Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday, November 8, installment 11 –
what was lost has been found

Marieke, Evaline, Flounder and Justin went to look for the camera at daybreak, about 6:45 a.m. I tore down our tent by myself mostly … although 7-year-old Rachel helped. Then Birgit, Andrea and I tore down Marieke and Evaline's tent.

THEY FOUND IT!!! The camera was recovered. Thank you, thank you. The memories have not been lost.

Camp ... looking at the sheep shacks, old house and even the outhouse in the distance.  (Photo by Flounder.)

There were several sheep shacks.  They were the cutest litle units, and have been here for quite some time.
 (Photo by Flounder.)

The entry is a Dutch door, so you could leave the top open if you chose, but could leave the bottom half of it closed.  I hadn't seen a door like that in some time  The families stayed in  some of the little units.  (Photo by Flounder.)
We said our good byes to the families and the cowboys. It was hard as I feel they're more like friends. I'll miss their goodness, their integrity, their fresh-air approach to life, their sense of family, their love for each other and the land. It was a wonderful, heartwarming experience. Yes, with camping, cold weather, cold and sometimes frozen water, teepees and outhouses, but so much more – a bond to people who believe in helping with camp chores, family suppers and preparation when Chef Mel let us, doing dishes, pitching in, and most of all … old-fashioned values while living in the technology age.

There's not much room in the sheep shacks but they do protect you from the elements ...  (Photo by Flounder.) 
Then it was time to load up and head to the gas station to redistribute us into other vehicles. Then it was back to St. George. Parting from our new friends was difficult, but there's always Facebook and e-mail. And I expect to see some of these wonderful folks again as I go through Utah a lot.

Marieke and Evaline were staying a night at St. George so they let us use their showers before we had to catch the shuttle to the airport. The dirt just streamed off of me to the bottom of the tub as I washed my hair twice and soaped everything and everywhere. I must have dropped two pounds in dirt alone. It was probably the best shower I've ever taken … nine days without a shower. I've never done that before, and I felt like a new person.

It had taken me a few days on the trail to realize that we'd not have a chance to shower before getting on the plane. My plan was to hit the restroom and do a big spit bath. But thanks to the Holland girls, there was no need.

Then it was the shuttle to the airport and back to the reality of our lives. I now really understand Hobbs' hunting trips and the starkness and solitude he enjoys.

The shuttle had a couple of young guys, pants down to the bottom of their butts, underwear showing, talking trash about others and about getting wasted. What a difference a few hours makes.

I miss life on the trail and our “cowboy up team.” But I sure did enjoy my shower! And clean, soft hair. It's done, but the memories will be there, as well as the people who I learned to love and will see when our trails cross again.

Yeehaw! Cowgirls and cowboys rock … big time!!!

Tuckered out.  (Photo by Flounder.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, installment 10,
Grand Canyon … no commercialism, no fences, no tour buses

Another great day. Marieke, Evaline, Dustin and his family and Flounder and me drove cattle together today. The Austrians went with Kale, Natashia and Stetson and I'm not sure which other cowboys to drive other cattle to a different pasture.

Dustin, Harmony, the birthday girl (Elisabeth), Emma and Esther.   (Photo by Flounder.)
Evaline and Marieke taking a break during the drive today.  (Photo by Flounder.)

Last driving day.  (Photo by Flounder.) 
One of the watering ponds we used during the drive.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Patti, Marieke, Flounder and Evaline at the pond.  (Photo in Flounder's camera.)
Once we had taken our cattle to their pasture, we rode back to camp. We trotted a lot, then some galloping. I told the girls to go ahead, but Luke began thinking he was some kind of prancing, dancing horse. So, I made him walk part of the way although he didn't like it and mostly tried to prance and dance like a Lipizzan stallion and go sideways, and we galloped part of the way., but I was having some chaffing on the inside of my legs, just below the knee; how was this happening on the last day of the ride?

We then had a choice to trailer our horses and ride the last few miles to the Grand Canyon or to use ATVs. Marieke and Evaline trailered their horses, we all got in a couple of vehicles and off we went. The girls unloaded their horses and we loaded up the two ATVs, and off we all went.

Loading up.  (Photo by Flounder.)

Hood ornaments, Caleb and Hayden.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Dustin, Harmony and their family (7) were on one of the four-wheelers, while Caleb, Hayden, Cowboy, Flounder and I were on the other. Two of the boys were “hood ornaments” while the rest of us were inside. It was a great ride … 2.8 miles to the rim … no fence to keep us from the edge, no one hollering get back, you're too close. Just us and nature in all its stunning glory. It was beautiful, the Grand Canyon at sunset.

Astonishing colors at the north rim.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Flounder and I did some creative photography. Then we were tossing rocks. We tried to get each other on camera tossing them. One she tossed went straight overhead. “Head's up.” I looked up. Incoming. Sidestepped. Another disaster averted.
Clowning around at the canyon.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Rock tossing.  (Photo in Flounder's camera.)

Heading back from the canyon, me, Rachel, Hayden, Cowboy, Caleb and Flounder.  (Photo by Flounder.)

Flounder and I were the hood ornaments on the way back to the trailer.  (Photo by Flounder.)

The sun was almost set as we arrived back at the trailer to load the ATVs and head back to camp.  (Photo by Flounder.)

Loading up.  (Photo by Flounder.)

In the truck and on our way to camp.  Marieke, me and Emma.  There were four of us in the back and another four or five in the front.  Can you say sardines?  And even more in the back of the truck.  We were loaded down.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Marieke lost her camera on the way back to camp today from the cow pasture. Cameras are taking a beating this trip. Gottfried had dropped his in the sand, too, but it was still working. Stetson and the Holland girls went back in the dark on a four-wheeler to look for it, but never found it. Marieke and some of the others were going to go back out the next morning before we had to leave to give it one last try in finding it.

The last supper.  I'd told Chef Mel I thought we should have Cow #154, white tag, for supper.  I'm not sure about which one we had (but I didn't see any butchering going on so expect this was some other cow from another drive).  The white tags were the younger cows.  The steak we had for dinner sure was tender.  Maybe a young cow?  Yum, yum.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Our last evening. Dustin and Harmony's 1-year-old, Elisabeth, was having her birthday, so it was cake time and a round of the “Happy Birthday to you.” song. It was a super day all the way around (except for the camera). I was already sad we'd be leaving our new friends.

Elisabeth and Esther ... back at camp celebrating with the birthday girl.  (Photo by Flounder.)
One of the best things about this cattle drive was that I have gained a new riding confidence. Since riding “Buck” years ago wasn't something I was really comfortable with, after a week-and-a-half in the saddle, 7-10 hours a day, guess what. You regain confidence. I may have had to hold on to the pommel now and again, but mostly my balance was good, and I stuck that saddle just fine. I feel good with it.

After campfire time, I looked at my legs during tent talk and it appeared something had bitten me multiple times, and then the riding had irritated it, so I had redness and itchiness. I'm glad I didn't ride that last few miles to the canyon and back. The rigors of the trail. And I'm glad that happened the last day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, installment 9 – another long day but reached our final destination

Ten-plus hours today. And it was quite dusty. We're at our last destination and will camp here for two nights. We're now also close to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

What you looking at?  (Photo by Flounder.)
What?  Leave us alone.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Today we drove cattle, then separated them into two groups. Tomorrow it's more separating, pushing them to their respective pastures, and we're done. I'm tired so it'll be good to finish, but it's been such a great time. I also saw another jackrabbit today. Big ears.

We now have an outhouse rather than our teepee. Our camp has corrals for the horses rather than tie lines, or tying them to the vehicles, a water pond and pens for the cattle, sheep camps (little cars on wheels that are pretty neat inside and where the families are staying). First class …

Natashia and the kids came back again. Was so nice to see them. It makes our community more complete when everyone is here.

I had brought a pink towel with me. One of the cowboys, Stetson, had asked a few days ago if I had an extra towel. Well, I'm not using it, so he's used it a few days. I think I should give it to him. Haha.

I also discovered that Cowboy's little dog sleeps in his sleeping bag with him. That's cool. Plus I'm sure he helps keep him warm as the boys have been sleeping outside without tents. I expect seeing the gorgeous stars overhead more than makes up for not using a tent. I envy that, but Flounder and I didn't sleep outside … the water that I keep outside at night has been frozen in the mornings.

Cows, cows make dust, dust makes dirt.  Toss in some beautiful scenery and a sunset.  Loving it.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Beef over rice tonight and Oriental vegetables. I had to pick out those nasty baby corn things.

I did learn that the ranch is more than 13,000 acres and there is access to more than 100,000 acres of federal pasture land. That's a lot of acreage.

Flounder is sick. Her hands are beet red, and she thinks it's the malaria medicine she takes for working overseas reacting with the sun as it makes her more sensitive to the sun. I have Advil, chapstick, a lotion with aloe and that's about all. It seems to be helping some.
Monday, November 5, Cattle drive, installment 8 –
dirty and getting tired

Up and at 'em.  Pack that bag and mat, break down that tent, wash your face, brush your teeth, saddle up.
 (Photo by Flounder.)

The boys were sleeping under the stars.  Even they were a little slow in getting up this morning.
(Photo in Flounder's camera.)
A good day. No dust ups!! Riding, driving. I think I'm getting tired. But day-after-day of riding, I guess I should be. But it was a great day and and an even better week. Now I'm really, really dirty … a dirty piggy!!!
Dirt is hard to see at this distance.  The cows are down the hill to the right.  We had a lot of leeway in riding, and there were times we rode off the trail to see what was over the hill.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Birgit and I had a nice chat today. She's quite nice, and I've gotten to know Arnold and Gottfried and like them as well. It's taken awhile, though. Wish we'd chatted sooner.

Bergit.  We all were taking it a bit slower today.  (Photo by Flounder.)
You make your own fun along the trail.  (Photo by Flounder.)
The real devil cow has just looked up.  (Photo by Flounder.)
The line of cows sometimes stretched on for as far as the eye could see.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Drinks around.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Little helper.  How could you not like being around these young ones?  (Photo by Flounder.)
We did silhouette photos at sunset near the pond and fenceline. Good thing since we're filthy. You can't see that in a silhouette.

Flounder and me.  Being dirty rocks!!  (Photo in Flounder's camera.)
The sunset was beautiful – pinks, purples, blues, oranges, yellows.

Tonight's supper was pork chops, fried potatoes, corn and salad. Every meal has been great. Catered camping it is. A very apt description.

I heard around the dinner table that Franz took a tumble from his horse today. He'd been doing backflips or something off it and then was standing on his horse and it wouldn't go forward. He smacked it, and it took off, and left him behind on the ground. Rhinestone Cowboy! No, I don't think much of him.

Hot chocolate sure does taste good at night. I'm wondering if, once I'm home, it will taste as good. Probably not. I'm thinking only the camping life makes for great hot chocolate.

Yee haw!!!  (Photo  by Flounder.)
Tonight was dance night. Stetson tried to show me swing, and then we all did the Virginia Reel. It was quite fun … and once again, was like being in the Old West. I did trip over a bush and ended up on the ground. But up and at 'em again, keep dancing. We've done different things different evenings. It's kept us on our toes, and been quite entertaining. What a week we've had. I'm tired, but in some ways wish it would not end.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sunday, November 4, Cattle drive, installment 7 – relaxing, cattle feeding and drinking at leisure

It was a relaxed day today, stopping for a couple of hours a few times to let the cattle feed. Then it was to a pond to let them drink. We let the horses drink, too, and then it was back to work.

Another real deal ... all of Dustin and Harmony's girls are.  (Photo by Flounder.)
A slow push, Flounder and I were assigned to the back to push them forward … slowly. That was our instructions. Heinz came back a few times since the Austrians were working the sides, but I let him know we had it handled. While he may not speak English very well, he does understand so that worked out.

One of my favorite photos ... I don't look nearly as tired as I was feeling.  (Photo by Flounder.)

Franz then came back. He and his wife own a stable in Austria, and I heard he ran a few cattle at one point. But my sticking point is that we're all here to work … as a team. No one person is to do it all, or try to do it all, or act like they can. So, when he came back more than once, and refused to go do his job, and not ours, I had had enough.

They say Alaska girls kick ass. So it was time. Franz does not speak English (to our knowledge). I gestured him to go back up the side, but he was persistent. So I blocked his horse with Luke and told him as well as gestured. He didn't like it. We were hollering at each other … who knows what was said by either side since I didn't understand him and he didn't understand me. (I exercised restraint by not showing him some universal language due to the children, but I was irritated enough.)

I was not in awe, nor intimidated. I ran him off and called him a “dumpkoft.” I don't know how to spell it, and now know that it means “stupidhead.” That worked out well because that's exactly what I thought!!! Go do your own thing and leave us alone. We're supposed to push SLOW, not FAST. But he likes to push them fast, and often cuts through the herd, scattering them in the process. He left me alone after that … so all ended quite well as we avoided each other the rest of the trip.

Stetson mentioned that I seemed to have had some territorial issues with the cows. I just told him yep, sure did.

A slower day ... means you create your own entertainment ... including some wrestling matches.  (Photo by Flounder.)
There was some roping of cows going on ... it was Hayden's turn to rope.  (Photo by Flounder.) 
Guess this is more cowplay than horseplay.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Evaline and Marieke taking a break amidst the postcard-like scenery.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Dustin let Flounder play with his lariat today. I took photos for her. She didn't rope anything, but nearly got a bush. And she had a good time.

Let me get one of those cows.  Her lariat was open, but ne'er a cow's foot or head got caught.  A great learning experience for the first time and loads of fun.  (Flounder's photo.)
Practice makes perfect.  (Flounder's photo.)

A little campfire talk was always in order, this just before the sun set on another wonderful day.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Tonight was burrito night. They were awesome. And I'm really into hot chocolate, double packets. It didn't keep me awake at all, so I must be tired enough at night.

Even the cowboys helped do dishes on occasion.  (Photo by Flounder.)
The family had “church” tonight. They talked to us about their church for those who wanted to listen. Then the girls sang, and one of the Austrians, Arnold, sang a hymn in his language, but we all recognized it, “Amazing Grace.” It was beautiful. And brought us all together for a short time.

Then there was a bit more cardplaying, minus me, campfire and off to the sack.

Saturday, November 3, Cattle drive, installment 6 –
easy day and horseplay

The eyes can see for long distances out here ... and there's mostly nothing.  It's pleasant, it's relaxing and it's calming.  (Photo by Flounder.)
It was a great day!! It was pretty easy. No one got the cows too scrambled and that was made easier because we drove the cattle along a dirt road with a fence on one side. That made it exceptionally simple.

As always on this trip, we had the most incredible scenery.

A camera just doesn't do justice to some of the things we've seen.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Today must have gotten a little boring … cattle staying where they were supposed to, mostly due to the fence and little real work to do gathering stragglers. So, someone started a game of horse tag. I mostly kept away from it. But while standing still with the rest of the group a bit away from me, I heard the words, “Coon Dog.” Hmmmm. What's that mean?

Birget started coming toward me. Wonder why? Oh, I know. “Patience,” said the old Coon Dog in her head. I waited. And then when she was almost on me I drove Luke to the right, and Birgit missed me. Wiley old Luke and me dodged and lunged a few times, but then we were “it.” So, we had to get in on the game. Old 17-year-old Luke still had a few moves left in him. But I was easy on him and tagged one of the kids who was eager to play. What a great way to spend some time. Some of the horses are quite quick, and some of the riders are exceptional, adults yes, but particularly 9-year-old Esther. It was quite the game, and never ended even when we got off the horses, pitched our tents, ate dinner and were around the campfire. The kids were all into it as well as half of the adults.

A couple of the kids showed off ... climbing on the horse, standing on it.  It was a day for horseplay.  (Photo by Flounder.)
The cows had to be watered from troughs today. A water truck brought water and we drove them into the watering pen 40-50 at a time. Keep them in line, cut 'em off at 50, block the rest. Another interesting thing to note about driving cattle … how to water when there's no pond.

I found a pelvic bone ... it would make a great Halloween mask.  Eeewwwhhh.  I used gloves. 
(Photo by Flounder.)
We drove the cattle through underpasses under a road.  Then we stopped to rest them, let them feed and have our own lunch.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Blondie, Flounder's horse, likes PB&J.  (Photo by Flounder.) 
Cows kept infringing on our lunch space, so we chased them off.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Get outta here, cow.  (Flounder's photo.)
More horseplay.  Blondie and Luke were accommmodating, and held still while we got goofy with them.  Or maybe they liked having their new accessories.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Not only are these young cowgirls the real deal when it comes to riding, it appears trick riding is also their specialty.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Birgit, and all of us, drank a lot of water on this trip.  Heat and dust take their toll if you don't stay hydrated.  (Photo by Flounder.)
Flounder and I had a little help setting up the tent tonight. Emma, Bella and Rachel wanted to pound tent stakes. So we'd start them and let them smack it a few times. Don't tell anyone I'm having a great time with these kids.

Chef Mel let Flounder and me help make the salad. He must have decided we're “okay.” We felt quite privileged. We've been helping do the dishes most nights. It's fun to help and talk with some of the other family members who do a lot of this stuff.

Heather and Natashia and their kids left this evening. I'll miss them because they're all such great people and fun to spend time with.

Turkey, dressing, salad and green beans made up our meal from the chef tonight. And it's always been yummy. Then usually to the campfire. But tonight it was some card playing … I wasn't very good at it. You've got to be quick and my reflexes were not as fast as 9-year-old Esther's or Marieke's or Flounder's or Harmony's.

I decided playing was best left to those younger than I am, and went to the campfire. Most nights end at the campfire, warming first one side then the other, time and again while talking, then to bed to bed, Miss Sleepyheads. But sleep only comes after tent talk.