Sunday, December 24, 2006

Montana Ranch Christmas Message

Written by Scott Wiley of Wiley Ranch.

The sun was just trying, to start up another day
There was a bunch of clouds up there, floating in the way.
Course that’s the way I like it, makes one wonder what to say
The prettiest of the all the colors, put up there on display.

The air had crispness, frost covering up the ground
Time to take care of the animals, start up another round.
The calm was almost deafening, the wind at last was still
I was in no hurry, seems I have time to kill.

All of God’s creatures, the small and mostly the big
Heard what I was doing, as I started up the diesel rig.
Calls were coming from all directions; it’s a good thing to hear
What I found on this day though, was music to my ear.

For once all of God’s creatures, were very fond of me
I even let that coyote go, thought best to let him be.
This is the day we celebrate, a very special birth
The day we should take stock in, our very own wealth and worth.

On this day many years ago, they experienced the coming of the Lord
It now has turned into presents and decorations, things we can’t afford.
The meaning of the sacrifice, and the hardships they endured
They are now all but forgotten, replaced by the advertiser’s word.

As I’m looking out and feeding, some of His amazing creatures
Too many are in their world, watching football double features.
If more people would just be thankful for the simplest of things
More of them would forget about the stuff, that ol’ Santa brings.

From working with the animals, a few things I have learned
To most people nowadays, these thoughts they will be spurned.
More time has been wasted, looking for the perfect present to buy
Time is what matters cause things change, with the blink of an eye.

I know my kids will remember, when I am grey and old
Times I spent doing things with them, not presents made of gold.
The hours I’ve spent working, the money I have earned
Is but a mere pittance, to what the kids have returned.

It’s just too bad that Santa can’t package time, and put it under our tree
That is what I’d wish for, with ribbons and bows just for me.
Cause I know that if there’s a beginning, there has to be an end
And you spend most of your life not knowing, what’s up around the bend.

If people just took the time, to spread a little cheer
Why then we could have Santa come, every day of the year.
Then we wouldn’t be confusing Jesus, with all this material stuff
We could then just celebrate Christmas, without the presents and fluff.

So this is what I ask of you, my advice you don’t have to heed
Go out and give some time this Christmas, to someone that is in need.
Spend some of it on children; their faces will start to glow
Take the time to say Merry Christmas, to someone you don’t know.

Write a letter to a soldier, serving and alone in a foreign land
Call up your good neighbor, and offer a helping hand.
Go visit with an old friend, even if you have little to say
Just giving someone some time makes it a special day.

Don’t forget your parents, and all those many relatives
Time is passing quickly, who knows how long someone lives.
Hold the door open, help the mother with her young
And when you have bitter thoughts, be sure and bite your tongue.

Time is the one thing, gold and millions can never buy
How you spend it is how you’re remembered, when you lay down and die.
A daily dose of being Santa, should be coming from our hearts
Giving time to others, is where the feelings start.

The cows and horses are now all fed; I better get back into the house,
I had better go spend some time, with the kids and the spouse.
Before I go, I’m going to stop and take the time to say
Merry Christmas to you all, have yourselves a wonderful day.

Scott Wiley 2006

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sheep Shearing Crew

Sheep Shearing Crew

The Chapel brothers, Travis and Wes, came to the ranch to shear our 240 sheep yesterday. It is earlier in the season than we usually shear but the weather was pretty good and they were available--working around the crew’s other full time jobs of teaching, driving wrecker and working concrete. They bring their own shearing plant with its four stations and back it up to our chute. Loud country music plays above the din of the electric clippers. The long accurate cuts of the shearers maintain the integrity of the three inch wool fibers. We raise Targhee sheep and they have wool graded as 62 and categorized as fine wool as compared to the coarse wool of crossbreds.

Travis’s girlfriend was conned into coming with him and she swept up the wool and sorted “bellies and dirty wool from fine” and readied the wool for stomping into sacks. They arrived right after breakfast and went through our sheep in time for midday meal at the ranch house. No holding back with a Chapel. These guys are fun loving and outgoing…none of them afraid of work.

It was a treat to see Pat Chapel drive down the bumpy lane to the sheep shed. The youngster with him is Daniel who at three years old is almost 80 years younger than his great grandfather Pat. It is clear that Daniel is a Chapel as he joins the crew of kids working the sheep. Each taking a turn “Mutton Busting” riding the sheep in the holding pens.

The Chapels have shearing in their blood and that is a story that could go on for a real long time. Chapel blood is thick and it doesn’t dilute out over the generations. Pat is 82; you might say he grew up with my folks and with eyes sparkling he gives me a hug. I remember Pat’s smile and some of the pranks he played on my parents when I was a young girl. He recalled the 35 years that he sheared sheep averaging 10,000 sheep a year…Some more, some less but a total of 350,000 in his career.

Our parents and our grandparents were sheep men and women in the 1920’s and 30’s and 40’s when Big Timber, Montana, was known as The Wool Capital of the World. Coming to Sweet Grass County from the old country (Norway), my grandfather Haug made his home in sheep country on Upper Deer Creek just up the road from Rick’s grandfather Halverson. When my father married my mother they spent their honeymoon summer living in a sheep wagon herding sheep on the grassy slopes of Livingston Peak--Shepherds and shepherdesses in a time when the sheep industry was in its heyday.

But those days are long ago and far away. That’s why story telling is so important. It is all about remembering and sharing the ranch family traditions.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wolf Saga Continues.

Wolf Saga Continues.
When I visit with you all…it is always the same question, “what ever happened with the wolves?’ I’ve left this ranch report unwritten far too long.

Rick and the “wolf guys” from the forest service were able to substantiate Cort (our cowboy’s) story. In fact a pack of wolves had killed a 600 pound calf and all that was left was a little piece of hide and a couple of bones. The lady-trapper came and set traps hoping to catch members of this rogue band and collar them so this wolf pack could be monitored. But they were too smart for the traps or too wary of the grizz in the area to come back for the left overs. (Grizz is spelled Ursus horribilis, but let the record show…Rick has yet to lose a calf to a grizzly.)

Soon it was confirmed. This is a splinter group of wolves that have migrated out of Yellowstone Park, members of the Chief Joseph pack. They were not part of the Taylor’s Fork pack that we have observed for the last year. The rangers tell us that the Park habitat is full…no more room for packs…and they are reproducing at an astonishing rate and so they are moving in to the surrounding areas. These wolves have been on a killing spree. They’ve almost put an upper Yellowstone Valley sheep man named Melin, out of business. Other calves have been killed on the Gallatin range and a mule was killed on the Madison River as well as a number of ranch dogs trying to protect their livestock. Now these rivers are not exactly near to each other. If you look at a map, you get the idea how far this pack travels in a matter of days.

Everyone offered advice. Shoot rubber bullets. Chase them with 4-wheelers. The advice most often given by locals was “shoot, shovel, and shut up.” Not advice Rick was prepared to take because shooting a wolf could lead to losing the grazing permit and worse…a possible jail sentence. The re-introduction of the wolves has been a success story when read from the point of view of the wolf. The wolf has all the rights on forest service and the rancher just has to get along.

But in the end, it was the lead that dusted their feet from Cort’s pistol when he caught them in the act that taught them to leave our cattle alone. The remainder of the summer was tense but we did not see evidence of further kiling. Cort was reluctant to leave the mountains unless we went up to relieve him. He rode every day; some days his grand daughter went with him. He knew exactly where the older single male wolf crossed the permit and he knew when that wolf found a mate later in the season. He skirted around the grizzley and her cub. He watched and listened.

Nineteen pair of cattle headed over the mountain going south. They trailed right through lush grass and mountain pasture…they didn’t take time to graze. They wanted out of there. We saddled up and trailed them back to the lower pasture. Nothing satisfied them. The calves did not put on their usual weight. The cows looked rougher than usual. Unseasonable high temperatures was not enough to account for the lighter than average calves.

When we went to gather the cows to bring them home the last days of September, it was wild. Cows were scattered in small bunches and when they were spooked, they ran like elk. Normally a cow dog is a big help moving cattle. One sound out of Rascal, our border collie, and the cow’s tails would go up in the air and they were on the fight. They would turn and chase that dog right back where he came from and then some. Then they would head off in a new direction. They were edgy. So were the pistol-packing cowboys.

The cattle were trailed to the corrals and held there while we waited for the 6 cattle trucks to arrive. When we counted we were two pair short. We knew we lost 3 cows to poison and one calf to the wolves, but what about the other 4?
Rick was confident that they would trail down out of the high country with the first bad storm and there was nothing that could be done until that time.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ranch Response to the Wall Street Journal

Ranch Response to the Wall Street Journal
Sent to Conor Dougherty,
Emailed: July 21, 2006

A Big Montana Hello to Conor,

I enjoyed reading your 7-7-06 article in the Wall Street Journal titled The Disappearing Dude Ranch. It was well thought out and carefully researched.

I wanted to let you know that dude ranches are not the only ranches facing the “setting sun;” cattle ranches in Montana and elsewhere are in the same situation. The ranch land is far more valuable than the cattle business it supports. We have bumped up against (and in some cases, neighbor) the Brokaws of the world. Newcomers are not known for being good stewards of the land. Jeff Phillips, of Sunset magazine raised Tom Brokaw’s ire when he reported the local sentiment toward out of state land owners. [Sunset February 2005: Home on the Range.]

We don’t look at the land as something we’ve inherited from our fathers. It’s like a trust—we’re really borrowing it from our children. 4th and 5th generation ranch families hang on in spite of the fact the economics of ranching here in Montana really don’t work anymore. Whether too ornery to admit it or too stubborn to quit, we’ve had to look at ways to pull together. As near as we can tell, we are the only ones doing what we’re doing…the way we’re doing it: as an agri-tourism cooperative. Or at least we’re the only group of cattle ranchers in the U.S. hosting guests cooperatively. It is common place in Europe where we borrowed the idea from their Farm Holidays program.

We call ourselves Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations and we would like to think that we will be the option for the next “century of summers” giving people a genuine appreciation of the value of the small Western rancher. We are family owned and family operated generational cattle ranches in Montana (15 to date) working together to host guests for what we call an “authentic” working ranch vacation. As you pointed out in your article, in the late 19th century, working ranches took in guests for extra cash…then evolved to where they existed solely to entertain dudes. A criterion for our group is that the primary focus remains production agriculture while opening our homes to folks who want to learn about our way of life is secondary.

Let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to have a cup of coffee with me or any of the ranch families on our web site!

We welcome you to experience the traditions of our ranching way of life in Montana, where myth has long been in partnership with reality.

Happy Trails,
Karen Searle

Karen at Montana Bunkhouses
Working Ranch Vacations LLC
P.O. Box 693
Livingston, Montana 59047

Office Phone 406-222-6101

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Battling Weeds

Battling Weeds

Just think of a ranch as a big garden—a very big garden. Hundreds of acres of land all requiring watering and weeding. Now after some of the driest spring months you can imagine, we just had one of the wettest 4th of July weekends on record and the cowboys riding bulls at the local rodeo were getting bucked off in the mud. All this rain makes it a little difficult to get the haying done, but we are happy for the moisture. The foothills are a shade of green that we have not seen for a few years and it sure makes us smile.

By this time last year we were already seeing fire crews make their way to Montana. Last summer a total of 12,000 firefighters fought fires around the state. If all those people had been living in one place, it would have made the 8th largest city in the state of Montana.

The dry seasons seem to have given an advantage to the weeds. The war on weeds consumes our energy and a big chunk of our pocketbook. Left unmanaged, invasive weeds negatively impact agriculture, wildlife and recreation. Weeds can reduce grass production by up to 90%. In Montana there were only a few spotted knapweed plants not long ago and today more than 5 million acres are infested. The noxious weed list contains more than 100 species.

Leafy spurge has invaded the Boulder River Valley and we are using everything in the toolbox to lower weed populations and that includes herbicides, bio-agents and sheep grazing. Our sheep are “spurge vacuums.” Can’t believe what they can do to a spurge patch in one day. After 4 days in the 40 acre river pasture, there was not a seed head to be found. It is a joy when something far exceeds your expectations. And the sheep are doing it time and again as we move them from field to field. Sometimes they say that sheep need to become accustomed to eating this noxious weed—that it takes a while to get used to eating it. But ours eat it with gusto.

The sheep are some of our favorite animals…they provide food and fiber and they also lower our cost of production because of the fabulously efficient way they control noxious weeds. The are the only animal that eats spurge and they eat it with gusto. They turn a horrible enemy of the West into the delicacy of lamb chops.

Pretty amazing story.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Welcomed, Autism and All.

Welcomed, Autism and All.
June of 2006
Joan Gilb of Tucson, Arizona, writes:

I’m sure everyone with a child of the spectrum knows how challenging vacations can be. My husband and I have opted for vacations with our son separately, as this seems to work best given his needs, plus it gives one of us some well needed respite.

This spring after a full year of home schooling, I decided to celebrate our success with a vacation I thought both my son and I could enjoy. We loaded up our mini-van and left Arizona bound for Montana. I chose Montana as our destination because I needed a big “carrot” to motivate and make this exciting for my son. For us, Montana is “big carrot” country as dinosaurs happen to be my son’s obsession, and Montana offers many museums and archeological sites. I also knew that I could find many dino museums along the way to keep each day exciting as well.

Now, what to do once we got to Montana besides dino museums? I chose a Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations. Montana Bunkhouses are working ranches that only take one family at a time. I thought this would help ensure the environment was not only safe but manageable for our special needs. It was my hope that a working ranch vacation might help expand my son’s interests. If all failed I knew we could at least spend our time on the ranch digging with the hope of finding a fossil!

The ranch family welcomed us, autism and all, and we chose a ranch that seemed to offer the widest range of activities in hopes that one may spark the interest of my son. But ranchers and autism? Could this possibly work? Would they expect my son to “cowboy up” when he screams over the sight of an ant? Would they have even a clue how to elicit conversation from him? Would I be able to find a moment of peace or would this be the vacation from you know where?

You’ve all been there. You know the fear I felt--the reluctance to let go and accept whatever the outcome. Accept the unpredictable nature of a vacation with autism. Accept the possibility of not being accepted.

What I failed to realize when choosing this vacation was that ranchers are skilled in reading and reacting to animal behavior. From their cattle to their sheep to their working dogs these folks live animal behavior. They’re not just about herding and roping and branding. They are about observing and understanding what an animal will do next, which way it will turn, whether it will run or stand still. They have honed these skills for their own survival. And how beautifully these skills can apply to a child with autism. Our host rancher has what we all know in the autism world as the “it factor”. He got it. He seemed to intuitively understand how to elicit the response or reaction he sought.

Needless to say, we had the best vacation ever! I was able to relax and revel in the joy of watching my son. Our ranch host , who we called Rancher Rick, (Rick Jarrett of Crazy Mountain Cattle Company) intuitively knew how to control the tempo and never missed a beat! My son rode on a horse and an ATV, helped irrigate fields, helped dig trenches with the tractor to name just a few activities. It is such a rare and wonderful feeling for me when someone takes a sincere and active interest in my child. Rancher Rick and my son truly enjoyed one another.

The ranch experience was a cathartic one for me. It afforded me the opportunity to sit back and reflect on the remarkable progress my son has made. I think it was when we were all herding sheep that it came to me. This scene and my participation was the physical manifestation, a snapshot so to speak, of my life since having a child. I am a shepherdess, guiding my little lamb to greener pastures. In doing so I’ve found myself in greener pastures as well.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Irrigating in Drought Years

Irrigating in Drought Years

We appreciate Rascal-dog and his antics. He comes on high at the first sound of the 4-wheeler. He believes it is his job to chase the birds and clear the way down the lane and over to the pasture where we are flood irrigating. By the time we get there he is frothing at the mouth from excitement and saliva plasters on his face and neck. He makes a beeline across the set leaving a rooster tail of water in his wake.

While it is not a matter of public record, we choose to believe our forefathers all had dogs with personality. The first generation came trailing thousands of cattle Lonesome-Dove-style from Texas and settling on creeks that are named after them. Reportedly the first to plant alfalfa in the county, our great grandparents had aspirations for sustainable agriculture. Generations that followed have split up and also added to the ranch to make room for their sons and daughters.

Now we are the ones continually watching the level of snow pack in the Crazy Mountains. A good water right is the life blood of a good ranch, irrigating not only pasture but also hay the lands. A water right filed in 1908 doesn’t even count. All of the first rights were filed in the 1800s. First in right, first in time. That’s why the lowest on the creek drainage usually has the first right because it was settled first. And the first permanent settler in Sweet Grass County made his stand on Duck Creek. In the late 1800’s the early settlers dug irrigation ditches by hand and by horse. It took diligence and persistence and knowledge. You have to admire them for their willingness to do the back breaking work.

Even now a lot of what we do in Montana summers is get ready for Montana winters. We hope to get one spring irrigation on pastures before we put the water on the hayfields. Some of the land is not really intended to be irrigated--never leveled or cultivated--but the native grasses really respond to water. Yielding early spring feed for the calves (before they go to the mountains for the summer,) and with any luck, fall pasture for the sheep after the lambs are weaned.

The focus is now on the alfalfa fields. With limited spring run off, the May “high water” mark in the creek was already down to what we would normally see in August . The wheel lines are operational but the seal is broken on the filter for the center pivot. Rick is trying to get it running but things don’t always match up--have to go back for parts. Lots of mainline to put together. Time is money and every drop of water counts.

Mother Nature and politics are beyond our control and it is wreaking havoc on our state of mind. It is hard to put a brave face on the drought this many years in to it. Depending on where we live in Montana we are facing the 5th, 6th, or even 7th year of drought. It is like Mother Nature turned her back on us after the hundred-year floods of 96 and 97. Some Montana counties have already been designated emergency drought areas due to below normal precipitation. It kinda takes the starch out of you--that and the volatility in the cattle market due to mad cow disease. Will the borders be open or closed? Will Japan allow us to export? There is so much beyond our control that it is making ranchers afraid to make decisions about selling or buying cattle and about stocking rates in general.

Rick’s usually happy go-lucky character is pretty darn serious these days. After years of problem solving his way through ranching, he says he is losing his starch. It will be a wicked fire season if this low moisture continues, not to mention what the lack of irrigation water will mean. He states simply, “Know the road, but don’t see the end.”

Monday, April 10, 2006

Rancher-Farmer and His Dog

The Rancher/Farmer's Dog

According to Rick, real farmers go south for the winter…while ranchers “give it a go” twelve months out of the year. Another way to tell the difference is the age and general condition of the tractor they are driving. A rancher’s tractor is not as nice and darn lucky just to have a cab. Rick ought to know…for the last few days he has been turning the ground black. A new way to plow snow he reports laughingly from his vantage point. He is playing rancher-farmer today on his March birthday as he edges further in to the second half of his century, celebrating by making furrows in the light sprinkle of snow.

Annually on a six or seven year rotation, farmers rest a portion of their alfalfa fields, till up the seed bed for a nurse crop of hay barley, control the weeds and then plant it back to a high yield mix of grass and alfalfa. It is a challenge to find time for farming in Montana because Springtime is fickle and sometimes Winter seems to melt into Summer with only a small window for tilling. Calving comes first and then lambing. Irrigating comes on the heels of lambing. Temperatures have been in the 40’s and 50’s these past few spring days and there is a forecast for the weather to turn nasty by the weekend. Rick fired up the John Deere. It is pulling hard and sucking fuel.

Our Border Collie Rascal is dashing to and fro along the edges of the field. The hawks are flying so high it is hard at first to make the connection between their soaring and his behavior. Rascal needs psychotherapy or a set of wings! But he is not so intent on bird watching that he does not notice when Rick powers down and pulls over to check the cows or makes his way to the barn to assist a heifer giving birth.

Last night when Rick pulled the tractor to the edge of the field and shut her down, Rascal knew it was time to put the sheep in the barn. Some times working and playing are the same thing on the ranch. And when it comes to putting the sheep in the barn, with Rascal on hand, it is playing. He covers all the bases. He does not “wrassle” or hassle them…he just puts them in the shed. He is such an interesting mutt. Whether he is trying to fly like a bird or playing hide and seek, he is an entertainer.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Shearing of the Sheep

Shearing of the Sheep

“Let me help Gramps!” shouts grandsons Jess and Cole as they crawl over the fence. They revel in pushing the sheep down the alley to the shearers, and they are darn good help. They work hard and they know what to do. Ranching has always been a way of life for these 5 and 6 year old boys. They’ve been wrestling sheep since before they learned to tie their shoes. They’ve learned how to read the sheep. They know how the sheep is going to react and they know how to position themselves. If a sheep goes in a corner, eventually it is going to come out and as Jess says “you’re gonna get nailed if you don’t move!” It is fun to watch them learn. It lays the foundation for an understanding of animal behavior that will help to keep them safe should they have the opportunity to pursue their lifetime goal of becoming ranchers.

It took the shearing crew of 6 men just three hours to shear our 250 sheep yesterday. The shearers get paid by the number of sheep they shear and bucks count twice (triple if they have horns.) We have 9 bucks so our tally was 259. Over supper the men commented that they thought our ewes were pretty big for Targhee ewes. It was the end of the day and they had already sheared two other flocks that day. Maybe that had something to do with it!

Rick recalls one year when it took 30 days to shear his dad’s 1800 sheep because it rained every day. It was the year he was a freshman in high school. They were shearing in a remote area on a creek named for his great grandfather who homesteaded in Sweet Grass County just across the river from what is now the home place. The homestead was primitive. No water, no electricity. They would haul water from the creek and clean the place up the best they could and then Rick’s mom, Betty, would set about to cook for the crew of men. It was standard to provide American crews all their meals and coffee breaks.

The shearers would arrive early in June and set up their shearing plant run on a gas operated generator. Rick and his father, Robert Jarrett, would get up at 4:00 A.M. and sort all the lambs from the ewes. There was a little shed up there that would only hold about 100 sheep. Montana’s sheep shearers belong to a union and they would not start until 8:00 am and by that time it would be raining again. They would shear the little bunch in the shed and the others outside would be too wet so Rick and his dad would get up the next day and try all over. They would run the sheep through chute again and sort off the lambs. It was a lot of work. It did not just happen. But they had no choice. When sheared wet, sheep give off an ammonia smell that eats away at your lungs. Over a period of time it destroys the protective lining of your lungs and can cause what is called “shearers pneumonia.”

The fleeces were tied and tromped into big wool sacks, 30 to a sack. The corral was down in a draw so they’d roll the wool sacks on big poles to keep them out of the mud. They’d tarp the sacks every day to keep them dry. It took a 40 foot semi-truck to haul the wool and they transported the 50 or 60 sacks to the wool house in Big Timber when the shearing was done. Rick remembers pulling the sheep wagon across the creek after all that rain and before he made it to the other side there was water coming in through the floor boards of his truck.

Everything was wet and muddy and it was tough trying to feed a dozen men under those conditions…no refrigerator or electricity. Had to do chores at the home place and then travel the 15 miles up to the sheep camp every day to feed the dozen or so men. Six shearers, a tier and a tromper as well as a man branding sheep and three or four guys pushing the sheep to keep the same numbers in each pen. The rain was troublesome …but there was green grass and there was water that year. It was glorious!

After years of feeding a crew in these primitive conditions, Betty Jarrett said that was enough of that. The next year Crazy Mountain Sheep Company hired a Mexican crew to shear sheep. The Mexican crew came with their own cook and they did their own tieing and tromping so it required very little additional labor. They’d pull in to sheep camp and within 15 minutes they would have killed a sheep, skinned it and thrown it up on the hood of the old bus to age. They would kill a mutton every couple of days while they were working and that is what they ate.

There were no designated mealtimes; the cook would have tacos or a stew simmering on the campfire at all hours of the day. The machines never stopped. When a shearer went to take a break, somebody else would take his place. They would shear as fast as they could because they got paid by the head. And they would often get rough by the end of the day when they started getting tired. Making a suggestion that they take more care would simply get them on the fight. So Bobby would mention it once and if they did not slow down he would simply open the gates and let the sheep out. They pretty much figured out that they had to be careful if there were going to shear for Jarretts.

In the 1920’s and 30’s and 40’s Big Timber, Montana, was known as The Wool Capital of the World. The sheep industry was still in its heyday when our parents were alive, but those days are long ago and far away. Now the sheep numbers are in decline after years of low commodity prices and predators. Consequently we see the demise of the infrastructure of the sheep industry in the United States. Slowly there are fewer crews available to shear and fewer slaughter houses and less American lamb sold in grocery stores. It is a vanishing way of life.

The sheep industry was a magnificent industry that is slowly dieing. It is important for our grandkids to be a part of this while they can…staying home from school to help with shearing. Ranch work helps kids define their work ethic and builds character. Yesterday the kids made a difference in the workload and they certainly made it more entertaining. They may be the last generation of kids to remember when there was an American sheep industry. We need to be sure they know the stories of their granddad and his forefathers…not only telling the old stories but making new ones where the kids play a role.

When you stop to think about it that way, you realize why story telling is so important. It is all about remembering and sharing the ranch family traditions.