Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sorting Treasures

Mom has been gone for three years and Dad left us in April. We sisters finally got together to sort through their household belongings. Yes, there were garbage bags lined up outside and plenty of boxes for the thrift store, but the special items would find new homes with us seven kids. We know how the ranch assets were distributed, now to tackle the other treasures from a lifetime.

Neither of our folks were into collecting stuff. Dad’s life was the ranch and he had few other belongings. But there were his worn saddle, batwing chaps and silver bit. Mom was an artist, writer and homemaker extraordinaire. Who would take the quilts and paintings? And what about the ceramics created with mountain clay by our grandma’s hands?

In the end we divided up the “medium good” from the “extra special,” drew for order of choosing, and then took turns. Donna got the coveted “grandma putty jar” with the arrow heads and old coins. Janene took the little old man and woman busts that grandma made. Our ranching brother fittingly has the bit, and Kit the antique Navajo rug. Many of the items have no monetary value, but have inestimable worth to each of us.

We sat there in Mom and Dad’s living room that night, laughing and celebrating. Wondering how each of us would show off the items we took from that cherished space, all the while knowing the greatest gifts from Mom and Dad are those we carry around with us every day.

Our folks’ selflessness and their love for each other. A love of the land and family. Mom’s creativity, Dad’s work ethic. All of these are firmly ensconced, albeit imperfectly, in our characters. These heirlooms don’t need dusted or insured, mounted or displayed. They’re the ultimate hand-me-down that can’t be broke or stolen. And there’s enough to go around to all the grandkids in starter homes, dorm rooms and city apartments from Idaho Falls, to Houston, to New York City. A rich inheritance indeed.  

picking paintings for the grandkids
after the sort we're still best friends
Sister Retreat 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Indian Summer

I didn’t think I’d get to write about Indian Summer as we’ve had a cold wet fall. But this week the sun is out and we’re back to shirtsleeves at midday. The colors are spectacular this year, and now flooded with sunshine, even better.   

The term Indian Summer has been around for centuries and is believed to have originated in New England. The why of the title is much debated. To be a true Indian Summer it must be in late fall, calm, warm and dry, following cold weather and a hard frost. One claim is that it’s the season when American Indians would burn grasslands to attract game, and the haze common this time of year was attributed to those fires. Another opinion is that the derogative term “Indian Giver” meaning a falsehood, spawned the term, as this is after all, a “false” summer. Another interesting view, and one that seems plausible to me, is that White vs. Indian conflicts subsided as cold weather moved in, but were revived if warm temperatures returned for a block of days before winter set in for good.

Or maybe it's as simple as this. Our native peoples, nomadic in nature would have settled in for the winter, their lodging set and food stores secure. Then comes the return of summer. How welcome that would be to them. A few more days of hunting and preparation for winter.  

We're making the most of it as well. We took the calves off and trucked them home in good fashion.

As words do, the term has morphed to describe not just a weather pattern, but any last brilliance before a final decline. As if fall in its fleeting beauty isn’t melancholy enough.

where the Blackfoot River dumps into the valley
photo by Becky Davis

good weaning weather
calves on one side, cows on the other
photo by Anita Pratt

day 2 weaning
finally, solar energy to help charge the fence!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Higher Still

We took the cattle to our highest elevation pasture. It’s above 6000 feet, the one we may get snowed out of. 
We knew the move would take all day. We had to gather the herd first and then push them up and over a mountain, down the other side, over a couple of rock bluffs and through an 8’ gate into the Meadow Creek field.  Prior years had been nightmarish, but the cattle were becoming accustomed to the route and if it stayed cold we should be alright.

Because of the time element, when we unloaded the horses Mark trotted off before I was ready. I’m sure it’s in the gentleman rancher’s handbook:  Always wait until your feminine companion is safely mounted on her horse before leaving for the day’s work. And Mark usually remembers, but not this day. I hollered at him to come back, as my horse (any horse) doesn’t like being left behind and won’t stand still while his rider mounts.

“We’re not going to the same place so what does it matter!” he said with irritation. 

I responded back with equal irritation, “It’ll just take a minute and believe me, it will be well worth your time!”

I hurriedly strapped on my spurs and adjusted my chaps and before I knew it, he had dismounted, exchanged Mater’s halter for a riding bridle and was handing me the reins. He kissed me and said he was sorry.

At that moment I felt a palpable physical response in my core. He’s probably forgotten all about it and has no idea (until he reads this) what that meant to me and how much mileage he gained in my estimation of his character by that simple act. It would set the stage for a day of work for me. Now I could jog off alone and be at opposite ends of the herd all day without complaint.

Women are simple creatures really. Why do men make it so complicated?

Mark brings up the rear

photo by Anita Pratt