The Outside Circle: Dry country, another friend passes, Dept. of Lunacy & fuzzy caterpillars |

The Outside Circle: Dry country, another friend passes, Dept. of Lunacy & fuzzy caterpillars

Took a trip down to a wedding reception in eastern Colorado last weekend and got to observe for myself the drought in the southern plains. Truth be told, I thought it would look worse than it does. There’s been a little rain and they were able to put up some hay, so, it could be worse. The winter wheat has had enough moisture to get sprouted, but they’re still planting and hoping for a couple of inches of rain, I’m sure. Cattle in that country look good, though the grass is very short. It’s literally short grass country anyway, so it must have some real kick to it. I’m afraid my cows would take a while to adjust to life there!

The streams of semis headed south with hay are endless. I can’t imagine paying that much for hay to feed cattle/sheep/horses, but I guess one does what they have to to hang on to what they have. Pray for rain, folks, for our friends to the south.

I was saddened to learn of the death of an old friend from Newell, SD, while I was gone. Raymond Johnson, 88, passed away at his home west of Newell on Sept. 30. He was born and raised near Newell and spent most of his life there. He was a good cowboy and raised good horses for decades. Ray and his wife Sue were fixtures at horse events that ran the gamut from playdays to horse racing. They raised a bunch of kids, his and hers, and were beloved by all. When the open range days came to an end in the early ’50s in our area, Raymond was one of the young men who dug the post holes and strung the wire to make pastures. My Dad knew Ray since ’49 and couldn’t think of a bad thing to say about him. He told me some stories on Ray and he must have been a pistol as a young man! He was a fine person and loved by all who knew him. He was a Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star veteran, so a beloved son of our nation as well. I will miss Ray and visiting with him at the café in town. He’s survived by his wife Sue and a big bunch of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also left behind a couple of old pensioner horses, so I hope someone is going to take care of them until it’s time for them to join him on the other side. Ray, you will be sorely missed. My condolences to the families.

Casper (WY) College’s longtime rodeo coach, Tom Parker, was injured when his horse fell after being bumped (smacked might be a better word) by a bull during roughstock practice on Sept. 28. It broke his pelvis, so he’s going to be sidelined for a while to heal up. Interim coach in his absence is Kelly Timberman, so the team isn’t left without good coaching.

You’d better be paying attention to what the Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed. They want to implement restrictions on youth under 16 working on farms and ranches. That includes using horses to work stock, docking lambs, stacking hay, etc. They insist that there will be an exemption for kids working for their parents, but that won’t include other relatives. I can’t imagine trying to raise kids without teaching them to work or trying to run a place without their help. The best help anyone can have is the homegrown kind and this would stop that. The most useful kids with the best work ethic, to me, are the ranch/farm kids who have worked beside their folks and grand folks, and learned how to think on their feet, take responsibility and break a sweat. There are hordes of city kids that can’t run anything except a computer and video games so now they want to ruin the rest of them. I think DOL stands for Dept. of Lunacy. Anyway, if this alarms you (and it really should), they are taking comments until Nov. 1. Write to them at: Wage and Hour Div., U.S. D.O.L., Room S 3502, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210. Make sure you include the agency name (Wage and Hour Div.) and regulation information #1235-AA06 in this letter. You can check this out at as well. Don’t let them do this! Get on the stick and write the letter with your opinion of this lunacy stated concisely. It will be too late to do anything about it afterward!

Kyle Whitaker, Chambers, NE, has won a record sixth Linderman Award. He earned $22,912 in steer wrestling, $7,130 in tie-down roping, and $4,529 in saddle broncs for a total of $34,571. The award guidelines require that a cowboy win at least $1,000 in each of three events, one of which must be a roughstock or timed event. His Dad, Chip, won it four times in his career. Congrats Kyle!

The Montana Women’s Finals will be held during the NILE at Billings, MT. It features barrels, team roping and breakaway and pre-entries are due Oct. 12. For info and entry forms, go to You can also call Lana Tibbetts at 406-485-2997.

The 2nd Annual Headless Horseman Barrel Race will be Oct. 29-30 at the All Seasons Arena in Bowman, ND. Besides the regular barrel events, there will be a costume contest and parade, plus a steak supper that is open to everyone ($15/plate) and the UBRA Awards Banquet. Pre-entries are due Oct. 17. Entry forms and info can be found at or by calling Ashley Alderson at 701-206-0350 or Barb Williams at 605-375-3945.

I hope your fall work is all getting done. I’ve been working on a fencing project from two falls ago, so feel like I’m really up to speed. I’d like to get the windbreak corrals rebuilt before the drifts bury them. This way the snow can start fresh!

The geese and cranes are singing their way south and that is always bittersweet. I love to hear them and even enjoy fall a lot, but the dread of winter nearly overpowers both. According to woolly caterpillar watchers, if they are just brown with skinny black stripes it’s supposed to be a normal winter (whatever that is), but if they have wide black stripes, buy more hay. The ones I’ve seen since learning this scientific method of weather prognosticating have had skinny black stripes. If I see one with wide black stripes I’ll squish him just in case. I’m not taking any chances.

Send me your events and news. I can’t tell others about it if you keep it a secret from me!