Ring out, wild bells

“Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

{From In Memoriam by Lord Alfred Tennyson}

Happy New Year to all, Ring out, wild bells!

I hate full moons

Surely I’m not the only person who hates full moons. Although beautiful to gaze upon, full moons provide all the light needed for animals to be up and about all night when they should be sleeping (so I can be sleeping). This includes grazing animals like sheep, deer and pronghorn, and all the things that eat grazing animals like coyote, bobcats, mountain lions, wolves, and bears (when not hibernating).

Last night was an example of my big moon problems – all was well, until I shot up in bed at 3 a.m., hearing the guard dog barking, realizing the sound was fading into the distance. That deep “woof, woof” was supposed to be booming under my bedroom window in the orphan lamb pen once known as my front yard, not fading as the dog ran away. Something was exciting enough that Rena fled the fenced yard and took off toward the river, about a mile from the house. I jumped in the truck and raced through the sagebrush, honking my horn to get her attention. I got her turned back toward the house and soon she was locked inside, lounging on the couch like this had been what she had meant to do all along. Jim and I stepped back out into the well-lit night and could hear what sounded like two other guard dogs barking from the river, about a mile from where our dogs should be with their sheep. We threw on longjohns and coveralls, grabbed a rifle, and headed for the sheep in the pickup, with the thermometer registering -18. We got to the sheep, and all was well there, but no guard dogs were present.

The New Fork River is now frozen, so it serves as a runway for predators and other animals. We drove a mile downriver and parked atop a cliff so I could call for the dogs. I could hear their frantic barks, but we couldn’t see them in the riverbottom. We warmed up in the truck and waited. Within a few minutes, I heard a gentle whine below the cliff, and soon Luv’s Girl came trotting up the trail. She jumped in the cab of the truck with us, but Rant was nowhere to be found. We sat in the truck with Luv’s Girl, getting out to holler for Rant every once in a while, but he never came. I could hear him bark every now and then, but he wouldn’t come to me. Once the moon dropped over the horizon about 4 a.m., Rant quit barking as it became very dark all the sudden.

We gave up on Rant, and took Luv’s Girl back to her sheep herd. By the time the alarm clock went off at 5 a.m., Jim was already on the couch watching news and drinking coffee. I crawled back into bed trying to convince myself I could sleep just a little longer, but it didn’t work. We ate breakfast and waited for daylight.

We didn’t find Rant for a few more hours into our next search. It seemed that everywhere we looked, we found coyote tracks as well as guard dog tracks. We didn’t cross the river to see what had happened, but could see through binoculars that some animal had been killed, and Rant was on guard next to the kill, keeping the birds away. It took some serious woo-ing to get Rant to leave his station and come the 1/2 mile to my call, but he finally did. We soon had him loaded up into my truck, and deposited safely back into his sheep herd.

The moon wasn’t even entirely full last night, but on nights when it is so bright, animals are really on the move. In the last two nights, I spotted a pack of three coyotes, a single coyote, and one black animal that I’m hoping like hell was a moose. I have no idea what prey animal was killed last night across the river, or what species did the killing. I do know that in hopes we’ll have a more restful sleep, tonight we’re going to go down to the cliffs above the river and fire off a few rounds, just to be noisy. Luv’s Girl hates the sound of guns, so that will keep her from traveling that direction, but we’re not sure about my hard-headed Rant. He knows he left a carcass, so if he wants to tangle with some coyotes tonight, he knows where to go.

You know, I wasn’t always like this – 25 years ago, I loved full moons. My soon-to-be-husband called them “lover’s moons” as we danced outside a honkey tonk on the wooden sidewalk, and camped on a mountainside without a tent. That was before we had duties, responsibilities, flocks to tend. That was before we knew what prowled in that shine emitted from the moon.

The photo above was taken this afternoon, once the two culprits were back in their sheep pasture. They spent part of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine next to the haystack.

Doggie Disaster and bleg

Yesterday we took the dogs out to the Indian ruin today for a run — all of them (except Lily, the ancient dachshund) together. They were so excited to be out. Before we even got down the hill to the arroyo we heard one of the dogs screaming in pain. We ran over and there was Irbis, lying down with an obviously broken leg…it was dangling from the rest of his leg, and he was bleeding where the bone had come through the skin. Best we can figure is that he stepped in an animal hole and it snapped like a stick. We carried him, screaming in pain, back to the car, rounded all the others up, and called our vet, who was not there, nor were the other Socorro vets (of course it’s the Sunday after Christmas). We went up to the emergency vet in Los Lunas, where they took two xRays, had us wait a long time, and told us that his leg was badly broken and might have to be amputated; they don’t do orthopedic procedures there, so we then (after they charged us $317 for doing practically nothing) went up to an Albuquerque clinic that is open all the time and where we know two of the vets through falconry. Ray looked at the xrays and told us that he thought he could pin or plate it together if there was no nerve damage; if the nerves are too damaged he thought it would be best to amputate it.

They presented us with an estimate of $2200 and said we would have to give them a deposit for $600 before they would even look at him further; and that the balance would be due when we pick him up on Tuesday. Luckily son Jackson and his wife Niki were with us, and they put the deposit on their emergency credit card. But we have to get the rest together. Libby’s 92 year old mother, who is in a nursing home, is going to see what she can do on such short notice — we don’t think her money is terribly liquid.

We’re feeling very depressed at the moment — we can hardly bear the thought of his losing a leg, especially as he’s just 11 months old. So we’re asking you, our friends, if you can help in any way, even with a small amount — they add up quickly. If you want to contribute, the best thing would be to call the vet’s office with a credit or debit card number — they expect to be paid IN FULL by Tuesday afternoon when we go to pick him up after his surgery. We need at least $1700(we have come up with loans of $800) to get him out, and need to repay Jackson and Niki, though they are infinitely patient. The phone number at Petroglyph Vet Clinic is 505-898-8874 — they’re a 24 hour operation. Ray Hudgell is the vet and the account number for Irbis is 4116.

I’ll be glad when this year is over! Meanwhile investigating pet insurance — this can’t happen again.

UPDATE: WE have reached our goal– thanks to all. Now we just pray there are no complications!

UPDATE 2: He is home after an exhausting day, & seems pretty good considering. He can walk to pee (though as yet hasn’t). There is no cast at all– just stitches. The plate is inside, and he has to wear an “Elizabethan” collar which he hates to keep him from biting them. But it makes it easy to observe the wound clearly.

The vets desk didn’t take down all the names who contributed so please if I miss anyone in the coming days let me know ( I will not rave on the stupidity of front desks— yet). We probably have enough credit to cover the next (3) visits.

We have amazing friends– I cannot say enough thanks, but will try.

Muley ear notches

Saw these two young bucks in the neighborhood today, and was curious that they both have ear notches. The best reason I’ve heard so far is that the bucks do a little scrapping, and ears take a bit of a beating. The notches are not research-related. I’m still open to other theories if anyone has ideas.

Frosty mountain

I don’t usually shoot scenics, but yesterday afternoon’s frost-covered trees with the moon lingering above simply couldn’t be neglected. This photo was taken in the area of western Wyoming known as the Hoback Rim.

Counting blessings

Today, I left the ranch in the wee hours, with the heater blasting in the truck in the -12 degree calm night. I turned up the county road in the dark, and my headlights fell on a white animal in the roadway ahead. It was just the size of a jackrabbit, and that bright white the jacks get in their winter camouflage. As I approached, the animal took wing – it was a snowy owl. What a fabulous way to start today, Christmas Eve.

I picked up my friend Sheri, and drove her to the hospital in Jackson so she could have her “Christmas chemo.” Sheri’s been battling breast cancer for two years, doing chemo every week for at least a year now. We got the chemo out of the way, and proceeded onto the local brew pup for lunch and refreshing libations.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is an interesting place, but I’ve got to be in the right mood to handle it. There were so many people out shopping today, and all I wanted to get was a selection of fine breads to serve as the week progressed. We stopped in one bakery and found it was like a high-end art gallery of chocolate creations. They were works of art, but too snooty for my rather humble mood. We stepped outside and spotted another bakery across the street. We walked in to a heavenly smell of hot breads and pastries. It was a Mexican bakery – yummm. One of the young ladies introduced us to Mexican cheesecakes. Oh man, this day couldn’t have gotten any better.

We headed for home and as we entered Hoback Canyon, a bobcat slid down off the sun-lit boulder it had been basking on, and melted into the brush. Here and there on the way, we spotted small herds of elk that had migrated to lower country, and we rounded a corner to watch a dozen bighorn sheep. There were two adult rams busy courting ewes. The same thing was going on at our ranch with their domestic counterparts.

I left Sheri at her home, with promises to drain a bottle of wine as we break bread together in a few days at the ranch. I arrived back home to my family and contented animals. It was a day with too many blessings to count. I wish the same blessings to all of you.

Surveying the winter domain

Jim and I drove over to Riverton today to visit with our nephew, Kyle, while he was in town for a few days. This fun young Marine has served in Iraq and in Afghanistan, so talking with him was fascinating. On the way over this morning, we saw this rather photogenic scene of a coyote atop a bluff. It was actually watching a second coyote that joined it from below.

Winter migrants

Today, Jim and I decided to twist off, driving to Mitch’s restaurant in Farson, Wyoming for breakfast, before hitting one of our favorite feed stores (Southwest Wyoming Wool Warehouse) and the grocery store in Rock Springs. It ‘s an 80-mile trip down to get groceries, but when you know the golden eagles that summer in the north have moved back into western Wyoming for the winter, it’s a trip we love. Here’s our favorite shots from today. The first photo was taken at 65-miles an hour as the eagle watched me photographing its flight from the passenger side of the pickup truck. Click on any photo to see a larger version.

Off duty

Vega heads back to Pete’s sheep herd this weekend, south of the Great Divide Basin, near Wyoming’s border with Colorado. She has weaned her babes and here they are, taking over the house. Since Jim has named them after his siblings, he likes reporting that “Bill pooped on the floor, and Laurie ran through it.” This corner of our house is about my favorite place to be, so it’s no wonder the puppies have taken it over. Notice the Vadim Gorbatov print of an eagle taking a wolf on the wall. The tall print is an American kestrel piece by the late Stephen Lyman called “Among the Wild Brambles.”