Dirt Road Diary at Iron Horse Ranch

Mail Call

Connie CaseyI just love the deep growling, rumbling and pounding of a thunderstorm! It is a not so subtle reminder of the power of Mother Nature. I’m in the basement with my binoculars looking for the kids with that first clap of thunder because I can’t hear them anywhere from the porch. I can see across the hay fields that the kids have gone to the mail box. What likely started out as a leisurely stroll has morphed with the sudden storm and they are running now. Wet mail and packages are gripped tight. I can see the boxes are crushed and mushy from the onslaught and haphazard mode of transportation. The boys in their muddy boots stomp and splash on the dirt road. The kids are racing the rain more than each other for the half mile back. They are still a ways off and I can hear shrieks of laughter carrying on the wind. They approach the house giggling, panting and nearly breathless. Stumbling onto the stoop and soaked to the bone they are smiling like it is Christmas and muddy up to the knees. These kids are joyful about being soggy and delivering packages and envelopes that look like they have been through a wringer. And as abruptly as turning off a light switch — it is over. The roar is replaced by silence and a few disappointed groans from my wet boys. I gathered the mail and watched them run back out to splash for awhile longer. Just today I had a firm grip on my umbrella not willing to get wet when I had to go to town on errands. Maybe I need to take a lesson from the kids. How long has it been since you felt JOYFUL about being caught in the rain?

Boys running in rain

The Birth of a Bull Rider at PRCA Junior Rodeo Camp

Connie CaseyBaby bull rider

Since my youngest was still in diapers he has wanted to be a bull rider. At home he had to settle for horses but our mounts weren’t wild enough to match his need for speed. Not just speed though; this little adrenaline junkie wanted to ride a derailing crazy train. The Mutton Busting events he has participated in didn’t do much for him either except teach him that plowing the arena floor with your face is no fun. I’m not sure what it is that makes us so different right from birth but THIS son was born ready to take on every crazy challenge. If he couldn’t find an X Game type adventure he made one of his own. His nickname is “H Bomb”. I really should buy stock in mouth piece and helmet companies. We spent lots of time over the years going to Friday night bull riding practice watching all the young guys give it a try. About a year ago someone gave him a beautiful handmade bull rope that has been hanging in his room like a museum piece. It is his prized possession. My young son has been counting down the days until he was 8 and ready for some rough stock events in Junior Rodeo. That day has come. 

Anxiously waiting to leave for Rodeo Camp

Saturday the 19th of March was the PRCA Rodeo Camp in Coeur d’ Alene ID. The boy has never readied himself for the day with such urgency! He raced through breakfast and went to sit at the barns and wait for 9am to come. Upon arrival we were greeted by Julie Jutten, the Manager of Industry Outreach for the PRCA at check in. As the event organizer she did an awesome job juggling parents, kids and cowboys, getting everyone to the right place at the right time. The 34 participating kids ranging in age from 8 to 18 split into their groups ready to go! Bull, saddle bronc and bareback riding hopefuls gathered round their MORE than qualified instructors with rapt attention and our day got under way. 

Watching the instructor

I spent most of my time watching the bull rider class. The cowboy in charge of this group was Justin Andrade out of Hollister California. He is a past qualifier of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. I was especially impressed with his patience with such a young group of newbies. My little man Hunter had a blast. They reviewed safety equipment, learned how to tie bull ropes and practiced on a “dummy”. No buck outs in this clinic! I must admit I was pretty happy with that! I was pleasantly surprised at the lunch break that the cowboys each spoke with the entire group about health and fitness. Rodeo isn’t just about going for a wild ride, it is about becoming an athlete! At the end of the day they gathered at the bucking chutes and took turns sitting on a bull to practice chute procedures and livestock safety.  Much to Hunter's chagrin, this critter was uninterested in giving him any action! 

Practicing bull rope knots

Bull rope knots

Danny Alires riding out of the great state of Washington directed the saddle bronc group. This professional cowboy is a resident of Bickleton, WA and a past qualifier of the Columbia River Circuit Finals (PRCA). They too reviewed all of the equipment and practiced on a “dummy”. At the end of the session they each took turns sitting in the chute on a horse. 

Saddle Bronc instruction

Cowboy Jared Smith out of Eastland Texas ran the bareback class. This two-time NFR qualifier excels as a bareback riding master! The “dummy” used in this group looked like a lot of fun! Back at the chutes, they enjoyed taking turns on the horse of the day!

Well, this is now all my kid talks about. He is tying bull ropes on banisters, gates and fences. For some folks rodeo is bred into them. For others it is a way of life they found they could love. For the rest it can merely be entertainment. Wherever you find you stand on it come on out and support rural America. You won’t be disappointed. What more could you ask for on a beautiful Saturday?

This camp is a FREE event! There are 12 remaining camps on the schedule at this point for 2016. Please see the official schedule and more info on junior rodeo at Pro Rodeo Kids. If you are new to rodeo, are a skeptic of rodeo or just looking for something fun to do I strongly encourage you to come out and enjoy the show. PRCA sanctions over 600 rodeos each year in 37 states and 3 Canadian provinces, so there is surely one near you! Please check out this link for PRCA rodeos in your neck of the woods. Thank you to Lacey Green Photography for coming out for the day!  Check out more of her work at Lacey Green Photography.

Rodeo Camp CDA 2016

Blood Sweat and Tears

Connie CaseyBLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS. If you work the land, livestock or farm in any way you know these three things are at some point going to be part of your daily duties. I can name a hundred occasions when I had them all rolled into one chore. One such occurrence this winter was a blustery afternoon with a temperature of about five degrees. One of the horses is chewing up the posts in his pen so I am wrapping them in hardware cloth. It is so cold that my breath freezes under my nose but I can't wear gloves because they are too bulky to hold those tiny “U” shaped nails. My hands are numb so when I smash my finger with a clumsily swung hammer the pain takes about 10 seconds to sink in. I jerk my hand back only to gaff my arm on the fresh cut hardware cloth tearing through my sleeve and flesh. DANG IT! Now I have more mending to do! Crimson splotches of blood dot the snow and I back my butt into the hot-wire when a wave of nausea hits. I feel like I’ve just had a jolt from a defibrillation machine. The cold sweat that ensues is freezing on my body immediately has me staggering outta that slushy horse pen as fast as I can go. My overly interested equine friend thinks he is coming out of the pen with me and as I try to get out without opening the gate too wide I slip on the ice in the groove under the gate. A true comedy of errors! Before I went outside to deal with that fence I was wanting to curl up with pajamas, a good book and coffee but now I think a heating pad and happy hour might be more the flavor of the evening. And with THAT being said ... I wouldn't trade this country life for living in town for any reason! Scars give you character anyway right?

The back of the barns

Horse pens buried in snow need fence repair

Mending Day

Connie CaseyToday was a bore. It is mending day. Fixing buttons, seams and zippers is a tedious chore. At ten years old Logan has seven pair of jeans with both knees ripped out from one seam to the other that flap furiously as he walks. They are in such bad shape they look like they might be from the set of a zombie movie. Hunter has his share too.  He has spent the last seven years honing his destructive skills on his clothing. I sat in front of the sewing machine a good part of the day cutting off those jeans and hemming them for shorts for summer. I was complaining to myself about the task. After giving it a little thought I decided I was lucky to be able to sit there and do that mending.  Those threadbare pants were the uniform of a healthy childhood ... one not spent in front of the tv or gaming system. In the minds of little boys those jeans became a soldier's fatigues worn waging fierce battles in the back pasture. They played football and raced cars. They became tattered when they met the gravel after being pitched off a bicycle racing the mail truck down our bumpy and rock filled dirt road. Many aliens were slain wearing those pants when they traveled to deep space. They climbed trees and caught fish, went camping and rode bareback on a favorite horse. They protected knees when sitting on that rough barn roof and collected the mess like mud flaps when standing on the back of the tractor as daddy bounced along moving hay. Those mangy old farm boy jeans, ripped and stained as they are, carry memories that can't be made anywhere other than outside, enjoying the fleeting moments of a magical childhood. So I carefully stitched together the remnants of the discarded pant legs I cut off that can no longer be worn and made pillows for the man cave ... where those growing boys can loaf around and dream up the next adventure to ruin the new pants in the closet.

Man Cave Pillow

Symphonic Weather

Connie CaseyThe house was silent today and grey skies provided only dim silvery light to spill in through the windows. The heavy pendulum of the grandfather clock in the corner of the dining room echoed like a huge metronome across the wood floor. Wind buffeted against the house making creaking sounds and whistled through every nook and cranny. As if the conductor had taken to the stage and tapped his baton on a music stand, the musicians outside came to attention. Soft sprinkles made no sound on their own until they accumulated on the roof and landed in an adagio drip. The water rushing down the slope of the roof coursed into the gutter hanging on the eve and gurgled to the ground below. The percussion brush of wet pine boughs swishing against the outside walls joined in as the wind moved the rain to an andante beat. Leaves that had been concealed under the deck for the past few months were whisked out of their hiding place by the wind whirling with the current of the air across the pasture. Toys left outside, a mower under a tarp, concrete, dirt and puddles all responded to the rain with a different sound. They were a symphony of instruments that couldn’t keep time with each other. The metal barn roof rumbled like a bass drum. The onslaught was falling with an urgency now, unloading the water laden clouds with a moderato gusto. Thunder and a crack of lightning sped my heartbeat's tempo to an allegro measure, then the maestro gave the command and PRESTO! The deluge was a deafening roar like an audience on their feet at the end of a piece performed by Beethoven himself. It was suddenly silent, and I saw water seeping in under the dining room door, and a single bird began to sing. I can easily find something to love about every kind of weather and a good storm is music to my ears. How about you?

 The storm approaches

Photo courtesy of Lacey Green Photography

Why I Bother With Canning Season

Connie CaseyIt was hot the day I picked them.  It took 2 days to process them all and the kitchen was like Georgia in July with the canning pots belching out steam for hours on end.  The pots are huge.  Black with white speckles and the lids rattle as the water boils sounding like a never ending earthquake.  Windows are covered with condensation with slow trickles of water running onto the sill.  Juice ran to my elbows as I peeled, dripping on the floor and saturating my apron with the sticky sweet mess.  Baskets of the fuzzy sweet skin created such an overwhelmingly heady and delicious smell it clung to anyone passing through the kitchen as if they had been sprayed with an intoxicating perfume.  All those skins once tossed in the yard made many happy chickens that decided to camp out on the kitchen stoop so they could peer into the glass door, using secret chicken powers to force me to throw out more.   I made jam, fresh packed halves and pie filling.  The jars stacked in the pantry are a beautiful combination of orange, reds and yellows that seem to glow and look like a flashy exotic concoction in glass.  I’m always a heroine deep in the cold damp winter when the smell of a fresh pie wafts through the house.  My family is coaxed into slumber with full bellies; lips still sticky with syrup while the cold of winter swirls around outside.  What a blessing it is to go from a kitchen that felt like summer in the deep south to cracking open this jar of sunshine in the cold harsh winter.  There is nothing that can compare to the joy of savoring a treat that went from tree to table with your own efforts.  Would you agree?

pie
Peach pie is fresh from the oven.

jars
Jars of peach pie filling and peach jam cooling.