Dirt Roads, Reservoirs and Rattle Snakes

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Prairie steed . . . .

More . . . . Travels With Sandy

Sandy was the Southern Johnson County water commissioner.  She invited me to ride along with her in the autumn of 2007.  Summer was about gone and her long list of reservoirs to be inspected was narrowing down to a few far-flung dry holes on the eastern edge of her assigned territory.  I was interested in the prospect of touring the prairie stretching from Nine Mile to the Pumpkin Buttes.  My family homestead lies just east of the Pine Ridge and it was a welcome opportunity to stir up a few memories and a lot of dust.

We loaded up some lunch and water bottles.  Her old Ford Bronco was already piled high in back with the tools of her trade: shovel; level; tape measure; “come along” to open gates; rope; and a cheater bar to loosen lug nuts in case of a flat tire.  She had a sheaf of plans and permit maps provided by the Wyoming State Engineer which we were supposed to decipher to locate the reservoirs.  After a quick look at some of those, I figured we were in for a long day.

As near and I can recall, our trip was a vast circle that took us down the Sussex highway east to Highway 50 and from there a series of graveled and dirt roads that led us back to Reno Road and home on old U.S. 87.  I was lost most of the time, but Sandy seemed to have an unerring instinct for locating the reservoirs, many of which were ancient and had not seen water in years.  Finding roads to the dams was out of the question and we bounced and bucked over sagebrush, up and down hills, across gullies and washed out dry creek beds.  The dust came in one side of the Bronco and out the other.  We had to keep the windows rolled down because Sandy chain-smoked as she drove along.  Since I didn’t smoke, she wanted me to “breathe fresh air and smell the sage.”

The dust didn’t seem to affect her vision.  Frankly, I believe she was driving from plain grit and instinct.  I offered to take the wheel but got a flat “no!”  After a great deal of trial and error, our search would eventually lead us to the designated reservoir.  We got out and after a firm warning to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, she would commence with her job to determine if there was any water (no in almost all cases); measure the height of the dam; check the spill way; measure the length of the dam; and look for any problems that may have cropped up since the last inspection.  Some were only required to be inspected every five years, which makes it difficult to remember where on earth they are located.

It would seem a simple task to check in with the ranchers and get clear directions.  Not.  Modern ranches are far flung and few ranch headquarters remain out in the prairie.  We drove past old homestead sites with little but foundation stones and rusting windmills left standing to blow in the wind.  Houses, sheds and anything that could be relocated were removed long ago and ended up in town or on somebody’s ranch many miles away, which was the case with our homestead.

Whenever we weren’t hanging onto the seats for dear life as we jounced across the prairie, we had a few moments to relax on smooth road and watch the antelope, who were gathering for their fall mating rituals.  We spied a magnificent golden eagle sitting high on a branch in a dead cottonwood tree.  One of two larger reservoirs that had water was teeming with an amazing number of ducks, geese and shore birds.  We had a bird guide book and tried to identify whatever we came across, although I don’t recall any of the names on the list we compiled.  The prairie was a beautiful golden brown and stretched uninterrupted except for patches of sagebrush and old cedar fence posts.

As our day was wrapping up we reached the asphalt on Reno Road.  We headed west to 287 and we noticed a huge snake stretched across the road catching a few rays of sun and gathering some warmth from the asphalt.  Having an intense dislike for and morbid fear of snakes, I was hopeful we would drive over it and keep going, preferably at high speed.  Not Sandy.  She hit the brakes and we skidded sideways over the top of the snake.  Not satisfied, she backed up and took another run at him, braking where she believed the “sweet spot” was to put the Bronco tracks across it one more time.  She then turned the engine off and sat listening for the hissing rattle of a thoroughly agitated snake.  All was quiet.  She leaned over the seat and grabbed her shovel, then started to climb out the door and step down to the road.  “Are you coming?”  “Hell no!”  She walked along the road until she found what was left of the snake, detached his rattles with her shovel, and crawled back into the Bronco, cuddling the rattles in her hand.

I was relieved the snake had come at the end of the day.  We were pretty close to home and I figured the chances of coming upon another snake were pretty remote.  In a move to settle my jitters, she offered to let me drive the rest of the way back to Kaycee.

The Parade General

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Powder River, Let ‘er Buck! . . . .

More . . . Travels With Sandy 

A cup of coffee and conversation at Sandy’s kitchen table got me into all kinds of trouble.  We were discussing the upcoming Deke Rodeo for 2007 and I casually asked the question “why doesn’t Kaycee have parades anymore?”  In years past, a parade of sorts preceded the annual rodeo and were always a lot of fun.  Some years they were a little skimpy on floats, but the community usually pulled something together.  I couldn’t remember the last one I had seen, although I had lived away for a long time and figured I had missed a few.

Sandy took a drag off her cigarette and ignored my question altogether.  So I asked “why don’t we put one together?”  She tossed her head back, rolled her eyes, and responded “because it is too god-damned much work–that’s why!”  I dropped the subject.  A couple days later I got a call.  “I’ve got a few people that have agreed to help – are you in?” I, and a few other good people, were on the way to becoming her slaves for the duration.  We didn’t have a lot of time before the rodeo and would have to move fast. I should have had some idea what it would be like.  For the ensuing weeks General Patton a.k.a. Sandy barked out orders and manned the telephone in a frenzy to get floats lined up and committed.  People came forth because, in my opinion, nobody wanted to tell her no.

I worked on developing a program, typing up descriptions of each float as the entrants came in and developing a script for the parade announcer.  Sandy’s granddaughter Savanah designed a program cover with pen and ink cartoon sketches.  We ran off a couple hundred copies to distribute.  The Jarrard family was chosen to be honored and recognized in the parade for their involvement in ranching and rodeo for many generations in Johnson County.  Harold had previously been awarded the Top Hand Award by the Museum of American Cowboys in 1996; the Western Heritage Awarded, 1997, Oklahoma City; and was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1997.  Our very own local celebrity!

One of our most interesting parade entrants was inspired by Don Meike who told a tale of local ranchers getting behind an artificial rain-making plan in March of 1951.  The ranchers raised $19,000 for this adventure, or misadventure as it became known.  Lee Keith was chairman of the rain making committee.  Don recalled a “Dr. Krick” from Denver who was hired to conduct the procedure.  (Doesn’t that sound just like a snake oil salesman?)  Anyway, Don described it as a smudge pot filled with a silver iodide mixture.  A fire was lit under it to cause the smoke to rise into the atmosphere.  The story got quite humorous as Don recounted Raymond Cash recalling that Fred Hesse insisted it “really worked!”  When asked, “where is the rain?” Fred replied, “well something went haywire, and the rain went to Gillette.”  Naturally we had to have a rainmaker float in the parade.  A request went out to Kaycee High School shop class teacher Milo Warren to build one.

Milo must have gone out to test his machine because the day before the rodeo the sky burst forth.  I was sitting in Sandy’s kitchen trying to keep up with the last-minute details, barked out orders and total pandemonium when I looked out her window at the sky.  “I’m going home, Sandy, those storm clouds look fierce!”  I don’t recall what she replied, and it wasn’t worth repeating.  I slunk out of her kitchen feeling like a rat deserting the ship, but by the time I got to North Fork I knew I had made the right decision.  The river was over its banks north and south of the bridge.  I wasn’t sure if I should try to cross, but figured if the bridge went, it would be better to be on the side of home.  At any rate, Sandy wouldn’t be able to come and get me.  Five inches of rain fell. Who knew?  Kaycee was spared another major flood on the Middle Fork of Powder River that day, but the North Fork flood swamped ranches all along the river banks.

The rodeo, and the parade would go on as usual, however.  Powder River has yet to wipe out a rodeo – the show will go on!  There were 43 parade entries in all, and Sandy had them lined up Old Barnum Road stretching all the way up the hill to the west.  Someone made the last-minute comment that just about everybody in Southern Johnson County was in the parade.  Would there be anybody left in Kaycee to watch as the parade traveled up Main Street?  No worries.  There was always a great crowd for “The Deke.”

 

Accordion Crimes

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a.k.a. “squeeze box” . . .

Travels With Sandy

     When Sandy was somewhere in her teens and I was maybe ten years old, we were asked to play an accordion duet for a gathering at the Grange Hall in Kaycee.  It was probably a mother and daughter banquet, which was an annual event, or some other civic affair.  I recall there was a very large audience and I was scared stiff.  It is not clear to me who invited us to perform, or who decided to pair us to play our accordions.  I didn’t think anybody knew I played.  I had taken no lessons and I had no accordion.  My older sisters each had one, though, and when I could sneak some time on them I did.  It set our dog to howling so I had to limit my playing time to avoid driving everyone in the household crazy.  I picked up some tunes playing by ear.  I certainly wasn’t ready for the stage–not even in Kaycee!

     Rodney Dangerfield gets less respect than accordionists.  Many acquaintances of mine learned to play in their youth, but don’t talk about it.  Some who recall an accordion performance are reminded of the Lawrence Welk Show on television (that they hated) or a mid-western polka band on RFD (which they also hated).  More recently, accordions are gaining some respect.  The popular Cowboy Junkies band has an accordionist, which is very cool.  And zydeco, Cajun and rock bands have discovered the magical sound of accordions!  Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Proulx wrote a book entitled “Accordion Crimes,”   which I found fascinating as it seemed to elevate the image of this humble folk instrument and give it some mysterious respectability.

Sandy and I had never interacted in any significant way.  She did not attend the local high school and being older (and much wiser) than I, she should have scoffed at the suggestion that we play a duet.  I know we had to practice the number a few times and I believe it was a piece Sandy chose for us to play (although she professed ignorance of the affair later in life).  The song was the Julida Polka.  I am guessing at the spelling of the song’s title–I don’t believe I ever saw any sheet music for it.  Since I played by ear without music, that didn’t much matter.  I listened to her play it a few times and managed to get the hang of it.

Sandy was a natural performer.  Over the years she played her music for local gatherings, often paired with her father on violin.  She wrote and produced plays in which she acted and was a spark plug the community needed to keep things lively.  I was quite the opposite.  To this day I have vivid memories of trying to struggle through a piano piece, Beethoven’s Minuet in G for the President’s Tea in the east room of the Methodist Church.  I was in the 4th grade and my fingers seemed glued together.  I forgot where I was and lost track of the music, starting over a few times (that’s what comes from playing from memory rather than music) and I felt nauseous when the ordeal was finally over.  The ladies of the Matron’s Club were quite forgiving and thankfully they never asked me back.

Actually I think stage fright runs in our family.  When my older sister was asked to play an accordion solo for a graduation ceremony, she started off great, playing a Latin number Celito Lindo (I don’t think I know how to spell that title either) and then she looked out at the faces of the audience, which included our mother and father, and she just went blank.  She kept trying to start again, but finally gave up in despair.  Dad said that was the last time he wanted to attend any function where his children had to perform a musical number.

So we’re standing at the west end of the hall and the audience is sitting on metal fold-up chairs out in front of us.  Sandy signals me she is ready to begin and we went right to it.  Dad would have been proud, only he wasn’t in the audience.  I don’t think I made any mistakes, which was probably the first performance I ever delivered without any.  I don’t know if she gave me confidence or had me so scared of blowing our number that I had to come through on the occasion.  I believed if I hit a wrong note, nobody would notice because Sandy’s accordion would cover my crime.

A few years ago over a cup of coffee at her kitchen table, I reminded her of our accordion duet.  She asked if I still played and I had to tell her honestly that one of the family accordions was gathering dust in the basement and I drug it out once in a while.  She indicated she had been neglecting her accordion as well and we agreed to get together to practice and see what happened.  Good lord, what a racket!  I’m surprised the paint didn’t peel right off her house.  We had a lot of laughs trying to recall some of the old music we had heard on the radio or at the dance halls while growing up.  Our taste in tunes was different, but we found some songs to play together, mostly old folk tunes or country music from the 1940-1950’s.  We didn’t have sheet music, but played from memory mostly.  We spent quite a few hours reminiscing about old times.

Sandy never undertook anything without giving it her all and she persisted with her accordion until she had mastered quite a few great tunes.  Over the past ten years, she enjoyed playing with other musicians for events and to perform at the senior center in Buffalo.  One winter night we had a great jam session here on Dry Creek with Ross and Donna Mae, Erin and Bill, Helen and a few others.  I wish now we had done it more often.

I called her on the telephone a few months ago and she commented that she was worried about her group’s performance preceding the Chris LeDoux rodeo.  Each year Sandy pulled together a group to play on the porch of the Rusty Spur the morning of the rodeo, and this year she was facing a really tough challenge.  She wasn’t sure how to manipulate the strap on her accordion so that it would not interfere with the chemotherapy port on her chest.  But as always, Sandy found a way.

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Sandy and great grandson on stage at the Rusty Spur . . .

Just LeDoux It . . .

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Good ride . . . .

A bronze statue of Chris LeDoux is dedicated to his memory and can be found in a small park in Kaycee, Wyoming.  This weekend, June 17, is the annual rodeo put on in his name by family and community members to celebrate Chris and the western tradition of rodeo.  While going through old photo files, I came across the shots I took at the 2013 rodeo and decided to have another look.

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Who’s up? . . . .

A cowboy prepares to mount his bronc for an 8-minute ride or a toss into the arena dirt.  What can be more fun?  What a lineup of pure cowboy pulchritude!

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Airborne . . . .

Even protective gear of a neck brace and padded vest won’t keep this guy from a few aches and pains next morning, if he is lucky.

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Just like settin’ in a rocking chair . . . .

If he lasts until the whistle blows, a couple of cowboys will help this rider off his horse. The horse is trying to help him along a little quicker.

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Trouble coming . . . .

Looks like a face plant coming.  Going to be a wreck.

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Please, oh lord . . . . .

The view from up here is a little turbulent.  Can’t tell head from tail!

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Man and beast . . . .

A little poetry in motion – looks like just about anybody could do it, right?  I don’t think so.

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Never too young to get in on the fun . . . .

Rodeos are family fun and all ages get to compete.  This young lady is getting a little assistance around the barrels but next year she’ll be handling this horse on her own.

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Cowboy down, holding our breath . . . .

These tough cowboys generally pop right up, swat the dust off with their hat and swagger to the fence.  They can usually count on a round of applause from the crowd for giving it a go, but not much else.

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Bareback . . . .

The Indian relay races are a testament to their skill in mounting and riding their ponies without a saddle.

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Fast and furious . . . .

The race around the arena moves at a swift pace and demonstrates the athletic ability of the men and their horses.

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Spectators . . . .

The old time music uptown before the rodeo is a local favorite.

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Charlie on mandolin . . . .

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Strut your stuff, cowboy . . . .

Looks like the street dance is getting off to an early start with a solo performance!

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Looks like it was a draw between cowboys and horses . . . .

The Chris LeDoux Rodeo for 2017 will be another great contest between the cowboys, cowgirls and critters.  Powder River, Let ‘er Buck!

 

R.I.P., Rosie

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“I’ll just have a little nap” . . . .

A little dog came into my life one winter day, and soon came to be my best friend, protector, and daily shadow.  She was fearsome, and stood her ground when a vet-tech brought her into my home in Laramie.  She was wet from a bath and it was February.  I remember going for a towel to dry her and gave her a good rub to reduce her shivering. A friend’s big dog (about 10 times her size as a 4-month-old puppy) tried to offer a friendly sniff and she bristled and barked, approaching the much larger dog in an aggressive stance that said, “don’t mess with me!”  I had no need of a dog and tried to convince the kindly vet-tech that, although this little dog desperately needed a home, I was much too busy to get involved with owning a dog.

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“I know this is TuTu’s throne, but I can fit!” . . . .

Sooooo, ten years later I am left with trying to figure out how to fill the hole left in my life by the loss of this little dog, who I named Rosie (my mother’s nickname) and came to love dearly.  She died after a four-day struggle with what we can only surmise was due to ingesting something poisonous or toxic.  We are still puzzling over what it could be–a dead animal carcass?  The vet said that can cause botulism but Rosie’s symptoms would have been more severe immediately.  Rat poison?  Again, the vet said they ran a test that ruled out that as a cause.  Fertilizer?  We have none on the premises, having used all we purchased last fall on the lawn.  Our garden fertilizer is kept in a secure place.  A dispenser with Round-up was sitting on the porch where I left it recently, but would have required Rosie to open the handle, depress the pump and drink out of the hose.  Not likely she would have been attracted to the taste or smell even if she could have managed to drink it.

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“A little sun is nice” . . . .

We were on the way home from a trip to Colorado when we got a call from Joyce, our caregiver.  She was alarmed that Rosie was nowhere to be found as she was doing evening chores.  A little dog who for 10 years has always been at the gate or nearby, waiting for the people who matter to her to return, had disappeared.  When we arrived home it was growing dark but we began the search with flashlights.  We called her name, whistled and poked into all the sheds and likely places for her, to no avail.  By 10:00 p.m. we gave up and went to bed.  I did not sleep but tried to imagine why Rosie would have vanished.  And shed a lot of tears.

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“They could make these cat beds a little bigger!”

We put a photo of her in the post office and hoped if she had decided to leave home to find us, someone would have seen her along the highway.  We knew something was really wrong with her, because there were dark ominous stains on her sleeping pad out on the porch and her nighttime perch on our sofa was stained.  Rosie must have been mortified, because she has never in her entire life left a mess in the house. Later that morning Michael was coming from dropping off a salt block at the pond, and saw a white blob near a neighbor’s cattle guard.  He drove closer and found Rosie, still alive but barely.  When I saw him walking up the road toward our house with her in his arms I thought she was dead.  When I called to her,  she lifted her head.  We wrapped her in a blanket and raced to the vet clinic in Kaycee with her, knowing there wasn’t much time.

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The straw boss . . . .

Rosie never left our side.  Our daily travels are as varied and taxing as can be imagined but Rosie was not to be left behind.  She would snarl at Ricky, our goose if he became too aggressive when I penned them at night; she flew at Cromwell, our rooster when he decided to get too frisky as I was placing feed in his pan; she nipped at Michael and the entire universe of visitors if they came too close to me, which could be exasperating.  We tried a variety of things to reduce her insistence on protecting me, fearing she would eventually bite someone and we’d be in real trouble.  Nothing would deter her.  Michael fed her daily, warming her food and trying to win her over.  After nearly eight years, it didn’t make any difference.  She loved him too, but not enough to alter her fierce protection of me.

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“Bleu is bugging me!” . . . .

Competition for attention was foremost in Rosie’s mind.  If our cats Bleu, Oscar, TuTu or Mr. Mouse came around for a rub or a scratch, Rosie could not tolerate it.  Consequently, the cats migrated to Michael’s lap, leaving me off limits and bereft if Rosie was around. When I worked with Tilly, our horse, Rosie was vigilant and would try to sneak in a nip at her tail, which would get her a scolding and banishment from the barn.  She would wait patiently in a shady spot nearby, watching and waiting for me to finish.  To understand her psychosis, one must merely know that she is half Border Collie and half Australian Shepherd.  She looks more Aussie, but her obsessive compulsive personality is pure Border Collie.  She loves to herd the guineas and chickens and while her methods are not always successful, her failures can largely be attributed to her mistress who has done a lousy job of training her!

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“More critters to herd!” . . . .

X-rays determined Rosie had no broken bones or bruising, nor obstructions from a bone in her digestive tract.  She had suffered from severe diarrhea which had evolved into a yellow fluid leaking from her behind which she seemed unable to control. She was severely dehydrated.  She could stand for a short period, but could not walk. Diagnosis was inconclusive.   We were referred to a clinic in Sheridan, 84 miles north.  As we neared town, Rosie seemed to rally a bit.  She moved around on her pad into a new position and when I looked back at her, she was trying to sit up, panting and grinning like she always does when she gets to go with us for a ride.  High on her list of favorite things to do was go for a ride and her only regular opportunity was a monthly trip to the landfill in Brownie, our old trash truck.  Now here she was, getting a real long ride!

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Coming up Rosie . . . .

We answered a battery of questions regarding Rosie’s environment as they prepared to do more X-rays, ultrasound and get her on fluids and antibiotics. We left her believing she would perk up and overcome whatever illness she was suffering from.  A lengthy message from the vet when we returned home confirmed all the ongoing tests and efforts being made in her behalf throughout the day since we had departed. We were to pick her up in two days since we had dental appointments in Sheridan and we were confident that she would recover. The next morning we had another message from the vet with a lengthy update and a request that we call her.  The update was not encouraging and I began to fall apart again. After a thorough discussion with the vet, we concluded we should return to Sheridan right away and bring Rosie home.  We would care for her over the weekend and have her euthanized at home.

The only diagnosis the vet could come up with was a wild card and quite rare–dysautonomia–a condition currently under study at the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab.  Some, but not all of Rosie’s symptoms seemed similar.  It typically appears in dogs age three or younger; living in rural areas; spend half time outdoors; and it is prevalent in Kansas, Missouri, and some reports in Oklahoma.  The vet had arrived at no conclusions on this diagnosis. She was not optimistic they could do more for her, however.  Rosie’s vital signs were all pointing in the wrong direction.  She offered to euthanize but we declined, deciding to bring Rosie home and say our goodbyes.  We picked up some supplies for her care and when we arrived at the Sheridan clinic, we were ushered into the waiting room while they prepped Rosie to go home.  After what seemed an interminable amount of time, the vet came to us with the bad news that Rosie had just died, probably just a few moments before we arrived.  Her IV pump had stopped and they did not notice right away.  We were devastated.  I only wanted to hold her once more and tell her how much I loved her.  I was too late.

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A quiet place in the orchard . . . .

We buried her wrapped in a shroud in a white cardboard coffin furnished by the vet, with a few mementos tucked inside.  The fruit trees and flowering shrubs are just beginning to bloom, and the Maine bell hanging above her chimes softly in the breeze.  I will plant a climbing rose bush in the hope it will cling to the rustic metal stock panel we erected in the orchard as yard art.  It will be a place we visit often.

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R.I.P., Rosie . . . .

Wyoming Seafaring Days

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A ship for Wyoming . . . .

Maine is a long journey from Wyoming.  One does not expect to visit there and find much to remind you of home.  Imagine our surprise when we came upon this model of a schooner named Wyoming at the Maine Maritime Museum.  She was launched December 15, 1909 from the Percy & Small shipyard in Bath and was built for the coastal coal trade.  She could carry 6,000 long tons of coal with a crew of 12-14 and was the largest wooden sailing vessel built in the United States at the time of her launch. The scale of the model is 1/8 inch = 1 foot.

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Maine was the ship-building capital of the United States . . . .

The above poster details  the mast design and lists some interesting facts: 1) launched after 8 1/2 months of construction; 2) contains 700 tons of white oak used in building her frame; 3) 2,300 tons of longleaf yellow pine used in planking, ceiling, clamps, waterways, keelsons, stanchions and deck beams; 4)  300 tons of iron and steel used in fittings, fastenings, and strapping; 5) lower masts were 123-foot sticks, 30 to 32 inches in diameter, of Douglas fir (Oregon pine); 6) 12,000 yards of heavy cotton canvas were used to make her sails; and 7) Wyoming was the largest wooden sailing vessel built in the United States, and the last 6-mast schooner built.

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Reconstructed Deck and Inboard Profile Plan . . . .

The Wyoming dimensions were 329.5 feet in length; 50.1 feet breadth, and 30.4 feet depth of hold.  Height, from bottom of keel to top of topmast, 177 feet.  Original cost was $164,800 and she set sail on her first voyage December 21, 1909.  From 1909 to 1916, the schooner made 83 trips north with coal–30 to Portland, 53 to Boston, averaging 32 days per round trip, including loading and unloading.  In 1916 Percy & Small sold Wyoming to the France & Canada Steamship Co. for a reputed $350,000, nearly twice her construction cost (because World War I was going on).  Wyoming made at least one trip to Europe during the war.  In 1921 the schooner was purchased by A. W. Frost & Co. of Portland, ME.

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Launching Day: Wyoming . . . .

Under the vessel and on top of the groundways greased with tallow and cottonseed, carpenters installed “sliding ways” of timber. The cradle and hull of the ship were packed and fitted snugly into the sliding ways and the schooner now sat on a big sled perched on inclined greased tracks.  The Wyoming  would be gradually eased down the ways into the Kennebec River, which was no easy feat and required precision and coordination of a large crew of men.

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Wyoming’s Lena Brooks . . . .

Lena Brooks, ” . . . dressed in a very stylish green rajah suit . . . ” pronounced the traditional blessing.  “I christen thee WYOMING,” and scattered a bouquet of flowers and ferns over the bow.  And who was Lena Brooks?  She was the third daughter of Governor and Mrs. Bryant B. Brooks of Wyoming and was attending Dana Hall, an eastern finishing school at the time.  She was granted the privilege of christening the Wyoming  because her father was governor of Wyoming from 1905 to 1911.  Governor Brooks wrote in his autobiography how ” . . . Wyoming and Maine joined hands in sending overboard the finest craft of her class that the world had yet seen. . . .”  The Percy and Small ship-building company had been very successful in developing interest and Western capital for Eastern shipping!

Governor Brooks and a group of investors acquired interest in some of the older vessels of this same company and then signed a contract for the building of the Governor Brooks, in 1907.  It was a successful venture and his initial investment was paid back in full in dividends by July 11, 1916.  Governor Brooks wrote that ” . . . during the world war our company sold the entire fleet of sixteen vessels, of which I had an interest only in four or five, to some government for colliers.  On September 12, 1917 I received payment for my interest in the schooner, Governor Brooks, sold through the Percy and Small Company, Inc. , ship brokers of 52 Front Street, Bath, Maine. . . .”

The Wyoming, which had been launched in 1909, also paid good dividends and was disposed of with the fleet in 1917, returning Governor Brook’s capital investment.  He wrote that “seven years later, the Wyoming went down off Chatham, Massachusetts, in a terrible storm.  That very night my wife and I were on the stormy seas between Halifax and New York harbor returning from a trip to Europe.  The next morning we were greeted in New York by glaring headlines across the papers, about the tragedy of the Wyoming.”  The entire crew was lost March 11-12, 1924 near Pollock Rip between Cape Cod and Nantucket Island.

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The essence of the Wyoming . . . .

Perched on the grounds of the Percy and Small Shipbuilding Company, which is now part of the Maine Maritime Museum, sits this life-size sculpture of the Wyoming.  It was dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the Wyoming’s launch in 1909.

Governor Brooks, in his autobiography, wrote that ” . . . .Captain Charles Glaesel of Boston, who commanded the vessel, had a crew of twelve, and was bound from Norfolk to St. John, New Brunswick, with five thousand tons of coal.  No survivor was ever found to tell the story of her disaster. . . .”

Tilly Goes To School

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“So, what’s up?” . . . .

The Ides of March

Monday, March 13, 2017 was a noteworthy day.  Call it bad luck, bad Karma, bad timing or just plain bad news.  The minute the stock trailer rolled into the barnyard, Tilly started having fits.  She knew it wasn’t her trailer and I guess she smelled a rat.

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Nothing to get excited about, Tilly . . . .

The following photographs of Tilly capture her typical fit.  The actual events of March 13 could not be photographed because all hands were on the end of a rope.  This is how things went.

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“I’m going to act up a bit here” . . . .

At four years old, Tilly is ready for the next step in her development–saddle training by a pro who can get her attention.  She has been a fine filly since we got her at six months as a weanling, giving us fits at times but basically being cooperative and showing real signs of intelligence.  I had her in a daily routine of desensitizing tactics, lunge exercises, and a pretty thorough grooming ritual.

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“I hope they’re watching me” . . . .

We had previously worked with Tilly tying her to a patience pole, saddling her with a bareback pad and then a real saddle.  She was reasonably calm.  She crow-hopped a couple of times with the saddle, but settled down to her lunge routine.  Being very head strong and sensitive about her mouth, she gave us resistance to a snaffle bit.  We succeeded in getting it on her but not without a fight.  I attribute some of this resistance to several nasty procedures she has undergone to clear up infection in her throat and gutteral pouches, as well as treating an eye for a corneal tear from a weed stem that poked through her face mask.  Ah, horses can be a wonder!

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“I’m really getting wound up” . . . .

But I digress.  Back to March 13th, an unlucky day if you see it from Tilly’s perspective. Not only did she start to act up in the corral, she carried on her tantrum and resisted getting into the stock trailer.  Ord and Michael had to push her from behind with a large cotton rope (this was not our first rodeo) while I hung onto her lead rope and tried to steer her into the trailer.  Finally she knew she had to do it and jumped in.  I fastened her lead to the ring at the end of the trailer and closed the inner gate on her.  We loaded several bales of hay, closed the end gate and she was ready to ride, wide-eyed with fear.

Memories

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“I think I’ll have a bite of this straw” . . . .

I miss her terribly and spend time looking at all the photographs we have captured of her since she was a weanling.  This is one of my favorites which I used on our Christmas card.  She is wearing a personalized halter which was a gift from Kristin and Chris.

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“Can’t scare me!” . . . .

We borrowed a youth saddle to place on her first, since it would not be so heavy and cause her much alarm.  Her expression says it all.

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“I’ll get rid of this thing” . . . .

She is trying to dislocate her snaffle bit, which she found quite annoying.  Boy is she in for some surprises!

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“I’m just a little girl” . . . .

My first sight of Tilly, after waiting eleven months for her birth on Mother’s Day, 2012.   We engaged a mare that belonged to my niece Sue, selected a sire after a few months of research and we were on our way.

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Tia and her baby . . . .

Tilly’s sire is a handsome black and white tobiano paint, Sugs Tru Luck, and we hoped she would have his coloration.  When breeding for color, anything goes.  Tilly’s dam is a registered paint breeding mare, although she is predominantly sorrel.  Tilly seems to have taken on the colors of JB Classic, her grandfather who was a sorrel overo.  Tilly is registered as a bay tobiano/overo.  She has blue eyes.

Meanwhile, back at the barn

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Tilly’s new yoga mat . . . .

In Tilly’s absence we laid a wooden plank floor in her stall and covered it with heavy rubber stall mats.  The ancient barn where she lives had a dirt floor and she had dug a hole in her favorite corner that went down to hard-pan clay and was a mess to clean up.

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Oscar does a test drive . . . .

The mats will cushion Tilly’s legs and feet while she is indoors.  They are also easy to sweep clean and remove the wood chips that go down each day for her bedding.  We did some additional strengthening of the walls, patched a leak in the roof, and we are ready for Tilly when she comes home.  In the meantime, I have to wait for Ord to call me and tell me 1) he needs more hay; 2) she is ready for visitors; or 3) she is ready to come home. He made it perfectly clear HE WOULD CALL ME.  I got the message.