Granny’s Button Jar

IMG_0023.JPGAn old Ball canning jar, turned blue with age, contains a collection that my grandmother stashed over the years.  I found it among her things and saved it in tact.  Being the family collector, there was no way I was going to part with it.  It has resided in an antique book case, along with many other family artifacts. Inside the jar, a sewing kit called  the “Happy Mender” contains a variety of thread and a needle.  Frank A. Barrett, Republican for Congress, added a slogan to the kit that reads “Let’s sew up the re-election of Frank A. Barrett.”  The flip side of the kit lists his qualifications:  Able; Efficient; Experienced; Served World War 1.”

IMG_0015.JPGBeyond the sewing kit is a wide variety of incidental items that would have been picked at random for the jar:  three shotgun shells; two thimbles, (one with an inscription “Butternut, the Coffee Delicious” and the other with “Natrona Motor Company, Housley Ford);” USO and Red Cross pins; zipper pull; dress hook;  red plastic die; safety pins in various sizes; hair pins; straight pins; pencil with red lead; brittle rubber bands; key to open tins of meat; curtain rod bracket; and an assortment of buttons of all sizes and colors.  A slender, 4-inch brass tool was included – we have no idea what it was used for.

The assortment of items my grandmother collected gave me a peek into her life. I see her going through her daily routine as a wife and mother on the homestead at Nine Mile during the 1920’s and 1930’s. I do not believe she ever fired a gun, so the addition of three shotgun shells is a puzzlement.  I cannot know whether she was really fond of the sewing kit or the political candidate who gave it to her, but she kept it for 40 years.  Our family didn’t have a lot of discussions about politics–it was usually cattle prices and commodities.  I always believed Granny was a solid Democrat because I remember her fussing and stewing in the kitchen at the Telephone Store, worrying that Adlai Stevenson would not get elected for president.  But a woman has the right to vote her heart, not the party!

I decided to take a look at the Honorable Frank Aloysius Barrett.  Of Irish descent, he served in the Wyoming Senate from 1933 until 1935.  He stood for Congress in 1942 and was elected to the House of Representatives until 1950.  I cannot determine which of his campaigns for re-election to the House would have generated a “Happy Mender” sewing kit.   In 1951 Barrett became the 21st governor of  Wyoming and resigned in 1953 after he was elected to the U. S. Senate where he served one term.

Nella, Jim and Clara Ullery circa 1938

Nella, Jim and Clara Ullery circa 1938

Granny Ullery standing (right) beneath the wind mill on the homestead at Nine Mile.  She moved to Kaycee in the late 1940’s when she and my grandfather acquired the Telephone Store.  Her button jar went along, then moved back to the ranch with her in the early 1960’s when she and Grandaddy retired.  I will leave her button jar in the old book case for the next generation to poke around in.

Cattle Drive

img_3808

cattle drive 13 (2).jpg

The lonesome prairie . . . .

June, 1977 and it is time for the annual cattle drive into the Big Horn Mountains.  Trailing the herd of Hereford cattle into the high country for the summer meant the grass on the range down below would grow, cure and be forage for the winter months ahead.  The sheep wagon hauled provisions and provided sleeping quarters, along with a small camper trailer which served as the cook shack.

cattle drive 1 (2).jpg

“Who is going to lead the hike?” . . . .

The old sheep wagon also afforded a place to nap, rest or just heckle your little brother.  Their first cattle drive, Royce and Eric are like most little boys who are experiencing something for the first time–they can’t get enough and don’t know what to do next! Two of the cowgirls, Lisa and Sue would like to be rid of them.

cattle drive 6 (2).jpg

“Where’d all these sheep come from?” . . . .

The stock trail is open to all ranches and timing of herds moving up the trail requires a little choreography.  Cattle and sheep are easy to sort, as this herder is doing.  Cows mixed in with cows can be difficult and time consuming, relying upon brands and ear tags to sort it out. Our destination is about 65 miles from home range to the summer cow camp.  Some of the distance is covered hauling livestock in trucks to the base of the mountain and then trailing on from there with riders on horseback.  That is when the fun begins.

cattle drive 2 (2).jpg

“The last guy who left the gates open!” . . . .

A memorial shrine to the unfortunate traveler who failed to close the gate and allowed livestock to wander away from their designated pasture.  A fitting reminder that gates are serious business!  Nobody wants to spend the summer and early autumn trying to locate lost cows and sheep once they are turned out to pasture.

cattle drive 12 (2).jpg

Willard springs cabin . . . .

After a few days on the trail, destination is reached.  One of the finest springs on the south end of the Big Horns is adjacent to this old cabin, which became headquarters for summer camp.  The cows are tired and thirsty, the crew is dusty and hungry and it is time for a little relaxation and a cold beer.

cattle drive 11 (4).jpg

Rosie, the camp cook and straw boss . . .

I drove the pickup which hauled the camp trailer up the mountain.  Mom rode alongside of me and helped guide me and calm my nerves, which were clearly frayed due to the steep inclines and rough, rocky road that would jar the fillings from your teeth!  Once we were parked for the day, she baked the best biscuits and fed us wonderful meals from a tiny kitchen that you could barely turn around in.  Most of us laughed at my two boys, ages 6 and 8 who were forever into mischief.  I say MOST of us.  Dad left a six-pack of beer submerged in a pool of  water rushing out of the spring, and the boys decided to haul it up and have a look.  Unfortunately the cardboard carton disintegrated and the glass bottles of beer crashed on the rocks and broke.  It’s a long hard drive down mountain for more beer! In deference to his grandsons, Dad showed considerable restraint–if it had been me or my siblings who dumped his beer he would have roared like a bear and gone for his belt.

cattle drive 10 (2)

“Look mom, I can ride!” . . . .

Royce gets his first ride on a horse, thanks to a forgiving grandpa.  It was a highlight of the trip for the boys to be able to say they had actually ridden a horse.  City boys are pretty easy to please, and these are city boys.

cattle drive 3 (2)

Eric takes a spin . . . .

Mama is not a city girl.  She grew up riding any horse that could be caught with a bucket of oats and a halter.  She still has not outgrown her love of horses.

Cattle drive 5 (2).jpg

“This water is too cold!” . . . .

The trail dust was too much for me to cope with and I made the boys get in the mountain stream for a bath along the way.  The water was melting right out of snow banks so little wonder they were turning blue from the cold.  Mom thought I was being ridiculous, making little boys wash on the trail, but they survived it and still like to brag about how cold it was!

Cattle drive 4 (2).jpg

Eric has his turn . . . .

Eric has his turn at a bath and complained that the slippery rocks were too hard to stand on.  Much easier to stay dirty!

cattle drive 8 (2).jpg

Time for some adventure–bringing in fire wood . . . .

The following school year, Royce decided to enter a competition and write a story about his experience on the cattle drive.  To improve his chances of winning, he convinced me to type it for him.  The following is his tale.

IMG_3812.JPG

IMG_3815.JPGIMG_3817.JPGIMG_3818.JPG

IMG_3820.JPG

The End . . . .

 

A Christmas Tail

IMG_8644.JPG

“I love this bird bath!” . . . .

Maud came into our lives late in 2017 and anybody who has elected to cope with an energetic, rambunctious puppy will know what ensued.  Life became puppy-centered chaos!  The tragic loss of our former dog Rosie led us to become very protective of Maud.  She is confined to the yard, walked on a leash and is billeted at night in her crate in the house.  She has a large, covered outdoor kennel where she stays when we make day trips to town in hot weather and she cannot be left in the car or pickup.  Nor can she be left in the house, for a variety of reasons (she chases our two cats, Katya and Bleu; she chews on everything; she empties the waste baskets, etc. etc. etc. )>

IMG_8760.JPG

“What’s this white stuff?” . . . .

It has taken all of 2018 to learn the lessons of Maud.  Her first long trip was to our cabin at Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.  We made several “comfort” stops for her along the way but she was having none of it.  She chooses where and when.  She loves life at Red Feather, with endless walks around the lakes, barking at the squirrels and chipmunks who seem to be everywhere, diving into snow banks to unearth voles and critters hiding below and chasing her frisbee, off-leash at last!

IMG_8959-001.JPG

“This stuff gets in my eyes!” . . . .

In February she made her first overnight trip to Denver.  She thought life at the Marriott was dandy.  She was able to identify our room after a couple of passes, enjoyed long walks through the adjacent office park and neighborhood, and barked at our selection of TV programs.  We had to turn that off or be evicted.  She became very excited riding around in Denver’s non-stop traffic.  We had to confine her to the back seat for safety and sanity.  She prefers to ride between us on the console in the pickup where she can choose the radio programs, crank up the heater and mess with everything on the dashboard.

IMG_8963-001.JPG

“I got it, I got it, throw it again!” . . . .

In March our challenge was what to do with Maud for our date at the Wyoming Symphony in Casper.  We had season tickets and missed the January performance due to a blizzard.  It meant leaving her in the cold car, in the dark, for several hours.  We packed her dinner, her bowls, a blanket and she managed fine.  Michael volunteered to walk her during intermission and missed out on the traditional cookie and coffee break.  What we sacrifice for a dog!

IMG_8994.JPG

“You’re not getting me in that thing!” . . . .

Maud is an Australian Shepherd.  We have been told this breed ranks in the top ten for “separation anxiety.”  In July we had to confront the problem of driving to Omaha for son Royce’s wedding.  This was not a trip for Maud.  Not only does she bark at trucks (I-80 is a truck train), but we couldn’t leave her in the hotel or a hot car while we made the rounds of pre-and- post nuptial events.  Departure was traumatic.  Michael was anxious, I was crying, and our caregiver was grimly determined.  Maud was not be comforted and roamed every room in the house looking for us.  I phoned home and cried.

IMG_9136.JPG

“That’s my frisbee, Gus!” . . . .

Maud’s best friend lives nearby and comes to visit frequently.  He always seems to get ahead of her to retrieve the ball or frisbee and she gets pretty annoyed.  The expression in her eyes says it all.  She is bigger and stronger than Gus, but he out-maneuvers her.  Isn’t that like a guy?

IMG_9165.JPG

“Come down out of that tree and I’ll have you!” . . . .

We took a jeep trip to the Big Horn Mountains later in July to attend a memorial service for a dear friend.  We usually take the doors off the jeep, swathe our heads in a bandana and hope the dust doesn’t overtake us before we reach the top.  Maud is supposed to ride in the back of the jeep, however she prefers to stick her head out and smell the air and look for varmints.  Before I know it, I have a 40-plus pound dog sitting in my lap trying to hang out the door opening for whatever adventure might be discovered.  One rabbit and we’ll never see her again!  By the time we reached our destination and the ensuing service, we were barely presentable.  Maud only barked once or twice during the speeches and I was able to keep her at a distance so she wouldn’t jump up and lick everybody’s face.

IMG_9198

“Want to play ball?” . . . .

We planned a getaway to Taos, New Mexico in September.  We were determined that Maud would make a real road trip with us and were delighted to learn our favorite bed and breakfast had one pet-friendly suite.  We were a little nervous, as the Hacienda Del Sol is pretty cushy and wraps around a walled courtyard which is beautifully landscaped.  We rose early to walk Maud off premises and sorted out where we could take “comfort” breaks.  By this time, Maud was more accommodating and accepted our choices, for the most part.  Her only faux pas was peeing in the courtyard in the presence of the proprietor as we returned from shopping one afternoon.  Bad form, indeed!  They did not evict us.  I hope we can go back.

IMG_9188.JPG

“I’m waiting” . . . .

We have been busy all of December shopping, baking and making the usual round of holiday gatherings.  Michael’s black-tie event in Sheridan posed yet another challenge.  The Holiday Inn was very accommodating.  Maud took her first elevator ride with grace and aplomb, remained calm in the presence of children roaming the corridors (she loves children and wants to hug and kiss them!) and was perfectly well behaved until we reached our room.  Then she became agitated, whining and finally barking at us with commands.  In years past we would have taken the time for a glass of wine in the cocktail lounge and relaxed before dressing for dinner.  Not so this year.  We put on our coats and with Maud on her leash, walked to the PetSmart store just a block away.  Maud was so excited to finally be invited in to shop, and what an array of dog treats, bones, toys and other dogs!  We settled on a lime green ball, fed her a complimentary cookie and headed back to our hotel where we spent the next hour bouncing her new ball around the room while she raced madly around retrieving it.  She had to wait for us in the pickup while we tried to enjoy the rest of the evening.

IMG_8837.JPG

“You mean I wasn’t supposed to?” . . . .

Barring a blizzard, we will be at Red Feather for Christmas and Maud, Michael and I send our best wishes for the holiday season.  We look forward to the New Year and the next chapter of life with Maud.  It truly is a dog’s life!

 

The Tower of Babble

IMG_8984.JPG

“I hear you talking” . . . .

A colorful chapter of ranch history resides in a 100 foot communications tower (give or take a few feet) with about a 20 foot antennae that stands on top of the hill overlooking headquarters on Dry Creek.  In the late 1950’s or early 1960’s Dad erected a tower right alongside the ranch house to support a two-way radio system.  Acquisition of a ranch 20 miles east made it necessary to communicate with hired hands and there was no telephone service.  Phones were installed in pickups with a base station in the ranch house.  The stub of the tower is still planted in the ground right outside a large living room window and is a humorous (to some family members) reminder of an unfortunate (or humorous) INCIDENT.

Brother James was home from college working on a dry farming project just west of the house and as he drove the tractor up the creek bottom, snagged a guy line that was a critical support of the tower.  At the time Dad was having an afternoon siesta on the sofa which sat indoors alongside the living room window.  The tower collapsed on the roof of the house right outside the window.  The scene that unfolded would have been something like this: Dad would leap into the air; dash outside to investigate; let loose with a stream of profanity that would turn the air blue; and discover a collapsed radio tower draped over the house and an unattended tractor sitting down in the creek bed.  The tractor driver (brother James) was long gone, knowing it was better to stay away for a few hours until Dad had worn himself out and cooled off.  Amazingly, damage to the roof of the house was not too serious!

IMG_9384.JPG

the INCIDENT . . . .

An insurance settlement and a summer pasture lease negotiated in the mid 1960’s would require yet another tower and radio system.  The new tower was erected, this time far enough away from the house that no one could possibly snag a guy wire.  If the new tower fell for any reason  (wind, lightning etc.), it was far enough from any of the ranch buildings that it could not do any damage.  Communications with the mountain camp 65 miles southwest in the Big Horns was successfully launched.

IMG_9039.JPG

Buddhist prayer flags . . . .

Brother James gathered up the salvage of the old tower and transacted a deal to trade the sections that were not bent to a local rancher for a mammoth antique cast iron stove which he installed in Dad’s new shop.  It’s big enough to power a steamship or locomotive when loaded with wood or coal and heats the whole place.  Dad was quite happy.  Eventually analog cell phones took the place of  radio technology and the tower has stood useless except to hang our prayer flags which indicate which direction and how hard the wind is blowing.

 

Muskrat Love

IMG_9271.JPG

“I hear you knocking but you can’t come in!” . . . .

By coincidence, I was in the basement reorganizing jars of last year’s canned goods to make room for the current crop when I heard a “scritch-scratch” noise coming from the window well.  It was very difficult to see what was making such a commotion through 100-year-old window panes so stained you cannot see through the glass.   I could observe movement and a shadow running back and forth, but could not see what creature might be in such a frenzy.

I assumed we might have an eager pack rat trying to dig his way into the basement. We have had these pesky visitors before.  They make a terrific mess and their downright thievery of a variety of small objects which they tuck into their nests is a nuisance.  Dad had a solution and would go for his pistol.  Sometimes it took several loud, booming shots before he would emerge victorious with a dead packrat.  There are still bullet holes in the basement walls.

I went outside to get a closer look and there was a fat, furry little brown creature with a long tail scuttling around frantically trying to climb out of the window well.  It was too big to be a packrat, and I didn’t want to deal with it.   I called for help.

IMG_9276.JPG

“Out of the frying pan, into the fire!” . . . .

Michael brought the live trap and after some maneuvering, was able to capture what was clearly a muskrat.  But muskrats are water creatures.  What was it doing so far from the pond, half a mile away?

IMG_9278.JPG

“There must be some mistake!” . . . .

There was only one solution.  Take it to the pond and hope that is where it lives.  If not, it will perhaps find a new home more appropriate than a concrete window well.

IMG_9281 (2).JPG

“There is no place like home . . . there is no place like home!” . . . .

The muskrat took off down the bank of the pond as fast as its little feet would carry it.  It seemed pretty familiar with the terrain and didn’t hesitate to jump in the water.  It swam right to the den on the bank of the pond and disappeared from our view.

IMG_9285 (2).JPG

A happy ending . . . .

Little Musky is home at last, and we hope he or she decides to stay put.  We can only wonder what led it to our window well.  Lover’s quarrel?  Doing lunch?  Checking out the real estate?  Only Musky knows.

 

 

 

Maud’s First Birthday

 

IMG_9198.JPG

“Aren’t I adorable?” . . . .

Maud was born on Memorial Day, 2017.  We lost our dog Rosie to poison a couple months earlier in the year and felt the only way to fill the hole in our hearts was with a new puppy.  I read a notice in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup last July advertising “purebred Australian Shepherd pups” and could not put the idea out of mind.  We hemmed and hawed for a few days and decided we needed to see a photograph of the puppies before we could decide.  The breeder, a rancher in Columbus, Montana was most helpful and friendly, but decidedly not into email or texting.  Could we wait until his daughter could help him out?

IMG_9187.JPG

“Where’s my furbee?” . . . .

Finally, after what seemed like an interminably long period of time, I received a photograph of a wooly-looking puppy with a freckled face.  It was love at first sight.  We called the breeder and said we would take her and would send a deposit right away.  She had been spoken for previously but the potential buyer did not follow up with the deposit.  We were thrilled that she was available.

 

IMG_8644.JPG

“Oh this water feels good!” . . . .

We drove to Montana, a trip of 259 miles to Columbus, and another 20 miles out in the hills to the ranch where Maud was born.  There were still four pups left, including Maud but we definitely liked her color the best.  She was hiding under a dog house in the center of a large fenced kennel and had to be pried out so we could have a look at her.  I held her while we visited with the breeder, then put her in a crate in the back seat of our pickup.  It was a very long ride home, as she became car sick and was so dehydrated.  We stopped to buy a couple bath towels to wrap her in and I held her in my lap the rest of the way, which calmed her and she settled down.

IMG_8670 (2).JPG

Oh puppyhood! . . . .

Maud became a good traveler and began accompanying us to our cabin in Colorado,  resulting in huge messes on a regular basis.  What are puppies for?  She could not resist a bowl of pine cones and anything else available that she could chew on, including her puppy pad.  Aussies are notorious for needing something to do at all times, and Maud is no exception.  I believe she can set the standard for busy.

IMG_8958-001.JPG

“What snow?” . . . .

Maud has earned several new nicknames for her mischievous behavior–“Maudzilla,” “Maud the Marauder,” “Maudly,” to name a few.  She loves to chase chickens, dig holes, maul the cats, growl at Feed Lot, and harass the herd of deer that lurk around outside the fence.  She has learned to behave a little better around Tilly the filly.  She has to be kept on leash when we leave the confines of the yard, for now.

IMG_9136.JPG

‘My furbee–don’t try it!” . . . .

Her friend Gus loves to play ball or run for the furbee.  He lives in the neighborhood and stops in to play and see if there are any treats.  He always seems to outsmart Maud and get there ahead of her for the furbee.   She hasn’t figured out how to outmaneuver him, even though she is bigger and equally as fast on her feet.   The look she gives him in this photo makes it clear the contest isn’t over.  Isn’t that just like a female?

 

 

Cow Pasture Virtual Reality

img_4621

Good fences make good neighbors . . . .

A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal “Startups Give Livestock Fencing a Jolt – April 8, 2018″ seemed far-fetched, amusing and downright silly.  One of the latest technology start-ups is devoted to high-tech collars for cattle, sheep, goats and other livestock to round-up and relocate the animals using electric shocks and audio signals to direct movement.  The goal appears to be to eliminate fencing, which in the U.S. “cost $300 million last year,” and to give more control of pastures and animals.  Now what could be wrong with that?

Imagine–a virtual fence that the bossies won’t cross because they have been conditioned by electric signals not to.  Only critical requirements are a large supply of solar-powered collars (only $155 per collar for each cow, sheep, goat, or whatever,)  and an internet or mobile phone connection.  The companies producing the collars claim shifting a herd can be as easy as drawing a line on a smart phone app.  Really?  I can see the protests coming from People for the Ethical Treatment of animals or PETA (known in some parts as People Eating Tasty Animals!)

013.JPG

Mama and baby boy . . . .

What is to happen to the cowboys and cowgirls, herders, dogs and even helicopters that are currently employed to gather herds of livestock for branding, pasture relocation and shipping in the fall?  I can see it now.  Mother cows standing in a virtual corral as their bawling, howling babies are thrown to the ground, vaccinated, castrated, branded and turned loose crying pitifully for their mamas.  Same scene come weaning time.  Anyone who has spent time with a mother cow separated from her baby will understand what I am getting at.  Virtual fencing around the bull pasture?  Are they kidding?

My technical know-how simply doesn’t stretch far enough to understand how the annual migration to the Big Horn Mountains will play out.  The stock trail is fenced with real barbed wire for a good reason.  I challenge some computer geek to keep everybody in line to prevent commingling with other herds long the route.  That should take some app!

img_5745

Don’t mess with me! . . . .

I am reminded of my dad’s colorful description of our cattle drive to summer pasture when a couple of guys on motorcycles chose an inopportune time to plow through our herd, scattering cows in ten directions.  The air turned blue with invective as the day was spent rounding up spooked cows.  I doubt very much if a smart phone app would have been much help.

Dad usually managed the drive each year with the help of a lead cow who was his prize assistant (the term “bell cow” must have come from this tradition) and the 60+mile journey up the mountain and back down usually came off without a hitch.  I think placing our faith in a smart old lead cow will have a better return than putting electric collars on everyone and expecting some farmer or rancher with five thumbs on each hand to sort it all out.