Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Fall is in the air. It should be since it is almost October in Minnesota...but for a while it didn't seem like it was coming. We've had a fairly cool and very dry summer, and then a really warm Fall. I'm confused. The plants are confused too.

My roses have been budding, but don't really's ok, they are still pretty.

I don't have a lot of cosmos this year, but I sure love the ones I do have.

I've been taking a lot of flower pictures for my photo of the day lately, just because I know they won't be here much longer. We had frost on our roof this morning. Glad that I got my hibiscus plant back inside in time!

The asters and mums are blooming. But the trees really haven't started turning colors yet...much later than normal!

Billy's playing Fall baseball on Sundays. Their jersey's are yellow, not the typical Eden Prairie red or black...I like it, it seems sort of, well, fallish.

Brian has a couple of weeks of fall soccer left. He's been playing goalie a little bit....and doing a pretty good job at it!

And then there is football. What says Fall more than football? Billy is having a lot of fun with it this year. How'd my boys get so big?

I did find a couple of nice maples last weekend...this last picture says that Fall is really truly coming, maybe it's already here....

...saying goodbye to September and hello to October pretty much seals the deal.
Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Cattle Drive - Days 6 & 7

Click here for The Cattle Drive - Day 5

Friday morning, our last full day in Montana. We got up early for no apparent reason. It was cold, windy and rainy. It cleared up after lunch time and the cowboys went out to bring in the horses.

That was a sight that made the trip worth while all in itself! We found our horses and saddled up to get ready for some competition. Eighteen green horns would have their chance to use their new skills in a fun cowboy penning. One of the wranglers brought me a new horse for the day...and even better horse than "Big Al". His name was "Dandy"...and he sure was!

We all lined up and drew numbers to see which team of three we would be on. Dad was teamed up with the older gal Polly and one of the Irish girls, Therese. My team mates were the non-rider Frank from Boston and the go-getter Irishman Ciaran.

Team penning was fast and furious fun! There were 20 steers in the corral. They were divided into 10 pairs, marked with numbers that were painted on their rumps. As the team crossed the starting line, the starter called out a number. The team had to sort out those two steers and pen them in a small pen that was set up in the corral.
Three of the wranglers went first to show us how it all worked. Riding hard and fast into the herd, finding their pair, separating them out and driving them to the pen. Whew.

Each team had two tries. The times were added together. Each attempt had a 4 minute time limit, most teams went over that time. Here is my dads team on their first run.

He rode hard and fast...but didn't get much help from his team. There were a lot of factors involved in the outcome....the steers, the horses, the riders, and most of all a lot of luck!

My team went out with a plan. Frank, the non rider, would block the gap in between the pen and the corral, Ciaran and I would round up the steers. It worked pretty well...we had a really fast time! Was it for real, or was it just a fluke??

Here's round two for my dad's team....

...they had some troubles gettin' er done. But still had a lot of fun.

And then it was our turn to prove to everyone that it wasn't just a fluke.

Same plan...Ciaran and I did the sorting and herding them to the pen.

We got them in without a hitch...except for the extra one....I ran that one out and got myself back to the pen in a hurry....

And the champions are...a Minnesota girl, and Irishman, and a green horn from Boston.

Our times for both runs were about a minute each. There was an awards ceremony, we were each awarded a trophy and bragging rights. We even got to take a victory lap, pretty exciting for a then 40 year old housewife!

And even though it's kind of team penning trophy is still one of my most prized possessions.

With our fast times, we challenged the ranch hands to take their second run. They couldn't let us beat them could they?

They went out hard and fast, trying their best. The fans got into the competition and helped by spooking the steers when they got them to the right end of the pen. There was a lot of hooting and hollering and a lot of laughs. When all was said and done, their final time was 2:13....ours....are you ready? 2:04....truly the champs! Oh, those poor cowboys got some ribbing. But it was all in good fun.

The Montana skies saved their best show for last. The sunset on our final night was spectacular!

For our last night, the Nelson's put on a steak fry and dance for us, the cowboys, and their neighbors. Almost 150 people came for the steak fry. The band played until almost 1:00 a.m. After the guests left, the cattle drive pals enjoyed one last roaring fire, some singing and the telling of tall tales into the wee hours of the morning.
We woke up to cold and windy temps of 39 degrees. It had snowed in the mountains where we had come from. We packed up our gear for a final time, warmed up with some hot coffee, and said our goodbyes.
Here's my friend cowboy Amos. After spending a week with everyone, they truly did become friends.

Then it was time to board the bus for the 2 hour drive to Billings. The Irish weren't singing as many songs on the ride out. I think that the bus ride was the roughest one of the whole week! We arrived at the airport at noon, flew out at 2:00 pm and were in Minneapolis by 5:00 pm.

Our week in Montana pretending to be cowboys was done, but the adventure we had together would live on. It won't be forgotten.....ever.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Cattle Drive - Day 5

Click Here for The Cattle Drive - Day 4

All of today's photos were taken by Mark MacLeod of Highlander Photographics except where noted.

The sunrise on this particular morning was a miracle that can't be captured with photographs or words. The skies were big, blue and clear.

Morning light on our tents. Time to pack up and hit the trail...

...but not until our breakfast of steak and eggs out on the plains in Montana style.

A couple of the wranglers had talked about the issues my horse "Sporty" was having and they decided that I should have a different horse for the day. I got to ride one of the wranglers ranch horses, his name was "Big Al." "Big Al" was a fast walking but mellow and gentle horse, a pleasure to ride. Dad and "Roany" got along great. "Roany" had some sort of walking horse in his blood that showed up in his smooth rocking chair gait. It was going to be a wonderful day.

Driving the steers across the plains was easy and relaxing. So much open space and sky! The hills of the snowy mountains are behind us.

There couldn't be a better way to experience Big Sky country than seeing it from the back of a horse. It was sunny, cool and windy. Chapstick was our friend for sun burnt and wind burnt lips! I can't imagine a bigger or bluer sky. It was so peaceful and quiet, hearing only hoof beats and the sound of the wind.

Dad on "Roany"...enjoying the ride. It was an ideal time for chatting as well as a time for being alone with your thoughts. The time and space called for both.

The plains were rocky and barren because of the drought. There was one muddy watering hole along the way. Even the trough at this windmill pump was dry.

Riding across the open plains with only steers and cowboys in could have been yesterday or 100 years ago. Truly a timeless experience.

Over wide open spaces with the sun in our faces, we traveled across the heart of Montana on the back of a horse.

We moved from the plains to a long straight road. The steers were tired, we were tired too. Almost there.

Photo by Pat Young
We arrived at the Twin Coulee Ranch at about 2:00 pm. Time for lunch and a hot, outdoor shower. The wind was strong across the plains. Setting up camp was a challenge with the wind! The rest of the afternoon we had some free time. We spent some time driving the team of mules with cowboy Amos. It was easy to imagine the wagon trains heading out to the old West....well, without the Indians and the weeks of hardship.

Simple sites like saddles on a rail fence were reminders that we weren't in Minnesota anymore.

After another Montana sized meal of BBQ Ribs, beans and potato salad we were treated to another night of live music...

...and some much needed rest. All this cowboying is tiring work!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Remembering Dad

I decided to take a break from the cattle drive posts today to honor my dad. I was going to do a longer post, but just didn't feel up to it was one year ago today that dad passed away.

My dad loved his family, he loved the land, and he loved to work. He died while working on his beautiful land.

After a month or so of not feeling well and many, many tests, a routine check of his pacemaker showed that the battery had gone out. It had gone out on the day that he had started feeling poorly. When he found out that was what the problem was, and that it was fixable, he had a new lease on life. He was excited to get started on a fencing project. He was in the woods just a few days after he had the operation that replaced his pace maker. He was busy clearing some trees and removing old wire to put in that new fence line....and that was where he died. Doing the work that he loved.

It has been a tough year of loss and of change. We weren't ready for him to leave can you ever be? But I do find a lot of comfort in that he was in a peaceful, beautiful place that he loved, that he was excited about his project, that he didn't suffer....

....and that he fully lived until the day he died. He wouldn't have had it any other way. We love you dad.