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 Ranch News

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Hello and welcome to the Trail’s End Ranch news page. I am finally learning my way around the computer enough to share the beauty and happenings of the ranch online. We are working on adding a "comments" area for your feedback, but until we get it figured out, please feel free to email us your thoughts:  recon@cmn.net  Always glad to hear from you, thanks for tuning in, and here’s what’s been going on:


A Green, Wet Spring

Moisture…if there’s a sweeter word in ranch vocabulary, I can’t think of it. And this year we actually got our share and then some—from heavy October snows to slow, steady April rains. All of which makes for a May filled with creeks and birds singing, wildflowers exploding with color, alfalfa fields a lush, kelly green, the surrounding Beartooth and Crazy Mountains shimmering with snow…Nothing to do but enjoy it while it lasts!


Tillie enjoys a dip in the stock tank                                     Belle Starr enjoys a dip in Daggett Creek, Daggett homestead in background                CountrymanCreek                                                                                                                                         



                     Oh, The Things We Do For Our Fans

Yes, that’s me, harvesting some of our famous genuine Trail’s End Ranch organic, free-range, Montana CD openers (porcupine quills), which we are offering as a premium to the first 5,000,000 folks who order one of my new cds, Western Bling and Western Bliss.  If anyone is wondering, the porcupine in the photo IS deceased. He might have been hit by a car, as he was lying dead in the road right in front of the house. That, or he was DYING for a career in show business!  Oh, I am so clever I amaze myself sometimes. By the way, these quills are sharp, so please don’t use them to get your child to do her homework, and please don’t sue us if you do…


 Packrat Wars, Chapter One


 Well, as the pictures show, we have been waging packrat wars here at Trail’s End Ranch. One little varmint is especially fond of my car, in which he has built countless nests under the hood, chewed hoses, even broke into the glove compartment and devoured the registration—how can such a cute, fuzzy creature wreak such havoc!…Gotta begrudgingly give him props on the nest-building, though, for perseverance, creativity and using available materials. The nest in the top photo is made entirely from deer hair (a hide the dogs drug into the yard), complete with pine cone accents. A veritable work of art that I actually felt a twinge of guilt removing. The nest in the lower photo was made of cedar boughs and the lining of my car hood. Guilt on that removal: not so much! Other nests have included pieces from a black sparkly dress I had hung overnight in the garage, and even the Bounce dryer sheets that my mechanic told me to put under the hood as a deterrent.  It’s gotten to the point that I look under the hood before I start the car…today I was thrilled to find no new nest, but my joy was short-lived when the dogs started sniffing and whining under the spare tire in the back of the car. Let’s just say there are now children involved…stay tuned… 



         A Runner Is Born…

Miles of car-free cow trails, three hyperactive Australian shepherds, and the desire to get in great physical shape have turned me into a runner. Not breaking any speed records, mind you, but enjoying it and having some grand adventures, from getting chased by a neighbor’s llama to hearing a mountain lion’s roar one morning (set a new personal record getting home on that run!), to leaping over coiled rattlers. Even came upon a black bear’s fresh tracks (see photo). 


 Summertime and the Gardening Is Easy

 After years of tears and toil with outside gardening, I am enjoying the heck out of five-gallon bucket, living room gardening. So far, peppers, lettuce, spinach, basil, and tomatoes are thriving…highly recommended! 


Springtime = Wildlife at Trail’s End

Lots of spring wildlife sightings around here lately, including three cow elk moseying across the pasture last evening. Spotting them on the ranch is a sure sign of spring, as they typically descend from higher elevations in May or so to calve and browse the alfalfa fields. One morning last May, as I was drinking coffee and staring out the window (with no camera nearby, of course), 24 cow elk stood milling around the mailbox.  It was almost as if they were waiting for the mail. I can see the caption of that photo now: "Gee, I Hope The New 'Lawrence Elk' CD I Ordered Arrived"...


                              Bobcat Bliss

 Speaking of missed photo ops, last week, while sitting at my desk and gazing out the window, a young bobcat strolled within a few feet of the cabin and, for a good two hours, proceeded to put on a marvelous show—pouncing, preening, lying on his back and waving all four paws in the air, strolling back and forth across a downed cottonwood that crosses the creek. I believe he was simply enjoying the first warm spring day of the year, and his joy was contagious. I laughed out loud when he launched into a Pink Panther-like mime:  ears back, bobtail flicking, gingerly lifting each paw high in a slow, stealthy glide through the tall grass. As far as I could tell, he was stalking absolutely nothing. Then he froze, sheepishly glancing around, and, assuming a more dignified persona, began vigorously sharpening his claws on a dead cottonwood tree. When finished, he yawned, arched his back into a leisurely stretch, and, as the credits rolled, turned and sauntered off into the juniper.  Still grinning, I set down my pen, grabbed a ball cap, and headed outside for a little goofing off myself. Here's to spring!


New birds are coming to the feeders every day...here's a male evening grosbeak (thanks to all of you birders who quickly set me straight on this.)  His lovely song is, as a friend of mine says, "like a robin who's been to singing school."


                                                                  Bullock's Oriole                                     A Trail’s End chipmunk hits the chuck wagon...


Lazuli buntings                                        Rose-breasted grosbeak                    Goldfinch


Now that's courage!                                Downy woodpecker                                 Spotted Towhee



Eastern Kingbird                              House Wren                                    Cassin's Finch                            Red-Winged Black Bird


Cedar Waxwing                                Black Headed Grosbeak                     Sandhill Crane                      Mountain Bluebird

Winter Robin                                                Meadowlark                                                   Meeting of the Waxwings                        


                                                             On Fencing and Fencing Gloves… 

Well, fence-fixing season is upon us here at Trail’s End. That means loading up the fencing pliers, posts, post pounder, goldenrod, staples, hooks, wire, hatchet, sandwiches, Gatorade, and of course, fencing gloves, and heading out to try to remedy the damage that wind, weather, and wildlife have done to the fences over the long winter. Depending on the terrain and the job, this is done by foot, horseback, or four-wheeler. It is one of the ranch jobs that our cranky foreman, Rick, admits to actually enjoying, especially if he is out with the dogs in the middle of nowhere on a blue-sky day. If Rick is particular about fencing gloves in general (“They have to have a reinforced palm, and not be so tough you can’t fold your hand, a soft leather, but something that will hold up”), he is downright fanatical about his broken-in gloves. The Holy Grail had less supervision, and don’t even THINK about asking to borrow them. He says a glove is at its best when it’s on its last leg, when it’s coated in sweat and oil and blood and the fingers are dang near poking through. Which takes forever. Which means the air turns indigo when he misplaces one or the dog runs off with it. Which happens at least hourly during fence-fixing season. Here’s wishing all you post pounders and wire stretchers soft ground, good weather, and a sense of humor to get you through the season. May your gloves always be where you last left them, and may you always remember where that is.


"Suzi" the Suzuki, our hard working fencing rig...                            Rick's ALMOST broken-in fencing gloves...                                           Tillie guards Rick’s pert-near perfectly broken in gloves…       


                                                                            A good day for checking fence...Granite Peak (Montana's highest) and Beartooth Mts. in background.


A "deadman"...it's a weight (in this case, rocks) which counteracts the pull of the fence.

            Some, like this one our friend Slim Campbell built on the ranch, can be downright artistic.


                                                                                                                    Slim Campbell, ace fencer and deadman builder…



       Root Cellar Dreams… 

One of the many things I love about the ranch is the root cellar. It is a little masterpiece of stone masonry, built by the man who homesteaded the place in the 1920s. His name was Fred Poston, supposedly a stone mason from Iowa. I think of all the muscle, sweat, hopes, and dreams he put into each carefully placed stone, and how ironic that, soon after building it, he would “starve out”, as a neighbor put it, and return to Iowa. The root cellar is still remarkably cool and air-tight today. We joke about turning it into a wine cellar, but for now it serves as a testament to craftsmanship, hard work, and big dreams.


The root cellar, winter                                                                Inside root cellar


                                                                          The Gustavson Place

Another favorite part of the ranch is the old Gustavson place. This charming homestead was built in 1910 or so by the Gustavson family, some of whose relatives still live in the area. It was later sold to the Daggetts, who held the ranch for 93 years before selling it to me. But for centuries before all that, due to its lower elevation, mild winters, and plentiful game, the area was a winter camp for the Crow Indians. In fact, it was the last place the Crow camped before they moved in 1909 to their current reservation. The camp is even mentioned in Andrew Garcia’s wonderful book, “Tough Trip Through Paradise.”

                 Walking along the creek, you can almost see the rows of teepees, smell the campfire smoke, hear the Crow children at play. It is startling to think that just a short hundred years ago, this ordinary looking alfalfa field was a village. Although my own searches for evidence of the camp haven’t yielded much, Bob Daggett, one of the original Daggett sons, found plenty. On a visit to the ranch a couple years ago, he spoke of plowing the field as a boy with his mule team. It got to the point, he said, that he came to dread the sound of the plow scraping rock, as this usually meant having to stop and hand excavate yet another teepee ring--the round, heavy circle of stones that held a teepee in place. When asked about finding arrowheads, he again ruefully smiled and shook his head. Apparently they were so plentiful that his mother got tired of storing them and tossed out a large bucket full somewhere on the place. How I’d love to stumble across that bucket! 

 Summertime At Last!  







Saunders' cattle contentedly grazing the Daggett Place...

It’s mid-June, and we are finally stringing together a few days’ warm weather after weeks of cool temps, rain, and even a dusting of snow. Amazing how quickly the grass greens up and the flowers bloom once the thermometer breaks 70 degrees. My neighbors, Dave and Doreen Saunders, are running their cows on the ranch this summer. While there is still plenty of work around here, it’s a huge relief to have sold my little herd awhile back. I am now much freer to write, travel, play music, even climb on a horse for fun, now that I'm no longer battling cows breaking out onto the county road and trotting toward the freeway at midnight, yearlings bloating in the alfalfa fields at 3 a.m., and a host of other adrenaline-inducing drama that the cheap, wily, half-wild sale barn cows that constituted most of my little herd were capable of. And, not to whine, but these little incidents had an uncanny way of occurring the night before I had an hour-and-a-half drive to the airport for a 6 a.m. flight! The truth is, I have come to discover that I like the idea of cows much more than cows themselves. Horses and dogs I can't get enough of, but when it comes to cows, you're either a cow person, or you're not. (Highly recommended book on this subject: J. Frank Dobie's "Cow People.") Anyway, it's a calling, an addiction, a passion that I clearly do not possess, and, of course, cows can spot this a mile away. It's no accident, I believe, that the Saunders, who are quintessential cow people, have cows that actually stay where they are supposed to, are downright docile, and virtually ooze contentment as they graze and laze on the very hillsides that my own cows regularly escaped. I’m sure the Saunders would modestly deny this assessment, but it is both true and absolutely maddening. Just once, I'd love to phone them around midnight to inform them that their cows are hell-bent for the freeway, their yearlings are bloating in the alfalfa fields, and their prize bull is down by the river, up to his eyeballs in quicksand. How I'd secretly relish holding the receiver out for their suddenly-wide-awake "WHATs?, before calmly setting down the receiver, yawning, stretching, and turning out the light...

                                                        On Horseshoeing and Westerns…









Peder keeps his hoof nails handy...

Got the horses rounded up and brought to the corrals this week for trimming and shoeing by my favorite farrier, Peder Fenelon. Peder is everything a great farrier should be: gentle with the horses, does excellent work, quick, honest, fair, on time, and best of all, a wonderful storyteller. I always enjoy his visits, and this time was no exception. He brought along his brother, Charlie, and the conversation ranged from Major Differences Between Men and Women (highly enlightening), to a spirited debate of Best All-Time favorite TV Westerns ("Gunsmoke," "Have Gun Will Travel", and "Rawhide", to name a few.)

Of course, the dogs also enjoy Peder's visits for the hoof trimmings they net. Judging from the way each dog eagerly watches and waits for a chance to slip in and grab some, hoof trimmings must be the dog equivalent of Godiva chocolate. And speaking of watching, below is a picture of a beautiful male western tanager, who studied the entire proceedings intently from his perch on the hogwire corral fence.



 Peder and Charlie share a laugh...                                      Western tanager tunes in to the conversation...                                 Ted moves in for a snack...                                                                              


                                                                Summer in the Rearview Mirror 


Summer has flown by here at Trail’s End. It was a wonderfully cool, green summer—neither fan nor air conditioner even once put into use—a summer filled with adventures, crises, and surprises at every turn. Here is a rundown of a few of the highlights:

                                                                              Tillie Gets Snakebit

 One June morning, as Tillie was bounding through some heavy brush just yards from the house, she let out a pitiful cry and then hobbled back to the yard. Judging by the multiple fang marks on her hind feet and legs, she must have surprised (no warning rattles) at least two, possibly three rattlers emerging from their den. After an adrenaline-fueled (mine) trip to the vet’s, she spent several days in the house, hiding under the bed and licking her bruised, swollen and now-hairless legs. Gradually she began painfully inching herself across the floor to her water dish. Horrible as it must have been for her, the whole experience was surely harder on me, my friend and ranch manager, Rick, and the other dogs, Ted and Belle. Tillie’s nickname is “The Black Bullet.” Most days she can be found zipping around the ranch, herding and directing everything from cows to hawks, and especially Ted and Belle. They hardly scratch their fleas without her permission, and all of us felt downright lost without her saucy, bossy presence. The glorious morning she finally resumed her characteristic swivel-headed Linda-Blair-in-The-Exorcist “THIS IS MY FOOD BOWL” growl, followed by repeated majorette-like tossings of her favorite stuffed rabbit in front of Ted, daring him to even glance at it, Rick and I high-fived each other and shouted simultaneously, “She’s baaaaaaaack!” Interesting side note: the vet says it is actually rare for dogs to die of snakebites, and he has only lost one dog to them in 23 years--a miniature dachshund that was bitten multiple times on the tongue. Of course, I was about to ask exactly HOW a miniature dachshund manages to get bitten numerous times on the tongue, but just then the vet was paged on an emergency. Just as well--I get enough fodder for nightmares around here as it is.

                                                                               The Dove And The 'Daire

 This summer the old 70s-yellow spare refrigerator in the garage began making a pitiful, rhythmic wheezing sound. Apparently it is saying something in “mourning dove,” because for weeks, night and day, a lone dove has been faithfully cooing in response. Their “relationship” is such a perfect combination of pathos, comedy, tragedy, and unrequited love, that I am thinking of writing an opera…possible titles: “My ‘Daire Lady”… “Freon Giovanni” …”Le Fridgerables”… I may even use artistic license and change the dove to a pigeon, so as to present (drum roll:) “The Pidge and The Fridge.”  But seriously, I AM considering unplugging the fridge long to encourage the poor dove to assume the worst, take his lumps, and fly south for the winter, lest I end up nursing a lovesick dove AND a wheezing fridge through the winter. However, the weighty responsibility of breaking a heart, even a seriously deluded one, has so far stayed my hand. On the other hand, wouldn’t a little up-front pain be preferable to a lifetime of denial? What would Dr. Phil say?

                                                                                  Chokecherry Fever

 August: It was a banner chokecherry year here at the ranch—glistening purplish-black berries dangling like clusters of jewels from the countless chokecherry bushes lining the creeks and roads.  Over a weeklong period during the early evenings, I managed to pick eight gallons of berries before the birds and dogs beat me to them. Yes, dogs. The lower branches on these expeditions were virtually stripped bare by my three Australian shepherds. This is both puzzling and disturbing; puzzling, as raw chokecherries are downright bitter (thus, the “choke” part of their name) to the human tongue, yet the dogs, especially Ted, gobble them as if they were coated in bacon grease; disturbing, as Ted sleeps by my bed at night, and the audible and highly pungent results of his gluttony whipped me, suddenly wide awake and gasping, into a sitting position more times than I care to remember. Smelling salts have nothing on Ted Davis.


                                                         Chokecherry syrup...great on everything from pancakes to ice cream...


                                                  Some Things I Learned This Summer:

 ---Cows can all but pole vault over cattle guards. This is especially true if they happen to be casually standing beside one when a runner and her dog (which shall remain nameless) round a corner and the dog barks, even once. Odds of this happening go up considerably when the cows belong to a neighbor, the neighbor is out of town, a storm is rolling in, and the runner has company coming for a dinner she has yet to begin cooking.

 --- If panicked cows have a choice between trotting harmlessly down the county road for a few feet and stopping, or making a ninety degree turn, tearing out a new section of fence, and scattering over several sections, they will choose the latter.

 ---When gathering panicked cows in an oncoming storm, one should not rely heavily on a dog that beelines to the house at the first clap of thunder, even if said dog is the primary reason the panicked cows need gathering in the first place.

---When gathering panicked cows in a downpour, one might think twice before shaking out a rain slicker while astride the new bargain sale barn horse, “Corky," now known to be short for "Corkscrew."



---Panicked cows in a downpour develop amnesia concerning: a: where they have lived for the past ten years; b: the fact that they are herd animals who, in a stressful situation, are supposed to band together; and c: how to walk through a gate, even though the gate adjoins the same cattle guard they pole vaulted over several hours earlier.

 ---Frozen pizza is a perfectly acceptable meal when the friends are real, the stories are good, and the cook is cold, wet, and exhausted.



Winter 10, Autumn, 0

 Weather extremes here at Trail’s End! After several record-breaking, early October, 85-degee days, the mercury plunged to the single digits, and now a foot of wet, heavy snow blankets the ranch. The poor cottonwoods along the creek sag and groan, their burgeoning canary plumage reduced overnight to a dull brown, their annual pageant over before it began. Bewildered-looking meadowlarks stagger drunkenly around the feeders. A robin cocks his head skyward, as if inquiring as to whether someone at Headquarters forgot to send out the Migration Memo. I descend the basement steps to a storage room, where, while rummaging through dusty boxes for long johns and mittens, I spy an orange crate of murder mysteries. In no time, I’m happily perched on an overturned bucket by the propane stove, hot cup of cocoa in one hand, serial killer in the other. Just out the window, in the blue late-afternoon light, two steaming, frost-covered horses stamp and paw at the drifts in the corral. To the east, a small regiment of turkeys comb the sparkling, snow-covered barley fields; above and around them, the cedar-dotted foothills roll like huge swells in an endless white ocean. I blink and shake my head in wonder--yesterday I was sweating in shorts and a t-shirt, and today, I shouldn't be surprised to see the Marlboro man ride past, dragging a newly cut Christmas tree.  Then again, if the phrase “This, too, shall pass” applies to anything, it’s Montana weather--the forecast calls for blue skies and temps in the 70s!                                                                                                       





                                                     Rodney, Rooster, Rodeo Wrecks, and Reading Recommendations…


Had a wonderful overnight visit recently with two of my favorite North Dakotans: rancher, cowboy poet, and bulldogger, Rodney Nelson of Simms, and rancher and bareback rider Donnie Schmid, from Bismarck. Returning from the National Senior Rodeo Championships in Winnemucca, they rolled into Trail's End at sunset. After turning Rodney's bulldogging horse, Rooster, in the corral, they headed to the house, where we doctored Rodney’s ear, which was still bleeding where he landed on it in the bulldogging competition the day before. Once we'd reached a consensus that he would likely survive and showed no more discernable brain damage than the average senior rodeo cowboy, we sat down to a pot of stew and some seriously entertaining rodeo wreck stories. Both Rodney and Donnie are marvelous storytellers, complete with physical reenactments and exhibitions of the corresponding bruises, broken bones, and scars. I could have listened all night. Later, the talk turned to book recommendations. Rodney's picks included the Montana-based story, “Once A Hobo,” which he graciously promised to lend his rare copy of.



                  Rodney and Rooster in the corral...


Whether from lack of television, long stretches of solitude, or just a genuine love of words and stories, I have never come across a more discerning and voracious bunch of readers than cowboys and cowboy poets. One of the great joys of being included in this bunch is the constant recommending and lending of books of all genres to each other. Oprah’s Book Club has nothing on us!


The next morning, we walked down to the corral to find a nervous, lathered-up Rooster pacing and whinnying—I suspect the  mountain lion that has been hanging around camp made an appearance…anyway, poor Rooster was in such a hurry to depart Trail's End, he dang near loaded himself into the trailer! Thanks for the good company, boys, and stop in again anytime.  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Rodney, me and Donnie



Heading Home                                                                                 Young Rodney                                                                                            Still At It



   Of Coyotes and Hank Williams

 Three a.m.: A hair-raising wail pierces the stillness. I sit up on one elbow, breathlessly listening for more, but alas, the concert is over--loneliness, heartache, grief, defiance, wild freedom, all packed into one exquisite note. Hank Williams himself could do no better.

 With apologies to anyone trying to raise sheep for a living, I have a soft spot for coyotes, especially their music. From joyful, full-moon chorales to an anguished dead-of-night soliloquy, no evening on the ranch is complete without their expressive voices echoing the hills.

 Recently on a morning run, I came face to face with a young coyote. He was standing beside a cow path, and I’m not sure which of us was more surprised. For several rather incredible minutes, we stood--me marveling at his perfectly camouflaged, silvery-brown coat, his large, pointed ears, his stunning amber eyes; him warily eyeing my water backpack, ipod, and running shoes. At last, he broke the spell and loped off into the juniper, leaving me to my cow path.

 With the exception of a persistent packrat or the occasional rattlesnake that gets too close to the house, we employ a “live and let live” approach to wildlife here at Trail’s End. We enjoy seeing everything from marmots to mountain lions, and try our best to be good neighbors. Also, even when we did run cows, we never lost a single calf to coyotes or other predators. I suspect this has more to do with the abundance of rabbits and other game, more than our particular benevolence. Of course, every outfit is different, and I realize sometimes problem predators must be managed/dealt with, but the “shoot a coyote on sight” policy is not for us. However, judging from the racket along the creek last night, I suspect a few wild turkeys would vehemently disagree!                           


Illustration by Rick Philipp   


                                                                      Winter Wildlife at Trail's End...



                  Northern flicker                                                                                                  Hairy woodpecker


          Sharp-tailed grouse                                           Eastern screech-owl


     Whitetail buck                    Sparrows in the hubcap feeder                       Magpie                          Black-capped chickadee


Signs of Spring!

New signs of spring appear daily at Trail’s End, and they couldn’t be more welcome. The first came in late February, when the male hoot owl in the old cottonwood just out my writing cabin window began “who-whooing” his lovely evening mating call. Late one night, I felt a thrill (as I’m sure the male did) at the faint, higher-pitched answer of a female from across the valley. I read that owls mate for life; here’s wishing this  prospective couple a long, happy, and prolific one.

Another sure sign of spring around here are the adorable days-old calves running and bucking in the neighbors’ pastures along the county road. I look for excuses to make the six-mile roundtrip to the mailbox, driving extra slowly so as to check out the latest babies and enjoy their antics.


This adventurous little guy broke out for a spring stroll....                     While this one tries to get the hang of standing....

From chipmunks to bobcats, wildlife sightings are increasingly common. Both bald and golden eagle pairs circle the sky right out the living room window, and today Rick reported seeing some huge, fresh black bear scat piles, as well as fresh elk and mountain lion tracks.


                                      Bobcat Camouflaged in a Cottonwood


The horses are shedding their thick winter coats and enthusiastically filling up on all the new green grass they can find.  The creek sings a little louder each day, robins call to each other from the feeders, and the lengthening days begin and end with the beautiful, delicate light unique to springtime in the Rockies.

I thumb through seed catalogues while mentally designing and arranging the garden I have learned not to even think about planting until well after Memorial Day. Spring might be stepping up to the podium, but winter has not had the last word!


June Is Busting Out All Over


Lucky and Jed graze below the Beartooths...                                                                                            Tillie poses beside a giant puffball mushroom                       Wild rose

A green and gorgeous June here at Trail’s End. Plenty of rain, hail, and even snow have kept the pastures lush and the creeks gurgling during the long days. Of course, it is the season of new babies, from turkeys to elk, with thrilling new sightings daily.

                                                                       Nap Time

For the past three days, a doe and her spotted fawn have cautiously approached a small mound just a few feet from my writing cabin. Their routine: At Mama's mysterious signal, she and baby drop to the ground, their identically shaped ears peeking above the mound for a few minutes, until, I suppose, surrendering to the warm afternoon sunshine and soft grasses, the smaller pair of ears disappear from sight. This is Mama’s cue to rise and browse nearby. In due time, she returns, giving another silent and mysterious command for the gangly, adorable tyke to wake, stumble to its feet and wobble/stagger after her into the woods. I will try to capture a photo soon, but no promises--the doe is one watchful and protective Mama!

                                                                        Talkin’ Turkey

These baby turkeys are already able to fly well enough to heed their mama’s warning clucks and head for the highest branch of the nearest tree when bobcats or other predators come calling.



                                                                So, How Was Your Day?

No sightings of elk calves yet, but from the living room window, the Evening Elk Procession is a magical sight. Around sunset, from various directions, the bulls and cows slowly and regally descend the juniper-covered hills to the horse pasture in front of the house. They then stroll to the smooth-wire dividing fence, where, after touching noses across it, they stand, by all appearances, catching up on the news of the day. Interesting to me that they could easily walk through the fence or jump over it, but never do. Just before the last light disappears on the horizon, they return to their well-hidden calves and their beds deep in the canyons.


                                                                              From the "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" File:

Of course, not all wildlife encounters have happy endings around here. Yesterday while weed-whipping in the yard, Rick glanced over to see a sizeable rattler packing a live grosbeak in its mouth. Fueled by adrenaline, Rick walked over to it, cranked the weed whip to "high", and administered what he thought was a "Drop The Bird Or Else" lash to the snake. In hindsight, he says, a lower setting, or even a different tactic might have been more prudent. Let's just say the grosbeak's official cause of death was "consumption." And the rattler? Haven't found a piece big enough to make a determination...







                                                                                  Sow and cubs getting ready to hibernate, Daggett Canyon

Most Recent News

Slidin’, Glidin, Treasure Hidin’, and Resolution Abidin’

Making tracks, Daggett Canyon...

Plenty of snow here at Trail’s End Ranch this winter—enough to transform Daggett Canyon into a dandy cross-country ski area. Our ever-creative ranch manager, Rick, has even fashioned some adrenaline-inducing jumps along the steep hillsides. Throw in the occasional moose or mountain lion encounter, and who needs morning coffee…

Er, that would be me, though I am so far holding firm on my New Year’s Resolution of reducing consumption from one pot to one cup per day—a feat only you true fellow lifelong caffeine junkies can appreciate the magnitude of even attempting. However, if any fellow readers are thinking of following suit, I can testify that it’s actually survivable--after the first two weeks’ nausea, DTs and hallucinations, of course…

Anyway, for a major dose of peace, joy, enlightenment, perspective, stress relief, and cellulite reduction, I highly recommend strapping on a pair of skis, (any old x-country skis will do—garage sales and thrift stores are great places to find a pair) and, accompanied by at least one dog, heading down a snow-covered cow trail on a blue-sky January morning.

Nothing like a blue-sky powder morning....                                                     Oops... too much looking at the scenery...                                                    Can't keep a good woman down!

The canyon is a treasure trove for dogs. From fresh coyote scat to ancient deer hooves, each bend in the trail presents a new and exciting array of items to sniff, anoint, excavate, consume, and/or roll in.

The moment I open the gate leading to the canyon, my three Australian shepherds fan out in opposite directions. Each dog has a distinct treasure-hunting style—Ted, for example, hails from the 007 school: yesterday, he appeared out of nowhere bearing a four-foot long deer spine. After strutting past and making sure I noticed, he mysteriously vanished into the trees. After a few minutes, he re-emerged, minus the spine, his face coated with snow. After clearing the perimiter with a quick 180 degree sweep, he trotted off in the opposite direction, pausing only occasionally for a nonchalant backward glance that would have impressed Roger Moore himself.

"007" Ted Davis transporting his deer spine to higher ground...                The "Black Bullet " approaching liftoff...                                                      Belle Starr, a.k.a. "The Bean"

Sweet little Belle Starr, on the other hand, takes a more direct approach: she races ahead and plops down smack in the middle of the trail, where she knows I will soon discover and praise her latest find. Yesterday’s was a frozen, headless rabbit, which, in typical fashion, Tillie, the ranch’s self-appointed Head Cow Dog And Supreme Canine Commander, viewed as an opportunity to demonstrate her own treasure hunting method: “The Black Bullet Swoop-and-Swipe.” Poor Belle never saw it coming.

Here’s hoping all of you are wintering well and finding treasures of your own!



Mystery Birds

This spring brought us birds that we haven't seen before. Here are some shots of the "mystery birds."  If any of your readers can help identify them, I'd appreciate a holler: recon@cmn.net


Thanks to our resident professor of all things hip, Bob Bramlett has provided the answer the following mystery birds: 

Townsends Solitaire


        Yellow-breasted Chat

                                                                                                                                                         Bullocks Oriole

Lark Bunting

                                                                               Red Crossbill                                                              Tree Swallow
                                               Shirley Borchardt send the following information:


In the event you have not yet identified it, I'm fairly certain that
bird #7 at the bottom
of your Ranch News page is a male Dark-Eyed Junco, a member of the
Sparrow family.
Most of the Juncos have a distinctive pink bill.

Though I am not sure about it, image #9 might be a female Dark-Eyed
Junco (Oregon Race).


#7    Dark-Eyed Junco                                               #8                                                                        #9

Thanks to everyone that helped us out.