Bustin’ Broncs

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It is a beautiful day in the Black Hills, and the Black Hills Stock Show continues! Started the day off right, joining a few hundred other rodeo fans at the James Kjerstad Event Center in Rapid City. Broncs for Breakfast is new this year to the Black Hills Stock Show, and they had quite the turnout, and a great bunch of cowboys riding. There were a handful of locals, quite a few South Dakotans, and others from Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and even one cowboy from Iowa.

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Unlike rodeo saddle bronc, for this bronc ride a stock saddle was used. Those were sure some adrenaline-filled rides! Half the time the horses were airborne, and they sure were wild.

Great way to start the day.

Laura Elizabeth

A time to celebrate

IMG_5301.lowrezEvery day, winter moves a day closer and Christmas is right around the corner. Traditions and family habits mingle with new ways of doing things, in our new home in the Hills. The smell of cookies baking recalls last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the festive bustle of preparation adds a spice to otherwise ordinary activities. The hymns are sung in church with perhaps a little more gusto than during the rest of the year. “Joy to the World” rings loud in the sanctuary. We have such cause to celebrate! What a beautiful time of year.

IMG_5254.1lowrezOne tradition, though, almost got sidelined this Christmas because of space constraints, but the girls and I raised a cry of opposition – We live in a tiny house, but when it was suggested that we wouldn’t decorate a tree this year…Well, we didn’t hesitate to voice our opinion. So Saturday morning, Dad and I hopped in the truck and went out to cut us down a Christmas tree. It was a chilly, cloudy, breezy December morning, but the trees don’t mind. We were looking for a small tree, one that would sit on top of a table by our window, so it couldn’t be any more than three or four feet tall. We went out to a stand of trees near the highway, and started hunting.

IMG_5265.1lowrezWe cut down about ten trees, I think, trying to find one that would work. If an “environmentalist” had seen us, they probably would have burst an artery. But we called it “thinning.” These little stands of trees reseed and become overgrown in a matter of years, and responsible land maintenance would include thinning them or clearing parts of them completely in the next few years. Some environmentalist efforts in the Black Hills have included leaving the forest entirely alone until it is so overgrown that even animals don’t want to live there (the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, for instance).  So anyway, we chopped down a passel. There are literally millions of trees on the home place. There isn’t a shortage. There is an over-supply.

IMG_5253.1lowrezWhile Dad and I were looking for the perfect tree, Remington and Dove were nearby. The cold seemed to have gotten into Remington’s blood and made him frisky. He kept coming up close, then galloping off, bucking and kicking and racing circles through the open meadow. Little Dove kept to herself, but watched us. I don’t think the cold worked in her veins the same way it worked in Remington’s.

We took our findings back home and ran the choices by Mom and the girls. The final choice was a somewhat ugly but symmetrical tree, which fits perfectly by the window. We have a long, glorious memory list of trees that were much wider when in the house than they were outside of the house, trees that fell over, trees that we wired to the wall to keep them from falling over, trees that had two points (which one do you put the topper on?), trees with bald spots…This little ugly one fits right in with all the rest of our wonderful Christmas tree memories.

IMG_5332.1lowrezThat evening, we opened boxes of ornaments, like opening boxes of memories – Each one has some sort of memory tied to it. Whether it was a gift from a special friend, or whether it was Mom and Dad’s first Christmas ornament (they got married two days after Christmas, in 1989), or whether it was handmade at a girls’ craft evening, or whether we simply remember laughing at how funny certain ornaments look, each of the ornaments has a memory tied to it. We packed as many strands of Christmas lights on our little tree, as many as we could, and hung as many of the special ornaments as would fit. We made every twig earn its keep.

IMG_5288.lowrezOur Creche is my favorite of our Christmas decorations. When I was little, Dad started buying the pieces of the Creche for Mom, and gave them as Christmas gifts over several years. I loved it as a child, and I love it still – The pieces each look like a watercolor portrait, and the wistful, worshipful expression on Mary’s face is such a beautiful interpretation of the Virgin Mother.

IMG_5295.lowrezChristmastime is possibly my favorite time of year. It is a time to celebrate, to remember, to rejoice, to mourn, to sing and make music to God, to fellowship – Although the cultural view leaves Christ out of Christmas, many still don’t. And, if I may say so, those of us who don’t leave Christ out of Christmas have so much more cause to be joyful, to celebrate, to make merry, than those to whom Christmas is simply a time to spend money and receive presents. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the gift-giving, the tree, the lights, the other traditions. But without Christ as the reason for the celebrating, Christmas would be a dead holiday.  But it isn’t a dead holiday. At Christmas, Christians celebrate the coming of a living Messiah, who came to fulfill the promises in the Old Testament, the promise of a Person who will one day defeat and destroy Satan, the promise of a Blessing which all families of earth can enjoy, the promise of a Davidic King, a King who is reigning now and will reign forever and judge righteously, the promise of a Prince of Peace who will one day return. What a cause to celebrate!

Laura Elizabeth

 

Remington

IMG_5182.1lowrezUntil I look at my photography back at home, I’m never sure exactly how any of it turned out. And when I take my camera and start snapping pictures, I’m never entirely in control of what will be captured through the lens. I may have one idea in mind, but what the camera ends up seeing, or what I see when I look more closely at the subject, might take creativity a different direction altogether. The spontaneity of photography is part of what I find interesting and compelling.

IMG_5157.lowrezOn this unseasonably mild December day, I had to run into Hermosa to make a mail run, and on my way back, Dixie’s horses were standing in our pasture close to the highway. One of them is a beautiful paint gelding named Remington, and with the Black Hills as a backdrop, and scrubby golden grasses in the foreground, I thought a beautiful picture was in order. I pulled over and jumped out of my truck, grabbed my camera, and climbed over the drooping barbed wire fence. I figured on spending a little while poking around in the grass getting pictures of flower heads and then getting close enough to the horses to frame a nice picture. I’d never played with these horses before, and assumed they’d be shy.

IMG_5192.1lowrezNo sooner had I knelt in the grass to take a picture of some dried flower tops, Remington was headed eagerly towards me. Apparently the little pony, Dove, isn’t enough of a horse to qualify as a friend for Remington, since the other horse died a few months ago. For the next twenty minutes, Remington wouldn’t let me get far enough away from him to take a good picture. Whenever I knelt down in the grass to get pictures of grasses and things, he came right up next to me and nosed me in the back, or sniffed my head, or just got in my face. He seemed to want to know what I found so interesting, so close to the ground. I looked up once and he was staring right in my eyes, just watching me. If I walked off, he’d follow right behind me. If I stopped, he’d stop with me and wait contentedly. I feel a little sorry for Dove, but Remington just wanted a friend!

Sometimes photography yields things other than photographs.

Laura Elizabeth

Welcome home

This was my welcome home this evening. Frosty got smart and waltzed through the not-so-electric fence. In her case, the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence…in our front yard.

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I love coming home.

Laura Elizabeth

Back in the saddle

DSCN0968.1 Got back yesterday afternoon from a four-day trip to vaccinate calves and pregnancy check cattle. In total, we worked nearly 1000 cattle between Friday morning and yesterday evening, and we covered a lot of ground! I drove out to the permit west of Custer with Penny (Jack’s wife) on Thursday night to join the rest of the crew, and we were in the saddle by 7:30 the next morning.

DSCN0964.1It took a good couple of hours to round up the cattle, with a crew of about ten on horseback, a plane, and a Jeep, and once we had them in the corrals, sorting took another hour, and then four of us had to move about 50 yearlings to another part of the permit. Pretty sure I didn’t climb down off that horse until about 1:30 that afternoon. I haven’t ridden much at all lately, so I rediscovered some muscle groups I’d forgotten that I had…

DSCN0950.1Everything went quicker than expected Friday, so Saturday was a pretty easy day, packing up camp and heading to Wyoming, where Jack leases from a rancher over there. The heifer group (cows with heifer calves) were all out in Wyoming, 226 pair, and to get things going for Sunday, we brought in the herd Saturday afternoon. It was hot, dry, dusty, and we were ready to be done when we finished, let me tell you. It was a little stormy on the horizon, and we could see smoke from a couple of fires in the distance, from lightning strikes we assumed. But the cattle came in without incident, sorted nicely the next morning, and we were able to finish up another small group of cattle yesterday in the early afternoon. A good weekend’s work.

DSCN0960.1Working with ranchers and cowboys, I appreciate the gentleness with which they treat God’s creatures. We may just be getting steers ready for the meat market, or getting heifers ready to be bred, or preg checking a bunch of cows, but there is a gentleness and respect for the animals, and a desire to cause them the least trauma or discomfort. Rounding them up, running them through a chute, sticking them with needles, all that causes some level of stress to the animals, but the job is done quickly and efficiently. There is visible distress in the voices and on the faces of the crew when there is an animal suffering–A calf died at the permit, a “respiratory calf” that had a form of pneumonia, and the sober attitude had nothing to do with money lost on the calf, but everything to do with the little creature’s suffering. It is refreshing to see such gentleness towards God’s creatures–That gentleness is, I think, a sign of real strength.

DSCN0973.1The visit to Wyoming was eye-opening. I’d never been to Wyoming before, and it is some beautiful, desolate country. Green this year, but just so big–So much of it! And so open. The things that seemed to thrive were sunflowers, rattlesnakes, horned toads, and rabbits–Lots and lots of rabbits.

Being on horseback isn’t conducive to taking pictures, but I managed to sneak just a few. I missed one really fantastic photo opportunity, with the sun coming up over the corrals, and the dust rising like mist around the cattle, sifting through the fences, and partially obscuring the cowboys sorting the herd. It was really beautiful. But the dust was really awful.

I leave tomorrow morning around 5:30 to head to Nebraska for more vaccinating and preg checking, and I’ll get back on Thursday evening. Good to be back in the saddle, even if only for a week and a half.

Laura Elizabeth