Black cows wintering
near Laramie, munching hay–
waiting for snowfall
The past two winters have been hard winters by anyone’s standards. Conditions were especially harsh on the Red Desert north of Wamsutter, where we winter our sheep. In 2018-2019, the ewes and bucks were snowed in on the Cyclone Rim allotment for weeks, and we couldn’t even get to the Chain Lakes allotment. In 2019-2020, the winter started early, so we found frozen sugar beets in the northern part of Wyoming and trucked the sheep to farms.
Now we are in drought. We have received around 65 percent of normal moisture so far this winter. An easy winter is easier on both livestock and herders, and on us as we drive back and forth to the sheep camps. The sheep depend upon snow for water for most of the winter. We’ve had several days of wind and thaw, which takes the snow and leaves bare sage and steppe. We now wait for a good winter storm, which we hope will bring much-needed moisture. Winter snow brings us spring grass.
Enough snow. Not too much. Not too little.
Here’s Alejandro at his winter camp near Powder Wash. Pancho is a bum lamb who is well on his way to becoming the new bellwether. He has big hooves to fill to replace Dunkin. We’ll just have to name the puppy Lefty.
The New Year comes through fortune’s gate.
It gives us hope, and prayers of grace,
with power of time, we await
the future, blank–this unknown fate,
unknown journey to unknown place—
the New Year comes, through one-way gate.
Our dreads, our sins, night fears abate—
the past, the future, run apace
with power of time, next year awaits.
We cast our lot, the dice gyrate,
spin and clatter, hit chance’s space—
write next year’s tome on fortune’s slate.
Earth’s axis tips, while stars rotate.
The waxing moon unveils her face,
marks pass of time, while we await
Through time, through space, sped arrow-straight,
light races on its ceaseless chase.
Now New Year comes, through future’s gate—
through power of time, we await.
The holidays are here,
The year is almost gone.
Sunset’s coming sooner,
long nights–they linger on.
Christmas on the Ladder Ranch
brings us gifts galore.
Family gathers ‘round us
while Yuletide fires roar.
Deep within the meadows—
summer’s rush to green has passed–
round bales stacked like coins,
winter’s wealth, its shadows cast.
Fair weather birds have fled,
but winter sounds abound,
brave trills of chirping chorus
echo bird-song all around.
Coyotes add their yips and howls
and wail their eerie cries
which echo through the hills
making hackles rise
On man and beast alike.
On Battle Creek, an icy sheen
glows while cracks and groans—
add to winter’s subtle keen.
But here beside the fire,
with its crackle and its roar,
we’re warm and well and happy,
with all we need and more.
There’s children’s cheery laughter—
they cry and yell and shout,
like to scare the coyotes
as they run and tear about.
There’s cows and sheep and horses,
there’s canines large and small—
dreaming Border collie dreams
and guard dogs watching all.
The cows must fill their bellies
with grass hay long since cut,
and raked and baled and scattered
‘long the tractor’s snowy rut.
They’ve calves to grow within them—
throughout the winter’s cold
and await the season’s turning—
winter solstice comes and goes.
And ewes upon the desert
munching daily corn,
awaiting warmth in springtime
when their babies will be born.
In Battle Mountain’s folds,
deer and elk have bedded down.
In hollows under oak brush,
there’s shelter that they’ve found.
We thank the Lord for blessings
for His creatures great and small—
for all of those we care for,
Please Lord, bless us all!
We are grateful for our friends
and kin, found both far and near,
from Ladder Ranch to you and yours,
Merry Christmas! Yuletide Cheer!
Season’s end draws, dims, slides down to the rest
of the year, where we await winter sleep,
Day’s end presents sundown, darkened nest
where quiet lures, lulls, to somnolent deep
and tempting dreams, where twilight dusk holds sway.
Dawn comes late, with sparking, shimmering freeze.
Solstice rays shoot beams, arrows into day–
Ancients rose, chanted, begged gods to be pleased
and halt sun’s chariot southering drift,
to change its course, to close its dogged lap.
Prayers intoned, begged for light’s return—strong, swift,
No more creeping darkness, to suck and sap
its sunlit balm. Now incline to summer–
swing past the solstice, past darkness’ slumber.
Conversation between Buck and Rambo
Breeding season on the Ladder Ranch
There’s a rumor goin’ ‘round, ‘bout some ladies to be found–
the boss is hookin’ up the trailer, gassin’ up the truck
(The trailer lights aren’t working, again, but oh well.)
I’m hopin’ that you’re right, and it seems that time of year—
they’ve been pourin’ out the grain, dashed red powder on our backs,
lots of hay, and we all look fat and ready—well, you know.
Last year all the ladies loved my tuxedo vibe.
My black face is debonair, my moves make me look fine.
I jumped out of the trailer, and I think they liked my leap.
Ha—that woolless blackface face can’t compare with wooly charms,
and HOW ABOUT these curly Rambouillet horns. They love those!
I’ll rub them on this hay bale and that will make them shine.
We have to wait all year, just hangin’ with the guys—
they keep us in buck prison, and we KNOW how that can be.
It’s the ladies that we want, with their pretty ewey charms
YES! The boss says time to get to work, but it’s not work at all,
we can whisper those sweet nothings, but you know they’re loved and left.
raisin’ lambs on grassy meadows, while we move back to bachelor digs.
BOTH: Time to get to work!