My Dad, George Salisbury, and his cousin Bob Terrill, used to run cattle together in the Powder Wash country. The corrals, north of Powder Wash Camp, are still known as the Terrill Corrals. While the corrals don’t see as much activity as they used to, our family and the Terrills still brand calves in the corrals, with Bob’s son Tim and granddaughter Tate.
It’s time to brand those calves which have been born this spring. We’ve been branding calves both in the mountains and the desert. We have our good crew of employees, friends and family on hand to help us with this endeavor.
The bitter cold and deep snowfall during the past week has seen critters, wild and domestic, on the move. We decided to trail our yearling ewes and old ewes from the Chivington Place to Powder Flat , where they are closer to the haystack. Likewise, the deer, elk and antelope are all on the move. Here’s some of the migrations we saw today.
Yemy heading up the county road
Yearling ewes and old ewes en route to Powder Flat
The guard dogs have their back
Yemy is keeping his adopted wild horse warm!
McCoy, Sadie and Cora moving the sheep
Feral (unadopted) wild horses on the feed line with our cows
Not all of the sheep trail north to the Red Desert for the winter. The yearlings and the old ewes trail west to the Powder Wash country. All of Wyoming was buried in snow and chilled by sub-zero temperatures. I read that of the world’s ten lowest recorded temperatures, last week, five of them were in Wyoming. Our winter country in Powder Wash lies in both Colorado and Wyoming, but it was equally cold and snowy on both sides of the state line. The elk are on the move, and we are feeding extra hay to the sheep. Winter is well and truly here!
The bucks are in a hurry to get out of the trailer
It’s that time of year, finally. The bucks have been waiting, sometimes patiently (spring) and sometimes not so patiently (fall), but after ten long months, it is time for them to join the ewes, thus ensuring a spring lamb crop. We took a load of blackface bucks to the Black Tie reservoir area at Powder Wash, where they joined the ewes there. We had an experience we hadn’t had before–the guard dogs puppies, born last spring and now ambitious adolescents, did not like the strange bucks joining the flock. They’d never seen rams before, and they correctly ascertained that the rams did not have honorable intentions. The barking and chasing did damper their lust, until we called the dogs in and convinced them that the presence of the bucks was OK. It’s been a dry early winter, but a snowstorm did come in today.
This is the time of year when we hold our breath. We hope all the cows and sheep and various critters for whom we are responsible have enough to eat, enough to drink and enough body fat to withstand the cold weather. We assume that the bulls and bucks have done their jobs. We hope that the Good Lord sticks with us with weather and sends enough snow, but not too much; enough cold, but not too much. We hope that the cows and the ewes are all pregnant, and will hold those pregnancies to term, and raise a baby. We hope that predators–mostly coyotes, but bears, mountain lions, ravens, crows and maybe wolves–will find something else to eat besides our critters. The sheep eat snow and we depend on having the right amount–not so much that it will cover the grass and brush, but not so little that we are chasing drifts in draws. The cows need “wet water” and we expend a lot of energy and resources to make sure it’s available.
It is also the time of year that we try to ensure that we have enough help lined up for spring, summer and fall. Our sheepherders come on h2a visas which allow them to stay for three years with at least three months at home in Peru. We try to plan so that about one third of our crew returns to Peru in the winter, when we need less help. The process is so dysfunctional that we need to request about twice as many “new guys” as we will probably need, because there isn’t much rhyme or reason to who gets approved. Even returning employees are not assured of getting approved, so it is a challenge to plan.
So far, the winter has been cooperative. This will allow us to engage in one of our favorite vacations: traveling to Elko, Nevada–at approximately the same latitude as our home (read Deep Winter) for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. We will be hosting a discussion on Food Policy. After all, to have cowboys, we need cows, and to have cows, we need consumers: the Three C’s. That said, it is nearly a week of solid poetry, music, art and discussion which is nothing but fun.
Sheep near Eagles’ Nest. The bucks are in their working clothes.
Antelope at Powder Flat
McCoy and Nene
McCoy, Eamon and Pat on the lookout at Lower Powder Springs
Pat, McCoy and Eamon at water well at Powder Flat. I used to spend hours here pumping water with our old generator, “Fred”.
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.
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.
Sharon's father George, 89, passed away December 25, 2010. He lived much of his life in the house where he was born, and remained active in the day-to-day life of the ranch. Mr. Salisbury was a decorated World War II veteran, a former member of Wyoming's House of Representatives, and former President of Wyoming's Board of Agriculture.
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 also served on the Wyoming Board of Agriculture, and she and Brian are active in community service. Daughter Bridget lives in Denver with her husband, Chris Abel, where she works in public relations and he serves agriculture in the food 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 nurse.
The blog traces the activities and life on the ranch, from the mundane to the fabulous.