Opinion, Discussion and Analysis
Do you know what this is?
Doyle McCarthy of LaSalle, Colo., is wondering if any of our readers know anything about this mystery object.Learn more »
Andrew Becker demonstrates diving suit.
First sighting of Orion nebula (William Herschel).Learn more »
Miners found gold on Wild Horse Creek in British Columbia, Canada, in the 1860s, causing a rush to the area that peaked in 1865 when some 5,000 prospectors were working in the area along the Kootenay River. As had happened in the earlier California and Colorado gold rushes, one man decided perhaps there was more money to be made by providing services to the miners than actually panning for gold. John Galbraith put in a ferry service across the Kootenay River and soon a cluster of buildings stood near what became known as Galbraith’s Ferry.
When the rich and easy diggings were mined to their greatest potential, the work became more difficult and more expensive as the miners had to create shafts or use hydraulic equipment to get to the gold. It was easier to go elsewhere, and most of the miners did just that. There were only a handful of people still living in the East Kootenay district by the early 1880s.Learn more »
One of my friends is writing a book on one-room, rural schools and she’s interviewing all ages, from current students to elderly teachers. What she’s found so far has astonished her, all in a positive vein. She grew up on the East Coast and had her own preconceived ideas of rural schools. Then she moved to South Dakota and started finding out the truth is much different than she thought.
One of her impressions is how much the students contributed to the daily activities of the school, outside of the classroom. She said where she went to school, once the day was over, she got on the bus and went home, giving no thought to the community of the school. Betsey has found that rural school kids put up and took down the U.S. flag, learned the etiquette of folding the flag and performed that ritual. They cleaned the black boards and erasers. Far enough in the past, they helped fill the coal bucket or fill the wood box. They came to school as much as possible but sometimes farm work had to come first. They rode horses or horse and buggies to school and, of course, had to take care of them. A barn was provided.Learn more »
I’ve never been a fan of reality TV, and I’ve always particularly abhorred shows like “The Bachelor.” I mean, let’s get real. It’s highly unlikely someone will find long-lasting love while cameras follow your every move, and the parameters of the show are made to create drama and scandalous entertainment for the viewer.
Despite the unrealistic nature of these so-called “reality” shows, I tuned into the season 19 premiere of “The Bachelor.” Why the change of heart? Well, this season’s bachelor is Chris Soules, a crop farmer from Iowa. The season premiere was three — yes three! — long hours. I endeavored through it despite my husband’s eye-rolling, calling it “research” for my column.Learn more »
I can tell it’s in the dead of January because about every day in the mail I get gardening catalogs and fishing catalogs. Browsing through them for something that might catch my eye — something I just can’t live without — made me start wondering when our lifestyles became so complicated?
When I wuz a kid, going fishing consisted of grabbing a cane pole with string line from a feed sack and a hook, a length of binder twine or baling wire for a stringer, digging some worms, catching some grasshoppers, seining some shiner minnows or some crawdads, and walking or riding my horse to my choice of ponds. I didn’t even consider fishing in someone else’s pond or stretch of the Marmaton River trespassing. In all my youthful years, I only remember getting run off of property one time — and that’s perhaps a story for another time when I’m sure the statute of limitations has expired after 60 years.Learn more »
This doesn’t have a great deal to do with my mother, gentle readers, but it does somewhat. We’ll get into that as we go along.
Long ago and far away when I was but 19 years of age, I was offered a scholarship to a newly founded junior college if I would come and play basketball for their only sports team. Actually, they had a rodeo club but it had no backing or funding from this new little college, that’s the way I remember it. They had no dorms or cafeteria but did have a small student union where we could gather during the day to visit, study, grab a snack or whatever. I didn’t consider myself to be much of a basketball player although I had started on the first team my senior year and had played a lot my junior year. My brother was the basketball star in the family but he was going to Texas Tech at the time.Learn more »
Elaine and Clem own and operate a medium-size cattle ranch and in summer they take in dudes who want to experience a “working” ranch. The guests get to “help” with the spring roundup, the branding, the haying, the gardening and the irrigating. Hosting non-ranching folk in the summer not only brings in extra income but also teaches city dwellers what “working” on a ranch means.
The place is picturesque and backs up to some gradually rising hills. This is where Elaine walks in the evenings. She is one who likes to exercise, work out, walk, ride — anything that burns calories. One of her favorite modes of exercise is to hike up the trail on the hill behind the ranch house. It’s a path that twists and turns in a back and forth manner — a bit like traversing a ski slope. It makes the pathway a gentle incline rather than rising at a steep angle.Learn more »
In my travels I have been on lots of family farms where the whole family is involved in the work. During calving season, it is not uncommon for the “rancher” to allow his wife to take the 10 p.m. heifer check.
It’s a practical decision because she’s fixed supper, done the dishes, helped the kids with their homework, got ’em off to bed, returned the phone calls, is workin’ on the books and she’s up ... and away! And he’s been asleep in the Barcalounger since 8:30. Of course, this obligates him to the 2 a.m. heifer check, which is also a practical decision, ’cause if he’s over 50, he’s up anyway.Learn more »
Writing a biography about a man who left behind no journal, letters or other reminiscences is daunting. That was the task facing Ronald M. Angelin and Larry E. Morris as they set out to chronicle the life of John Colter in “Gloomy Terrors and Hidden Fires: The Mystery of John Colter and Yellowstone.”
Often credited as being the first white man to enter the Yellowstone area, Colter was a key member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He served that exploring command well as a hunter. As Lewis and Clark returned from their trip, Colter accompanied them until they were in what is today’s North Dakota. There he met up with Joseph Dickson and William Hancock, men on their way west to trap in the Yellowstone country. Although Colter had been on the trail for nearly two full years, he did not continue east, but instead received permission from Lewis and Clark to join the trappers and return to the Yellowstone country.Learn more »
Ride in your trailer some time on an interstate — of course, with your seat belt on! Get a feel of the bridge and overpass expansion joints, brace your legs and hang on. Feel the vibration, pounding and horrible noise that your animals put up with. It’s night and day with air suspension how much better your horses or cattle feel unloading after a day on the decrepit roads we have in any state.
I spent a day with Transwest Truck Trailer RV near Fredrick, Colo., testing their air suspension on a Cimarron horse trailer. This was a certified test with an engineer riding in the trailer using a laptop wired to a motion detector that reads four axes from the center of the trailer floor. I used four cameras to record the action. At 75 mph on I-25, finding all the bridge seams had me bouncing off the floor trying to hold a video camera watching the three quarter horses brace themselves in their stalls. We’ll have all the data from the tests in later articles but the improvement is 96.7 percent on dirt roads and 80.2 percent improvement on highways.Learn more »
I know what it’s like to have someone depending on me.
I have four little children who look to me for clean clothes, a full tummy, and lots of love and support.Learn more »
Every December, I like to send my friends and family a letter highlighting the ups and downs of my year. Unfortunately though, it is nearly Valentine’s Day and I still haven’t sent or written the letter for Christmas 2014. I can’t decide if I should mail out some cute Valentine’s cards with letters or if I should just wait until next year. The jury is still out on that one. By the time I decide it may be Easter ... or next Christmas.
I do want to write a little update on my life here though. I am so thankful that I have been writing this column for over three years. Back when I started, I was still in my 20s and had recently moved from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Hays, Kan. Since then, my family and I have moved two more times and are now, surprisingly, living in Texas.Learn more »
A computer’s word processing spell-checker will define “agriculture” as: farming, cultivation, crop growing or gardening. That’s about the extent of an urban dweller’s understanding of the work and worry required to grow crops and critters to produce food to keep the inhabitants of planet earth from going hungry. That lack of understanding is not the urbanites’ fault. Their food comes from the grocery store, the supermarket and restaurants. And they can prove it. Just this morning, Mrs. Urban purchased a dozen eggs, four pounds of hamburger, a head of lettuce, and a bag of oranges from the Georgie Porgie Grocery. See? Food is found in stores accessible to anyone! So there!
A sad, but mostly true reality: Those stalwarts who work the land are not merely a “minority.” They’re invisible. They don’t speak the same language as urban people. Country lingo is not recognized on a computer’s spell-checker. The one in front of which I sit on a daily basis claims “snow fence” should be corrected to snowball, snowflake, snowdrift, snow shovel or snowbird. It insists the word “swathe” means swathe, swathed, swathes or swatter. It informed me that “combine” is a verb meaning merge, mingle, come together or amalgamate.Learn more »
A friend of ours was visiting for a couple of days last week, so I extended the courtesy that I usually extend to our honored guests — the chance to help with chores. You know, get out in the cold and the wind, cut some twine off the hay bales, carry a few feed buckets.
I sprinkled in some special “one time” chores (aka the neglected things that I was waiting for some help to do) with the regular tasks. As the sun was setting, I told my guest we could call it a day and head to the house for a little hot brandy. I don’t know if he appreciated the chores as much as the hot brandy. For me, I know it’s the chores that make the hot brandy better, or the coffee or cocoa or hot cider or whatever’s warm and tickles your taste buds.Learn more »
Gentle readers, when I first sailed off into my career as a cowboy, I had an old time cowboy with some reputation tell me that there was nothin’ dumber than a heifer unless it was a pen full of heifers. If I am to be fair here, I have to say a lot of that depends on the breed and how they have been raised and handled. That being said, I will reference you to my first real experience with heifers in my early cowboy career.
Martha and I had a little 75 acre place some 10 miles north of Amarillo, Texas. It joined a four section ranch that was usually under lease to whomever happened to have it at the time. Most of the time, myself or me and one of my buddies were hired to take care of whatever livestock was running on the place at the time.Learn more »
So 2015 is well started, but I’ve gotta tell you about the end of 2014 and the first days of the new year for ol’ Nevah and me.
A few weeks ago, our Missouri friends Canby and May Bea Handy, and Nevah and I decided to attend the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, where our favorite university football team, the Bea Wilder U. Wildcats, were playing on Jan. 2.Learn more »
Have you read “The Little Engine That Could” to your kids or grandkids? Dr. Tom told me a story that brought it back to me.
Two good ol’ Nebraska cowboys were given the task of rebuilding a barbwire fence on an 80-acre pasture. First they removed the clips and stays from the old top wire on the long side, a quarter-mile long. Being a progressive outfit, they were using modern agriculture technology. They backed their pickup to the gatepost on the southeast corner of the pasture. That allowed them to hook the ranch’s homemade wire winder to the free length of wire. The homemade winder contraption was secured to the pickup bed and powered by a 5.5 Briggs and Stratton gasoline engine they robbed off an old lawn mower.Learn more »
Just like people, animals get attached to things. Oh, I’m no talking about Teddy bears, pacifiers or a favorite blanket, I mean really attached. Stuck. Like they were Super Glued.
I worked in the oilfields during my college summers and one of the oil leases I worked on had discovered the most profitable crossbreeding tool in ranching: range cows crossed with oil wells. It seems like once every summer on that lease we’d see a poor cow with a thread protector encasing one of its legs. These protectors could be either plastic or metal and did just as the name implied; they protected the threads on stems of drill pipe. But to a cow, these thread protectors were like a mangy dog, something they could not get rid of no matter how hard they tried.Learn more »
I was reminded of Harry Johnson today.
I’d been drivin’ down a long stretch of country road, the snow blowin’ up in the rearview mirror, a thermos of coffee in the seat and the sun warmin’ the cab of the pickup.Learn more »
When I was a youngster, in the formative stages of my life, the place where I resided was the home of the most hated hog in America. Pancakes was her name and she was by far the smartest animal I have ever raised.
Pancakes could escape from her pen any time she felt like it and usually she had that urge at the most inappropriate moments. You see, my mother was “seamstress to the stars” and her thriving sewing business was located right in our home. Her many customers had to drive down our long driveway, park their cars and then walk down a narrow pathway that was covered on both sides by dense trees and Japanese Boxwood hedges. Pancakes used to wait until one of these sewing customers would get about halfway down that path to make her escape from her pen. Then, making the most awful noise imaginable, she would charge through the hedges in the direction of the sewing customer, oftentimes scaring them nearly to death.Learn more »
Yep, gentle readers, off we go into this new year of 2015. The number 2015 seemed so distant and far out a few years ago it was hard to get my arms around it. Well, here I am givin’ it a big ole hug right this minute.
I wish I felt better as I struggle into this new edition of my life. I still have that bad ole’ cold that I have had for weeks and just can’t seem to get better. I do have an appointment with the doc in a few days.Learn more »
Our philosophy of grandparenting is to keep the grands safe while giving them as much freedom to explore and experiment as possible.
For country kids that can cover a broad range. When it’s out of my realm — such as learning how to properly hold a rifle, not just shoot it — the projects get passed to the granddad.Learn more »
Join me in Denver, Colo., when New York Times best-selling novelist Sandra Dallas of Denver and critically acclaimed historian Mark Lee Gardner of Cascade will headline Western Writers of America’s inaugural James Ersfeld Western Writing Symposium on Jan. 28, 2015, at the Denver Public Library.
Emmy award-winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis (John Adams) of Santa Fe, N.M., will moderate the panel, which will begin at 8 p.m. and is sponsored by the nonprofit WWA and the Denver Public Library. The library, located at 10 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, will open its east entrance doors on Broadway at 7:30 p.m. for the session only, not for checking out books. The event is free.Learn more »
Well we’ve made it through the holidays and into the start of a new year. Maybe it’s true what they say, the older you get the faster time slips by. It sure feels that way around here and I’ve noticed people in town, mentioning the same. Maybe it just means I’m getting older or that I’m too busy being busy to notice the days zipping by. Either way, the first week of a new year gets me to thinking and wondering about the strangest of things. That and the fact it’s below zero outside, I’m happy being inside beside the fire, warm ’n lazy.
Like most families, somewhere in our house we have what many may say is a staple of life, a tasty treat that truly is a marvel. It can be hard or soft, creamy or crunchy, dark or light, hot or frozen and is found mixed with just about everything - it’s chocolate! I got to wondering how this delectable treasure became one of the crowning delights of everyday life.Learn more »
Last week I didn’t mention all the useful Christmas gifts I received from ol’ Santa. He gave me a live animal trap so I can rid Damphewmore Acres of all the irritating skunks and possums around the premises; a new pair of binoculars so I can watch the wild birds at our feeder, the geese and ducks on the pond, the deer crossing the place, and the occasional coyote; two books which are both entertaining and not particularly useful; a customized new cribbage board; a T-shirt emblazoned with the mascot of my favorite university, Bea Wilder U.; a decorative metal bear beer holder, and two boxes of 410 shotgun shells.
Plus, I guess you could say that half of the new informal dining room furniture Santa brought to the family is mine.Learn more »
I love technology. I remember on the farm when I didn’t see a use for a computer. Now my office looks like NASA’s Mission Control Center, with three computers and six monitors. New technology in truck receiver hitches has come a long way from adjustable height aluminum stingers.
This year I’ve found two remarkable hitches, the first one from Utah is Weigh-Safe. This beautiful aluminum, adjustable, locking receiver hitch has a built-in scale. You know on a bumper pull trailer, if you have too little tongue weight, the trailer can sway and be dangerous. Some trailers have their axles too close to the middle and are susceptible to sway anyway. If you have too much trailer tongue weight, then your truck will squat excessively, aim your headlights to the stars and stress your trucks rear axle and suspension. You can also get too light front axle weight and wander on the road like a station wagon from the ‘60s. We all need adjustable hitches to level out the trailer for better braking and handling; this Weigh-Safe hitch has it all and comes with both 2-inch (10,000 pound rated) and 2-5/16-inch (12,500 pound trailer rated) stainless steel balls.Learn more »
I am occasionally asked how long I think these good times in the cow business will last. I am a good authority to ask because I once had a class in economics in college, although it was early in the morning and I slept through most of it.
As I understand it, economics is the study of how to get a job at a university as an economist - an economist being a person who likes math but doesn’t have the necessary social skills to be a theoretical mathematician.Learn more »
With Christmas happily in my rear-view mirror, the New Year 2015 is stretching out to the horizon. Ain’t none of us got a guarantee about the new year, but here’s hopin’ that we all make it through in health, happiness, peace and prosperity.
•••Learn more »
Gentle readers, any ranch of any size and all feedlots have a place to put sick cattle to isolate them from spreading their illness to the other livestock. The sick pen can be a sort of sad and depressing place to visit and doctor cattle, in my case over many years of running yearlings on wheat pasture. Most of the time, however, a good doctorin’ will send most of your patients back out to pasture in a week or so. In fact, if the victim is doctored in the pasture before he or she gets too sick, that’s all that’s required to maintain its health. If that doesn’t do the trick, it goes to the sick pen, where some become chronic and never seem to recover. I always said, “After you get 50 bucks worth of meds in a chronic, it dies.”
I sort of feel like a chronic this Monday morning before the New Year. Yep, I’ve had a cold or whatever for four weeks going on five. I got a pneumonia and flu shot and shortly after came down sick. Go figure. They say a flu shot will not give you the flu. When I worked in the ER at the hospital, I had to have every kind of shot you could think of and I never got the flu there or any other type of illness. I think the jury may still be out on if a modified live virus in the flu shot can in fact give you what you are trying to avoid.Learn more »