Posts Tagged ‘ranch’

I hope everyone had a Blessed Christmas and an exciting (but safe) New Year. 

Like everyone else, it has been a busy time for us – even though the family was pretty much scattered to the wind.  Since our kids had plans of their own on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we have put off our celebration until this Sunday.  The actual holidays were a little sad for me without the kids but it actually isn’t all bad – I had 2 extra weeks to finish my shopping without fighting huge crowds and best of all almost everything was on sale!!!

So I am trying to clean the house, bake and figure out what I will be cooking Sunday morning and most importantly looking forward to the kids being here.

Another thing that has been keeping me totally comsumed is a trip I get to take in March.

Look out PUERTO RICO – here I come!!!

I am soooooo excited I can hardly stand myself.  This will be my first trip to a real tropical paradise and this is something I have always wanted to do.   My Hubby had a chance to go along too as some of our friend are going the week before as couples but he just doesn’t get the whole ‘tropical paradise’ thing like I do so I will be going with the girlfriends instead and you know we will have FUN!  The important items are already packed in my suitcase – my camera, my snorkel and my swim suits.

I will trade in my Carhart coveralls for a bikini,

my snow boots for flip flops

and my favorite Mt. Dew for Rum & Coke.

 I will leave this behind:

 And trading it in for something like this:

I can feel the sand between my toes already.  74 days and counting…

But until then I will try to contain my excitement.

2012 is looking pretty good so far.

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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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This Worthy and Wierd Quote is a little nasty but  it was so funny that I had to include it here.

I would guess that our boys were about 13 and 16 years old at the time it happened.  We were still living near Custer but were spending that particular day helping Grandpa S. get some things done around the ranch. 

Grandpa was known to everyone as ‘Bud’.  He had been born a cowboy and had lived his whole life at the ranch.  Bud was mostly a quiet man but he could get fired up on occasion when stuff broke down, the price of cigarettes went up or the football games he loved to watch didn’t turn out as he had hoped.  Basically, he was a tough old rancher with skin like tanned leather and a vocabulary that sometimes bordered on the – shall we say – spicy side of life?

This particular day had been a long, hot one filled with broken down equipment, skinned up knuckles and busy grandkids.  We had finally had all the ‘fun’ we could stand so had stopped for a cold drink at the kitchen table.  Grandpa was in the middle of telling a story – about what or who I can’t remember but our youngest son had obviously come in at the middle of the story because he didn’t know what or who it was about either.  Unfortunately, he was trying to figure out what Grandpa was talking about just as Grandpa was trying to finish his story.  My baby (actually a teenager) kept asking,

“Who?  Who are you talking about?  Who? Who?”

Grandpa had reached his last nerve and answered back,

“You don’t shit through feathers!”

It was one of those rare moments in time when the world and everything on it stopped mid-step and you pause with creased brow trying to process the words you think you just heard before asking, “What did you say?”

Grandpa was frazzled and our son was speechless (but secretly thrilled to quickly file these words of wisdom – complete with a 4-letter ‘sentence enhancer’ away for future use). 

The rest of us were practically worthless as we laughed till tears streamed from our eyes.  Everybody laughed about that one – even Grandpa and our boy.

I can’t blame HBO for teaching my children to cuss like sailors.  They were born ranch kids and since most ranchers have a colorful language you’re bound to pick up a few choice words that always seem to pop out at the most inopportune times.

(I’m still really, really sorry about that one time, Pastor Dave)

When our boys were little and throughly fascinated with those 4-letter words I finally had to make a deal with them – they could cuss but only when we were working cattle.  I figured this was OK since it seems to be the only language cattle understand. 

Now, you might think I’m a terrible mother but I must admit this arrangement worked out pretty well.  The boys actually watched their language at school and public places but on horseback, in a corral full of wild-eyed cattle they could blister the paint off the side of the barn. 

I always had to laugh when the neighbors would come to help work cattle – seeing the shocked looks on their faces, the boys were always quick to explain…

 “But Mom says that’s the only language cattle understand.”

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Have you ever wondered what goes on in a cows’ mind?

I have.  I actually think about this a lot. 

I guess I need a life.

Maybe you only think about these things when you live among cattle for a while.  Frankly, when you see some of the things they do it’s kind of scary.  For instance, before we started work on remodeling our house my husband came up with the great idea of putting up a Christmas star on the end of the old house.  It was pretty cool because he made it go from the very peak of the house (about 20 feet off the ground) to the ground and from the front of  the house to the back.  This was a big and impressive star.  He put it on a timer and lit it up for the Christmas season.  It was beautiful!  You could see it from the highway roughly 4 miles away.  Our family was in awe, the neighbors were speechless and our friends were truly impressed… 

as were the cows. 

The cows were fascinated with it.  They hung out around the house gazing in wonder at the tiny white lights that lit up the star-studded night.  And in a warped kind of way seeing them standing there in such reverence reminded me of the wise men who had followed a star so many, many years ago.  It was enough to bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat.

All was right in the universe and the world was at peace until the day we realized some of the lights weren’t working any more.  Suddenly our big and beautiful symbol of the Christmas story didn’t have a leg to stand on, so to speak.  On closer inspection we found that the cattle had been eating the strings of Christmas lights right off the house, sucking them down like electrified strings of spaghetti.

This created a slew of questions in my mind.

Why would a cow do this? 

What kind of twisted mind would even think to try this?

Couldn’t you get electrified munching on Christmas lights? 

What form of nutritional value do you suppose there is in Christmas lights? 

And the most worrisome question of all – at least for me was if you eat glass light bulbs what happens when they come out the other end?

I worried about this one a lot.  I even had bad dreams about this but it didn’t seem to worry the girls at all. 

For the next couple of years Hubby would replace the mangled strings of lights and the star would shine brightly once again – at least for a while.  The cows would be drawn to it like women to chocolate and that would be the end of the display for another year.  Hubby even tried putting up metal panels to temporarily fence off the lights but the girls would eventually get in and the lower lights would be gone.

Hubby has since given up on the star not because the cows have won the battle and he has given up in defeat but because we have built on to that end of the house and I won’t let him drill holes in the new siding.  But he still has a thing about MEGA BIG Christmas decorations.  Here’s a photo of the Christmas tree he built from scrap metal and cable. 

The tree is about 40 feet tall.  Look at the bottom right hand corner of the photo and you can compare it to the backhoe parked off to the side. 

No – it’s not trick photography – that’s really how big it is.

There are over 2000 feet of rope lights on this tree and when he plugs it in the electric company’s meter on the side of the house spins faster than a Bell helicopters’ blades but I’ve got to admit it’s even more impressive than the star was.

The cows think so too.  Did you notice the bottom strings of lights?

Yes  it’s true – rope lights are just as tasty as the little twinkle lights.

Cows… what are you gonna do with ’em? 

You can’t read their minds and they aren’t talking so I guess the whole Christmas light thing will be one of the great mysteries of the world.

But there is something fascinating about a mysterious woman…

no matter what species she is.

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What exactly is a snubbin’ post?

I heard you – inquiring minds want to know.  So to ease your mind and not leave you hanging,

this is a picture of a genuine snubbin’ post.

No – it’s not the cows or the cowboys or even the big stick my Hubby is dragging behind him – it’s the wooden post sticking out of the ground all by itself in the middle of the corral.  The one that looks like someone forgot to build the fence on to it.

And what do we use a snubbin’ post for?

Why snubbin’ – of course.

Let us demonstrate.

Here’s our son Morgan and his rope.  Morgan likes to rope and he’s good at it.  Please notice that at the end of his rope he has a calf and two cowboys trying to subdue said calf.

Now, notice how Morgan has one loop wrapped around the post already and is ‘throwing’ a second loop.  It is always a good idea to have at least 2 loops around the post no matter what size the animal is on the end of your rope.  Three is even better.  The friction from the rope around the post gives you much more control over the ticked off animal – at least it gives you the illusion of control.  You soon learn there is very little about the world of ranching that you have any control over.  This setup also allows you to take up slack when the ticked off animal charges at you and hopefully you get enough slack to get you clear of the business end of the charging animal.  Warning – don’t ever let your loops cross over each other as they will bind up and refuse to slide at the exact moment you really, really need them too. 

 Take my word for this. 

By applying a little pressure you are able to hold a very large and very angry animal in place no matter how many times it chases you around the post (as long as you stay ahead of it and don’t get run over).  And absolutely never ever let them get the rope wrapped around any part of your body – this is an extremely bad thing.  People have lost body parts and their lives by getting tangled in ropes.  A rope can cut like a knife under the wrong conditions and cows never stop just because you ask them to.

Oops, Morgan – you’ve lost a loop. 

Snubbin’ posts are very heavy posts, usually the butt end of old power poles that are set deep into the ground.  This is a new one we put in a couple of years ago when the original one rotted off and broke while we were working cattle.  Hubby’s uncle and his father had set the original post when they built the corrals sometime in the 20’s or 30’s and it showed all those years of wear and tear in the deep groves dug by hundreds of ropes.  

My favorite part of the old corrals are the gates.  There’s nothing like the sound of an old wooden gate when you swing it open.  It’s music to my ears.  Our gates  are hung from the original gate posts that were set back then too and it amazes me that they are still in such good shape as cattle are pretty rough on things.  Remember the ‘bull in the china shop’ thing?  It’s true. 

Snubbin’ posts are handy for other things too.  You can wire metal panels (sections of portable fence) to them when you need to create an alley way or loading chute.  They will also save your butt when the usually mild-mannered bovine changes before your eyes to a raging leather bag full of vinegar and oneryness and decides, for some unknown reason, that you are the spawn of the devil himself and their sole purpose in this life is to the stomp you into the ground and save the world from scum like you.  It happens – I’ve seen it happen.  It’s scarry when it happens!  The trick is to keep the post between you and the cow long enough for you to jump the fence.  And believe me, with the right motivation (such as a ticked off cow blowing snot all over your backside) you can clear that 6 foot corral in a single bound – just like Super Man.

You can take my word for that too.

Here’s a good picture of the post and our oldest son Dalton on Rough.  I know it’s a weird name for a horse but it suits him – he’s always been a little rough around the edges.

Horses know the benefits of snubbin’ posts too.  Rough has worked most of his life in this corral and he’s ducked behind that post and run cattle around it and has even been tied to it a time or two himself – yes, that’s partly how he got his name.

Snubbin’ posts take a lot of abuse but every corral should have one. 

Don’t you think?

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OK…  it’s official.

I’ve had just about all the winter fun I can stand!

We have snow.  We have lots of snow and it keeps drifting back and forth.  Every day it’s stacked up in a new spot.  The snow can’t seem to decide where it wants to be.  I think snow likes to check out several spots before it decides to stay put.   It’s a theory I have.

Monday night after work I got stuck in our driveway – in the snow that had drifted – with my 3/4 ton, 4 wheel drive pickup –  on a cold and windy evening a half a mile from my house – I got stuck!

Here’s my ride when it’s not stuck in the snow.

I didn’t have a shovel or my Carhart coveralls or my snowboots or a hat or a decent pair of gloves.  And the worst thing was that my husband wasn’t home to dig me out.  Wahhhh!!!

So…  I cussed a little and then I walked through the herd of cows to the house, put on my coveralls, a hat, gloves and my snow boots.  I found a shovel and walked back to my pickup.  By then it was getting dark but I spent a half hour digging the truck out anyway.  I drove it about 5 feet and got stuck again!

So…  I cussed some more, then I dug some more and this time when I got the pickup moving I turned off the driveway and cut across the pasture where you could almost see a patch of bare ground once in a while if you really looked.  I followed a cow path, bounced over several frozen cow pies, hit the gas (or in this case – the diesel fuel) and finally made it to the house.

Life is an adventure – go ahead and live it!

That was Monday night.  Tuesday night I made it home just fine because Hubby had been out plowing snow all day but as we were finishing supper the phone rang – the neighbor lady was stuck and her vehicle was stuck a lot deeper than mine had been.  Hubby fired up the road grader and went to plow as close as he could.  He plowed up one side of her vehicle and down the other, leaving her cute little SUV in an island of snow.   I came with the pickup to help too.  He plowed, we shoveled and then we jump-started her vehicle because the battery was dead by then and finally we chained it to the back of the road grader and pulled her out. 

She was very happy to be on her way.

That’s the way things have been going around here.  The scary part is it continues to snow.  It just keeps coming along with the freezing rains, ground blizzards, drifting snow and frigid arctic temperatures.  You just have to love life in the midwest. 

But if you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes and it will change.

I keep telling myself spring is just around the corner – it has to be!

I’ve had just about all the winter fun I can stand.

And from the looks of it, these deer have too.  They’ve decided to spend the rest of the winter right here, in the stack yard out of the wind with all these lovely hay bales.

Pretty smart critters – aren’t they?


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I had to bring the ladder inside to change some light bulbs so I thought I would take a couple of pictures while I was up there.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to photograph ‘up there’ so here are some pictures of the deer heads that grace our walls. 

I’m sorry – it’s been a long winter and we’re rednecks.

Surprisingly, each deer has a pretty good story.

This is a mule deer.  He was eating hay in our stack yard on the opening day of hunting season – not a wise decision on his part.

 You probably remember this guy from a previous post. 

My husband shot this one while he was standing on the front porch in his underwear (my husband – not the deer).  I have a video of this.  You will never see stuff like this on a TV hunting show even though it was pretty darn funny.

But the best story of all belongs to the little set of horns in the center.  They came from a 4 point White-tailed buck…

and our dog, Barney got that set.


Now before you get all up in arms (pun intended), let me explain. 

Barney the Border Collie was a lover, not a fighter.  His greatest joy in life was baby chicks.  Barney LOVED baby chicks!  He never hurt one – in fact Barney was the best mother hen we had. 

If you’ve ever been around Border Collies you know they have to have a job.  They are working dogs.  They will herd cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, children, cats, balls and all manners of fowl.  Barney’s life revolved around baby chicks.  Every spring when our hens hatched out their babies, Barney was a nervous wreck.  He would go from one batch of chicks to the next, round and round till he was exhausted. 

He loved baby chicks so much that when our hens weren’t setting I would buy chicks just for him.  I would come home with a box of little cheepers and as soon as he heard them he would get so excited he could hardly contain himself.  He would sleep beside their pen and never leave them till they were about half-grown.

Barney was a great dog.

But I’ve gotten sidetracked – the deer horns.

One year both our boys had hunting licenses.  We lived near Custer, SD at that time right up against Custer State Park.  The park fence ran for about 3/4 of a mile along the edge of our property and both boys knew the rules of hunting – anything on the other side of the fence was off-limits.  There was no hunting in the state park! 

But that was OK.  There were usually enough deer on our property that there was no reason to even look across the fence – except for that one white-tailed buck.

He was beautiful.  Not a big rack but well-formed and both boys set their sights (so to speak) on getting him. 

But it wasn’t as easy as you’d think.  He was smart!

There was a spot in the park fence where it crossed the creek that the wire didn’t quite reach the ground leaving just enough space for the deer to duck under the fence and come onto our land and the big meadow full of tall grass. 

All season the boys tried to catch the buck on our land but no matter how quietly they snuck out of the house,  gun in hand, he heard them and would scoot back under the fence to the park where he knew he was safe. 

After a couple of weeks of failure, the boys put a tree stand up in a pine tree then spent hours waiting for the buck but not once did he pass under the fence while they were outside.

He was really smart.

So hunting season passed by and both boys finally gave up and harvested other deer to fill our freezer.  Winter turned into spring.  The snow melted and the grass turned green.  One nice spring day our oldest son, Dalton decided it was time to climb the tree and take down the tree stand.  Barney followed him out, excited to go on a walk with one of his beloved boys.  As they crossed the pasture something in the grass caught Dalton’s eye and he bent down and picked up the cutest little deer antler you ever saw.  It was just a couple small points, only about 6″ long and it had been well polished by the young buck that had shed it at the end of the mating season.  Dalton held it down for Barney to sniff and said,

“Look what I found!”

Barney was just as excited as Dalton and he wagged his tail in delight before disappearing into the tall grass, his nose to the ground.

Dalton climbed the tree, unstrapped his tree stand and lowered it to the ground.  He turned around to whistle for Barney only to find the dog standing right behind him, his tail wagging  in delight and a deer skull clenched in his teeth – the antlers coming up on either side of his face. 

It just about scared the beejeebers out of Dalton.  He was half way up the tree again before he realized it was only Barney and not some blood-crazed devil-like forest creature never before seen by human eyes.

Dalton followed Barney under the fence and back into the trees to the spot where the remains of the buck lay – obviously the site of a mountain lion kill. 

The boys couldn’t catch him but the big kitty did.

Needless to say Barney won the ‘Big Buck’ contest that year and if dogs could talk you could bet Barney would have had one thing to say.

“Tee Hee – see what I found!”

Miss you Barney.


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When you live on a ranch Date Night could be just about anything.

Saturday night Hubby and I went out and did something I have never done before.

It was a beautiful evening with the nearly full moon adrift in a sky full of clouds.

There was mood lighting, witty conversation and I wore my favorite Carhart coveralls…


OK, we went out to the back yard and changed the ball joint on the old Ford pickup.

Who says romance is dead?


Here’s what the poor girl looked like.

Notice the mood lighting. 

This time of year you almost always run out of daylight.

The ball joint was completely trashed – there was nothing holding it together but a wish and a prayer.  You can see the shiny new one at the top of the picture. 

I love this truck.  She hauled my babies around for years and then she took my kids to school when they were old enough to drive.  In fact they started driving this pickup down to the school bus stop (a mile from the house) when Dalton was around 9 or 10 years old.  There are a few dings and dents and those wild children of mine even got in trouble a couple of times in her. 

I know your shocked that my sweet babies would ever do anything to get in trouble – but it’s true.

Overall, she’s been a great truck.  I rolled over 190,000 miles on my way to work last week.  I stopped on the side of the road, danced a little jig and whooped at the top of my lungs. 

The only ones who saw me were a couple of deer and a bald eagle flying overhead and none of them even noticed.  Makes you wonder if there aren”t more crazy ranch wives out there that do this type of thing – doesn’t it?  Still, it’s a good thing I live out here – if I did that type of thing downtown of some big city they would probably lock me up.

Here’s the jack we chose to use – not your typical handyman jack.

What’s that they say?  Go big or go home.

Why mess with those little ‘screw up’ jacks when you can hook a chain on the bucket of your handy-dandy backhoe and have an instant jack that can lift the whole front of your pickup off the ground?

And here’s Hubby putting on the nut that holds everything together.

And here’s one of the compartments on the tool truck – a masterpiece of organization (and yes, the rest of the trucks compartments looks just like this one).  Never fear – Hubby knows exactly where everything is!

(Imagine my eye balls rolling wildly into the back of my head)

A few lug nuts and she’s done.

Thank goodness – I was starting to worry about the old girl.

Now if someone would just vacuum the dog hair and 3 gallons of spilled oats out of the back seat, take the spare parts, fencing materials, baling twine and tools out of the bed, sweep out 10  years worth of dust, mud spatters, old food wrappers and dirt from the cab and use harsh chemicals to remove the black, greasy buildup on the door handles, steering wheel, seats and ceiling liner – I would drive her to work.  

And someday, if your driving through Wyoming and happen to see a crazy ranch wife dancing a jig on the edge of the road beside her red Ford F-150 pickup – just smile and wave as you pass. 

You can bet I’ve just turned over 200,000 miles.


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Most of our cows look like this:

Hello number 17.

And all of our bulls look like this:

“I’m a stud and I know it.”

So, needless to say, most of our calves look like this.

But every once in a while we end up with an odd colored calf. 

In 2009 we had Snowball.

As Ricky Ricardo always said,

“You got some ‘splaining to do, Lucy!”

Actually the big feed lot operation on the other side of the mountain from us runs Charolais bulls – big, white bulls.

Not even Earl, the horse knew what to think of this calf – even though he really did like the color.

Sorry, Snowball – just because you’re a little different that doesn’t mean we’re going to treat you different then the other calves.  After all, we wouldn’t want you to develop some debilitating complex where you feel singled out from the crowd and all alone.  And we really wouldn’t want you to think your special and get spoiled or anything like that.  I’m just saying – it could really ruin your life.  So it’s better if we treat you the same as everyone else.

In the chute you go. 

And look – we just happen to have a cowboy or two.

“Howdy, ma’am.  My name’s Morgan and I’ll be your Brander today.”

Snowball is laid out on our calf table.  The calf table is usually closed into a narrow alley way.  You run the calves into the little chute at the back of it and down the alley way to the three bars at the front.  With levers, you lower the bars around the side and neck of the calf, sucking the calf up to the wall.  Then you flip the wall and calf over onto its side – hence, the calf table.  It’s handy for branding, castrating, ear tagging and just general all-around working on calves.  And when your done you flip them back over onto their feet and release the bars on their side and they run out the front – back to mamma.  Sometimes we use the calf table instead of roping and dragging ’em.  It’s usually when we don’t have a lot of extra help running around. 

Snowball doesn’t look stressed at all – she’s thinking she’s going to spend the day at the spa.

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

Sorry honey, this ain’t no spa.


A brand.  A shot.  All done.

Just be thankful you’re a heifer calf, Snowball.  You don’t even want to think about what we do to the bull calves.

Here’s a good look at our brand – even if it is upside down in this shot.  It really shows up on that white hide.

Just another day at the ranch.


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I know.

You’re wondering what happened to Houdini the Rat – you want to hear the rest of the sordid tale don’t you?  OK, I’ll tell you the sad, sad story of how Houdini finally met his maker.

As we left him last, Houdini had been forced from his home in the garage and his carefully constructed rolling compost heap had been torn apart, restoring it to the classic 1974 Cadillac DeVille that it was.  I’m sure it was very traumatic for the little guy to watch. 

Where, oh where could our fine, furry friend find a new home?

I can almost imagine the little rat stepping out of his beloved garage and taking a look around.  There was Grandpa’s house but he had already tried a house without much success.  Why not the barn across the corral? 

Why not, indeed?

Even though there wasn’t a big old Cadillac to fill with veggies there was a new source of food and shelter.  The oats for the horses and alfalfa cake for the cows is stored in the barn.  It’s also where we keep the tack for the horses.  Just think of all the great nests you could build from a sweaty old cotton horse blanket, not to mention all that great leather to chew on!

It didn’t take Houdini long to settle in and it wasn’t long at all before he made his presence known.  There were holes in the saddle blankets.  Several saddles had teeth marks and a brand new cotton cinch disappeared completely.  When we did finally find it tucked behind a barrel of oats, the only parts that were left were the brass buckles. 

At least we knew that Houdini was alive and well in the barn.

The traps and poison were moved into the barn and within a couple of days Houdini was once again staring back at us through the wire mesh of the catch-em-alive trap. 

This time Hubby didn’t take any chances.  Houdini had already cost us a lot of time, money and horse tack so Hubby had no qualms at all about shooting the rat through the sides of the cage, leaving two small holes in the metal screen and one dead rat.

Fairwell to a worthy opponent. 

We salute you.

Well, all things must come to an end – so it was with Houdini the Rat.  But just because he was dead it didn’t mean his adventures were over.

Our two sons had grown as fond as anyone to the tale of the wood rat and once they knew we had dispatched the little critter once and for all they asked to see the body when they got home from school.  They were curious – Houdini had always been moving at a pretty high rate of speed whenever they did catch a glimpse of him so they wanted to take a good look at him now that he was…  well…  a little slower.

I guess you could say Houdini had left his body to science.

At that time our family was technically living in two places.  We were working on remodeling the old house at the ranch but still owned the house 32 miles away at Custer, SD.  I would work on the ranch house all day then go home to the kids who were still in high school at Custer while Hubby took care of things at the ranch. 

That afternoon Houdini’s body was placed in the bed of the pickup and I went home to make supper for the kids.  They were thrilled to finally see the wood rat up close. 

I know – ranch kids are weird.

The next morning, for some reason that I can’t remember, we swapped vehicles and the boys drove the pickup to school, not even thinking of the dead rat in the back.

Of course, boys will be boys and the death of the infamous wood rat was a hot  topic in the parking lot before school.  Amazingly, none of their friends had ever seen a bushy-tailed wood rat so they all congregated around the back of the pickup for a close look at the native wildlife. 

One thing led to another.  One kid had an idea – another kid had a roll of duct tape and before you could say Abracadabra, Houdini was taped to the antenna of someone elses car.

Now, don’t get upset – it wasn’t done in anger or spite.  The kid who’s car they chose to’ bless’ with such an honor was actually a good friend of theirs and obviously one with a well-developed sense of humor (and another roll of duct tape) as Houdini was soon moved and thus began his tour of the parking lot. 

All day long there were comments in the halls of the school.

“Did you see that thing taped to my antenna?”

“Yeh, what was it?”

“I don’t know but it’s on (so and so’s) car now.”

No one knows for sure how many vehicles were visited that day as Houdini traveled throughout the parking lot.  There were even rumors that some of the  teachers were introduced (up close and personal) to the wood rat as the day went on. 

By late afternoon, Houdini was the talk of the school but then the body went missing.  No one knew what happened to him and to tell the truth no one really thought much of it.  More than likely, someone had finally taken the bull by the horns (or more aptly, the rat by the tape) and disposed of the body.  School let out and everyone went home with a new knowledge of the bushy-tailed wood rat.

The boys came home and shared the story of Houdini’s wild day at school with me.  Of course, I was horrified and knew for sure my beloved but slightly warped children would be expelled from school.  But they weren’t.

The next morning I needed the pickup to haul building supplies to the ranch so we swapped vehicles again.  The boys left for school and I headed to the lumber yard then on to the ranch.

It was a beautiful fall day with warmer temperatures and lots of sunshine.  As I pulled up to the house I saw my hubby working outside.  He glanced up, then did a double take, a crease furrowing his brow as I pulled to a stop beside him.

“What’s up?”  I asked.

“I don’t know.”  He answered still looking puzzled.  “What’s hanging under your truck?”

It couldn’t be.  But it was.

We both got to our hands and knees to look under the truck to find a plastic grocery bag tied to the center of the pickup frame. 

The mystery had been solved.

Houdini had come home to the ranch. 

He’s buried out in the back yard.


 Maybe I’ll put up a headstone someday.


Maybe we should have named him Boomerang.


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