RanchLife

Genuine Montana working cattle "RanchLife" as experienced by an absentee landlord.

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Name: Kenneth W. Duncan
Location: US

I am a technology entrepreneur who was lucky enough to purchase a Montana working cattle ranch in 1995. I still work in technology in Utah but love to help our ranch manager manage the ranch and love to work at the ranch (www.ranchlife.com). I started this BLOG to give readers a glimpse of Montana ranching through the eyes of an absentee owner.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Horses and Deaths

We always like to have our horses live out their lives peacefully at the HPR. Sometimes their lives are long and sometimes they get cut short. Especial Dan was a registered Quarter Horse we purchased at the end of 2005 from our ranch manager, Urs Schmidlin. Dan got very ill and died in January of this year before Urs could even get him green broke. At the other extreme, Biddle, an old gray horse that we purchased several years ago from a neighbor, peacefully died last week after a long and wonderful life. It was especially nice to see Biddle be able to be ridden by guests in his later years and enjoy doing what younger horses do. A horse is a magnificent animal and we never mind the grass and hay they consume in their later years. We also never tire of having them around in their later years, even as ornaments. When they go they go the same way I would like to!

A few years ago we had two draft horses that were very close. One day one of them got sick and died. Within a few days the other one lay down and died. Those draft horses don't like to be without each other. Black & Decker, our first set of draft horses that died, reminded me of a wonderful couple who once worked at the HPR. Following the summer season the lady was taken within months with cancer. It was so painful to her husband of 30+ years that he took his own life to be with her.

Yet another interesting incident was when Mr. Earl Love of Dillon, one of our dear friends and the best water right consultant in Beaverhead County, passed away of cancer. Earl used to bring his older horses out to the HPR to live out their lives. One of his favorites, lay down and died the very day of Earl's passing! The portal of death must be just that.......a portal to a better life rather than a door closing on our earthly lives.

At the HPR, we respect life and we respect death. One summer our manager kicked up a concrete block that contained the name and year of death of a young man who was the son of one of the past owners of the HPR. Don Lewis loved his son dearly and told me in a recent telephone conversation that they used to make gate weights out of concrete and they remembered and honored his son by carving his name and year of death into the weights.

In the last 10 years that we have owned the HPR there were two other tragic deaths related to our ranch. In the late 1990s we had a cook named Jeannie. Jeannie and her husband and adult son lived on their ranch in the Horse Prairie Valley. One morning Jeannie did not show up to cook breakfast. We gave her the benefit of the doubt and didn't drive to her home to see why she didn't show up. We tried to call but there was no answer. Later in the day, it was discovered that Jeannie's drug addicted son had tied Jeannie and her husband up in the basement of their home, killed them, and set the house on fire. It was a family and Valley tradegy.

On another beautiful summer day a few years ago our neighbor was cleaning one of our cabins at our guest area. She always had her 4-year old daughter, Elizabeth, by her side. All of a sudden the mother discovered that the little girl was not with her. My wife Marie had the instinct to quickly check in the pond. Sure enough, the little girl had wandered into the pond and drowned. Several brave HPR employees tried to revive Elizabeth to no avail. A few years later the grieving family was blessed with another baby girl.

Marie and I know what it is like to lose loved ones. It hurts so bad for so long but then it gets better with time and we can, if we manage the challenge properly, grow from the experience. Not sure why I got on this death subject but its something we will all get to face some time.