Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fallen Soldiers

     Memorial Day weekend is a wonderful time to get outdoors or relax. Some may have BBQ’d fished, hiked or even just hung out and watched some movies. We spent the weekend at a nearby lake and had quality time with family and friends. Fishing was successful – with a nice rainbow to cap off the trip. We ate good food and got a little sun. One night, I was fishing off the back end of the boat when I heard Mama B ask the littles if they knew why we celebrated Memorial Day. The small ones didn’t know right away, but the two older ones answered immediately. My Spunky girl said we have the holiday to remember fallen officers. Bubba agreed and acknowledged it was a time to reflect on the sacrifice of those who fight for our freedom. It was a proud moment for this dad. I was glad they knew why we have the holiday and didn’t just say, “Yeah, it’s a three day weekend.” Memorial Day started after the American Civil War. The north celebrated on one day and the South on another. Eventually the government decided to make the last Monday of May a day to remember all fallen military personnel.   
     During the week leading up to Memorial Day, there were plenty of posts on social media reminding people the true meaning of Memorial Day. There was some shaming people that just think about the three day weekend. There were posts about family members that served and died for our great country. Needless to say, it was on my mind all week and I was able to grow more of an appreciation for our brothers and sisters in arms. For a moment, I felt a little guilty having made plans to go fishing, boating and camping. Was I truly honoring those who fought so hard to allow these freedoms? Was I only thinking of myself? I finally came to the conclusion that I wasn’t dishonoring them. I was doing the things the fallen would have done if they were with their families. It made me appreciate the love I have for my family and the opportunities I have to be in God’s country. I prayed and thanked God for their sacrifice. It will always be on my mind this time of year as we reflect on those that paid the ultimate price for me and my family to enjoy time together. Here at 3EM, we want to give thanks to every service member both present and past. Thank you. I cannot express enough how much it means to us that we are able to live in a country where we can spend our time on what matters most – at the Home Place and with Family.

-Long Rifle

Friday, June 10, 2016

Opening Day

     The old man always called it “cabin fever”. He wasn’t referring to the claustrophobic feeling that comes from being cooped up during a long Wyoming winter. He never allowed that to coop us up very much anyway. He was talking about that deep-seated yearning to be in his home place – the cabin he helped build from trees that were cut right there in his own country. He wanted to sit by the fire and drink his coffee in the morning. He wanted to wear his disreputable old hat and fish until it was dark and eat crisp-fried brook trout. He wanted to be alone with his family.
     And so it was that we would wait with ever-increasing anticipation for the big day. Memorial Day weekend was usually when his internal alarm rang and he simply couldn’t stay away any longer. Sometimes we’d be able to drive to the cabin, sometimes we’d have to snowshoe in a couple of miles. But the old man was going to the cabin, come hell or high snowdrifts. There are places where Memorial Day is the first holiday of summer. Our place at 9,000 feet elevation in western Wyoming isn’t one of them. There, it’s the last holiday of winter. 

     Depending on the year, we might go with spring bear hunting gear or spring fishing gear, but we went. Sometimes we got the pickup stuck in the snow, and sometimes we got it stuck in the mud, but we went. He was like some high country bird that picked up and left on the last day of elk season and wintered in the sagebrush along the Green River, but just couldn’t stay there once the vernal equinox had passed. So we’d head out, with tire chains and tow chain, shovel and two spare tires – ready to take on whatever obstacles stood in our way.
     Now, more than a half century later, here we are again. Some things have changed. Solar-powered electricity runs the lights now and we don’t have to pump up the Coleman lanterns. There’s a woodstove insert that puts out more heat than the old fireplace ever did. And we’ve got cell phones to call someone to come get us if we get stuck. But the feeling hasn’t changed a bit. We’re still anxious to get to the home place.
     Tomorrow, Grandma and I will be packing the truck and the trailer with all the stuff that came down the mountain last fall to be cleaned and stored. We’ll be packing up the food staples that need to be replenished. And we’ll have a load. It’s a lot of stuff, and it’s a lot of work. But somehow, we end up being the opening day crew every year. That’s OK, at least for now. We like being the first ones in. And like the old man, we’ll sit by the fire and drink our hot chocolate. I’ll wear my disreputable old hat. And we’ll be alone together. Just us and the memories.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

She Does It All

     Yesterday, Mama B talked about all that a mother does. And I am here to tell you that Apprentice-Mom does almost every one of those things to perfection. She is my teacher in nearly every sense of the word, except when it comes to learning about how to perfect my back cast as well as the hidden beauty of a Coke Zero (those lessons are best handled by Grandpa).
     As I’ve mentioned a few times I am homeschooled, and Apprentice-Mom is my teacher. Every day, she helps me and my two sisters understand how to factor polynomials, write an essay, and learn long division all in the space of a few hours. Not to mention she also takes us to scouts, art, dance, sports, goes running with friends, visits a sister who needs a smile, cooks, cleans, and goes to meetings. But there is always time to help us to learn and love to learn.
     As long as I can I remember Apprentice-Mom has been teaching us to love our Heavenly Father, and love our fellow men. When I was six, she and Apprentice-Dad hauled us out of bed early on a Saturday to help with a church food drive. And after I had learned how to carry a 40-pound bag of flour, and helped cart several to the church for distribution, she taught me and my sister how when we are serving our spiritual brothers and sisters, it’s like serving our Heavenly Father.
     Apprentice-Mom does it all. She teaches us how to serve, how to have a relationship with God, she is our school teacher, and she helps us through hard times, and how to face them. So thank you so much, Mom!! I love you!

-The Apprentice

Friday, May 6, 2016

To Mother Means to Nurture

Mother’s Day can be tough. Amiright, sister-friends?  

     Imagining the “perfect” Mother’s Day – a quiet, clean house, meals already made and dishes done, the children playing ever so nicely, “Dear sister, I believe it is your turn. “ “Oh, sweet brother of mine – do go first. By the way, have I told you how much I love you?” and then, maybe – just MAYBE, dare I say it, a nap. Then, the let down because our husbands are at work and kids are being kids and of course we won’t get a nap – we need to make dinner and do laundry and clean up messes and, and, and…

OR, if the stars align just right, and ALL of the “perfection” actually happens, it’s over in one day and we think, “Why can’t it be this way every day? Why does my family need a one day a year excuse just to be perfectly nice to me?” And then, realizing all the reasons we fall short as a mother. Don’t even get me started on these.

OR, we have a terrible relationship with our mothers and so this day brings feelings of resentment and anger. Maybe we feel like it is never enough with her.
OR, for my sweet sister-friends who have lost their mamas or babies or are unable to have a child and who desperately want one, this day…oh this day. My heart aches for you.

Oh, mercy. Motherhood.

And yet, when I was asked as a pig-tailed, gap-toothed seven year old, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” without hesitation, I would respond, “A mom.” Here’s why. My mama.

Whew. Dang genetically weak tear ducts. My mama is why I wanted to be a mom. Some of my favorite things that I learned from my mom…
     1. Service & Compassion. I watched mom take cookies to struggling sisters, listen to their troubles and dry their tears. I saw her run across the street to check up on our sweet widow neighbor, Valene, just to make sure she was okay. Now, it is standard at MY house for the kids to ask, “Is this dinner for us or is it for someone else?” Thanks, Mom.
2. Solitude. I saw my mom learn to be still, listen, and quiet the world’s noise for just a bit. I always knew my mom had a relationship with God. Now, my kids wait at the door of my room until I get off my knees before they ask their questions. Thanks, Mom.

3. Coke. I think I am allowed to blame this addiction on her. Just look at the picture. Also, Coke is delicious. Thanks, Mom!
     4. Education. My mom graduated from high school in the midst of serious family turmoil. She graduated with her Bachelor’s at eight months pregnant. She always had a book to read and music playing. She paid for piano lessons and sat through basketball and volleyball games. Shakespeare, the Beatles, Beethoven or jump shots were just part of our daily routine. I graduated with MY Bachelor’s with two little monkeys under three. I think there are five (?) books on my nightstand. I am teaching my three older kids to play piano. Our routine is made up of school musicals and soccer games. And I love it. Thanks, Mom.

5. Courage. I don’t need to re-hash all of the hard things my mama has been through. But, damn. This woman is a warrior. I’ve lived through some stuff myself and wouldn’t have if my supportive mom hadn’t been there telling me she’d been through it too. Thanks, Mom.

To all you sisters out there, who struggle with Mother’s Day, read this quote from mama blogger, Glennon Melton:

To Mother, to me, means to nurture. To heal, to help grow, to give. And so anyone and everyone who is involved in the healing of the world is a Mother. Anyone who tends to a child, or friend, or stranger, or animal or garden is a Mother. Anyone who tends to Life is a Mother. [Let] Mother’s Day be a celebration of all the healers and hopers and lovers and givers and tend-ers.

I am blessed to be a mother – to join ranks with my Mama, Healer, Nurturer, Hoper, Giver, Tend-er, Best Friend, Confidant, Sister and, now, Grandma. How I love you, Mom. Thank you for teaching me, putting up with me and encouraging me. I cannot thank you enough or find the words to tell you how much I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mama Bear

     I read a meme the other day that said, “I may seem quiet and reserved, but if you mess with my children, I will break out a level of crazy that will make your nightmares seem like a happy place.” Truer words have never been spoken – I think my mom wrote it. Do NOT mess with my mom’s kids. – aka, me and my sister. There is a reason that there is the phrase “mama bear” in our society. She provides a level of protection that is uncontested. She will fight tooth and claw to the death to protect what she loves which are her cubs. Have you seen “The Revenant?” Just saying. Mama bear is a perfect way to describe my mom. My mom, above all, is a protector, hard worker and extremely loving.      
     Teddy Roosevelt once said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”My mother would do anything for us, and I mean anything, to make sure we were taken care of and given the necessities of life. She is one of the hardest working people I know. Growing up, she worked nine to five during the day and was on parent duty at night. I’m sure she was always tired but she never showed it. She was always putting in 110% at work and at home. We were her world and she did everything she could to make it the best world possible. We didn’t live in a mansion and we didn’t drive a Rolls. But we lived the high life. We always had a clean house, a home cooked meal made with love and clothes on our backs.    
     After work, my mom would come home and get to work on the house, laundry, dinner, family and animals. Bonnie Oscarson once said a mother is “One who can create an environment of refuge, LOVE, safety, order, nurturing, learning, encouragement and HOLINESS. Somewhat an expert in medicine, psychology, religion, fashion, teaching, music, CULINARY arts, literature, finance, decorating art, hairstyling, sports, MANNERS, chauffeuring and so much more.” My mom, by definition, was a home maker. She MADE our home.
     Finally, and probably the most important thing my mom has done is LOVE me. If there is something in the world that she knows would make me happy, she does everything in her power to make it happen. If my sister and I are happy, my mom is happy. My mom did it all with love and she still does. I hope she knows what a great mother she is. She will always be the best one to me.

-Long Rifle

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Mother's Watch

     For my first (and most likely only) submission to 3EM, I should start out by introducing myself. I’m Rangermom, and the oldest daughter of Grandpa and Grandma. I'm happy to have this opportunity to write about the person that everyone in this family absolutely adores: Grandma! (But I have the right to call her by her real name, which is Mom.) This is a tribute to Mom.
     As my kids get older, I’m beginning to get a sense of what it will be like when they leave home for good. In the early days of our country, this could cause justifiable fear and anxiety, as mail was sporadic at best, and news of your loved ones could take months or more to reach home. When a mother sent her child off, she had to trust that she’d done her best, and to leave them in God’s hands.   

     My own mom is a stay-at-home mother who had the task of raising three daughters with completely opposite personalities and interests. But she excelled at it from the start. From the time we were small, she would watch to make sure we ate our veggies, practiced the piano, brushed our teeth, attended church, and made our own beds. She watched over us as we learned different homemaking skills - cooking and cleaning and childcare. But she made it seem fun: I learned simple sewing skills by making clothes for small dolls, and my sisters and I learned to cook by burning up the mixer in over-mixed cookie dough. She took us camping and fishing and hunting. She turned us loose in the backyard every day, and watched us as we learned to play together. It wasn't always harmonious play (remember the opposite personalities), but she watched as we worked out our disagreements with only minimal intervention necessary. She watched us at our school events, our piano recitals, our debate competitions, our church activities. She watched us as we made mistakes and learned from them.
     While this childhood was pretty typical, my own children now have an asset in their lives that is definitely more atypical. Their grandmother is the very best of grandmothers. With nine grandchildren living in three different cities, she has managed the impossible task of making each one feel like he/she is her favorite. She is involved in every aspect of their lives; but where I found it intrusive as a teenager, my teenage sons welcome her companionship and advice. I can't say enough how reassuring to me that is. When these kids begin to make their mark on the world, it will be due to her influence, just as it was for me.
     With the significant increase in family members and her household tasks, you would think that her capacity to care for me as her daughter would be limited by logistics of time and distance. But she has never stopped watching over me. She still wants to know how I feel and what I'm doing. She watches me work and learn life's hard lessons. She watches over me when I'm in pain, and she watches for me when I need a steadier hand to help. She still loves to watch me play. There have been mothers for thousands of years who have sent their children out into an uncertain world. I believe that a mother's example is truly symbolic of Another's even higher love. I think that the Lord phrased it this way when He sent me to her: "Your mother will watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another" (see Genesis 31:49).


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

She was Grace

     My mom was born on January 27, 1919 in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Her family lived in Green River, 15 miles west. Green River was a rough and dusty town, a railroad town, fueled by coal from Rock Springs and the hard work of good people from all over the world.
     She graduated the salutatorian of her class, and was offered an academic scholarship to the University of Wyoming. But she was the sole breadwinner in her family by this time, her older siblings married and gone, and $50.00 a month was too much to pass up. She stayed at her job at the county library. Never a social butterfly, she didn’t date until she was out of high school and didn’t enjoy it much then. Her life was the library, and she loved it. She saved her money, took an occasional vacation to Denver or Salt Lake City with her mother, and quietly resigned herself to a single life.
     When the war years came in the 1940s, the troop trains thundered across the desert and stopped in Green River for coal and water. The GIs took their doughnuts and coffee from the Red Cross, took themselves to the bars for a drink, and some of them even in desperation found their way to the Sweetwater County Library. But none of them ever found my mom – or at least never found their way into her heart.
     In fact, it wasn’t until much later, after the war – after all the GIs who were going to come home had come home – that something changed. Franklin Gasson – “Gus”. He had malaria. He had jungle rot. He had what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder. But he read, so he came to the library. And in time, it seemed, he came to the library only during her shift.
     Gus was a quiet guy who carried a lot of scars from the war. He put on a gruff exterior, but she found him to be unfailingly kind, gentle and loving. He was wonderful to her mother. And he loved the mountains and desert country of southwestern Wyoming with all his heart. When he asked her to marry him, she didn’t hesitate. They were married at high noon on June 19, 1951 in the little church she had attended all her life.    

     I suspect it wasn’t always easy for my mom to be the only female in our home. My father and I were born with a love of the outdoors. She was not. She didn’t like cooking over a fire. She didn’t care to sleep on the ground, and she certainly didn’t care to hunt. She fished, probably out of self-defense in the beginning. But I remember her being a tolerably good angler, though prone to fits of emotion with a fish on. I was there when she caught the biggest fish of her life, using one of the most unorthodox techniques I’ve ever seen. She set the hook on the big rainbow, turned around and ran up the bank and all the way to the truck. I can still see that big fish bouncing through the sagebrush…
     Then, unexpectedly, it all came crashing down around her ears. In May of 1967, my dad died suddenly. Coronary heart disease – we had no idea. He was only 53. It was as though our world had collapsed in on us. My mom was devastated. I was crushed. It was a nightmare.
     When Kim came along a few years later, my mom loved her. And when we were married in 1973, my mom got the daughter she had waited so long for. I was only 18, and I suspect that Mom realized that Kim had a better chance of helping me to be something other than a menace to society than she did. If she had any regrets about “losing” me, she kept them to herself and always treated Grandma with great love.
     In time, the old house in Green River became too much for her. An automobile accident in 1986, a knee replacement some years later, and the steady march of time made it hard for her to keep living on her own. When we suggested that she move here with us, she was again gracious. She tried it for a few months, decided she liked it and came back to stay. Our family moved her lock, stock, barrel and 700-pound pieces of petrified wood.
     In the end, with her worldly possessions reduced to those which would fit first in an assisted living apartment, and later in a nursing home room, she seemed to care less and less about those things. She cared about us. Even when she couldn’t remember the names of her grandsons-in-law or her great-grandchildren, she loved them. She loved all of us. Right up to the end, she loved us. And right up to the end, she was gracious. She was Grace.

And I miss her. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

With Your Own Hands

     On this blog, I’ve talked a lot about some of my big passions - hunting, fishing, family, and the outdoors. But I haven’t mentioned another of my hobbies: working with my hands. Whether it’s in fixing things, carpentry or blacksmithing, I get a feeling of satisfaction that I can’t quite put into words. It might come from seeing a hunk of wood or metal come together and turn into something pretty or useful, or both. Or it might be that in this world of instant gratification, seeing something that took time, effort and skill is really rewarding.   
     Apprentice-Dad has come home more than once to find me huddled over a bed of coals with a red hot piece of steel buried inside, or the belt sander singing as the University of Wyoming logo is shaped from a hunk of cedar. It comes with a price though. Currently I have two or three cuts that might scar over, three blisters, and a chunk of my right ring finger and pinky where the skin just is just starting to grow back after getting caught in the belt sander. But for all the pain it caused me, and the scares it caused my mom, I think it was worth it. Not only do I make myself some cool toys, I know how to do cool stuff that I can pass on to the next generation.
     Last Wednesday, I got the itch to make myself a knife. So I got two files from the local hardware store. So with consultation from my favorite YouTube bladesmith, I set about prepping one of my files to become a knife by firing it to break its temper. Once it was ready, the long process of shaping the blade began. First I drew a stencil onto the knife file, then cut that out roughly with a saw. With the other file, I cleaned up the edges of the stencil. Then I built a bed of coals in a barrel, and with a Shop-Vac as my bellows, I heated up the knife and quenched it in oil (I used motor oil) to harden it. Then I placed it in the oven for a couple hours (I used our toaster oven in the garage, as using the one in the kitchen tends to stink up the house and cause one’s mother to question one’s hobby.) While that was going on, I used the belt sander to quickly make handle and made a sheath out of PVC. Once that was all done, I put the varnish on the handle, and spray painted the sheath. Then I put Wyoming Armories’ (my company) brand on the handle and sheath and epoxied the handle to the blade. And it was done.
     I guess what I love about doing this kind a thing is the ability to watch the process and emotionally attach yourself to something that begins as a commonplace object and through work, turns into something great, useful, and beautiful. It reminds me of life - how we start as not much, but as we are forged in life’s fires, we become useful, great, and beautiful.

-The Apprentice 

For more info on knife making, here are some things that have helped me:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Honoring our Eagles

Q: What's the difference between the Boy Scouts of America and the guys at 3 Elk Meadow?

A: The Boy Scouts have adult leadership.

     Our family has a relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. Our young men are Scouts, and both Long Rifle and I are proud to say that we’ve been Scout leaders. We believe that Scouting has taught us a lot about being good outdoorsmen and good men. That's why we’re so proud to say that we have two Eagle Scouts in our family. Since he’d neither of them would ever think of calling attention to his own accomplishments (as The Ranger would say, “That's just not what we do in our family.”) we will call attention to them. You've gotten a feel for what great guys they are right here on 3EM, but let us pause for a moment to honor our two Eagles.
     These two guys have been best buddies almost since birth.

Different as night and day in some ways, but always together. I've never seen them divided on any topic. If you haven't picked up on it, Ranger is older by about eight months. That small difference has never mattered much. When they were much younger, we called them the Coyote Brothers because, like coyote pups, if they weren't eating or sleeping they were wrestling. Now, they're young men – my wing men.   
    The Ranger is a quiet guy who was the oldest of his generation in our family. As such, he was the first to catch a fish, the first to shoot a rabbit. It was the Ranger who got us started on the whole Cutt-Slam thing that became a rite of passage for us all. Like his dad, he’s not a big guy. But he’s rawhide tough. It's pretty hard to tire him out, and he's a cool hand in a tough spot. He shares his family’s love for Wyoming history and he's the keeper of the family stories. He's an expert on aviation, and he can tell you at a glance what plane that is up there at 35,000 feet, what airline it flies for and where it's headed.      

     The Apprentice got his name because he's a lot like me. More precisely, he’s what I wish I could be. He’s a kind, hard-working and intelligent guy who has always loved wild things and wild places. He's the guy who packed his first load of elk meat off the mountain in a Ninja Turtles backpack at age five. He’s the guy who’s up at 6 AM, asking what he can do to help. He’s learned a lot along the way. But perhaps just as important, he’s taught us a lot. He’s taught us the importance of patience, and toughing things out even when they're hard. He’s taught us to be considerate of others and to be gentle in how we treat those we love.
So here's a shout out to our two Eagles, the Ranger and the Apprentice. You're a credit to our family, and we’re proud of you.

- Grandpa

Monday, April 4, 2016

Saguaro Sea

     In the desert of Southern Arizona, I look out over an ocean. Waves of majestic saguaro cacti, standing in the hot desert sun. One catches my attention. This one is taller than the others, and has a lot more arms. He’s been alive for probably around 200 years. Day after lonely day he stands there among his brethren, proud and tall. He’s been through a lot – his gnarled, twisted arms, and ever browning stalk indicate how much. But he’s resilient. He’s survived freezes, possibly fires, and wind. He grew up surrounded by the Navajo tribe, having never seen a white person until he was 20 years old. He was my height as he watched armed men leave their homes to go fight the Confederates during the Civil War. He was well over a century old when we entered World War II, and 150 by the time Grandpa was born. He’s reaching the end of his life now, and I wonder if he’s tired of it. He’s watched fads come and go, seen how fast things change, and yet he hasn’t changed. That’s what I like about him and his brothers. He doesn't care about who’s our next president, what celebrities are doing, or the newest, coolest technology. He just stands there, gazing day after day over the Saguaro Sea. Old man, I respect you.

-The Ranger

Friday, March 18, 2016

Flashback Friday!

     Within the next month or two, the 10,000th person will click on this blog. We actually have a little surprise planned for that - more details to come. We have tons of momentum, and this blog is read globally, thanks to you! Sometimes, though, it's good to step back and see what it was like back then. We started this blog over a year ago and this was the very first post ever by Grandpa. Enjoy!
-The Ranger

We are a Wyoming family. We hunt. We fish. We pick berries and mushrooms. We know the names of the birds and the flowers. We have names for the places that are special to us – Three Elk Meadow, the name of this blog - is also one of those places. We’re out there in the mountains and the deserts, in fair weather and foul, having the time of our life all year long. We always have, and I hope we always will.
     I am, I guess, what passes for a patriarch in our family. I’m Grandpa, an honor I take very seriously. Perhaps that’s because I never met either of my own grandfathers. They were dead long before I came on the scene. I never knew the man whose name I bear. Never heard his voice or even saw his face, except in the old sepia-toned pictures that have been were handed down to me. My dad didn't remember him much, and I don't think I ever heard him mention his father to me. Never much of a mentioner to begin with, my dad didn't have a lot of memories to work with when it came to his own father. My grandmother wasn't a lot better when it came to sharing memories of the husband she lost to the great influenza epidemic. Maybe it was just too hard to talk about him, even after all those years. He remains elusive, a ghostlike presence in our family almost a century after his passing.
     The photos of him at age 40 show a prosperous young stockman. Sandy haired, sporting a Stetson and a pocket watch and wearing a suit. But it’s the eyes that tell the story. Blue-eyed, like 
his young son and later the grandson he would never know, he
looks not so much at the camera as through it. There’s a Michael Martin Murphy song that says “You can see it in the eyes of every woman and man who spends their whole life livin’ close to the land. There’s a love of the country and a pride in the brand in America’s heartland, livin’ close to the land.” That’s what you see. You see the sagebrush sea, the utter vastness of millions of acres without a fence. You see the blazing heat of the summer and the bitter cold of the winter and the constant, endless wind. You see a man who loved being in the saddle, who lived and loved living in the wild. A guy I connect with very deeply, no matter that we never met.
     I don't want to be just a picture to my own grandchildren. That’s why we started this blog. We want to share with you the connection we feel with the land – each of us as individuals and all of us collectively as a family. We're a family that loves God, each other and the wild things and wild places of Wyoming. We hope you'll enjoy sharing them with us.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Big Water

     I guess it doesn't take much water to impress a guy from Sweetwater County. A hatful would be a lot of water in most of southwestern Wyoming. But if you come from a hard, dry country you have to be impressed by the Pacific Ocean. I love it. There's some sort of connection here for me. Way down deep, something way back in the genetic memory says “You know me.” Like a voice you haven't heard but you still recognize, it's there in your head and in your heart but you don't know why.
     Maybe it's the smell. They say the sense of smell is best at evoking memories. I started smelling it when I was still almost a mile away. That salt tang that I hadn't smelled for years brought back memories from my first sight of it near the mouth of the Columbia. I remembered the time Grandma and I came here, to the foot of Sloat Street when we were newlyweds, back almost 43 years ago. I remembered Ketchikan and Seattle and Monterey.
     Maybe it's the sound. I'm deaf as a post, but the sound of the Pacific has always fascinated me. It sounds like some creature of unimaginable size slowly, rhythmically inhaling and exhaling. Like the planet itself is breathing. In a sense, it is. I remembered Vancouver and Astoria and San Diego.
     But the sight of it is what makes my heart leap. With my back to millions of Californians jammed cheek by jowl along the coast, I could face west and see miles and miles of open water.
Water still alive with salmon and steelhead, sea lions and sea urchins, plovers and pelicans. Water that smelled just like this when the Spanish were here. Water that sounded like this when the Ohlone were here. Water that looked like this when there were no people here at all.

As Norman Maclean said, “I am haunted by waters.”

Courtesy The Ranger


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book Review: Pat McManus

     Right now it’s the time of year when the weather can’t make its mind up. The temperature stays around 45 degrees, the wind is blowing a million miles an hour, and it’s muddy as heck. It will stay like this until about April 1st, when it dumps two feet of snow and drops to -5. As a result, a rambunctious lad such as myself has to find something to do, to get out of this blasted wind. And woodcarving and Netflix only go so far. That means it’s time to find a good book, and write a school essay (which this will double as). The books of choice at the moment are by Pat McManus. Pat McManus has written a treasure trove of books about those who are as obsessed with the outdoors as I am.
     You know how some people have a gift for speaking and telling stories? Well, McManus doesn’t have that. According to my source (which may or may not start with the letters Wiki), he is an awful speaker. But he doesn’t have that problem with writing. He has many stories involving “thingingmagiges” and “doodads” that bring tears of laughter, and inspire illogical ideas that are so stupid and dangerous, they might just work… in my teenage mind, anyway. He writes the way my Grandpa talks, with stories of adventures in which you feel a part. The books make you feel like you’re experiencing the same adventures through McManus.
     He also has fun characters! There is the mischievous “Crazy Eddy Muldoon,” who young McManus climbs dragon mountains with, and helps McManus pick buttercups for his mother (buttercup picking is a truly hilarious art). You have the “Troll,” a name given to his older sister, who regularly enforces discipline with a fist of iron and a nonexistent soul. There is also “Rancid Crabtree,” the epitome of a grizzled and grumpy old man. A lot of outdoor writers these days make one ask “Why don’t I catch dozens of huge brown trout and shoot monster bull elk on every outing” after reading their work. McManus paints a much more realistic picture. In fact, he makes the occasions when he was entirely skunked, largely to his own failures, the funniest in the books. It make the rest of us mere mortals feel like we aren’t entirely failures in our daily outdoorsman lives too.
     So in this nasty windy weather, when the brown dust mixes with the occasional sleet, it’s time to put on your fuzzy socks, warm up a warm drink of your choice, and enter the crazy world of Pat McManus.

- The Apprentice

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Run, Hide, Fight

   Here at 3EM, we emphasize the family. Whether its hunting, fishing, hiking or supporting one another at dance recitals, piano recitals, soccer games, wrestling matches or maybe just sharing a meal – we show up for our family.  Especially in my line of work, my faith and my family are always first and foremost in my mind. I write this post thinking of my family and all those that have lost theirs in active shooter situations. I am the active shooter instructor in my community. One part of my job is going to different departments and teaching a course on what to do in an active shooter situation. Sadly, everyone should know this information as these situations can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone.
     As a police sergeant, you can imagine my dinnertime conversation may be different than other folks’. Recently, the topic turned to the “lockdown” drill the kids practiced in school that day. They were instructed to lock the door, shut off the lights and be quiet. Good. Then, they were told to gather together in a group. Bad. I disagree as this is different than what Federal Law Enforcement teaches. The Department of Homeland Security has great information on what to do in an active shooter scenario.
I took the opportunity to teach them to RUN, HIDE and FIGHT. I will be contacting the school to do the same. The order of these three words is important.

If the video didn't work correctly, click or tap here

1. The first and best option is to RUN. If you know you can get out of the building and to a safe location, then RUN and RUN as far as you can. 

2. If running is not an option because you are in between the only exit and the suspect, then HIDE. I don’t mean just going into a room and locking the door. Get in a room, lock the door, turn off the lights and barricade the door. Do everything in your power to keep someone from coming into that room. Once you have barricaded your room, spread out and prepare to fight if the suspect gets in. Create a plan so everyone knows what to do if the shooter makes entry. If the shooter gains access, they are forced to make a decision who to target first. This gives the group a chance to attack or escape.

3. Finally, if the suspect has entered the area you are hiding or started harming people in the same vicinity as you, FIGHT. Several people can work together by throwing things, making a tackle attempt or disarming if possible. There may be injuries, yes, but the majority will have a better chance of subduing the shooter and surviving the situation. Whether you take action or not, there are life threatening risks involved. Make the decision now to go home to your family. 
Police may be minutes and even seconds away. The absolute best chance of survival is putting these three actions into play. Always remember RUN, HIDE, and FIGHT. It may save you one day. For more information, please use the following resources. 

Run, Hide, Fight video courtesy of FBI.

-Long Rifle

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cooking with Rabbit

     The Apprentice, Grandpa and I went rabbit hunting a few weeks ago, as seen here. Fortunately or unfortunately, this left us with like forty whole rabbits ready for cooking. So, today me, The Apprentice, and Grandpa got together and cooked some bunny for the entire family. 3EM hasn't ever given any food advice before, so we figured it was high time! Just like antelope or elk, rabbit, if taken care of properly, can be done in a number of  delicious ways. Rangermom uses it all the time as a substitute for chicken. This is the recipe we used today, and the results were fabulous!

Serves 4.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 75 minutes
  • 1 domestic rabbit or 2 cottontail rabbits, cut into serving pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage (hot or sweet) cut into large pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers, cut into slices
  1. Cut the rabbits into serving pieces. (We just used whole legs.)
  2. Find a wide, shallow pot. A large, high-sided saute pan is a good choice, but one of those earthen braziers is even better. Arrange the rabbit pieces in the pot and just barely cover with water. Bring to a simmer and add a healthy pinch of salt and the bay leaves. Skim any scum that forms on the surface of the water.
  3. Simmer the rabbit uncovered for 1 hour, turning the pieces from time to time as the water cooks away; this keeps both sides moist.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Keep turning the rabbit and sausage pieces so they are coated in the sauce, and when it thickens enough — about another 10-15 minutes — you are ready to serve.

-The Ranger

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

On a Sheet of Ice

     We haven’t talked much about ice fishing here at 3EM, so that’s where I’m going today. Ice fishing is different than bank or boat fishing. Before walking out there, there needs to be some mental preparation. The sounds out on the ice are unique and there’s often a fear of falling through. However, the right spot presents itself, fears are overcome and the perfect combination is found – whether jig or dead stick. After that is taken care of, it’s smooth sailing. On ice.
Lesson 1 – Be brave. Be safe. But get out there.
     Ice fishing provides several opportunities that one doesn’t get fishing from a bank or a boat. Sitting in a hut, watching fish under your feet is pretty dang cool. I went fishing with my buddy, Daniel, and I watched a nice rainbow toying with my bait for quite some time. Daniel kept telling me to set the hook, but I was used to bank fishing and waited too long for the familiar tug before setting the hook. Lesson learned. The fish of the day went to Daniel because, apparently, if one fisherman doesn’t set the hook in a timely fashion, the fish gets bored and wanders over to his buddy’s bait.
Lesson 2 – Set the hook if you see a fish playing with the bait, even if you don’t feel a tug on the other end of the line. Or your friend will catch your fish.  
     Ice fishing without a hut is equally exciting, though, maybe not in -40 degree weather. The point of going without a hut is being out in the open air - enjoying a (hopefully) non-windy day. Living where I live, I prefer a hut because it cuts down on the wind. Late January to mid-February weather in Wyoming can be unforgiving frozen tundra. If it wasn’t for extra layers and a good pal on the days where I didn’t take a hut, I may have frozen to the lake. Good thing my compadre, Chad, (and no, I’m not talking about myself) was there to carve me out of the ice if I needed it.
Lesson 3 – Take a friend. First of all, it’s more fun. Plus, if conditions get nasty, it’s good to have back-up. 
     There is the potential to catch monster fish if you find the right spot. A couple weeks ago, my Dad and I caught wind of one of those spots. It took a little while to get there and by the time we did, the lake was loaded with huts and people. And the wind was blowing 35+ mph. I grabbed the sled and high-tailed it to a spot I was CERTAIN would produce large fish. We then proceeded to sit there for the next 5 hours and not have a single bite. Wind. People. Not. A. Single. Bite.
Lesson 4 – People lie about spots.
     There was common lesson in each of these experiences, though. In each situation, we laughed, traded stories and had great conversations. Each time, with each person, a stronger bond was formed as we grew to know each other a little bit better. Was I bummed when I didn’t catch MY fish? A little. Did I get freaking cold? Sure did. Was I discouraged at not catching ANY fish? You betcha. Would I trade ANY of those days? No way in heck. Oftentimes, I find myself wondering why so many people go out and brave the elements to ice fish in Wyoming. Maybe it’s the hope of catching the new state record. Maybe it’s getting outdoors to recharge those batteries. Maybe it’s the company that comes along. Whatever causes you to get out there, just do it. Make those memories. You won’t regret it.

-Long Rifle

Sunday, February 21, 2016


     The Enemy of All Coyotes ducks her head and squints into it as we go outside to do the morning chores at first light. She’s no sissy, the product of a thousand generations of sheep-herding border collies, but the wind nearly topples her. Little beads of decomposed granite, the exfoliated skin of the Laramie Range 30 miles west of here, sting her nose and bounce off her wooly back. Usually she makes a pass along the west side and into the back pasture before she lies down in a spot where she can watch for intruders. But today she sticks close to me, still squinting, hoping for signs that we’ll be going in soon. It’s been blowing like this for five days straight. Steady at 35-45 MPH, gusts over 60. At first, you don’t pay it much attention. It’s just part of living here. But after a certain period of time, something inside you wants it to stop. Now.  
     I don’t know what it was like to live in a tipi here 200 years ago. Maybe the Cheyenne and the Arapaho moved down off this wind-scoured plateau until the grass greened up. I would have. But I think I can imagine fairly easily what it might have been like to be some poor soul in a sod house on a homestead claim, with kids cooped-up and clamoring to go out and dust sifting in all day and all night. It’s a wonder more of those women didn’t go berserk. Some of them did. And some of them just left. They couldn’t do it anymore – couldn’t stand one more day of the screaming wind. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who had to explain to that woman what was so precious about 160 acres of cold, dry shortgrass prairie when the wind had been blowing like this for a week.
     A friend of mine recently remarked that Wyoming is the only place where communities vie for bragging rights on who had the worst winds. We’re a long way behind our neighbors to the north right now. The weather service clocked winds near Clark at 103 MPH. A friend on the north end of the Bighorns measured a gust at 106. But it’s not the gusts that wear on you. They are by definition fleeting. It’s the day in, day out banshee wailing. It’s the grinding, incessant, never-ending howl that gets inside your head and makes you want nothing but out of here. 

     A newcomer here on the llano once asked, “Does it always blow like this around here?” To which the old-timer replied, “Nope. Sometimes it sucks.”


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Limit in an Hour

     When I say I hunt rabbits and that they’re tasty, a lot of the time I receive an expression that varies from disbelief to downright outrage. But I’m here to tell you that I hunt rabbits - and it is both fun and tasty. We have a nice recipe for what ApprenticeDad calls “Bourgeoisie Rabbit,” which is a delicious combination of cream, rabbit, thyme and mushrooms that we love. With food like this as a possibility, it’s always a good time to go rabbit hunting!
     We received an invitation to go rabbit hunting this past week, as a landowner needed someone to get rid of the rabbits in his hay. With the 3 day weekend in front of us, Grandpa and Ranger came up for some fun. They got here Friday around noon. After lunch, we headed out and got there about 2pm. I kid you not - we could see a dozen rabbits from where we parked the truck. With that, I pulled out my highly advanced single-shot assault rifle (also known as my Cricket from Christmas of ’09). After 30 minutes in the haystacks, we had a dozen rabbits. In the draw below, we got the last 20 in 45 minutes. Then we headed back to the truck and cleaned them all - which was a bit of an ordeal. After that, we were off into the sunset to watch Top Gun and eat pizza.    
     The next day, we headed out at 7am with a Coke Zero in one hand and a breakfast burrito in the other. On the way, we decided that 10 should be the limit for the day. We had that taken care of in an hour, even with an intermission of talking to the rancher. I have no doubt that with the number of rabbits in that haystack, if they turned bloodthirsty, grew opposable thumbs, and were capable of making weapons, they would destroy the entire Northern Hemisphere. We got back by noon, and then Grandpa and Ranger went home, with a full cooler of rabbits ready for their “bourgeoisie-ing.”

-The Apprentice

      Here on this blog, we’ve talked a few times about the value of hunting and making memories, rather than just a slaughter. However, I am here to tell you that maybe once in a little while, it’s okay to indulge a bit. It’s quite fun to be able to kill 30 bunnies in the space of just over an hour. I had a lot of fun hunting with The Apprentice, and the results are quite tasty!
     From the moment we arrived, we knew it was to be a good day. Bunnies were scurrying every which way, the weather was unusually warm, and the terrain was great. Now, let me tell you something. Whatever you’ve heard about Wyoming ranchers, our very first conversation illustrated that these guys were some of the nicest, kindest humans to walk the Earth. If the world was full of Wyoming ranchers, everything would be good.

     However, if rabbits had decided to rule the Earth, we would have significant problems, judging from the number of them in a 10 square acre area. It appeared to me and Apprentice that they were about to attack, so we decided it might be safe if we were to don protective Kevlar and possibly hazmat suits. They were everywhere! We calculated we got about a bunny every two minutes or so, but not very evenly spaced out. Once, we got 5 in about 30 seconds. It was madness, and insanely fun. We were limited by law to 30 the first day and limited by self to 10 the second, sending me and Apprentice home with 20 full rabbits each. Tonight for dinner Rangermom made a sort of rabbit stew, and now I can see why we go hunting for them!

-The Ranger

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Aligning Stars

     We’ve been at this for a year now, and we warned you right up front that this blog would be primarily about our adventures in the great outdoors. If you’re still waiting for cupcake recipes or relationship advice, we may not be your guys. But that’s not to say that we’re only about hunting and fishing. From the start, you’ve seen that there’s no real line of separation between our family and the outdoor life we love. You’ve met some of the characters – the four of us, Grandma, Rangermom and Rangerdad, Apprenticemom and Apprenticedad. You’ve met Stub, the first time deer hunter. And very briefly, you’ve met the love of my life, Mama B.
     I’m no astronomer, and certainly not astrologer, but it seems to me that every now and then the stars just align. And when they do your heart opens and you will find that missing piece, that special someone that completes you. Sometimes the stars align for a brief period of time and then seem to drift apart. For others, the stars align for eternity. I'm fortunate to be in the latter group.  

     It all began in the fall of 1999. She sat on the other side of the room in one of my classes. She was beautiful. Shoulder length hair fell perfectly around her face. Her eyes were as blue as the sea. She seemed happy. It took me a while to realize she was the same girl I had been watching in my strength and conditioning class. I was excited to get to know this girl. I was in high school – it wasn’t like I was shopping for a wife. But the truth is that she had all the qualities I was looking for in a best friend and partner for life. She loved God, Wyoming, her family and the outdoors. She was fun and adventurous. It took a while before she’d even give me the time of day, but once she did we had fun together. I knew early on I wanted to marry this one and wanted to spend every waking hour with her. She made me feel whole, even then. She still does.
      We’ve been married almost 11 years. She’s more beautiful than ever, and she still loves God, Wyoming, her family and the outdoors. But more than anyone I know, she has a genuine love for people and a desire to help them. If I could describe my wife in two words it would be love and service. No one I’ve ever met come close to her in serving others and making people feel special, regardless of their circumstances. My children have been blessed to call her mother. I am blessed to call her my eternal companion. I love you, Mama B.

-Long Rifle

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

It Is What it Is

     I remember the first wild alligator I ever saw. It was a big bull gator, maybe 12 feet long. He was up on the edge of the Santee River in South Carolina. My old friend Larry Cartee and I walked over, close enough to him for me to snap a photo or two. He looked to be asleep. But then he opened his eyes. And he looked not so much at me directly at me as through me. It was one of those experiences that stay with you forever. His expression (if reptiles can have an expression) said very clearly, “We’ve been here since the Jurassic, junior. And we’ll be here when you're gone.” He wasn't annoyed, he wasn't alarmed. He simply didn't care.      
     Wild things and wild places are like that. They don't care. Our needs, our lives are of no consequence to them. I was reminded of that recently. I read an account of two young men who set off into the desert country south of Wamsutter in midwinter blizzard in a 2007 Ford Focus. Predictably, the car got stuck. Even more predictably, these two rocket scientists decided to walk out. By the grace of God, they found some shelter and were rescued by a search party a couple of days later. Natural selection was thwarted again, and they were safe.
     But more intriguing to me than the story were the comments on the online account of their plight and subsequent rescue. There were literally dozens of comments that ranged from, “Where is Wamsutter? I can't find it on Google Earth!” to “Oh, they’ll be fine. There's a ton of oilfield traffic out there!” But a friend of mine, a young game warden for whom I have tremendous respect, had the temerity to suggest that heading out into some of the wildest country left in America in a blizzard driving a Ford Focus might not have been a great move. A storm of angry comments followed, berating him for being “disrespectful” of the men and their families.      
     I can only imagine that most folks are so disconnected from the real world of deep winter out there near Man and Boy Butte that they don't get this one principle: Nature is not cruel and merciless, nor is it kind and loving. It just is what it is. Try telling that wind that it’s being disrespectful when it chills you to the bone. Try telling that crusted snow that it ought to reward you for trying really hard when you've been postholing through it for hours and you don’t have any idea where you are. The dry washes are full of the bones of those who thought they were too tough to die out here. And the snow and the wind and the desert – they just don’t care.