giving us the eyeball (see arrows above). Jack gave them eyeball back and when they turned to leave he started to give chase. I gave him a "Jack! No!" and he stopped in his tracks, turned and came back, and just watched them go over the fence and off onto the prairie.

Folks who don't live with hunting dogs might not realize what a Big Deal that was for me. (And him, too!) He is not quite a year old, all-boy, all-hunter. I chalk it up in the major accomplishment column for him to be so responsive under these circumstances.

In case anybody has so far missed the point— I really like this dog.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A well-spent first of June

Livestock auctions, especially the long-standing ones, are good places to get the feel of a place, or a region in my case since the nearest one is about 70 miles from me. But I went over today for their fiftieth anniversary and recognition day. They've been in business a long time and made many friends over those years.

Lots of old timers, lots of big hats, big belt buckles, fancy boots, well-worn jeans, and good old-time manners. No eye contact without a nod, a smile, a wave, a howdy— and eye contact was sought not avoided. None of this furtive turning away real-quick-like when somebody looks at you, as is the urban standard. I guess that's a picky, little thing. But not for me.

A good place to "see who lives here." And to see a little bit of what they're like. I feel the results were well worth the trip.