Episode 3 - September 6
The summer came and is now practically gone here in Montana. For the most part, the days are still relatively warm (in the sun), but there's frost most nights with temperatures rarely reaching above 40. I am assured by all that I will get to see my first snowfall of the season (and probably my second, third, and fourth) before my departure at the end of October. I suppose it will be somewhat refreshing, seeing snow on the mountains after the summer scald.
The summer seemed to fly by. We spent most of July and August haying in the 80- and 90-degree heat. Most of our haying is done with horse-drawn machinery, including the cutting, mowing, and baling. The only thing we use a modern-day vehicle for is the picking-up bit. I actually enjoyed it, for the most part. There's something about bucking 50-pound bale after 50-pound bale onto a flatbed trailer in the noonday sun covered from head to toe in sweat and hay and dirt that makes you feel like a real woman.
We also had a few births here on the ranch. Unfortunately (I think), I did not actually get to see any of them, but I did get to see one foal 15 minutes post-birth. When I got down there, I was sure he was dead. He just seemed to be a skinny bag of bones lying at his mother’s feet. But then I saw him move a bit, lift his head up, glance around, and lie back looking exhausted. His poor mum didn't quite know what to do with him—instead of nuzzling or comforting him, she looked at him and gave him a swift kick in the head. (The mother can't be blamed, really—she lost her own mother in childbirth and was bucket-raised; she just never had a chance to learn.)
The foal was fine, though, and after a few minutes we all got to witness his first-ever attempt at standing, which was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen. After a good five-minute struggle with himself, he finally managed to get all four legs straight and somewhat underneath him. There he stayed, legs splayed and face shocked, for the next five minutes, not moving a muscle lest he lose his balance again. He finally got the courage to move, and spent the next few hours stumbling around drunkenly and trying to nurse on every part of his poor, confused mother except the right part. He eventually found the teat.
But hay season is done and gone, and we are slowly moving on into fall, when we will ship out the cows that have been grazing on ranchland all summer. Fall chores include splitting wood, taking down the garden, mending fences, and in general just winterizing the place. Everyone here says that fall is by far the most beautiful season. The elk will soon start descending from the mountains for mating season, and the bucks will spend their days bugling and fighting in hopes of finding the perfect woman. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.
The forest fires have also come and gone. We only had one this year that almost caused us to evacuate the ranch. It was pretty amazing to look up and see a huge, black plume of smoke rising over a mountain so close to your home. At one point, there were actually burning pine needles and ash falling in our yard, and it smelled of campfire 24 hours a day. But the gods smiled down on the B Bar, and about a week after the fires started so did the rains. For about two weeks straight, the usually blue skies would turn gray at about four o'clock, the wind would pick up, and the rain would come down in buckets, nearly extinguishing the fire. So once again the B Bar evaded destruction.
That’s pretty much all the exciting (or non-exciting) news I have for today. I've been doing a bit of welding lately, and made a box and a wine holder. My mother arrived in town earlier this afternoon and is currently passed out cold on the bed in the Best Western. We'll spend the next four days driving all over southwestern Montana, eventually ending up in Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons. It’s nice to have somebody here who’s as excited about the mountains as I was when I first got here—it’s making me appreciate it all over again!
Okay, over and out. I hope you're all well and enjoying your transitions into fall.
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