Monday, August 6, 2012

Update from Montana!

Friends, family, and other interested persons;
Howdy from the land plum-full of cowboys! I've been having quite a blast over here. I've been trying to decide how best to organize this post, but I think I'll start chronologically.

The trip over
At 1:30 am on June 2, I boarded the train from Spokane to Malta Montana. Although the trip was a little breezy, the cattle in the stock cars provided ample company. (Just kidding, I rode on an Amtrak train). I chose to eat breakfast in the meal car, and was privileged to be seated next to a couple from the UK and a recently graduated dentist.

While we ate, the conversation turned to education. When the couple from the UK heard that I was homeschooled, they began to talk about homeschooling in their homeland. I truly feel sorry for the few people over there who are teaching their children at home. Government inspectors show up randomly at the homeschoolers houses to verify that they are using ONLY the national curriculum and ONLY use it with the same methods as the government schools. The parents can't add or take anything away.

The train was pretty cold and I slept most of the way to Malta, at which I met the folks I am working for (Royal and his wife Josie). Royal is a great boss to work for with lots of patience for us folks who were unfortunate enough to grow up in the city. Josie is the best cook on this side of the Divide. Although the food is simple, it's nutritious, wholesome, filling, and nobody ever goes hungry at her house!

I was rather surprised how easily I fit back into the groove of things back here. I spent two months of last summer here, when I arrived this summer it felt as if I had never left.

Here is what a typical day might look like out here:
6:30 - Wake up and start morning chores (Feed and water chickens, water trees)
7:30 - Breakfast (Sourdough pancakes and eggs)
8:00 - Begin work (Bringing salt and mineral to cows)
12:30 - Dinner (The biggest meal of the day, often steak)
1:30 - Back to work (Fixing fence or something).
9:00 - Get home, shower, and go to bed.
Then, just rinse and repeat.

For some more detail concerning my work, I will try to describe just what the jobs are that I commonly do. First, delivering salt and mineral. Because the cows don't always get the nutrition they need from just the grass, often they have to be supplemented with a mixture of salt and other minerals.  Both the salt and the minerals come in separate 50lb bags which have to be hand mixed on location. One day, I delivered over 1,250 lbs of the stuff! Something else that I often do is fence work. It's all pretty self-explanatory; you go and repair fence, be it fixing broken wires, stretching loose wires, or replace rotten wooden posts with their steel counterparts.

The highlights are always working with cows on horses. It's even more fun when you throw bulls in the mix. Once, a bull broke through a corral fence and three barb-wire fences to get to some yearlings that we did not want bred. We grabbed our horses, and headed over there to bring him back. He wouldn't go without a few of the yearlings, so we took them along to the corral. Once we got there, we separated the yearlings from the bull and Royal had my take them back. When I had gotten the yearlings back in the pasture where they belong, I turned around and (surprise, surprise) here comes the bull. This time he went through the side of a shed.

I've also seen quite a bit of wildlife. Cougars, bears, elk, deer, bull snakes, and more. I found an old bull buffalo skull down in the creek one day.

For the last month, it seems the highs have been in the 90's, with the random 60 degree day thrown in for good measure. It's amazing how fast the weather can change out here. It might be 95 out, then 15 minutes later is 65 and raining. You bring a jacket with you everywhere. It's also been very a dry year, and fires are constant dangers. One also has to be constantly checking the water tanks for the cows.

Enough of the work, I'd like to talk about some of the differences between rural Montana and urban Washington.

The biggest and most apparent is that people out here care about the USA. Everybody is a politician, and every conversation will eventually turn to the right to bear arms, the educational system, Obama, Romney, and religion.

In Spokane, the general reaction when you try to venture into that realm is this: O__O Nobody wants to talk about those subjects. I've been putting some thought into why it is this way, and I think it will be the subject of a blog post once I get home (Sept 4th).

God has also taken care of me and kept me safe out here. Just the other day, I was spraying weeds on the four-wheeler and rolled it over. I was on a gentle side slope and because of the tall grass, I couldn't see the steep washout that went down a really steep 10 foot drop. When the rear tire hit that washout, the four-wheeler rolled over so fast I had no time to think about getting off of it. Rolling a four-wheeler is about the most common dangerous situation that people get into while ranching. Every year several people are killed in this area because of it. However, the ditch was just deep enough that instead of the four-wheeler squashing me, it just dumped me on my back and went right over me. I will always remember looking up as it rolled above me and thinking "Wow, I can't believe this is happening and that I'm not hurt". My hat fell off and was crushed. All I have is a stiff knee and a skinned shin from it. The rig was fine. That was truly God protecting me.

I miss you all (this includes family, friends, and my loyal blog readers) and am looking forward to being once again in the loop. However, I wouldn't give up this experience for anything.

Until then, farewell my friends!

[Note from the editor: Caleb and Shanna, but note that she stole his NRA hat]


  1. Glad to hear you're having a wonderful experience!

  2. I see a bit of similarity in the last photo including the same smile, except for the skin color! By the way, Caleb, are you on the uphill side or have you been growing?

    Just remember that 4-wheelers can buck faster than horses! Thank God you didn't get hurt.

    We are missing you two over there in the Big Sky Country. Nice to see your blog.

    May the Lord continue to bless you both.

    Dad and Mom

  3. Very interesting, especially your perception on citizen involvement. Keep safe and continue having fun!

  4. "The biggest and most apparent is that people out here care about the USA. Everybody is a politician, and every conversation will eventually turn to the right to bear arms, the educational system, Obama, Romney, and religion."

    It's like that here in S. Alabama too... kinda thought it was everywhere till now.



I'm Caleb Grove

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