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Archive for March, 2011

You should be proud of me – I’ve been working on the old photos again – mainly because I’ve been sick and that’s about all I’ve felt like doing. 

I’ve found a couple really cool old photos – and the best part is that we actually know who these people are.  After going through so many unmarked photographs my new mission in life to label every single photo I take.

The first photo is a picture of Hubby’s Grandfather William Allen Stearns, Hubby’s Grandmother Dora Murray Stearns and their two sons – William Wallace (whom we knew as Uncle Billy) and Hubby’s father – Norman Everett (whom everyone called Bud).

As you can tell – the big occasion for the photo was the new car – around 1920 from what I hear.  They were obviously very proud of the new car because we have several shots.

W.A. Stearns was an interesting character from all I’ve heard.  He moved to this area in 1900 with a herd of 300 brood mares and stallions.  There are stories of one particular Percheron stallion that was brought over from France by boat then rode the train to Edgemont, SD.  Unfortunately, I have never heard the name of this stallion and I’m afraid that bit of information may be lost now.  Percheron horses are a breed of draft horses and were trained to fight by jumping and kicking with all 4 legs – hopefully kicking and killing any foot soldiers in their way.  It’s kind of funny but one of the first dates my Hubby and I went on was to go see a traveling group of Percheron stallions that came to Custer in the early 1980’s.  They are magnificent horses and if you ever get the chance to see them in action – do it!

W.A. and Dora bred horses and sold many to the United States Army.  One of Hubby’s most prized possessions is his grandfathers hand written brand book.  We’re pretty sure this is one of the earliest brand books for this area.  We also have several notebooks showing records of the family’s expenses and land and livestock purchased.

We also have their marriage certificate.  William and Dora were married October 9, 1906 in Newcastle, WY.  There was a bit of an age gap between W.A. and Dora – around 32 years from what we know but they seemed to have had a good marriage and they had two sons.  My father-in-law Bud was only 9 years old when his father died which must have been pretty hard on everyone.  But Dora took over the buisness and became known as quite a horsewoman in her own right. 

I love this photo of Dora and one of her babies – we’re not sure but I would guess it is Billy.  From everything I’ve ever heard, she was an amazing woman in tough times.  Eventually, Dora and the boys sold the last of the horses and Uncle Billy and Bud split the ranch when their mother passed away. 

They both went on to raise cattle and lived out their lives on the ranch – cowboys to the very end.

 

On another note here’s a photo we’re not so sure about. 

This photo raises several questions.

First off – we have no idea who these people are but I’m guessing we’re related – especailly to her – there seems to be lots of tough old gals in our family.  The next question is what is that between them – a cat?  The tail actually looks a little skunk-like.  And who’s holding it or is it hanging by his wrist? 

It’s hard to tell what is going on in this shot but that’s exactly why I love old photos – they usually bring up more questions then they answer.

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Coming home from work in the evening is usually uneventful.  It’s common to see deer, antelope and turkeys but once in a while you see something that makes you stop and reach for the camera.  That’s what has happened to me the last two evenings.  When I turned down our driveway I saw something I had never seen before in our pasture. 

 Thursday night I didn’t have my camera (believe me – I tore apart the pickup looking) but last night I made sure I had it and this is what I saw.

Elk on Elk Mountain.

We’ve had this group of 24 elk hanging out in our ‘front yard’ for the last 2 days.  I can even sit in the easy chair in the living room and watch them move around.  This is very unusual.  My father-in-law lived here for over 80 years and only saw elk in our pastures once in all that time.  

 Occasionally we will see elk north of here and the turkey hunters have found shed antlers on top of the mountain so we know they are around but elk are shy creatures and they usually don’t stay in the open very long.

This small herd appears to have moved in and I’m not sure why.  Maybe they have decided they like the easy water they can get at the stock tanks or since it’s spring maybe they are just looking for a place to have their babies.  I’m more inclined to think that all the reports of wolves in the area true and the elk have been run out onto the prairie where they can see what’s coming.   

Another reason could be that because of all the snow this winter there has been a lack of feed.  I talked to one rancher in our area who has had a herd of over 200 head of elk hanging out with his cattle for the last month or so.   Every time he feeds his cattle the elk move in and eat too.  It’s impressive to see so many elk but also very expensive to feed them but he’s a nice guy and he puts out extra bales to make sure everyone is fed. 

Elk are impressive animals.  When you see them up close they are huge – the adults are taller and heavier than a horse.  And if you accidentally hit one on the highway your vehicle will be totaled and you’ll be lucky to walk away with your life.  I’ve seen cars that have hit elk and it ain’t pretty. 

In this herd there is a good mixture of animals – there are a few of last years calves along with a few very old animals that you can pick out by the color and rough appearance of their hide.  It’s hard to pick out the bulls as they have lost their horns and from a distance they look a lot like the cows.

As soon as I stopped to take a picture they would turn tail and run but if I kept the pickup moving they would stop and stare at me – the crazy woman hanging out of the window of a moving vehicle snapping photos one-handed and steering with my knee.

Elk must have a sense of humor too.

I tried not to scare them over the fence but they decided to jump it anyway.

I could hear the wires ‘ping’ as they popped staples loose and stretched the wire as they tried to clear the top stand so I’m sure there is a fence to fix now.

But that’s a small price to pay to see something like this when you come home.

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It’s time for another Wierd & Worthy Quote:

 

“Life is too short to eat cheap chocolate!”

  

OK.  I admit it.

These immortal words of wisdom come straight from me.

 

Anyone who knows me might say that I like chocolate…

They might even say that I’m rather fond of chocolate…

 

Oh Alright…  I love Chocolate!

(Cows can always tell when you’re not telling the truth – it’s a gift)

I  think my love affair with chocolate started early – while still in the womb.  My mom told me once that she craved chocolate malts the whole time she was pregnant and drank so many that she gained over 50 lbs with each of us kids.  As the story goes, I was also the largest baby my mother had and that is why my nickname has been Moose forever.

I love Chocolate so much that when my boys were young, they really, truly, honestly believed that I would die if I didn’t have chocolate every day.  They have grown up and now realize that this is not true but I still have days when I’m not so sure – and really – why take the risk?

Chocolate is an addiction I have struggled with my whole life but I know there are other people out there who are just as bad off as I am. 

I used to work with a gal whose last name was Mattox but I called her Ms Mad Ox the Indian Princess.  We were both young and unmarried at the time with few responsibilities and we were doing what we did every day – talking about our 2 favorite subjects – men and chocolate.  

Being the intellectuals that we were back then, we would spend our free time asking each other deep, probing questions – the kind of stuff Barbara Walters would ask important world leaders.  One day I asked Ms Mad Ox if she had to choose between men and chocolate and was forced to give up one for the rest of her life which one would she choose to keep? 

Without hesitation a smile lit her face and her eyes glazed over. 

“I would choose a man dipped in chocolate.”

I understand completely.

 

“Got any chocolate bulls?”

Maybe it’s a woman thing.

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A couple of years ago money got really tight for our family.  Things were tough to begin with but after my son and I both had hospital stays (with two $5,000.00 deductables on our health insurance) and 5 years of having to buy hay for the herd because of the drought it became downright impossible to keep up with the bills.

We’ve never been the kind of people who had ‘money to burn’ but because of a chain of events things were worse than usual.  And no matter how hard we tried things just kept getting worse – a $3,000 transfer case for the diesel pickup, mortgage payments and credit cards and then the worst happened – a death in the family.  We lost my father-in-law to a heart attack.   

It was a horrible time but  life goes on. 

 I had already decided it was time for me to go back to work and for the previous few months I had been applying for every job that looked remotely possible.   Even though I don’t have a college degree, I had never had trouble finding a job…

 until then.

Over the next 10 months I must have applied for at least 70 jobs when I finally got called in for my first interview – receptionist at the Forest Service office.  Thankfully, I got the job.   Unfortunately, it was only full-time for 8 weeks and then would be intermittent – meaning I would only work for a couple of days every month.  So of course this meant no steady pay check and no benefits but by this time we were desperate and I gladly took the job.

It was a good job and I enjoyed visiting with the people who came in for firewood permits, Christmas tree permits, hunter information or just because they were lost.  And since I generally hate shopping for clothes, one of the best things about the job was that I could wear a ‘Smoky Bear’ uniform.  I was allowed to pick through a box of extra pants and shirts and found quite a few that fit so I didn’t have the problem of shopping for a wardrobe with no extra money to spend on one. 

It worked out great but I still worried about what would happen when the full-time came to an end.  I really needed a job with benefits but it appeared no one wanted to hire a 48-year-old woman with just a high school education.  I don’t know – maybe it was because everyone knows how stubborn and pig-headed ranch wives are.

Then one day – about half-way through my 8 week job at the Forest Service – God smiled down on me.  A job opened up in the same building just across the hallway at the USDA Farm Service Agency.  I put in my application and anxiously waited.  In the meantime, sitting at the front desk, I had a front-row seat to the steady stream of people who come in to apply for the job.  I was even asked to deliver several applications when the FSA office was closed – which I did.  As it turned out over 30 people applied for the job but luckily a life-time of ranch and farm experience actually counted for something and I got the job!!!

Unfortunately, my uniform wearing days were over so I dug through the closet and found enough clothes to make it work.  The worst part was that I only owned a couple of pairs of shoes – and they were pretty beat up but I figured if I stayed behind my desk no one would ever see my feet anyway.

Now the only hurdle left was to be accepted by the people I would be dealing with.  If you’ve never been around ranchers and farmers I will tell you right now – they don’t fall for bull-shit.  These are men and women who have spent their whole lives working and living on ranches.  They are good, smart, hard-working people but I knew I would have to earn their trust to do my job. 

One important piece of information about ranchers and farmers you should know is to never ask them how many acres of land or how many head of cattle they own.  That is the same as asking someone “How much money do you have in the bank?”  It’s rude and you would be surprised to know how many people will ask this within 5 minutes of meeting a rancher.  If you do it – you’ll get nothing but some vague response before they walk away from you as fast as they can.  But of course this was exactly the type of stuff I would need to know as I would be helping people with disaster programs.

Another problem I had was that I knew very few people in Wyoming so I was starting from scratch.  No one knew me from Adam.  I met a lot of new people the first couple weeks but for the most part they still wanted to talk to my boss instead of me.  Then one day when my boss was gone for the day, a rancher came in.  This guy is an old-time cowboy who cusses every other word and is a little rough around the edges but he’s also the kind of guy you could trust with your life and if I ever ran into trouble – he’s the guy I would want to see riding over the horizon.  I could tell he wasn’t real sure about talking to me and he had just decided to come back later in the week when I offered to at least copy the paperwork he had brought in. 

I stood up, walked to the copy machine and started making copies.  When I was finished I turned around and saw that he was looking at my feet and the best pair of shoes I owned which were a beat up pair of cowboy boots.  Oh well, I thought, at least I had polished them the week before.  I handed back his paperwork and expected him to leave but he didn’t.  Instead, he settled back in his chair and started to talk to me.  He told me about his ranch and his cattle and how they had lost so many calves to a spring blizzard that he wasn’t sure what they were going to do.  He opened up to me and talked to me like he’d known me for years.  I wasn’t sure what had changed but at least I had gotten through to one guy. 

And then, over the next few weeks I started to see a pattern – I would catch people looking at my old boots and suddenly they would start talking to me.  The more I watched for it the more I saw it.  I guess my boots with the ratty laces and scuffed leather convinced them I was someone who knew what they were going through.   Anyone who wore boots like that had been there too.

I have since bought myself a new pair of boots to wear to work but I still wear the old ones too.  After all – they did help me settle into my new job.  They are also a reminder that most people aren’t really impressed with expensive things.  They don’t care if you have thousands of dollars in the bank or thousands of dollars worth of loans.  None of that matters.  What does matter is what kind of person you are inside.  Always treat people with respect, don’t ever pretend to be something that you’re not and never judge anyone by the clothes they wear. 

The truth is, the best people I ever met were wearing clothes covered in manure.

 

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I’m not sure if there is anyone left out there after the last ‘skeleton’ post but if there is I will apologize right now because I doubt that this post will be any less rude, crude and socially unacceptable.

 

We have a turkey. 

His name is Thomas. 

And we love him even if he is older than dirt and mean as sin.

I think it comes from living with too many chickens.

Years ago, when our boys were in 4-H they decided they wanted to show turkeys so we went to the local Runnings store and purchased 2 baby turkeys.  Even though we had no idea if they were male or female we named them Thomas and Nadine (yes, it’s true – I named my camper after a turkey).   As fate would have it we did end up with a male and a female and we had even named them correctly.  Unbelievable!

Thomas and Nadine were such cute, fuzzy little critters you just couldn’t help but love them.  Thomas – a Bronze turkey and Nadine – a Bourbon Red, grew into beautiful birds.  It seemed they ate their weight in grasshoppers every day and as their weight increased the grasshopper population quickly dwindled.  The kids loved them and pretty much turned them into pets that would follow the kids around like a couple of large, feathered dogs.  I received several confused phone calls from the neighbors throughout the summer but by mid August the neighbors had gotten used to seeing them around and Thomas and Nadine were gorgeous.  The boys entered them to the county fair where they won masses of purple ribbons and for 2 years in a row our boys took top honors and brought home the highly coveted poultry trophy.  It was exciting times! 

But as with so many celebrity couples all was not well between our turkey ‘love birds’.  Relationships can be difficult no matter how beautiful you are.  Thomas and Nadine liked each other well enough but Thomas had a problem.  In fact, when it came to the whole ‘mating thing’ he was more than just a little confused.  Every time I saw them together the poor old boy was 180 degrees off and even though I tried to straighten him out (many, many times I tried) he could never quite get the ‘jist’ of it. 

It was sad…  

hilarious…   but sad…

And as for me, it’s probably a good thing we live in the country because if anyone had witnessed me trying to help our turkeys mate I’m betting PETA would have been involved.

And poor Nadine. 

Poor frustrated Nadine. 

All she wanted was a family.  She took it as long as she could but Nadine could hear her biological clock ticking louder every day so when a flock of wild turkeys passed through she was ready to spread her wings and move on. 

We never saw her again.

It has made Thomas a bitter bird.

It has eaten away at him for years.

But he’s a turkey – so really, how long can this go on?

For 14 years!!!!!

As of this spring Thomas has been a part of our lives FOR  14  YEARS!!!!!

I had no idea turkeys lived this long!!!!!

Is this some kind of record?????????

It’s not like Thomas has led a pampered life. 

 He’s had run-ins with skunks, coyotes, mountain lions, hawks, raccoons, dogs, a couple of steers, 2 ornery kids & their friends, both grandpas, our renters, salesmen, lost tourists, a skittish census taker and an angry UPS man with a can of mace. 

And as for the whole ‘Jehovah Witness Incident’ I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize.  But on Thomas’  behalf I feel I must also state that it was probably the first time he had ever seen a woman in a skirt.   

 Enough said.

And then there was a practical joke one Thanksgiving in which Thomas with all the dignity of an English butler – stole the show.

For about 7 or 8 years I worked off and on as a bank teller.  On one of the times when I wasn’t working I received a phone call from one of the tellers (who will remain nameless).  She asked if our kids still had a turkey because they were thinking of playing a joke on the bank president – whom we will call CW – to protect the innocent. 

Now CW is a wonderful boss with a great sense of humor.  He grew up on a ranch, worked cattle and horses most of his life and from the stories he’s told has been behind some pretty impressive practical jokes himself.  So of course – I was in! 

As it turned out the teller had asked one of the local ranchers  to show up at the bank dressed as a Pilgrim and she needed a few ‘props’ to seal the deal.  So at the appointed time, on the specified day I met ‘Pilgrim Rancher’ at the front door of the bank with my bird in a crate.  Pilgrim Rancher was dressed for the part – flat brimmed hat, suspenders and a double barrel shot gun.  

Thinking back on this I am amazed that no one on main street seemed to think this was unusual behavior for this man. 

Anyway, I helped him tuck Thomas – who was fully grown by this time and weighed 40+ pounds – under one arm and handed him his gun.  Leaving this poor man outside the door I went in ahead and alerted the tellers who were already busting a gut because they knew what was coming and had spent the last 5 minutes watching us through the front doors.  About that time Pilgrim Rancher hit the automatic door buttons and entered asking to see the president of the bank at the top of his lungs and generally causing a ruckus with Thomas held tight against his side, the turkey’s head bobbing up and down with every step he took.  First came shock then everyone burst out in laughter – even the unsuspecting man and his wife who were new to our quaint little town and by some twist of fate had chosen that particular morning to enter the bank for the first time and open a new account.   (I hear they are still customers to this day)

I swear – South Dakota may have been the only place in the world where a man with a bewildered turkey under his arm could walk into a bank with a gun and no one would call the cops.

 

***Just a thought ***

This was several years ago and times have changed. 

You would probably get shot if you tried it now. 

So don’t try it!

 

Pilgrim Rancher marched right into CW’s office, set Thomas on the floor and heartily wished CW a very happy Thanksgiving.  A huge crowd of people lined up outside the large glass windows that make up CW’s office to stare and laugh at the spectacle before them. 

And what of Thomas?  You ask.

He stood there like a bronze statue – calming surveying the mass of crazy humans before him.

After a few minutes of uncontrollable laughter, Pilgrim Rancher calmly lifted Thomas up to set him on CW’s desk where he stood proudly like the trophy bird he is. 

The crowd hushed as they admired his beauty.  They stood in awe of the ‘well-trained’ bird before them as Thomas basked in the glow of so much well-deserved attention.  He loved it!  He stood proud – chest (complete with an 8″ beard) thrown out and head erect.  He was a vision!  And I was proud to be the guardian of such a magnificent creature. 

As if sensing my pride, Thomas turned to look at me, locking his eyes with mine I felt an understanding – a mutual respect pass between us – blocking out the noise and chaos of a bank full of people. 

It was a beautiful moment… 

and then… 

as I gazed lovingly into Thomas’ sparkling dark eyes I swear he smiled…

He smiled and dropped a very large and smelly ‘deposit’ on the corner of CW’s desk. 

 

Pandemonium reigned supreme! 

People were rolling on the floor – tears streaming down their faces and in that instant Thomas the turkey became a local legend.

 

Thomas has led an interesting life and I’ve often wondered how he has managed to survive it all these years.  He no longer goes to the county fair and has not been asked to relive his glory days on the stage but life goes on. 

When it comes to Thomas the Turkey there are only 2 things I am sure of:

1.  Life has made him a tough old bird (in more ways than one).   

and

2. Don’t ever turn your back on him because it hurts to be attacked by a sexually frustrated bird. 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have been working on Nadine.

She is now ‘booth-less’.

 

My husband says that sounds dirty but I can tell you it’s a whole lot cleaner than when she had a booth. The cocoons and spider egg sacks had to go. 

Along with the nasty old insulation and 40 years of dirt that had built up in every nook and cranny.

The mouse nest under the oven continues to be a challenge along with the gigantic hole by the door…

 

and the ‘squishy’ floor under the toilet.

But like the rest of us, Nadine is slowly and painfully giving up her secrets – the little things that we try to hide when we first start a new relationship. The type of secrets that only reveal themselves after you have lived with someone for a while.   And I can tell you, she is not the pure and innocent lady I first thought.

Nadine has led a sordid life.

 There are things she’s been hiding for years and it has been a fight. Blood has been split (you should see my knuckles) but like a new girlfriend, she is getting used to me crowding into the innermost corners of her psyche and she has grown comfortable with me –

so much so, that Nadine has revealed the skeletons in her closet…

No, really…

There are skeletons in her closet.

Sorry, I should have warned you.  

I think it’s one of the mice who lived under the oven. 

I suspect foul play was involved.  I’m sure CSI would discover traces of poison locked deep inside their tiny little bones.

Who did it?

Nadine won’t say.

It’s just another unsolved mystery of a shady lady.

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It has begun.

We’ve had our first calf of the year…

and we’ve lost our first calf of the year. 

Not a good start to the calving season but it happens.

Now we can only hope that the weather will warm up and the snow will stop falling before any more are born.  Such is life on a ranch. 

But enough of that.  Since I am sooooooo sick of snow and ice  and dirty, frozen pickups –

I’ve been dreaming of the beach.

So, I looked through some old photos and found several of my family at the beach. 

You can always spot a cowboy at the beach – see what I mean?

This is a shot of my boys at Center Lake July 4th, 2007.  They look like they’re really having fun don’t they?  Well, at least Morgan kicked off his shoes.  Usually the only time a cowboy will take off his boots is when a pretty lady wants to walk barefoot on the beach…

But even then they will usually keep their hat, belt buckle and blue jeans on.

Here’s another one. 

Yes, that’s Morgan – the Redneck Lifeguard on his homebuilt Redneck Floatation Device which he built for the 4th of July celebration of 2005.  I think he had as much fun building it as he did floating around the lake.

All you need is the intertube from a tractor tire, a salvaged piece of plywood, a lawn chair and a couple bungee cords and wha-lah – you too can cruise the lake in style and comfort.

Morgan and his cousin Russell look like future canidates for the Redneck Yacht Club.

And then there’s another cousin – Josh.

AKA –  the Center Lake Super-Soaker Sniper. 

 “Go ahead, make my day.”

It doesn’t matter what type of gun it is, rednecks and cowboys love them – just like boats. 

 

Here’s Dalton cruising Lake Superior.

And don’t think fun at the beach is just for kids.  Here’s one of my favorite photos of my folks.

Wheeeeee!!!!!!!

There’s just nothing like a fast boat on a hot day –  is there?

And here’s the boys, their cousins and Grandpa checking out the cedar strip canoe and speed boat they built in Grandpa’s shop.

Have you ever seen the beautiful, sleek race boat called Miss Budweiser?  Well, this ain’t it!  But this is their version – they named her Miss Butt-Wiper and she’s fast enough for Stockade Lake.

Cowboys and rednecks are fun at the beach but nobody does the beach and boating like the girlfriends!

 Maybe it’s time for another girlfriend getaway!!!   I’ll call Captain Frank!

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