Thursday, March 26, 2020

Owyhee Cow Drama, Part XVIII (or wherever we are in the ongoing saga)

Monday March 23 2020

It's rogue cow season. You know the time of year - when cows escape off their BLM grazing allotments because the grass is greener on the other side (and the fences probably aren't maintained in the best condition).

In the private pasture next to us, owned by B, 5 black cows and 1 brand new black baby had been hanging out for a week or so. The law is Fence 'Em Out here in Idaho, but these cows were 2 fences over from where they were supposed to be. The rancher had been called, but nobody was in a hurry to come get them. The cows were sure in no hurry to leave, because they had yummy native grasses to eat in a small protected oasis, and a convenient running crick in the drainage instead of having to walk miles for water.

So one afternoon, I heard a calf bawling, off in another direction, away from the pasture of rogue cows. His bawling went on, and on, as if in distress, so I went out there and discovered a new red calf, maybe 2 days old, lying in the brush, in no-cow's land between the private pasture and the allotment pasture up the hill on the flats.

I could see the rogue black cows and baby up in the far end of B's pasture. I hiked up the trails toward the closed gate on top leading to the allotment, looked everywhere, saw no mama cow that might've had a baby, saw no cow tracks on the trail, saw no downed or broken fences; so no cow had came through that way. So I sat on the ridge up there a while and watched the black cows in B's pastures to see if anybody was going to come back for this bawling baby. They all happened to be wandering downstream, towards the bawling calf, and they all came down to drink, close enough to all hear the unhappy calf.

One mama cow turned and look toward the bellerin' calf, and then she turned and walked back upstream to where the rest of her herd was. They could all hear him, but nobody responded. 

I kept thinking - where on earth did this calf come from? Did one of the black cows make her way out of B's pasture to have this red calf and then just abandon him? Did another rancher's cow from down-crick escape her pasture, come all the way up here, birth him at that spot, and then wander off to either sneak back home or die (I have never found a dead cow anywhere nearby). Did a cow have him up on the allotment, and he slipped through the fence and made his way downhill to that spot? Was he just a product of spontaneous combustion? Any explanation seemed just as plausible as the other. Perhaps he was related to the mysterious Baby Jesus Calf from a couple springs ago.

Hours later, the calf was still out there bellerin', and then I saw him stand up and start walking toward the mountains. Maybe he knew his mama was over that way, or else why would he head that direction, though I had seen no sign of her at all, dead or alive. 

At dusk I was going to hike up that way and see if I could see where he went and if he'd re-united with his mama, but as I walked into our back yard - THERE'S THE CALF IN OUR BACK YARD. 

I could not have been more surprised if i'd come face to face with a cougar sitting in the back yard looking at me! The calf just stood there and stared at me. I just stood, flabbergasted, and stared at the calf. Instead of walking all the way west to the mountains, he had, somewhere along the way, made almost a 180-degree turn, walked almost a mile back this way, crossed through 2 fences, wandered past our scary bone-yard-junk-yard, and wound his way into our human-smelling back yard. The clear expression on his face was - and I am not anthropomorphizing - I need help.

And so what could I do, but help him.

I jumped in my car and drove down to the neighbor rancher who has a bunch of cows on his place. He was home, and I told him what was up, and he said he pretty much has all his cows contained at his place; and all those rogue cows in B's pasture belong to another rancher. He gave me that rancher's number and I called and left a message, about all his escaped cows and the abandoned calf in our backyard. (I never heard from them.) Then I called Regina next door, and she called Cowboy Paul from the Joyce Ranch (whose cows also run on this allotment, though they usually stay miles away from our place), and at 8:30 PM, dark, he said, "I'll be right over to get it."

He was true to his word. He arrived at 9 PM, and with flashlights, we saw the calf was still lying down in the back yard at the same spot. He was so weak (and scour-y) that Paul was able to just grab him, didn't have to rope it. 

So Paul took it home to his milk cow. 

I named it Wilbur.

I talked to Paul, who said calf is doing well with its adoptive milk cow mama!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Stuck at Home? Read one of my short e-Books - Free!

Thursday March 19 2020

Since the country is on restrictions right now because of the Coronavirus, reading is something we can still enjoy while keeping our social distances. How many re-runs can you watch on TV, anyway?

International travel is out of the question right now, so armchair travel is our only option. If you are craving adventure, here's an alternative. 

In honor of the older-than-dirt tradition of reading for entertainment, and to give back just a little spark of joy to people for a brief time, my short Kindle single, The Other Side, will be free on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week, March 23-24-25. It's the adventure story of my trek in Nepal's Himalaya on the Annapurna Circuit, conquering Thorung La pass at 17,872 feet. It was a doozy, and the scenery just stunning. I chose this one because it's one of my best-ever adventures and one of my favorite ones that I wrote. This story is horse-free, but intrepid nonetheless. 

Brew yourself a cup of coffee, grab a free copy of this ebook, and sit back and get ready to be amazed by the Himalaya and to be out of breath for a while.
(If you don't have a kindle, you can read it with Amazon's free app - click on "Read with our Free App" below the kindle price box.)

Enjoy the escapade, and stay healthy! 

Here's the link to the ebook, FREE on March 23-24-25:

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Tales From The West: Four Seasons in the Owyhee Country - My Newest E-book!

January 2 2020

I’m thrilled to share with all of you the release of my latest e-book: Tales From The West: Four Seasons in the Owyhee Country.

It’s a collection of essays that take place in the present day Wild West: Southwest Idaho.

You’ll get a taste of four seasons of a unique outdoor life: with nature, animals, local history, and horse rides and hiking adventures in the Owyhee country. The photos accompanying each essay give you a visual glimpse of the area.

From experiencing wild thunderstorms, flash flood and wildfire, to horseback riding on cattle drives, among wild horses, along trails of old gold miners, and through a biblical swarm of Mormon crickets, to startling and entertaining encounters with cows, birds, rattlesnakes, and cougars, you’ll see that a life in the West nowadays isn’t that far removed from life as it was 150 years ago.

“In case you’re wondering, it’s the southwest corner of Idaho I’m talking about. It’s nearly 7700 square miles of high desert sagebrush, rabbit brush, the Owyhee mountains, pronghorns, deer, cows, and a few herds of wild horses.

If you’re charmed by the ways of the Old West, it’s easy, when you’re out riding a horse or hiking, to imagine you’re still part of that time period. Squint your eyes into the sunlight, and you’ll see the dust from the old cowboys chasing the cows or rounding up the broomtail horses.

Life in Owyhee means a life steeped in Western lore, Wild West adventures, horses, Ravens, and nature. It means beauty in every corner, under every rock, in every storm, spring, summer, fall, and winter.”

Tales From The West: Four Seasons in the Owyhee Country is available on Amazon as an e-book at:
A soft-cover option will be available in the new year. 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Golden Eagle Tracks

Tuesday December 3 2019

I just happened to look out my window the instant a golden eagle landed on a jackrabbit on the hill in the snow near our Candelabra trail. I grabbed my binos and ran outside to watch. 

If I hadn't seen the eagle land, I'd have known something was going on there, as there were a dozen magpies squawking, flying around, and landing near the eagle. 

The eagle walked with the rabbit in one claw, dragging it up the snowy hill, with the magpies chattering away and licking their chops.

The eagle walked uphill a little farther, then she stopped, crouched over the rabbit, and started shredding the fur, flinging it everywhere. 

Now another dozen magpies appeared, some getting close to the monster bird, but just out of reach of her big beak, looking longingly at her meal. (I am sure I saw that expression on their faces through the binos - exactly like Finneas stands and looks over the gate at me wistfully when I'm mixing up Stormy's grain in the feed room.)

Every once in a while the eagle flung a little meat scrap and a few magpies flew in to grab it, and whoever got it shot off with a dozen other magpies hollering in pursuit. Then they'd all come back and stand around the eagle and salivate. 

Twice I saw a magpie yank her tail (like Ravens are known to do to eagles - Ravens and magpies are of the same Corvidae family) but they were very cautious about it and they were scared to do it more! 

The eagle finished the rabbit in ten minutes, and stepped off the bones, and while the magpies swarmed the dinner spot, she walked up the hill a bit, cleaned her beak, walked uphill in the snow some more, sat a while, then flew off to the next hill. 

She sat there a while, then hiked uphill some more (probably working off some of that meal), then rested (tired after a good meal). One magpie flew to join her, thinking 'This is my meal ticket!' After a while she flew off to the next hill. The eagle was really beautiful, shimmering golden feathers on her neck and lower parts of her wings. 

Years ago we used to have golden eagles nesting on the crick, not too far from the 'town' of Oreana; they successfully fledged young a couple of years. They even put up with the farmer plowing his field below their nest. But once new people bought the land, moved in a large herd of cows and irrigation lines, then started bulldozing all the brush (think: quail, rabbits, prey), and half the cottonwood trees, they've never been back since.

I hiked up the hill later to see her tracks (and the hundreds of pacing magpie tracks!) 
see the drag marks beside each foot, that's her tail feathers dragging in the snow

so big!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Hillbillie Willie's Hallowed Weenies

October 28 2019

Saturday, October 26, would be Hillbillie's last ride of the endurance season, 50 miles at the Owyhee Hallowed Weenies. For the last week, the weather forecast had been fabulous, still and cool. Two days before, weathermen predict godawful winds, to start Friday night. I was sure hoping they'd just made a miscalculation, or a Halloween prank.

The winds woke me in the middle of the night. I looked at my clock: 3:41 AM. That's it, I'm not riding, I thought. I don't have to ride. Staying in bed. Problem solved.

I didn't sleep, for the wind, for the next 3 1/2 hours, when my alarm went off. When I poked my head outside, the gales weren't as terrible - down here in the canyon anyway. I knew they'd still be bad up on top, but, if you don't have to saddle up and start in the wind (or rain), then it's not so bad when you actually ride into the weather.

So of course I saddled up Hillbillie Willie, and we followed Connie and That Guy (trick riders for the Halloween costume contest) aboard DWA Saruq for a 50 mile jaunt in a hurricane across the Owyhee desert. 

And lordy, was it a hurricane. It was Stink Windy. It was Cussin' Windy (yes, I said a few choice words at times.) It was so windy, that it wasn't even dusty, because any dust kicked up by a horse's hoof was already in the next county before the next hoof fell. It was so windy, Connie may or may not have tried talking/yelling something at me, but all I could hear was the wind roaring in my ears through my bandana. It was so windy, that much of the time I felt completely disconnected from Willie, who, bless his Standardbred heart, just kept trucking along like it was nothing. He was a superstar! Although he did uncharacteristically bolt 3 times throughout the day - from the odd, loud flapping of my heavy jacket, even though it was zipped up and snug on me. Neither of us had ever heard that sound before!

Likely there was a high vehicle wind warning for the day, because up on top of 17-hand Hillbillie Willie, yea, I felt it! Especially up on the Hallelujah rim trail, it knocked me about, and had me leaning into the wind at times so I couldn't get blown off Willie and over the edge of the rim. At times we got a welcomed treat of a wind-blocked wash, where it was practically balmy for a few minutes (and hot), and then we'd creep back out into the chilly gale-force winds.

Our vet check was back in camp, down in our canyon-hole, where it was just breezy and almost pleasant. Loop two was a reverse of loop one - different scenery but the same wind. Oh, there was some more cussin' from us humans, but our horses motored along like it was no big deal.

Hillbillie Willie finished up fabulous and strong and sound, making a clean 5 starts in 5 finishes this year, 255 miles. That included his first 3-day ride at City of Rocks where he couldn't have impressed me more!

Now it's time for a winter of getting lazy and fat… though I'm still waiting for the day Willie carries any extra poundage!

For more stories and photos on the ride, see:

Monday, August 5, 2019

Riding the Continental Divide Trail at Top O The World!

August 5 2019

It was the third annual Top O' the World pioneer endurance ride in Eastern idaho… this was my first time to finish a ride there. Fabulous and challenging trails. We did day 1's 50 miler and I got to ride on the Continental Divide - how awesome was that!

Connie rode Finneas and I rode her horse DWA Saruq.

Ridecamp is in a sweet spot in the Targhee National Forest.

great grazing for the horses! Jose Viola is eating and, of course, gazing at things in the distance

Connie, Regina, and Kat enjoying morning gourmet coffee!

Suzy Hayes' and Lynn Lee's 3 horses escaped one night and didn't come back till morning, fortunately all in one piece. Suzy was sooooo happy!

Connie and Finneas on the top of the world at about 9500'! on the Continental Divide Trail, looking West

Look really close, and ridecamp is a little white dot down in that green strip in the valley

Photobombing on the Continental Divide Trail!

Another high meadow on the CDT. We met a through hiker here. His trail name is Peanut. Connie met some through hikers the next day who said Peanut is a legend. Look him up!

Much of the ride we had a nice bubble - had the trails to ourselves. Here we leapfrogged with some other riders on loop 2

A lower meadow on loop 2

The famous Dave Rabe and Cocamoe Joe. You can tell it was pretty chilly because Dave has a sweatshirt on!

Yea. This thunderstorm grew quickly and raced towards us - 3 of us had 15 minutes to blanket the horses and batten down the hatches before….

…the heavy rain and hailstorm hit! horses hunkered down with butts to the weather and heads down

Connie and I hiked and unmarked a 7 mile loop on day 3. Just as beautiful hiking as it is riding!

More on the ride at

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Hillbillie Willie's City of Rocks Endurance Ride: Day 3

July 6 2019

Hillbillie Willie's quest for all 3 days/155 miles at City of Rocks - his first 3-day ride!

Day 1 and Day 2 down, one more to go!

Day 3's 50 mile ride was a repeat of Day 2's (minus a little 5 mile loop): a loop in the desert towards Utah and along the Boise Kelton Stage Route, and into City of Rocks National Reserve along the California Trail. Loop 2 was up into the park to a high point of 7500' and heading back down in a big scenic park loop.

Today Willie and Jack were joined by Fancy (and Nance) again, and Belesema Anna and Chris. It was another beautiful cool day and the horses did great. Willie never missed a beat, never flagged, never was uninterested or unenthused. He really loved going down the trails, and it seemed so effortless for him.

When the four of us crossed the finish line together, holding hands, Willie felt just fabulous. He pulsed in, at the end of 3 days and 155 miles, with a pulse of 44. 44! 

My final post summed it up: Oh. My. Gawd. I LOVE THIS HORSE!

A few pix from the day:
On the Boise Kelton stage route, Twin Sisters peeking over the horizon.

Headed for Twin Sisters on the California Trail, one of the main roads through the park.

A pair of our heroes, Dave Rabe and Cheys Cocamoe Joe

Lunch time in camp! Willie loves to eat. He's not a voracious eater, but he eats the whole time.

Heading up into the park

One of my favorite trails, Geowatt

Nearing the high point at 7500'

Deb and Jack… yes, it was a wee bit chilly at times up high (but felt great)

Descending one of the prettiest trails, which we refer to lovingly as Rat Poo trail because of all the packrat nests in some of the rock cliff clefts

Cat Cook took this of the eight of us at the finish - Willie was absolutely amazing, it was one of my most favorite rides ever!

More stories and ride photos at: