My nephew, Eric Parmely is a busy man. He is husband to his wife, Ashley, and daddy to his three kids, Reagan, Hattie, and Bowen. A while back, Eric and Ashley bought a piece of land west of town, and while they have always been farmers and always had their animals, now have more room to grow their farm and add the animals they want. The kids love having all the space they have at their new place, and they love taking care of their animals. Eric and Ashley stay busy keeping the farm running, and taking the kids to their various activities. If you ask them, they will tell you they are simply living the dream. They really never have wanted anything else but the dream life in the country, surrounded by their kids and a boatload of animals. Now, I’ll grant you that living in the country is peaceful, but having lived there myself, I can’t say that I miss the muddy dirt roads and the long drives to town. It’s just that extra inconvenience that I don’t like much, and I think maybe their dogs agree…at least where the mud is concerned. Odd really, when you consider that most dogs couldn’t care less about mud. Nevertheless, these dogs seem to have a bit of an aversion to it…which strikes me as rather funny.
Eric and Ashley especially love the peaceful days in the country, because lets face it, if you don’t have to go to town, it is really peaceful. They get to enjoy the wildlife, such as sage grouse, deer, and antelope, and they thoroughly enjoy the many visitors to their farm. Lots of birds hang out there, and the lack of traffic noise is nice too. For me, the winter would be the worst, but then I don’t like winter anywhere, so I guess it doesn’t matter. On the farm, and this is one of the things they like most about farm life…you have to go outside everyday, and actually be outside. you can’t take care of the animals from the house. The family has learned to love all kinds of weather, including snow. Eric and Ashley actually have to bribe their kids to come into the house at night. Absolutely amazing!!
Eric, like all of the men in the Schulenberg family, loves to work on cars. If mechanics can possibly be in the blood, that is where it is in these guys. In fact, one might wonder if they don’t have oil in their veins, instead of blood. You never have to wonder where they are, because if they aren’t working on a vehicle, they are at the parts house getting parts for a vehicle. Of course, the great thing about having a mechanic in the family is the lack of vehicle maintenance expense. Mechanic work can get really expensive, and if you have a mechanic in your life, you don’t have to pay someone else to do the work. A great savings for sure, and that is a great blessing…as the women in the Schulenberg family will tell you. Today is Eric’s birthday. Happy birthday Eric!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Because Bob and I have been hiking for more than twenty years now, I have always thought that we were careful travelers through places that are home to the creatures of the forest. We don’t leave garbage behind, and we keep our distance when we spot wildlife. It is a show of respect for them, and most often, our distance creates a feeling of careful comfort for the wildlife we pass along the trail. Still, there are times when we inadvertently get a little close. It isn’t because we were careless, but rather that we didn’t see them and I guess they didn’t see us in time either. Most often this occurs with animals like chipmunks, squirrels, mice, or birds, but sometimes deer too. It is times like these that I realize that we are really interlopers in their world. Somehow, that never exactly occurred to me before.
While hiking the Centennial Trail in the area where it crosses the tracks for the 1880 Train, beginning at the Big Pine trailhead, and going to the Samelius trailhead, we came across several Ruffed Grouse. They were in the grass right beside the trail. We didn’t see them, and somehow we managed not to disturb them until we were just steps past them. Suddenly they were spooked by our presence, and we were spooked by theirs. The second they bolted, we were so startled that I tried to get the picture of them, and all I got was the turkey that had been there with them. The picture of the turkey in itself was kind of cool though, because somehow the turkey manage to be behind a small tree at just the right angle to be almost invisible to my camera’s eye. I had to look close to realize that I had caught anything in my shaken state.
It was then that I began to think about the fact that no matter how careful, or quiet, or respectful we are, we are still interlopers in their world, and it is still disturbing to them to some degree. True, the lone doe eating grass simply stood and watched us, and the bird intent on the worm it was taking back to its babies went about its business, and the mouse eating grass allowed us to pass by quite closely, and the frog sitting in the water puddle decided that he was not going to jump, even if we were very close by. They allowed us to be in close proximity to them, somehow trusting that we were not there to hurt them. Nevertheless, even with their guarded trust, they still felt like we did not belong there. We were still in their world, and they would prefer that we would leave.
This revelation will not change the fact that we like to hike, nor will it keep us from hiking, because hiking is what we do, but it does give me a new respect for the creatures who live along the trails we like to hike. I feel a new desire to somehow tiptoe through their backyard without disturbing them too much. I want to be the stranger that they allow to pass quietly through, even if they take a guarded stance, because I am not there to hurt them, but rather just to take a peek into their world. All we want is to quietly pass through and drink in the beauty that the animals may not notice any more that we do our own living room, because to them it is normal and everyday, but to us it is extraordinary.
I have often wondered what our nation looked like before the Native Americans altered the landscape with the only way they really had of clearing the land…fire. When the summer grasslands would grow so tall that it made travel by horse or on foot troublesome, the Indians just started a fire to clear the area. Since there was nothing standing in the way of the fire, it ran until it came to a river or some other kind of obstacle, such as an area void of vegetation, and then it simply burned itself out. Of course, rain or snow would have the same effect too. I wonder, like many other people do, if prior to that practice, there were forests where we now have plains.
Of course, the White Man, has come a long way in trying to bring trees back into our nation, but there are still many places that are just wide open spaces filled with prairie grass, sagebrush, and cactus. When my grandparents, Anna and Allen Spencer decided to move to Texas to check out the booming oil industry, they found a land that seemed to run for hundreds of miles, with little to see, but wide open spaces. Like many people, they longed for trees, and other vegetation to give a different view to the land they found themselves living on. Having lived on five acres myself for a number of years before moving into town, I can certainly understand wanting trees. That didn’t make it easy to grow any of them up to much size, however. I suppose it might have been easier in Texas, due to their warmer climate.
I understand the need Native Americans had to clear the land, and the lack of sufficient tools to do so, when it was necessary. Nevertheless, I wish they had not burned down the trees…or the prairies, because that stopped the young trees from growing, and lets face it…we need trees for shade, and the very air we breathe. These days, with all the necessary tools, from lawnmowers to farm equipment, there is no need to burn down the prairie grass to keep it from getting so deep, so clearing the land is a much smoother project. The older I get, the more I find myself wanting trees around me, and while it is still hard to get them up to some size, due mainly to the deer that roam freely inside the city limits of Casper, Wyoming, I do have some volunteer Silver Birch trees that have moved themselves from the neighbors tree into our yard.
We were so excited when the first tree started coming up, but our neighbor, Bill thought we would be upset about the little trespassing trees, and so he cut the down…until we told him that we wanted them. Then he left them alone so we could decide to let them grow or not. That first tree is now taller that our house, and we have several in the back yard too. Before these trees began growing, we had three cedar bushes in our front yard, one that was let grow to the size of a rather ugly tree. Finally, the day came that we got one of those little trespassing trees to come up in the right place. While we liked the bushes, that ugly Cedar tree needed to go. Then that tree got to an area where it could work for what we wanted. This past summer, it had grown to the point of being about my height. Life was good. We cut down that ugly Cedar bush that had been pretending to be a tree, and watch with excitement as our new little trespassing tree grew and flourished…and then it happened. The deer that I love to have in our yard, because they are so beautiful…decided that our little tree was just the right size for lunch. It’s hard to say if it will come back in the spring, but if not, there will be another little trespasser to grow in its place…life is still good!!!
Yesterday was our office picnic, which was held at my boss…he hates that word…and his wife, Julie’s cabin on the mountain. We always have such a wonderful time up there. It’s so quiet and peaceful…and yet filled with a flurry of activity. Of course, most of that flurry of activity is not of the human kind. The wildlife around their cabin is constantly busy…especially the hummingbirds. In the past I have tried to capture these amazing birds with my iPhone’s camera, and while it took good pictures of them, I could never really capture them in the way that I wanted to…until yesterday.
While we were waiting for the food to be ready, we watched the hummingbirds snacking on their food…a sugar water mix…yum!! Not quite what I would have wanted to dinner, but I guess to each his own. Hummingbirds are such fun to watch…especially when there are so many of them. On the mountain, people who have feeders and who slow down long enough, will be treated to dozens of hummingbirds diving toward them, to get the feeders. The birds, of all kinds, are always in a flurry of activity. They never slow down. We watched Hummingbirds, Mountain Chickadees, Woodpeckers, and even a Cassin’s Finch…maybe not rare, but one I hadn’t seen before. My camera was snapping constantly. I especially loved the shots of the hummingbirds fighting over the feeders, like there wasn’t enough feeders to go around.
The squirrels were a little more shy than some of the other animals, as were the deer, but I managed to get pictures of both, even if they were a little leery of me, and my motives for being in their space. The deer watched apprehensively, mostly, but the squirrels were very vocal about their disapproval of my presence…not that their chatter changed the situation, because my time in nature is far more limited that theirs, so they will just have to put up with me for a little while.
Of course, taking pictures of the wildlife was not the whole picnic, and we enjoyed such a wonderful time with friends and family, along with great food. Our time at Jim and Julie’s cabin is always a great fun, and it reminds us just how blessed we are to have them in our lives. I cannot think of better people to know and work for. God really does put people in our lives to make them rich and greatly blessed, and I thank him every day for those he has put into my life. Amazing family and friends…it doesn’t get better than that.
Every year, usually around the first of March, but a little later this year because of spring break, Bob and I take a three day weekend and spend it in Thermopolis to celebrate our wedding anniversary, which is March 1st. It is our way of renewing our relationship. We renewed our vows on our 25th anniversary, when we took a cruise, and that was a beautiful time, but these mini renewing events are very much a blessing too. There is no real itinerary, other than a lovely prime rib dinner and multiple relaxing sessions in tho hot tub. If the weather if nice we go for long walks along the river and up to the hot springs, but if not, we might just relax around the motel room. We usually drive through the buffalo reserve before leaving, but rarely see what we saw this time…6 buffalo right on the road. We thought for a moment they were going to ram our car, but they decided that was too much work
We did take one walk this year, but it was pretty cold, so it wasn’t really the highlight of the trip, but then we were both pretty tired this year, so relaxing in the room watching television was ok too. When we went to dinner, the deer came out to eat the corn provided for them right by the windows of the restaurant…always a highlight of the trip. It is always amazing to me that the deer are unafraid of the people in the restaurant…even when they are close enough to touch each other were it not for the glass. This year too, we got to watch a couple of little girls get to feed the deer their corn. I’m sure that was a once in a lifetime event for the girls, and we enjoyed watching it too. Dinner was wonderful as usual, and we always enjoy the Safari Club. The animals on display there were mostly shot by the owner, some before they were listed as endangered. Most of his hunting now involves shooting the animals with a tranquilizer gun. Taking pictures of his kill, having a veterinarian check them over and treat anything that needs treating, and then he releases them back into the wild. I think that is an awesome thing to do.
All too soon, our anniversary trip is over for another year, but we always come away from these trip closer together than we were before. I think every couple needs those little romantic trips periodically. It reminds you why you are in this marriage, after all. It puts you in tune with each other, and for us it confirms the love we always knew we had.
As we travel to Newport, Washington to attend my Uncle Jim’s funeral, we had the opportunity to get together with my cousins, George and Greg. We all had such a great time. We laughed about old times, especially times with our grandparents. Greg told us about the time he told Grandma that he had outgrown her ability to swat him, Elmer, and Forest with the broom. Of course, Grandma proved just how wrong he was, by promptly chasing him down and swatting him again. Grandma was 5 feet tall…in her tall days…so in all of Greg’s 6 feet plus, I’m sure he was quite shocked at her ability to handle him in his all grown up and tough teen aged years. We all had the opportunity to find out just how feisty our grandmother was, because like any kid, we all got into a certain amount of mischief and back talked with the best of them. I have never forgotten my own run ins with Grandma, and often look back and smile about them. Of course, it’s easy to smile about those days now that I’m not getting that spanking.
George told us about the time that Grandpa took him deer hunting, and his disappointment that it was not the all day trip he had hoped. George was surprised that Grandpa knew exactly where to find the deer, and unfortunately, that place was not in the mountains, which is where George loves to be, and Grandpa simply didn’t. In the end, they went to the plains and had their deer before noon. I’m sure George had pictured an all day adventure, hiking through the trees on a quest for the perfect buck. When it ended up being a simple matter of point and shoot, and the drive took longer than the actual hunting part of the trip, his boyhood dreams of adventure and the thrill of the hunt, were dashed. I could picture this little boy, with a picture in his head of being almost on safari, and then the disappointment of the whole thing being very boring and simple, and I felt sad for that little boy who was now my grown up cousin, because I could tell that the adventure had been very important to him at that time in his life, and Grandpa just didn’t realize it, and for his part, I believe George found himself in awe of the fact that Grandpa knew exactly what he was doing…even though in George’s mind, he was old and couldn’t possibly know what was going on in these modern days.
Our visit ended far too soon for all of us and I found myself wishing that we lived closer together so we could re-live those old memories more often. I love my cousins, and I don’t like the way we have all drifted apart. Time changes so many things, and in many ways it makes me sad that so much time has past. Once again, I find myself thankful for Facebook and the ability we now have to stay in touch over the miles. It has brought several branches of my family closer together.
Once in a while, you get the chance to rescue a wild animal, and in an even more rare situation, you might get the chance to raise that animal, usually a baby who has lost its mother, and really has no way to survive on its own. That situation came about for my father-in-law back in about 1946, when a baby deer found its way not only into his care…not only into his heart, but into the family.
My father-in-law has always had a soft heart, and when he found this baby, whose mom was dead, and who was in a lot of trouble out there all by himself…well, he took him in and raised him. The deer settled right in and became part of the family. He revelled in the attention he got from everyone. I suppose the deer thought that my father-in-law was his parent, I mean, what else did he know, except that this person fed him and took care of him…just like a parent would do.
The deer was a part of the family for 2 years, during which time he was included in pictures with the family, and was even photographed by himself, sitting on the hood of a tractor. No he didn’t get there my himself. My father-in-law lifted him up there for the picture, but the deer didn’t see anything wrong with such a thing. He had become so much a part of the family, that he figured that was right where he should be.
The deer shared in their lives for 2 years before they decided that he was ready to be released back into the wild, and once they let him go, they never saw him again. My father-in-law figures that he was probably shot by a hunter, but while I am not against hunting, I have to hope that this little darling somehow got lucky and didn’t end up on someone’s table somewhere. He is just too cute and too sweet to think that he was hunted, killed and eaten. Just my opinion.
Sometimes in life, we get the opportunity to interact with nature is ways that are unexpected. Most of the time wild animals, want nothing to do with humans. We are the enemy, and they know it, but once in while, you find a situation where the animals have learned to trust humans. Such was the case when my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin took their son, Christopher to Denver with Kevin’s parents. Christopher’s other grandma helped Christopher to feed the geese some bread, and the geese loved it. Now, knowing my grandson like I do, I know that he was laughing with pure delight as the geese come up to him and took their dinner from him. Christopher has always loved animals. And when something got him excited, his laugh was amazing. I can just imagine the excitement he must have felt.
Some people have more chances to get to know nature up close and personal, like my good friend Becky, who lives on the mountain with her husband, dog, a number of deer and wild turkeys. The turkeys don’t allow her to get too close, but the deer are very brave. They will come right up to the camera…just to see what it is, even sticking their nose right up to it sometimes. Becky is treated to a side of nature that most of us never get to see. And, as she continues to live on the mountain, the deer will get to know her better. This picture of one of Becky’s favorites, Buddy, has him eating out of one hand while she took the picture with the other hand. She was nervous, but Buddy was a gentleman, so all went well.
Even in town, we have been treated to situations where nature and humans can interact. I know, because I have deer that come into my back yard often throughout the year. They are relatively unafraid. We can walk around the yard while they are there, and unless we get too close, they just watch us with curious interest. Maybe they, like we, each wonder what the other is all about. We aren’t too sure how close we can go, but we would love to be able to get really close…we just don’t know if we dare. Should we take a chance on a wild animal trusting us enough to allow us to get close? Most of us will take that chance. That’s why we feed the geese, deer and turkeys, and even the squirrels, like the one who bravely climbed up my grandson’s pant leg, until he realized he was very close…and then he ran. Those moments are special, and maybe even a little unnerving, but that’s what getting close to nature is all about.
When your kids start driving, most parents are a nervous wreck. You try to tell them about all the possible scenarios and hope they will listen to you enough to stay safe. Most of the time, the kids think you are a total nag, and they wish you would just realize that they know what they are doing…duh!! Nevertheless, as parents, we know that they only think they know all about it. They will someday realize…probably about the time they are teaching their first child to drive…just how they sounded, not to mention, just how little kids know about driving when they first start out.
We lived out in the country when our girls started driving, and that compounded the problems substantially. You add icy roads that are not salted with the chemicals they use in town to melt the ice, and the deer and antelope that roam our area and like the roadway because the food supply is easier to get to there, and you have what could be a recipe for disaster if the drivers don’t stay alert and don’t know what to do in certain situations. During the time we lived out there, there were several rollover accidents, and at least one death because the driver swerved to miss the antelope.
That said, Bob was diligent about telling the girls what to do in those situations. I’m quite sure they secretly rolled their eyes at what they believed to be their over-protective dad. Still he kept on nagging them…drumming it into their heads. I’m sure they thought he was using a hammer sometimes, but one night, all his nagging paid off. Amy was on her way home from town after babysitting, and as she was driving along, an antelope ran out in front of her. Her first instinct was to swerve, and she says she even tightened her hands on the wheel in readiness for that move, but then, her dad’s words came back to her, and she thought, “No…Dad said don’t swerve!!” She slowed way down, and the antelope did hit her car, but he left no damage except a small dent, and she drove home relieved that she hadn’t rolled her car or worse. Her dad’s nagging had probably saved her life.
Bob and I moved from Mills, to Homa Hills in the late 70’s, and then east, to the other side of town, past Evansville to a place in the country in 1980, and lived there until January, 1995. The area we lived in saw lots of antelope, which for those of you who aren’t familiar, are nowhere nearly as beautiful as deer, and are quite stupid, but that’s just my opinion. Deer, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as skittish as antelope, and we wanted to have deer hanging around our place, but it just never happened. I was always sorry, because I thought living in the country just came with deer.
In January of 1995, we sold our place in the country and moved to town. I knew that many things would change in our lives. Our girls were grown, our oldest daughter married, and our youngest daughter planning her wedding. Soon grandchildren would follow our initiation into the empty nester’s world. Our lives had taken a big turn, and nothing was going to be the same again.
We moved into our new home in January, so at first we didn’t see anything that would surprise us. Then spring and summer came, and we got a big surprise. Suddenly, the deer began to show up. It was always a surprise visit. There was no way to expect it. Some mornings we would wake up to up to 6 deer in the back yard. Sometimes, we would come home and as we left our detached garage to go into the house, we would step into our yard to find a deer or two standing across the yard from us.
They are never afraid. They are often curious about us. They let us move around our yard, as long as we don’t get too awfully close, but that is much closer than you might think. The deer are such a blessing. They wander in and out of our lives and our days, always bringing a feeling of beauty and awe along with them. They are graceful and quiet, and they make you want to hold your breath so that maybe, just maybe the moment might not pass so quickly and the deer in my back yard might stay just a few minutes longer.