Old ranch pickups never die. They just get put out to pasture.
Old ranch pickups never die. They just get put out to pasture.
I spent the last four days nestled in a little nook along Clear Creek on the eastern slope of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. Oh how my soul missed those mountains.
It felt like old home week for me. The earthy smell of a dewy forest floor, the tang of pine, the crisp air stinging my cheeks, the twittering of chickadees… it was a feast for the senses. Wildflowers carpeted the hills, the meadows afire with the likes of arnica, lupine and prairie smoke yet to bloom, set against the jaw-dropping beauty of granite peaks like Loaf Mountain and Big Horn Peak.
Just looking at this stunning, familiar landscape made my heart sing with happiness.
Most of my time was dedicated to taking photos of women learning new outdoor skills. But when I thought no one would miss me, I would sneak away to find a mountain view to photograph or just a quiet spot in the woods to stop and be. The soft cushion of pine needles under my feet and the occasional chattering of a red squirrel provided a quiet musical accompaniment to my thoughts and musings.
I never realized how much I truly missed living and playing here until now. Outdoor Guy and I started our lives together on the western slope of these mountains. Together, we fished the high country and hunted the lowlands. We talked about our present and dreamed of our future.
When it was time to pack up camp, I drug my feet coming home. I didn’t want to break the spell this place had woven around me once again. But I had made my choice long ago, and it was time to leave this place behind me.
Twenty-four hours later, it was back to Goshen County, where wide open spaces and endless views give my soul room to breathe. A place where tractors and balers churn across the hillside A land of the heady smell of fresh-cut hay and cow manure. These plains of my childhood are as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. Antelope and hawks, “minor fauna” like Woodhouse toads, sagebrush lizards, bull frogs and opossum to encounter. New friends that welcomed us here with open hearts and treat us like family. This place is home, too.
“You can’t ride two horses with one ass, Sugar Bean.”
As Wyokiddo and I sped toward our house with the bright red doors, I contemplated the conflicting emotions inside me.
We live in world where we are forced to make dozens of choices daily. We are expected to choose a course of action and stay on our side of the that line in the sand. Paper or plastic. Organic or conventional. City or country. Foreign or domestic. Red or blue. Society demands strict adherence to this rigid dichotomy.
I believe otherwise. My life is richer for the diversity of experience. We can have plains and mountains, frogs and elk, roots and wings. It is the breadth and very dichotomy of this state itself that feeds my soul.
Wyokiddo, Outdoor Guy and I got up a little early this morning to head down to our local reservoir for some fishing. We got skunked.
On our walk back to the car, we saw some tiny little lizards darting across the path on the dam. They were about the size of Outdoor Guy’s index finger and lightning fast. We were also treated to the antics of some fat, lazy prairie dogs and a burrowing owl sighting on our way home.
“Sorry we didn’t catch any fish,” I told Wyokiddo as we put our stuff away in the house.
“Are you kidding?” She asked me. “We saw lizzards and owls. this was the best fishing trip ever!”
I love that even at five, she’s starting to realize our mornings on the water isn’t about how many fish we catch, but about what we experience along the way together as a family.
For years, I’ve watched nature shows about the Northern Lights and longed to see them. I figured it would involve a trip somewhere, well…north! But last night, Outdoor Guy saw an anomaly in our night sky as he went to check the chick hatcher one last time before bed.
“Hey, come see this,” he called. I slid the computer off my lap, shoved my feet in shoes and walked outside to join him.
To the northwest of the property was a weird streak of light rising from the horizon into the night sky. My first thoughts were moon dog or someone with a bonfire and the smoke and light were playing tricks on our eyes. But the conditions weren’t right for either of those.
“I gotta get my camera,” I said and dashed into the house.
I spent the next thirty minutes playing with long exposures and light painting. I went to bed happy with the performance of my new camera and pretty satisfied with the image I managed to build. I woke up to others’ photos of these same lights, folks who lived hundreds of miles from my house. The consensus was the same.
Well I’ll be damned.
Last night, standing behind our house in south eastern Wyoming, accompanied by a background soundtrack of owls and frogs, of I witnessed the Northern Lights. Hats off to Mother Nature, that was quite a performance.
Yesterday was a rough one for our household. As the temperatures climbed to above 85 degrees, Wyokiddo and our dogs sought refuge in the water. We headed to a local reservoir to play in the shallow water and enjoy the beautiful spring day. We splashed, sang songs and even got to see our first painted turtle up close.
But when I went to unload the dogs from the covered bed of the pickup, I noticed something was wrong with Roxy, our 10-year old lab/German shepherd cross. She didn’t want to get out of the pickup and was hanging her head to one side. I reached for her and she snapped at me. This is same dog who seeks out the preschooler to play dress up.
I looked her over and noticed her ear was bleeding and her face was starting to swell up. A knot started to form in the pit of my stomach when I realized she’d likely been bitten by a rattlesnake.
Snakes are an unfortunate reality in our corner of the world. We live with them, watch where we step and avoid the tall grass when it warms up each spring. But in allowing the dogs to roam free as we played, I’d inadvertently put them at risk.
After a brief consultation with Outdoor Guy, Wyokiddo and I loaded back in the pickup and hauled into town to our local vet. By the time we reached the vet 20 minutes later, the swelling had reached Roxy’s neck. To my untrained eye, she acted as if she were in shock.
The wonderful vets at Goshen County Vet Clinic took care of us immediately. They agreed with my snakebite assessment and took Roxy back for immediate treatment. When the doctor told us Roxy would have to stay the weekend at the vet clinic, poor Wyokiddo welled up with tears.
Oh God. This whole time, I’d been worrying about the dog and dealing with my fear over my dog. I hadn’t stopped to consider all of it through 4-year old eyes. The vet and vet tech gave us every reason to be hopeful, but warned that some dogs don’t make it. We said goodbye to Roxy, just in case, and left the clinic in a somber mood.
I stopped at the soda shop thinking a cool treat would life our spirits. As we waited in the drive-through, Wyokiddo asked “Mama, where is Roxy’s favorite place to be?”
“I don’t know kiddo. I think anywhere we are is her favorite place. Why?”
“In case she dies. I want to put her ashes in her favorite place.”
I lost it. Right there, in the AJ’s drive-through, tears spilling down on my waiting cash. This poor kid has seen and processed too much death, I thought. Her grandpa, two dogs and pet fish, all in less than 18 months.
“Please don’t let her lose this dog, too,” I prayed silently. “This should not be how we have to say goodbye.”
So we talked some about how Roxy was in the best place she could be, being cared for by animal doctors who knew just what to do. Wyokiddo settled into her drink. I wiped away tears and tried to get it together for my kid.
When I laid Wyokiddo down for a nap, she asked if we could pray to God to keep Roxy safe and help her get better. “Sometimes it helps to talk to God, Mama. That’s what you told me.”
I stand in awe of this beautiful little soul.
Thankfully, when we called the clinic in the morning, they said our sweet old dog was up, wagging her tail and ready to come home. Mama, Wyokiddo and even the stalwart Outdoor Guy were happy to greet her a few hours later. Tonight, she’s resting comfortably but still a little swollen. Wyokiddo is snuggled in next to her daddy, content and happy now that her best dog is home. It’s a sight more beautiful than anything I could imagine.
Last fall, Wyokiddo asked to play soccer. Quite frankly, I was a bit stunned. She isn’t a huge fan of sports and hasn’t really expressed an interest in them before. But we signed her up. She loved it so much, she’s playing again this spring.
I take photos at her games for a few reasons. One, it’s good practice at some action photography shots. And two, it keeps me from getting too intense.
Yes, I’m one of those parents. Or I would be if I didn’t make a conscious effort to keep my nose out of her on-field business. Every once in a while, I’ll slip and try to coach instead of encourage. But if I put a camera in my hands, I’m paying more attention to it than worrying about the performance of my kid. Which for this competitive mama, is a good thing.
Here’s hoping this technique lasts me for quite a while. Lord help me if the kid is ever good enough to play varsity.
These action shots are also a great way to practice some graphic design skills. I’m getting more experienced with Photoshop and the powers of digital design. If only parenting were as easy as turning on or off the layers of ourselves we don’t really want.
(n) a lover of rain; someone who finds joy or peace of mind during rainy days.
This is how I spent my morning…crawling along an irrigation ditch, camera in hand, trying to stalk a massive snapping turtle.
I spent an hour this morning watching this snapping turtle cruise down our irrigation ditch. It was amazing to see how he’d drift along, then raise his tail to use as a rudder. We see this turtle each spring. I’m guessing he’s pretty old because he is absolutely massive. His entire carapace is probably bigger than a foot and a half across. He lifted his head out of the water once, briefly, before submerging completely and I lost sight of him.
Turtles, frogs and other things that creep and crawl might not be as majestic as a grizzly bear or regal as the wolf, but they are still fascinating creatures. I for one am glad that our state is filled with the good, the bad and the ugly. Makes life more interesting, don’t you think?
It’s spring break and Wyokiddo and I are out playing while Outdoor Guy tends to the birds. Today, she requested we go fishing, so mid-morning we loaded up her Mickey Mouse fishing pole and some worms and we headed out.
The fishing was slow, so Wyokiddo had time to ponder the esoteric.
“Mama, why are there only boys out here?”
I set down my rod and contemplated how to answer her question. Occasionally we’d see a woman fishing in a boat with her husband. But by and large, anytime we were out in the field, it was men, or boys with their dads. Very few little girls, and never just a mom and her daughter.
“Well, some girls haven’t ever had anyone take them fishing,” I tried to explain. “They might live in a city where there isn’t any place to fish, or no one has ever shown them how. And some girls don’t want to fish. They think it’s boring or dirty or gross, or that it’s something only boys should do. They don’t know how much fun it can be!”
Wyokiddo was quiet after that, dividing her attention between her bobber in the water and the ladybug crawling up her arm.
Several minutes later, she looked up at me and squinted against the late morning sun.
“Mama, let’s always be the kind of girls who fish.”
From her lips to God’s ears. No matter where life takes this beautiful little soul, may she always be one of the girls who fish.
Most mornings and evenings, we are treated to a show in the sky as giant flocks of geese fly over our house. Canada geese, snow geese and the occasional Ross goose or Greater white-fronted goose.
Sometimes it’s just a few dozen. Other nights, such as last night, the geese number in the thousands. Tonight, thousands of them landed in the neighbors field. I can hear them chattering back and forth, even now, at ten o’clock. It’s not exactly sonorous, but it’s beautiful music nonetheless.