Our decision to move most of the ewes north was not an easy one. We have never not kept them (relatively) close to home on desert sagebrush steppe grazing permits. Last February, our sheep were trapped by bad weather and roads. When this winter started early and hard, we bought extra feed and hauled it to them daily, hoping for a thaw. We did not have back-to-back blizzards like last February, but it has just kept snowing and getting colder. Eamon found sugar beets which had frozen in the ground in the Big Horn Basin. After lots of phone calls and planning, we started loading ewes, and rams, on trucks and moving them to beet fields and crop aftermath in the north part of the state. Most of them had never seen a truck.
September 27th is our 41st wedding anniversay. We had the good fortune to be attending a meeting in Jackson, Wyoming. As we were having dinner, we noticed that the Tetons were reflected, upside down, in the wineglasses of nearby diners. It was quite a sight.
Has anyone else noticed the prevalence of “Fun Day” to describe gatherings in our community–and it’s true. We in the Little Snake River Valley really know how to have fun! Right after Labor Day, we have an end-of-summer, about to plunge-into-fall-work, guess-it-will-be snowing-soon celebration. This year the Community Barbeque included a barbeque (go figure), bouncy big toys for the kids and some grown-ups, live music, an arts and crafts display, and, of course, The Mostly Peruvian Soccer Tournament. One of our neighbors donates the use of his hayfield, next to the museum, as a soccer venue. Most years, the hay is put up, and the stubble is a little stiff. This year, due to generous (some might say overabundant) rains, the field featured somewhat soggy windrows, some of which had been raked aside to allow for clear soccer fields. This year, eleven teams played. A few were turned away, after being deemed to be too far afield and too semi-pro to participate. This gives you an idea of how many Peruvians are employed in agriculture in our area and surrounding communities. This is a day that the players look forward to all year. Even though several of our sheepherders left their flocks for the day to play for our team, the Osos de Ladder Ranch, alas, our guys did not prevail. Still, a good time was had by all–truly Fun Days!
Peruvian soccer game in the hayfield next to the Little Snake River Museum
Sundog, entertaining the crowd
A fabulous quilt by Aggie Stocks on display.
Rainbow over the swingset and museum
Oso Antonio with Rhen
Kids in line for the bouncy toy, with their shoes off
Eamon on the bungee pull, with Brenden
Museum Director Leila Emmons with McCoy , Tiarnan, and the garden planted with the kids on Pioneer Day
Sally Martinez supervises the roasting of the lamb, beef and pork
Peruvain soccer players check out the Strobridge House
Rhen at the top of the slide which has terrified generations of children
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.