Saturday, February 25, 2023

Grouser Time

During the dog days of winter a guy has to get creative on how to spend his time. The grouser bars on the tracks of our JD 450 have been worn down ever since we got the dozer. I've always wanted to extend them but couldn't imagine taking the time to do it. Well, with a late winter going on, now was the acceptable time. 

The dozer had enough traction when both tracks were engaged. But when you went to turn while pushing a load, you'd spin.

So I did the math and cut out 74 16”x1”x1/2" bars ahead of time. 

Then when I landed back home we went to work. I'd first tack weld the bars onto the old grouser. 

We used my old 250 mig welder for that. That way we could also fill in the gaps on the ends of the bars. 

Then laid a hot bead with two 5/32" 7018 rods. 

Using the old SA-200 for that. Probably would have been quicker using the mig for everything, but I just like the penetration of an arc welder for a job like this. 

Besides, good arc welds have more character. 

We did one track at a time, getting the track off the ground with down pressure from the blade and a 20k bottle jack in the back. Then we used a 36" pipe wrench to turn the track so we always had a nice flat surface to weld. 

All that rod put off some strong smoke. This nice little Miller filter fit under my helmet. Very thankful for that. 

Muy Bien. We welded both tracks and both sides of each bar. 74 bars at 16" long x2 = 197' of weld. My back is sore. 

No more spinning though. 

Another well job done. I really enjoyed this couple day venture. When its cold out there's no better place to be than the shop. Having good clean iron and a dialed in welder makes for fun welding. On to the next one... after I get some rest. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

The Mystery of Evil

The mystery of the Cross is that God can bring good out of evil. A great evil happened to me the other day in the Napa parking lot. I went in and bought two new cans of starting fluid. When I jumped in the truck one fell out of my pocked and broke the top off. I went back in the store, but the cashier showed me no sympathy. So I thought to myself, "What would Jesus do?" He'd shoot it!

I told Dad that I bet if you shot a full can of ether it would explode into a fire ball. He didn't think so. I said, "There's only one way to find out!"

Dad was right.
(Click the gear and jump up to 720)

We would never have known what would happen if you shot a full can of starting fluid if I hadn't slipped up and dropped a can that fateful afternoon in the Napa p-lot. God's mysterious ways. 2000 years later, our good God is still bringing good out of evil. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Ash Wednesday

I may have never covered a bronc in rodeo, but I never missed a mark-out and I never turned-out. Turn-out is when you've signed up for a rodeo, but don't show. They run your horse through the chute, call your name, and pull the gate letting the horse circle the arena without you on it. If I'm scheduled for Mass, I'll be there, even in the middle of a snow-apocalypse. 

My bronc of choice: Whitehorse. 

The roads were open heading to Moorcroft at 6am, but barely. 

Catholics are diehards for Ash Wednesday Mass. Jerry had the lot and walks cleared and we had a good two dozen for Mass. 

On to Wright in the afternoon. Hwy 59 was closed earlier but they got it open just in time for us to roll down. 

Instead of warming up during the day, it just got colder. 

Blessed Sacrament was drifted in. 

But we dug her out with great grandpa's scoop shovel. 

The Catholic Cowboy spirit is alive and well. 

That smile made all my journeys worth while. 

I love fighting for Mass. Jesus asks us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There's no better way to show that than by making every effort possible to get to Mass. It's gonna be a good Lent. I can smell it. 



The purpose of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is deeper intimacy with God.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Catholic Cowboy Way

Back in the fall of 2021 I received a call from Bear Woznick asking if I ever thought of writing a book. I told him, "I don't think I have enough grey in my mustache to write a book." He said, "I'm putting you in touch with my publisher, Sophia." It caused me to think, "What would I write a book about?" So I just shot from the hip and said, "The Catholic Cowboy Way."

Not long after that I received an email from Charlie McKinney, the president of Sophia Institute Press stating that if I felt called to write a book to let him know. So I shot him my basic theme, which he was interested in. That night I woke up with the entire outline. I reached over and grabbed my phone and wrote it down. I never veered from it. 

So with my trusty 2013 MacBook Pro, I set out. I do like to write, but I have never tackled a project of this magnitude. I figured if I wanted to write about a 150 page book in 12 chapters I'd have to be about 3,000 words a chapter. 90% of this book was written in front of the Blessed Sacrament. My prayer before writing was always: "Lord help me to write from my heart, to touch men's hearts, to draw them closer to Your Heart."

I learned so much from this journey. First, you have to be careful not to exhaust a topic too soon; detail is necessary if you want to get to 3,000 words. Also, what a gift digital technology is. I could only imagine how hard it would be to do this by hand, making corrections as you went. I was able to go back and fine tune sentences and change words with no effort. Third, putting your thoughts into concrete sentences is a good exercise. Even if this book never got published it would have been a great gift. 

It took about 9 months of 20 to 30 minutes a day, four or five days a week to write. I just went to bed a half hour early and got up a half hour sooner. I'd write about three paragraphs and then chew on it the rest of the day. Once the manuscript was complete, I had my buddy William do some general proof reading. Then we sent it to the publisher. 

Editing was the greatest chore. I told Sophia, "I wrote a book for guys that don't read books.” They were good to work with. It was interesting to get pushed on theological points. There was a temptation to back down and just delete the point. But I found myself cowboying up and making the point even stronger. The only other rub we had is with my cowboy lingo. In the end, we were able to come up with a fine product. 

Chief and I received our first shipment of books in late January 2023. It was fun to read through. We chose the subtitle: "Finding Peace and Purpose on the Bronc called Life." During a recent radio interview I was asked what the philosophy of the Catholic Cowboy was? To which I responded, "To have fun and get the job done." The Catholic Cowboy Way is to help cowboys practice the Catholic Faith and to help Catholics discover their inner cowboy. 

Probably my favorite part is the dedication. 

February 21st was the official release date. So in good Catholic Cowboy fashion we threw a party. After the 9:00 morning Mass we had a little book signing reception. A good 80 people or so showed up to show their support.

The ladies of the Church provided some delicious cookies and coffee. 

Then we got busy signing. We sold probably 150 books today. And I received a compliment from two people that I have never heard before: "You have beautiful penmanship."

Giddy up!

I may have had funner projects in my life, but I couldn't tell you what they were. I like to write. And when it's about my two favorite things in life, God and ranching, all the better. But what I figured out is that I love meaning. And words contain meaning. My hope for this book is that it inspires people to boldly follow Christ. Jesus shows us how to be joyful. He shows us how to live life and complete our mission. And ultimately, He leads us home to Heaven. All for the greater glory of God! 

If you'd like to order the book go to:


My soul magnifies the Lord.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Hog Leg

Nothing says America like shooting guns and watching the Super Bowl. A nice sunny afternoon was the perfect time to try out my newly borrowed six shooter. 

I didn't know I needed a .45 long colt until I was running around with my brother Matt. I've always liked this hog leg of his so I asked if I could bring it home for awhile. Like a good big brother, he agreed. 

So I called my buddy Ryan up and we took a little time to plink around. She sure does shoot nice. 

We pulled out his AR-556 while we were at it. 

The ole Silver Bullet didn't stand a chance. 

Guns are fun. I know they get a bad rap from a lot of people, but it's hard to imagine life out west without one or two. Part of survival. American freedom comes with responsibility. We use the gifts God has given us to support human flourishing and the common good of all. In this neck of the woods, guns are an essential part of that equation.

Living for the Kingdom

If your cellphone causes you to sin, throw it away!

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Shearing Sheep

Ranching sheep runs deep within the Neiber decedents. Mom and Dad's place is on part of my great-great grandfather Neiber's homestead. Uncle Chris is on another part of it. While we went more cowboy, they stuck with the sheep. Today was sheep shearing day on the Schmeltzer Ranch. 

The ole Reverse C bar C 

Uncle Chris is no stranger to shearing sheep.

This sheep wagon was Grandpa Murdoch's, Uncle Chris's grandfather and my great grandfather. He married Adeline Neiber after homesteading up the Owl Creek. Among other pastures around the area, he continued to run sheep out at Neiber. 

Shearers are not easy to come by these days. Michael came down from the Belfry MT area. 

Not much has changed in the sheep shearing business.

It's all about technique. If you put yourself in a good posture, you can run though a decent amount of sheep without much back trouble. 

Some guys will use suspension belts, especially when tackling a couple thousand head.

Once the wool is sheared, it's collected and bagged. Stuffing measures have changed over the years.

Back in the day, they'd throw a bundle of wool up to a platform.

Where Grandpa would stand inside a bag and stuff it. 

Hard to beat today's hydraulics though. 

All cleaned up and ready for lambing in a month or so. 

Sheep are cool, but they are a different ballgame to run. If you're not set up for them, they'll be a pain in the rear. However, if your ranch is ready like Uncle Chris's, shearing sheep is just another day in the office. Nice work partner. Thanks for supplying the world with Wyoming wool. 

Friday, February 10, 2023


Anytime I have a security question that asks me what my favorite hobby is, I always answer: welding. I love to weld. I first learned in my high school shop class with Mr. Wise. Since then, the education hasn't stopped. Our intent last fall was to leave the corrals in condition that we could work on them through the winter. So with a day off needing to be spent, I ran back home to cap some posts. 

Some might call this being a perfectionist. I say it’s being classy. I don't like uneven posts. Besides that, they needed to be capped. I've seen all sorts of ways people have capped tubbing. Some buy a domed cap that just pounds in. Other guys have wadded up newspaper and shoved it down the pipe a few inches and then fill the void up with sack crete, doming it up at the top. Others don't do anything. We decided to just put a flat plate cap with chamfered edges. 

The first step was to cut out the circles just right. We're working with 2 7/8" o.d. pipe so I cut the circles just over 2 1/2". Being slightly smaller would give us a good welding surface. Plasma cutters make jobs like this clean and easy. 

Once down at the corrals we switched to the old standby: oxy/acetylene cutting torch.  

About this time is when Hank decided to join the fun. 

The first step was to mark each post. I just went 1 1/2" above the top rail of the fence. 

A torch does a good job but it's not always the cleanest. 

Thank God for grinders. 

Once prepped we were ready for the cap. 

Cutting it just right leaves room for a nice 45 degree weld.

Our welder of choice is a Lincoln SA-200 pipeliner. She’s fun to run and listen to purr. This is a 1979 model. Guys still prefer these old timers in the oil patch. Their solid copper windings make them weld consistent all day long. 

I take all the advantages I can. Auto darkening lens make a big difference. I've had this helmet for close to 25 years now. 

The type and diameter of rod is important. When the guy told me that 6011 was easy strike I told him sold!

It took one rod exactly to make it around. Arc welds leave a slag of flux on top of the weld. You can leave it.

Or chip it off. 

I like to go another step and run a grinder around it. 

Muy bien. 

I love to weld. In our senior year of high school, Mr. Wise took a couple of us to a state wide welding completion at the Northwest College in Powell WY. I took dead last. I've learned a lot since then and continue to do so. A guy has to get the basics down. But after that, let the ponies run! Metal is definitely my favorite material to work with. It's forgiving and lasts forever. What a gift fabrication is to man. It allows us to co-create with God. I love it, and don't ever plan to stop. On to the next one.

Fr. Brian

Fr. Brian Hess and I go way back to seminary. Being two years ahead of me in school and about eight years behind me in life, we've spent...