Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Montana Mission

Last fall my buddy Fr. Kevin Christofferson, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Polson, MT and Sacred Heart mission in Ronan, MT, asked if I'd come give a parish mission. After a bit of prayer and consultation, I agreed. Well, the time arrived, and I held up my end of the deal and drove to Flathead Lake in the Northwest corner of Montana. 

Beautiful trip across the center of the state. Definitely spring time.

My first stop was to visit my uncle in Helena. He's always up to something. 

Then, before I left town, I had lunch with my old friend Fr. Tom O'Donnell. Fr. Tom played an important role in getting me into seminary. Thanks partner. 

When I arrived in Polson, I preached the weekend Masses. This little church in Ronan is where the mission would take place.

Beautiful and simple old church. 

The first night started out with a dinner followed my my first talk.

In between, Fr. Kevin took pretty good care of me.

For the next two nights, I gave a talk in the evening followed by a nice reception. 

Mission accomplished. I had been preparing for this since the first of the year. But giving three 45min talks was no walk in the park. The first one was rough. So I toned it down and just spoke from the heart on the next two. In the end I was pleased. But I'm not sure if this cowboy is meant to give long talks. My mo is generally short and sweet. This was definitely good practice and a wonderful opportunity to meet some great folks. Thanks Fr. Kevin for the easing me into these waters. On to the next one! 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

War on Weeds

Weeds are my nemesis. Left unattended, they'll overrun a guy's place. With last year being such a wet summer around Worland, the weeds really showed their ugly face. No more. Part of the problem of tending to them on our little place back home is getting enough chemical on them with the little time we've got. Problem solved. She's yet to be put into action, but our new Binford 2000 spray unit is ready for battle. 

I thought if we had something with some volume, pressure, and reach, then when I'm back home for my 24 hours of leave, Dad and I can really cover some ground. I'm hopeful. 

When the idea came to me last fall I started to keep a watchful eye on some online auction sites. Musser Brothers out of Cody/Billings is always a good resource. This old pickup skid unit, which would've originally had fold-up wings, came to my attention in October just south of Lavian MT. Picked her up for a song. 

So White Horse and I jetted up there during one of our few snow storms this winter. Fun ride. 

Eventually we stuck it in Dave's shop for a little winter project. 

Then we called Warne Chemical out of Rapid City SD and Arron got us all fixed up. 

The Honda GX 200 and centrifugal pump were both new, and the hose and reel we got were slightly used. Warne really did us a good job. 

About the only thing wrong with the tank was a rotted out fitting up front.

We just took an 1 1/2" rubber expansion plug. 

And made light work of it. 

Then we went to fabbing. I come across a wandering Western Welding Academy grad and put him to work. Dillon proved to be a good hand. Thanks for the help, pard. 

This was a budget project. We used all the old iron off of the unit we could, and the rest we dug out of Ernie's scrap iron pile. 

It was fun to put old brackets to use in new ways. 

Plumbing was the interesting part. Definitely had to plan our work before we worked our plan. 

It really came together nicely, though. 

We did, however, have to change out the 400' of 3/8" hose for 300' of 1/2" hose. Dad warned me that there wouldn't be enough pressure at the end of 400'. To my credit, the pump was sized for it. But in the end, he was right. Shorter length and bigger diameter creates less friction and gives good pressure and volume at the gun. 

Changing the design of what this skid was originally intended for, we welded on some cradle points so we could load and unload it with the farmhand. 

Or our bale bed. 

  I'm pleased with the end product. The engine runs super smooth. The hose reel has an electric wind-up. And the pressure and reach of the spray should make light work of things. 

Bring it. 

It's never too early to be thinking about spring. White Horse will probably not be our truck of choice. But with this unit being self contained, we can carry it around on anything. Spray set ups like this are also desirable around ranches because they can dub as fire fighting units. Whatever cause arises, we're ready. Watch out weeds! 

Head Honcho

You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Feeding the Faith

Part of the goodness of being Catholic is that you have brothers everywhere. Ted Kautzman, from eastern Montana, occasionally comes down to Hulett for Mass when they are traveling south. Consequently, we've visited a bit. This past week he reached out and wanted to donate a horse hay feeder to our cause. With an eye always looking toward ranch improvements, I didn't balk at his generosity.

Having done a few water projects recently, Ted came up with a good use for leftover lengths of poly pipe. Fuse them together, tie a hay net onto them, and make an easy-to-use round bale feeder. 

After our trade off, I ran it up to the horses, grabbed a round bale of grass from Chuck, cut the net wrap, and simply laid the feeder over it. 

With the cargo net attached to the bottom of the feeder, it just naturally pulls the net over the bale. Being made out of plastic pipe, it is really light to maneuver. 

And best of all, the horses approve.

Thanks Ted. What a good use of spare parts and pieces. I love farmer ingenuity. It's not only practical but functional as well. More than anything, though, I love being Catholic. There's an instant brotherhood with each other. Whether you're around the world or across state lines, Catholics always have one thing in common, our Faith. Keep up the Good work, brother. Long live Catholic Cowboys! 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Paintrock Pilgrimage

On Kurt and my bucket list was to make the epic Big Horn trek from Deer Heaven to Burgess Junction. Due to the complexity of the trip and its extreme nature, we elevated it to the status of a pilgrimage. 

Every pilgrimage needs a destination. For us, it was Paintrock Lodge. Nestled half way from point A to point B on our 80 mile ride, this lodge was once owned and operated by my great aunt and uncle, Ione and Bill Craft. Never having been there, it would also mark the peak of difficulty on this trip. Once arrived, it would be down hill from there. 

So we blew out after work on Thursday and met in Buffalo and drove to Deer Heaven where we unloaded and rode into the cabin for the night. 

Do Drop Inn. 

Here, Mom and Dad welcomed us with a warm fire and the smell of hamburgers on the grill. 

That's what I'm talkin' about!

The next morning it was time to ranch. After celebrating Mass and eating breakfast, Mom sent us off with the motherly reminder to be careful. To which I reminded her that our policy is always safety first.

The dark blue trail was our baby, we started south and headed north. We are pretty familiar the first quarter section of this country. After that we would duck into no man's land where they don't groom or maintain the trail for about 12-15 miles. This would kick us out at Paintrock and the next 40 miles would still be new country, but the trails should be groomed.

This has been an extremely light snow year. In fact, there is little, to no, snowmobile activity in the Big Horns.

We weren't scared though. Cutting fresh tracks everywhere we went was pretty fun. 

We landed at Battle Park with no problems. From here, the trail ends and the ride begins. 

Finding this trail head took us forever. Kurt had a GPS guided map on his phone, but it didn't work right away. Thanks be to God it kicked into action. Without it we would have been lost. 

It was fun at first.

But then we started to hit down trees. 

Fortunately, Big John showed up to help us duck under sagging timbers. 

The next few miles in the trees wasn't too bad.

But when we came out the other side, we were in trouble. No snow. This was my greatest fear in tackling this trip with this dry year. Honestly, if I knew we would encounter this mess, I wouldn't have gone. Typical pilgrimage. 

So we set out, bucking mud and rocks, and riding on the grass when we could. Our biggest challenge was over heating. I finally took the side panels off my sled so the engine could breath better. Fortunately, being a good farmer, I brought some baling twine along and tied them on the back.

We were at the point of no return, there was only one way out. Go forward. 

After taking a break and praying the Rosary, it started to snow. It didn't make things much easier, but it did make us feel better as we bombed up dry hills and bounced over rocks. 

Eventually we climbed out of this lower elevation and started to get back into the trees, into ridable snow again. 

We still weren't back into civilization, though, and had to bushwhack our way on a trail that only exists on a map. 

Arrived. One thing about cowboys, they don't quit. As hard as it was, it was super fun.

To celebrate, we had lunch at the nearby warming shelter. It took us 6 hours to make this first 40 miles. 

Wanting to beat the dark, we set out once again. This time the trails were pretty good and we could cruse at a good clip. 

However, a lot of it was in whiteout conditions.

Mission accomplished. 2 hours and 40 miles later we made it to Burgess Junction on the North side of the mountain, where we loaded up and headed home.

Alls well that ends well. This trip probably ranks high on all Big Horn Mountain snowmobilers' bucket list. But, because of its nature and distance, it's hard to pull off. We however, had an ace in the hole, Mom and Dad. After we headed out on our snowmobiles, they shuttled our pickup and trailer to the other side of the mountain. Catholic Cowboys aren't afraid to ask for help. God promises to help us on our pilgrimage of life, if only we ask (John 16:23). The prerequisite on our part, is that we don't quit riding. Life is about the destination. But the beauty and the battle lie in the journey. Let's ranch! 

Brace Post

If you want to build a good fence, you have to start with a good brace post. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the effort you put in y...