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Monday, December 07 2015

This ranch is smack dab in the middle of nowhere. It's remote enough that without a satellite, we don't get television, and without a cell phone booster, we have to walk to the end of the bottom of the pasture for good coverage. Our nearest neighbor is about a mile and a half away as the crow flies. The nearest paved road is several miles away. That said, one would think that we wouldn't see a lot of strangers around here.  Well, yes and no.

On every Friday afternoon during hunting season, our little mile long gravel/dirt road becomes the Holy Land for hunters. The ranches surrounding us are leased to men who bounce down the muddy road dragging trailers loaded with 4-wheelers and coolers loaded with beer. At first we worried the traffic would bring crime and littering, but some of these guys have been hunting the same ranches for over ten years now, so to them, we were the new neighbors. And the truth of the matter is, we're not the best of neighbors if you're looking for a peaceful retreat from your work week.

Imagine this, it is 5 am and you are just stumbling out of your camper to go to your deer blind. You had to listen to three Livestock Guardian Dogs bark at coyotes all night long. It was a clear night, and so you could hear everything, even the jangle of their bells. It took a lot of beer last night to drown out the noise of those dogs. So now you are sitting in the stand, a bit hung over, waiting for the sun to come up. It's a good time to finally get some sleep. You are later awakened by the deafening din of hungry sheep screaming to be fed. The sun is up and clearly someone is walking to the hay barn. The chaotic baaing is punctuated by barking dogs. You know the noisy ones by name because every weekend you hear "AJA, RANGER! Shut up!"
Later in the morning, after you have returned from a fruitless hunt, you are cooking breakfast outside when two of the largest hounds you have ever seen in your life are staring at you from the forest. They are wearing bells on their collars. Ahhh... the nightime barkers smell bacon and have come to breakfast. You try to pet them and feed them but they are too shy and won't come into camp. Shortly they hear their names called and head back home. Apologies for their visit are given and accepted.

So yes, Dear Readers, we aren't the best of neighbors. Every weekend in the Fall, hunters who pay big bucks for peace and quiet, and big bucks, have to endure the sounds of living near a sheep farm with ten dogs. They are all good-natured about it, and everyone is on good terms, but nevertheless, we now make certain changes to our routine on the weekends.

Since the Livestock Guardian Dogs take exception to every vehicle passing by our front gate, it's easy to tell when the first truck rolls in on Friday afternoon. That's the cue that The Weekend is officially here. Instead of allowing Briar to patrol the entire property at night, she is then locked inside the sheep pens beside the puppies and the goats. It doesn't cut down the barking, because the coyotes still come up, but it keeps her from chasing them off the property and onto someone's deer lease.

 During the day Briar is loose, but the puppies still stay locked up. They normally keep somewhat close to the goats, but bacon is a powerful motivator and the nearest deer camp isn't that far away. Mornings start a little later around here during the weekend because as soon as I step out the door, literally, remember I live in the barn, the sheep will begin to call for breakfast. There is no stopping that noise, you can only delay it until the sun is up.

We now lock the horses in the front pasture until the trucks roll out on Sunday afternoon for two reasons: bullets travel, and hunters drink. As a Crime Scene Investigator, I'm painfully aware of how far a bullet can travel. I'm also aware that many hunters drink. Most of the time they are harmless. They fall asleep in blinds, and they fall out of deer stands. But since I don't want a $6000 Mustang mistaken for a White-tailed deer because he's brown, it's just safer to keep the horses locked below the house from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday afternoon they are free to return to their lives of pretending they are wild mustangs. (okay, one really is, but the other three are just pretending.) Yesterday we turned them loose and like a little choo-choo train, they filed off into the forest. I watched the dappled sun play across their backs as they walked away.

One would think that it would be hard to hide a white horse in the forest, but when bright sunlight filters through the trees, the white ones disappeared as quickly as the brown ones. And soon the forest absorbs them all.

The hunters have said that the noise doesn't bother them when they're hunting because the deer in the area are used to our racket. Point well taken, but nevertheless I understand that the hunt itself, is not the biggest draw to going hunting on the weekends. People want the peace and quiet of the Great Outdoors. We enjoy that all the time - well except for when the dogs are barking and the sheep are screaming, but the point is that we have plenty of Great Outdoors time. The hunters are our Part-time Neighbors, and we all try to be good neighbors. We've pulled them out of the mud, they've helped us fix water gaps in the fence. There's been a lot of male bonding over beer and  barbecue pits. As we've gotten to know them, I no longer resent the intrusion into my peaceful neighborhood. They're actually pretty good neighbors. Trust me, they're far better neighbors that the feral hogs and coyotes.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:01 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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