Saturday, April 11, 2015

Four Legs Good

Late in the afternoon yesterday we loaded into the truck, drove to the far left end of town, picked up a double track dirt trail and headed out onto BLM land.
After a week promising chances of rain and snow, we had seen none of either.
Rather, we had simply been mired in temperatures that had been cooler than they had been through most of February and March.
By late yesterday the sky was rapidly clearing, and it held the promise of the beautiful day that was to come the following day.
Surprisingly, LC pulled the truck off the trail only a mile or so from town, and parked on top of a sage and rock covered rise that overlooked the flat valley directly in front of us and the mountains that surrounded us.
As soon as we parked the truck Kory (who was sitting upright in the seat between us) excitedly turned to me, and then to LC, and then back to me again, silently demanding that someone open the truck door and set her free.
Smiling at her, I kissed her on top of her impatient head and then opened the door.
Immediately Kory jumped off the seat and squeezed between my knees and the dashboard, and then sprang out of the vehicle. 
The light at this time of day was beautiful.
The mountains to our north looked like an endless wall of blue, and I looked up into the sky, watching a large owl who was gliding on the wind and scoping out the ground below in search of a meal.
There are field mice all over this field right now.
Kory had happily killed two of them in recent trips out into the desert behind town.
I snapped this picture as the bird flew right in front of me..................
Standing watch as my beautiful dog happily sniffed around sage bushes in search of more field mice, I eventually turned back to the truck, wondering where LC was.
Smiling at him I beckoned him to come meet up with me.  
It was windy and he was being a baby about it, and I yelled unsavory names at him trying to guilt him out of the truck.
He made it too easy for me.
I have many unsavory names in my repertoire,  but getting LC out of the truck only required the use of a couple.
As he good naturedly headed in my direction I turned my attention to an old tire that was laying in the center of the large knob of rock and sage.
When I reached it I bent down to inspect it more closely.
The tire had been cut in half all the way around its width so was still a circle, but it had a thin piece of plywood attached to it in back.
Curious, I lifted one end of the plywood so that I could take a better look at it.
Raising the one side up, I instantly dropped it back to the ground, completely startled.
Two small field mice had been hidden underneath the little makeshift shelter.
When I told LC, he happily called Kory over to the tire and then lifted up on the plywood.
Chasing hapless mice into the sage bushes kept our energetic dog amused for a few minutes..................
It's like looking for Waldo, but Kory is located in the middle of this picture.................
A bone laying in the desert.
One of many that lay out there.
So many that it is impossible to head out into the Snake River Plain and not run into the bones of animals.
We have thought many times that there must be water somewhere out there.
There are coyotes, antelope, deer, elk, ground hogs, field mice, snakes, untold numbers of birds.
Somewhere and somehow, they are finding water................
We did not stay long during that first stop, but it WAS only a first stop.
For the next 30 minutes we contentedly wandered around in the desert, stopping often, allowing Kory to wander often, not finding much that either intrigued or excited us, but this late in the day that was OK.
Our expression of going further and finding more did not seem to be working on this trip.
And then suddenly it did.  Work.
We had turned off our original double track trail and picked up another trail which eventually circled us back to Big Butte Rd (not all roads leads to Big Butte Road, but many do).
Looking up on a small rise to our left we saw the sheep wagon.
It was a long way off (far enough that I knew it would test my digital camera when I zoomed in for closer pictures) but LC drove only a little further before pulling the truck over as far as he could, so that I could climb out and snap some pictures......................
I stood close to the truck, not wanting to disturb the herd.
And also (even though I could not see them) I knew that somewhere there would be dogs.
A handful of them.  
Large dogs.  Beautiful dogs.  Dogs that had been raised in a plains environment and who had been trained to guard their flocks.
Interlopers (such as blond women with cameras) would not be welcome.
As I scanned the horizon I could see sheep everywhere.
Spread out over a large swatch of BLM land, I knew that many were too far away for me to able to photograph and that we would have to try and take more pictures again on another day soon.
Instead I focused on the large herd that was close.
As I DID focus on them I realized that they were all mostly young sheep.
And I also realized that they were very curious about me (and about us) and that they were headed our way................
I was standing on the right side of the gravel road, and I watched and snapped pictures as the young herd made their way towards me.
Eventually a huge group of them were standing on the edge of the left side of the road, only 50 feet or so from where I stood, next to the truck.
I made no sudden movements, and without looking back I knew that LC would be quietly holding and calming Kory (who would have delighted in jumping through the passenger side window and chasing after sheep if she had had her choice),
Alternating snapping pictures of the herd and pictures of the wagon, I wondered if this year (as in the previous year) I would be able to capture images of the beautiful paint horse that they use for shepherding, or the beautiful dogs.  Maybe even pictures of more beautiful fur-ball bundles of puppies, just as we had last year.
Time would tell.
If we were lucky we would get to see this herd many more times before they eventually moved on, and out of our area..................
They lifted their heads and watched me.
They grazed.
They lifted their heads again and watched me.
Eventually one brave little guy with a black and white face inched onto the road.
Soon he was in the middle of the road, and soon others decided to join him...............
One little black sheep in among the rest.
That sentence sounds like the opening line to a poem.
One little black sheep in among the rest.
Grazing on the open land I liked the black the best.
Or something like that.....................
Two siblings sitting together head to head.....................
Eventually it was time to head for home.
It was getting late and it was getting cold, and LC had promised to make me a burger.
Regretfully I looked beyond this beautiful young herd, wishing that we were closer to the others.
We would have to seek them out another time.................

But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of- 
"Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!" 
It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the sheep had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the pigs had marched back into the farmhouse...............Animal Farm

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