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Pinedale – Sublette County’s Cat Urbigkit says she’s always been a reader and a writer, but she never really thought about writing books herself.

However, now she finds herself the author of eight books, with more in the works. Urbigkit has written professionally for 16 years, beginning her first reporting job when her son started kindergarten. In 2006 she quit and started writing books full-time.

“Writing books was my husband’s suggestion,” says Urbigkit. “Around 2004 I had a bunch of great photos of our guard dogs and our sheep, and he said he’d never seen pictures like that any other place, and that I ought to consider doing a book.”

While considering the idea, Urbigkit naturally gravitated toward the idea of a kids’ book.

“I love kids, and there are no other competing titles on the market with subjects similar to what I wanted to do,” she says. “There was nothing out there to compare with my first book, ‘Brave Dogs, Gentle Dogs.’”

Cat and her husband both had ag backgrounds and started their own ag operation with orphan lambs 20 years ago. Today they live 30 miles south of Pinedale near the New Fork river.

She says that, because agriculture is one of her great passions, the ag industry has been the logical subject for her books.

“Living and working on a ranch, we see beautiful things every day, and I take my camera every day to try to capture that, and to share it through my books, which is why all my kids’ books are ag-related,” she explains.

After starting their sheep flock, the Urbigkits started with guard dogs.

“We tried different dogs of different breeds, and I’ve always been fascinated by them,” she notes. “We’ve had some really good luck with the dogs, and other producers started buying livestock guard dog pups from us, because we’re fairly stationary so we can bond them to the sheep well, and we socialize them well so they’re catchable.”

As demand grew, some of the dogs they’d raised were killed by wolves.

“Eight of the dogs have been killed by wolves, that we know of,” she says. “As the wolf range has expanded, we’ve had wolves on our place, and we’re fortunate none of ours have been killed.”

In response to the growing wolf threat, the Urbigkits began corresponding with others around the world who also raise guard dogs.

“We published one paper in the Sheep and Goat Research Journal, and we wanted to take it a step farther and see the dogs and interview the producers about what they were doing and what we were doing wrong, or not doing,” says Urbigkit.

The Wyoming Wool Growers Association sponsored the Urbigkits in a petition to Wyoming’s Animal Damage Management Board for funding for a research trip to Europe and Turkey, which took place a year ago in October 2010.

“The most unexpected thing on the trip was how entirely different their grazing systems are,” says Urbigkit. “There are very few fences, so every flock of livestock has a herder associated with it. Even if it’s only five cows, they have a herder.”

Urbigkit adds that in Europe livestock owners are paid to graze livestock, and are paid a higher rate if they use livestock protection dogs.

“The thing I liked most was that I got to meet Spanish mastiff dogs in Spain, and I wasn’t expecting how effective or large they are,” she says. “The dogs are very effective against wolves, and we visited ranches in central Spain that had bands of sheep living with packs of wolves on the sme ranch. When you have 11 Spanish mastiff dogs with a thousand head of sheep and very few losses, that’s an amazing record.”

Urbigkit says that, in response to the trip, their operation will transition to the breed.

“We haven’t imported them yet, but the federal government has expressed interest in our recommendations,” she says.

Urbigkit’s newest book is “The Guardian Team,” released in October 2011. It focuses on livestock protection animals, featuring Rena and Roo, an adopted wild burro and a young Great Pyrenees puppy, following them as they bond with sheep and each other.

In addition to her children’s books, she has one adult nonfiction title already, and is signing a contract for another about pastoralism around the globe and its importance to primitive agriculture. She anticipates its release in the fall of 2012, and several more kids’ books in the next couple of years.

Of the book on pastoralism, Urbigkit says she spent the majority of last year out on the range, by herself in a sheep camp, lambing out a herd of ewes.

“I enjoyed it so much, and had such a wonderful experience out there by myself that it really upsets and disappoints me when we have all the different attacks on agriculture and public lands livestock grazing, specifically,” she says. “I started writing the book in camp last year, so it’s somewhat a defense of public grazing, and it looks at the grazing traditions of pastoralists around the globe.”

She adds that many countries have wrecked livestock migration routes, only to now attempt to reestablish them because of their benefits.

“This book is all about the voice of our primitive agriculture,” she notes.

As far as finding publishers for her writing, Urbigkit says she’s always doing it “backwards.”

“I’ve gone ahead and written what I wanted to write, then tried to find the right publisher,” she says. “Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. All my writing is done at my own risk, but I believe in the message I’m trying to get across, and I’m willing to take that risk.”

Urbigkit does have a consistent publisher for her children’s books – Boyds Mills Press out of Honesdale, Penn.

“I went with them because they have a commitment to agriculture,” comments Urbigkit. “They love ag books, and want to continue with them, so some of the best ag books for kids, and some of the best authors, are with Boyds Mills Press.”

Of writing independently full-time, Urbigkit says, “I have absolute freedom to take advantage of the day and what’s happening on the ranch. If it’s beautiful and conditions are right for photos, I can do that, and if it’s nasty outside I can stay in and write.”

Today the Urbigkits run a small farm flock to accommodate their travels for guard dog research, and because of writing and speaking engagements.

“Having a small farm flock is like being on vacation, but I’ll always have my sheep herd, because animals are good for your soul,” says Urbigkit.

For now, Urbigkit says she hopes to stay home while the snow flies this winter, researching and beginning the writing process for her next kids’ book on sustainable farming.

Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Buffalo – Rebecca Long Chaney spoke in Buffalo on Jan. 23, encouraging producers at the Johnson County CattleWomen’s Annual Summit to get involved and promote agriculture.

“Some ways we can make a difference include joining ag organizations, making friends with non-ag neighbors, establishing media contacts, writing letters to the editor, opening up our farms and ranches for tours, getting a Master’s in Beef Advocacy, providing animals for exhibits, visiting schools and making one-on-one contacts,” she suggested.

Looking into options related to agritourism, promoting products locally and targeting niche markets were ideas that she shared as well.

“My children’s book is part of a niche market,” she mentioned.

Writing a book

Long Chaney began writing children’s books when her twin daughters were young after a friend encouraged her to do so.

“I used to do Christmas letters that were written from the girls’ perspectives. When they were just a month old, the letters were written like they were just born,” she described.

At first, Long Chaney wasn’t sure what to write, but with a degree in ag journalism, 10 years of experience working for a newspaper and a passion for agriculture, she was inspired by the idea.

“I thought, what a great way to combine my love of ranching and farming with my love of agricultural writing,” she noted.

Then, one of the cows on the family ranch had twins, orphaning one of the calves. Chaney’s husband brought it in and the twins began bottle-feeding the bum.

“That’s how the first book, Little Star – Raising Our First Calf, came about,” she explained.

Long Chaney grew up on a dairy farm, and before long, she was receiving grief from family and friends about writing a book about beef. Her second book then focused on the dairy industry. She titled it Mini Milkmaids on the Mooove, and it earned the Ag Book of the Year Award from the Ohio Farm Bureau.

Promotion

“From the beginning, we had professional educators from Farm Bureau start producing lesson plans with our books. Those are free and downloadable from the internet,” Long Chaney said.

The books are self-published and promoted across the country through internet platforms, mass mailings and collaboration with Farm Bureau, Cattlewomen and other ag organizations. The books are also promoted at both ag and non-ag-related events.

“Word of mouth is amazing. People share our story,” she added.

Long Chaney and her daughters also promote the books and agriculture by visiting schools and speaking with school children.

Ag products

“During our talks, the most powerful thing we do is go in with a bushel basket and play the thumbs-up or thumbs-down game,” Long Chaney explained.

To play the game, the Chaneys pull items out of the basket and ask the children if it comes from agriculture. The children then give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to give their answers.

“For example, we might pull toilet paper out of the basket, and a lot of kids give the thumbs-down. We explain that toilet paper comes from trees that come from tree farms,” she commented.

In another example, soda and corn might be pulled out of the basket, leading to a discussion about corn syrup.

“We’ll explain that a bushel of corn – the amount it takes to fill the basket, can sweeten 400 cans of soda,” she stated. “Then, we might pull out bread and wheat and explain that one acre of wheat produces 73 loaves of bread. If we pull out a basketball, we will talk about how the hide from one animal produces 11 basketballs.”

Many kids are also surprised to discover that beef tallow is used in items such as marshmallows, shaving cream, gummy worms and toothpaste, Long Chaney added.

“We have a little pig that we pull out and the kids are fascinated to find out that pig heart valves are closely related to human heart valves. Our friend in Maryland has had a pig’s heart valve for 18 years,” she continued.

Getting involved

Long Chaney also encourages people around the country to share her books in classrooms or to take the time to share their own stories with children.

“We’ve been working at this for eight years, and our books are all over the country. My friend in South Dakota who does story time at her daughter’s school reads the Little Star book and hands out stickers that say ‘I met a Farmer.’ Those kids get really excited when they get to meet a farmer,” she said.

Long Chaney told her audience in Buffalo that if producers have ideas for stories, there is always a need for books with accurate information. She warned them about propaganda materials distributed in schools from extreme activist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and PETA, asking producers to help educate with real information.

“I am not encouraging everyone to become speakers or authors or to go into schools every week, but I am hoping that we will all do what we can with the time and resources that we have,” she remarked. “Any chance that we have, even sharing our lives for 10 minutes, can make a huge difference.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On one of the few days when activities tapered to a standstill on the ranch, it took a few hours to appreciate this Christmas Eve Day and the solitude that was available when we allowed it.
    With Christmas falling on a Monday and most of the pharmacy and ranch chores put on hold for a short period, there appeared this magical day with nothing planned. It took some conscious effort not to tackle the unfinished quagmire of problems left unattended for the year, but they were better left alone. The days before and after Christmas can be difficult for many if reflections are allowed to prevail, but, in the interests of others, those reflections are best saved for a more appropriate time.
    The solitude, broken only by Christmas music, has taken a wonderful ambience today. Early morning rays were met by huge flakes of snow gently pillowing downward, a rare occurrence with no wind in Wyoming. For a few hours the landscape was quiet and it seemed all creatures were enjoying the spectacle.
    The lake and the creek, now frozen, are barren and missing the hundreds of waterfowl that were there a few weeks ago. The golden colored willows mark the creek bed, the newly defined beaver habitat, and the many new ponds concealed by the light snow. Even the many bald eagles and species of hawks that patrol our riparian areas seem to have taken the day off.
    It’s rare when Mr. Coyote and his buddies can’t be seen nosing along the creek, but no tracks scratch the landscape. Our Great Pyrenees positions himself above the pastures on his favorite vantage point, but close enough to his dish to maintain control should the magpies swoop in for missed morsels. The stillness today is totally uncharacteristic!
    The red barns punctuate the landscape and contrast with snow-covered pastures. The trailers and implements are idle, and none of the llamas have ventured outside the barns to disturb the new white blanket laid down by Mother Nature. One of the multitudes of cottontail rabbits living in the barnyard emerges, but seems stuck in the snow, his feet churning like an animated cartoon figure as he seeks shelter under the llama trailer.
    The biggest cock pheasant now returns to check out the feeding site that was empty earlier, and his golden breast traces a path through the snow toward the block.
    Christmas seems to have granted even the pesky creatures a holiday, and they appear to be living in harmony. Their peaceful coexistence apparently radiates through the neighborhood. Even the rancher last seen when we bantered over water usage is greeted with a sincere “Merry Christmas” and his gift of Christmas pudding accepted in the spirit intended. Past differences were, for now, and hopefully forever, circumvented by the events of the season. Another set of tracks mars the snow as a neighbor brings fresh eggs, a gift to send south to a relative who apparently laid down a mire of praise about the goodness of ranch eggs on their last visit.
    Now, as one of the shortest days of the year is waning, the golden willows are turning brown and the snow covered landscape to blue in the shadow of the mountain. The pheasant and his harem return to the feed block, sparring with the rabbits over its goodness. The llamas are peacefully ruminating after treats of oats, and the wind remains quiet as the big marsh hawk with his now white plumage cruises the creek. Mr. Coyote ventures across the creek, easily within rifle range of the ranch house, and leaps three vertical feet to pounce on his prey. Uncharacteristically, he carries it back across the creek, sharing with his companion who is dragging one rear leg.
    As this Christmas Eve Day in Wyoming draws to a close, I’m thankful for the time granted me to reflect on its beauty. I hope our friendship this next year, whether new or old, can be enriched and maintained. I value your communications more with every passing year.
    For those of us who are celebrating Christmas with our families miles apart, I pray that the distances can be closed. For those of you fortunate enough to be with your loved ones this Christmas – cherish the experience.
    My heartfelt wish to each of you and yours is a very Merry Christmas!
    Dan Schreiner ranches with his wife Ellen on Hat 6 Road near Casper. They own Silver Sage Llamas and Deer Creek Drug in Glenrock. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To read more entries in the Roundup’s Christmas writing contest, visit wylr.net.
“Down the fenceline I look,
where the cattle roam and eagles soar above,
where the horses drink from the brook,
that’s the Wyoming we all love!”
Photos and poem by: Logan Barlow
Milleg Ranch, Big Piney

Merry Christmas from Barnum
 by Jo Harlan, Barnum

My father-in-law Jim Harlan was becoming increasingly housebound, but drove by this tree daily. His birthday is Dec. 5, and one year he said for his gift he’d like the tree on the road decorated. He was a World War II veteran, so I used red, white and blue ornaments and garlands. We’ve decorated it every year for almost 15 years now – it’s the Barnum Road Christmas Tree, and every enjoys it. We call it Jim’s Tree. He passed away in 2002, and I took this photo a few years ago when the snow was just right.” – Lynn Harlan
Our country’s in a great recession, we are broke as we can be,
“Pay more taxes on the double,” says the Prez on my TV,
Fix our schools and make them “greener,” buy a hybrid Cadillac,
Borrow money for your college until China wants it back!
Find a job and spend your paycheck? No one knows just what is best,
World in chaos, no one loves us, I’m confused as all the rest,
But one thing I know for certain… Congress doesn’t have a clue!
Once again, it’s up to Barnum…. And we know just what to do!!
 
Barnum’s wise men often told us: you must live within your means,
If you don’t you’ll lose your ranches – then you’ll live on deer and beans!
Banks that lend you all that money, want it back – it isn’t free!
Try your best to make each payment, credit good for all to see.
Stay away from fighting neighbors; let them figure out their strife.
Always set a good example – love your children, love your wife!
Give each day your honest effort, living by the Golden Rule…
Barnum’s wise men, (Butch and Sundance)…. bad examples, but so cool!!
           
If Harlans, on the ranch in Barnum, saw the world’s economy,
They’d know, right now, our life is perfect – ranch is great, and so are we,
Livestock trailed down from the mountain, think the meadow grass is prime,
Markets great, the weather cooling, everything seems so sublime,
So Merry Christmas from the Harlans! Hoping life is swell for you,
May your New Year be outstanding, good times – many, bad times – few!
Christmas Greetings straight from Barnum – center of the universe.
It could be better – it’s not great, but could be worse!

C.O.A.L. (Christmas Objective: Absolute Love)
By Terry Henderson
Christmas gets so mercantile,
Our faith we overlook.
With shopping, trees and parties,
We quickly overbook.

Commercially, tradition counts
You naughty or as nice.
If you’ve been good, you’ll get some gifts,
If not, you’ll pay the price.

The custom is for naughty folks
To get a lump of coal.
I give you a lump today,
A symbol for your soul.

Because we are all sinners
We oft’ forget to love,
As we have been instructed
By our Savior from above.

Let this lump be a reminder
Of the searing heat we’ll face
If we ignore that order
While we struggle in this place.

Should any coal become enflamed,
Itself, it will destroy;
But pressurized, will turn to gem,
And bring unending joy.

Please accept this Christmas symbol
And never let it burn,
So when you face eternity
For Jesus, you’ll not yearn.










Ron Rabou and Steve Bahmer have been speaking for a combined total of 35 years. This year, they have continued their professional speaking endeavors and have also leapt into the realm of writing, releasing their first book, Keep It Simple.

“We have a new approach that is something we hadn’t ever seen before,” comments Rabou of their speaking approach. “We asked ourselves, ‘If we were sitting in the audience, what is it that we would really want?’”

A different approach

Rabou emphasizes that many suit-clad speakers stand on a stage, give a presentation and walk off.

“We want some interaction, a laid back approach, and a message that is more common sense and applies to where we are in our lives,” he says.

Bahmer also comments, “We found ourselves complaining about a lot of the same things about the nation – we’ve lost basic skills, we’ve lost our way. We finally said, ‘We’re done complaining. We can try to make it better, or we can shut up.’”

The result was a company called ReThink, which brings the basics of leadership back to simple ideas and values.

“We believe that is it ultra important to remind people of the basic values and principles that make us great as people and Americans,” Rabou continues. “We need to reintroduce those ideas to folks and talk about how to apply them in a way that is practical.”

Unique philosophy

With old ideas of leadership behind them, Bahmer says, “The idea of trickle down leadership just doesn’t seem to be working, so we are focused on getting involved in student groups to try to build solid, productive leaders from the ground up.”

“We think we can make the most difference there, and that is what really drives us,” Bahmer adds.

Rabou mentions that even the t-shirts they wear provide reinforcement behind their message. Their shirts are emblazoned with messages such as, “matter,” “accept responsibility” and “make it better.”

“When you are wearing a shirt that says accept responsibility, you are actually going to accept responsibility,” Rabou explains. “It portrays a positive message not only to the people who wear it, but to those who read it, too.” 

Bahmer and Rabou travel across the U.S. speaking to a wide variety of groups that range from students to corporations and business people.

Teaching Wyoming FFA

Rabou and Bahmer presented on Nov. 11 at the Wyoming FFA Chapter President’s Conference in Douglas. Students at the Chapter President’s Conference had the chance to continue developing their leadership skills in the unique style of Rabou and Bahmer.

“There is a lot of research out there about effective leadership,” Bahmer says. “We take a little different approach.”

“We think the most effective leaders are the people who know themselves the best, are the most well-grounded, understand their own values and principles and really understand where other people are coming from,” he continues. “We spent a lot of time with the students helping them learn about themselves to position them to be more effective leaders.”

Bahmer also added that by understanding these core concepts, students would be better poised to be effective leaders in their chapters, schools and communities.

Keep it simple

In addition to speaking engagements, Rabou and Bahmer have also completed their first book, titled Keep It Simple: The 12 Core Values that Lead to Personal and Professional Success.

The book, says Rabou, reinforces the tenants they present.

“The book is true to us as people and what our values are,” Rabou comments. “It is really based on our own experiences and how we have applied these values.”

He also notes that it provides guidance to others to apply 12 core values to their lives.

“Fundamentally, our view is that we are busy people – everyone is busy, and the world is fast paced. Because of that, we tend to forget some of those core values,” Bahmer adds. “This is a reminder of those basic things that we know, but we forget.”

Bahmer mentions topics such as patience, perseverance and simplifying life as important concepts their book presents.

“We have overcomplicated our lives, our work and our families so much that our stress level is high, but our results aren’t,” he continues. “This is all about taking a step back to get some perspective.”

The book also features a forward by Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan, who believes in the project and the ideas that Rabou and Bahmer present. 

Visit ReThink on the Internet at rethinkthebasics.com to learn more about Rabou and Bahmer, speaking opportunities or to purchase “Keep It Simple.” The book is also available at Amazon.com. Saige Albert is Managing Editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..