For the Love of Montana.

You know how the Montana license plates say– Big Sky Country?  It’s true.  Big.  Sky.  Impressive big sky.  I’ve never seen such a big sky in all my life.

license plateSo my daughter and son in law live on 8000 acres stretching from the foothills right up the sides of the Crazies.  (The Crazies are so named because of the legend of a crazy woman living there all alone.)

The Crazies.

The Crazies.

One might think 8000 acres can support a herd of Angus cows 8000 strong.  Not so.  8000 acres can support a herd of 200-300 heifers and their calves, plus the bulls and horses.  Everything depends upon grass.  Green grass and plenty of it.  At least the area finally got some rain.

But it’s not just the cattle and the horses I love, it’s the wildlife.  You see, ranchers in Montana share their land with many other inhabitants.  A lone wolf was spotted just a month ago, although I didn’t see him while I was there.  Badgers dig holes that can break a horse’s leg and kill an unsuspecting rider.  Badgers are cranky.  I avoid them.  Golden eagles fly alongside pickup trucks.  A fox raises her four kits not 200 yards from the back door of the ranch house.  Watching those kits cavort at sunrise and sunset is pure delight.

The kits.

The kits.

Antelope, white-tailed deer and mule deer graze alongside the cattle.  Elk bugle all day long– there are massive elk herds just above the foothills.  The ranch is part of a reserve where the male elk are enormous and carry enormous racks. And yes, there are bears.  Black bears and grizzly.  My second day there I had to drive my rented Jeep waaaaay up into the mountains to pick up the fencing party after their vehicle broke down.  When I reached the end of the passable trail and climbed out of the Jeep to search for them, the first thing I noticed were huge bear tracks.  The second thing was a female elk with her calf standing not a hundred feet from me.

elk

Bull Elk.

Yellowstone is a scant 165 miles from the ranch but who needs to visit Yellowstone when you are living in the midst of such wilderness?

 

Thursdays with Jake- The Miracle.

Those of you who know me best know the main reason I spend time in Montana.  A little over a year ago my older daughter married a Montana rancher– and there’s a larger story behind that which will have to wait for another time.

Ranching is, well, it’s a way of life, it’s a religion, it’s a passion, it’s a labor of love and devotion and sacrifice, and it’s also dangerous.

Yesterday our beloved and adored son in law was in an accident.  He and our daughter had been on horseback, working cows, for twelve hours.  They put up the horses and she headed back to the house in the truck, he headed up to a pasture a mile beyond their house to check on some fences.  He took the four-wheeler because the horses were tired, he needed to carry tools and the ‘mule’ is too slow.

He wasn’t doing anything unusual, as in he wasn’t driving in a reckless manner.  As he headed up the rutted dirt road, a cow and calf darted in front of him.  (Normally cows and calves move away from the four-wheeler so you can pretty much ignore them.) Our son in law tried to brake and he swerved, hit a rut, and the four-wheeler flipped. As he says, he went ass over teakettle.

His guardian angel was watching out for him because he landed in a shallow drainage ditch beside the road with the four-wheeler on top of him.  If he hadn’t landed in the drainage ditch he would very likely be dead. He managed to crawl out from under the four-wheeler and reach his cell phone so he could call our daughter.  She’s not exactly cool in an emergency… she sort of goes into shock, but she hauled ass down the road.  She says he looked pretty bad.

This is a ranch.  Eight thousand acres in the middle of nowhere – forty miles from the nearest tiny town.  Our daughter didn’t want to move him so she called a friend– twenty miles away– an EMT.  He drove like a bat out of hell to get there.  He determined our son in law probably did not have a broken neck or a broken back.  Between the two of them, they stabilized him and lifted him into the rescue vehicle.  My daughter followed them into town to the small hospital where they evaluated him and sent him by ambulance to the closest large hospital.

Thanks to his guardian angel, he suffered nothing worse than a badly broken shoulder, humerus and scapula. He has torn ligaments and muscles pulled away from the bone. A specialist has been called in to perform surgery on Friday, to stabilize his shoulder and repair the torn ligaments and muscles.

My son in law will be fine, he’s pissed off as hell, but he’ll be fine.  This is the busiest time of year on the ranch.  There are babies to care for, fences to mend before the cattle are moved up into the mountain pastures– which entails a four day cattle drive on horseback– bulls to move after the cows, hay to plant and harvest, in the meantime all the livestock needs feeding.  At least they’ve already finished branding, vaccines and castration.

I know everyone, all their neighbors, will pull together and help out– ‘Oscar’, our youngest daughter, (even Jake) and I will head up there whenever they need us, if it’s only to cook and clean and feed and support the riders.  I’ll even rake hay… I don’t care.  Whatever they need we’ll do.

Life is messy, folks.  This could have been so much worse.

From my personal wedding album.  The ceremony and reception were held on their ranch, and that’s their truck, not a prop.  Yeah, we hauled in a full bar.:

wedding 2

wedding 4

wedding 3

Back from Big Sky Country!

Close to fifty calves were born while I was there.  We tagged, vaccinated, fed, paired ‘em up, babied the yearling heifers, rode the colts, exercised the experienced horses, cooked, cleaned and even managed a Passover Seder.  There’s little downtime during calving and I cherished every single minute of it.

(Pray for rain, they are in desperate need of it in order to keep their herd.)

Oh, and I bought new cowboy boots at Murdoch’s.  Nice!

Today is the first day I’ve opened my computer in over a week.  It’s been a welcome break.

I’ll begin my new schedule on Monday.  In the meantime enjoy the pics.  I miss my foster calf, Delilah.  She’s a sweetie-pie.  I thought of bringing her home on the plane but alas… This is not City Slickers.

My welcoming committee - the 'girls', yearling heifers.

My welcoming committee – the ‘girls’, yearling heifers.

First morning - Denny and Bo with the 'girls'.

First morning from my window – Denny and Bo, the colts, with the ‘girls’.

Feeding Delilah - this year's only orphan calf.

Feeding Delilah – this year’s only orphan calf.

My daughter and son in law riding Bo and Denny in the dusk.

My daughter and son in law riding Bo and Denny in the dusk.

Sunset behind the Crazies.

Sunset behind the Crazies.

Sunset behind the buttes.

Sunset behind the buttes.

The 'girls' bidding me farewell after breaking into the yard. I had to chase them out.

The ‘girls’ bidding me farewell after breaking into the yard. I had to chase them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change is Coming Here.

Change is good.

It’s time for a change.

Have I mentioned… change?

As Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) says:  The times they are a-changin’.

Well, time to revamp the old blog, be a little more structured, a little less free form.

Here’s what I’m thinking~

1.  Monday Morning Updates – news, links, books I’m reading, movies I’ve seen, interesting weekend activities, plans for the coming week.  Might be a discussion about science fiction, fantasy, my latest Indie Writer discovery or an old favorite.

2.  Tuesday Treats – some kind of deliciousness.  Could be pics of food, a recipe or two, a health tip, maybe even a restaurant review.  (Snark-Snark.)

3.  Wicked Wednesday – a suggestive or sensual scene from one of my books or one of your books.  Maybe from one of my works in progress.  Or I might just quote my sexy husband because he comes up with some doozies.

4.  Thursdays with Jake – hiking with my Jakie-boy.  Birds, balloons, assorted wildlife and crazy tourist sightings.

5.  Fun Friday – anything goes.  Friday will be my free-for-all.

In the meantime I’ll be helping out with calving in Montana – feeding orphaned babies, tagging, chasing mama cows, getting chased by mama cows, pulling babies out– hopefully that’s the worst I’ll have to do.

This is me 2 years ago feeding a baby in sub-zero temps – wearing layer upon layer upon layer.

She was the cutest little calf!

She was the cutest little calf!

On April 6th I’m hosting Indie Writer A.D. Starrling and I have a few projects in the works with J.W. Manus re:  Why Science Fiction is the coolest genre ever.

Laters loves!