Old ranch pickups never die. They just get put out to pasture.
Old ranch pickups never die. They just get put out to pasture.
As spring winds down and summer begins, ranchers in Wyoming begin the time-tested tradition of branding their cattle. Branding predates our state, and is still the most reliable method of marking cattle for identification.
How a cattleman organizes his branding is as unique as the actual brand itself. Some families choose the traditional route of roping calves out of a herd with horses and cowboys. Others choose to use a chute and table, eliminating the need for horses. Some features are a matter of necessity, others of tradition. Some ranch branding probably don’t look all that different than they might have 100 years ago, save for a iron heated by propane instead of a wood fire.
But some things don’t change. No matter where you go, you’ll find neighbors helping neighbors. Kids work side-by-side with their parents, learning how to brand, rope and even castrate the bull calves. Socializing with friends and family. Earthy smells. Petty squabbles. Cussing. Laughter. And food. Lots and lots of homemade, delicious food.
Joining the Smith family and their crew is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the year.
About three weeks ago, we expanded our family to include this little dude. Meet Ziggy, the newest member of the Downar Bird Farm Management Team. Ziggy is an 11-month old border collie, and was bred to be a lean, mean, herding machine.
He’s got some growing to do before he’ll be ready to hit the bird pens. In the meantime, he is quite the snuggler and is entertaining himself finding little bits of food, paper and other detritus to eat on the floor. I’m choosing not to take that as a condemnation of my housekeeping.
Look out roosters, there’s a new sheriff in town. He’ll come after you just as soon as he’s caught his own tail.
Winter in Wyoming
“It’s winter in Wyoming,
And the gentle breezes blow,
Seventy miles an hour,
At twenty-five below.
Oh, how I love Wyoming,
When the snow’s up to your butt,
You take a breath of winter,
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
So I guess I’ll stick around,
I could never leave Wyoming,
’cause I’m frozen to the ground!”
A lot of folks tell me “Oh, I wish I could live in Wyoming. It is so beautiful!”
And it is. Until it isn’t. Are you tough enough?
No sleight of hand. No misdirection. But a magic moment nonetheless. This is how cowgirls are made.
And then there was one.
A little over a year ago, we had three dogs: Archie, the ever-ready border collie; Hoops, the fluffy, grumpy big dog; and Roxy, the “white dog” who would would suffer blonde jokes if she was a human. We had to euthanize Archie and Hoops, so now we are a one-dog family.
Roxy is pretty worthless as a dog – she doesn’t hunt, doesn’t fetch, would probably lick an intruder before biting him, and won’t clean up the food that falls on the floor when I’m cooking. But I love her anyway. She lets Wyokiddo dote on her, is always ready for a walk and occasionally makes Outdoor Guy smile with her dingbat ways. I guess we’ll keep her. I mean, just look at this face. How could you not love this face?
Wyokiddo is on the quest for a butterfly. Catching bugs at sunset with my dirt road kiddo. I am right where I want, and need, to be.
Life can be so complicated, so crazy, that we often get caught up in the elaborate. But there is joy in the simple things.
Tonight, our family opted for a simple dinner of ham-and-cheese omelettes, potatoes from our garden, peppers and peaches with cream. While I prepared the omelettes, Outdoor Guy joined me in the kitchen to slice and fry the potatoes. I could hear Wyokiddo happily playing in the living room as we worked and chatted. We couldn’t help but run into each other in the tiny kitchen, and each time, Outdoor Guy would take the opportunity to steal a kiss.
I enjoy the challenge of cooking a complex meal, or dinner on the town with my handsome husband on my arm. But nothing beats the quiet camaraderie of my beautiful family, homegrown food and a Wyoming sunset. The preperation and the meal were both food for my soul.
This cloud tried so hard to turn into a grownup thunderstorm. It even had some brief flashes of lightning. But in the end, it ran out of steam and fell apart. But there was beauty in the struggle. Definitely something I need to remember…there is beauty in the struggle. Good night from God’s Country.
What do you call a skunk that flies?
I’m a science nerd. So after our little white dog (I say little, she’s actually 60 pounds, ha!) tangled with a skunk and lost, I became interested in the chemistry behind skunk spray and the miracle deskunking mixture in which we bathed the smelly culprit.
Did you know a skunk’s spray contains the same compounds found in garlic and onions and even your own hair? They are called thiols. And the reason they are so stinky is that they are one hydrodgen atom attached to one sulfur atom. Sulfur is notably stinky. Think rotten eggs kind of stinky.
To make matters worse, the spray is oily, not just watery. So it “sticks” to everything, namely one white lab mix that answers to the name “Roxy.” When I touched my dog where she’d been sprayed, the oily liquid stuck to me and my hands. It doesn’t simply wash off like other smells. It’s like when you get garlic or onion on your hands when cooking – the smell just won’t come off. That’s those pesky thiols at work again.
The old wisdom of washing a skunky dog in tomato juice or even feminine hygiene products was an act of futility because these remedies did nothing to alter the chemistry of skunk spray. Instead, it relied on olfactory fatigue to trick the bather into submission. After smelling the skunk spray at high doses, the human nose gets tired and becomes temporarily unable to smell the smell. So the tired nose would smell the only the tomato juice and believe the skunk odor to be gone. But someone with a fresh nose could easily determine that was in fact, horribly, horribly false.
But in 1993, a chemist named Paul Krebaum developed the skunk odor removal recipe we used the other night. (If I had Paul’s address, I’d send him a thank you note and a box of Krispy Kremes.)
Krebaum’s recipe is effective because it tackles the smell at the molecular level. His recipe oxidizes the thiols into sulfonic acids, which are odorless. So instead of covering up the smell or washing the smell away, the recipe literally neutralizes the odor into something much more benign. Genius!
Different skunks actually have different chemical make ups to their spray. So a spotted skunk will have a slightly different spray than a striped skunk. And skunk spray is highly flammable. So never, ever, leave your Bic out where a skunk can get it.
As smelly as the Roxy dog was, it could have been much worse. Scientists say that over the course of human evolutionary development, our noses have been shrinking. There was a time when the nose made up 45% of the total mass of our heads. Think about that the next time you catch a whiff of something particularly odoriferous.
So there you have it. A joke, a science lesson and a paleoanthropology lesson all wrapped up in one Friday morning post.
You’re welcome. 🙂