X Marks the Spot

The atmosphere must have been particularly still on Christmas Eve afternoon, as these jet contrails marked an X in the sky and it hung there quite a while.

I have been working on a written history of the home ranch, and the more I work on it, the more it grows. It started being just a history of the various buildings of the ranch, and now it has evolved, and this last week I realized I probably need to put some other landmarks, like dams and draws in the history also. My Dad seems to enjoy contributing to the effort and every time I bring this home to work on it and ask him questions, he comes up with some new story that neither Mom nor I have heard before.

Down the draw on a sunny Christmas day.

Many of the cottonwoods did not do well in the drought of the mid-2000s.

I always try to go out and feed cows with Dad at least one time when I am home. I am not as handy as my brother when it comes to lassoing a calf and helping give it a shot, but I can help feed cake (cow cake is a concentrated feed for cattle, compressed into a cake-like form). (And I have helped pull a dead calf, an experience I hope to never have to repeat.) Feeding cake involves sitting on the pickup tailgate, and dribbling it out of the buckets while the cows come running. Various cows are “cake hounds” and will eat the cake out of your hand, if you don’t mind getting slobber all over you.

One of my favorite pictures of my Dad, ever. On a much warmer day.
You see a lot on the internet about how food animals are not treated well, but I can tell you my Dad (and all of the ranchers that I know) usually puts the health of those animals above and beyond his, and has risked life and limb many times to take care of them, make sure they get fed in a blizzard, etc. And the harshest words I have ever heard him say to a cow are “Ya old blister.” And they know him too, they aren’t particularly keen on a newcomer being out walking around amongst them.

I also get to see some interesting wildlife while I am out driving around in the pasture with him. This year, two bald eagles have been hanging out in the dead cottonwoods in our south pasture. Only one was here today, and he also didn’t care for strangers stopping the pickup to look at him and take pictures, so I don’t have a very close one, but you can tell it is a bald eagle.

Eagle says “I am not interested in participating in your picture-taking. Next time bring a long lens. Good-bye.” (Haybale pile and Black Hills in background.)


I also get to see other various hawks, meadowlarks, cottontails, deer, coyotes, and antelopes, depending on the time of the year.

The horses object to the ice in the pasture. “Get out here with some de-icer! And bring me a carrot and an apple while you are at it.”

Of course, there are many other acres of land where they could stand, but they like to stand here and be annoyed.

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