Just Two Guys revisited

To celebrate our 500th post on BigShotsNow we are republishing some of our more popular posts. This post first appeared on May 23 2013. If you have any suggestions of previous posts you’d like to see again drop a note to dlutsey@enchantedpixels.com and we’ll try and honor that request.

 

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“Whoa, Dude, that was some winter. Did you think we were going to make it?”

“No man, I thought we were toast there in February. You ever been that cold?”

“Un Unh Dude, I felt like condensed lichen pellets.”

“You know man, this spring sun makes me feel kinda twitchy, I can’t stop chewing my cud”

“Dude Don’t sweat it, chewing your cud is normal. I saw old Cracked Horn chewing his cud and he’s a full curl.”

“Yeah man but I’m chewing it as fast as I can all the time. That can’t be normal.”

“Just mellow out dude. How many kids you got now?”

“In this herd? Eleven man, but I got three on the way. Four, if Ms. Cloven Hoof is carrying twins like last year. How about you?”

“I’m not doing so hot dude, I went up against old Cracked Horn again. I still got ringing in my ears and I have to be really careful when I’m up on the face of High Step cuz my left eye is still fuzzy.”

“The trick with Cracked Horn man, is you got to watch him, just before he hits you he lifts his muzzle up too high and if you step off to the right and drop your horn you can catch him right across his nose. He usually stops for awhile after that. That’s how come I might be having twins with Ms. Cloven hoof.”

“Dude, I have never noticed that! He’s going down this fall.”

“Watch it man, here he comes. Probably going to tell us how he beat that ram from the Snowlot herd again. I am SO sick of that story.”

“Hey Cracked, how’s it going? Lay down and chew the cud for awhile.”

Summertime Blues revisited

To celebrate our 500th post on BigShotsNow we are republishing some of our more popular posts. This post first appeared on July 5 2013. If you have any suggestions of previous posts you’d like to see again drop a note to dlutsey@enchantedpixels.com and we’ll try and honor that request.

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It’s hot out here on the prairie in the summer. That’s the way summer is, but today feels different. Today the air is still, unnaturally quiet and there is an oppressive feel to it as if the air got suddenly heavier. The chickens have all found places to roost and there isn’t a sound out of any of them, even the old rooster has gone silent. The light has gone different too, going from the usual bright blue to a kind of sullen blue-grey color with a tinge of green that doesn’t feel right. Mom’s in the house getting ready to start canning. It’s been a struggle to keep the rabbits and deer out of the garden and she’s got to save what she has harvested so far. Dad’s out in the field trying his damnest to get the seed in before the rain hits. Claude and Old Bill don’t like the clouds forming or the way it has got quiet all of a sudden and they are hard to keep straight. Dad has been giving them hell and the horses sweaty backs are more from nervousness than the hard work. Seed’s expensive and it has to go down right or the yield won’t be there.

If you look close you can see skinny little kids with angular faces and very serious expressions playing out behind the shed. They had been hitting something with sticks a little while before, you couldn’t see what it was but whatever it was they were intent on making its life miserable. They’re not bad kids but a hard life makes for hard play.

The shed door started banging against its hinges as the wind kicked up and inside the cow is pulling against its rope. It doesn’t like the feeling in the air and wants outside. It’s only a little after noon and the sky is darkening for as far as you can see. These clouds mean only one thing and it is the worst thing you can have besides fire. Their rounded, puffy bottoms are a prelude to one of the great devastations visited on this land. Off in the far forty Dad is turning the team towards home. He’s about to turn them loose and jump on back of old Bill to beat the wind and get everybody rounded up. Mom has shut down the stove and damped the fire, canning can wait.

With everybody accounted for and Dad home cutting the horses loose to fend for themselves it’s time to pull open the root cellar door and enter the cool earthy smelling darkness. Mom brought the loaf of bread from the oven and her bible, Dad’s got the kerosene lantern lit and the kids are staring wide-eyed at the last sliver of daylight as the cellar door gets pulled down tight and locked. Maybe next year if everything goes right they can get an electric light down there but I guess that would only last until the twister took out the power poles so maybe they’ll save their money. The littlest one is hanging on to her sister and listening as if her life depended on it as her brother tells how the twister will sound like a freight train from hell as it passes by and maybe suck them right up out of the ground if it has a mind to. Lots of people have been sucked up out of the ground, blown away and just killed, he says, but his big sister says Dad won’t let that happen and he should just shush. Besides he was the one that wet his pants the last time he was so scared so he shouldn’t be trying to scare any one else.

If they’re lucky the twister will miss the house and the out buildings and their livestock will make it. So far they’ve been lucky. This isn’t their first storm but it doesn’t get easier with each one, just the opposite in fact. Dry land farming and life out here in general is a tough way to make it go what with the drought, the fires, the winds, the dust storms, the grasshoppers and the tornadoes. This is real Grapes of Wrath stuff here, gritty, hard-edged and no holds barred life on the plains but these are strong people and they have faith they can make it. I believe they can too, but it’s going to be a long afternoon none the less.

Birthin’ Babies revisited

To celebrate our 500th post on BigShotsNow we are republishing some of our more popular posts. This post first appeared on April 4 2013. If you have any suggestions of previous posts you’d like to see again drop a note to dlutsey@enchantedpixels.com and we’ll try and honor that request. Clicking on each of the images will enlarge them so the detail is clearer.

 

 Birthin’ Babies

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Buffalo are a lot like other creatures that have babies, they’re just bigger is all, and because they are bigger you can’t always tell that they’re pregnant. Such was the case with this young cow that was soon to be a mother.

Whenever I go to Yellowstone, as a creature of habit I have a tradition, or ritual, OK an obsession, where my very first picture has to be of a buffalo. They are the icon for me that represents Yellowstone and all the creatures and natural wonders that makes the park the unique place it is and what draws me back there year after year. As I entered the park from the western entrance and drove along the Madison river watching the herds I noticed a grouping of cows within but slightly separate from the main herd. I pulled off the road, got out and casually ran my lens over the slowly milling animals looking for one that might be my opening shot.

Suddenly, without warning, the young cow near the center of the picture began to spin around and out popped a calf. It flew through the air and landed on the ground with a thud. The cows who seemed to be acting as mid-wives and had been keeping an eye on this expectant mother all stood stock still. I stood stock still. It could not have been more unexpected or had any greater impact on me had it happened at Westminster cathedral.

I looked around at the other people standing near me and none of them had seen this. All of the tourists who had jumped off the newly arrived bus, both foreign and domestic had not seen this.The miracle of birth that had just thudded to the ground in a wet pile went unnoticed by everyone but me and the buffalo mid-wives and fortunately I was the only one of the group who had a camera.

 

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It appears by her size and uncertainty that this may well have been this cows first calf. Buffalo breed when they are two years old and have their first calves when they are three. Instinct has taken over and she knows what to do, she just isn’t quite sure how to do it.

 

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Another even younger cow comes over trying to make sense of all this but just gets in the way confusing this new mother even more. First item of business is to get rid of the afterbirth which she handles very well and before long the brand new calf is clean as a whistle.

 

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Next on the agenda is to get him up so he can nurse and learn who his mother is. She is having a little trouble with this part and can’t quite figure out how to do it and winds up rolling him over several times.

 

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More of the older cows arrive and start to check out the new addition. The new mom is off to the left of the calf lying on the ground.

 

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Seeing the new calf struggling to get up brings more of the older cows nearer while the new mom still appears be bewildered by events. She hasn’t taken charge of the situation yet and looks on more as a spectator rather than the main participant.

 

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It is a struggle, to be sure, to find your footing when you don’t know how to do anything yet. His legs aren’t doing what he wants and he keeps falling over. At the top of the image a large older cow arrives and takes charge of what is rapidly becoming a chaotic situation.

 

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Meanwhile life goes on in the herd. Two bulls decide this meadow isn’t big enough for the both of them and attempt to settle things just a few feet away from the struggling new calf. In the background several elk cows are fording the Madison and up on the road the tourists are boarding their bus to go on to the next sight.

 

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More and more exhausted the young calf still struggles to get up. He needs to nurse to replace the lost energy spent coming into the world. The midwife greets the new arrival

 

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And with a few nudges quickly helps him to his feet. He mistakenly thinks she is mom but with several more gentle pushes she redirects him to his own mother and nature begins to take it’s course. His mother is standing directly behind the mature cow and you can see the difference in their sizes, as the new mother is almost invisible behind the larger cow.

 

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He quickly heads in the right direction and finding her is soon nursing. The midwife cow has her own calf to feed but she sticks around a little longer to make sure that everything is working right for the mother.

 

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As soon as he has drunk his fill the totally exhausted calf and the brand new mother take a much needed rest. The entire episode, from when the calf hit the ground until this first nap, was almost exactly fifteen minutes according to the time stamp on my camera. It doesn’t take long to get born in the Yellowstone.

 

 

No Services revisited

To celebrate our 500th post on BigShotsNow we are republishing some of our more popular posts. This post first appeared on February 26 2014. If you have any suggestions of previous posts you’d like to see again drop a note to dlutsey@enchantedpixels.com and we’ll try and honor that request.

 

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Phlegm Catarrh’s World Famous Trading Post!

Cold Soda! Post Cards! Bus Stop! Greyhound station! Customs! ATM! Fishing Licenses! Gas and Oil! Party Favors! Maps! Pony Rides! Moccasins! Information! Taxes Done While You Wait! Indian jewelry! Fry Bread! Mechanic On Duty! Bible Verses Explained! Passports! Barber Shop! Rodeo Tickets! Water! Water To Go $8! Brakes Inspected! Flare Guns! Box Lunches! Wills Made Out! Internet Café! Babysitting Done Cheap! Snake Bite Kits! Message Board! Immigration advice! Notary! Cabins to Let!

These signs and more greeted us as we pulled up to the rusty gas pumps. Everything was covered with the fine red dust that makes this country look like a movie set on Mars. It was desolate but we were just happy to find someone alive. After getting Powell the pump dog to move we stuck the nozzle into our gas tank and flipped the lever up. Several minutes went by with nothing happening. Clicking the handle, flipping the lever up and down, smacking the side of the pump, nothing worked. Finally we heard the Screendoor slam and out came an older fellow, unshaven, kind of tall, kind of covered with the same red dust, who we guessed was Phlegm himself. He came out to the edge of the porch and said “Ain’t no gas. Truck hasn’t been here in three years. If you need gas you’ll have to take the short cut down to Potash rd. then onto 279 until you come to 191. That ought to take you into Moab. I heard they got gas.” How far is that, we asked in our bravest voice, we’ve got less than a quarter of tank left. “Shoot, no problem just head on down the hill here and try not to use your 4 wheel drive too much.”

Are the roads marked, we don’t want to get lost, you can probably tell we’re new around here. “You don’t say, Hell Yes They’s marked! Sorry Ma’am. The school bus driver put up fresh piles of stones at all the corners so the new driver wouldn’t get lost. Damn fool wound up way the hell , sorry Ma’am, back behind the Hopi reservation last week. We didn’t see the kids for three days.” I’m not sure we understand the stone marking system, how does that work? “You people really are new ain’t you. Where you from, New York city? Listen up then. The first corner you come to at Potash there’s a big flat rock and on it are two kinda smaller, rounder rocks with the littlest one pointing up the road where you’re supposed to go. It’s simple you can’t miss it. How much gas did you say you got?” Little less than a quarter of a tank. “Hmmm, you might want to coast the first 7-8 miles down the hill then.”

Don’t you have any gas at all you could let us have, we’d really appreciate it. ” No, can’t really spare any but I can sell you a map. It’s pretty close. They made some changes to White Rim road though after the rockslide tore it up. Buried the town grader under 20′ of rock. Damnest thing you ever saw, sorry Ma’am, if old Ed hadn’t stopped to take a leak, sorry ma’am, we still be digging for him. Come to think of it you may want to coast a little farther down the hill, you’re going to need 4 wheel drive to get through that stretch.”

How much is the map then? I guess we better have one. “Well, seeing as it’s the last one I got and it’s almost a collectors item, I can let you have it for 20 bucks.” 20 bucks for a map? That’s a little steep, isn’t it Phlegm? ” Well, I don’t know, young fellow. You got a Map?” So we paid our money and started down the hill. It was a very steep part of the hill with a sharp bend to the right when we saw the faded sign that said ” No services for the next 128 miles.” Phlegm had not mentioned this to us and as there was no place to turn around for as far as we could see and we couldn’t back up, we walked the half mile back up to the store to ask Phlegm what that meant.

Phlegm! There’s a sign there that says No Services for 128 miles! Is that right? “Yup that’s right. The signs there for sure.” We can’t go 128 miles on a quarter tank of gas! ” Well, son, then don’t miss that flat rock with the two smaller rounder rocks on it. If you do, then it’s 128 miles to the next Trading Post, but it ain’t as well stocked as this one, so look close.” Do you have a phone Phlegm? We need to call Triple A. ” Nope, used to, but the last tow truck that came up here slid down the hill. Took out three of our poles and phone company hasn’t sent anyone out since. You folks better get going if you plan on making it out before dark. That roads tricky at night.”

How much are your cabins Phlegm? “Well son, I can let you have one with two beds in it for 250 dollars a night. The ones with one bed are all taken, You like Fry bread?, by the way, do you folks need your taxes done? Come on over this way, watch for snakes now if you need to use the crapper, I mean the facilities, sorry Ma’am.”

Big Hats revisited

To celebrate our 500th post on BigShotsNow we are republishing some of our more popular posts. This post first appeared on January 19th 2014. If you have any suggestions of previous posts you’d like to see again drop a note to dlutsey@enchantedpixels.com and we’ll try and honor that request. This is a request from a long time reader and we’re more than happy to fulfill it. Thanks BR.

 

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I was returning home from a late spring shoot in Yellowstone, traveling the back roads of Wyoming taking in the scenery, and found myself on a stretch of two-lane highway that went on, straight as an arrow, for miles. It was that part of Wyoming that a lot of people find completely devoid of anything interesting to look at. Even boring perhaps. I don’t because I like the way being able to see for miles and miles makes me feel. It feels like you’re the first one to see this country even though you aren’t of course, but the feeling of all that space and you’re the only one in it feeds my sense of adventure.

The country is made up of low rolling hills, sparse vegetation, and sand. Lots of sand. To the uninitiated it would seem impossible to make a living out here or even sustain life for that matter, but they would be wrong. Scattered along this highway to nowhere there are small ranches, mysterious trailers sitting way out in the middle of nowhere, no wires leading to them, no signs of life except for the tire tracks leading up to them, fairly well used tire tracks. Every once in a while there will be a break in the fence with a dirt road leading off into the distance heading towards who knows where, until finally going over one of those low hills towards what, home maybe. To mark that this country is inhabited there is often a mailbox leaning up against the fence post by the cattle guard and occasionally the red flag would be up but I didn’t see that very often.

This is a place where you can drive for a long time without meeting another car and any movement can be seen for miles if you’re watching. And you need to be watching and not sleeping which is really easy to do if you stare at the road ahead too long. It seems like the view doesn’t change for hours and if you’re not careful you will find you have traveled for quite some time and you have no memory of what you just passed through. Hopefully your autopilot was on and you were in that phase I call the Sun-blind Lion phase and not asleep. That’s where there is a huge amount of activity going on behind your eyes in the farther back part of your brain that you use for planning stuff while you’re semi-conscious and driving. It’s where you can build an entire house stick by stick in your minds eye while your regular non-goofy part of your brain handles the mechanics of driving while you’re busy elsewhere. Either way it is disconcerting to suddenly be aware of traveling at a high rate of speed and realizing you weren’t aware. That’s why you look all over the place. You watch for birds, trying to figure out if that black speck out there near the horizon is a raven or a golden eagle or even a buzzard. Long minutes of intense concentration help eat up the miles. It’s always a raven, by the way. But the thought that it might be the eagle keeps you awake and that’s the whole point of this anyway.

Cresting a hill I could see way off in the distance a shape that wasn’t the normal next to the highway kind of shape. I always keep one of my cameras on the passenger seat in case I need it and it is set to the prevailing light conditions, turned on and ready to go. As I drew nearer I saw that it was two boys heading home or at least I thought it was their home as there was a cluster of low-lying buildings with corrals, an old pickup sitting there, a few kind of dusty and somewhat used looking cows standing nearby, and the general appearance of people living there real regular. I hadn’t passed another place for miles, I don’t know where these kids were coming from but it was clear they were going home. It must have been a kind of ritzy place as it had not only electric wires leading to it but a phone line as well and almost all of the fence posts were upright and the wire looked tight. Those are pretty sure signs this is a place where folks live full time.

I knew right off that they were professional cowboys as they didn’t use a saddle. Amateurs and city kids got to have a saddle. Plus their hats, It is a hard and fast rule that a cowboy kid growing up cannot have a hat that fits them until they’re at least 16 and then they must have knocked down one of their uncles in a fair fight before they’re allowed to choose the one they’ll have until they get married. This is a cowboy law and seldom broken. Besides it is a badge of honor and a sure sign of unspoken love to have and wear the hat your dad doesn’t need anymore. It means you belong to a family and they care about you. It doesn’t matter that you have to put Kleenex in the hat band to make it fit. It’s a grown up hat. I’ve heard of some of these hats being passed down through several generations until they finally wind up hanging on hooks next to a treasured family picture. An heirloom now that shows traditions need to be honored.

I knew I only had a chance for one or two pictures before they heard me coming and looked around. That would change the very character of the image I wanted so I rolled down the window and took a few shots as I coasted up to them. The wind was blowing up pretty good as it does two or three times a year in Wyoming so they didn’t hear the truck until I pulled up next to them. I was right, they both turned to look and the whole image changed. They were nearly as surprised as I was to find another living soul out here so we both tentatively waved at each other and they turned down their lane towards home and I pointed the truck south and did the same.

I don’t normally photograph people. I’m more comfortable out in the field shooting wildlife and landscapes, but every once in a while that perfect shot comes along and I can’t pass it up. That’s the way it was with “Big Hats- Heading Home”.

Stone Woman Walking Revisited

To celebrate our 500th post on BigShotsNow we are republishing some of our more popular posts. This post first appeared on January 5th 2014. If you have any suggestions of previous posts you’d like to see again drop a note to dlutsey@enchantedpixels.com and we’ll try and honor that request.

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In Arches National park you can occasionally see the Old Ones going slowly about their business. They move quietly through the canyons of stone intent on their purpose and pay little attention to the soft mortals that scurry ant-like about them. Their journeys are slow and ponderous seeming to us, but then we live in a world that travels in a headlong rush and we must accomplish much in the short period of time allotted to us for we have the desperate need to scratch our mark on the walls of time. Those in the future must know we passed through here. How temporary we must seem to her, if she even contemplates us at all.

Stone Woman Walking has been making this journey for eons. Wrapped in her blanket to ward off the chill of centuries she is not much affected by the ravages of time and little notices the conditions around her. Snow blankets her softly but is gone in moments. The sand-laden wind blowing through the canyons slowly erases her youth but it is of little import. She has had her time. Now the contentment that comes from her journey through the ages settles around her and enhances the constancy that is her beauty. She is not eternal, for all things pass, but she seems so to us. This somehow brings comfort to some of us as we see the fleeting moments that are our lives moving past us at an ever accelerating speed. There are things that last. There is purpose that will continue long after we have faded away. I like that.

Montana Fixer-upper Revisited

To celebrate our 500th post on BigShotsNow we are republishing some of our more popular posts. This post first appeared on April 4th 2013. If you have any suggestions of previous posts you’d like to see again drop a note to dlutsey@enchantedpixels.com and we’ll try and honor that request.

 

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Once upon a time while driving the back roads of Montana I happened to find this abandoned ranch. Apparently it had once been a pretty big deal. There is a substantial house and sheds and a great barn and it is situated near Red Rock lake so there is a lot of water for stock but it has been unused and peopleless for quite some time. I can’t believe someone would just walk off from a place like this, unless it was because the winters are 13 months long and the wind occasionally blows across these high prairies, and what could be the deal breaker for some is there is no internet, I checked, absolutely none.

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The house had been added on to at least a couple of times. Was it to hold a large extended family or perhaps a big crew or maybe who ever lived here just wanted an early ranch mansion. This would have been a mighty house for the times. Right now the roof needs a little work and that window needs caulked (as they say out here). But you can see the possibilities.

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One area of concern is the barn. That fence is going to need some attention before long and some one will have to address the door issues. There is no way that place will hold animals during a storm if you can’t shut the doors tight. It looks to me like it could get expensive taking care of some of these minor problems. You will need to be handy to live up here.

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But then you ‘ve got to consider the views. This is a considerable view by anyone’s standards. Montana is called the Big Sky country and there is a lot of sky up here. I mean it completely fills the entire space above your head and then some. If you’re the type that likes to have neighbors around you may want to rethink your relocation. I drove for a long time and never saw another person. In fact I don’t think many people live out here at all. But if you’re the adventurous type and don’t mind a few inconveniences this could be the perfect place for you. So if you’re interested and want to check it out just go to Yellowstone and turn left, drive for quite awhile then turn right and look for Red Rock lake and there it is. I’d give you the realtors name but their sign was all shot full of holes and I couldn’t make it out.