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The Christmas Trail by Badger Clark

Geo0rge on Hickory, Buck Drawphoto by Patricia Moore

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,
Old folks,
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,
Old folks,
‘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,
Good folks,
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,
Old folks,
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,
Old folks,
I’m a-ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2012 in Family, Folks, Poetry

 

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On to the Red Desert

On to the Red Desert

December 1st is the on date for our winter sheep grazing allotments on the Red Desert, north of I80 and Wamsutter, Wyoming.  The sheep walk a five-day trail from our late fall pasture, Badwater, to the checkerboard Chain Lakes allotment,  with the private owned by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.  It also serves as critical winter habitat for antelope.  We maintain the water and the fences, and provide “boots on the ground.”  One band of sheep winters in Chain Lakes and two move on to the aptly named Cyclone Rim allotment.  A few weeks ago, this blog showed photos of our search for water holes on Cyclone Rim.

We are still thirsty for snow and watering spots.  For almost the first time ever, the sheep had dry days on the trail, although not back-to-back. Normally by this time of year, we have enough snow for the sheep to eat for water.  They are very hardy, and most years go much of the winter surviving on snow and without access to fresh water.  The sheepherders are asking us for snow, as if we could bring it like firewood and dog food.  We tell them, “Do what we do, pray!”

Richar, Afrenio, Timeteo and Christian bringing up the sheep

Richar, Afrenio, Timeteo and Christian bringing up the sheep

waiting their turn

waiting their turn

The bucks will be turned in with the ewes in a few days, in order to bring those spring lambs. To make sure the ewes are in optimal condition, we decided to worm them in advance of bucking.  On this day, it was coldish and windyish, but certainly a relatively pleasant day.

looking forward

looking forward

two noses:  yearling ewe and Edgar

two noses: yearling ewe and Edgar

done and done

done and done

guard dog with supply wagon

guard dog supervising

evening grazing

evening grazing

a day off

a day off

 
 

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Dry season

The days unfold–one warm dry sunny day after the next.  The neighbors gather and talk of only one subject–when will it snow?  We all have tales to tell.  Only two years ago, we were lamenting because we had to start feeding hay two weeks before Thanksgiving.  This year, some of us still have some rough feed we can use for the cows and horses–the tall dry grasses left under the trees that couldn’t be reached by the mower during haying season.  Some have been feeding hay for months, after the summer pastures came up short and the fall pastures were used early.  Some have shipped animals out because of the lack or expense of feed.  Drought in the corn states and demand from ethanol have made corn–the staple of livestock feed–prohibitively expensive.  The government’s mandates, and lack of action on disaster programs mean that the livestock sector has been sacrificed as farmers are being encouraged to grow fuel in place of food.  Cattle and sheep, but also dairy (especially dairy!), poultry, hogs, and even catfish are being driven into loss as corn prices soar.

We continue on, unhampered by storms or ice or cold.

the Hampshire bucks at Powder Flat

Bucks drinking from the tank at Powder Flat

Filomeno and Antonio with horse they are breaking

Dunkin with ewe friends

Maeve, ready to load truck

wagons at Cottonwood

 

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