Category Archives: Cowboy Stuff

Colts, Cows, Interns and Bridal Showers

 Greetings from the sagebrush sea! Here at Reed Station, we have been riding sale colts, mashing pairs around, and teaching the art of cowboying to our new intern, Katherine. So far, she has mastered the basics: 1) tie every gate shut with a length of twine and/or piggin’ string, 2) if you ain’t a -cussin’, then you ain’t a-shoein’, and 3) rope first, check for sickness later.

Tilly, Katherine and I doctored yearlings the other evening. Once Tilly and I had the steer on the ground, Katherine, a vet student, veined the footrot victim. She did great, finding a vein on only the sixth or seventh try.

Katherine’s advanced schooling occasionally bubbles over, and as we rode through the pasture she rattled off terminology like “cerebellum,” “disdiadokokinesis” and “amygdala.” Tilly and I glanced sideways at each other, thinking Is that an internal organ or an animal?

Wanting to join in the conversation and appear intelligent, I said, “I saw an amygdala once, but it ran off into the brush before I could get a good look,”

Katherine then explained that the amygdala is a section of the brain.

“Oh,” I replied, coiling up my rope. “I knew that.”

As we rode from one pond to another to check cattle, Tilly and I discussed the dress, aisle decorations, reception music and cascading bouquet for her upcoming wedding. We stopped at one pond to count baby ducklings. You know, typical buckaroo stuff.

Back at headquarters, we’ve been working horses on cattle. Tracking cows on first-timer colts is like driving a a bumper car with no steering wheel, at least until the colt locks onto a cow and follows it with your hand down. I wonder what’s going through a colt’s mind when the herd splits in front of him. Um, um, um, um….the red one! And off we go, trackin’ Ol’ Red.

The sorrel colt I’ve been riding is starting to lope circles. We negotiate a bit as to where exactly they take place, but he is starting to consistently navigate balanced, recognizable circles. It’s rewarding to reach the point of traveling someplace with a purpose. Riding him no longer feels like trying to push a chain.

We took a break from colts and cows to attend Tilly’s bridal shower on Friday afternoon. In addition to two dozen teapots, the bride-to-be received a plethora of marriage advice, mostly conflicting opinions on whether or not it’s permissible to go to bed angry. The results were inconclusive.

The tasteful, elegant atmosphere was frequently alleviated by outbursts of plastic utensil throwing by Susan Wines.* Catholic ranch girls are an unpredictable lot, especially when served complimentary red wine.

With the Superior sale and horse show in Winnemucca this weekend, Tilly’s wedding the next weekend, then the Eureka County Fair, then the Stallion Stakes, then the Elko County Fair, then the Van Norman horse sale, the upcoming forecast promises plenty of heat and fun. Remember to hydrate (no, beer doesn’t count) and eat lots of watermelon. Until next time….peace out 🙂



*Name has not been changed.

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Reed Station Report

I live at Reed Station, on the right-hand side of the Van Norman Quarter Horses’ Ranch if you’re in Elko looking toward Owyhee. The house is a trailer that predates Ian Tyson’s conversion to cowboy music. Only two windows actually open. It’s like living in a toaster oven.

We currently have just enough hot water to trick a person into shampooing her hair, then gasping and rinsing while trying to not let the water actually touch her body. It’s a delicate art I have yet to master, so I’ve resorted to showering three times a week at Geri’s house. I pretend I’m at camp and then I feel fortunate; those guys never get to shower.

Once in a while, Ty and I remove the door from the water heater cubbyhole-thingy and attempt to diagnose and fix the problem. My job consists of handing Ty a Phillips screwdriver and eating Fritos while sitting on the old water heater, which lies next to the trailer house on the lawn. Ty pokes around in the wires and flexible pipes, uttering common electricians’ phrases such as “Wow, I definitely don’t have a wrench that will fit that!” and “Do you remember if Terry plugged this in or rewired it when we installed it last fall?”

After several minutes, we replace the door and head for the barn. Horses always start and never need rewiring.

I have discovered a new favorite pastime during my horseback hours: choking yearlings. Prior to last week, I limited myself to only heeling cattle outside. I told myself I wasn’t experienced enough, handy or quick enough with a rope to latch onto an eight-weight steer in the brush. Plus, I had an all-consuming terror of losing my rope.

Two weeks ago, Ty’s horse ducked left when he jerked his slack, and he lost his rope. You know what happened? He went and got his rope back. The world did not halt its rotation and he did not turn into a pineapple. Nobody even yelled. Chasing something through the rocks and brush while swinging a rope is more fun than eating popcorn. Now, if a steer so much as sneezes, takes a step to the left, right, straight, or looks at me, I correctly interpret his nonverbal interspecies communication to mean “Rope me.”

I coiled up my rope, put on a dress, and went dancing at the Silver State Rodeo last Saturday night. A friend and I had a running joke last year: we told everyone we were married and expecting twins. People would exclaim their congratulations, look at my stomach, and ask how far along I was. I smiled, said two months, and vowed to never wear that shirt again. This year, I saw my first husband and reminded him it was our anniversary. He said he had picked me a bouquet of sagebrush, wild onion and bloomed-out lupine, but forgot to bring it. Typical husband.

While visiting with friends during the rodeo, I repeatedly caught glimpses of saddled, riderless horses being led across the arena. Jeez, I thought, sure are a lot of guys getting bucked down. Dang arena cowboys anyway! Always having to catch their horses. I then realized they were steer wrestling. My mind’s gone brushy 🙂

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The Great Basin cowboy population descended upon McDermitt for July 4th, largely because most of us couldn’t afford fuel to drive to anyplace with a shade tree.  The rest of us went because we knew it’d be fun.

Immediately upon arrival, Kyla painted her toenails and I fixed my makeup.  We felt very ranchy.  Next, we slathered sunblock on every area of exposed skin, plus some that weren’t.  You can never be too careful.

After the horse and muley jackpot roping on Saturday, ice chests came out and shade awnings lined the arena for two days of rodeo excitement.  Jim Young made a good bronc ride, but unfortunately it was during the branding contest.  No official score was given, and he declined the reride option.

After the rodeo, everyone gathered at the Say When.  Where else can a person buy 6 mixed drinks for $18.75?  Or order a beer, hand the bartender a $10 bill and receive 2 fives, 2 ones and a quarter in change?  Bars that pay customers to drink are rare.  Actually, they’re probably bankrupt.

The band was good, and free.  Myles looked at my dress and said, “This is a ranch rodeo, not a formal event.”  But it’s so fun to twirl!

After twirling around the street dance until…who knows when, we all took naps and headed back to the rodeo grounds on the morning of July the 4th.  By then, partying didn’t feel like a celebration of a national holiday; it felt like punishment.  But, we powered through to watch the ZX team win the rodeo, then loaded up the trailers.

It takes 4 1/2 hours to get to McDermitt and 3 days to get home.  My traveling partners decided to relive their Squaw Valley days and take the longcut to Elko, through Tuscarora.  What follows is a sample conversation.

Driver (me): Hey, guys, was that the Midas turnoff back there?
Kids in the backseat (Rolly, Jim and Ryan): Oh, no – it’s up here a ways, just keep going.

A few miles later…

Kids in the backseat: Man, I don’t remember this power line being here.  And this turnout wasn’t here before!  I haven’t been out this way in forever!
Someone: I think we missed the turn.

The driver (me) pulled over, just as the tackroom door flew opena nd Jim’s saddle fell out.  We repacked and made it to the resevoir, where we watered the horses and Jake did his impression of a bareback bronco rider.  His mistake was letting the horse out of the pond and onto dry ground.

We eventually made it home, and I consider my trip a success because of two things.  #1: I had an actual, two-person, dialogue-style conversation with Jake Brennan (the one who works for Rolly, not the one who works for Matt Mori).  #2: We didn’t get thrown in San Quentin.  Can’t beat that with a stick.

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Sagebrush Telegraph #1

The Sagebrush Telegraph
News from where the FM stations are static-y and nobody knows how to swim

 Elko County residents removed their wild rags and tentatively stored their down jackets just in time for the glorious Fourth. Cattle are turned out for the summer, cowboys are taking their ropes down every time the boss goes to town, and lock ‘er up if she’s young and pretty when the TS crew hits Elko on Saturday night.

The YP Ranch threw a big party last weekend to celebrate the completion of branding. Rumor has it a live band entertained the guests, who partied like the cows were never coming home. You know what they say: Be there or be sober.

Just down the road from the YP, Michael and Madison Mori welcomed a baby boy, Pete Robert, on June 4. He joins big sister Marinna (Marenna? Marynna? Marena? Eh, close) and attended his first branding at 8 days old. He did not rope.

For the older kids, school’s out, and young Anna Van Norman made her first honest-to-goodness, bring-your-own-cattle circle last week. She may not be old or stout enough yet to stop the whole herd in a run-back, but she doesn’t miss any cattle and she’s one heck of a drag-bringer-upper.

Anna’s aunt, Tilly Van Norman will become Mrs. Freeman next month when she weds longtime Elko resident Jason Freeman (no relation to Asher and Barak). The beautiful bride-to-be currently spends all of her waking (and probably half of her sleeping) moments planning for her dress, her bridesmaids’ dresses, flower girls’ dresses, flowers, the reception, food, music, invitations, groomsmen’s attire, the cake, the guest book, should the ring bearer remain standing with the wedding party or sit down with his mother during the ceremony?, the honeymoon trip, and how to decorate her new home. She spends approximately 6 ½ hours each day on the phone, not including time spent dialing. Luckily, she has an understanding roommate who doesn’t consider communication with members of the outside world a personal necessity.

For members of the outside world looking for a big break, the historic Reed Station division of the JP Bar Ranch is currently accepting applications for a full-time cook and housekeeper. The position is unpaid and housing is sketchy, but mismatched pots and pans are supplied. BYOS (bring your own spatula). Applicants must hold a two-year degree from a US accredited culinary institute or have at least 3 weeks’ experience waiting tables at Denny’s. Call the Telegraph for more additional information; serious inquiries only.

Larry Goicoechea has taken over owner/manager/chef responsibilities at Lone Mountain Station once again, and Jim Young was spotted dining there on Saturday night with a redheaded gal. They both enjoyed Larry’s famous prime rib while she sipped red wine and he drank Coors Light. Mr. Young was unavailable for comments, but word around the sagebrush is she’s a writer of some sort.

For upcoming events, the ever-lovely Denise Moody will be making a special guest appearance at this year’s Elko County Fair. She looks forward to watching the novice snaffle bit class, where her daughter may or may not fall off going down the fence. Ms. Moody is excited to trade in her duties of teaching horsemanship to troubled children in Southern Arizona and buckaroo for a couple days. A quick heads up: she will take in the afternoon horse races, so clear the way to the betting windows and hang onto your money. Mama knows how to pick ’em.

Enjoy the summer; both weeks should be great.  Take a deep seat and a faraway look in your eye 🙂


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Horseback Again

Well, I made it through Week #1 at Van Norman Quarter Horses.  My second day of work consisted of fixing fence in a snowstorm.  If that isn’t fun, I don’t know what is.  Despite my optimistic daily predictions of “It’s supposed to be 65 and sunny today” throughout the week, the weather didn’t improve much, but the workload did. 

I helped Ty start some three-year-old colts, an activity that always improves this girl’s disposition.  Colts are so fun; trot around with no steering wheel, strike a lope, then trot around behind another colt, which scares the lead colt, which makes him grab another gear and take off, so the second colt accelerates to catch up, it’s fun. 

Colts are so expressive.  I ask for a right turn with my halter rope, and sometimes they lean against it and shake their heads, like saying “I don’t wanna!”  They perk their ears up and trot across the pen to sniff the fence, as in “Hey, guys, check it out – a red gate!”  The barn cat jumps out of a tire feeder, and the colt whirls sideways and arches his neck.  “Holy s@#!&!  What was that?!”  Then the dog walks in front of the colt and he puts his head down, points his ears, and follows it. 

I realize I’m very fortunate to ride JP Bar horses at work every day.  The scariest thing these colts do is put their heads down and lick their lips.  I acquired another bridle horse in my string (his name’s Owhyee – guess where he’s from?) and 3 gentle, friendly little colts.  Riding these suckers is worth suffering through blowing snowstorms and a windburned face.

A windburn looks and feels much like a sunburn, except it’s not nearly as much fun.  With a sunburn, at least you get to remember the fun time you had lying on a beach/swimming in the lake/barbequeing in your backyard.  With a windburn, all you can tell yourself is “Gee, how can there possibly be any dirt left in this desert?  I’m pretty sure every particle of it blew directly into my eyes today.”  It’s like a hangover without the party.

Wind or no wind, it’s nice to be horseback again.  Now I can start wearin’ out my boots from the top down once more 🙂

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A Rodeo Survival Story

We all survived the Spring Creek Ranch Rodeo, and I don’t mind saying just barely.  Luckily, there were no wrecks requiring an ambulance or vet, and the only incident to note involved a cowboy’s right rein breaking during the branding contest.  I won’t mention any names, but he works at the YP, was riding a big Paint horse, and answers to Tim Kershner.  Not too sure what exactly happened, but he finished the event with only half his steering ability and did just fine.

I got “voluntold” to help with the calcutta prior to Saturday evening’s performance.  I’d never helped with a calcutta before, and it turned out that  “helping” meant running a footrace with myself carrying receipt books up and down bleachers and collecting checks from large, menacing women who said they owed $195 while my calculations said $205.  I barely survived.

After my public service stint, I sipped a gin and tonic and mingled.  Katie and I had prettied ourselves up at her house before the rodeo, and between the pre-event cocktails and giggling, I ended up with an Oscars-worthy updo.  I wore smoky eyeshadow, black eyeliner, and a  you-can’t-tell-it’s-not-real-leather biker jacket.  Seven-year-old Anna said “You look like you should be on a motorcyle!”  I felt like a bad a$$.  It was fun 🙂

During the rodeo, I finalized the details of my next job, lined up interviews for articles, conducted an interview, ate some French fries, cuddled the world’s cutest six-month-old (he belongs to you, Becky!), and pinky-swore a high school junior that I’d substitute teach school one day on the rez next year.  I hope I survive.

After the rodeo, we enjoyed smoke-free ambiance and conversation at the Star, then headed to Stockmen’s to dance.  The band was good and the drinks were weak, but due to the chain smokers we were all guaranteed to feel ill the next morning.  We somehow survived.

I decided partway through the night that I would be sober driver, but my change of plans was thwarted when I realized I didn’t have my pickup.  After the band quit, I drank big cups of water and listened to the guys tell stories about getting frapped harder into the dirt by the pickup man’s run-off horse than the actual bronc, starting colts in Kentucky last fall, and drinking in Nashville (“There are twenty-six bars in that town, and we went to all of ’em in one night!  I don’t remember most of them, though.”  Really?  Weird.)  They barely survived.

Finally, Christina and I took the boys to their motel at 4 AM.  One of them offered me a ride home, and I told him Christina was taking me.  He offered again, and I told him if he needed a place to stay, we had two extra rooms.

He looked at me with a level gaze and said, “But, I wouldn’t want to stay in one of those rooms.”

“Well, that’s where you’d be stayin’,” I replied.

“You mean, we can’t just make out for a little while?”

“Um, no,” I said and (because I laugh at everything), I laughed. 

He shrugged and laughed, too.  “Well, don’t be mad at me for trying.”

“Oh, no, I’m flattered, thank you.  But that’s just not going to happen,” I said as I grabbed my purse and headed for Christina’s pickup.

Whew!  I went to bed early Sunday night and I’m teaching third grade today, which is a survival story in itself.  Can’t wait ’till Jordan Valley Big Loop….hope I survive 🙂


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Hit The Road, Jack

I took a cue from Dave Barry (motto: “I love mottoes”) and compiled this fictitious (please don’t sue me, city of Newport) travel guide.

Elko, Nevada: Motto “Our streets are more rutted than yours.”  Come experience the real Wild West, as it applies to eating at one of the many delicious and smoke-filled casino restaurants, playing the slots while grocery shopping, and hanging out with pipe line workers at the laundromat.  Local buckaroo sightings available in town every payday.

Montague, California: Motto “Weed has the college, Yreka has the Wal-Mart, but we have the roping club.”  In this quaint rural town, you can buy fuel (including diesel!), eat at one of the one downtown restaurants, or mail a letter.  Make a day of it and do all three.

Bozeman, Montana: Motto “We hate Californians.”  In this beautifully built college town, you can eat some truly terrible Mexican food, some truly delicious sushi (fried chicken rolls available) and fly fish within miles of the city limits.  Budget tourist packages consist of driving around local communities and taking pictures of multi-million dollar vacation homes.  Bison burger lunches provided; bring your own camera.

Newport, Oregon: Motto “Where the ocean meets the sky, and the sun never shines.”   Enjoy fresh-caught seafood in one of the many locally-owned restaurants, hike in the lush hills, watch surfers brave 2-foot waves in wetsuits (hypothermia optional; additional fee required), or count raindrops.  Annual temperatures fluctuate from 56-59 degrees Farenheit.  Rain expected 312 days a year, with special emphasis on July 4th.

Tombstone, Arizona: Motto “Wyatt Earp lives!  He’s just on meth with the rest of the population.”  A mere 15 miles from Mexico (as the crow flies.  As the crow drives, it’s about 40 miles down the interstate and through the Border Patrol checkpoint), T-stone offers visitors the unique opportunity to stroll down wooden sidewalks, buy a t-shirt that reads “I’ll Be Your Huckleberry,” and eat an ice cream cone while watching a gunfight.  Editor’s note: the $2 margaritas are mixed 50/50 and significantly raise the ratings for the entire town.

If this doesn’t inspire you to grab a change of underwear and your toothbrush, crank over the diesel engine and hit the interstate, you can always settle for the at-home cowboy vacation: buy a jug of Carlo Rossi and watch Lonesome Dove. Both discs.

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