Learned a Lot in the Summer of '76 Thanks to Don, Bill and Big Red

In the summer of '76 our we ended up staying at Don's little mixed ranch for almost a month. Don had it figured out how he could work part time at the Cominco Smelter in Trail and be a single dad to his 3 kids by earning as much dough as possible off the land. He was a hard working SOB. He looked after a small orchard, boarded a few horses for folks from town, had a good sized market garden, and raised a couple of meat cows along with his buddy Bill every year. Bill bought the grain and the calves, Don raised 'em, fed 'em, tended the fences and collected the manure for his garden and orchard.

That summer Don had agreed to work a lotta extra at graveyard shifts at Cominco 'cause he needed the dough. My partner and Don's little sister, Janet, had moved in to help Don with the kids for the summer so when we showed up during July it was like old home week for the Taylor family and there was plenty of work to keep me busy [except of course i didn't know shit about being a rancher]. Fortunately horses and cows are patient as well as forgiving. Janet was a real horse person too and that helped. She and Don taught me how to do...everything. After a week or so Bill even brought over Big Red so he and i could learn to like each other enough to go for evening rides without anyone [me] dying.

They taught me how to saddle and unsaddle the boarded horses and Red, how to brush 'em all, what and when to feed 'em and how each of them liked to be handled. Turned out every horse is as different as every person. Turned out even Big Red didn't totally hate me after a while. They taught me how to tend the cows too and how to mend the fences and replace broken fence posts and how to collect and compost the horse and cow manure for next year's use. Turned out the cows each had a different personality too. One was real inquisative follwed me around a watched every damn thing i did. The other one was more aloof in the pasture but came right over for a big juicy snuggle each evening when i grabbed some grain to entice them into the barn [there was the odd cougar hangin around Fruitvale in those days].

Bill and Don worked a bit each evening tuning up the tractor and attachments 'cause it was getting near time to get in the first big cut of hay off the 40 acre field they leased together. Each night down at the barn i'd hang out drinkin beer and listening while they debated the best day with the most perfect run of weather to go for it. Tured out harvesting hay is a lot more of an art than a tenderfoot hippie like me coulda ever imagined. Finally it came. Don's 'ol International Harvester pulled the triple wide mower the first day, the next it was the big rake that piled it up into windrows, then the baling machine did it's job with me trailing along behind making little stacks outta every few of 'em for easier pickup the next day.

Then all the final day 'til sunset, with Don driving the truck that pulled the trailer after he got home from working his graveyard shift, Bill and i loaded then unloaded into the barns about 400 bales of the heavy first cut mixed hay that they would be feeding to their horses and the boarded horses next winter. i was 28 years old, a huge guy and in decent shape but by the end of that day i could hardly move, don't think i've ever been as exhausted as that day in my life.

Learned a lot that summer, ate a lot too. Learned it ain't easy being a rancher. Learned that i could be friends with a horse even one that wasn't really broken just somewhat bent. One my great victories in life was on our last evening ride when Big Red didn't try to wipe me off on the gate post as we left. Learned a lot from that summer including from Big Red who taught me how to stand proud and free no matter what was happening around me. Thanks to Big Red, i still do.