nature, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

Waiting for a Train

Killdeer on the Railroad TracksWyokiddo and I made our way home via the back roads yesterday and ran into this little killdeer.  The sight of her just hanging out on the tracks made me think of a song my dad used to sing to me.

“My pocketbook is empty my heart is willed with pain
I’m a thousand miles away from home just waitin’ for a train.”

Jimmie Rodgers did it best, but hey, a girl has to try.

Teresa

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nature, Uncategorized, wildlife, writing

The Wildlife Loses, Again

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Photo from Cincinnati Zoo of the gorilla, Harembe.

Yet another human vs. wild animal encounter has been blowing up social media.  This time it is Harembe, a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, who was shot when a young boy climbed into his habitat.

There is plenty of blame going around, from blaming the mother for not paying attention to her kid in the first place, to the zoo personnel for using lethal force to kill Harembe instead of a tranquilizer gun to subdue him and rescue the kid.

I’m not going to jump on the bad-mother bandwagon, but I will say the mother is responsible for her kid’s actions.  Zoos have enclosures, designed to prevent the animals from getting out.  These open air enclosures do not prevent the most determined of people from getting in.   Zoos have eschewed view-limiting barriers and standard cages to give zoo-goers a better look at the animal and a personal experience.  This is where your responsibility as a zoo patron comes in to play.  You are responsible for your own actions, and that of your child.  By all accounts, it took some serious determination for the kid to climb in there.  He crawled under a wire and over a barrier before he fell into the habitat.  It wasn’t an accident.  He did what kids do and went exploring.

But the real issue I want to discuss is the actions of the zookeepers.  They are taking a lot of heat for using immediate lethal force to kill the gorilla instead of first trying to tranquilize him.  I hate to think the gorilla had to die, but they absolutely made the right decision.  Zoo personnel had mere moments to respond to a very serious crisis and they chose the response for the best outcome of the human.

Back in the days of working for our state wildlife agency, I saw numerous wild animals tranquilized.  I’ve watched a lot of video footage, too, and sat in on a class about tranquilizing wildlife.  It is not an exact science.  It is not foolproof.  Tranquilizer darts can miss their mark, or fail to penetrate the animal.  Even if the process is executed correctly, tranqs can take a while to kick in.  And some animals react very poorly to being tranquilized.  They can quickly turn aggressive and angry or even blindly lumber about.  It isn’t like you’ve seen it portrayed in the movies where the dart penetrates and the animal immediately falls over, lights out.

Gorillas are incredibly strong.  Ten times as strong as a human, by all accounts.  All it took was one violent shake, one slap, one swing of his arm or stomping of Harembe’s foot and that little boy is dead.  Harambe might not have intended to hurt the boy, but he was 400 pounds of unpredictable muscle and strength. He ignored the call the zoo keepers tried first, and was getting noticeably agitated at the screams of the people above.

Social media has been buzzing with people claiming the gorilla was protecting the child, citing how Harembe was standing guard over the boy.  Was he?  I have no idea.  I am not an expert on gorilla behavior, and neither are the approximately 12.42 million people talking about it.  But I do know wildlife are unpredictable and can go from nice to lethal in a heartbeat.  Remember the woman whose face was all but eaten off from someone’s pet chimp?  Or when Roy of Sigfried and Roy fame was attacked by his own tiger?

I also know that male gorillas will kill unrelated infant gorillas.  Harembe might have been protecting the child.  Or he might have been standing over his “prize” until he decided what to do with it.  Regardless, the boy was in an incredibly dangerous predicament.

Zoo personnel weighed the life of the gorilla against the life of the human boy, and the boy won out.  From a purely jaded standpoint, too, think of the lawsuit this zoo would face if they had attempted to tranq the gorilla and the boy had been severely harmed or killed.  It likely would have shut down the zoo completely.  We live in a human centered world and in that world, they made the best choice they could given the really crappy situation.  It wasn’t a good or popular choice, but it was the best of the alternatives.

My heart goes out to the zoo employees.  No one takes a job working with wild animals wanting to see them harmed or killed.  They will mourn the death of Harembe and feel his loss deeply.  And I am saddened that a another magnificent and endangered creature had to be destroyed because of human mistakes.

There’s an online petition circulating called Justice for Harembe that wants the parents of the boy charged for their role in the death of the gorilla.  But that won’t help bring him back, and it won’t help the other critically endangered mountain gorillas.  But you can help.  Donate to an organization like the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund or your local zoo.  You can’t help Harembe, but you can help.

Teresa

 

nature, Uncategorized, wildlife, writing

You Aren’t My Mother

Mama RobinIn the last few weeks here in Wyoming, there have been two high profile cases of humans “rescuing” young wildlife.

The first was tourists in Yellowstone who picked up a shivering bison calf, put it in the back of their SUV and drove to a ranger station because they thought he was cold and needed help.  The second was a local Wyoming family who saw a newborn pronghorn antelope fawn in the highway.  Concerned for the fawn’s safety, they picked it up, put it in the vehicle with them and their three dogs and drove to a nearby bait store to contact the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Attempts by park officials to reunite the bison calf with its herd were unsuccessful and the calf had to be euthanized.  Only time will tell on the outcome for the pronghorn antelope fawn, but its chances of survival are pretty slim.

These aren’t isolated incidents.  Each year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department deals with “rescued” young wildlife.  People bring in wildlife like young birds, rabbits, fawns, squirrels and even bobcat and mountain lion kittens, believing the young have been abandoned.  Sometimes these animals can be returned to the wild successfully.  But more often these animals must be euthanized, because reintroduction is not possible or there are simply no available rehabilitation facilities available to care for the animals.

When you encounter young wildlife that you perceive is orphaned or in trouble and feel the need to intervene, please remember this…

DON’T.  

I cannot make it any more clear than that.  Just don’t.  Call your state wildlife agency for advice and assistance.  If you feel you just absolutely must act to get the animal out of immediate danger, say out of the way of oncoming traffic, move the animal to the side of the road and move on.  Don’t put it in your car.  Don’t linger.  Don’t take selfies.  Give the animal its greatest chance of survival by minimizing your encounter as much as possible.

So what’s the harm in helping young wildlife?  Plenty.  Here are five reasons you should think twice before intervening with newborn wildlife.

It is illegal. State and federal laws forbid possession of game and many nongame animals, so adopting newborn wildlife is illegal. Citations can be issued for possession of newborn wildlife with the possible penalty of several hundred dollars in fines.

It can be dangerous for you.  Wildlife carry diseases and bugs that  can be transmitted to you.  These diseases can make you and your family very, very ill.  If someone with a compromised immune system would contract one of these diseases, it could even potentially kill them.  I’m talking diseases like rabies, tularemia, salmonella and campylobacter.  You can also catch some pretty nasty bugs from the young, like fleas, mange or lice.  As can your pets that come into contact with the wildlife.  Believe me, mange is not something you want to mess with.

Some wildlife are also incredibly protective of their young.  You might not see mom, but she’s probably nearby.  You’ve heard the expression “mama grizzly?”  You don’t want to see it in action!  Bears, moose and even deer will defend their young very vigorously.  Don’t be on the receiving end of the wrath of one of these moms.

They aren’t really orphaned.  Wildlife moms aren’t like human moms.  Moms don’t, and simply can’t, stay by their newborn’s side every minute of the day.  Mom needs to eat and drink and can’t always take her young with her.  Or she has sensed danger and had her young hide while she lured the danger away from the location.  Mom knows where her young are and will almost always return to care for them.  Obviously when you physically move the animal then you are breaking that mother-young bond.  And if you linger in the area, you are keeping mom away from her young, thereby actually endangering an animal that was never in trouble in the first place.

These animals could also be ready to strike out on their own.  Birds and bunnies grow up and need to leave the nest.  They might still be vulnerable, but it is time for them to spread their wings, literally, and fly.  Or hunt.  Young coyotes, fox and wolves will range away from their families while they learn valuable survival skills.

Wildlife encounters are best left to the experts.  Again, unless the young is in immediate danger, back away and contact your local state wildlife agency.  If you don’t know that number, contact the non-emergency number for your local sheriff and ask to get in contact with a wildlife officer.  These are the folks that are trained in dealing with wildlife.  You might love animals and be an avid wildlife viewer or hunter, as I am.  But people like Outdoor Guy, The Warden and other wildlife biologists have dedicated their education and careers to learning how to properly manage these important natural resources.  Please trust that these folks will do their very best to manage the public’s resource.  Sometimes you might not agree with their decisions, but they really do know what is best for the wildlife population as a whole.

You are imposing human values on a natural system.  Wildlife don’t really need to be saved from the very thing that makes them wild in the first place– nature.  Their lives and deaths are all part of a natural system.  To us,, nature and ecological processes might seem harsh and heartless.  But it really is the circle of life.  I know it is hard to sit back and watch an animal suffer.  But when we intervene and impose our human values on a natural system, the wildlife, and the natural system lose.

I understand the emotions at play with the two high profile cases of animal rescue.  I’m a mother and animal lover and as tender-hearted as they come.  But it doesn’t matter if I have the best of intentions – when I intervene I am disrupting the ebb and flow of nature and it looses a little bit of wildness because of it.

Think about it this way – for every animal that dies, others get to live.  We’ll take the example of the pronghorn antelope fawn.  If it had gotten hit on the highway, it’s body would have been nourishment for a variety of scavengers, like eagles, crows, ravens, vultures, raccoon, coyotes and even mountain lions.  And the cycle of life would have continued.  Is it pretty? Well, no, not from a human-based belief.  But it natural and wild.  And isn’t that what draws us to these animals, these spaces in the first place?

And what if that young animal can’t be reunited with its family?  Do you want that elk calf or bobcat to have to grow up in captivity?  Is that always the better choice?  I can’t answer these questions for you, because they depend on your attitude and experiences and values.

But for me, I try to remember, mother usually does know best, whether that be a wildlife mother or Mother Nature.  If we all work together, we can welp keep our wild places and wildlife wild.

Teresa

family, humor, Uncategorized, writing

So Not Sneaky

How do people have affairs or cheat on a significant other?  I mean aside from the fact that you are destroying the trust of the person you supposedly love most in this life, how can someone physically do that?  I don’t have the constitution.  Or the skills.  I can’t even be sneaky when the motives are benevolent.

Case in Point…Outdoor Guy celebrated his birthday last month.  I had our friend, The Warden,  craft him a gift.  The Warden made a custom leather holster for Outdoor Guy’s handgun, a Glock that he bought back when we lived in western Wyoming.  Outdoor Guy had told me about  some of the other leather work The Warden had done and I thought a new holster to replace the used one Outdoor Guy currently owned would make a great birthday gift.

When I asked The Warden about it, he asked for the model number of the gun.

Uhhhhh it’s black.  And a Glock.  That’s about all I knew.  So I had to devise a ruse to get those details from Outdoor Guy without alerting him to my true intentions.  And thus the deception began.

“What model is your Glock?” I texted Outdoor Guy, telling him my boss was thinking of getting her husband one for his birthday.  Then I had to text my boss and tell her of the little white lie, less Outdoor Guy bring it up in conversation when they talked.  Then I had to delete all the texts between me and The Warden and me and my boss concerning the illicit holster.

Fast forward a few weeks to when the holster was ready and the birthday was rapidly approaching.  I texted The Warden to see if I could meet him in town to pick it up.  He was apparently out of town and didn’t get back to me for a few days.  My phone, which normally resides on the kitchen counter so I can always find it, dinged with an incoming text notification at 11:30 on a Friday.  It was The Warden wanting to know if we could hook up during the week to do the hand off.

“Who texted you so late last night?” Outdoor Guy asked me the next morning.  I quickly blamed the college state FFA officers I often coach.  And again set about deleting the text exchange.

I finally managed to catch up with The Warden and pick up the holster on the day of Outdoor Guy’s birthday. Wyokiddo and I dropped by his house on the way home from her morning at preschool.  I soon learned that I should never involve my child in any nefarious adventures.

“We saw Mr. Rob today!”  Wyokiddo proudly told her daddy at lunch.  “We went to his house!”

“We drove by his house and he was working in the yard,” I corrected as nonchalantly as I could.  God help my soul for pulling my child into my web of deceit.

Fortunately, the gig was up that evening when Outdoor Guy opened his present.  He smiled when he hoisted the holster out of the box and turned it over in his hands.  I just breathed a big sigh of relief that the facade was over.

“Ahhhh.  I wondered.  The gun, asking about The Warden, seeing The Warden today…” he said, admiring the rich, buttery leather.  “I figured something was up but didn’t want to spoil your surprise.”

God love my husband.  The whole time, he realized I was up to something.  But he also trusted me enough to never question my actions.  And he admitted he didn’t want to ask questions or let on so as it would ruin my enjoyment of giving him a surprise.

Every time I see the holster on Outdoor Guy’s belt, I’ll think of my efforts to pull off a great birthday gift.  Really it was I who got the gift in a wonderful husband that trusts me and is sweet enough to play along with my so not sneaky shenanigans.

Teresa

nature, pheasants, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

Breaking Out

Hatch 3-62 a

We welcomed another batch of chicks today at the Downar Bird Farm.  It is pretty near impossible to have a bad day when you get to start it with 6,000 fuzzy, cheeping pheasant chicks!

Don’t you just want to snuggle this little guy?  My favorite part of this photo is that you can make out the chick’s egg tooth…that’s the tiny hook on the end of the beak.  The egg tooth isn’t really a tooth, but is a sharp little extra “cap” on the end of the beak that helps the chick hatch. A chick will first use the egg tooth to puncture the air sac within the egg, giving the chick additional oxygen toward the end of its incubation period.  Then the chick will use the egg tooth to break out of the egg shell, known to poultry nerds like Outdoor Guy as pipping.

Some frogs, lizards, crocodiles and spiders also have an egg tooth.

A few days after hatching, the egg tooth falls off, as it is no longer needed.

I wish it worked that way for humans.  I have a little extra something on my thighs I’m not needing that could fall off any day now…

Teresa

nature, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

Another Mouth to Feed

Mouths to Feed

Apparently mom and dad were not bringing the groceries fast enough to suit this day-old robin chick.  I think this is the same posture I assume when waiting for the coffee in the morning. 🙂

A few weeks ago, Wyokiddo noticed a nest in the cedar tree outside our backdoor.  To our delight, we found four perfectly blue tiny eggs nestled inside and a mama robin hovering anxiously nearby.

We’ve been keeping an eye on the nest the last few days.  Last night, Wyokiddo brought me a robin’s egg she had found in the grass, about 30 yards from the tree.

“What happened, Mama?”

I carefully turned the egg around in my hand.  The shell had a tiny hole in it, but was otherwise intact.  I feared maybe one of the more aggressive birds had gotten into the nest to eat the eggs, and this had fallen out in the melee.  We’d seen several nests near our old house fall victim to roving magpies.

But this mama was successful.  Hooray!  Three bright yellow gaping beaks peeked out over the top of the nest, and three broken shells lay among them.

“But what about this one?” Wyokiddo asked, holding up the sky blue treasure.

Outdoor Guy explained to Wyokiddo that the mama robin had probably kicked it out of the nest when it failed to hatch.

Now, when Wyokiddo runs past the tree she calls out to the chicks.  “HI tiny robins!  Hope you liked your worms!”

It would not surprise me one bit if she grows up to work for the Audubon Society.

Teresa

nature, Uncategorized, writing

Trampling a Treasure

zChromatic Pool
Chromatic Pool, one of the many beautiful hot springs found in Yellowstone National Park.

Earlier this month, four men from Canada decided it would be fun to go clomping through Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world.  Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most breathtaking sights in Yellowstone and a natural wonder.  These men willfully ignored the signs posted all over the park saying why this was forbidden and did it any way.  In doing so, they put their lives at risk and harmed the delicate bacterial mats that make Grand Prismatic Spring such a treasure.

The men purportedly travel the world taking videos that promote adventure and sell a clothing line along those same lines.  They posted videos and photos of their illegal hot springs selfie on their Facebook page.  Fortunately other people who actually RESPECT our natural wonders were also armed with cameras and took photos and reported these men to the authorities.  They have been identified and are now facing fines and other criminal charges.

It gets worse.  These men…no wait, they aren’t men.  Real men don’t act like this.  This is the behavior of spoiled, immature, selfish asshats.  But I digress…

The group issued an apology, after they got caught, saying they got “overzealous in their enthusiasm” at seeing the hot spring.  But prior to their little jaunt, they took and posted photos of the signs posted by the hot spring telling people it is illegal to get off the trail and harmful to the resource.  They knew what they were doing was wrong and did it anyway.  This isn’t a case of not knowing better.  This is willful destruction of property and a blatant disregard for the rules.

It gets even worse.  This isn’t the first time they’ve pulled such a stunt.   These jerks have apparently been desecrating national monuments all across the world. They posted photos  on their Facebook page of them climbing the holocaust memorial in Germany, roping and hanging from the arches in Utah, skiing behind their RV as it races across the Bonneville Salt Flats, standing in an off limits area and bragging about being yelled at by guards approximately 18 times at Machu Picchu.  (After their Yellowstone stunt was made public, they quickly pulled these photos and videos, but their behavior lives on in screenshots.)

This whole ordeal angers me for so many reasons.  These stunts are damaging OUR natural resources.  Yours and mine.  Yellowstone isn’t the private playground of four spoiled Candadian jackwagons.  They don’t get to do what they want because they think it would be fun and make them money.  It is a national park that belongs to all Americans.  These amazing places have been entrusted to the public to love and respect and protect them, and these guys literally walked all over that concept.  Actions like these jeopardize our enjoyment of our natural resources, and the access of these wonders for future generations.

It is selfish.  It is disrespectful.  It is grandstanding for the sake of grandstanding.  It promotes irresponsible behavior and endangers some of the last remaining “wild” places we have left in this country.

As of writing this, their Instagram account has 935,000 followers. Their YouTube channel has 276,369 subscribers. Their Facebook page has 61,151 likes. That is a lot of people that are tuned into these guys.  That’s more than a million people they could be sharing a legal, ethical and beneficial message with.  They could be educating folks on how to appropriately enjoy and benefit these special places.  Instead, they use their following to promote their own egos, which in turn encourages more illegal, dangerous, unethical and harmful behavior.

The Wyoming Attorney General has filed charges against these four men and has issued warrants for their arrest.  I hope they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  I only hope that there is some provision for the feds to seize all of the equipment they used in the commission of these crimes, as when game wardens can seize equipment used in the commission of a poaching.  I hope they lose their equipment, their RV and a serious amount of money.

I hope their travel privileges are revoked and they are forced to get high on life within the Canadian borders.  I find it interesting that all of their blatantly harmful escapades have been out of the reach of their country’s authorities.  These idiots do not deserve to experience my wonderful country, or the many other beautiful and natural places in this world.  They have proven they care only about themselves and promoting their brand.

I hope they are black balled by sponsors and never receive another dime that helps promote their company or clothing line.  In the past, they’ve received backing from sponsors like Red Bull, Contiki, Bud Light and other “adventure” brands.

But it still won’t be enough.  Because somewhere there are other young men and women watching the drivel they’ve posted and thinking what they did was funny, cool and okay.  So it is only a matter of time before something like this happens again.  And the cycle of selfishness, immature, destructive behavior continues.

What’s the answer?  I wish I knew.

Jackwagons.

Teresa

P.S.  On a more positive note, if you haven’t ever been to Yellowstone, do yourself a favor and plan a trip.  It is an amazing place.  Yes, you’ll be rubbing elbows with other tourists galore, but it really is something special and a place everyone should have the privilege of enjoying in their lifetime.  The photo above is one I took when Outdoor Guy and I visited in 2011.  Just scrolling through my photos makes me want to go back.  Tomorrow.  Just #stayonthetrail!

 

nature, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

The Unartful Dodger

Heron3 CRIf you knew me, you would know that of my many wonderful personality traits, being sneaky is not one of them. My husband teases that I have the stealth of dairy cow.  So capturing a good heron shot has been a bit of a challenge. They are spooky buggers!

All of my previous efforts have resulted in either A.) stunning landscapes with a speck of a bird that may or may not be a heron or B.) the south end of a north-bound heron.

Today, my luck changed. This isn’t National Geographic material by any means, but it’s a heron. In focus. And filling enough of the frame to identify it as such.  So while I am still probably the last person you should pick for a clandestine affair requiring any sort of furtiveness, I can cross a heron shot off my wildlife photo bucket list.

In the mean time, I’ll continue to hone my inner-puma cat.

Teresa

history, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

The Face of Water Ghost Woman

Water Woman

This is the Water Ghost Woman and my contribution to Weekly Photo Challenge: Face.  As a photo, there are many things I could improve upon.  But as a story for telling your children late at night, she’s perfect.

Water Ghost Woman is Pa waip, a spirit woman of Shoshone stories.  Water Ghost Woman is lives in the Torrey Valley near Dubois, Wyoming, along with a number of other petroglyphs from the Sheepeater Indians.

Legend has it the Water Ghost Woman was a spirit that would lure young men to their deaths in a lake or other body of water.  She would wait until night when the men were asleep, then assume the voice of a maiden in distress.  She would cry and wail and call out for help.  When the warrior would rise and wander near the water to offer assistance, Water Ghost Woman would grab him with her arms and tentacles you see here and drown the man.  She is also rumored to grab children and bite their heads off.

Yummy

Water Ghost Woman is just one of hundreds of amazing petroglyphs believed to be left by the Sheepeater Indians.  The Sheepeaters were a branch of the modern Shoshone Indians we learned about in high school.  They were proficient at hunting bighorn sheep, and thus became known as the Sheepeaters.  They are also known for their obsidian tools, sheep traps and hunting bows made from big horn sheep horns.  Hundreds of their petroglyphs can still be found in western Wyoming.  Sheepeater Indians were purported to visit petroglyph sites as part of their vision quests.

I don’t know what kind of vision Pa waip here helped the Sheepeaters have.  But her story, as recounted to me around a campfire in the middle of the Wyoming wilderness, gave me pause.  I saw her face in my dreams for weeks.

Modern men in the valley who aren’t particularly superstitious have reported hearing a woman crying for help in the middle of the night.  When they get up to investigate, no woman can be found.  One man even claims he woke up knee deep in the lake outside the dude ranch cabin where he’d been visiting.

So if you’re ever camping in western Wyoming near a body of water, keep your men close and your kids closer.  Water Ghost Woman might be getting lonely.

Teresa

agriculture, country life, photography, Uncategorized, writing

Branded

DSC_0100 BWLast weekend, I had the honor of attending a friend’s family branding to take pictures.  I say honor, because it is.  Multiple generations of family have worked the ranch and lived on that land, and the family takes that legacy very seriously.  Today, four generations of the family live and work on the ranch, which is operated as a working cattle ranch.  They run about 450 head of Angus/Simmental cattle and grow hay and wheat and occasionally some other grain crops.  The ranch’s extensive landscape also provides habitat for antelope, deer, birds and various other critters that scurry, slither and soar.

Branding is a tradition in this country as old as ranching itself, but the practice dates back to the ancient Egyptians.  In the unsettled West, before there were fences, brands were the only way a rancher could tell his cattle apart.  Today, brands are still used as a way to identify cattle and prevent theft.  Ear tags can fall out or be taken out.  Lip tattoos are not easily identifiable in the field.  So traditional brands remain.  States have strict laws for branding cattle.  Brands must be registered, and brand inspections are required before you can ship animals out of county or sell them.

That’s a traditional definition of a brand.  But today’s ranching families also believe in the modern concept of a brand – a series of ideas and tools used to distinguish a company from competitors and create a lasting impression in the mind of consumers.  The cattle brand is a living symbol of the ranch, its legacy and identity and its future.  So it was indeed an honor to be asked to take part in the annual branding – they trusted me enough to not screw up their image!

The morning was cold and foggy.  It felt other-worldly as Wyokiddo and I made the trek to the ranch, situated east of Cheyenne.  Wyokiddo was given a seat in the pickup that held the food, drinks and tools needed for the morning.  I was given free rein to roam about and take some photos.  I quickly got lost in the textures surrounding me.  Fringed chaps, worn work gloves, fraying rope ends, the soft brown eyes of a calf, the bright orange glow of the branding irons in the fire.

Put simply, the morning was a sensory adventure.  The makeshift corral was a heady combination of wet earth, manure and smoke.  The delicate layer of fog left a fine sheen on everything and the slight chill kept everyone covered up as much as possible.  Mother cows mooing and the roaring of the branding pot fire made intimate conversation impossible.

But really, no words were needed.  Each person knew their job and did it without hesitation.  Men on horseback roped the unbranded calves.  Teams of two would flank the calf to the ground.  One by one, each calf was branded, vaccinated and castrated, if necessary.  Then the calves were released and returned to their moms.  The entire process for each calf took less than three minutes.  To an outsider, it would have looked like complete chaos.  But it was a finely choreographed display of skill and tradition.  There was no arguing, no whining, no unnecessary displays of machismo or one-upsmanship.  Just friends helping friends.

That attitude is one of my favorite characteristics of the agriculture community.  When a neighbor asks for help, you help.  Not because there is something in it for you.  You do it because it is the right thing to do.  You do it because somewhere down the line you’ll need their help, too.  These hard-scrabble folks have been abiding by the concept of “pay it forward” well before the idea ever became mainstream.  You help and are helped in return because that is how a community works.

Someday, I hope to have my own brand, or body of work, through my writing and photography.  Until then I’m proud to ride for the brand of the agriculture community and their heritage.

Teresa

P.S.  Here are a few of my favorites.

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