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.
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.
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.
(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?
I’m participating in a 52 Week Photo Challenge. The topic this week is spring. What to shoot, what to shoot? Flowers, budding trees, frogs, newborn calves…all of these remind me of spring and the rebirth that the season brings.
But since I had to choose just one, it was this guy. Nothing is sweeter music to my tired winter ears than the song of the American Robin. I shot photos that were more artistic and colorful, but as a harbringer of springtime in Wyoming, the robin can’t be beat.
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.