You know you live in the middle of nowhere when…begins part two of my memories of the isolated life we lived on large ranches in both Wyoming and Oregon…
Beautiful isn’t it? Hard to not look at the Wind Rivers all day…the incredible continental divide…with the amazing ever changing views. This was Wyoming and I loved it!
A typical scene of the Green River Drift…I rode it several times with the ranchers and cowboys either gathering cattle from close to Yellowstone in the fall months driving our cattle home on the drift or in the early spring months, when we gathered our cattle and moved them out for a few months to the high desert on the other side of Pinedale.
The photo above was taken in the early spring months right after we were hired to manage the ranch in Wyoming. The house to the far left became our home, but first they had to remodel our house and also the owners house which was the log home more in the center, it was a 100 year old log hone. All summer as we chased flood irrigation water, I watched the ever changing Winds, it was like watching a movie that had different scenes all day long:) The tallest peak in Wyoming is Gannet Peak at 13,809′ and I had the daily privilege of this view out my windows. We lived at 7500′…the mountains were incredible as they gave me a beautiful ever changing photo, that I hung on my heart…and yes it’s still there:) Wyoming was…mesmerizing!
Pinedale was an awesome little town…and here we go…part two.
It’s normal to pack a gun or a pistol as you go about your day…
In Oregon, we had two kinds of rattlesnakes to contend with…down close to the hay fields you have the standard large rattler…often 6′ long ones lying around the hay fields and anywhere else…you had to always watch where you stepped. We also had to contend with timber rattlers in the higher elevation where we had cattle pasture. Timber rattlesnakes like to curl around the tree branches to blend in and then scare the heck out of you! The first time I saw one curled around a tree branch hanging I wanted to scream oh my GOSH!!! I think I did but not exactly those words:) And yeah the Sig Sauer Muddy Girl is mine:) I also have a Sig pistol and I have a 9mm pistol…and shotgun…so be warned!
In Wyoming, we had bears, wolves, bobcats and other critters to worry about…but thank goodness, no rattlesnakes or pack rats! Our elevation at 7500′ was too high for them:)
And currently where we live, life has changed in the last 15 years…we have a neighborhood watch and we are armed, ready to defend ourselves if need be. I grew up out here during winter months and we used to not lock our doors…now we have security systems on our house, shop and barn along with several high-end cameras. In today’s world, there are people who love to steal things to make meth…farm and ranch country gets hit lots due to the farm chemicals we use on our crops and weeds etc. They steal chemicals to make their meth. If you do not have chemicals, then they steal fuel and copper or steel. It is a crazy world we live in and we are on full alert…laser light and night vision scope…life has changed out here. Don’t bug us!
You know you live in the middle of nowhere when you begin to visit more with the cows and horses than you do with people as there are no people around…and as time goes on, you begin to hear the cows and horses talking back to you…sharing the moment and shooting the breeze!
The very first time I rode up in the higher elevations in Central Oregon, to gather cattle, I thought I would be safe from rattlesnakes…I mean, come on, everyone would think that at 5500′ elevation, rattlesnakes would not like it right? I had yet to hear a true rattlesnake rattle at me nor had I seen any rattlesnakes…WB told me they were around down low close to where we lived. Little did I know!
Once we finished with gathering cattle, Steve, one of our cowboys, was leading us off the mountain…he was in front of me and stopped to look at the incredible scenery we could see…
He turned to tell me something, and his face went white…he yelled at me to move NOW! Lucky for me that my mare, Lottie, knew nothing about snakes either so she did not spook…the rattlesnake was directly under her and was coiling…we moved fast enough to escape! Mike, the horse trainer for the ranch, had been behind me with a four-year old gelding…while I was moving quickly away from the snake, Mike had taken his horse over to the cattle pond to get a drink…it had lots of mud around the edge that you could get stuck in and with all the commotion around Lottie and I, Mike’s horse tried to spook, but was stuck in the mud and almost pitched Mike into the pond…it was a true Charlie Russel painting! Luckily no one was hurt and we all made it safely off the mountain! My eyes were as big as saucers from then on as I was on full alert everywhere I went…
“Hank the Cow Dog,” was about 10 months old in this photo…he is the 6 month puppy that rode out the massive flood on a piece of a wood and was washed up against the house in a corner…we were so happy when we found him!
In Wyoming, we could feel eyes watching us late at night through the curtains on the large living room windows…its -35 below so who would be standing out there watching you anyway…as you look, you scream, as pressed to the glass is 4 sets of eyes with huge heads and bodies attached to them…MOOSE!
Did you know that moose have two moods? Curious and MAD! You hurriedly pull the curtains back together….and the moose bumps into the window….you turn off the lights…and the moose bumps up against the window again with a devious moose grunt….you quietly scream again and run to your bedroom hiding under your bed…hoping they will go away…HA!
The next morning all four moose are curled up on our deck waiting for us! “Good morning Miss Moose…why are you kissing the hand rail on my porch? Miss Mouse gave me a look and grunt and I shut up…Miss Moose can do anything she wants! Sorry for the blur, but she would not hold still for my camera! I loved Wyoming…even the cold weather with curiously mad moose and every adventurous part!
You can ride and gather cattle for miles without seeing another person or any sign of civilization…you almost feel like you are the only person left on earth. It is an amazing view to see…no power lines, no smog, no busy highways, no people…almost like unsettled land. This photo shows the Wind River Mountains or the Continental Divide, close to South Pass on the Oregon Trail. The objects you see on the hill are the water tanks…we turned the cattle out on the high desert during the late spring months and watered them via windmills…we had several to maintain.
Often the desert had quick squalls that would drop in fast with thunder and lightening…the sky would grow black in the middle of the day…but the storms left as quickly as they came. The high desert was vast and huge…when it was time to gather up 1000 head of cows on our 15,000 acre pasture, it took us one morning to do it. I could not believe how fast it went. Growing up on my folks cattle ranch, it took us a few months to gather 800 mother cows and calves on the summer range in the Blue Mountains. And even though you think the desert is flat, it is not as it has more small hills than you can see.
I wondered what it looked like to the men and women who made it over South Pass? The wagon trains crossed the desert right through the acreage we ran cattle on…what did they think once they got over the divide and saw the vast desert…and the Wyoming Mountains ahead of them? Who may have lived here, was it a family or maybe a fur trapper?
You know the sounds of a cattle truck as it tops the hill that drops into the ranch in the early dawn light…
First the cab lights crest the hill and disappear as the they drop down the last hill only to pop out in time for the next cattle truck lights to top the hill…15 trucks in all…choreographed to drop into the ranch all in a row…like clock work!
You can hear the sounds in your head and in your heart…the sounds of aluminum truck gates opening, cattle hooves on metal in the loading shoot…you see the breath of both men, horses, cattle and dogs…as the cattle are quietly loaded like clockwork…like they all knew it was time to head for the mountains for the summer range.
As one truck is loaded you hear the rev of the semi as it pulls away from the loading dock and the next truck pulls in…you hear a few jokes as your brand inspector signs off on the cattle as you know him like family…and as the last truck leaves shifting gears gaining speed to climb that first hill…and it dips outta sight only to bob up one more time into the bright sunshine of daybreak…it tweaks your heart a bit…another winter is gone.
The trucks have 200 miles round trip to go so it will be a few hours before they return for more cows…800 head mother cows, along with calves, yearlings and etc. took around 25-30 trucks to haul…the day began in the early morning darkness and would end in the middle of the night or the early morning hours up on the mountain ranch.
You know the sounds of cattle in the corrals settling down and in the meadow pastures close to you in a new place as the first new day begins for them on the summer range…you shiver as you climb out of your warm sleeping bag wearing your long underwear and shoving on your jeans…boot socks and wild rag as you head out to help feed and do whatever is needed to help…counting cows and calves, moving cattle or settling cows. Later that morning, you head back down to the winter ranch to close things up now that all the cattle had been shipped as well as horses and dogs too. As you crest the hill and see the ranch, it takes your breath away as it is now standing quietly still…the life of both man and animal that was there yesterday is now gone. You pull up to the loading chute and take a few minutes as…
Your mind plays back over the last few weeks of gathering and the finality that happens each June 1st…as time seems to stand still until cattle and man return in late fall.
Note: The description I used above is based on my memories of growing up on my folks cattle ranch in Oregon where the cattle truck sounds and memories began at an early age.
There is one grocery store in Pinedale to shop in and the prices are through the roof as the next closest grocery store is over 100 miles one way on two lane country roads, either South to Rock Springs or Northwest to Jackson Hole.
Note all the pick ups…yep cowboy country!
Once you go into the grocery store to shop, you note that there are LOTS of wildlife mounts looking at you as you shop down the aisles. In the frozen food aisle I looked at Fox, Bobcat or Mountain Lion. On other aisles we saw Mountain Goats, Bears, Antelope, Coyotes, while the bigger animals had a head mount, such as an Elk, Moose, Deer…Buffalo…and even fish! It was quite an experience as the store had all the food we needed except fresh fruit in the summers. It also had hunting and fishing supplies, guns, knifes etc. everything you can imagine under the sun…for the husband as you shopped.
As the day ends, you go to sleep happy and content…your body feels good as it got worked…
And you accomplished good things in your life on a remote cattle ranch…the incredible isolation and the hard work at hand, can be overwhelming to some, but for me it was always a great joy…one that I grew up in and one that I will never forget. I knew I lived out in the middle of nowhere…the boondocks…the hinterlands…and I loved every part of it!
It is my life and who I am…I’m thankful I have stories yet to tell…filled with memories of a cowgirl’s life lived in the middle of nowhere…I would not trade it for anything different!
Have a great evening and a fun week and weekend!