Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Perfect Man

Every other year or so, I make a man.

This man, didn't want to seem to come together, and when I was complaining about the fact to Robert, he said, "Well, it's hard to make the perfect man."

So this year, I call my "man", the "perfect man!". Isn't he gorgeous?

I found his bobcat in the dump and had to save it for some unknown (at the time) purpose. Now I can see where the perfect man, needed the perfect bobcat, right?

The face on this man is an old latex Halloween mask and it's quite gruesome. It's seen so many years outside in the weather, that it was falling apart. Once again Robert came to the rescue, he said why don't you just take a tube of caulk, and rebuild it? So I did. I spent one entire day, just building the face of this man. I painted it, and remodeled it and it worked!

For now, my man is out in the front driveway. Pretty soon I'll bring him around to the back yard, and put him where my neighbor's dogs can see him. They bark constantly when my man is out where they see him. They're German Shepards, who never stop barking anyway, so I figure they might as well have something to bark at! My men always drive them crazy.

After they get used to him, I'll position him in various places around the yard, change his clothing, and give him some new occupations. I love watching people on the highway when they first see my man out by the road.

I might put this man in the pickup and drive to Great Falls. I'll sit close to Robert and we'll position the man by the passenger door, looking sideways out the window. I can't wait...

Pack mules going behind Swift Dam.

We were out fishing one morning, then headed to the dam house from the ranch, for breakfast...I saw a Forest Service trailer going by, so told Robert if we got to the trail head we could probably watch the mule string as they loaded the packs.
I enjoy watching the Forest Service mules, they work hard, and they're so used to following each other in the strings they develop their own ways of getting along with each other. Much of the way mules treat each other involves humor. So it's always a pleasure to see them.

From my previous post about the trail head into the Bob Marshall, you see where the trail winds it's way up the cliff face behind the Dam House. Here the mules have climbed the trail and they're headed out behind Swift Dam.

I took a lot of photos of this pack string as they were loading up. If you would like to create some paintings of pack mules, as they're being loaded, just ask. Photo prices for artist reference begin at $20.

Donna Ridgway

Email Me if you have questions, or want to inquire about purchasing a painting.

Remember, you can find horse art , Western art, Mule and Donkey art
wildlife art, cow art, and animal paintings, my reference photosfor sale on my website.

Coming down to Swift Dam, near Dupuyer, Mt. Bob Marshall trail head.

As we came down the trail above Swift Dam, we could see the Dam House, it's that little white dot in the center of this photo. In 1964, Swift Dam was an earthen dam, and it broke. My uncle was the dam keeper at that time. He was haunted after that, thinking he should have known the dam was going to break. Many lives were lost and he felt responsible, even though there are events you can't control. It's a miracle he and his family didn't lose their lives, for it could easily have happened had they been living in the dam house at the time. Luckily, they were at the ranch house working when the dam broke.

In this photo, you can see how the water roared from the gorge, narrowly missing the dam house. My cousin and I were talking, remembering the flood, we're amazed that trees have grown back in that path of destruction for we never thought we'd see that in our lifetimes.

Switching gears a little, from the flood to the Bob Marshall, when you're heading into the Bob Marshall Wilderness from this trail head, the trail goes around the house, and up the ridge. It's a steep trail and it has the respect of all who ride it's face on horseback. In fact, it makes you think a time or two when you hike the cliff face on foot. It's steep and the trail is narrow.
After you climb the face of the cliff, you cross this windswept area above the dam.
My uncle never bothered to take the cliff trail around the dam, he always crossed this rock face you see here. I walked that trail once, but there's no horse alive I'd trust to carry me over the trail he and his horse Chili always traveled.
As you go back around the dam on the south side, you cross those granite ridges of solid rock. I remember the horses scrambling up one side, and sliding down the other. We came out of the Bob in a rain storm and the hills were slick in places. Iron shoes on granite aren't always the best thing.
Once you're behind Swift Dam, the trail evens out until you cross a rock slide above the Gorge. The sight is beautiful, and if you ever see it, you'll not be sorry you took the time to go there. But crossing the rock slide is another place where you'll have to trust your horse to carry you through.

There are times when I think I love this country so much, just because it's where I grew up and it's familiar to me, there are other times when I think any person, anywhere, would love this country for it's sheer beauty.

It's not an easy country for the wind blows hard, and winter's are tough, but it's a wonderful country for those who love it.

Donna Ridgway

More stories about this area. Including some of my own that pop up!

More reading about the Rocky Mountain Front near Dupuyer, Mt.

Coming down the reef above Swift Dam, near Dupuyer, Montana

Foothills, West of Dupuyer, Montana.

A hill and the road we were following, north of Swift Dam. You can see the trail wasn't much at this point.
After we came down the mountain, we drove across some open prairies and foothills. In the thickets, bear sign was obvious. The service berries were ripe, the choke cherries were coming on and the bears were after them. You could see indentations at the base of trees where the bears had sat their little fat butts to eat berries. I hoped to get a photo of a bear this trip, but it didn't happen.
We did see this nice herd of paint horses, roaming free on the prairie.

This part of the trail was simple and enjoyable, no hair raising adventures. Little did we know, the steepest part of the trail was coming up.

While Robert and Mary were discussing which way we should go next, I took their picture.

We thought we'd lost the trail completely until we looked across this wind swept rock. The trail was faint beyond this point, barely traveled, but it was still a trail.

This is the bottom of the hill we came down, the top part was so steep, your four wheeler broke loose and skidded across gravel covered rock in some places. I wished for brakes on my motorcycle several times before I got to the bottom! If the Suzuki bikes we're riding didn't have so many gears, I wouldn't have dared to take this trail. I'd have been the one begging to turn back!

Even at this point, we're high above Swift Dam, and looking down country, you can see we have a ways to go before we're at house level again. Scoffin Butte is in the far distance.

Blogger doesn't seem to like long posts with lots of photos, so I'm going to continue this in another post.

Donna Ridgway

Email Me if you have questions, or want to inquire about purchasing a painting.

Remember, you can find horse art , Western art, Mule and Donkey art
wildlife art, cow art, and animal paintings, my reference photosfor sale on my website.

Mountain pass, trip on four wheelers, near Swift Dam.

We decided to take the trail behind Swift Dam Reservoir, near Dupuyer, Montana. to the top of the mountain. When we left home, we were going to the top, and then taking the same trail back down. This is an easy part of the trail where I could stop to take a picture back at my cousin and Robert coming up the trail behind me.

At this point, the trail is a road a pickup can travel.
We stopped half way up the pass to take some pictures. From here, we're looking down into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
This mountain slope looked like it had a crown on it. The end of the photo to your right, is the point where we crossed the mountain top and headed down.

The fires of 1910 came through the mountains here. In a little over one hundred years, the vegetation here is still sparse to non existent in areas where the flames swept through.
I love the swoop of the mountains in this area. So many of them have that graceful curve, dropping off to a high cliff at their front. And amazingly enough! There's still snow in the mountains! We haven't seen that in Montana for several years, snow in August!

This part of the Rocky Mountain Front is most beautiful to me.
When we were nearing the top of the mountain, this is what it looked like. The wind has swept this ridge bare of most vegetation. I imagine there are many days you could come here and the wind would sweep you off the edge of the mountain. At this point, we could see two four wheelers ahead of us-that's the little dot you see that's darker than everything else. I wanted to include this photo to give you a feeling for the vastness of this place. I'm using a 300mm lens on my camera.

This is Mount Richmond, don't you love that hole in the mountain? When I see things like this hole in a mountain, I'm awed to think of the forces that created this just so I could see it, many years later.
Here's the tip of that crown I showed you in the earlier photos. Once again, the trail dropping off the east side of the mountain is at the furthest right point of this photo.
From the top, you look down on Heart Butte. I never in my life thought I'd have a chance to get high enough to look down on Heart Butte! Elevation 6821 feet. more info about this area.
When the air is clearer, you can see the Sweet Grass Hills from this point. They're over a hundred miles from the top of this mountain. Whenever I'm riding four wheelers with someone, if they suggest turning back, I always say, but I wonder what's over this next hill? People hate coming with me for that reason...they make me promise before we go, that I won't do that to them. Where's their spirit of adventure?

Well, on this trip, there was no next hilltop! So my cousin and Robert knew they'd get to go home once we were at the top. :)

Here's looking back at the trail from the west side of the slope.

While we were at the top, we started visiting with the two men and the lady who were at the top before us, remember the dot that was four wheelers in the one photo? As we were visiting, they told us about the trail coming down the mountain. They made the comment we shouldn't take it, because they didn't think we could make it down. They continued by saying, if we did make it down, we'd probably never find our way back to Swift Dam and my cousin's house!

You might as well wave a red flag in front of a bull and see what's going to happen! The moment those words were out of that guy's mouth, I knew we would be going down the other side of the mountain. We waited until they were out of sight, and we watched where they picked up what was left of the downward trail, and we jumped off the mountain.

Here we are at the top, left to right, my cousin, me, and my Robert.

Starting off the mountain, looking back, I saw this picture and had to stop to take it. I don't have brakes on my four wheeler, so stopping on this slope wasn't easy. I didn't get near the pictures I wanted to coming down, my hands were to full with driving and keeping upright.
Here's some more of the mountain on the way down. It never looks as steep in pictures as it was in real life. :)
Here's Feather Woman peeking over the hill at us. She's a beautiful mountain. You can see a little of how steep the hill was coming down in this photo.
A close up of a portion of Heart Butte.

Here we are celebrating we made it down all in one piece! When we got back to the dam house, and were talking to my cousin's boyfriend (who didn't make the trip with us) Robert told him, "I came down the mountain with two insane women!" It was so funny.

Most of the road down the hill had been washed into deep ruts by spring runoff. So we had many places we slid through. It was hard choosing the correct path to take, for if there was a bend in the road to where you couldn't see the trail ahead, you had to guess which way the water washed the ruts, and pick the trail accordingly or you'd be on such a side hill, you'd tip over. I don't know why, but I get chosen to be the fearless leader so all the responsibility of finding the trail was on my shoulders... But I did it!

From this point, we're five miles from home, but have no idea which trail will get us there. In my years of roaming the mountains on horse back or four wheelers, I know if you head in the direction you want to go, and if you keep heading down hill from the top, you'll get there sooner or later. So after we did our little happy dance, we headed across the foothills for the house.

I'll add some photos of the remainder of our trip to the next post...
Donna Ridgway

Email Me if you have questions, or want to inquire about purchasing a painting.

Remember, you can find horse art , Western art, Mule and Donkey art
wildlife art, cow art, and animal paintings, my reference photosfor sale on my website.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A visit with a beaver.

There are times when I feel the need to go "home". And this is the place on this earth that's home to me.

When I was a child, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Flo owned this ranch. My uncle Bob had one hand, and he built these buildings one handed. Tragically, he died when he was a young man and my Aunt Flo sold the ranch to my Uncle Bill. Now, my Uncle Bill has passed on, and his daughter's own the ranch. At least it is still in the family and still a working ranch. No subdivision's here!

When you go to sleep at night, there's no noise except the night sounds of animals, and the sound of the wind in the trees, and the world is peaceful.

This place is home, because so many of my childhood memories are here. Like the time we drove up in the yard, and my cousin was bareback on her horse Queenie. She saw me jump out of the car, and yelled, hey, get on! I jumped onto the fence and mid air to Queenie's back, I asked, Did you ever get her broke to ride double yet? She said, "That's what we're going to do right now!" And Queennie took off bucking around the yard. When she finished crow hopping, she was broke to ride double forever more.

There was the time we came to visit and the grizzlie's paw print was vivid in mud on the living room picture window.

The time when my Uncle Bill was dying of prostate cancer and he said, I promised Donna she was going to have a ride behind Split Mountain. You guys (meaning my aunt Jimmie, my cousins, and the hired man) saddle the horses today and take her up there. He never forgot a promise he made to me and he kept them all.

When I come to the ranch, the silver ware is in the same drawer it's been in for more than 60 years. The food is in the same places in the cupboard. There's an automatic coffee maker now where coffee used to be in a pot on the stove. And every time it ran out, you threw in a handful of grounds and some clean eggshell and boiled it up to have "fresh". There's also a microwave now...kind of handy for modern day fast foods. Outside of that, everything is pretty much the same, there's something to be said for that...for you always feel completely at home when you go there.
The first morning we woke up at the ranch, I got up before daylight and peered out the bedroom window to see if any wild animals were stirring. I saw a little black silouhette in the creek and at first thought, I figured it was a raccoon. I ran outside with the camera to see a beaver there in the creek that runs by the house.

I ran back inside to get Robert. We walked down the creek for perhaps 3/4 of a mile, talking to the beaver and watching him make his way downstream, he was never more than three feet from us, such a passive, cute, little creature!

Stay tuned for more of our ranch adventures....

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Horse photos from a week at the ranch.

When I lived on the ranch, and worked everyday, I barely noticed the way the light plays over the form of a horse. If you need your horse in a hurry, and you see scenes like this, they're so fleeting. You don't have time to really see the beauty around you.

So I've posted these horse photos so we can take a moment to reflect on how wonderful our equines are. I hope you experience a feeling of peace and harmony when you see these photos, the same as I did when I took them.

You can purchase these horse photos as prints on my Red Bubble site below. There are many options in pricing and size, canvas and paper. Something for every budget! Place your order today.
Donna Ridgway

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Peruvian school teacher, Montana Shepard

If you think of sheep as passive, humble, or lowly...think again. Their reputation has risen to warrior status as they wage war on weeds that rob livestock and wildlife of much needed pasture. The sheep are a great aide in fire control as they clear out brush and low lying shrubbery that spreads a blaze.
As sheep graze, they eat weeds before they eat grass, it's their nourishment of choice! We saw this band of 1400 ewes and lambs near Lincoln, Montana.

When we spotted the sheep, we hoped there would be a sheepherder near by. We saw the camp trailer in the trees, snuggled up under some shade. The road was a little rough but the Yukon we drive made it into camp just fine.

Meet Roberto Ninahuanca Tocas! Luckily for us, he was home! I can't tell you how interesting it was to meet him... His home is in Peru, where he teaches Spanish to the kids. He came to America to herd sheep to make more money for his family.

A couple of months ago, we were coming home from Helena, Mt when we saw a band of perhaps 3 or 4000 sheep and goats headed straight up the mountain... We stopped to wave at the sheepherder that day. Come to find out, that herder is Roberto's cousin, he also came from Peru to herd sheep in America.

Roberto told us his cousin spends a lot of time alone, as he herds sheep into extremely remote areas. Roberto's sheep were closer to the highway when we saw them and he said he has more contact with people than his cousin does, although he spends many days alone with the animals.

Roberto has a family in Peru, a wife and two children, a girl and a boy. He said his English isn't very good, but he tries hard to speak it correctly. We didn't have any trouble visiting with him at all, we thought his English was great.

He has a laptop computer in his little camper home, and it runs off batteries, but he didn't have internet. He did have a cell phone, but he didn't have a signal a lot of the time, as he's in the mountains. He told us he takes three months off each year. November, December and January are the months he spends with his family.

I asked him if he had trouble with bears, coyotes or wolves. He said a mountain lion killed six lambs a few days ago. He called the government trapper to come in and find the lion but the hunt was unsuccessful.

His sheep have a schedule. He told us they lay down for a nap around noon and rest until about 4 pm. After that, they get up and head up the mountain. Once they're on top, they spend the night there. Roberto gets up early, and with his horse and his dogs, he heads up the mountain to bring the sheep down for water, salt and mineral.

His dogs respond to whistled commands. They're lean and fit...not an ounce of fat....all muscle...from climbing the mountain each day to bring the sheep down. Roberto told us much of the time, the dogs work the sheep by noticing which way he or his horse happens to be facing. If he turns his horse to the left, the dogs automatically herd the sheep ahead of him turning toward the left.

His boss brings him supplies as he needs them. He also has two horses, and when the present horse is worn out, the boss brings a fresh one.

We're going to email pictures of Roberto to his wife. I will never in my life get over how the internet and digital cameras have changed the world. Isn't it amazing we could meet a teacher from Peru, who's herding sheep in Montana? And in no time at all, we can email photos of him to his wife and family?

This is one of the sheep herding dogs who works with Roberto, he was smiling at me.

If you'd like to read more about the way sheep control weeds in Montana, I've included a link to an article from the Montana Standard below....

Another article about sheep waging war on weeds.

We hope we see Roberto again!
Donna Ridgway