Two-year olds

We had to do some cattle work in the corrals today, so Rena (the Akbash dog) and Roo (the burro adopted off the range in Nevada), got together to entertain each other. They are both almost two years old, and are matched in temperament.

Cursed Abe

As I wrote yesterday’s post “Honest Abe, clever Abe,” I did it gleefully, knowing it would cause husband Jim to curse when he read it on the blog. His view of Abe is different than mine, thus the cursing.

You see, Abe belongs to our son Cass, and he loves Cass dearly. But when it comes to actually working, being a herding dog, Abe only works for me. It drives Jim crazy. If he tries to tell Abe what to do, Abe will turn his back and walk away, either go to the house, or go sit in the truck. There is no way he’ll take commands.

Abe adores working sheep with me. He tries to figure out what I want to do and then simply works to get it done. He’s had no formal training and certainly hasn’t ever heard a whistle. But he knows I use certain words and phases, such as “go around,” “other way,” and “turn them.” I also give him hand signals. This all came about not because of any effort to train him – he’s just worked with me a lot. I can read a lot of his body language as well, so it’s a mutual thing.

Late in the summer every year, we always have a few lambs that slip through the fence into the highway right-of-way, eating the lush grass that is never cut. I’ll get a call from a trooper or trucker, so Abe and I load up and go down the road to get the lambs back in. I talk to Abe as we drive, telling him what we’re going to do: “We’re going to work sheep. You’ll have to ‘get them’ and put them through the gate.” When we get to the pasture and I open the door, Abe jumps out, runs down the fenceline and gets the lambs, putting them back in the pasture just as I get the gate open. Mission accomplished. It’s as though he listened to everything I’d told him.

As I said, it drives Jim crazy.

Honest Abe, Clever Abe

While the nation is focused on our new president, and since there are so many references being made to Abe Lincoln, it’s a good day to tell you about his namesake who lives in our household. Abe is a bearded collie, our family’s livestock herding dog. He was my son’s first dog, and is about eight years old, named after old Honest Abe.

Today gave an indication of Abe’s cleverness. We live along a busy highway (by country standards), with lots of oilfield traffic. This afternoon, Abe was outside and barked to let me know that someone was here. I stepped to the window to see the UPS truck coming down the highway with the turning signal on, just starting to slow down to turn into our driveway. The UPS truck wasn’t to the driveway yet, but Abe knew he was coming here. Was it because of the turning signal? That’s my bet.

Oilfield pickup trucks often park at our turnout so occupants can talk on cell phones, and Abe never bothers to let me know about them. The UPS truck comes here often, and never gets barked at unless he’s coming here – not when he’s just driving by on the highway. The truck is quiet, so it’s not as though there is any major noise warning.

Regardless, Abe knows that I want to be alerted when UPS is arriving, and not alerted when the oilfield workers are using the turnout. He’s a very good boy, our honest, clever Abe.

Not sharing

With a new carcass in the neighborhood this morning, area eagles were once again drawn in, and I spent a while hanging out this afternoon, trying to capture the action. There were seven eagles, only two of which were goldens, which flew as soon as I arrived. This juvenile bald stayed around so I got plenty of photos. 

What I enjoyed the most was when the eagle was temporarily spooked off the carcass and stayed off to the side, very grumpy. This raven harassed the eagle, and the eagle really didn’t like it at all.

Sometimes I feel like that. It’s one of those “If I could catch you, you would never do that again” kinds of feelings.


It’s been really cold here in western Wyoming the last few weeks, with temperatures dropping to -20 to -25 degrees most nights. I tend to hibernate in my pajamas when it’s that cold, putting on my Carhartts and going outside only to drive the feed truck every day, then back to the PJs. Of course all the livestock get extra feed when it’s frigid, so they seem no worse for the wear. In fact, they chase the feed truck, jumping, running and bucking, so they are obviously wintering well.

Busy working on manuscripts, even my photography has been neglected of late. But today, things changed. It started snowing during the night, so temperatures warmed up nicely. It was about 6 degrees when I got up at 5 a.m. I had a manuscript to mail, so I showered and put on presentable clothes for the drive to town.

Just outside our fenceline, I saw seven eagles (both balds and goldens) on the ground, surrounding a freshly killed pronghorn antelope buck. Apparently the buck was hit on the highway, but got inside the pasture fence before it went down. When I stopped to watch the goings-on, almost all the eagles flew. Only one brave bird refused to give up the carcass, and for that I’m thankful. It was a pleasure to watch this beautiful bird. Here’s to sharing!