Opinion, Discussion and Analysis
Two of the West’s best-known writers found inspiration in the landscapes of Nebraska, and in both cases both the literature and the landscape endure.
Mari Sandoz grew up in the Sandhills of northwest Nebraska. She is best remembered for her biographies, “Crazy Horse” and “Old Jules,” a story of her father, plus other books drawn from the landscape: “The Buffalo Hunters,” “The Cattlemen” and “The Beaver Men.” Her “Love Song to the Plains” pays homage to the landscape that shaped her and influenced everything she ever recorded with pen or typewriter.Learn more »
It is summer and as a result you may be out exploring, hiking, camping or otherwise enjoying the Rocky Mountain outdoors. Since at least 1872 when it became a national park, Yellowstone has attracted tourists to explore its geyser basins, rugged back country and see the plethora of wildlife. Not everyone has the time to make a visit to Yellowstone each year, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy tales of the park.
“Yellowstone Summers: Touring with the Wylie Camping Company in America’s First National Park” is the detailed story of the Wylie Camping Company, which operated from 1896 to 1905. School superintendent William Wallace Wylie first visited Yellowstone in 1880, just eight years after Yellowstone was declared as America’s first national park. He would take his first group of tourists to the park just weeks later, and continue to guide visitors throughout the 1880s and early 1890s. Then in 1896 he organized the camping company that fed, sheltered and guided thousands on week-long tours of Yellowstone’s geysers, trails, hot pools and other natural attractions.Learn more »
I’m not sure how many calves we’ve roped and branded in our neighborhood in the last month or so. If I did know, I probably wouldn’t say anyway. It’s not polite to ask someone how many cattle they have, and I don’t suppose it would be polite to tell anyone how many calves there are in the neighborhood in case they know how to do division. It was quite a bunch anyway.
A lot of people would say it’s the best time of the year on our part of the prairie. It’s usually our best weather of the year. The skies are blue, the grass is green. It’s easily our most social time of the year. People, pickups, horse trailers, kids, horses and food all descend on a place like a cowboy sting operation.Learn more »
As I write this column, I’m scratching three oozing, itchy chigger bites. Yep, it’s that time of the summer again when — try as I might to thwart chiggers with bug spray and powdered sulphur — those pesky red mites break through all my defenses and inflict me with their irritating bites in all the wrong places.
We’ve had a week of hot, dry, windy true Kansas summer weather, so I have high hopes that the weather will dry up most of the chigger habitat. That’s the one good thing that happens when the ground begins to crack open and the vegetation begins to shrivel.Learn more »
A good friend from the Texas panhandle sent me a printed poster of a new program enacted by the Amarillo Humane Society. It is designed to encourage dog and cat owners to spay or castrate their pets. On the front is a picture of a frightened, bug-eyed brachygnathic Pug. The accompanying headline says, “No Balls For Baxter — Matching Spay/Neuter Initiative!”
I admit I didn’t know how to take it. Was it a compliment? Was it a signal to the pitcher to only throw strikes when I was at bat? Were they revoking my invitation to attend the dance in Cow Town? Did they make specific restrictions on what certain people would bring to the beach? Would I no longer be allowed to answer, “I’m havin’ a b______?”Learn more »
Gentle readers, I’m sure you have witnessed Felix, your cat, or Sargent, your dog, do something that seemed completely out of the ordinary. I am going to relate some really unusual observations I have made in the last few weeks just watching ordinary critters.
I had a farrier come out a few weeks back to trim my pony’s feet. My dun horse is a real character. You no more than have him tied to brush him or throw a saddle on him before he starts to untie the lead rope. He never seems to get it done, but he does work at it. The farrier started on Nugget’s left front foot when Nugget reached around and tried to unbuckle the shoeing apron.Learn more »
Up until a few years ago I spent my professional life crawling all over this country. I’ve been in all 50 states and although I’m a biased, born-and-bred Westerner there’s much I also like about the East. But I must say, the geography and the people are as different as Al Sharpton and Trevor Brazile. The two regions probably ought to be two separate countries. I’m not lumping the South in with the East because we’re all aware of their feuds. On second thought, maybe we ought to be three different countries.
Although Easterners and Westerners are of the same genus we are two separate species. The East is skyscrapers and Disneyworld while the West is suburbs and Disneyland. The West has disasters like earthquakes, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and the East has hurricanes, Obama and the Kennedys. Westerners gamble in Las Vegas with their bank’s money while their Eastern brethren gamble on Wall Street, and D.C. with your money.Learn more »
Lyndon Burnett of Deer Trail, Colo., is wondering if any of our readers know anything about this mysterious object.
If you think you know what this is, then send your answer to the Fence Post Mystery Photo Contest. Please include your address and phone number.Learn more »
Bus crashes in Luzon, Philippines, killing 29.
Most distant galaxy yet, estimated at 15 billion light years away, discovered found by scientists using Keck telescope in Hawaii.Learn more »
Competition improves choices. When I think of the trucks I had in the 70s and how often I changed alternators, starters, clutches, u-joints etc., verses my truck now that I just change oil, I’m glad we have a strong rivalry between truck manufactures. This is why we have integrated trailer brake controllers, factory exhaust brake and factory gooseneck hitches in our new trucks right off the assembly line.
Dodge/Ram came in third for years. The big contest was between Ford and Chevy. Now Ram with Cummins diesel keeps raising the bar making the big battle between Ram and Ford in the heavy duty market. Ram diesel came out with 800 torque, then 850, then 865 and now Ram announced for 2016 Ram HD High Output will have 900 pound-foot of torque. Of course that means Ram towing capacity has gone up. A 2016 Ram 3500 with the High Output Cummins diesel will have a gooseneck rating of 31,210 pounds. That’s 10 pounds more that Ford’s 2015 F450 at 31,200 pounds of trailer capacity. That also means Ram will have to offer a 3-inch gooseneck ball to achieve that rating. Ford has 3-inch balls in the 2015 F450, which is the standard size for gooseneck hitches in Australia.Learn more »
It is summer and time to head out to the mountains or to a lake for a camping trip. Don’t forget to put a book or two in you bag for those times when you are just hanging around in camp. Here are a few suggestions.
“Wild Ran the Rivers” by James D. Crownover won two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America this year. The actual awards will be presented on June 27 at the WWA convention in Lubbock, Texas.Learn more »
In my work as a researcher and author, I have been doing much studying of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Time is of the essence and the ones with whom I’ve spent time have a unifying factor: they are all still very active men. It did my heart good to have one fellow who is 90 tell me that he was too busy — not too sick or too tired — to meet with me for the next three weeks.
I can’t help but wonder if we had something like the volunteer CCC members today, how the lawsuits would fly, from the mistreated, overworked boys — I would hesitate to call them men — who seem to just want handouts, and who blame everyone else for their problems. In the 1930s, people were starving, others were standing in soup lines for a handout; many boys had no trades and couldn’t learn one because there were no jobs. So they just sat around getting into trouble, the same as now. (The difference in then and now is this: then there were no jobs, now there are jobs, just fewer people who are willing to work.) The men were paid $30 per month and were required to send 25 of that to their parents, so the family could buy food. Even if adjusted for inflation, I cannot imagine boys or men who would be willing to work for such a wage now. Maybe people just haven’t been hungry enough yet to want to work for their meals and a bed.Learn more »
Now everyone I ever knew that did much work with stock has spent some time in practice throwin’ houlihans at rocks. And be they real cowboys or pretenders with a hat, all dream of ropin’ just one steer in three point nothin’ flat!
Now me, I’m not much diff’ernt. I do a little dreamin’, and my dream is usually pleasant but I always wake up screamin’! It’s a nightmare rank and scary. It turns me gravy pale but since you’all are waitin, I’ll continue with the tale.Learn more »
Hi, Mom and Dad. How are things on the farm these days? I have been really busy on my new job here in Chicago and it’s really taking some getting used to.
One would think that as many folks that work here where I do, that you could make friends in a short time. It hasn’t happened that way, at least not yet. I did meet a new employee today. His name is Gerald and he is from Kansas. I think we are going to get a bite to eat tonight after work and he is from a farm family as well. I’m trying my best to like my new job and surroundings but it has been difficult. Chicago is so big and diverse and I feel like a small fish in a very large pond. I’m glad to have my education and all that, but I really miss all of you and especially sitting on the front porch these summer evenings, eating ice cream and listening to the crickets and frogs.Learn more »
My friend of many, many years, Ole D. Scribe from Puyallup, Wash., summoned the energy to send me this funny story. Here’s his tale from decades ago:
Dad bought a cow from a neighbor in Sunnyside and was leading her home with a rope halter when the cow decided she wasn’t going any place else — happy enough to run around her own pasture.Learn more »
I don’t know if you saw the article about head transplants in the Wall Street Journal but I was astonished to learn that a Chinese surgeon, Xiaoping Ren, has done over 1,000 such transplants with mice since 2013. That’s right. In delicate operations that last 10 hours, the head of one mouse is completely severed from its body and transplanted onto the body of another mouse. No joke! I am told that stupid and ugly mice are standing in line to be the next guinea pigs. Or, should I say lab rats?
The story, written by Shirley Wang, said that so far, the longest any of the mice with new heads have lived is one day but at least one mouse was able to breathe, make basic movements and perform bodily functions.Learn more »
Recognition of lifelong ranchers, a celebration of 125 years of Wyoming Statehood, and the local induction of individuals in the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame are highlight events for the 13th Annual Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering slated for July 17-19 in Encampment, Wyo.
An open mic performance of cowboy music and poetry kicks off the gathering on Friday, July 17, at the Grand View Park after which people will move to the Grand Encampment Opera House for a family dance to the music of Sam Platts and Kootenai Three.Learn more »
Independence Day was one of my favorite holidays when I was growing up. My family never had a set schedule of things that we would do — we never knew if wheat harvest would be going on during that time — but it always seemed like my parents ended up making the day fun.
On the edge of Bennett, Colo., there was a family-run fireworks stand that we would usually go to a couple of days before the 4th. I loved it when my dad came along to get the fireworks. Somehow we would always end up getting more items than he originally planned on buying — we even got the really big package of fireworks a few times — something that was SO exciting when I was a kid.Learn more »
Our boys were into a series of books for a while that had titles like “Who Would Win? Tarantula vs. Scorpion,” or, “Who Would Win? Komodo Dragon vs. King Cobra.” They had a lot of animal education, some drama, and a showdown. A fitting read for the Taylor boys.
We’re working on what might be next in the series, “Who Would Win? Rancher vs. Raccoon.” I’m not sure if anyone will buy it because they know how it’ll end. It’s not a fair fight.Learn more »
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to 130 high school students at the 2015 South Dakota Teen Leadership Conference (SDTLC). My topic was how to successfully use social media to showcase one’s talents and passions to open up career opportunities and nurture networking relationships.
The workshop was a lot of fun, and we kept busy taking selfies, tweeting, and developing elevator speeches. To catch up on the conversation, check out the hashtag #SDTLC2015 on Twitter to see what I mean.Learn more »
I could never be a purebred breeder because I couldn’t get all the paperwork done, especially naming the animals. It’s hard enough coming up with titles to my weekly columns but to have to name 500 or 1,000 cattle every year would drive me even more crazy. And because I’ve always hated my name, I’d be super sensitive about the names my animals would have to live with.
A breeder’s name or initials are usually worked into the name such as Sitz, Connealy, SAV or Tehama. With a name like Pitts I wasn’t meant to play this game. My cattle named Peaches of Pitts, Pitts of Gold, or Underarms of Pitts would be the laughing stock of the cow business.Learn more »
Gentle readers, if you take notice, I listed the title of my column as “The Perfect Man” and then I added my name underneath. Ah, nothing could be farther from the truth. I will tell you a story I heard about a perfect man if you will indulge me. Keeping in mind Father’s Day has just past and I hope all you dads out there had a perfect day.
In the small prairie church one Sunday morn, the pastor’s message was on self indulgence, being prideful, and just thinking that we as individuals are more important than the person next to us.Learn more »
Back in the 40s, it was still possible to purchase land with a view to ranching. Russell H. Bennett did so after he returned from serving his country in the Field Artillery in WWI.
Well educated, a writer interested in a variety of pursuits, he experienced some awesome adventures in a bunch of countries. In his later years, he and his wife and children settled down on a ranch. Then he wrote a book titled, “The Compleat Rancher.” Published in 1946, it describes how to ranch in delightful, elegant prose. Though time has marched on, the basic values, standard practices and attitudes of ranch life remain “sustainable” as current popular twaddle keeps repeating. You still need to round up horseback; ranch cooks still feed a crew at branding or roundup time and cowboys still pull pranks — especially on fellers who seem to be too full of themselves.Learn more »
Just a week or so ago, a friend said to me, “Milo, you must be living right. It’s been a long time since you did something stupid enough to make your column — or else you’ve been holding back on us readers.”
That remark alone should have set off alarm and warning bells in my brain, but it didn’t. Just a few days ago, Providence intervened and, right on cue, I did something stupid enuf — and funny enuf in retrospect — that it warrants a verbal self-flagellation in this column.Learn more »
There’s been a dead sheep out in Brent’s wheat field for a month. Emilio had a band of ewes on the corn stalks across the road. I reckon that one got hit by a car.
The sheep have moved on. Brent plowed his field. Plowed around the carcass. Now it is sort of mouldering into the earth. I see it every time I drive to town. Nobody pays much attention to it. It’s rural out here. But we had company last week, town folks. They seemed a little upset that we’d just drive by a dead sheep day after day and not give it a second thought.Learn more »
I would call this late spring and early summer one of the good times. No way around it. I have never seen so much green country and Coal Creek that runs through the O-NO is still running and has been for almost a month now.
It has rained almost every day for the past five weeks and I got another inch this past Saturday night and it came in about 20 minutes. Wow! The Rockies are magnificent with their snow-capped peaks against that beautiful blue Colorado sky. Such beauty!Learn more »
I mentioned last week that when ol’ Nevah and I were on our return trip from Tennessee, we made a stop in Mountain Home in northern Arkansas. I wanted to make this particular stop because my ol’ daddy, Czar E. Yield, always enjoyed taking short weekend vacations to Mt. Home to listen to down home pickin’ and grinnin’ as the hill folks came out of the woods to play their musical instruments.
I always wanted to make the trip with him while he lived, but it never worked out. So, I decided to make the stop to see what drew pappy to Mt. Home. Because our trip wuz on a weekend and it wuz during a drizzly day around noon, I knew the pickers and grinners wouldn’t be doing their impromptu performances, but, to our surprise, the community wuz holding a farmer and merchant market around the picturesque town square.Learn more »
The advertisement said Custom Cowboy Types on sale!
And urged a bargain hunter to call this number without fail!Learn more »
All winter we yearned for spring. We read the seed catalogs and almost believed we can grow flowers and other plants that will look that good. As long as we can push the reality of weeds aside, we can fantasize to our heart’s content. Now it has finally quit freezing at night and the fun can begin.
When I garden, I think of the Dutch and how they reclaimed the land from the sea. In landlocked South Dakota, the ocean of water isn’t my problem — it’s the ocean of weeds, prevalent on the farm. It is from the weeds that I reclaim the land, working on small patches at a time.Learn more »
The editor of the Delmarva Farmer made the observation that Americans as a whole have reached the Age of Agricultural Ignorance. This stage in our civilization is a direct result of the lack of “kids growing up on the farm.”
There are many reasons for them leaving, one of the greatest being that farming requires manual labor. As our country has progressed, each generation was drawn to professions that demanded less and less physical exertion. A perfect example is the importation of foreign labor to do the grunt work. Grandparents and parents crossed the border to work in the fields. They, themselves were close to the land and understood farming. But when they raised their children, they deliberately discouraged them from working in agriculture.Learn more »