Years ago, the ranch maintained a fleet of 1979 Ford F250 three-quarter ton flatbed pickups. They were workhorses and fairly easy to work on, as compared to modern day pickups that involve a trip to the computer in town. Some are still going.
One was bought at a local farm sale. It was light blue and had a big, rusted, white metal grille on the front. It became “Toothless.”
In winter, a corn feeder was bolted to the flatbed. A load of corn and 27 or 28 small square bales were tied on. Often, it was my feed run. Most of the pickups were equipped with two way radios, and I could check in as to how I was faring with the icy or muddy road, finding the ewes or any trouble.
One bright, crisp, winter day, I came upon a dead ewe after feeding the bunch. I looked her over and saw through her wool that she had been bitten on the neck. I radioed my husband Bob, and he told me to load her up and bring her in.
Yep, it looked like a lion kill. Bob sent me back out to look around some more, and he would call the game warden. In Wyoming, mountain lions are designated big game animals, and ranchers are compensated for kills. The game warden needs to verify the kill.
I drove back up to the feed ground and, over a small rise, saw 27 more dead ewes. They had bed down for the night in an old bentonite pit that was reclaimed, but the fence was mostly gone. It was the perfect killing field for the lion.
Bob sent the game warden out, and he and I loaded up the dead ewes on the flatbed of Toothless. Bob went to town looking for the trapper and his dogs, got our young son out of school and bought a lion license.
It was getting close to two o’clock by the time we all assembled back out in the hills, and the lion wasn’t found that day. His track was spotted a few days later, and we had a better chance as we soon had the trapper, his dogs, the son and his license all rounded up. My son shot the lion after the trapper’s dogs treed it.
Bob put in his lion damage claim – a petition for compensation – to the Wyoming Game and Fish. At regular meetings of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, claimants state their case, and the commissioners award damages or not. Early that summer, Bob was summoned to the hearing dealing with his claim.
It was after lunch. The first presenter had prepared a long and lengthy discourse, with video, on hay damage from an elk herd. The room was warm, and folks were having trouble staying alert. Bob was next and began his banter on why he should be awarded full damages from the mountain lion kills. He passed around a picture taken of the dead ewes loaded on the pickup.
“Here’s a picture of the dead sheep and ol’ Toothless,” he said.
Someone at the front table asked, “You call your wife toothless?”
Bob replied, “No, I call my wife Hon. Toothless is the pickup.”
The room erupted into laughter.
The Commissioners went into session and gave Bob full damages to our claim. The next speaker asked if Bob would present her claim.
Toothless is still going strong, and the corn feeder stays bolted on all year now.
Lynn Harlan is a Wyoming Livestock Roundup columnist and lives on a ranch outside Kaycee.