Saturday, July 30th, 88° and sunny, then rain, then hail
Dave and I needed a day away from the campground and from building fences so we decided to be tourists and go see some of the sights. We drove up over Pactola Reservoir, on through Lead (pronounced LEED, not LED) and proceeded up through Spearfish Canyon.
Dave next to Pactola Reservoir, looking directly into the sun
Blue Pactola Water
American Flag on the Rock
Spearfish Canyon was beautiful and we picnicked at Roughlock Falls.
We spent the afternoon driving through the canyon admiring the sights.
We had beautiful weather and when we got back to Custer, Dave grilled up some chicken thighs and some fresh beats from Linda’s garden….YUMMM!
Then it hailed, but only a little hail. Another spectacular Black Hills Day!
27 July 2016, Sunny Highs in the 80s, then rain and hail
We rode up to Deerfield Lake with Cowboy Dave to load up a trailer of hay. This season has been especially dry and Cowboy needed to get some hay to feed his cattle this winter. Each cow can eat 20 lbs of hay per day, and he has quite a few so that means he needs tons (literally tons) of hay. He talked to his friend Wild Bill up in Deerfield and worked out a deal to buy some bales. We rode along to meet Wild Bill and to help load up/strap down the cow food.
Wild Bill is an interesting South Dakota character. His specialty is taxidermy, and he was part of the company that invented the artificial eyes that are seen in the very best trophy hunting mounts around the country. His company sold to Cabela’s years ago, but their process of creating these realistic looking eyeballs remains in use. Wild Bill showed us his workshop and told us some of his crazy stories about his South Dakota adventures. He reminded me of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. He has long hair and a swagger that you might attribute to a pirate. He is one of those people that turns every conversation into a party, and he was very welcoming to us. He also drove the Bobcat to load the hay bales onto Cowboy Dave’s hay wagon.
Pilot Dave worked with Cowboy Dave to make sure those hay bales were strapped securely, and 20 bales later we were headed back to Stagecoach Springs to unload. We were very pleased to see that there has been some progress at Hoten Holler. We no longer have just a hole in the ground, but instead we have walls! Our builder, Todd, has been working hard getting our place together and the site really looks amazing.
Finally have our address sign up!
The two Dave’s unloaded the bales of hay and Linda mentioned that one of the cows needed to be checked on because they were expecting her to deliver a calf in early August. I said I would go with her so she fired up the Mule and we drove all over the North 40 looking for the cows. We couldn’t find a single one so we became concerned they may have broken through the fence somewhere and skipped town. We kept looking and we drove through the heavily wooded area and came up over a ridge where we spotted them. All the cows were hanging out together and I asked, “Which one is Mairzy?” as she was the cow of interest that day. (Mairzy is named from the song Mairzy Doats and Dozy dotes…and they have a cow named Dozy too…I guess they both eat oats?) Linda described her to me and we walked amongst the herd looking for the big red lady. And then we saw her, well, them! She had a new little baby girl with her that was still wet. She must have had that baby just a few hours before we got there. Baby was walking around on unsteady legs and we kept our distance so as not to disturb them too much, but they both looked great.
We jumped in the Mule and drove back to tell the two Daves about what we found. It was a great day, and on our way back to the campground we rode up with Cowboy Dave to check out his new calf. The storm clouds were gathering and we saw Mairzy and baby hoofing it off toward the dense woods. Cowboy Dave said, “She’s giving us a weather prediction, getting her baby into shelter before the storm.” He did get close enough to the pair to see that the baby had milk all over her face which he took as a good sign that all was well. As we drove away, the rain came, and then hail, but only a little hail. Pilot Dave said, ”I think we should call that calf Stormy.” What a great day!
We haven’t posted very much this week, but we’ve been busy. You guessed it, more fences and gates! We installed a gate on the east side of the build site to have access to the trail that crosses the stock dam. We ran into some pretty sturdy rocks so we rented a jack hammer. Dave really enjoyed jack hammering……for about 10 seconds. This was hard work, but there was no way the rocks were going to get us to move the gate. We wanted it in that spot, and that is where it is!
Thanks again to Cowboy Dave for the tutelage in gate hanging. We have to say these H’s and the gate look pretty darn good!
We also completed the entrance H’s and are waiting to hang gates until the final grading of the driveway is complete. Again, they are some mighty fine H’s.
We have a concrete floor now and our walls have been delivered.
The cows are pretty happy up on the northern property. They got a new Hereford bull this week to replace the renegade Red Butz that escaped a few weeks ago. They are enjoying their new spot with lots of grass and lots of sunshine.
This weekend is “Gold Discovery Days” in Custer. There are tons of tourists. Dave decided to celebrate and dress up as George Armstrong Custer. He looks just like him, don’t you think?
Just kidding, this isn’t Dave….it’s a local actor who we happened to run into during our daily trip to True Value Hardware to pick up more building supplies for fence and gates. The local hardware store owners are super nice, and they like to joke with us and are always extremely helpful. Probably because building this fence is paying for their trip to Hawaii this year.
All is well here in South Dakota, but we are realizing the summer is rapidly coming to a close. Our plan is to finish the fencing before the end of the month and then focus on collecting fire wood for the winter. People keep telling us it gets cold here in the winter….
All the neighbors on Stagecoach Springs evacuated to the town of Edgemont on Friday night to enjoy an evening in the big city. Actually, Edgemont has a population of 742 (no I didn’t forget a digit). Cowboy Dave, Linda, Neighbors Kathleen and Steve, the two Hotens, and Linda’s brother Don all went to the Edgemont Theatre to enjoy a steak dinner and a performance of “Stop that Villain Or Have you No Shame Rip Roquefort”….an original drama from Tim Kelly of the Pioneer Drama Service.
The Edgemont Theatre has been putting on productions in the old Edgemont Cattle auction house since 2001. It is a community tradition. The stage is where the auctioneers would have sat and dinner is served on the floor where the cattle would have been shown. The cast is made up of locals who serve the dinner before the show. The auction house sits right next to the railroad. According to the program, once the play starts “The only time the action stops is when the “Train Time” sign is brought on stage as a BNSF train rumbles down the track.”
This was an absolute treat. First of all, who gets to see a play put on in an old auction house? Second, the evening began with a local trio playing acoustic guitar and singing old cowboy favorites and Gene Autry music. We love this stuff. Third, the steak dinner was superb. It was really a delicious steak and baked potato, followed by homemade angel-food cake topped with local strawberries and cream! Finally, the whole experience was like stepping back into a small town in the 1950’s, where everyone in town knows everyone and they all want to celebrate a hard week’s work. It is a place where everyone works together to lift each other’s spirits and escape the problems of the real world, if only for one evening.
Neighbors Kathleen and Steve.
Cowboy Dave, Linda, and Don.
The theatre filled up rapidly and the air was thick with the nervous anxiety of the actors about to take the stage. The old-time piano music began and the narrator introduced the first scene. The play was hysterical and audience participation was encouraged with signs instructing when to applaud and when to boo the villain. The villain, by the way, was the Mayor of the town of Edgemont. The cast had several missteps where they forgot their lines, but their attempts to maintain their demeanor and help each other remember solicited big laughs from the audience. The story was funny, campy and full of clean humor that is a rare find these days. The cast really hammed up their lines and a good time was had by all.
During intermission, they served root beer floats. Dave and I stepped outside for some fresh air and we were stunned by the view of the large moon illuminating the night sky over the wide open prairies of southwestern South Dakota and Nebraska. There was a light breeze that carried the smell of fresh air blowing across the prairie. It was like stepping into the backdrop of an old western movie and I wish I would have taken a picture but there is no way it would have captured the magic of the view or the feel of the night.
We went back inside for Act II and the big finale which left everyone rolling on the floor laughing. After taking their bows, the cast waited outside for a reception line in which their local buddies shook their hands or talked trash or both about their efforts.
We made it safely back to the campground, dodging the kamikaze deer in the dark and didn’t get to bed until after midnight. This is a wild Friday night for us, but we will definitely go back next year!
We both work-camped today. I worked in the office and Dave did the maintenance shift. Our friend and neighbor Linda called and said that our other neighbor, Shari, had asked her to feed a calf in the evening as Shari would be working in town.
The calf, Patrick, was a twin. Unfortunately, his mother did not accept that she had twins and abandoned him, nursing and taking the larger calf but disowning this little guy. Shari has been bottle feeding the guy morning and night to help him grow into a big healthy steer. Linda thought it would be fun for us to go help feed him and we agreed.
Something we always say here is, “Never a dull moment on Stagecoach Springs!” Patrick, although he was hungry, was really afraid of us new smelling city people and decided he did not really want to eat. Linda knew just what to do….she tailed him, Dave grabbed him around the brisket, and I forced the milk bottle into his little mouth. One taste and he decided we weren’t so bad. He sucked down the whole bottle and wanted more. He started hitting me with his head like he would do to his mama to get more milk.
Thanks Linda for showing us a really sweet part of rural living. Dave and I really loved Patrick the orphan and seriously considered bringing him back to the camper…..now that would be an interesting living arrangement!
The last two days have been perfect for working outdoors. The low humidity and mild temperatures were exactly what we needed for stringing barbed wire and moving cows.
We started working on both Thursday and Friday at around 830 AM and Thursday we finished around 4PM and Friday around 6PM. We were outside all day but the hours flew. There was no looking at the clock waiting for quitting time, just moving along to the next post or the next string of wire until we were satisfied.
Before we arrived here, I never gave much thought to the miles and miles of barbed wire fence you see when driving across America. I have a new found appreciation after the last two days. It is not as easy as pounding a post in the ground and tying a wire around it and stringing it down the line; fence building is not rocket science, but it helps to have someone show you the way (Thanks Cowboy Dave!) because there are many mistakes you can make. Here are some lessons we learned:
Fencing materials are expensive so you don’t want to screw up and waste your time and money.
Barbed wire bites….Let go of one end or cut it without standing on both sides and you can end up with some serious dingers!
Build a strong/sturdy H with wood in the corners to make sure the wires stay rigid and the fence has stability. The corner H’s have to line up so your fence goes in a straight line, and you have square 90 degree corners.
Reinforce the H’s with wire X’s (I know there are a lot of letters, but I promise we won’t make you take a quiz or anything at the end of this post).
Your fence needs to be straight, which is accomplished by pulling a wire taut, snapping it and seeing it falls in a straight line. Then your T-posts have to go down that line, regardless of how many rocks you encounter when using the post cannon to pound them into place.
Pounding in T-posts can be easy if you are on soft soil, or impossible if you find one of the Black Hills Rocks. Essential equipment includes a post cannon, jack-hammer bit and a sturdy sledge hammer, and a really strong hard working husband that just won’t quit until the danged post is in the danged hole!
String wire from bottom to top. Tie it off, roll it out, stretch it using a fence stretcher, secure it to the H’s, and then clip it onto the T-posts. This is the cool part because once the wire is strung you look down your line and say, “Wow, that’s straight!” And then you start all over for three more wires.
It is imperative to sit down and drink a cold beer after working on fence all day.
After finishing the fence, we went with Cowboy Dave and Linda to move their cows to the northern part of our property. The two Dave’s also had to drain and load a water tank and place it in the new location. They took the truck and trailer and Linda and I took the Mule. Our responsibility was getting the cows to follow us through the gate and over the road to the new property.
Linda grabbed two buckets of “cow cake” which is just large pellets of alfalfa and molasses and said we could easily lure them across with this. We went up to the pasture and Linda got out and started shaking the buckets and yelling, “Come on ladies, it’s MOOOOOOving day!” Sure enough, here came the cows, all of them came running at us looking for an early evening snack. We hopped in the mule and the cows followed us. It felt like we were on a float in a parade, tossing goodies to the crowd and the cows came right along picking up the cakes behind us until……
THEY GOT GREEDY!!! Our peaceful little parade float turned into the jeep scene from Jurassic Park with the T-Rex following. Those hungry hungry heifers were running beside and behind us sticking their big old heads right in the cab trying to grab the cake. One cow, Rosie, ran in front of us and kicked her back legs at the Mule, turned and mooed, “GIVE ME MORE CAKE!!!” (I may be embellishing a bit, it wasn’t quite that dramatic but it sure was fun and exciting for me!) Linda was super-cool and laid back, and she just kept driving along until we got the cows to the new location. Their little bovine brains were easily distracted from the cake by all the new tall, fresh green grass available. The men followed up with moving the big water tank, leveling it, and making sure the ladies were happy in their new digs.
We all rode back to the High Lonesome for some refreshments, and Linda made us the best burritos we may have ever eaten. She shredded chicken and topped it with onions and peppers from her garden, baked them with cheese and then covered them with her homemade salsa and fresh cilantro. One day we will have a house and we will cook for them, but I have to admit I’m a little intimidated after this awesome meal!
We left the High Lonesome Ranch around 9PM and headed past the Hoten Holler Homestead in the twilight. It was too dark to see our work but we knew those fences were out there and those cows were probably happily laying down in that thick grass up on the northern property. We were tired but full of burritos and satisfaction in another great South Dakota Day!
While Todd’s crew is working on the house, we have been busy putting in the corners for the fence. Yesterday we reinforced each corner with slick wire forming an X that will provide the necessary strength to support the pull of the barbed wire.
Rainy, cold, cloudy and 57°…that’s right….57° Fahrenheit!
Cold and Cloudy Day
It is down right chilly here today, and Dave and I are looking at each other thinking, “Holy Cow! It’s July 1st and the heater is running!” Strange weather here in the Black Hills, but if you ask any locals strange weather is the normal weather here. Cowboy Dave says he has seen white on the ground 12 months out of the year, granted sometimes the white was hail stones. So we will adapt to the changing weather. It was in the 90s last Friday and here we are in the 50s. Apparently, South Dakota is infamous for large temperature swings: http://www.weather.gov/unr/1943-01-22
We were down on the property yesterday, hoping to get some trees trimmed. We were quite happy to see the work that has been completed on the walk out basement. Thank you, Greg the excavator! He made it look like we actually have a front yard. We also tried to finish putting in posts on the driveway to attach the barbed wire fence to the gate, and we had asked Greg to dig a hole where we kept running into rock. As you can see, we weren’t exaggerating when we said it was too rocky to dig by hand.
It looks like rubble from WWII! At least we have a hole now and we will get those H’s finished this weekend if the weather permits. Then we will string barbed wire. Never a dull moment at the Hoten Holler Homestead!
This past weekend my parents, my sister, and my nephew all came to see us. They stayed in a cabin here at Fort Welikit and were quite impressed with their vacation digs. The cabin is one big room, but it has an AC, a ceiling fan, a bathroom with a shower, a kitchen with stove, microwave and coffee maker, and a TV! They were quite surprised because they were expecting an older more rustic place and an outhouse. The cabin backs up right to the woods and there is a deck on the back where deer come out of the woods to eat every morning and evening. The first night Dave built a fire and we had burgers, dogs, potato salad and of course roasted marshmallow. It was hot that evening, but there was a nice breeze and no bugs…..welcome to camping in South Dakota.
Nephew watching deer ….or deer watching nephew?
Mom in the Cabin
The next day, we took them to see the driveway and the hole….aka…the build project. There was actually quite a bit of work completed in the basement so the house is really starting to take shape. Next we ran down the road to say Hi to Cowboy Dave and Linda. Linda showed my nephew her chickens and cows and her sweet dog Arrow liked playing with the young guy. We didn’t stay long as we had plans to go to Hot Springs and see the Mammoth Archaeological Dig and then go to the Evan’s Plunge.
We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day with highs in the low 80’s. The Mammoth dig was pretty interesting; it is a massive archaeological dig where they have uncovered 60+ mammoth fossils. Then we went to the natural hot spring pool named the Evan’s Plunge. My sister and nephew went swimming and all the people that did not want to don a swimsuit (Mom, Dad, Dave and me) watched from an observation deck. We returned home through the beautiful Wind Cave National Park and saw magnificent American bison (buffalo) grazing all through the park.
We returned home and had a birthday dinner for my Dad. I made spaghetti and Dave made artisan bread and we had a big salad. My sister bought a cheesecake and we celebrated Dad’s birthday by the campfire. Another pleasant evening, perfect weather and no bugs!
Sunday we headed up the Iron Mountain Road to visit the ultimate shrine to democracy, Mount Rushmore. Iron Mountain Road is a must-see if you come up this way. It has 3 narrow tunnels that frame the monument as you approach from the distance. The monument itself is glorious. It is your patriotic duty as an American to see the big heads at least once. We had Thomas Jefferson vanilla ice cream at the visitor center. Apparently TJ not only wrote the Declaration of Independence, but he also wrote the first recipe for vanilla ice cream in the US…and it was good!
Mom and Dad at Mount Rushmore
Grandpa and Grandson at Mount Rushmore after delicious ice cream
We drove back to the camp and had supper and rested up a bit. We drove that evening out to Crazy Horse to watch the night blast. We had to wait awhile, but the explosives were awesomely loud and bright and it was worth the wait. It was much cooler that night, lower 60s with a breeze, but no bugs!
We spent the last day at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. My nephew really enjoyed looking at the snakes and gators and petting the giant tortoises. The crocodile show and the snake show were pretty good and so were the buffalo burgers at the snack bar. That evening we went to the Circle B Chuckwagon Supper in Hill City. This was a lot of fun as they have a ton of activities for the kiddies including shooting wax bullets and panning for gold. Right before supper the “Sheriff” rounds up all the kids to form a posse to catch the Biscuit Bandit who has stolen some of the biscuits. He swore them all in as deputies and they swore to catch the bandit “BECAUSE WE’RE HUNGRY!” The kids ran around the grounds until they found the bandit and then there was a big dramatic shootout with the bandit and the sheriff. After justice was served up to the bandit, we went in for chuckwagon supper: beef, beans, biscuits, applesauce, spiced cake and coffee. It was pretty good but the real treat was the entertainment. They have a band that plays real old cowboy music, modern country, and some patriotic songs as well. They were really talented and I think my parents really enjoyed the show.
Giant Tortoise at Reptile Gardens
Panning for Gold at the Circle B
Deputization of the Posse
Preparation to capture the Biscuit Bandit
The Biscuit Bandit!
Mom and Dad on a date at the Circle B
Well, after wearing everyone out, they headed down the mountain and back to Iowa. It was sad to see them go but it was great to get to see the family and spend some time with them. We’ll see who wants to come back in the winter!