Monday, October 31, 2016

A Pepper Tale

Note: I told an expanded version of this story in The Western Farmer-Stockman several years ago, but it should be new to most of you.

Hubby was raised—along with four brothers, a sister, dairy cattle, sheep, and chickens—on a ranch near Fishtail, Montana. The kids showed their sheep in 4-H; Hubby and his sister, Nancy, also had horse projects.

One day, their brother, Dale, took Nancy’s mare, Cocoa, for a ride with his friend, Jim. The latter rode a young stallion which he was training for someone else. Jim really liked the stud, a smart, tough Appaloosa which had been found running with mustangs in the Missouri Breaks.

Cocoa happened to be in heat. Neither Dale nor Jim had permission from the horses’ owners, but they decided to let nature take its course. To this illegitimate union, a speckled gray filly named Pepper was born. Folks said she looked just like a Nez Perce horse. 

After Hubby’s folks retired and moved to town, Pepper came to Hubby’s place. Oddly enough, Pepper despised cows and looked for any excuse to bite them. On the other hand, she readily bonded to people, sheep, and dogs, preferring their company even to that of horses.

Although she was small, Pepper proved scrappy and sure-footed, so Hubby decided she’d be perfect for elk hunting. He hauled her in a stock rack on his 1958 Chevy pickup. To make it easier for Pepper to jump aboard, he’d back the truck up to a hillside. Pepper relished their expeditions into the Beartooth Mountains; however, after one cold, snowy hunt along Rock Creek, Pepper was so eager to go home that she leaped into the truck before Hubby could back it up to a slope.

When Hubby’s brother, Loren, took a job herding sheep for MSU’s Red Bluff Ranch, he needed a good horse. Pepper joined Loren, his dogs, and a thousand head of ewes on the Madison River. Pepper loved the work. She never strayed from Loren's side and helped him keep watch for bears.

Gallatin National Forest rules required sheep to be bedded on fresh ground every night, so Loren and company soon adjusted to nomadic life. An avid history buff, Loren rode bareback and used an Indian-made bridle. He built an authentic Crow teepee, which Pepper pulled from camp to camp with a travois. At the end of the day, Loren and Pepper loved to swim in any nearby pond or creek.

In time, Loren took a new herding job up on Grove Creek near the Beartooths, where sheep were safe from bears but not coyotes or death camas. This photo of Loren and Pepper was taken there by a photographer from the Stillwater County News.

Loren passed away about 30 years ago. No one recalls what happened to Pepper. My guess: that horse is up above, grazing next to Loren's teepee.


"You might expect rivers to run backwards as any man born free to be contented penned up." ~Hinmatóowyalahtq̓it (Chief Joseph), Nez Perce 

Friday, October 28, 2016


Our bales are held together with stretchy plastic net wrap. 

Net wrap is also the construction material of choice for most of the local songbirds. 

We use a flatbed trailer to haul hay from fields to haystacks. 

Panda also uses the trailer--for shade. 

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." ~Romans 8:28 NLT 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

La Peinture

One of the highlights of my recent visit to Boston was a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite being rather underdressed in my boot-cut jeans and plaid flannel shirt ensemble. (It helped to imagine my fellow patrons wearing their fancy duds in rural Wyoming.)

Maybe because I was missing the farm,  of my favorite paintings was She-Goat (Rosa Bonheur, 1822-1899).

Back home, Mademoiselle Blueberry and company sun themselves in similar fashion every morning after breakfast. 

"I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch." ~Gilda Radner 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Maxwell and Billy

In contemporary Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat terms, our little Maxwell is a buck. But his orneriness, audacity, and offensive odor are typical billy goat. 

When Hubby was a kid, his dad kept a big black and brown billy goat to protect his sheep. He's not sure whether it was Billy's horned hostility that repelled coyotes--or his stench. 

Hubby says that Billy also came in handy for deterring overly persistent traveling salesmen. When Billy leapt onto and danced upon the tops of their fancy cars, the angry salesmen couldn't leave the farm fast enough. 

Billy liked to bunt the kids unless their dad armed them with a big stick. He kept a respectful distance from Hubby's mom though. He never forgot how ferociously she'd chased him out of her yard that time she'd caught him eating her flowers.

One day, I found Maxwell repeatedly bunting a little sapling. He paid no mind to my attempts to rescue the tree, that is until I dumped a bucket of water on him. (Goats hate to get wet. I think they're afraid they'll dissolve.)

My advice to delivery drivers or traveling salesmen whose work brings you to our place: consider carrying a squirt gun. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hallelujah Season

Autumn is busy tucking in the northland for a long winter's nap. We franchers* spent most of the summer prepping for winter. (On our place that means irrigating, haying, gardening, and fencing to manage pastures.) We still have much to do before the mercury plummets, but sublime working conditions and bountiful harvests make nearly every job a joy. 


"October is a hallelujah! reverberating in my body year-round...." ~John Nichols, The Last Beautiful Days of Autumn 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Signs of the Times

Madam Winter crashed Lady Autumn's party.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." ~Hebrews 13:8 NKJV 

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Irrigating is fun and rewarding; unirrigating, much less so. 

Disconnecting nearly a mile of irrigation pipe--most of which are stuck tightly together with mud--is tough.  Loading the 170 unruly, bouncy, 55 to 85 pound, 30 foot long pipes onto the trailer is tough. Unloading and stacking them is tough. 

Sometimes I wonder if Hubby and I are tough enough for the job. We spread the work over several days, though, and we always pray first. (If we were much younger, the prayers wouldn't be so necessary.)

We're thankful for the pipe, and the strength to heave and hoist them, but we'd be even more grateful for a pivot sprinkler like the one across the canal.(Part of our neighbor's sprinkler can be seen in the top photo, if you squint.)

I wish Hubby still coached high school football. He could schedule workouts in our hayfields. 

"What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds." ~Will Rogers