Monday, June 14, 2010

Don Quixote and The Ugly Maiden

It is spring time in the Rockies and that means it is time for our annual trip to the summer pasture to repair fences. The winter snow drifts and animals, mostly the human kind, leave fence posts broken and the barbed wire on the ground. To keep the cows on our property and the neighbor’s cows on their property, the fences have to be repaired. Wilford and I load the necessary supplies; tools, staples, nails, wire, fence posts, food and clothing into the back of his pickup for a 3 day stay and leave for Dryhead. A light spring rain is falling and the road in is slick and rough. We stop and turn the hubs in on the four wheel drive pickup. As we get back in the truck we can see far enough ahead to spot another pickup coming toward us. Wilford recognizes the pick up as a Tillett rig and says “ Oh, that’s Bess Tillett and she has one of her girls with her that I have been wanting to introduce you to, and she is just your type”. Now I knew some of the Tillett girls and I can’t say I would have anything negative to say about them so I was looking forward to this meeting. Will pulls over on the left side of the road so that my window will be right next to Bess’s passenger window. As her truck gets closer I try to wipe the mist off of my window so I can see who is with her. She pulls up beside me and I roll my window down just as she is rolling hers down. There staring me in the face is a real pig. I mean a REAL pig! Bess had been to South Africa and brought back a wild pig and domesticated it and taught it to sit up and ride in the pick-up right beside her. It is all wrinkled and covered in black course hair and its teeth are curled up to the middle of its face. It is probably one of the ugliest things I have ever seen. Now Will is getting quite a kick out of this. We visit with Bess and she tells us where the fence is down along their property and we tell her we will repair it, and eventually move on. I mentally filed this as something for which I will definitely get even with Will.

As we come out on the plateau known as the Hansen Flats I can see the silhouette of a drilling rig. Will tells me that the Hansen’s have contracted a well driller to drill two water wells and install water tanks. The hot summer sun dries up the small ponds and creeks and forces us to move the cows to the mountain range where there is water year round. So if these guys find water it will change our grazing schedules and allow us to leave the cows out on the plains a little longer. We stop by the drilling rig and they are already on the second well and tell us that they found water on the first well and that they are sure they will hit water on this one. I ask how they plan on getting the water to the surface and into water troughs for the cattle. Windmills they tell us, and Hans Hansen has already ordered two windmills for the wells.

We leave the plateau and drive down into the canyon and unload our food and clothes at the Hansen cabin. We spend the next two days riding fence. Some we reach with the truck some we have to get to on horseback but we eventually get them all repaired and head back home.
About a week later I get a phone call from Hans Hansen. He says to pack enough clothing for a week because he and Eddie Meier are heading into Dryhead and need some help to erect the windmills. We spend the first day just loading the truck and trailer with windmill parts, generators, welders, concrete, shovels, picks and tools and we head to Dryhead. We have to dig corner footings for the tower and the ground is solid rock. You can only hand dig about 2 inches every hour. It takes us from 6 AM to 10 PM just to dig the four holes. We decide to pour the concrete and set the anchor bolts in the holes the next morning and while it is setting up we will dig the post holes for the next windmill. Morning arrives and Hans informs Eddy and I that he has other things to do back home and will be back in 6 days to pick us up. Eddy and I are stuck out on the Hansen flats of Dryhead with only an old Ford tractor with a cement mixer attached to the back of it.

After the holes were dug and the concrete poured the erection of the windmill was pretty easy. After the first four days and two dead rattlesnakes we had the first windmill all assembled and ready to go. We had to tie the windmill blades down with a rope to keep the shaft from turning while we connected the pump to the drive shaft. After we got it coupled together someone needed to release the rope and let the blades rotate. It is a typical windy day on the Dryhead flats. Eddie decides to climb the tower and release the blades. As soon as he disconnects the rope, the blades take off and he ducks just in time because the blades come close enough to take his hat off. We pour water into the well shaft and after a few minutes of anxiety we can hear water coming up the shaft and eventually the windmill is pumping a nice stream of water into the water tank. On the next one we tie it down with the chain in a position that it can be released without being in the path of the blades.

If you travel to Dryhead you can still these windmills, one has collapsed and the other one is still pumping water 46 years later.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Battles Fought


Tired and thirsty, the pony soldier stands next to his horse. He takes a drink from his canteen. What little water left is warm and has a canvas taste. The 7th cavalry has ridden hard all night, the horses are tired and the men are worn out. They are not used to the high desert plains of Montana or the scorching heat in this the last week of June. They have finally arrived at the Little Big Horn and at the head of the column General Custer is talking with his scouts. A large Indian camp has been spotted and they have been sent here to force the Indians back to the reservations. Below them the Little Big Horn River winds through the valley, its cold, clear water beckons them. Their eyes follow up steam to where the river comes out of the canyon of the Bighorn Mountains. The sun reflects off of the snow and glaciers covering the high peaks, and the hot and tired soldiers dream of the cool refreshing air. Little did they know that these comforting thoughts would be some of the last they would ever have.

I am sitting in the shade of a large pine tree on the banks of the head waters of the Little Big Horn River. To my back and above me are the glaciers and snow of the Big Horn Mountains. Below me, an elk herd has come out of the timber and is grazing on the new green grass. My father and I have made this hike and fished these waters since I was able to walk. My earliest memories are of me on his shoulders being too small and too tired to walk any more. Now in his 80's, I marvel at his determination and ability to make this trip. I push back the emotions that this will be our last trip together, and it may be me that will carry him. With grandchildren of my own I watch their great grandfather raise and lower his fly rod, casting a fly over a pool. I watch the motion of the fly rod. The movement of his arm and wrists are like watching a skilled dance. The fly softly lands on the pool and then the line gently settles on the water. The line tightens and the rod bends and another rainbow has been fooled. He draws the fish in close and reaches down and releases it. As he stands up and looks around this beautiful valley he spots me in the shade of the tree. He washes his hand in the cold clear water and starts up the knoll to come and sit with me. As he sits down beside me, he reaches in his pocket and pulls out the Snickers, a traditional meal for this trip. We sit and visit about the beauty, the elk herd and about all the great trips we had made to this spot. After a refreshing break, we decide to fish for two more hours upstream and then make the long climb out and slowly make it back to our camp.

The climb out of the valley is slow and difficult. My father can only walk about 50’ at a time. He is constantly apologizing for taking too much time. No matter what I tell him he doesn’t believe me that I am in no hurry and the time it takes is irrelevant. He does not know that I wish this day would not end. We stop and take many breaks as I go over to where he is sitting to help him up. My foot steps on some loose rocks and as I look down an Indian arrow head is lying on the ground next to him. He picks up the arrow head and polishes it with his hands. I look at it and wonder. Who lost it? Was it a hunting party or was it a war party on the retreat from a battle fought in the valley below us many years ago?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

It is late in the summer and in the next couple of weeks I will be going to college. The family has decided to take a trip to Chicago to visit my sister. I have decided that a 44 hour road trip is not my idea of a vacation and declined the invitation to go along. There were not any discussions or attempts to convince me to change my mind. I think all involved realized that one less person in the car was going to make the long trip that much easier. As I am sitting in the front yard enjoying a summer evening my father approaches me and says that his uncle Earcel from California is going to be in town while they are in Chicago. Dad says that he has only met this uncle Earcel once and can’t remember too much about him. He remembers that he owns a hardware store in California somewhere and that he did like the guy. Uncle Earcel told him that he is disappointed that they won’t be able to meet and was counting on him to take him fishing on the Big Horns. So dad decides that it would be a nice gesture for a family member to go to town and meet Earcel and if I could find the time, take him fishing. I am between jobs and waiting for school to start and decide that while they are gone I will meet up with this distant relative and do a little fishing on the Big Horns.

Right on cue Grandma calls me and says uncle Earcel is at her house and is anxious to go. I gather my fishing pole, a change of clothes in case we spend the night and a jacket for those high altitude evenings. As I arrive at Grandmas, uncle Earcel is sitting in a lawn chair out front, he has California written all over him. He is wearing leather sandals and khaki shorts. His skin is weather beaten and dark brown. He was an older man than I expected and as we visited I knew that I wouldn’t mind spending a day fishing with him. He had a very likeable personality. He did own a hardware store, he lived in Palm Springs and he flew his own plane from California to the Cowley airport. He said it wasn’t much of a plane, very old, and he had modified it some to take on fishing trips. What he wanted to do was fly to the Moss ranch and land in their hayfields and fish the two streams that feed into Devils Canyon. I told him that this was his lucky week because my brother Ron was working at the Moss ranch and if we buzzed the ranch house on the way in, he would come out and meet us and we could probably use his pickup to do some fishing. Uncle Earcel did not see any reason to wait and so we said good-by to Grandma , told her we would be back in two or three days and headed for the airport.

As we pull up to the plane the romantic idea of flying to Moss Ranch just got a little scarier. He was right, it was an old plane, and it look liked bailing wire was the only thing holding it together. What paint was left on it was so bleached out that I couldn’t tell what the original color was. Whatever cloth or leather that was on the interior was long gone and it was now bare steel. He had made some modifications to it. He installed big balloon tires on it so he could land on rough fields. I threw my gear in the back of the plane on top of a box of crackers and some canned meat and it looked like enough food to get us by for a couple of days. He hits the starter and the engine fires right up. We taxi to the end of the strip and in less than a minute we are in the air. He decides to do some site seeing on the way there so we buzz over the Pryors, Crooked Creek and up the Big Horn canyon and then up Devils Canyon. As we come over Devils Canyon we veer North and can see the hayfields of Moss Ranch. We buzz the ranch house just barely clearing the trees. I spot my brother Ron working in one of the hayfields and we buzz him , then land near by. As the plane touches down hay, dirt and bugs are flying everywhere. We bounce all over the cab and the gear I threw in the back is bouncing off the roof. We finally roll to a stop and Earcel says that the landing was smoother than he thought it would be. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on Ron’s face when he pulls up to the plane and I climb out.

For the next two days we fly fish the streams feeding into Devils Canyon and even take one afternoon to fish the river in Devils Canyon. We release most of what we catch but save just enough for a fish fry in the evening back at the Ranch. Ron joins us when he can and the fishing can’t be any better. Uncle Earcel and I become good friends and thoroughly enjoy the trip. Earcel decides on the second night that is it time to move on and try one more fishing spot. He wants to leave while the air is cool and can get good lift for take off. We say our goodbyes, jump into the old plane, bounce over hayfields, irrigation rows and rocks, then finally lift off into the air. We make one more stop in a hayfield in Tensleep to fish in a nearby stream and sleep under the wings of the airplane . The next morning we fly back to Cowley. I give Earcel a ride back to Grandmas and he wants to spend the rest of the day cleaning up and preparing to fly home to California the next day. I offer to come and pick him up the next day and give him a ride back to his plane. He takes me up on the offer.

The next day I head to town and pick up uncle Earcel. I pull up to his plane and help him load his stuff. He says that he appreciates what I have done for him and that it is good to be with family. He wants to make me an offer I shouldn’t turn down. He has an empty apartment above the hardware store in Palm Springs and I can stay in it for free, work in the store and he will pay for my collage tuition in California. I tell him that it is a generous offer but I don’t want to leave family and Wyoming. As I watch him and the old plane lift off the runway and head west, I thought how different my life would be living in California. Many years later Uncle Earcel dies and a family member sends me his obituary. He not only owned the hardware store in Palm Springs, but seven other hardware stores throughout California, a ranch in Columbia and he died without any children.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hanging Out With The President of the United States of America

As I stand staring at the back of an udder on a Holstein cow, I am glad that this is the last group of animals to judge. It is cold and getting colder, my toes are frozen in my new pair of cowboy boots and this FFA jacket is too thin for this weather. It is St. Patty’s day and winter is still present in Laramie, Wyoming. At least I know the other contestants in this contest are feeling just as miserable because they are dressed the same way I am.

This journey started three months ago in Ag class. We were all supposed to visit four different farms, each with a different species of animals… Dairy, Swine, Beef and Sheep. On each farm there were four different animals. We were to pick the best to worst and classify it as A,B,C or D. At the end of this exercise all scores were accumulated and the four best scores in the class would form a team. This team would compete in a regional contest and if you won the regional, you would then compete in the State contest. If you won that then you would go to Kansas City and compete in the national contest. My team had won the regional contest and now we were in Laramie competing in the State contest.

I verify my choices, sign the score card and turn it in. We are done judging, and as a team we feel that we are pretty good, but none of us think we are good enough to go to the national contest. We are to gather the next day on the campus of the University of
Wyoming and get the results and be awarded individual and team trophies. I had already come to the conclusion that no matter what the awards were, I was a winner. I was not in some boring class back in Lovell High School and I was on a all expense paid trip to Laramie so my victory had already come. We were supposed to gather at the motel and wait for the instructors and chaperones to show up and tell us where to meet for supper and get tomorrow’s schedule.
They finally showed up and gave us vouchers to use at a café two blocks from the motel.
They gave us the standard talk about staying out of trouble. There would be a bed check at 10 PM and everyone was supposed to meet in the lobby at 8 AM for breakfast. We would then go to the conference center on campus for the awards ceremony. The 10 PM bed check was going to be a problem . I had a friend going to school there and plans had already been made for my night. I was quite sure that 10 PM was just a starting time. As the instructor gave me the food voucher I noticed that his teeth were green and thought that it was a strange thing to see, but my upbringing kept me from mentioning it. Some of us wandered on down to the café and had dinner and decided that we had plenty of time to walk down the main street of Laramie and check things out. As we passed a particular bar in Laramie I noticed that in honor of St. Patty’s day they were serving green beer and I also noticed that those who drank the beer would have green teeth. That bit of knowledge pretty much made the 10 PM bed check moot. I met my friends and got back in time for breakfast. We again gathered in a big hall and the awards were presented to the winners.

Our team took third, I placed in the top ten, and I was quite satisfied with our standings. At the conclusion of the ceremony it was announced that John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States was in town giving a speech on campus and that they were saving seats just for us to attend. The building he was speaking in was only a short distance
from our conference site so we all walked down the street to take our seats. As we approached the auditorium, two men approached our group and said that they were expecting us and that they would guide us to our seats. As we followed them we made our way past people standing in line and hundreds of filled seats. Finally at the very front row we took the seats that were assigned to us. The president was in Laramie to give a speech on a new Ag bill he was trying to push through congress and they had decided that a front row of young men wearing FFA jackets would be a great photo op. We arrived 30 minutes early and had to wait for the president to arrive. When it was finally time for
his speech, he came across the stage and stopped six feet in front of me . I was not particularly political but was mesmerized by this man and his gift of communication. When the speech ended and he stepped off the stage, he looked me straight in the eyes, shook my hand and thanked me for coming. He then went on down the line, shook hands with about twenty more people and left. Seven months later he was shot and killed in Dallas. I cried.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From brother Ron "The Rebuttal"

Remember the phrase of Paul Harvey on radio new's "the rest of the story" This is story
as I recall the event of protecting the chicken's.

It was a very black dark night with just a sliver of moon shining enough light to see about ten feet. I was at the chicken coop with my trusty winchester pump 22 rifle. I took one more step and all of a sudden the snarling,fang's gleaming from the faint moonlight, savage growling and barking from every direction. I was surrounded and unable to retreat, something moved in front of me I fired a shot,movement from the left fire another shot, look behind me a flash of movement-fire spin back around-fire what was that to my right-fire-fire-fire. Then it is silent and they are gone. Cloud's passing in front of the moon total darkness all is quiet, I stumble back to the house knowing that in the morning the scene will show to everyone how I saved the chicken's.

I have thought of this event a few time's and as life goes by I still scratch my head wondering how those huge monster's that I left there disappeared before day light.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hunters

I am jolted awake by dogs barking, growling and yelping and it is coming from the chicken coop in the orchard just below the house. As I fumble around in the dark to find my pants and boots I already know what is going on. Just last week I saw a pack of wild dogs come down the canal road that passes above the house and when they saw me they took off. We have had trouble before with wild dogs. People that live in town sometimes drop off dogs they don’t want anymore and some of these dogs eventually gather in a pack and plunder the countryside trying to survive. They can get pretty mean and dangerous. They mostly raid chicken coups and look for small or weak animals to kill. Because they travel in a pack they are not afraid of our dog. Unfortunately this night our dog is not afraid of them and there is one serious fight going on in the orchard.

As I get to the top of the stairs to head outside, I can see Ronny with is 22 already ahead of me and he is headed to the orchard. By now everyone in the house is up and we run to the porch and peer into the dark . We can see the fire coming out of the barrel of Ronny’s rifle on each shot. Dogs are now going crazy in the dark, barking, yelping, growling and Ronny is firing away and yelling. It sounds like a scene out of a horror movie, and then it is all quiet. Ronny comes up out of the orchard with a horrible tale of how he had to shoot monstrous dogs that were about to attack him but he was able get precise shots off just in time to save himself. I listened to his story and was jealous with envy that I was not part of this heroic battle.
Russ and I get up early the next morning. We cannot wait to see the carnage in the orchard. We get dressed and run down to the battle field. We find one Pekingese dog, not weighing more than 5 Lbs. When we get back up to the house, Ronny just says “ well they looked bigger in the dark.”

Hunters...Part 2

Dam its cold! I am lying in a harvested wheat field just about a quarter mile from the Big Horn River. I have a burlap bag over me that is covered with straw and I am surrounded by goose decoys. There is about a two inch covering of cold white snow over the field. It all started with a phone call a few nights back. My brother Ron was on the other end with this “guaranteed not to fail” goose hunt plan. My brother is most likely the best hunter I have ever known. In all the hunting trips I have made in my life, the most successful have been with Ronny. So here we are on a cold, cold Saturday morning just before dawn. The plan is simple. Ronny has scouted out this field and noticed that the geese feed here every morning. Execution of the plan is what becomes difficult. This field is approximately 100 acres, so large that the geese can land on the other end and we won’t even see them. We set out our decoys, covered ourselves with loose straw and we are now waiting for the sun to come up. Just as the sun starts to peak over the Big Horn Mountains, Ronny starts blowing on his goose caller. I can hear geese honking as they follow the river but none are turning our way. I swear it is getting colder. My shotgun is lying by my side under the burlap cover, and I begin to worry that if a flock of geese was to fly over, my hands are too cold to pull the trigger. Now a flock of about fifty geese are heading our way but they are too high. The geese circle and come back over us but are still too high. They circle again and Ronny starts in on his goose caller and again they just pass over us. We are laying in the rows south to north and as the geese fly over us going south they pass over our heads and we lose sight of them. I can hear them honking and circling around behind us. Ronny is still calling them in. It sounds like they are getting closer. Just as Ronny tells me to get ready, because this time they will be close enough, a set of wings and goose legs fly right over my head not more than four feet above us. Ronny has called them in right on top of us. We jump out of our cover to take aim and the geese are so close we don’t know what to do. Their wings are almost touching the end of our gun barrels. We have to wait for them to fly away to get a shot. Finally I am able to fire twice and two geese fall. Ronny fires once and two geese fall. We have our daily limit with only three shots fired.

We gather our decoys and geese and head back to the pick-up. We have to pass Wilford’s house on the way back so we stop to show him our geese and tell him our hunting story. In our conversation with Will, I state that I still need to get some venison to take home with my geese. He says that a four point buck just went into the hay field next to his house. If I go to the other end of the field with a rifle, he and Ronny will walk through the field and push the deer out the other end. Just as Wilford describes it, the buck runs right in front of me and I fire one shot and the deer drops. I now have two geese and a deer to take home. I look at my watch and it is only 9 a.m. and my hunting day with Ron is already over. Ronny says “next week lets go elk hunting” and I can’t wait.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marches, Medals and Martyrs

I wake up to bright lights and lots of yelling so I look at my watch and its 5:30 in the morning. My body wants to just rollover and go back to sleep but my head says get up before the drill sergeant comes down the aisle. For the last 3 months I have been a resident in the C company barracks at Fort Campbell , Kentucky. I am sleeping in the lower level of bunk beds and above me is Tommy Rowland now a good friend and fellow soldier in the US Army. There are 45,000 soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell and most of us have come to realize that the sole purpose of our training has been to effectively kill someone and not to get killed.
Tommy is climbing out of his bunk and looks my way and warns me that the Sergeant is only seconds away and the last thing you want is to be caught in bed.
I jump out of bed just in time and act like I am getting dressed and ready to go. We have 15 minutes to use the bathroom and be dressed for inspection and roll call. We are all a little tired from lack of sleep. At 2:30 this morning one of the other soldiers decided to eat a light bulb from one of the barracks light fixtures. His thinking is that this will get him a medical discharge. All it did for us was shorten the night because of all the commotion of people coming to take him away. As we fall in for roll call a jeep pulls up in front of the company and the poor soul that ate the light bulb climbs out with a company commander. The lieutenant instructs him to get in position for roll call and informs us that Private “so and so” ate a light bulb last night in an attempt to get out of the Army and he now owes the government 60 cents and it will be taken out of his pay check. The drill sergeant barks out orders for us to fall into formation for a 2 mile run before breakfast and another day in the Army begins.
At breakfast everyone is watching the guy that ate the light bulb and he seems to still have an appetite. After breakfast, which lasts only 30 minutes, we fall into formation for calisthenics which consists of push-ups, chin-ups , jumping jacks and a whole list of other exercises. We again fall into formation and the drill sergeant informs us that we are going to march to the rifle range and re-qualify on the new M16 rifles. We spent three days at the range last month and qualified on the M14 rifle and that was quite a spectacle. Coming from Wyoming and living with a family of hunters and having considerable experience with rifles, I found qualifying as a sharpshooter relative easy. Unfortunately I was definitely a minority. Most of the other soldiers had not only never handled a gun but hadn’t even seen one. After hours of instructions we are standing in a trench and our rifles are all facing down range towards the targets. As they come down the firing line they issue each man one bullet ( right out of a Barney Fife script). Half of the firing line drop the bullet when trying to load the chamber of the rifle. When thy reach over to look for it, rifle barrels are pointing every direction and drill sergeants are running up and down the line yelling, and the more they yell the more chaotic it becomes. After things settle down and everyone learns how to load the rifle and keep it pointing down range we are to fire one shot at a target 50 yards in front of us. We are instructed not to fire until we hear the command. Just before the command is given more rifles go off and more yelling and chaos ensues. By the end of the day, out of 100 men, we are down to only about 3 going off accidentally. By the end of the second day we are able to be issued full clips and can shoot at multiple targets. On the third day a scorekeeper with binoculars sits behind you and scores hits on targets at varying distances. If you hit them all you are awarded a sharpshooters medal to proudly wear on your uniform. The only thing I learned was out of 100 men there is about 5 of them that I will never let behind me with a loaded gun.
The M16 rifle has a shorter barrel and a plastic handle. As I pick out targets to hit I notice that it is not very accurate after 50 yards and almost a third of the firing line is having trouble with jam ups. Thankfully we are not scored on accuracy just capabilities.
Tommy Rowlands family lives in Paducah, Kentucky which is only about a 90 minute drive from Fort Campbell. Tommy has decided that we should get a week-end pass and his dad will pick us up and we can spend the weekend in Paducah.
We get our passes and Tommy’s dad meets us at the gate at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. The ride to Paducah is just beautiful .The dogwoods are in bloom and Paducah is one of the prettiest small towns in Kentucky. I get to meet Tommy’s family and friends and when the word gets out that I am from Wyoming and a cowboy, all of the neighborhood comes over to visit. We are treated like Kings for the whole day and night. Sunday morning at breakfast Tommy’s mom tells us that on our way back to the fort we will stop at her sisters place to meet her niece. Tommy’s cousin was runner-up to Miss Kentucky and they are all quite proud of her. The day goes fast and on the way back we stop in some small town to meet Tommy’s relatives and the beauty queen. The girl is pretty enough but she won’t stop talking and talking and talking. The family is quite proud of her, but I’m sitting there thinking that they are all lucky Joan doesn’t live in Kentucky because this girl would have been in third place and then they wouldn’t have anything to talk about. We talk Tommy’s dad into swinging through Nashville on the way back to the fort. Tommy and I have decided to get a day pass next weekend and go to the Grand Old Opry in Nashville. We want to see if any ticket offices are open and if there is a billboard to say who is playing there next weekend. Tommy’s dad is at first reluctant but finally concedes. As we exit into Nashville and get close to the Opry building I start to realize why his dad did not jump at the chance to go there. It is a really rough part of down with old buildings that mostly closed up, a lot of poverty and really dirty streets.
We pull up in front of the old Ryman Auditorium building but can’t find a ticket office. The billboard says Johnny Cash will be performing next weekend. We still plan on being there next weekend but assure Tommy’s dad that the Army bus will take us to the front door and pick us up as soon as the show is over.
The following week at the post is typical training and exercises. We are getting close to finishing and everyone is waiting to see where they will be transferred. Thursday evening Tommy and I head over to the PX to buy some treats and stop at the NCO club on the way back to the barracks. Just as we find a table and sit down four MPs bust through the front door, shut the music off and order everyone to report back to their company barracks immediately. As we cross the drill fields to get to our barracks the whole post is on alert and many companies are already taking formation on the other end of the parade grounds. As we get to our company’s barracks the drill sergeants are barking out orders. Everyone is ordered to have on their fatigues, jackets , helmets and rifles and be in formation out front in 5 minutes. Rumors are flying and no one really knows what is going on. After formation we are marched to the parade grounds and fall in with thousands of other soldiers. The word comes down that Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis and there are riots in all the major cities. The city of Nashville has asked the Army for help and we are headed for the city. Trucks and buses pull up and we are loaded up like cattle and driven into the city. Officers are in jeeps and Army vehicles are leading and following the caravan into the city. We unload in downtown Nashville. It looks like a high school or college inter-mural field. Only about a quarter of the trucks and buses that left the post are here, so the rest have gone somewhere else in the city. There are about a thousand of us and we take formation and start marching down the back streets of Nashville. The area looks a lot like the neighborhood of the Grand Old Opry …poor, dirty and scary. The regiment breaks up in four different units and we each take different streets. I look forward and can see a glow in the sky from fires about 6 to 8 blocks in front of us. I don’t have any idea what part of the city we are in, but I keep thinking around the next corner I will see the Billboard in front of the Opry building with Johnny Cash staring at us. The air is full of smoke, fire trucks and police cars are everywhere, and the sirens are making everyone nervous. We were not issued any live ammo but the trucks following us were fully loaded. After spending the time on the rifle range with these men, I’m glad that the guns aren’t loaded. The streets are empty and everyone is anxiously looking at every roof top, every darkened building, and every dark alley. We are now about 3 blocks from the fires lighting up the smoky night. We come to a halt and stand in formation for about an hour. We then change directions and march down other streets. I never get any closer to the fires and never see anyone. At the break of dawn we are back at the trucks that brought us to Nashville and we are hauled back to the post. Roll call is at 6 a.m. and it’s just another day in the Army.
All weekend passes are canceled and Tommy and I spend the weekend on post and talk about our night in Nashville. The next Monday I get orders to transfer to Fort Sill , Oklahoma for Field Artillery training and Tuesday, Tommy gets orders to transfer to Fort Benning, Georgia for infantry training. Eighty Five percent of the soldiers that go to Fort Benning end up in Viet Nam but only about forty percent of Artillery units get shipped to Nam. Both Tommy I know what this means and don’t talk about it. By the end of the week we have both gone our separate ways and I never see Tommy again.
In 1983 I am asked to attend a conference in Washington DC regarding livestock identification systems using radio frequency transmitters. I am the proud owner of a patent on this subject and receive an all expense paid trip to DC. After the meetings one evening I walk over to the Viet Nam War memorial and am emotionally moved by its impact. Not wanting to find it, I look for Tommy’s name etched into the black granite amongst the over 58,000 names on those black walls. I do not find it and find comfort that he is probably enjoying life in Paducah.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Best Friend and Dead Men's Bones

Coaly was a black cocker spaniel and he was the family dog. I can’t remember him as a pup so I think he was around before me. To my father he was a great hunting companion. I remember going pheasant hunting with them and Coaly was indeed a good hunting dog. He would put his nose to the ground and go into cattails and weeds where a human couldn’t walk. He could smell a pheasant and would work the weed patch until the bird would take flight. I remember one trip where Coaly was on the track of a pheasant in some heavy brush and it would not take flight. It would just keep running. Coaly finally got impatient and just lunged on top of the bird and brought it to Dad and me. We had one pheasant in the bag without firing a shot.

My earliest memories of Coaly go back to grade school. He would follow Russ and me to school. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get him to turn back and go home. I
I don’t know how long he would sit out in front of the school before he would give up and go back home. Early in the school year I would get to sit in the back of the class next to the windows but eventually the teacher would move me up front because I would spend too much time staring out the windows daydreaming. I remember one school day staring out the window that overlooked the school playground. There was Coaly sitting next to the big slide, just waiting . He finally gave up, relieved himself on the bottom of the slide and headed home. I made a mental note not to be the first to go down that slide at recess.

The family eventually moved 4 miles out of town so we now lived in the country. To Coaly and me this was the just the freedom we needed. Whenever Russ and I would go on an adventure old Coaly was at our side. On this particular day we were heading to the Sand Draw. The Sand Draw was created by a stream of water that flowed through very sandy hills and it eventually eroded into a deep canyon and ravine. At the upper end of the draw where we were headed , the canyon was very narrow and very deep. Enroute a blue belly lizard scampered across our path so the chase was on. Russ and I would occasionally catch these lizards and take them home. We would keep them around the house until Mom would find them and then they would disappear. You had to be careful trying to catch a lizard. They would run under rocks and when you lifted the rock to grab them there would be a couple of scorpions waiting for you. This lizard ran into a clump of sage brush and so we circled the bush and was sure that we had it cornered. Just as we were moving in old Coaly goes crazy and starts barking and even nipping at us. Just as I bent over to pick up a rock to throw at that crazy dog I see the rattle snake sitting under the sagebrush. This is one lizard that we are going to leave alone.

We finally arrive at the canyon. This canyon is so narrow at the beginning that you can jump across it. It is 15 to 20 feet deep, flows for about a quarter mile and then falls over a waterfall for another 15 feet. The water in the bottom of it is running very fast and is pure white. When you jumped across, you wanted to make sure you would make it to the other side because the ride down that canyon and over that waterfall would not be pleasant. Old Coaly must have felt young that day and tried to jump across but he didn’t even come close. He bounced off the other side and fell straight down into that rushing water. Russ and I run along the side of the canyon watching him tumble over rocks and eventually go flying over the waterfall. We are not sure that he can live through that and run to find a way down to the bottom. We finally get down and get to the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and there is Coaly shaking himself off and acting if nothing happened.

We decide to follow the canyon on down to where it falls into the Shoshone River and walk home from there. As we round the corner we can see where the east side of the canyon has caved in. The high run off we had this spring has changed the direction of the stream and it has carved a new route. As we climb the canyon wall to go around the cave in, the skeleton of a human hand is sticking out of the wall. We look above us and on the wall are more human bones. As we climb out of the canyon to see what is going on, we come across two old wooden caskets. When the river changed routes it cut through the corner of the old Lutheran cemetery and several graves had gone over the side with the cave in. I knew that Willie Korrel was a Lutheran and lived close by. We head for Willie’s place . We meet Willie on the road in his pickup and tell him our story. Russ and Coaly and I jump in the back of his pickup and head back to the cemetery. Willie says he will take care of it and offers us a ride home. As we jump out of the pickup at our house, Willie says that’s a nice looking dog. We say yep, he is a good dog.

That next winter my Dad accidentally ran over Coaly and killed him. It is the only time I saw my father cry.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mud Balls, Polecats and Prunes

Half awake and half asleep, I can feel myself sliding lower in the seat of the tractor. A loud ping sound on the tractor’s metal fenders brings me to a full awakening. Wilford has thrown a rock at me to wake me up. I am sitting in line waiting to fuel my tractor and Will is in front of me fueling his .We are heading to the Robertson place to cut and rake our last hayfield.

Will’s tractor has a side cutter on it and mine has the rake. He will cut the hay and I will follow and rake it into a windrow for the baler. After the hay dries a little, it will be baled and then we will come back and haul the baled hay on trucks back to the feedlot. Cutting and raking is the easy part. Hauling hay is the most miserable job on the ranch and I hate it with a passion.
As Will pulls out and heads up the lane, I start to fuel my tractor. The cutter needs a fifteen minute head start before I can start raking. I arrive at the field and Will still needs a bit more time to get far enough ahead. It gives me just enough time to stop under the plum trees that border the west edge of the field. I pick more plums than I can carry and stuff them under the seat. They will be a tasty snack while I rake this field. We are about half done and everything has run smoothly.

The afternoon sun has gotten hot and the cool moist plums taste good. I have eaten most of the plums I gathered, and I start thinking that the next time I pass the edge of the field I will gather some more. Wilford is about fifty feet to the right of me as we pass each other in the middle of the field on every revolution. As I reach the end of the field and make my pivot I can see that Will has stopped at the other end of the field next to the ditch. He most likely has hit something with the cutter and has to pull it out of the blades. I can see the diesel smoke from his tractor and can tell that he has started cutting again.

As we pass each other in the middle of the field and as I daydream of those cool moist plums , I catch the glimpse of an object coming toward me. It is a big, gooey , black mud ball. Wilford did not have a breakdown, he stopped at the ditch and made mud balls to hurl at me as I pass by. Now a barrage of mud balls are coming at me. They splatter against the tractor and I get sprayed with mud, but incur no direct hits. THIS IS WAR!!

I am soon out of range and when I get to that end of the field , I stop and load up on mud balls. As I make my pivot and head back up the field I can see that Will is reloading from the canal on the other end. We pass in the center of the field again. It is like two pirate ships passing in the Caribbean Sea. You only have about 60 seconds to unload your arsenal before you are out of range. For the next 30 minutes, each time we pass, a furious battle is fought in the hay fields of Wyoming.

Finally a truce is called and we meet at the ditch at the bottom of the field. We need to clean-up, we are covered in mud. After washing off we walk over to the plum trees and sit in the shade eating plums, laughing and arguing over the worst and best shots. It is time to finish this field and we head back to our tractors. Just before we get there we see a skunk run out of the hayfield and it is out in the open. Skunks are our most despised animal. They not only stink but they eat the pheasant and chicken eggs, so when we see one we are destined to kill it. Chasing a skunk is a delicate adventure. You can’t get too close yet you have to get close enough. The skunk runs down a hole at the edge of the field. We look around and can’t see any escape holes. We find a big log and drag it over the top of the hole and decide to come back later and set a steel trap at the opening.

It is time to finish this field and we get back on our tractors and the rest of the day seems quite boring. We are finally finished and are headed back to the house. I don’t feel well.. Plums make prunes and prunes are a natural laxative, but I didn’t know that then. Before we get back to the house I have to stop twice near a corn field and well, you know the rest. As we pull into the yard Buff asks if we finished and then sees the tractors. They are covered in mud and still have mud balls sticking to the sides. Buff just shakes his head and walks away.

After we finish the evening chores we decide to go set our trap for Mr. Skunk. We rummage through the shop and find an old steel trap and a short piece of chain. We plan on chaining the trap to the log and setting the trap at the entrance of the hole. The skunk will have to step in it to get out. We jump in Will’s pickup and head back up to the Robertson place. It is a warm summer evening and I have my shirt unbuttoned and am wearing it like a vest. We both step out of the pickup near the skunk hole. Will gets in the back to get the chain and trap and I approach the log over the hole. I bend over the log and move it off of the hole. The skunk has burrowed under the log and he and I are face to face inches apart. I try to jump back but it is too late. I feel the yellow slime of his spray hit my chest . I am holding my breath knowing that this is going to be bad. My lungs give up and at the first inhale I start throwing up. The smell is overwhelming and I run to the canal dry heaving and jump in. I throw my shirt off and rub mud from the banks all over my chest. It doesn’t seem to help. The smell is unbelievable.
Wilford seemed to find some humor in this event and can’t quit laughing. I can’t get the smell off. He decides to take me home but makes me ride in the back of the pickup. I get to the house and my mother won’t let me come inside. She gets me a change of clothes , a big bucket of hot water and soap. I go to the barn, wash-up and change clothes. She still won’t let me in the house. For the next three days I live in solitude. I am fed outdoors, sleep outdoors and have a multitude of remedies tried on me. One Aunt brings quarts of tomato juice, another brings bottles of vinegar, many people bring all kinds of soaps. Nothing works. It takes five days for the smell to finally dissipate. To this day when I smell a skunk , I think of that warm summer evening in Wyoming.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wild Goose Chase and Waterboarding

School is out and its summertime. For the past three years my parents have sent my little brother ( Russ ) and me to live with my mothers parents for two weeks. My cousin Jesse always went with us. I am sure this was quite a relief to our mothers and possibly a burden for my grandmother, but for us it was some of the most memorable moments of our lives.
My grandparents ( Poppy and Carrie) lived in a farming area known as Heart Mountain. It is located Northeast of Cody, Wyoming halfway between Heart Mountain Butte and the Shoshone river. They owned a section of land (260 Acres) but were not farmers. They leased the farm land to share croppers, raised chickens and always planted a big beautiful garden. My grandfather was a well driller and moved from Texas to Byron, Wyoming to get rich in the oil fields of northern Wyoming. He ended up drilling mostly water wells and had a very comfortable life at Heart Mountain. Their home was a mile off of the main highway and was set at the foot of a steep hill. The main farm land was west of the home and on the plateau above the house. East of the house was a small stream that flowed from the south end of the property to the North end. To 9 and 11 year old boys , it was paradise.

As the car left the highway and started down the dirt road you could see grandma Carrie working in her garden. She was wearing a dress and I don’t recall ever seeing her in anything but a dress. As the car makes the last corner up to the house, right on cue and in unison my mother and aunt shouted the warning. “ STAY AWAY FROM THE FLUME”. The flume was a concrete structure built into the steep hillside that the irrigation district used to get the canal water from the top of the steep hill to the bottom. Without it the water would eventually erode a canyon in the side of the hill. It was 4’ wide and 4’ deep and open at the top. At the top of the hill the water would slowly roll out of the canal and enter the open flume and plunge to the bottom with ferocious speed and noise. At the bottom of the flume was a deep pool to absorb the impact of the falling water. This pool was a white water churning whirlpool that we were taught to believe could consume any young boy that was even just looking at it. I do not recall ever driving past this flume without hearing this warning.

As we jump out of the car to run and greet my grandma we can’t help but notice that there is a new addition to the farm. My grandma now has four big, white, fat domestic geese. As soon as our eyes are on the geese the warnings have begun. “You boys stay away from those geese”. The next two days are typical summer days in Heart Mountain catching magpies, chasing rabbits and floating the stream. The third day starts with a distraught grandma. The four geese are missing. Sometime in the night they have wandered off and they are gone. The search party of four looks on every square foot of the 260 acres and the geese can’t be found. Jesse, Russ and I decide to expand the search to neighboring farms. Grandma packs us a lunch are we are off on our quest. Considering that all three of us own authentic ( even though the tag says made in Japan) coonskin David Crocket hats, we are the best trackers assigned to this mission. We decide to start the search at the irrigation canal near the flume. Staying far enough away from the boiling whirlpool we eventually come across signs that geese have been here. The goose droppings are deeper on the North side of the ditch and that must mean that they have followed the canal North. Two hours and 4.5 miles later we have visual contact of the geese. It is pure evidence that we are indeed the greatest trackers ever! They have joined in with another flock and are in the middle of a field next to the internment camp.

The internment camp represents one of the poor decisions the US government made during
war time. It was decided that any Japanese living on the west coast would be arrested and brought to these internment camps . The camps were intentionally placed far enough from the coast to prohibit any Japanese from becoming spies. One hundred and ten thousand people living in California were arrested and sent to these camps. Eleven thousand of them were sent to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Seventy % of the people living at the Heart Mountain internment camp were born in the US and were US citizens. Eight hundred of the Japanese men living in this camp were drafted into the US Army and fought in the war against Japan. In 1988 the congress passed a bill to apologize to the heirs of the decedents of these camps and paid 1.6 billion dollars in reparation damages. Norman Mineta the transportation secretary under George W. Bush, was a teenage boy living in the Heart Mountain Internment camp.

As we look over the land the camp occupies, you could still see the concrete pads where the barracks had been. My father worked on the construction of these barracks and learned the carpentry skills that he passed on to me. Only four buildings remain of the camp and one of these buildings has been turned into a community center. In fact my Grandma will be attending a woman’s luncheon there the very next day. We eventually separate the white geese from the flock and herd them South, back to Grandmas. We arrive just as it is getting dark and are certain that we will be treated as conquering heroes. Exhausted from the full day we go to bed that night full of pride in our abilities.

The next morning Grandma is already busy preparing a special dish for her luncheon. We quickly eat breakfast and get out of her way. The first thing we do is check if the geese are still imprisoned in the chicken coop, preventing them from running away again. Just before noon , grandma leaves for the luncheon at the internment camp. As soon as the car is out of site, we decide to check out the flume. We have decided that after the tenth warning it starts to sound more like a dare. Checking out the flume starts innocent enough. We throw rocks, sticks, and
zucchini in the rushing water and watch them disappear into the whirlpool. We find a large plank, taller than anyone of us and throw it into the rushing water. It hits the whirlpool but stays on top. It is decided that if the plank weighed the same as us, it would surely sink into the bottom and would not pop back up for hours. We find two large rocks and enough bailing string to tie the rocks to the plank. It enters the flume at the top and rushes to the boiling whirlpool. The plank and the rocks hit the whirlpool at full force and the plank still does not sink.
That is all the scientific reasoning we need. If we jump into the flume it is now proven that we will not be sucked into the whirlpool at the bottom. Russ is the smallest and most likely will float. He is not as brave as he should be this moment and needs some help conquering his fears. Jess and I throw him in and scramble to the bottom to pull him out. His head comes bobbing out of the bottom end of the whirlpool and he is laughing. He hollers at us: that was a thrill, you have got to try it! Within an hour we have all gone down the flume and survived the whirlpool , several times. It is time to head back to the house because grandma will be home soon and we can not let her catch us near that flume. As we head back we notice that the concrete bottom on the flume has torn away the seats of our pants and this is going to be hard to explain. We quickly run into the house and change pants as grandma’s car is just pulling up.

Instead of coming to the front door grandma heads for the chicken coop, as if to check on the geese. We run to meet her at the coop, we are still full of pride. She tells us that Mrs Perkins that lives on the farm next to the internment camp is missing four of her ten geese. Maybe Grandma’s geese did turn South. That will have to be tomorrows mission.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Candy Wrappers, Dogs and Dances

As the pickup rounds the corner of the winding road, the headlights light up the old metal gate of the Crooked Creek coral. Wilford pulls up to the gate and nothing is said. I have done this routine so many times before. I get out and open the gate. I feel the cold air and am glad I put on my insulated jacket. As I open the gate, the cold steel makes me wish I had brought my leather gloves. Will pulls the pickup into the corrals and I close the gate behind him. We both rummage in the back of the pickup for bridles and ropes. I forget the blue healer is sitting in the dark against the pickup cab, and as I reach for my chaps and saddle bag he takes a nip at me. Will slaps him up the side of the head and curses at him but it won’t matter. He will try and bite me again the next time. It is just the way he is.

Will asks me to help him corner the Black so he can get a bridle on him. I am familiar with this horse. I have come to learn that I will never be the rider that Will is, and with this horse that is a blessing. After 10 minutes of wrestling, rodeoing and rope work we get a bridal on the black horse. There are nine horses in this corral and they are cow ponies, not riding horses. Any one of them would like to throw you at any given opportunity. Will tells me to get the sorel. He helps me corner the horse and it only takes a minute to settle him enough to get him bridled.
We tie the horses to the rear bumper of the truck and start sorting for saddles and blankets. The blue healer nips at me again. This time nothing is said, it is just the way he is. As I shake my saddle blanket out I feel that it is cold and damp, still wet from yesterdays ride. While saddling the two horses I see headlights from another pickup come over the hill towards the corral.

Buff and Nancy pull up to the coral and as Buff climbs out I can already tell that he is on edge. He asks me if I got enough sleep last night. I answer that I got just enough. He is fully aware that I was in town and out late. He also knows that when I left town four hours ago that Nancy was still there and it doesn’t take long to figure out that has determined his attitude for the day. He will go out of his way to make things miserable for Nancy this day and I am glad it is not me.

We open the gates of the corral holding the cattle and start pushing them North on the old dirt road towards the Pryors. I can just now start to see the edges of the mountains in the morning light and can barely see the canyon in the foothills that we will be going through. There is a road in this canyon that we will follow and will push the cows towards the summer range. The spring rains have washed the road out and it is now a 4 wheel drive only road. Will takes the lead. His horse is still crow hopping and not quite settled down yet. I take the flanks and Nancy works the rear of the herd. Calves are bawling and their mothers are answering, riders are yelling and whistling but we are now slowly starting to move North on the old Dryhead road.

As we come out of the canyon the trail opens up and we move through rolling hills with lots of draws. Two other riders from the Hansen family have joined us. No one asks why they are late, that’s just the way they are. They have arrived at the right time because from here on in the trail gets more difficult. The sun has now moved overhead and I had shucked the coat hours ago. I still am amazed at how cold it can be in the morning and so hot in the afternoon. The young and weaker calves are getting tired and want to lay down in the shade of the cedar and juniper trees. It now takes a lot of effort to find them and get them moving again. As I work the brush I notice that this horse wants to scrape me off at every chance he gets, and he wants to brush up against the trees. I am not a big fan of chaps. They are heavy, hot and make your legs sweat, but this brush work will now force me to put them on. I pull up and take the chaps out of the saddle bag and also put on some spurs, thinking this horse could use an attitude adjustment. While digging in my saddle bag I come across an old Jolly Rancher candy... cinnamon and probably over a year old. It is still a welcomed snacked since I didn’t have breakfast and lunch is still an hour away. As I climb back into the saddle, the horse is a little nervous from the chaps and spurs. We do a dance to find out who will lead and I finally get that settled. As we both relax, I unwrap my Jolly Rancher. A gust of wind takes the wrapper from my hand and it lands in the horses ear. In just the few nano-seconds I have, I know that I am not in a good position to handle what is coming next.The horse is now in a full buck and I have lost one rein and do not have control of this dance. Just as the impact of the ground hits my back I know that I have been thrown. I have landed on a rock and my legs have gone numb and I can’t get up. It takes a few seconds. It seems like minutes, but soon I can feel my legs and I can now barely stand up. Will comes by and checks to see if I am all right. I tell him I am OK and climb back in the saddle.

Marilyn and her truck have now joined the rear of the herd and when you see Marilyn you know it is lunch time. It has nothing to do with a clock or a certain time. Lunch is cold cut sandwiches , chips, cookies and cold pop. To me it is a feast. We get to relax a little and I get to harass Nancy for being out so late. She looks like she could use some sleep. We change horses at noon because the morning horses are too tired. My afternoon horse is older and slower. I could have used him this morning. Nancy and I rope and catch four or five of the weaker calves that have been slowing us down. I tie their legs together and put them in back of Marilyn's pick up and we start the herd North.

It is now late afternoon and the herd is getting tired and slowing down. The riders at the rear are needing help to keep them moving. I ride up front to see if I can get Wills blue healer to help out. The healers are really good at this work. They bite the cows just above the hoof and know just when to move before getting kicked. The healer is working hard and gets the slower cows moving again. A calf has separated and moved too far away and the healer sees him and takes off. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the calf’s mother and she is coming on hard to intercept. The healer sees her and spins away just in time. He comes back to nip her and his timing is just a little off and she catches him with a good kick. He rolls through the brush yelping. I see him come out the other side of the draw and he is limping.

The sun is now starting to set and the sky could not be a prettier color. I notice that behind the herd we have picked up a following. A pack of coyotes has gathered and is following us. The healer has been slowed down from his injury and has moved to the end of the herd. As I work the herd I watch the coyotes because they are getting closer then normal. There isn’t any fear of the coyotes, they are too scared to get close enough to humans to be a problem. Soon I can see why they are closer than normal. They are stalking the healer and they can tell that he has been wounded . If he falls back too far they will kill him. Will has noticed this too and as the healer drifts too far back, he spurs his horse and gets between the healer and the coyotes . I get off and pick the healer up and put him the cab of the pickup. This time he doesn’t try to bite me.

It is now getting too dark to go on any farther, so we will stop here for the night. The herd is too tired to wander, and there is water here so most of them will stay put. In the morning we will have to gather a few that will wander off in the night. It has been a long day and I am sore and tired. I will get home in time to shower and head to town. I should stay home and get some sleep, but there is a dance in town tonight that will have a live band and I am anxious to be there. There is a girl I met that has long legs, dark hair and calf eyes and I know that she will be looking for me.

Sunday morning : It is raining with a little snow mixed in. It is going to be a long day.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

We get micro-burst winds at our place that are sometimes 80 m.p.h It happened a couple of weeks ago and it almost leveled our cottonwood tree. It was taller than the house, probably about 30 feet tall. It was completely uprooted so I had to take it out. I cut it down limb by limb until just the center was left and then continued to cut it down into little pieces until the whole thing fit into the dumpster. It was sad to lose because it gave us great shade and privacy from the neighbors but it may have ended up being too big in the long run. We have since replaced it with a new October Glory Maple and are looking forward to it's red leaves this fall.