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The Lost Prairie Chronicles

  #1  
Old 02-01-2014, 10:18 AM
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Default The Lost Prairie Chronicles

These are the true stories of the St.Marie Family and children growing up in Lost Prairie Montana. School was in a one-room schoolhouse down the valley, so this is a true taste of Americana.
I'll post one of them, and if there's any interest, I'll post more of them.


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The Lost Prairie Chronicles #10
The time isn't too hard to pin down. Lyn remembers the wildflowers were in the fields and she could still see the snow on Meadow Peak, so it must have been near the end of April. There was new life in Lost Prairie with calves, colts, chicks who were running around in the barnyard. The Barnswallows were in the valley but it was too early for them to begin building their odd, mud nests tucked up under the eaves of the barn.


Everything was green and Rosemary was usually outside into everything, everywhere and all at once. At age three, closing on four she was already sitting on her first pony and fearless enough to put her Mother's heart in her throat.

Our stud at that time was a typical stud horse. He tolerated nothing from the geldings and raised a ruckus whenever they got too close to his corral. He had the entire barn and a large corral during the daytime and, after the herd was closed in the barnyard at dusk, he was let out into the pasture through a gate from his corral. He spent his summer nights grazing the green timothy and had access to the barn through his corral should it rain. I don't really remember any of our horses wanting to use the barn for anything other than morning graining. Inclement weather would find them in the jackpines rather than the barn, but then they were Montana horses, not blanket-covered barn-kept horses.

Most stud horses lead a solitary life and he was no exception, but............ he did have a friend, and an odd pair they were. In the barn and in the pasture at night you would see them together. Him pacing or walking, she waddling or running to keep up. She was a two year old goose!.... and they were virtually inseperable. But this one isn't about him or her. Its about Rosemary, Shonkin and the oddest, most heart-stopping incident in our lives.

That morning Rosemary had wolfed down her breakfast and headed for the barnyard. The studhorse had been put in his corral, the horses had been grained and the barnyard gate flung open with the whole herd thundering out into the pasture for a morning run. It was a brisk morning with clear skies over Lost Prairie, and Rosemary was headed for the stocktank to play with her dolls and toy horses. I sort of remember them being called "My Little Pony" or something near that. Odd how little girls in particular are absolutely enchanted with horses, and Rosemary was among the most enchanted of them all.

It was a Saturday morning so I didn't have to go to town. I had done most all of the chores that Lyn would typically do during the week, grain the horses, pitch fresh hay in the barn stalls, gather eggs and fill the stock tank. It was warming up and I went into the house to take a break. I looked out the kitchen window into the barnyard and noticed Shonkin had come back in and was laying on his side in the sun. For those of you who keep horses you know this is a common thing. The rest of the herd was in the pasture somewhere out of sight. I sat in the kitchen with Lyn pouring her tea as I sipped a cup of coffee. As fate would have it I felt the urge and rose to go to the restroom and............ thus began a short series of events neither Lyn nor I will ever forget.

The downstairs bathroom window also looked out into the barnyard and standing there I gazed to my left and there was Shonkin, still laying on his side with Rosemary laying face down on top of his ribcage, spread eagled and hugging him! I was very fortunate not causing some damage considering the speed with which I zipped up! I gave a fast explanation to Lyn as I ran through the kitchen and out the back door. I slowed at the fence and spoke quietly to Rosemary. "Punkin....... don't move. Stay still till Daddy gets to you." Her head came up, looking at me not understanding what was wrong. "No, punkin! (whispered) Don't move."
With my hand on the gate I heard a sound I had never dreaded before that moment. The herd! The herd was on the high run from the pasture! Have you ever thought you felt the ground shake? It probably wasn't, but at that moment it felt like the whole earth was moving... and.... I wasn't going to be in time. They were already at that 18 foot wide barnyard gate! I remember hearing Lyn scream somewhere behind me.

The barnyard was already dried out from days of the early spring sun and the dust was thick as the herd of 26 thundered around and past Shonkin and Rosemary. I ran through the dust to where I knew she had been and was greeted by a "thank God" sight I'll never forget. Shonk was still laying there, quivering, flicking his ears. raising his head without shifting his body until I snatched Rosemary from her perch atop him! He immediately bolted upright and shook the dust from himself like a giant dog.

Shonkin won a special, permanent place in our hearts that morning. From that day on his morning grain was doubled, and he was the one full sized horse that Rosemary rode besides her ponies. Yep...... Rosemary has never changed. She's as fearless a spitfire today as she was back then. Such were many of her parental heart-stopping early days in Lost Prairie.

Rosemary on a stump giving Shonkin some apple.

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  #2  
Old 02-04-2014, 02:37 PM
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I love your overall style of writing and telling stories. You have all of these different chronicles posted throughout the forum. Have you considered taking the time to piece them all together into a book or something? Create a website around it and start posting these on your own family blog. I love the beauty of words. A picture is worth a thousand words, but the right words can paint a thousand pictures. I can see the dust settle in my own mind as a sigh of relief rushes across the face of someone I care about. I look forward to reading more of your stories and tales.
 

Last edited by rob303; 02-12-2014 at 02:37 PM.
  #3  
Old 02-05-2014, 05:30 PM
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Thank you, and I've been writing the Chronicles for a long time now, and I'm not quite done, but my Son is managing things for me. I'll explain a little later, but both of my wrists are shot now and even typing is difficult, so my Daughter usually transcribes things for me.


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The Lost Prairie Chronicles #2
I don't remember the year. Maybe 1979 or 80, but it doesn't really matter, does it. It was midway through the hunting season and 6 in the morning. I took the 30/30 from the rack and, dressed in a heavy down coat and wearing Sorel boots I stepped out of the back door into the 15 degree air.
The snow was deep and crunched under my feet as I wrapped a woolen scarf around my mouth to temper the cold air I was breathing in.

It was going to be a crystal clear day and I didn't really feel like hunting, so I took my pack of dried goodies and walked toward the back fenceline.
We have an abundance of large Blue Spruce around the place, so having crawled through the fence I unrolled my emergency poncho, laid it out and sat on a short log under the low branches of a large Spruce not 20 feet from the fence. I'm sure it wasn't, but it seemed warmer under there.

Funny how odd thoughts go through your head when you're sitting alone under a tree like that. I was thinking of the previous year when I was on the ridge above Lost Prairie doing the same thing......... Sitting under a low tree near a logging road. I had left the truck far below and off the road before walking up the ridge. Now, sitting quietly with my rifle, I could hear low voices coming toward me. Two hunters passed not 40 feet from me and didn't see me at all. Amazing how the human eye seems to see anything moving, but not standing still.

They continued up the logging road and, to my utter amazement, a small doe was following them! This shouldn't be a real surprise as deer are known to walk behind those hunting them, and this little lady was doing just that. I'm sure she was a yearling, but just as smart as any older doe.
She wasn't right on the road, but off to the side. My side. She didn't want her tracks to be seen when they came back down. She came within an easy 10 feet of me and stopped, ears up, well aware that something was there but she couldn't see me.

Deer are colorblind and unless you move, they won't see you at all. In this case I was downwind so there wasn't and scent for her to focus on. Its a fact that a deer will stand still, watching hunters move in the distance, but as soon as the movement stops....... they bolt. If they can't see you they will run.

This little lady stood there pitching her ears forward, left, right and sniffing the air, but she still couldn't see me sitting there stock still. I softly spoke a single word.... "hi", and she quivered until I moved my head and she was gone in a flash of scattering snow powder.




I was getting a bit cold sitting there under that tree by the fenceline and I'd just about decided to head back to the house for coffee when I heard a noise up and to my right. A beautiful cow elk came rushing down the hill directly toward me. She stopped not 50 feet from my seat under the tree and began turning in a wide circle.

Crashing down that hillside came a very impressive bull elk! Beautiful rack and all excited as he circled the cow, pushing her with his huge neck. To my utter amazement an elk calf came stumbling down the hillside, running in circles around both the cow and the bull. This is not usual at all. Those youngsters are always gone by this time, but not this one, and he wasn't happy.

Despite the rack and size of that bull I couldn't bring myself to shoot so after watching them for another 5 minutes I crawled out from under the tree, tails went up and the three of them crashed through the jackpines and out of sight. I went into the house and told Lyn what I'd seen, but I'm not sure she believed it. Not a usual occurrence at all.

The next day we went to town with the kids, and upon returning home I went around the back to unlock the gate and there at an old alfalfa bale were all three of them! Lyn absolutely couldn't believe it. A bull will most always drive a yearling away from a cow, but not this guy.
Looking at the three of them I was very glad I'd not taken that shot.
 
  #4  
Old 02-05-2014, 10:38 PM
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I love these chronicles! Very cool.
 
  #5  
Old 02-06-2014, 07:45 AM
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Thanks, Pat.
Many of these have comments and photos added by my children in preparation for publication sometime down the road.

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The Lost Prairie Chronicles #3
"Spar Beacon" was a Morgan stud horse. Better yet, he was our Morgan stud horse. Gorgeous and exciting under saddle, a deep chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, it took a rider to handle Spar Beacon, but there was a drawback. He came from the Loney Ranch and Lyn had Mischief, one of his daughters. Mischief was a natural pacer and a singlefooter.... A rare combination and we loved riding her.

When I was negotiating the price on Spar Beacon Laurie Loney told me about something I had to do if we were going to keep him. Whoever owned Spar Beacon had to employ a buggywhip to his hindquarters on, or about the first of every month. I stared at Laurie and told him he had to be joking. "Nope. You're going to have to make up your mind to do it if you want to keep him." (I made a mental note to never lay a whip to that stud horse.)

We loaded the Beacon into the trailer and headed home in great spirits. This was a gorgeous animal. Leading him to the barn he danced and came off the ground a few times but that only made him all the more appealing. It was the 25th of April.

(Spar Beacon, standing in a hole!)

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The Beacon was given a 1 gallon bucket of molasses oats every morning and then 1/3rd of a bale of Timothy hay. He was in great shape and I couldn't wait to get a saddle on him. I led him out of the barn and tied him off to one of the big "U" rings on the end of a 1,000 gallon propane tank. I tied him there out of pure laziness, not wanting to walk from the barn to the tack room and back again.

At that moment my own saddle horse, Shonkin, walked by in the barnyard. I heard Lyn shout and I spun around to see that the Beacon was upset about Shonk being nearby, but that's not what Lyn was hollering about. Upon a closer look I could see that Beacon had reared up and actually lifted that 1,000 gallon propane tank right off the concrete piers!! The tag lines we used on horses were 1" diameter nylon rope with a heavy steel hasp. Anything lighter would have broken, but I was astounded at the strength of that stud horse. Absolutely amazing.

I did get him saddled and I remembered something else Laurie had told me. The Beacon was a head tosser. Enough so that he had bloodied Laurie's nose more than once until he was rigged with a tie-down.

Stepping on the Beacon was an experience. I tried to get him to line out but he was a natural side stepper. That means he did track a straight line, but at an angle, all the while bowing his neck, snorting, lifting his hooves high and tossing his head against that (damned glad I used it) tie-down. Yep. The Beacon was an exciting ride. Time to unsaddle him and give him a hot rub-down, so I unsaddled him, slipped his bridle (leaving the headstall) and went to the tack room to put up the saddle.
I heard two screams. One was Shonkin and the other was Lyn.

Shonk had walked back into the barnyard and got too close to that stud. Beacon had jerked sideways, snapped that steel snap, grabbed Shonkin by the neck behind the poll and slammed him right to the ground!
Shonkin was 17 hands tall! The Beacon was an average Morgan 15 hands! Incredible!

(Dad on Shonkin @ 1979)
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It took me half an hour to get a rope on the Beacon once I got a very shaken Shonkin out of the barnyard gate. What a day............

Its the morning of the first of May and all of the horses had been given their oats and turned out into the pasture. Time to grain the Beacon. I walked into the barn and toward his stall with the oat bucket, and as I passed behind him he lashed out with the off-side rear hoof! I went to his head and steadied him, stroked him and put his oats in the trough. As I got near his hindquarters he lashed out again! I tested him 3 more times with the same results before I went into the house to call Laurie Loney.
"Didn't pay attention, did ya." he said. You were SERIOUS??? "Dead serious. If you want to keep that horse you're going to have to use that buggy whip on his hindquarters until he stands still and trembles".
I thought *the hell I will*

Three days later and 6 more episodes with the kicking he nearly got me. It was close and as high as my hip. I got the buggywhip. It took some 15 smacks before he did exactly what Loney said he'd do. He stood and trembled. He behaved until the following first of the month when he did the same thing and I couldn't bring myself to whip that horse again, so I sold him back to Loney at a loss.
Lousy start to a spring in Lost Prairie that year, but things were going to get better. Much better.
 
  #6  
Old 03-12-2014, 08:13 AM
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The Lost Prairie Chronicles #12
A Love Affair
The middle of January is always cold in Lost Prairie, and at 5am and 5 degrees this particular morning was no exception. Lyn Bundled up, pulled on her gloves, wrapped her scarf around her neck up to her eyes and trudged to the barn through the deep, newfallen snow.

It wasn't much warmer in the barn, but the audible lowing of recognition warmed her heart. Posie was a gorgeous mix of Brown Swiss and Jersey, and her huge, soft eyes watched Lyn close the door, pick up her five gallon bucket, her milking stool and approach her. She shifted, bobbing her head as Lyn gently stroked her muzzle. Posie belonged to Lyn as much as Lyn belonged to Posie. Filling the crib with fresh alfalfa, Lyn added a gallon can of honey oats to the hay and received a gentle nudge from Posie for her trouble.
Placing her stool, she removed her scarf and leaned into Posie, resting her cheek against the warm hide. Little puff clouds appeared as Lyn softly breathed into the icy air of the Barn.

This was a labour of love, and both seemed to know it. Posie gave Lyn an easy five gallons of milk a day, thus supplying the wide spread neighbors with milk.
Spring and summer found Posie out in the pasture mixed in with the horses. She brooked no foolishness from the horses and responded immediately to Lyn's call morning and evening. Winters were spent mostly in the barn or barnyard sometimes standing stock still in the rare patch of winter sun. Snow drove her into the barn, unlike the horses that visited the barn only for their morning grain in the stalls. The horses in Lost Prairie seldom used the barn in even the most inclement weather preferring the sanctuary of the dense Jackpines to being indoors. During certain parts of the winter when it was the coldest it was not uncommon to see them in the Jackpines with a quarter of an inch of ice covering their backs, withers and flanks, walking carefully so as not to crack the ice, frosty moustaches on the hairs of their lips and eyelashes. That layer of ice actually provided an insulation. Yes, Posie did love Lyn and it was reciprocal. Then came that spring when Lyn required surgery.

She subsequently spent five days in the hospital after her surgery and when I drove her to town it crossed my mind........ "What about Posie?" Don't worry. She'll be just fine with you. So I gave it no further thought that morning.

That evening I saw Posie enter the barn as was usual. Bucket, stool, alfalfa, grain,..... I was all set, but Posie wasn't. She chewed her alfalfa and swung her head to the rear, peering at me and wondering what I thought I was doing. No Lyn..... no milk.
And so it went for the first three days. By that time I began to worry about the possibility of mastitis, but Posie wasn't interested in me or my worries. It was going to be Lyn or nothing.

On the fourth day she gave me almost a gallon, but it was grudging and I could tell she was extremely uncomfortable. On the fifth day, a half gallon and so it went for another two days. At this point even Lyn was getting very concerned, but she was due to be released the next day.
Coming home that morning was an experience I'll not forget. I had just turned up the drive from the county road, Lyn leaned out of the window and hollered "Posie!!" From across the pasture, up came Posie's head, a loud bellow of recognition and there she came on the high-run through the horse herd, scattering them in all directions, distended bag swinging left and right losing huge squirts of milk with every swing!

I jumped out of the truck, ran to the barn, grabbed the stool and bucket just beating Posie back to where Lyn was standing. Gentle shoving, mooing and jostling Lyn around had me momentarily concerned, but a moment later Lyn had her cheek against Posie's side and was milking a river from her.
The rapport between the two of them is something I'll keep in my fondest memories for as long as I live.

Ma's old Milkcow Posie


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  #7  
Old 03-13-2014, 12:46 AM
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Great story and it realy tells our bond with animals. It really is amazing! I know that our dog loves my wife very much and I am secondary at best. But she always waits up for me at night making sure that I come through the door. She won't come over and greet me, but she will eye me from the couch and her tail will swish a little.
Very cool and thanks for sharing as always.
 
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Old 03-14-2014, 11:53 AM
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Thanks Pat. Life in the mountains can be exciting at times. Mostly it's fence repair, milking, trimming feet, worming etc. ad nauseum.

#21
Laying in bed, from under the covers I could still tell that the outside temperature had dropped. Resisting the urge to stay there keeping warm with Lyn, I gently rolled to the side and out of bed. Gathering my boots and pants I quietly eased through the door and into the hallway. Listening at each door, I assured myself that the kids were asleep. Down the hall to the kitchen, turning on the counter light, starting the coffee pot, looking out the kitchen window into the barnyard I then dressed quietly and stoked the firebox. Sid Hartha raised his head from his bed beside the firebox, but made no move to disentangle himself from the blanket. It was cold and he's no fool. Head back down on his paws and a soft sigh.
The screen door reminded me it needed it's hinges oiled and squeaked a quiet protest as I gathered three more Larch logs from the porch for the fire. Even the firebox doors made a noise that seemed louder than it was as if to point out how quiet the rest of the world was at that hour.

Opening the flu and getting the old girl putting out some heat, I dressed and poured the coffee. Pulling the curtain by the door aside just enough to let the light illuminate the outside thermometer I could see the mercury hovering at 32 degrees. Not really all that cold for an early morning in May. One cup of coffee, more in a thermos and Lyn's dried fruit in a small package, I pulled on my down coat, took the 30-30 from the rack, stuck the .41 magnum revolver in the holster behind my right hip, shut down the flu, turned off the light and headed for the barn.

It was cold enough for me to see my own breath in the light over the barn doors. Entering the dimly lit barn I heard Shonkin utter a low nicker at my approach. A few of the other horses that were in the barn stuck their heads out of their stalls and watched me with ears forward and keen interest. *What the heck is he doing here this early?* No time for grain or alfalfa for the rest of them, but I poured a gallon can of Molasses Oats into Shonk's crib along with a couple handfuls of alfalfa. He ate as I slid his saddle blanket over his back, swung the high-cantle saddle into place and reached under his chest for the cinch. Knowing his favourite trick, I waited for him to exhale and quickly pulled the cinch tight. I loosely hooked up the rear circingle and checked the cinch for tightness. He swung his head to the rear, looking at me he paused in mid-chew and shook his head in appreciation as I relented and loosened the cinch by one notch. If a rider can't stay on a horse with other than a overly tight cinch he doesn't belong on the horse.

Waiting for him to finish eating, I slipped the 30-30 into the leather scabbard, tied it to the off side with the saddle strings and straps, put Lyn's dried food package into the saddle bag, tied my older lariat to the saddle, attatched Shonk's breast strap to the D rings and sat on a bale till he had eaten all of the oats he could find in the crib.
I could tell he was faking it when he began pushing the hay around. He was loathe to leave that semi-warm barn, but I slid his bridle over his ears and the low-port spade bit into his mouth. Shonkin did not need a spade bit at all, but he actually enjoyed fooling with the spade wheel with his tongue so I allowed it. Tightening the headstraps, I turned him around and swung the barn door open.
By this time is was barely breaking day and we could just see the fences, the gate and the trail heading north. I paused looking at the treeline, swung up into the saddle and squeezed Shonk's ribcage with my calves. We began at a slow walk in the awakening daylight with Shonk blowing clouds of warm air from his nostrils. He was anxious to move at a brisker pace, but we were on a mission that dictated patience and awareness. We were after a very large coyote or, hopefully not..... a wolf.

I'm well aware of the sensitvity of this topic, but when you've seen a half eaten calf that was literally dragged from it's mother during the birth process you gain a slightly different perspective on things......particularly when it happens three times in a row over a three night period. This is what was happening to my neighbor, and as he had quite a few years on me, I volunteered to solve the situation one way or another. Turning up the wool collar on my coat, I patted Shonk on the neck and allowed him to pick up the pace a bit.

Stopping at the gate that opened to the lane road, I dismounted, opened the gate and led Shonk through. Closing the gate, I swung back up into the saddle and followed our own fenceline a couple hundred yards before turning north along the Louden's fenceline. We'd be passing through the reservoir area and then north to the ridge above the Louden Ranch. It was nearing full dawn by the time we reached the reservoir and so far we'd seen no sign at all.
I say "we" because a good saddlehorse will alert on things we can't see or hear, and Shonk was good at it. I've been on the trail up to Bear Springs when Shonkin suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, ears forward and snorting. Far up ahead was a barely seen black bear. (Did I really say that?) We turned off the trail and gave that bear a wide berth. Yep. Shonk was a great trail companion.
The sun was rising and birds were beginning to appear in force. I scanned both sides of the trail and up ahead as we moved at an easy pace. Crossing the ACM Road, I lined out for the spring I knew was at the base of the mountain leading up to the ridge.

The ACM Road, built originally by the Anaconda Copper and Mining Company as a 55 mile truck thoroughfare from the old mines near Marion to the rails near the Thompson River Road. It still exists today and is now used as a logging road connecting various logging areas to the main highway far from where Shonk and I stopped for a break.
I dismounted, slipped Shonk's bridle and attatched a tag line to his headstall allowing him to graze a bit at the spring. I ate some of Lyn's goodies, had a short cup of coffee and sat down to double check my firearms. I gave Shonk 20 minutes to graze and drink and we were back on our way toward the ridge.

The day was clear and we took out time moving ever upward, stopping often for me to scan around us for any sign of a carcass or scavengers. We were well into the area where coyotes seem to gather and run down to Lost Prairie, but truth be told there was always a chance that often being holed up during the daylight hours we'd miss them anyway. I was primarily looking for a calf carcass. The chance that one had been carried to the area where the coyotes had this spring's litters was pretty good, and that's exactly where we were.

I spent a good three hours scouring the immediate area and found nothing whatsoever. I headed Shonkin to the top of the ridge and we arrived an hour later. At the very top is a huge, flat rock that affords an incredible view of Lost Prairie and Meadow Peak across the valley. I unsaddled Shonk, slipped his bridle and hooked the tag line on his headstall. While he grazed, I had the last of Lyn's dried fruits, the rest of the coffee and sat on top of the rock in the warm sun looking at the view.

I must have dozed a bit because I awoke to a soft, wet muzzle in my face. Shonk had had enough of the scenery and grazing on that mountain grass... nothing like our pasture grass. It was beginning to get on toward sunset and we made steady progress, much faster than the trip up. Nearing the ACM Road I decided to go home through the back end of the Louden ranch and bypass the reservoir......... and I'm glad I did.

We were just at the edge of the treeline with an open area some two hundred yards distance between us and the fence. We had just emerged from the treeline when I saw it some seventyfive yards ahead of us, and damn....... he was big! I dismounted and slowly drew my rifle from the scabbard. Cycling the lever action, gently....gently, I ran a round into battery. Kneeling down, I laid the rifle across a stump and lined up on him as he trotted dead away from us toward the fence.

Just enough daylight and a slow, easy squeeze and the rifle barked and jumped. So did Shonkin!..... but he stood his ground, not spooking. The coyote dropped right where he was. I immediately both sensed and saw movement to my left at the treeline. Coyotes! Four of them running as fast as only coyotes can. I mounted Shonk and trotted to where they had been and......... of course. A calf carcass. I had gone the wrong way up to the ridge. It had been a newborn for sure. The sac was still there in pieces.

I rode to where the big one lay and confirmed that it was indeed a coyote and not a wolf. I'd never seen one that large and from any distance it would have been an easy mistake to make.
I dismounted, led Shonkin to a nearby tree, loosely tying him off. Like most horses, Shonk didn't like the smell of blood. Pack horses can eventually become accustomed to it, but it takes time. I dragged the coyote the last few yards to the fence and, with some difficulty, draped him over a stout fencepost. Distasteful as it may seem, this is done for a reason. Other coyotes will stay completely clear of an area thus adorned. Far enough away from the ranch building to not be an odor problem, it assures a good chance of the cattle in the immediate area being left alone. I'd done this same procedure on our own fences a few times over the years, and it always worked.

Remembering that after the first shot I had, of habit, immediately cylced another round into the 30-30, I drew it from the scabbard and cleared the action. It had been a long day and I mounted Shonk and headed across the Louden pastures and home. Shonkin was ready for some alfalfa, so I unsaddled him and let him feed as I vigorously brushed him down in his stall.

I was tired and definitely needed a shower. Lyn had Supper waiting by the time I was dried off. Latigo, Amanda and Rosemary wanted to hear the story so I told it between mouthfuls of roast beef, gravy and vegetables. I phoned a thankful Bob Louden and we all called it a day. And........ in case you're wondering how Shonk came by his name, he's a very tall Appaloosa/Palomino American Saddler born on the Shonkin River over east of the divide, and though he's long since passed away, I'm eternally thankful he and I had those years together.
 

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  #9  
Old 03-14-2014, 11:43 PM
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Thanks for sharing as always! You definitely have a knack for telling your stories that really paints the picture and puts the reader there with you on the prairie.
Please, keep sharing your experiences and let us know if you publish a book or anything like that.
Thanks again and I look forward to the next one!
 
  #10  
Old 05-18-2014, 11:21 AM
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Notes are by my son, Latigo:
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The Lost Prairie Chronicles

Vignette #1

The center of my heart, but she definitely has a temper. Takes after her redheaded Mother.
She's been known (disturbingly often) to stop a show if someone in the audience is messing with her or the music. She loves playing, singing, the lights, the audience and just plain being on stage. Her body movements are somehow disjointed from the tempo, but the drummer can depend on her to be sitting right in the slot. She's a drummer's bassist. No running around the neck like a lead guitar, no 5 sting, no 6 string....... a solid 4 string that never surges in timing. She sits right in the groove with a dependable, solid bass line.

Its Friday night at the KB in Kalispell and the band is just into the second set when 3 cowboys walk in, and they've been hitting it pretty hard. The Latigo Band does a few country pieces, but they're typically classic rock with a little hardrock mixed in. Mostly Clapton, Beatles, Hendrix, Clearwater, CSNY, Petty, Aerosmith, even Blondie and Carly Simon among a raft of others.

The band has a following in town, mostly people in their late 20s to 40s, and its mostly because the band has the unique ability to emulate the sound of the originals.... but it ain't no cowboy music, hombre.

Latigo and Rosemary have never played with those their own ages. Their abilities have always had them with a drummer and second guitar that were experienced adults, and this was the case that night with the original band. So the stage is set. Its the middle of her vocal, and I remember the piece being Claptons "Bad Love". .... and from the cowboys' table the comments start. A "What the hell are you singin' about?"...... and the bass stops, the drums stop, both guitars stop and I'm thinking ....oh crap! I'm about to get stomped by three rather large cowboys.
Mondo puts down his drumsticks, George sets his guitar on the stage stand, Lat is looking at the floor with resignation all over his face and I stand up from behind the console mid-way back in the club.

"Hey! You three jerks!" ( oh crap. here we go) "We play rock! If you don't like it either shut up or go find a cowboy skank bar to crawl into!" (here it comes) Utter astonishment as they look at her, say something to each other and stand up, apologize and quietly leave!

The bullets I'd been sweating fall to the floor with an audible clunk. That's how it goes when you're on another gig with Rosemary.

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Rosemary in the Control Room. Don't let the smile fool you.

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The original Latigo Band
L to R, Mondo Mike Piazza, now deceased, Rosemary, George McGuire, now deceased and me, still alive, more or less

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Me onstage at The Great Northern, age 11.

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And onstage with Coco Montoya of the John Mayall Band.

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The Lost Prairie Chronicles #22
Yesterday. Son of a gun! Again! From Ma still in the bed, "Calm down. You'll find them. you always do."

Standing at the upstairs bedroom window I could see the gate that provided entry from the county road and driveway into the barnyard, and once again it was wide open with not a single horse in sight. There was always a possibilty that the herd was still out in the pasture, but something told me they were out somewhere down the valley. Again. For the past month I'd awoken to the same sight at least three times a week.

This excercise was becoming usual with Rosemary and me getting into the truck and beginning our sojourn to retrieve the herd. It was always a toss-up as to direction, left or right on the county road. Though he liked being included, Latigo was a bit too young to help so once again it was me and Pooh out into the cold morning air in a cold pickup. Retrieval wasn't that hard, just an inconvenience. Once located, Pooh sat on the open tailgate with a lead-line snapped to Shonk's headstall and we slowly made our way home with the rest of the herd following resignedly behind.

I had always kept a drop-wire around the gate and the fencepost, changed to a loop under the first board on the gate and then to a tightly tied rope under the first boards on both. Somehow something or someone was opening that gate sometime during the night, and I sure couldn't afford the lost sleep with vigil-keeping and it was getting frustrating. I had then switched to a double overhand knot followed up with a square knot in the rope. This was certainly not convenient for anyone having to open that gate and it could no longer be done from horseback.


One week ago it appeared that this was fool proof, but apparently I'd identified the wrong fool, that being me. Going on the assumption that the culprit was not of the two legged variety, I had systematically been increasing the difficulty factor for opening that gate. Four days ago I'd installed a draw-bolt. The requirement being that the pertinent party had to lift four inches and draw a full eight inches to the left to open. It could be reached from the top by a mounted rider and was infinitely easier than untieing a series of knots, but even that proved futile. My latest effort involved a bolt that mounted on the outsideof the gate and required moving the bolt half an inch to the left, lifting up three inches and then sliding four inches all the way to the right.

There's a reason that I'm spending all of this writing detailng sequence and function of something as simple as latching a gate. I'd had my last coffee of the day rather late last evening and awoke to the call of nature at 3am. Before getting back into bed I glanced out the window and in the dim light from the barn floodlight I saw the entire herd at the gate, patiently watitng for something.


That something was one of Rosemary's ponys with her small head between the first and second board of the gate. She had her head twisted up and within minutes the barnyard gate swung wide open! With Shonkin in the lead, the whole bunch thundered down the county road with that little white knothead bringing up the rear.

How was that possible? I wasn't about to chase them down at that hour, but laying in bed it became apparent that her manipulation of that bolt may have been an amazing feat for a horse, but in retrospect, the untieing of three knots, two of them being different, was actually even more amazing. A horse can be taught to do tricks. That's a fact, but a horse being able to rationalize a series of problems within a short time frame and manipulate those knots is for me nothing short of astounding.


The fact that out of the whole herd only she was able to accomplish these feats was also puzzling. Another aspect is the herd knew she could do this and stood patiently behind her, waiting for the gate to open. So what did this tell me? Nothing. Not a darned thing. To this day I've not heard a reasonable explanation of this collective behavior, but it's reason I'm writing this for you kids. Snow Pony wasn't the only oddity involving animals that I've seen on the place.

Spar beacon and the goose are another example. The very day we trailered him home, that old goose followed me and Beacon into his stall, and there she stayed. I've not known a horse to intentionally throw molasses oats out of his bin, but at each graining the Beacon threw one mouthful out.onto the floor. The old goose was right there to snap it up. This ritual repeated itself at every feeding. Why? I have no idea. She never left his side. When he was turned out at night she went right with him. When he came in with the dawn she was right there waddling at his side.
January and February.. the coldest months in Lost Prairie and I mean cold. The lowest I can remember was maybe in 1982 with the thermomter bottomed out at 52 below zero.


Quick calls to the few neighbors confirmed it, but none of us actually knew the real temperature. All of had the same thermometers from the Equity Farm Store, and 52 below is as low as they went. The tractor and the vehicles had engine heaters, but evern letting the tractor make a very laborious start and warm for half an hour didn't help. The rear axle with the light weight winter oil was frozen solid and wouldn't move. Ma and I threw a tarp over it and slid large pans of glowing coals from the firebox under the axle. Three changes of coals and three hours later with me bundled up in thick and very restricting layers of clothing, I got the old Massey Furgeson to move. Cold or not, the livestock had to be fed.


We tried to get the car and pickup moving but had the same problem. They wouldn't shift at all, so you kids had three days off school. Ok, so the scene and the cold are set for something Ma and I knew to be fact but had heretofore not heard discussed among our peers.

Hauling the Timoth hay out to the pasture, I saw the horses moving from the protection of the Jackpines walking rather oddly with short mincing steps. As they neared the tractor I noticed that each of them had a coating of ice on their withers, backs and flanks that was maybe a quarter inch thick! What the heck? They could have easily shaken it off as I knew their natural body heat would preclude it from bonding to their hair, but there they were.


From experience I knew that they preferred being in the Jackpines to being in the barn, but even with ice covering their backs?
Later that day I was talking to Worden Hardy about a magnetic axle heater and mentioned the oddity with the ice and the horses. "Yep. Some of mine do it too. I'd never head about it happening with anyone else but I can't say I'm surprised." Well, I was.


Since that day I've not heard about that strange phemenon from anyone else. Maybe its just the air in Lost Prairie.
If you live at the same pace as most folks you'll probably not notice these unusual behavior traits in the untrained animals. Things happen regularly in nature that seem to absolutely amaze people when they're pointed out to the general population. If you live in the middle of it all, take life a little slower and pay attention to things close around you, simple things like those we've just discussed will give you a more meaningful appreciation of life. I love you kids.

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One of the herd hoping to beat everyone else to an early graining.

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Dad on skis breaking Snow Pony to the harness.

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Sorry for all the edits in the Chronicles, but I'm transcribing them from the written pages and my spelling slips up more often than it should.
 

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