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The longest days of summer

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Now that it’s officially summer and the longest day of the year has passed, we can look forward to shorter and cooler days this fall – my favorite season.   

But, we still have many long days of summer to enjoy.  

 One of the longest days so far was June 15 – in actual spring – when 100 plus degree temperatures swept the state and broke many weather records. It was 105 degrees around our parts.   

Thankfully, the heat lasted only a day. We were docking lambs that week and took the hottest day off – as the heat backed down, we were able to continue.  Lambs are all docked now and will start moving to the summer pastures in the southern Big Horns.  

My job during docking was ferrying the crew to the corrals.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term docking, we are processing the young lambs. They lose their tails – for hygienic reasons – are castrated, vaccinated and paint branded.   

The kids live in Kaycee, so I drive them out to the docking site of the day.  We leave town at 5 a.m. and get started early to get done before it gets very hot.   

Some of my longest days so far have been the return trip, when half the kids are sleeping but the older teenagers – typically hyped up on Mountain Dew – are loud and obnoxious. On one trip back, they dug out a hot shot and were tasing each other.   

Our farthest corral is two hours from Kaycee, and this makes for a long trip.  We all survived those long days and we had wonderful kids to help out, but I may nix Mountain Dew next year. 

I just recently had another long day, as Bob and I had to take one of our Peruvians, Henry, down to Casper to see the orthopedic doctor. Henry unfortunately wrecked his four-wheeler and damaged his knee.  He’ll be all right, but he will have to wear a leg brace for three months.  

Between the MRI and doctor consult, we had many errands to run, including the perpetual grocery shopping at the supercenter, stops at other stores, MoneyGrams to send to Peru and a stop at the hardware store.   

When I came out of the supercenter, I couldn’t find my wallet– what a horrible, sinking feeling. We backtracked to the store, but no luck.  We dug through the sacks of groceries, and it was still not there. I called and canceled my debit card.   

So, we headed home, had three stops to unload groceries at different camps and then unload Bob, who has a band of ewes and lambs on the trail. I got in the front seat to drive and happened to see my wallet in the console under a box of cookies. Aaargh! After three hours of mental anguish, this was another long day. 

There are many more long days ahead – gathering the ewes and lambs, trailing them to a corral and loading the trucks for the long trip to the mountain.  Other long days are spent riding the cows and checking on bulls, and now in this dry summer, checking the water pipeline and tanks about every other day. 

The sheep enjoy the mountain – grass is short and it’s dry up there, but at least it’s cooler. It’s also a mecca for mountain lions and black or brown bears.  Bob mentioned a story from his memory to someone the other day.  

We had a bear eating sheep, and Bob was getting frustrated as the game warden was ambivalent, so he borrowed some hounds – which was only slightly illegal – and headed to the mountain with our young son, Jim, who was about 14. Our bears are shy and hard to find, so the hounds were an asset.  No one had a license – also slightly illegal – but they had a gun, a motorcycle, a four-wheeler and two gung-ho hound dogs.  

The camp was steep and timbered, but it wasn’t long before they lost the dogs and soon heard the baying of the hounds. Bob and Jim made their way down the steep hill and spotted the bear at the top of a tree.   

Bob captured the hounds and was doing his level best to hold two powerful barking, baying dogs on a short chain on a precipitous slope. Jim tried to steady the .243 rifle and point it almost straight up at what looked like a big bear. He shot a couple of times, and the next thing Bob saw was Jim hunched over pawing through the grass.   

Bob shouted, “Don’t worry about the brass, we’ll get it later!”   

Jim shouted back, “I dropped the bullets!”   

Adrenaline was high. Jim shot a couple of more times – one right through a paw – and the bear finally dropped. It wasn’t as big on the ground.   

The bear did have wool in his belly, so it was determined a damage bear.  The next day, Bob met the game warden at the landowner’s locked gate with the bear. Bob put his wrists over the gate and said, “You can cuff me, but you might have heck dragging me over the gate.”   

Jim eventually got the hide back and tanned it. It was a great father/son moment in time. 

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