Sunday, December 30, 2012

Clashing Through the Snow

Sunday December 30 2012

An Owyhee snowfall brings out the tallest and mightiest and fiercest of the Owyhee herd. 

[slide show here]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dashing Through the Snow

Thursday December 27 2012

A few flakes don't stop the Owyhee herd from dashing through the snow.

[slide show here]

Monday, December 24, 2012

Follow Coyote

Monday December 24 2012

Follow coyote, on a bright winter day

into the canyon

below the cliff walls

across the tripping creek

past the trout pool

around the long-eared owl thickets

below the sharp shinned hawk that hunts its prey.

Follow coyote over the ice that hides his passage

down into the draw

up onto the flats

to the Owyhee mountains

to the crossroads and the parting of ways.

Follow Coyote, ghost in the snow

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Dance

Sunday December 23 2012

They take turns leading in the dance: the young man Jose and the old man Krusty. It's hard to say if it's the young man who keeps the old one young, or the old man that keeps the young man from growing old.

[slide show here]

(or link)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Good Housekeeping

Friday December 21 2012

It's always a thrill to see the pair of Bates Creek Golden Eagles, and never more so than when they're on their nest early on, fixing up the house, tidying things up to get ready for a new nesting season.  

This pair successfully raised one young on this nest in 2011, and one young on this nest in 2012. Often eagles will have several nests in their territory, and switch to a different nest each year. This pair of eagles has only this one, but it's big and sturdy and solid in a cottonwood tree - a good house to come back to year after year.

Last year the pair occasionally visited and worked on and kept an eye on their nest throughout December, January, and February, before the female started sitting, and laid her first egg on March 7 or 8.

That the eagles are here so early is a good sign there might be a new golden eagle or two in the neighborhood in 4 months.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Party's Over for Fluffy (Part II)

Wednesday December 19 2012

(Part I is here.)

Fluffy's head flew up from the pile of hay he was munching in his luxurious Owyhee Spa pasture accommodations fit for a king, and his eyes grew wider in suspicion as the big silver box limousine rattled up the dirt road. 

When it came to a stop and spit out horses and cowboys, he knew the jig was up.

"I named him Fluffy," I told rancher Rawl and his 2 boys, as Rawl slipped the bridle onto his cow horse Rusty's head.
"Fluffy." Rawl grunted. "Let's see how 'fluffy' he is in a minute." Rawl and one of his boys swung up on their cow horses, 
slipping the nooses on their ropes as they rode through the gate into Fluffy's pasture, sizing up the situation, eager cow dogs at their heels.

The formerly quiet, pensive Fluffy quickly morphed into the feral, wily state most range bulls will become when the cowboys and ropes come out. 
He headed straight away for the brush and trees along the crick. It took the third cowboy (the rig driver) on foot to flush Fluffy out and down the fence, where the 2 horses and riders lit off after him. 

A few twirls of the lariat, 
and Rawl set the rope on him beautifully, right around his thick neck. 

That somewhat enraged Fluffy.

Now, when you have a rope separating an 800 pound bull versus an 800 pound cow horse, the bull's going to have the advantage, because he's low to the ground and 800 pounds of muscle and steel and mad and mean. And a bull always goes wherever a bull wants to go, whether he's a naive 2-year-old or not, and in this case, it was right through the fence. Either Rawl didn't get a good dally, or didn't try, or the horse didn't get set well, because when that bull hit the end of the rope, neither the horse nor the rope nor the barbed wire fence made a dent in Fluffy's escape momentum. 

Rawl's rope went with Fluffy, through the fence and down the road (Rawl kept all his fingers). The other young cowboy and his horse were already flying back through the pasture, 
and out the gate, and down the road after Fluffy with a cow dog on his heels.

Rawl and Rusty followed hot on their heels, 
and the driver cowboy slammed Fluffy's limousine gate and hopped in the truck, screeching and bumping down the road in pursuit.

Fluffy made his way into another neighbor's pasture down the crick, and the cowboys followed. After some evasive bull tactics of crashing blindly through brush, and burying his head in it trying to escape his new world, Cowboy #2  got another rope on him, 
Rawl managed to get his original rope back 
and threw another loop on Fluffy's front leg.

It took 2 strong cow horses heading and pulling, and 4 or 5 cow dogs heeling and biting bull tail 
to convince Fluffy that he wanted to dance his way to the silver limousine now waiting for him in the pasture. 

Once there, they let Fluffy stand and calm down a bit, 
while Rawl's rope was carefully passed to the foot cowboy at the trailer, who took the rope inside the trailer, and passed it back out to Rawl and Rusty on the outside.
Same was done with Cowboy #2's rope, while a cow dog kept Fluffy's attention diverted.

And they started reeling him in.

Fluffy was, for all practical purposes, winched by the cowboys on horseback into the trailer, 
with a little cattle prod encouragement from behind from the foot cowboy, 
and the door was slammed on Fluffy's freedom.

And so the Party ended for Fluffy the bull. Maybe one winter when he's free out on the range again, and the snow starts to come down, he'll remember the morning he wandered down from the Owyhee mountains onto the Owhyee Spa, and the couple of idyllic days he spent here before he had to go and grow up.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fluffy Comes to Dinner

Sunday December 16 2012 

I named him Fluffy. What choice did I have?

He came down from the mountains in the falling snow. Food is scarce up there. Water scarcer. I knew he was on his way when the horse herd flipped out, big snorts, heads popping up over the brush high in the air, 

running toward the guest,

then away, 

then in circles, 

then away again,

then circling the wagons.

He bulled his way through a fence onto our acres, then wandered down the road toward the house looking somewhat bewildered at the horses' reactions. He was, after all, 4-legged just like them.

He was a young bull, 2 or 3 years old, not too concerned by a human on foot getting closer and closer, so either he's wise beyond his young age, or he's decidedly unworldly and innocent yet.

I waved at him to follow me, and he did, on down the road to the house where I opened the electric white tape fence for him (so he wouldn't just walk right through it and bust it). He passed through the gate, which I closed behind him since the horse herd was now hot on his heels, 

and he made himself at home around the house: a drink in the crick, morsels of green grass on the horse pasture (he popped through the white tape fence to get on there), hors d'oeuvres of green hay leftover in the wheelbarrows, 

picnic on the back yard lawn. It was a haven for a young bull lost and alone in a snowstorm.

He was itchy, oh so terribly itchy, and found the rough bark of our cottonwood trees excellent for scratching that thick fluffy head and thick hide of his. He looked so vulnerable scratching his itches.

He tuned in to my frequent visits and conversations; he puzzled over the horses' strange reaction to his presence in their reserved pasture. Tex remained on permanent high alert during Fluffy's meanderings, 

and on one occasion when Fluffy wandered back into the horses' grass pasture, the rest of the herd took sudden interest in him (especially with a sturdy wooden fence separating them), particularly Mac the former cow horse who is now afraid of cows.

Eventually the horses got bored with Fluffy and they went back to eating their hay. At one point Austin the crippled dog thought he'd go out and have a conversation with Fluffy before I called him off and sent him back up on the porch.

Fluffy had a grand time meandering the Owyhee rancho, grazing here, scratching there, making himself at home. I tossed some hay out for him in the front pasture - and opened the gate so he could come and go, so he wouldn't bust the tape fencing. He may as well stay for dinner, if the local rancher doesn't make it out tonight to fetch him home.

And then I started to wonder when was the last time I've had steak for dinner. Now, where's my knife and fork?