Mouse in the Maytag
By Lynn Harlan
The marathon of June is over and we survived. June is the month we gather, dock, trail and load trucks to get all the ewes and lambs to the mountain pastures by the Fourth of July.
We were all dispirited on June 1, a 90-degree day with unrelenting wind. There was little moisture in May, and June wasn’t any better. The wind and heat parched the grass in our southernmost pastures in Natrona County. It was looking grim.
Mother Nature took pity and gave us some cooler days to get docking done. Our daughter and her able-bodied high school crew persevered. It was decided Bob and I would do the trail after all. We would head out with 1,100 ewes and their single lambs and trail all the way up to our summer headquarters – an 18 day trail.
I joined the band around day six. We were still docking, so someone would herd the ewes in the day and another would make the move at night, into the morning.
We were traveling on the 33 Mile Stockdrive. There are water stops about every five to seven miles, which is about how far ewes and lambs can travel in a day.
It had been years since we trailed to the mountain, and we’ve never been on a trail this long. We had a pickup, a camper trailer with a four-wheeler trailer hooked behind it. There was also another four-wheeler, four dogs, a bunch of full gas cans, food and drinking water.
Despite cripples and un-mothered lambs at the back, as well as ewes that didn’t know where they were headed, we inched our way to the lush verdant grass at the top of the mountain. The mountain warmed up and got some rain at the right time. It was glorious.
There were magnificent moments that made it all worthwhile – the early morning vistas with the band spread below us on tall, rich feed. It was hard work, though, for a couple of old sheepherders.
We spent hours gathering ewes that had run back looking for their lambs, herding the sheep during the day when they didn’t want to and making the evening move when we felt like it should have been cocktail hour.
We had supply drops and helpers show up a couple of times, and we spent two days in the bottom of the Middle Fork of the Powder River.
It was hard to leave some spots on the trail because there was water and feed plentiful for the summer. But we forged on and got them in their summer pastures, and then we returned to our real lives.
My real life – a laundry room full of crummy clothes. A day or so after getting off the mountain, I was able to face the task. I left some soaking one morning in the washer with the lid up, came back later, shut the lid and the wash cycle started.
Later, while reaching in for wet clothes to hang on the clothesline, I picked up what I thought was a grey sock. It was a clean, washed and Cloroxed mouse!
He had moved in while we were on trail, and was feasting on the granola bar on the dryer. Guess he got thirsty and went for a drink. I’ve never washed a mouse before, and my dilemma was if should I re-wash the load or not. Oh heck, it was only Bob’s underwear!