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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Family Fun Time

So yes, the entire family has congregated here at the ranch for a few days of quality time. We thought since we were all together we should go for a little hike, but before setting out my husband-who-does-not-hike figured he should establish some ground rules.

1. Don't get lost (because my cousin did on this very same hike and had to spend the night on the mountainside).

2. Don't get eaten (because I, for one, have never had any desire to become one with a grizzly bear, of which there are many in the area).

3. Don't get struck by lightning (because the forecast is iffy in that department)

4. Don't fall off.

Because we're climbing to the top of THIS:

Yes, that is Chief Mountain. And no, recreating with my family is not for wimps. It isn't quite as bad from the back side as it looks from this angle, but still...if you don't hear from me again, assume something in the range of #1-4. 

And if you really want to know what we're getting ourselves in for, check it out here:  Chief Mountain Hike.

Now if you'll excuse me, I know that canister of bear spray is around here somewhere. 


We were all up and rearing to go at 6:30 am, but due to overnight thunderstorms and cloudy, rainy conditions, our wimpy guide canceled our excursion, to our great disappointment. That's our story and we're sticking to it. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

For a Good Time....

No, I'm not going to pass along someone's phone number. Just wanted to share this information sent to me by the great folks down in Drummond. Seriously. If you're anywhere in the area and want to see some great rodeo action, crack out your road map and head to southwest Montana next weekend. I'll let them tell you the rest.

Drummond PRCA Rodeo Celebrates 70th Anniversary
Historic event includes professional cowboys, parades, a beer garden and street dance.

Sunday, July 8, 2012—Drummond, Mont. will host their 70th rodeo, a professional competition that functions as the sole fundraiser for the non-profit Drummond Kiwanis Club.

This annual event is remarkable, as a hometown tradition and as a Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA) official rodeo. Drummond’s American Legion Goldstar Post 125 Rodeo Grounds, off I-90, play host to professional cowboys and lady barrel racers from across the Northwest, who compete to win money and earn their place in the National Rodeo Finals.

This year’s event will feature saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, tie down roping, team roping and the crowd favorite—bull riding. Tickets are just $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 to 10. Children 5 and under are free. Outside the arena there are food stands, a beer garden and picnic tables. For most people, the occasion is an all-day event.  

Drummond Kiwanis Rodeo Chairman, Butch Friede said, “I believe this has been one of the best little one-day shows in the state. You see lots of families coming, lots of people cheering and having fun. Come and watch what a professional show in a small community can really bring you.”

The celebration begins with a children’s parade on Saturday, July 7th at 7 p.m. Slack follows at 9 a.m. Sunday morning.  The rodeo parade takes place on Drummond’s Front Street at Noon, with prizes awarded for best dressed cowboy and cowgirl as well as the best float and best car and truck. The main rodeo events begin at 2 p.m., featuring fanfare, audience participation, bullfighters and a 50/50 raffle. Drummond’s Roughstock Saloon will host a band on Saturday night and a street dance with live music after the rodeo.

Drummond resident Paul Greany reckoned the rodeo still offers the type of celebration that is good for first time rodeo goers and seasoned rodeo fans. He said, “People are still riding bucking horses and bulls, same as when I first came to the rodeo.”

The Drummond Rodeo is presented by community volunteers and sponsors. As the sole fundraiser for the Drummond Kiwanis Club, it funds college scholarships, youth leadership conferences, Project Santa Claus family food donation, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, swimming lessons and other youth programs that benefit hundreds of children in Granite County.

Contact: Krista Johnson, klynnejohnson@gmail.com406-691-1459          


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Going Out in Style

And now for a break from our generally light-hearted programming.

I started this blog a little over three years ago. One of the very first posts I wrote was about our Border Collie, a story called My Dog is Not Lassie.

If you popped over to read that post, you'll know Pip always had a mind of her own. If anything old age only calcified her hard head. This week she finally came to the end of a long and hopefully happy life. In true Pip fashion, she had to do it her own way. The details are in my bimonthly post over at my alternate blog:  Going Out in Style.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm taking myself and Max for a nice long walk through the green grass, under the summer sky. I'd say Pip will be with us in spirit, but she despised Max so I'm assuming she'll be doing her own thing...as usual.


Monday, June 25, 2012


We've been gone rodeoing and such for three days and I'm still buried in laundry, so instead of actual thoughts today you get a bunch of the pictures I've been collecting for the last month.

Our baby is growing up fast. And turning black!

Lichen. When it comes to art, Mother Nature rocks. 

Welcome to Cow Heaven. 

Mule deer bucks with their horns in the velvet, McEntire Ranch south of Magrath, AB

When sheep go ninja.

And Cosmo did say animal prints are in this year.

Enjoy the view. I'll be back mid week with more....something. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Plague

Every Northerner knows warm, snow-free winters don't come cheap. Somewhere down the road Mother Nature extracts payment for her generosity. This year she's charging by the moth.

Normally the moths don't invade until July, sometimes even August, but here it is only June and they're everywhere. I stop at a stoplight and they bounce off my car windows, trying to get in. Ride shotgun on my rearview mirror on the off chance I decide to roll down a window. I open the gas cap door, half a dozen fly out. They drop out of the eaves of my office building and into my hair I stumble past in my usual morning daze. Honestly, it's starting to get to me.

Last Thursday was the worst. First we stopped to get the mail. When my son opened the box and stuck his hand in, at least twenty moths blasted out in his face, sending him screaming. Several managed to fly through the open car door and proceeded to harass us all the way home, where we found the porch door open. Uh-oh.

And no, it wasn't my husband or my kid who was to blame. It's the dog. She figured out how to open our lever-style door handles and let herself in. This is problematic on two accounts. First off, my parents have them, too. During calving Max would go out when my husband went to check cows at the crack of dawn, but peel off and head over to my parents house where she went in through the dog door, let herself into the dining room, then trotted down the hall and jumped in bed with them. Bad enough if she did it on the way to the barn. Even worse if she did it after tromping through the mucky cow lot.

Second, she doesn't shut the door behind her, which is why my husband has had to remove an angry robin and a very large, very flustered grouse from our porch so far this spring. And now the moths.

Come dark on Thursday night we turned on a few lights and the moths began to emerge. First just one or two. Then a handful. Then more. And more. Flapping around the lights, bouncing off the windows, crawling up the curtains. The plastic cover on the bathroom fan was a mass of black bodies. I flailed at them with the fly-swatter while Greg hustled from room to room waving the shop-vac wand and the kid ran around shrieking, "Get them out!"

Then I looked out the window into the porch and gave a blood-curdling shriek of my own.

During that time the dog left the door open, every moth for a hundred mile radius had moved in. Hundreds of them. Even the dog was freaked out, hunkered down so deep in her bean bag chair all I could see was the tip of her nose.

I couldn't leave the moths in there, couldn't open the door to go shoo them out without dozens slipping into the house. We were trapped.

Aha! I'd sneak out through the little back mudroom and go around. I opened the back door. Whoosh. I shrieked again as a cloud of moths whizzed by my head, only a fraction of what had congregated in the back porch. I slammed the door again, beginning to feel like I'd wandered into a Hitchcock movie. The moths are almost as big as birds this year, and when I finally did slip out and open the porch window to release the masses a couple of swallows swooped past my head, snatching up moths as fast as they could.

The next night was better, though, after we locked the dog out of the front porch and fixed the screen door on the back. We thought we were winning. Then we got in the camper to go to a rodeo for the weekend and the circus started all over again. Every sleeping bag, pillow and seat cushion I touched spit out moths. There was even one in my boot.

I'm so paranoid now I attack every dark spot I see. I've tried to beat several knotholes on our wood paneling to death. Attempted to vacuum a birthmark off my husband's neck (and yes, a shop vac actually can give you a hickey). Have taken to opening cupboard doors with the broom handle (it's not as easy as you'd think).

My nerves are shot, so you might want to be careful what you're wearing if you get too close to me. And please don't punch me if I swat you on the head with this newspaper. I was trying to save you from that brown barrette in your hair.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

It's All in the Name

Creating people from scratch is a tricky business. Just ask the Big Guy upstairs. Except in my case I'm not creating real people, just the kind that run around in my head and in my stories. And then I have to name them. Which is like naming your kid, only harder because not only does it have to be a name that suits this imaginary person, but it can't be too much like the names of any of the other imaginary people in the story or readers will get confused, and it can't be a name that reminds people of someone famous...or worse, infamous. 

So after much pondering and puzzling, I named my character Blaize. Then I spent a year writing a book in which he played, if not a leading role, at least a fairly major part. Then I sat down with my agent to rework the book and the first thing she said was, "You have to change his name. Blaize is what strippers call themselves."

Oh. Well. Another lesson learned in the big city by this country hick. 

So I pondered and puzzled a whole lot more because if finding a name is hard, changing a name this late in the game is like re-christening your child when they start high school. Or maybe college. Finally I narrowed it down to two: Dylan or Delon. I was leaning toward the second, but I kept thinking, "Would these Texans really name their kid Delon?" Then I recalled the story my sister told me about why her son's name didn't turn out to be exactly what she planned. But rather than me explaining, I'll let Delon tell you himself.

How I Got this Way

My name is Delon Sanchez. Yeah, I know. Not exactly a traditional Hispanic name, Delon. Sounds like I should be a basketball player from inner city Houston not a cowboy from out by Amarillo, but there's a pretty good story behind it.

My dad's grandparents immigrated from Mexico back in the late forties and worked their way up to the Texas Panhandle. Like most of his generation of the family my dad speaks Spanish, but he doesn't write or read it much. My mother was the first in her family to be born in the United States. She grew up in a border town where Spanish was the dominant language and though she speaks English well enough, she still has a strong accent.

And yes, this matters when it comes to how I became Delon.

When my older brother was born my mother didn't get any say in what he was named because he's The Man, the heir to the throne at Sanchez Trucking. He got saddled with the names handed down by my dad and my granddad: Benito Gilberto Sanchez Rivera. They call him Gil so's not to confuse him with my dad, Benito.

When my mother found out I was going to be a boy, she informed my dad that she was naming this one whatever she wanted. I imagine there were a few arguments. There are always arguments between my parents. They seem to like it. At some point my mother must've won, and then my dad tuned out because that's what he does when he doesn't get his way, and he wasn't really listening when my mother declared she was naming me after her favorite singer. Meh. Who paid attention to singers, anyway?

So the big day came. Things didn't go as expected and I ended up being delivered by C-section.  Mom was still off in La-La Land when they came around to see what name to put on the birth certificate, but Dad knew what she wanted so he filled it out and sent them on their way.

I'd been home from the hospital almost two weeks when the official version of my birth certificate came in the mail. According to my aunt, she heard the shrieking from clear across town. My mother shoved it under Dad's nose. "What the hell is this? Day-loan? What kind of name is that? He's supposed to be named after Bob Dylan."

"What are you talking about?" Dad grabbed the certificate, pointed at the name. "Dee-lon. I wrote it down exactly how you said it."

So here I am.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Special Delivery

I've always heard that it's good to broaden your horizons. See how the rest of the world lives, learn from them, and apply the best of it to your own way of life. Turns out that's excellent advice, because at least one of the things I learned on my trip to New York City has already paid off.

First, a bit of backstory. In addition to this blog, my doses of wit and wisdom also appear in column I write for a few area newspapers. This week's column went like this (some of which will sound familiar if you read my last blog post):

As I mentioned in my last column, I ventured east to the Big Apple last week. New York City. I expected to return home with half a year's worth of story fodder about my misadventures in the metropolis. Unfortunately, my assortment of hosts herded me from one location to another with the relentless efficiency of a pack of border collies, which made for an excellent, glitch-free vacation but left me with nothing to write about. 

I didn't even get robbed, unless you count the guy selling umbrellas in Grand Central Station, and charging four times the going rate is a clear case of carpe diem, or whatever you call taking advantage of people who know they're going to hike a mile across Manhattan on a day when there's a seventy percent chance of rain and still aren't smart enough to plan ahead.

The city was definitely a whole different world from back here at home. First off, there are no pickups. In two days, I didn't spot a single one. Makes sense, I guess. What use does a New Yorker have for an open box? Anything you put in there would either get soaked or stolen, possibly at the next stoplight. Even the construction crews drive vans.

Second, there are trees on top of skyscrapers. Seriously. Can you picture that in Glacier County? I'd give it a week, max, before the next strong breeze plucked those suckers out of their little tubs and tossed them clear over to Havre.

But the best part of Manhattan was the food delivery. Come lunchtime you just grab a handful of menus, pick what you want, and in half an hour a guy shows up at the office door, a slice of cheese pizza and a cold Pepsi in hand. Unless you wanted sushi. Or Thai. Or any other kind of food you can imagine. It was awesome.

Not to say we don't have delivery service up here on the Highline. At least once a week a person from the feed store, the auto parts store or the implement dealership appears at my office, dropping off something my husband or one of the neighbors needs brought out to the ranch, thereby saving them a drive to town. Our receptionists have accepted everything from tractor bearings to a bag of ear tags on my behalf. They no longer blink when handed the annual bull semen sales catalog.

The first day I was back from New York, one of my office mates dropped a brand new hoof rasp on my desk, freshly delivered. As I sat there wishing it was a bagel with cream cheese, it occurred to me the solution might lie in another die hard Big Apple tradition--tipping.

I wonder what it would take to get the feed store folks to swing by the quick stop and grab me a Pepsi and a KitKat on their way into town? 

My column came out on Wednesday. Today just before lunch time this arrived at my desk, courtesy of Kelly from BTI Feed:

So what have I learned from this experience, dear readers? Well, first off, somebody actually does read that stuff I put in the paper. And second, Kelly would never survive as a New York delivery person. She forgot to stick around for her tip.