Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

If I’d just tied off

by Julie Carter

Wade and Fitz are cousins as well as best friends.  “Primo” as they refer to each other not only explains their familial relationship, but also their close friendship. By their own definition, they have always been the family “black sheep,” adding to the bond that has kept them close.

It’s a fact in the cowboy world money is scarce and horses are needed. So the typical practice is to look for some “cheap” horses and make them into good ones.

Wade had come across a grulla mare that was a bronc from the start and as the cow working seasons rolled by it became apparent that might be the reason she had been for sale in the first place. She was as Wade described, “a pretty son of gun to look at” and he stuck with her until she finally became a good cow pony. 

However, her shortcoming was what we in the people world would call “a bit bipolar.” She was always a bronc that needed topped off in the mornings but there were also those moments when she’d go from being a handy, get-it-done kind of horse to a lunatic bronc for no apparent reason.

One morning, Wade and Fitz left out to go push some cattle from the low country to the high summer pastures. Fitz was riding along behind Wade when they crossed through a draw and as they broke out on the other side, the mare blew up and went to pitching hard.

Wade easily stayed in the middle of her and with each jump she got ranker and ranker. Fitz was about to ride up and give her a bump to keep her lined out when she made a big jump and stuck both front feet over her bridle reins. The headstall broke at the buckle sending the bit and all back to the saddle cinch and leaving Wade with nothing on her head.

Fitz knew this mare could run like the wind and became concerned that he wasn’t mounted good enough to catch her if she actually took off. Fitz hollered at Wade to “get off.” Wade responded by stepping off but when he did, the mare was on her way down from a high jump and it sucked him right under her. She was bucking and landing on top of Wade for several jumps.

Fitz rode in and hit her with his horse which untracked her and she took off in a dead run. Wade hollered, “Go catch that hell-bitch.”  So Fitz lined out on her knowing she could run way faster than his horse. So he cut her off to the left, let her go away from him and then ran parallel until he could get her angled to cut her off again. 

He was packing a 50-foot rope and met her on the angle. He was 15 feet from her when he closed in swinging a loop. She caught another gear. Fitz caught her at 20 feet and was already way behind when she grabbed yet another gear. Fitz and his horse, Yeller, were flat out running and as a result, he missed his dally. Fitz knew that if he had been tied off she would have never gotten away. But as he put it, “she smoked us.”

She ran down a fence line that cornered at a gate. The top wires on the barbed-wire gate were broken courtesy of the frequent elk crossings. Still dragging Fitz’s rope, she ran at top speed through that gate like it was standing open. She stuck both front legs through the two bottom wires, tripped and fell head first with all that momentum driving her into the ground. 

It broke her neck. Mercifully, it was instant. But Fitz’s heart was broken as he watched it happen. All he could think was, “if I just would have been tied off.”

He rode back to tell Wade the bad news. With a frog in is voice, he told him, “Wade, I killed your mare.” But in the nature of kindred spirits, Wade looked at Fitz and said, “Good, it’ll save me from having to ride her to death today.”

Every now and then Wade will mention the grulla. “I miss that mare but I don’t miss topping her out in the spring.” And Fitz, well he knows things just happen no matter how hard you try to make them go a different way. 

But he will never stop thinking, “if I’d just tied off that day.”

Julie can be reached for comment at

Bud and the Masters

Looking Forward
Bud and the Masters
Skiving, stitching, and carving
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            NFL football has become tedious.
            With recent ratings, it isn’t just me who has that opinion. The games last week exhibited the strength of the disgust. That Sunday night game was down 15%, Monday night was down 26%, and Thursday followed by a rousing 20% decline. The owners have responded by saying they were “unconcerned about the long term issue”.
I’m not convinced.
In fact, the League’s suggestion the decline is related to technology and viewer habits is news to me. My heart burn has nothing to do with that stuff. I don’t tweet, I don’t face-book, and I don’t even know how to live stream. What is increasingly unappealing is the benefit ratio of this commissioner’s leadership, the responsibility assigned to a player and his apparent role as monarch of ball pressures in the stadium (was he also responsible for the footballs at Detroit, Phoenix, and Tampa Bay?), common disrespect by side line hoodlums (“We miss you in gold and red, Joe!”), the child star absences in Dallas, and the politically correct coaching changes.
I’d love to see a return to simple football with half the rules trashed for the opportunity to promote creativity and innovation. To give credit where it is deserved, I’ll tune in to watch those four brilliant young quarterbacks who give me hope for the game’s future especially if the one is playing who replaces the goofy child star (the one grinning on the sideline with his hat turned backwards).
My point is … flakery has consequences.
Looking forward
I got an email from Bud at 5:30.
He has decided the best course of action in his life is to simply deal with matters he can touch and control. That includes gathering his cows and weaning his calves this weekend. That also means looking forward to next spring’s work and riding his new filly. He already divulged that he has pushed aside all politics other than support for two candidates, and he will offer prayers for the outcome. In sum, he is going back to basics and the things that offer positive expectations. That has a lot of merit, and I think we could all do worse than to follow a similar script.
 My spring work plan has me intrigued as well. I want to finish all the enclosures around our solar units in the Goodsight Pasture. I want to split the dry lot and install another trough at our Homestead pens. It seems like it is past time to rebuild the loading chute at the headquarter pens and install a solid run up and tub to load cattle. If cattle sales allow, I’d like to move our scales and install them in parallel to that work.
I want to continue installing additional troughs at all water sources, and I want to spend more time in the saddle. I don’t have a filly but I do have a mare that needs miles and lots of help. She looks like the horse in the Tim Cox oil, Storm Clouds Building. When Nana was alive she always told me the character in the painting reminded her of somebody. I told her then we didn’t have a gray horse, but that was then.
I understand what Bud implied when he wants to ride his filly in the spring. I understand completely.
Skiving, stitching, and carving
I’m going to finish building another saddle in 2017, too.
I have the tree and the swells are now covered. Everybody has wanted Wades so it is time to go against trend and build a swell fork. I got the one that is started from our local Canutillo tree maker and I like it. He took it to Cheyenne and the trade show and it didn’t sell so I got a deal on it. It also fits the gray.
It is a bit radical. It is what the maker is calling his Chihuahua, and it looks a lot like an aggressive Little Wonder we have that was made by Seitzler in the ‘30s. The swells are eye poppers at 17”. It’ll create some snickering.
A couple of years ago I went looking for some ¾”stainless steel oxbows and finally found some in white brass from Herb Bork. I wound up buying his entire remaining stock of white brass rigging plates, Ds, and rings along with that single set of stirrups because he is no longer going to make anything in that metal combination. It no longer sells. Most of the rigging used today is stainless steel and it comes from China. Price is the motivator and commercial saddle shops must be competitive.
“Nobody likes them except you and me,” Herb said.
But like them I do. They are beautiful. They were made by a master and from that extended assortment of Bork white brass will also come the rigging for this saddle.
I once saw advertisements of a Marrs saddle that had the rigging built into the extended seat and the fender straps were run out through the side jockeys. I have been intrigued with that design and finally saw one in person earlier this year. The freedom of motion it allows and the weight reduction from not having to duplicate leather into the rigging are both appealing.
It will have old time square skirts and back jockeys. It’ll be double rigged because I already have a favored single rigged saddle and one is enough for the moment. I am going to look for a specialty two way cinch that will be buckled front and back into the latigos and the flank cinch straps. I like long strings and will cut light weight latigo into the six longest strings I can make. I’ll use bright conchos over leather counterparts because I think expensive, but soon tarnished, silver conchos are highly overrated. I may also install some demonstrative swell strings and build a long rope hobble for balance.
I will tool half the saddle with the swell and the cantle in the coverage, but what else is not resolved. I have long winced at “half breed” tooling that covers the back jockeys, swells and cantle only see the carving get packed with stain and grime. On a punchy Crosby I made, I reversed the tooling. I like how the seat and fenders remain clean and stand out while the rest of the saddle is roughout and never changes its look.
I may also follow Cary Schwartz practices of burnishing with hot bees wax, installing a streamlined Cheyenne roll, and dying a tooled rose here and there in pink or red. Yep, if it is good enough for the great Schwartz, it is good enough for me. With 17” swells and pink roses, I might also tuck my Wranglers in some Jose Luis Sanchez boots with 18” tops and polish the little gray mare before we ride. We will go forth and engage only those things within our grasp and ride once more in the eternal spring.
Tell me … just tell me that’s not worth contemplating!

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Vaya con Dios, Bud.”

Baxter Black - Moderation

One of the hazards of having educated friends is that they are a frequent source of scientific information. Dr. Ben sent me a scholarly review entitled “WHAT DID OUR ANCESTORS EAT?” by two gentlemen well versed in nutrition and anthropology.

One of the many observations they made was, with the advent of agriculture individuals became smaller in stature. They concluded that agriculture itself was not to blame but rather ‘a departure from a mixed diet derived from a variety of sources.’

Which simply substantiates the Coyote Cowboy Theory that says “Too much of anything is almost as bad for you as not enough of everything!”

For instance, running. Most of us have a friend or a family member fall prey to this addiction. They disappear for an hour in the morning early. You see them on deserted country roads striding single-minded along the shoulder, oblivious to the weather, the scenery and the traffic. They don’t wave. Within weeks they become gaunt stringy creatures like wormy coyotes in bicycling underwear. Their conversation revolves around tennis shoes.

Or take those people who breed purebred cattle. New converts very seldom develop the fanatic devotion to the cause that is part of the persona so often seen in a breeder who was born with a silver show halter in his hand. The young child who slept under the painting of the majestic herd sire once asked his dad about crossbreeding, and was given a lecture that began with Genesis 1:28 and concluded with the latest placings at the International Expo in Louisville!

Lee Pitts - The day your dog dies

She was the only dog in my life I actually paid money for and yet she was about the most useless. I can remember the day we got her like it was yesterday. I only wish it was, maybe then I could have prevented her death.

To the Working Kelpie Council of Australia her name was Ballydine Patriece but we just called her Aussie. We picked her out when she was just a seed in a womb roaming the paddocks of Ballydine Kelpie Stud, Uralla, New South Wales, Australia. I suppose I always resented the fact that Aussie visited Hawaii before I did but that’s where she spent her quarantine period. Aussie came to America as a reluctant guest. When she arrived in San Francisco she took one step out of the wire cage, took a look around that weird city and immediately tried to get back into her cage.

Aussie had some real famous parents you never heard of and I had visions of becoming a famous dog trainer. We tried to get her bred and make a lot of money off her ovaries but Aussie refused to conceive.

She was supposed to be a working dog, but I think she came from a non-working strain. In fact, as I look back now Aussie had several bad habits. She refused to ride in the back of the truck preferring instead the comfort of the cab. When we worked cattle we had to lock her in the house and when we worked sheep there were times we unexpectedly ate mutton for dinner. Aussie caused us several sleepless nights, usually by barking at intruders that existed only in her canine mind. And boy did she cost us money. Her football knee operation alone was $225.

But if Aussie was not the perfect dog neither were we perfect pet parents. We never gave her a birthday present or sent her to obedience school. My wife never knitted her a sweater or made her homemade doggie biscuits. And I suppose there were rare occasions when we argued in front of her. But that was only natural because Aussie was our one and only child.

Aussie was a member of our family. If you’ll pardon the parental pride I could brag that Aussie was loyal, good looking and funny. She was the source of several stories and I never had to pay her royalties. She kept my wife company when I was on the road and my wife insists she was much better company. A better listener for sure. Aussie hardly ever got sick and had no really disgusting habits. She had a strong eye, a big heart and was always glad to see us.

That’s why I cried the day Aussie died.

The Quarter Circle U Ranch roundup

In the old days of the American West, ranchers rounded up their cattle from the open range and drove them over vast distances to railroads, where they were shipped to markets and sold. A handful of cowboys could herd thousands of head of cattle, spending months on the range at a time. These massive undertakings helped cement the image of the cowboy as a symbol of rustic, stoic strength. But as railroad networks expanded and eventually gave rise to motor transport, cattle drives became shorter and simpler expeditions. Roundups could still require camping out for several days, but were mainly used to herd cattle from one pasture inside a ranch to another. They also presented opportunities for branding, castration, inoculation and otherwise managing the health of the herd. Many ranches also took advantage of the romanticization of cowboy life and allowed paying guests, or dudes, to come along and get their hands dirty. Here, Farm Security Administration photographer Arthur Rothstein follows cowboys and dudes from the Quarter Circle U Ranch in Big Horn County, Montana as they gather their herds for the seasonal roundup.  LINK

More photos here

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1728

Our gospel tune today is Take The Hand of Jesus by Buddy Miller (with Doug Seegers).  The tune is on his 2016 CD Cayamo Sessions At Sea

Saturday, October 22, 2016

REPORT: EPA Delayed Helping Flint Fix Lead-Tainted Water

by  Michael Bastasch

EPA had the legal authority to intervene in the Flint, Mich., water crisis months months before it actually did, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general.

EPA IG Arthur Elkins said, “the EPA’s Region 5 had the authority and sufficient information to issue an emergency order to protect Flint residents from lead-contaminated water” under the Safe Drinking Water Act as early as June 2015.

“However, we found that EPA’s Region 5 did not issue an emergency order because the region saw the state’s actions as a jurisdictional bar,” Elkins said in a podcast, summarizing his investigation into EPA’s handling of the Flint water crisis. “In other words, people at the federal agency believed they were unable to do anything because the state was already taking action.”

The IG’s report found EPA could have intervened to ameliorate Flint’s water problems months before. The IG’s office said the agency can intervene “if the state action is not protecting the public from the contaminants in a timely fashion.”

Michigan officials admitted the problem in November 2015 after months of denying anything was wrong with Flint’s water. EPA officials had known for months Flint’s water had elevated lead levels before state officials admitted any wrongdoing.

EPA issued an emergency order over Flint’s water in January 2016 — but only after news reports came out showing EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman downplayed findings that Flint’s water was tainted.

...The EPA IG’s findings reflect those of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force from earlier this year. The task force criticized EPA for not acting fast enough to fix the problem.

“EPA failed to properly exercise its authority prior to January 2016. EPA’s conduct casts doubt on its willingness to aggressively pursue enforcement (in the absence of widespread public outrage),” the task force found.

Ag leaders band together to protect farmers, ranchers

As the 2015 fiscal year officially ended Oct. 1 for the federal government, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture John Block spoke of pros and cons about the future of the agriculture industry. "In these times of low farm prices, it is encouraging to see farm associations and leaders stepping up to protect our farmers and ranchers," he said. The CEOs of CropLife America, the National Corn Growers Association, and the American Soybean Association became a powerful ag industry leadership team, including the American Farm Bureau, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, and many more, Block said. "The leaders met with policy representatives of both Trump and Clinton campaigns," he said. "Farm leaders of different crops and different priorities spoke in unison. Stop the regulatory overreach. Trade is important to us. We need labor to pick the strawberries. Regardless of who gets elected as President our industry needs to be heard." According to Block's email, the Ag CEO council of leaders has also been meeting with Secretary Tom Vilsack. They have argued that the Obama administration (and the EPA) has been too quick to regulate, that it has ignored sound science, forced new rules on states and rewritten the definition of waters of the U. S., and more. Block and six other former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture have urged Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. "We have seen and experienced the value of other trade agreements that we have supported," Block told me over lunch during the annual National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention in Kansas City, Missouri, last year...more

Ethanol mandate for 2017 nears finalization

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said Thursday that it received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the final volume mandate for fuel refiners to blend ethanol and other biofuels into traditional oil-based fuels like gasoline. The OMB review is the final step before the EPA can formally make the volume mandates final. It is required by law to establish the mandate by Nov. 30 of each year, but it has rarely met that deadline in recent years. The EPA proposed in May to require that 18.8 billion gallons of biofuels be blended into the fuel supply in 2017, up to 14.8 billion gallons of which can be basic, corn-based ethanol. The proposed level was higher than the expected ethanol production volume for 2016 but still lower than the amount that Congress asked the EPA to set when it wrote the renewable fuel standard in 2007. The agency used a waiver provision written into the law to propose the level...more

HSUS’s “Future of Food” Looks Bleak, Bacon-less

The weekend before last the Humane Society kicked off its “Future of Food “conference in Washington D.C. The event was held in a large hotel ballroom and promised to revolutionize the way you think about food. We, of course, went so that we could report back on what we observed. The excitement was palpable as guests arrived early to receive their HSUS goody bag as well as partake in a cocktail hour before the main event of Friday night: Keynote speaker Peter Singer. The excitement for Mr. Singer was quite noticeable as the largely affluent guests sipped their cocktails and discussed what this could mean for the “Future of Food.” For those who don’t know who Singer is, he is the author of Animal Liberation, a bible of sorts for those in the animal liberation movement, which seeks to end the moral and legal distinction between humans and animals. HSUS’s choice of Singer as their keynote speaker, is just another indication of their march towards a complete moratorium on modern animal agriculture. The calling out of heretics continued during Day 2 as speaker after speaker laid out their condemnation of those who hadn’t completely abdicated their preference for meat-based protein. Several speakers like Susie Weintraub of Compass Group echoed Mr. Singer’s vision of a meatless world by suggesting a plan to “start with the progressive open minded people and then bring it into the mainstream. Begin it with meatless Monday and eventually let it morph into getting us all off meat.” Weintraub even offered a more technological alternative to getting people to eat a meat alternative (“meat” grown in a lab with no animal products) by suggesting that they “push it into the supply chain and you don’t even tell people that it is a clean meat, basically grown in a lab.”...more

Beef from Brazil to soon arrive in United States

Several news sources recently reported that two Brazilian meat companies have sent fresh beef to the United States. According to Reuters News Service, Brazilian meatpacker Marfrig Global Foods SA announced in mid-September that it had shipped its first cargo of fresh beef to the United States. JBS SA, whose U.S. branch, JBS, is one of the largest meatpackers in this country, sent a container of beef to the United States the next day, according to the Reuters story. The United States had banned fresh beef from Brazil since 1999 until August 1 of this year when the USDA announced that its Food Safety and Inspection Service had approved a rule to allow Brazil to ship 64,800 tonnes of fresh beef per year to the U.S. duty free. In return, the U.S. can export beef and beef products to that country. A JBS spokesman said in the Reuters story that even when the duty-free limit is reached, the company will still profit from beef exports to the United States. “When the quota is over, deals will still be made on a regular basis,” Miguel Gularte said. He then explained that prices might need to be adjusted to account for the 26.4 percent tax to be charged. “The official, who is in charge of meatpacker JBS SA’s division for the trade bloc formed by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, believes the United States will be among the five key markets for Brazilian fresh beef as soon as 2017,” the story reported. JBS, Minerva and Marfrig are on the list of eligible plants certified to export meat from Brazil to the United States, Schwartz said. According to USDA, Brazil is home to almost three times as many cattle as the United States, and has about two-thirds the number of people as the U.S. The three main cattle organizations in the United States, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund-United Stockgrowers of America and the United States Cattlemen’s Association have all voiced opposition to the rule to allow fresh beef from Brazil, citing serious concern over Foot and Mouth Disease...more