Ranch life in the Big Sky state through the eyes of one who has lived through it...so far.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Indian Time

Saturday I finally cracked out and went to a rodeo, my first since July of last summer. Traveled all the way to Standoff, Alberta. To put it in perspective, if it weren't for the ridge north of my house, I could probably see the lights of Standoff from here. 

Normally, we plan to arrive at a rodeo a minimum of an hour before it starts, so we have plenty of time to pay our entry fees, check the schedule of events, the stock draw, saddle and warm up the horses. At most rodeos, over half the contestants will already be riding around the arena by the time we pull in. 

Due to a delay in receiving my horse health papers that necessitated my husband making a run to town on Saturday morning to intercept the vet at the post office, we were running a bit behind. I wasn't particularly concerned. First of all, I knew the breakaway roping was the fifth event. Second, these smaller winter rodeos tend to be pretty laid back. Third, this particular rodeo was sanctioned by the Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association, meaning you had to be of tribal descent to participate. Anyone who's ever spent any time around a reservation is more than familiar with the concept of Indian Time. For those of you who aren't, here's how it works.

Scheduled start time - Twelve Noon

11:20 am - We arrive in Standoff. As usual, we miss the turn to the arena, drive up over the hill and do a U-turn in the hospital driveway. When we pull into the parking lot at the rodeo, only three other rigs have arrived ahead of us. Ember, of course, has gone out of her way to look her stunning best, accenting her wardrobe with a nice roll in the manure before we left home.

11:40 am - We wander inside and find the secretary just setting up to start taking entry fees.

11:58 am - The rodeo announcer begins doing sound checks.

12:25 pm - The stock contractor dumps a few bucking horses into the arena to show them how to find the exit gate. It appears most of the team ropers--the first event of the day--have now arrived.

12:32 pm - Having a Pepsi out in the pickup while my husband attempts to snag a gopher. He expresses his dissatisfaction with modern plastic twine, offering up the opinion that old-fashioned sisal made a much better snare.

12:41 pm - One of the team roping steers lopes past our trailer, with a barrel racer in hot pursuit.

12:48 pm - Someone fires up the tractor and begins to work the arena.

1:13 pm - The rodeo announcer declares it's about time to get started. But first, he offers up a prayer, entirely in the Blood language, which he and many of the other tribal members speak fluently.

 1:15 pm - It's Rodeo Time!

Waiting their turn.

The view from where I sit.

Next year....

You'll notice I haven't mentioned anything about how the roping went. Suffice to say it isn't because I don't want to brag.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Off to South Dakota

No, not really. But I am doing a guest blog today for my online friend and fellow cowgirl Jenn Zeller. And while you're visiting her website, check out the horses. The Ducheneaux ranch raises some nice ones.

Me, I've got the Rusty Tractor Blues.

And a bunch of these running around:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Come On Out

Since a few of my blog readers do live around my local area, I realized I should probably share this information with you. The Friends of the Library in Valier have been kind enough to invite me to be the 'entertainment' at their annual fundraising banquet. This is a whole new thing for me. Let's hope the excitement doesn't come from watching me hyperventilate and pass out. 

In the meantime, today was my turn over at the other blog. Ever wish your spouse was a little LESS supportive? Yeah, me too:  Lack of Support

The Friends of the Library

Annual Dinner
Rounded Rectangle: Sunday, March 28th


Hors d’oeuvres 5:00 PM

Dinner 6:00 PM

Homemade Desserts


Kari Lynn Dell


Jim Lyons

$15.00 per person

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Right on Schedule

In my last post, I may have made mention of the fact that our snow was almost gone. Even posted a picture or two. The weather has been so nice, in fact, that I completely lost my head yesterday and decided to enter a rodeo coming up ten days from now. Got up this morning and went out and captured Ember, my very best roping mare, who only has to play when we're serious.

So of course, by this afternoon:

We were out on the highway because heading north across the border with a horse is not a simple process. It requires a minimum of a week of pre-planning, beginning with a trip to the veterinarian. Border crossings require a blood test known as a Coggins that screens for infectious diseases, plus a general health check, which is sort of a joke because the vet has to just look at the horse and say "Yep, it looks healthy." Then she signs a certificate attesting to that opinion and sends it to the state veterinary office for approval, for which they charge a mere arm and a leg.

The chances of me wanting to haul a horse to a rodeo when it is visibly ill are somewhere between zero and minus one, plus it's good for thirty days and who knows what she'll look like by then, but it is a nice little cash cow for the state and federal vet programs, so I doubt it's going away any time soon.

I will not be going into details about the ordeal of hooking up the trailer. Suffice to say there was mud and ruts and snow coming down sideways and every time I would almost get the ball lined up with the hitch, the back of the pickup would slide one way or the other and it's a good thing our child was not present because he would have come away with an expanded vocabulary.

Eventually, though, we did get hooked up, and I got to the vet clinic on time for our appointment. Had to borrow my parents' rig since ours is a two wheel drive:

For those of you who've never been near one, this is the view inside a slant load horse trailer. It's called a slant load because the horses stand at an angle, not facing directly forward. Research has shown they can balance better in this position as the trailer moves, and experience less fatigue with hauling. The dividers latch on the right side and swing to the left. As each horse is loaded, you swing the divider across and latch it to separate the horses. This is a three horse trailer, with a rear tack compartment in the back left corner.

This is the look Ember gave me when I told her she had to get out and stand in the snow for her exam.

Good thing she had her coat on:

It has stopped snowing now, and they're promising us fifty degrees by Saturday. So maybe I haven't cursed us all with another six weeks of winter by having the gall to poke my head out of my hole and enter a rodeo before the first of June.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Magic Hour

We live approximately twenty miles east of the Continental Divide. The upthrust of the mountains causes turbulence in the atmosphere and creates the wind we so love to complain about. It also creates some very striking cloud patterns, as was in full display tonight at sunset. So now I'm going to shut up, because this is one of those times when I have to just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Oh, just one thing. As you're looking at the pictures, do you see what you don't see? Hint: it's white.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cutting Your Losses

As usual, an anniversary has whizzed past while I was busy doing something else. Lord knows what, from the looks of my house. But yes, as of Monday it has been one year since I started this blog. I am baffled as to how an entire year could have passed without a single mention of my Uncle Rex.

First off, he’s not really my uncle (Yeah, those of you who’ve been following along for a while are stunned. The rest of you might want to read Relatively Speaking). My grandfather (George) and Rex’s father (Bish) were brothers. His mother was Lily, star of one of my very early blogs (Lily’s New Car). All of which makes him my mother’s cousin and some kind of cousin to me, not my uncle, but he is the same age as the rest of my uncles and his daughters are the same age as me (In Dee’s case, almost exactly. She beat me by a couple hours.) It just sounds right to call him Uncle Rex.

Got all that?

Rex is a cowboy. A rancher. A wild horse breaker and a cowman of the truest ilk. I could probably devote an entire blog to his adventures. Trouble is, I hear most of these stories second and third hand, so by the time they get to me, even the cast of characters may have changed. However, there are those who claim some of Rex's stories are at least slightly embellished to begin with, so let's not get too hung up on historical accuracy. Consider this a highly fictionalized version of events related to me by my dad.

The whole thing started innocently enough, with Rex and Ricky, another of the true blue cowmen of our area, out driving around, checking cattle on Rex’s summer lease. They came across a big old high-horned cow dragging what appeared to be a new nylon rope. Obviously, someone had roped her and she’d escaped.

Rex wasn’t too concerned that the neighbor’s cow was eating his grass, but he couldn’t let a perfectly good rope go to waste. He and Ricky contrived a plan whereby one of them would drive up alongside the cow while the other stood in the box of the pickup and roped her. Rex climbed in the back of the pickup. Ricky got behind the wheel. The cow eyed them with a mixture of contempt and suspicion, but held her ground.

In retrospect, the two cowboys would admit they’d have been a lot better off if she’d high-tailed it for the brush. Or if Rex had missed. But no. His loop snapped right around those big old pretty horns. Rex tied it off hard and fast. The cow hit the end, whipped around, and glared.

“Got her!” Rex yelled.

Ricky jumped out of the cab and climbed up to join Rex. Together, they stood in the back of the pickup and studied the cow. She stared back, blowing snot and shaking her head.

“Now what?” Ricky asked.

Good question.

“Wee-elll, I guess we just have to get the ropes off.”

The cow pawed up a clump of dirt and flung it twenty yards or so off into the brush.

“Any idea how we’re going to do that?” Ricky asked.

Rex pondered it for a bit. “How ‘bout you distract her, and I’ll grab the rope.”

Ricky contemplated the cow’s wide horns and the tinge of blood in her eye. He knew exactly what would happen the second he stepped out of the back of the pickup. But she was tied with a good, strong knot. As long as he could stay one step ahead of her, at some point she’d run out of rope.

“Okay,” he said.

He jumped down. The cow bellowed and launched herself at him. He sprinted around the front of the pickup, the cow in hot pursuit. She took a swing at him and punched out a headlight with one of her horns.

“Grab the rope!” he yelled over his shoulder.

As they blasted alongside the pickup, Rex bailed off like a steer wrestler, one arm around the cow’s neck, the other reaching for the rope. She skidded to a stop, ripped her head back and clocked him upside the ear. His hat went flying. Small galaxies exploded behind his eyes. He lost his grip and fell in a heap as the cow wheeled around to finish him off.

“Hyah, bossy!” Ricky shouted, giving her tail a yank.

She froze, torn between stomping Rex and goring Ricky. Rex speed-crawled a few yards, scrambled to his feet, and took off. The cow went after him, smacking the rearview mirror as she passed. They rounded the front of the pickup again, the cow gaining fast. She’da had him dead to rights except the slack in the rope hooked under the bumper and broke her stride.

Rex threw himself into the pickup box and landed in a heap beside Ricky. The cow rammed her head into the side panel a couple of times, then backed off to the end of the rope to resume glaring and snorting and flinging dirt.

“Now what?” Ricky asked, panting.

Rex reached into his pocket, pulled out his knife, and cut the rope.

They watched the cow stroll away, now carrying a rope and half, her version of battle trophies. When she was at least half a mile off Rex climbed down, retrieved his hat, and turned to study his pickup. The driver’s side mirror dangled by a single bolt. One headlight was smashed to smithereens. The whole side was caved in, and a corner of the front bumper was crimped.

Rex knocked the dirt from his mangled hat and mashed it onto his head. “Now we go to town.”

Later, they regaled another of their cowboy friends with the tale.

“Honest to God, Billy D.,” Rex declared. “You’ve never seen a cow so mean.”

“Sure I have,” he said. “How do you think that rope got on her to start with?”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another Five Inches of Future Grass

After almost two weeks of forty and fifty degree temperatures that bared off quite a bit of ground, winter dropped by to remind us not to get cocky just yet. We've been amazingly lucky, though, with hardly any wind, as you can tell:

Meanwhile, it's my turn over at my alternative blog. Packhorses, librarians, the state of publishing and how my Aunt Winks proved change is Not Always for the Better.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Where It All Starts

On average, it takes three to four years for a horse to go from green broke to a full-fledged, competition ready rope horse. The first year is spent primarily on the basics: right turn, left turn, walk, trot, lope, stop and reverse, preferrably on rider's command rather than the horse's whim. And, of course, the all important NOT BUCKING.

Since this horse is just starting the whole process, I thought it might be cool to post videos along the way, showing the steps and her progress.

(Warning: I have no idea how I managed to make the video repeat itself, or stick another clip in the middle. That's my dad on Scotchman, who is about a year away from being 'finished'. You'll notice he gets left in the dust, because he wasn't aggressive enough running out of the roping box. Then there's a repeat of Shy's video, except without the voiceover. No idea how it happened, go ahead and check out when you get to that point if you want.)

Part of the next three or four years will be spent just growing up--physically and mentally maturing. A lot of it will be spent doing ranch work because doing real work keeps them settled and makes them smarter. There will be stretches of two to six months when she's turned out to pasture because they need an off season so they don't get stale and soured on the whole process. Eventually though, she'll be rodeo ready, like the horse in the next video.

Normally, I wouldn't be showing you any video of myself missing a calf, but I only had my sister's video camera for one afternoon and this was the best shot of Julie in action. And in my defense, it did go around his neck and somehow I managed to wave it off again before I got all the slack out of the loop, so I figure that's even more impressive 'cuz it's not something I could do again even if I tried.

Now we've got to head out. Shy is going for her very first pasture ride, out to gather the next bunch of 'heavies'. Here's hoping we don't get any exciting video out of the trip.

*Addendum: Shy was a very well-behaved young lady on her first big cattle moving adventure.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Contest Winners!!

Yes, I am late with the results. Remind me next year that running a contest and promising results on the day before your son's birthday party is not an example of excellent timing. I did, however, take advantage of having a house full of captive relatives to press them into service as judges.

So enough with the excuses....(drumroll please)....the winners are.....

Best Headline: Delilah Dawson

Local man's last words: "Honey, if I was kissin' your cousin in that port-a-potty, may God strike me down right here!"

And the winner of the random drawing:

Julie Weathers  (Yay! Sorry, no huckleberries, but have fun over at Ubetcha Apparel)

I will forward your contact information to Jenny at Ubetcha and we'll get your online gift certificates to you ASAP. Thanks to everyone who chimed in, it was a blast! (snicker)

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Big Bang Contest

Last fall my husband competed in a ranch rodeo in Choteau, Montana, while I wandered around and took pictures. Late in the afternoon, I went in search of a restroom. I found this:

What I did not find was one single person who could tell me what happened to Porta-Potty Number 5 (that's what we call them around here, Porty-Potties). So I'm calling on all my blog readers to give me a hand. It's simple: you decide what happened, and write the newspaper headline that appeared above this photo in the Choteau Acantha (that's the local newspaper).

Now for the best part. My new best friend Jenny at UBetcha Apparel has agreed to sponsor this little contest, which means two winners will get a certificate that allows them to pick from a bunch of cool stuff over at her website (no, the cowboys are not for sale) and she'll ship it to you free (unless you live on some remote Pacific Island where we have to hire a dolphin to courier it through a coral reef. That may require a small surcharge.) 

So here's the three simple steps to entering this contest:

1. Check out the prizes at UBetcha Apparel

2. Write a headline for the picture that makes me choke on my Pepsi (no profanity, please, this is a small town newspaper!) and post it in the comments below for all the world to see. Or at least that sliver of the world that stops by here. 

3. Check back on Friday, March 5 to see if you won. My panel of judges (i.e. me, my parents, my husband and anyone else who wants to voice an opinion) will choose our favorite, then I'll draw a second winner from the rest of the entrants.

Contest ends on Thursday, March 4 at 9 pm Mountain Standard Time. So come on, folks. Let's see what you've got.

*This is why I don't do contests. It's all so complicated. However, the judges have conferred and we (meaning me and the various imaginary people currently taking up my cranium space) have concluded that you may enter as many times as you want.