by Arnold Brokling
January 19, 2017
With the recent relentless winter storms and extremely cold weather, I am lucky enough to pick and choose whether to go out or not. If I chose to go out, it would be for fun. Not so for our local ranchers. They have commitments every day, no matter what the weather!
I had the privilege of spending one cold morning with Lou Roberts while he fed elk for the Wyoming Game and Fish. From close to Merna Junction, we left Louís fatherís place and snowmobiled 6 miles (with permission) through private land to the Jewett feed ground.
There, in a small corral, awaited Bell and Dolly, Belgian Draft horses extraordinaire! On this day, Louís help, his sister Rel and her son Sam, expertly fitted the horses with their harness equipment, led them over to the sled and hooked them up. In short order, we were on the way to the haystack where half of the 80 bales of hay were loaded on the wagon.
All the while this operation was taking place, 650 hungry elk were watching and waiting for their groceries. With just a hint of a command, Dolly and Bell headed out with the full load. The elk eagerly followed the sled munching on the flakes of hay that were spread out before them. Another trip by the haystack, another 40 bales loaded on the sled and another loop through the feed ground completed the daily feeding. With Dolly and Bell back in the corral, sweat evaporating from their hair in the cold air, their harnesses were removed and put away. The teamís work done for the day.
For me, this was a wonderful experience. A winter wonderland graced by elk in the foreground and framed by Triple Peak, a prominent feature of the Wyoming Range, in the back.
A quick snowmobile ride back to the ranch and although I was done, it was just the beginning of the day for Lou. Next on the list, plowing out access to another haystack followed by a host of seemingly endless chores.
Ranch life certainly has its obstacles. Daily routines and commitments take their tolls. However, I could not help but notice not only the strong work ethic of this family, but also the strong relationship they had with each other. While we were feeding elk, Louis, Louís father, tended to feeding his cows, Louís wife Jennifer fed their cows. Similar to a team of Draft horses, each family member pulled their weight to get the job done.
Story and photos by Arnold Brokling