The ewes and lambs graze on the National Forests in the summer months. They move through a rotation so that they are not in any area for long. Part of the journey for Pepe’s sheep includes several weeks in high mountain pastures near the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. He stays in a tent and we pack in his groceries and dog food. When he drops into the north fork of the Elk River, we bring his camp to him. This involves a drive down a death-defying curvy road to a wonderful mountain meadow. Bubba came along, both to learn the way and to provide the muscle.
The weather is still trying to make up its mind. Is it Still Winter? Almost Spring? Spring? But Eamon’s mare Dirte made up her mind that it was time to deliver her colt. We still haven’t gotten close enough to determine whether it is a filly or a horse colt. The trees are trying to decide if it is safe to send out buds. In the meantime, the calves, lambs and colts are making their appearance. It must be spring!
Pat’s mare Plata did not foal in June with the other mares. She is an older mom, and took her time. Maeve called, saying, “Grandpa–Plata had a filly and she is black with a diamond on her forehead!” Pat asked Maeve what she wanted to name the baby and she said “Diamond.”
Tiarnan and Rhen went with me to move sheep camp on Tennessee Creek in the Routt Forest. Jean Carlos was happy to see the boys and fed them a hearty lunch of spaghetti, vienna sausage and mixed vegetables. They were hungry. After pulling the camp down a very rough and narrow road, Jean Carlos gave Tiarnan a ride. In spite of the bouncy trip, Rhen had somehow fallen asleep, and was mad when he learned he had missed a ride on the horse. We then went on to Clark for some of their famous ice cream.
George on Hickory, Buck Draw photo by Patricia Moore
This is in memory of my Dad, George Salisbury, who died Christmas Day, 2010.
The wind is blowin’ cold down the mountain tips of snow
And ‘cross the ranges layin’ brown and dead;
It’s cryin’ through the valley trees that wear the mistletoe
And mournin’ with the gray clouds overhead.
Yet it’s sweet with the beat of my little hawse’s feet
And I whistle like the air was warm and blue
For I’m ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you,
I’m a-ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you.
Oh, mebbe it was good when the whinny of the Spring
Had weedled me to hoppin’ of the bars.
And livin’ in the shadow of a sailin’ buzzard’s wing
And sleepin’ underneath a roof of stars.
But the bright campfire light only dances for a night,
While the home-fire burns forever clear and true,
So ’round the year I circle back to you,
‘Round the rovin’ year I circle back to you.
Oh, mebbe it was good when the reckless Summer sun
Had shot a charge of fire through my veins,
And I milled around the whiskey and the fightin’ and fun
‘Mong the mav’ricks drifted from the plains.
Ay, the pot bubbled hot, while you reckoned I’d forgot,
And the devil smacked the young blood in his stew,
Yet I’m lovin’ every mile that’s nearer you,
Lovin’ every blessed mile that’s nearer you.
Oh, mebbe it was good at the roundup in the Fall,
When the clouds of bawlin’ dust before us ran,
And the pride of rope and saddle was a-drivin’ of us all
To stretch of nerve and muscle, man and man.
But the pride sort of died when the man got weary eyed;
‘Twas a sleepy boy that rode the nightguard through,
And he dreamed himself along a trail to you,
Dreamed himself along a happy trail to you.
The coyote’s Winter howl cuts the dusk behind the hill,
But the ranch’s shinin’ window I kin see,
And though I don’t deserve it and, I reckon, never will,
There’ll be room beside the fire kep’ for me.
Skimp my plate ’cause I’m late. Let me hit the old kid gait,
For tonight I’m stumblin’ tired of the new
And I’m ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you,
I’m a-ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you.
Patrick and Sharon O'Toole are ranchers in the Little Snake River Valley on the Wyoming-Colorado border. They represent the fourth generation on the six-generation family ranch. The O'Tooles raise cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children on their high country ranching operation. The transhumance operation stretches from north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Wyoming's Red Desert.
Pat has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives, the Western Water Policy Commission, and is currently President of the Family Farm Alliance, representing irrigators and water users in the western United States. He is active with several conservation and agricultural organizations.
Sharon is a writer and poet. She writes extensively on western issues, and the relationship between landscape, animals and people. She is widely published as an author, essayist and editorial commentator.
Pat and Sharon have three children. Their daughter, Meghan and her husband Brian Lally, live on the ranch with their children, Siobhán, Seamus, Maeve and Tiarnán. Meghan has also served on the Wyoming Board of Agriculture and the Environmental Quality Council, She and Brian are active in community service.
Daughter Bridget lives in Phoenix with her husband, Chris Abel, where she works in health care communications. Chris works in the food distribution business.
Son Eamon and his wife Megan live on the ranch with their sons, McCoy and Rhen. Eamon is a horseman and natural resource manager, and Megan is a flight nurse. Eamon is a member of the Wyoming Beef Council and is active in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
The blog traces the activities and life on the ranch, from the mundane to the fabulous.