Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Meeteetse and Pitchfork Ranch - Part 1

I was about 3/4 of the way through my run yesterday.
Tired from the heat and from stupidly not carrying any water with me, I was ready for the run to be over with.
I turned right from one trail onto the power line trail and began to slowly and methodically drag my sorry tired self up the long gradual incline.
I was heading for a cattle gate at the top of the climb, where I planned to turn left and hit the trail adjacent to yet another hill that rises up into the BLM Killing Fields.
Five minutes onto the trail I was preoccupied with wishing I had carried water with me and preoccupied with my desire to get this too hot run over with.
And then I saw something brown sitting on the side of the trail.
I pulled up with a start and cautiously walked towards whatever-it-was.
I see antelope and now jack rabbits almost every time I go out onto BLM land (which is at least 6 days out of 7 each week), but in all my excursions have only ever seen one deer.
So I was very surprised to find that my brown whatever-it-was was a fawn.
I stood smiling and looking at him as he lay curled up in a ball along the side of the trail,  only partially hidden by a sage bush.
He was obviously very new - a baby deer not more than a day or two old.
Clean and healthy looking and sound asleep.
I looked around and did not see his mother.
He looked healthy and I knew that mothers leave their babies hidden so that they can go feed.
Wishing I had my camera with me I continued on with my run.
But as I reached the gate at the top of the incline I decided to run back the way I had come so that I could see him once again.
Scanning the terrain I did not see mom anywhere.
As I approached deer baby (dear baby) again I saw that this time he had his eyes open.
He stared straight ahead and blinked only when a bug came too close to his eyes.
He did not respond to me in any way or acknowledge that he saw me standing in front of him.
I was surprised that momma had not hidden him better.  Horse riders pass this way often.  Sometimes four wheelers and trucks also pass this way.  If the little guy stuck out a leg anything across the trail could have injured him.
Having watched deer and and antelope and elk recently it seems that they do not have the same sense of cover that humans have.
I have seen an elk who hid only her head and did not realize that I could still see her.
I have seen an antelope walk among the sage bushes and stop every few steps to look at me.  When I did not make any sudden moves or move in her direction she would take a few more steps, snort and stop to look at me again.  Rinse and repeat.  
The funny thing is that, as visible as she had been the whole time, when she came to a double track trail she ran across it before dropping down to a walk and then watching me again.  It was almost like the trail was a signal to her that she was out in the open so needed to run, but could back down to a walk in the sage covered fields.
And then finally this tiny and new baby deer.  The baby was curled in a ball up against a sage bush but wide open to the trail.
This type of animal observation is all very new to me.  
But since arriving in a state so abundant with wild life this witnessing of nature has opened up a whole new world of experience.  
It is so much fun and so interesting.  
And so life affirming.
I could not help myself.  
After seeing the fawn yesterday morning I dragged LC out to the trail again last night just to double check that baby had indeed just been temporarily left by momma, and not actually abandoned.
Happily he was gone.  
Small and large tracks attest to a healthy and happy family reunion..............

A few days ago my Mountain Boy, my James and I headed along the Meeteetse highway with intentions of driving only far enough to find a new portion of BLM land to explore on foot.
Surprisingly we hit a number of false starts.
Every dirt road we pulled into for the first 10 miles was either private property, a gypsum mine, or land leased out to oil companies (primarily Marathon).
One of the pull-offs we hit was that of the Hoodoo Ranch:
We had seen signs for the Hoodoo both on the Meeteetse Highway and on the Southfork Highway so thought that we could drive through.  
We quickly found out while out on the Southfork a few weeks ago that we could not travel their road very far before reaching private property signs.
The other day we pulled off the Meeteetse Highway and immediately saw a Hoodoo sign.
Standing right by the sign and beside the cattle gate were a handful of very large bulls.
I took these pictures of these beautiful, huge and vaguely combative animals from inside the truck, with the ever-present Carter Mountain in the background.............
An American is vacationing in Spain, and has just sat down to dinner in a fancy restaurant. Suddenly, he sees all the waiters parade out of the kitchen and, with great flourish, set a platter before one of the diners. On the plate he can see some sort of large, oval objects. The diner looks very pleased, and with the fanfare over, the waiters go back to their normal routines.
As his waiter passes his table, the American asks, “What’s the deal with the huge presentation over that guy’s meal?”
“Oh, senor,” the waiter says, “That man has ordered the most expensive thing on our menu. Of course we make much celebration when someone orders it!”
“Well, then,” the American says, “I want the same thing. Money is no object.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the waiter says, “There was only one order to serve today. You see, when the bullfighters kill a bull, they remove his, uh, ‘family jewels’ and that’s what we serve. There was a bullfight today, but only one matador presented us with this delicacy.”
  "Senor, there is another bullfight next Thursday… come back then, and we’ll make sure to reserve this delicacy for you.”
So the next Thursday, the American goes back to the restaurant and is seated. As the waiter promised, a procession of apron-clad men march out of the kitchen with a platter held high. It is set before the American, and the lid removed.
“Hey! What’s this?” the man exclaims. “This is nothing like what I saw that other guy get… these are so… small! He had a huge plate of food last time! What happened?”
“Well, senor…” the waiter said, “Sometimes the bull wins the fight…......
As with our previous attempt to wander onto vast ranch land we soon encountered a private property sign and were again turned back................
After wandering on and off the highway surprised to hit continual roadblocks in what we thought initially was all BLM land, my Mountain Boy and I both realized that we had killed off much more time than expected.
Since we were now almost half way to Meeteetse LC asked me if I wanted to take a drive to that town - perhaps driving beyond the town to check out the Pitchfork Ranch.
It was by this time very very warm, we had hit multiple road blocks and the hiking moment had passed.
Now unmotivated for any type of strenuous activity I agreed with the suggestion.
A drive it was..............
We pulled off the highway briefly one more time when I saw the river.
I don't take water for granted in this high desert place.
If there is water I want to see it.............
I climbed out of the truck to take these pictures, and as I looked up ahead of me saw a small herd of deer making their way across the road.
They are beyond the bridge, barely visible in this picture and half way up the road among the trees.............
A very zoomed in picture of the deer crossing up ahead of me..........
1884 -- 1897
A few miles up Meeteetse Creek from here, stood one of the toughest settlements of Wyoming's frontier history. The town was founded in the spring of 1884 by Victor Arland, a French businessman, and John Corbett, a buffalo hunter. From 1880 to 1884, the men were partners in a trading post on Trail Creek and another on Cottonwoood Creek, just north of Cody, Wyoming. They moved to Meeteetse Creek to be in the center of cattle country and the developing ranches.

"Arland" soon had a store, saloon, restaurant, U.S. Post Office, a two story hotel, blacksmith shop, red light district, coal mine, livery stables, residential cabins, and corrals. A mail and passenger stage ran weekly through Arland, helping the town to become a trade center for the area ranches and a mecca for the cowboys and other rough characters of the region. The nearest law was 150 miles away in Lander, Wyoming.

On February 22, 1888, Vic Arland shot and killed Broken Nose Jackson in self defense at a dance in Arland. Jackson's friend, Bill Landon, shot and killed Vic Arland in revenge, at Dunivan's Saloon in Red Lodge, Montana, on April 24, 1890. After vic's death Arland degenerated into a hang-out for the outlaw element. There were names such as Black Jack Miller, John Bill, Al Durant, Butch Cassidy, W.A. Gallagher, Blind Bill Hoolihan, Ed Nye, Rose Williams, Sage Brush Nancy, and Belle Drewry, known as the "Woman in Blue". Most of the above, and others, died entangled in a web of lawlessness, romance, intrigue, and murder.

By 1896, the nearby town of Meeteetse had sprung up and by 1897 Arland had died. Today, nothing remains of old Arland but the stories and ghosts of days gone by...........
A sign on a hill top not too far from the town of Meeteetse, promoting the many free museums that are located there.
LC and I visited these places the last time we were here.
A small, beautiful, historically significant town and the museums that protect and teach its cowboy history:
We stopped briefly at the Chocolatier - a small western-front store located on the tiny downtown strip.
This quiet store contained my favorite decadent food group - chocolate.
A view across the road where LC and I ate great burgers the last time we were here............
One more link of the Pitchfork Ranch:
The Pitchfork Ranch was the location where many of the Malboro cigarette commercials were filmed back in the 70's.
We only saw a small portion of it the other day.
Truthfully it was very warm, we had been in the truck for a few hours, and at least Jamie and I were tired of sitting.
But since we had traveled this way I wanted to at least see some of this beautiful place before turning back.
It is a ranch now going into its second century of existence.
It is a vast complex of green fields, snow covered mountains, irrigation ditches and ponds, stockyards, cattle and horses, residential buildings and work buildings. 
An extraordinarily beautiful and organized and expansive and highly functional ranch only a few miles beyond the limits of Meeteetse.............

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