Sunday, May 19, 2024


The day Dad was born, Grandpa signed on a ranch near Big Trails WY, south of Ten Sleep. Along with the place came an old horse drawn bobsled. With the use of teams being pretty well gone by then, Grandpa welded on a tongue, put a hay rack on it, and drug it around with a tractor. Eventually it just became impractical to use, so it got parked on the fence line for the next 40 years. With no one living at the ranch, Dad didn't want to see it disappear. So he and Luke brought the running gear home to the farm in the mid 90's. After I got to playing with horses at my first assignment at St. Stephens, on the Wind River Indian Reservation from 2016-2019, Grandpa asked if we'd get it fixed up. So we did. 

Finished product, December 2017. 

I was looking for a project that winter, so Dad piled together the old running gear and hauled it up to me. 

Once we got it strung out, it didn't look quite as bad. Amazingly all the parts were there. The biggest problem was that the skis were rotted out. 

So we pressure washed it and drug it in my little shop to come up with a game plan. 

The old skis were one-piece and steam bent. With that not going to happen, we devised a plan to laminate them. We ripped a bunch of old rough-cut 2" wide fir into 3/16" strips. Then built a jig that followed the inside contour of the old skis. One by on we laid a strip down on a bed of glue and tack nailed it the the bottom board. Once it was at the desired height, we clamped it down and let it dry. After a day of drying we cut it off and repeated the same steps for all four skis. 

Then sanded them down and cut them to length.

With the skis in tact, it gave us encouragement to the take on the rest of the gear. Piecing it together and understanding all the components was a fun puzzle. The most challenging part was firming up the tongue that attached the two riggings. The old wood was real loose and a bit rotten. So we took some strap iron and bolted the top and bottom together, and the length of the tongue as well. 

There was no original deck that we knew of, so we set out to make it a buckboard style. Simple 2x4" frame work with some rough cut flooring. 

Used the same material for the sides and ends. Wagon boxes like this just set on the running gear. Not having any suspension to speak of, they need to be able to move up and down as the running gear flexes over the terrain. 

Coming up with the right seat was a challenge. But like always, the Lord provided. Sr. Teresa and I used to go visit a neat gal named June out in Fort Washakie. One day while leaving her house I spotted this old seat sitting in the tall grass. Inquiring about it, she gladly donated it to our cause. God rest your soul, June. 

It cleaned up well and fit perfect. Dad made a simple cushion for it. 

Then we drug it out and oiled it up. Looked tough and ready for work again.

To celebrate, we borrowed a team of Belgian horses and hauled kids around for our annual St. Stephens sleigh day on December 26th. Fun ride. 

With a change of assignment in 2019, we brought the bobsled home and parked it on the hill. It weathered fine, but sure did grey up. 

I was pleased to see that the skis were holding together. 

So we brought it in to freshen it up. With a little help, the grey came right off. 

Still stands strong. 

Of course we had to rebrand it.

Then put a fresh coat of linseed oil on it. I find this trick to work super well. Get as siphon nozzle attachment for your air compressor, and dunk the hose into a can of oil. Makes for an easy and effective mode of application. 


So we pulled it out. 

And parked it back on the hill.

Great heirloom. Carries with it good memories, both past and present. It'd be fun to pull it again someday, but teams are getting hard to come by. I enjoyed driving it, but probably enjoyed the challenge of fixing it up more. I'm thankful for Dad bringing it home and Grandpa wanting to get it going again. Treasures like this need to be displayed, if not used. Not sure if bobsleds represent a simpler time, but definitely a tougher time. No heated steering wheel here. If you needed to go to town in the winter back then, you and your horses better be ready. You can get there, but you better have a buffalo rug and some hot rocks at your feet. Good stuff. 

Spirit of Truth

The disciples spoke the universal language of truth.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Tree Thinning

Around Wyoming, you hate to cut down any live tree. Especially a Cottonwood, the state tree. However, half-dead trees will hang on for a long time, making you think they are going to rebound. Such was the case with our seven Cottonwoods that line Mom's boulevard. Probably five years ago they winter killed, but every spring a few limbs show some life. We've trimmed them and babied them, but they are just never going turn into more than a bush. So we made the call to cut them down and replace them with new trees. 

It's tough to grow a tree on our hilltop. A lot of gravel and the only water they get is what you run to it. These guys looked good until a tough winter. Not sure what the circumstances were, but it zapped the life out of them. 

Cottonwoods are notorious for never fully dying. They taunt you with a few green branches, while 75% of them are dead. 

Our removal tool of choice was the JD 450. Not having been run this year, we checked all the fluids before she touched off. 

If your going to do any logging, the proper chain is critical. This is a US made 3/8" that hasn't been cut or spliced. 

The smaller trees we knew we could pull over. We just hooked the chain a few feet up the trunk for a bit of leverage, but not too high so that it might break off instead of uproot the stump. 

Then gave it a go. 

We tried our best to knock off all the dirt we could before dragging them to the pile.

The two taller trees we pushed over so they didn't land on the cab over the dozer. When pushing over a tree make sure and ease into it. If you hit it with impact at the base, the top of it can't react as quick and it can actually snap up high and land in your lap. 

Worked out. 

We drug them all over to the North 40. 

And piled them up so we can burn them once they've dried out. 

The clean up wasn't too bad. I did the best I could with the dozer. 

And Dad put the final touches on with the farmhand. 

Mom and Dad already have new trees planted in between where the old ones stood. They are Honey Locust.

We've had good luck with them in other places. They grow up quick and nice, and really seem to handle a Wyoming winter well. 

Mission accomplished. 

Everyone's happy. 

The only thing worse than a dead tree is a half-dead tree. It's amazing how cleaner the yard looks now. The little bit of green didn't out weigh the protruding dead branches. We could have trimmed them out of there better, but a Cottonwood shrub isn't what we were looking for. Trees along hilltop not only look good from the yard, but also from the road. There's a season for everything, a time to live and a time to be uprooted. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

John Paul II

One of the funnest aspects of being around St. Matthews in Gillette is our St. John Paul II Catholic School. Such great folks and such great memories. Every year I like to bring Chief by to say hi, and this time they surprised me with some creative farewells. 

The three amigos: Mr. Paul Casey, Fr. Bryce Lungren, & Mr. Tony Schamber. Good bunch. It's been a great run, boys. Thanks for the friendship. 

In honor of this farewell visit, Tony had some shirts made up for myself, the teachers, and all the students. A lot of great symbolism going on here. Love it!

Usually I pull up on my bike and Ms.Vanessa Gemar and I welcome the students and shoot the breeze. Today we surprised the kids with Chief. 

Afterwards, all the different classes, pre-k thru 6th, came and got their picture with us.  

At the end, we got one big all-class and teacher photo. Definitely one for the books. 

To top off their farewell surprise they gave me a specially embroidered two sided vest. So good. Y'all be good and have fun!

How great. My involvement with the school has been a win win. No doubt it's good for the kids to be around a priest who is also a man. But, boy have they inspired me. Such sincere faith. Once a week I'd rotate through the classrooms listening to the kids and answering their questions. No duplicity there! These kids truly love God and want to know more about Him. St. John Paul II Catholic School has done an exceptional job in instilling this wonder in them. Keep up the Good work! 

Special thanks to all the teachers and staff, both past and present, who have gone out of their way to support and encourage me over the years. I'm going to miss you. But that's the beauty of the Church. We are never far apart. Our memories remain deep in our heart. And if we take time to thank God for them, they come back alive. That's Eternal Ranching, 24-8 !

Love Your Enemies

By laying down your life for them.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Preg Checking

Spring isn't your usual time to preg check cattle. But if you know of a guy who is capable of it, why not. Once the big rush of calving is over, you always have a few stragglers that make you wonder if they are pregnant or not. This being the case for Randy and Sheila Burggraff, and knowing that Fr. Zane Pekron was in the neighborhood, they set up a mid spring preg checking party. 

There was 17 girls who hadn't calved that needed checking. 

So they called in Fr. Zane and newly minted Dcn. Lee Noel. 

Zane's no stranger to the rear-end of a cow. If I have my facts straight, he started leaning the trade as a young lad from his grandpa. As the years went by, he'd pick the brains of the local vets who'd come to check their herd and they would let him arm a cow or two and give him pointers. Lately, he's even attend some clinics that are geared to teach ranchers some of the tricks of the trade. Needless to say, he's a sought out commodity to his Catholic Cowboy parishioners. 

Having the right set up is key to a smooth operation. 

Randy and Sheila, along with other members of their family, ranch off of Oak Creek, northeast of Aladdin, WY. They first met Fr. Zane when he was associate pastor in Belle Fourche, SD, which is their closest parish. After learning of his preg checking abilities, this has been an annual event for the past several years. 

Preg checking is not for the faint of heart. A brave soul reaches up the rectum of a cow to be able to palpate their uterus to determine if they are pregnant or not. 

There are four basic features that will determine whether a cow is pregnant: You can feel the actual calf; you can feel the cotyledons attached to the uterus; you can feel the artery pulsating, which is feeding the calf; and, if its very young, you can feel the small fetus slip by your fingers within the uterus wall.

Zane is also a good teacher. Little Ezra is a ranchher at heart. 

Not being her first rodeo, she knows what to look for.

Meanwhile, Dcn. Lee keeps the other cows from sneaking down the chute. 

Fr. Zane even got him gloved up to take a feel. 

In the end, the verdict was 12 bred, 5 open. 

Just ranching.

Fun time. I'm always game to see beautiful country and learn a trick or two. I played it safe with my clerics and was able to just be the ranch photographer. I'm a big fan of priests’ healthy extracurricular activities. Palpating cattle keeps Fr. Zane in the saddle of sonship. From here, he is not only able to help preg check his parishioners cattle, but he can also relate to them on a human level. Kind of like Jesus. Keep it up, pard. 

Mother of the Church

 Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!