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Adventures on the Ranch
Photo Credit : Eliza Wiley , Independent Record
.......The summer of 2012 was as crazy as it could get for us. It started out as a fairly normal year – until that “day” in June. June 25 we were getting some dog food delivered and they were late. Fortunately, they were late! Mom and I were supposed to be at a dinner at a cattle drive about an hour away from home, but since our dog food hadn't arrived yet we were just waiting for them and were going to leave as soon as the dog food got here.
......Finally, at about 4:00 they pulled into the drive way. We were unloading the food and the man said “Looks like you have a little fire on the hill over there”. I looked and sure enough there was smoke rising on the other side of the mountain – but it wasn't big – just a little “plume”. The food was unloaded and I went and called 911 to see if it had been reported and she said yes it was and hung up. I called her right back and said where we lived and were we to evacuate yet? She said No – but they would do a call back if that changed. Ok. Great. I called and left a message that we were NOT coming to dinner – there was a fire just over the hill and the helicopters were flying but there was no way we were leaving.
......A really good friend of ours called because she saw the smoke and wanted to know if we were ok – or if she should come get the kids. We told her we were fine – just hanging tight for a little while.
..... I headed back out to tell mom what I found out when I saw a Sheriff with his lights on at the corner of Norris and Green Meadow and thought “Oh …....hum.... No*” I hopped on the 4 wheeler with Heather and drove down there and asked him if we had to leave. He asked where we lived, etc. and handed me an evacuation order. He asked if we were going to leave and I said yet but we would be here a little while because we had to get the dogs and horses out. He said ok.
.....I drove back to the house – gave mom the notice and told her to call our friend back to get the kids. Clint was taking a nap and I woke him up – explained to him what was going on and our friend was going to come and take them to her place for awhile. I told him we had to catch the horses and both kids and I ran over and got all the horses caught and tied up. However, my fiance had taken my horse trailer that morning to use- so I had no trailer!!! People just started showing up to help us. Several people called us and asked if we needed trailers, and we said yes and other people just showed up with trucks and vans and cars. As I was catching the horses you could see the red glow coming over the hill. I wanted to cry – but just didn't look, I knew a calm mind and slow movements would make catching the horses faster.
.....The horses were caught and tied up. Our friend showed up and I gave her both the kids and one of the dogs. She called us about 10 minutes later because of all things I forgot to send the kids with there special blankets and Clints special stuffed turtle. Clint was very upset but when we told him I would grab them now and bring them with me – he stuck it out like a little big man and got ahold of himself! He knew something big was going on – but was still very good and set a good example for little Heather.
..... Now the first trailer showed up and it was a long stock type trailer. I made the quick decision – dogs first. I didn't know for sure if any other trailers would come and the dogs must go first. Mom and I put the dogs in crates and then we loaded them in the trailer. A quick decision was made where to take the dogs and off they went. We also had 2 litters of 6 week old pups.
.....Another trailer showed up while we were loading the dogs and I yelled across the field – horses are tied up. Take em. It was a rancher man I knew and so he took the mares and pony to his ranch.
.....The next trailer showed up – an old friend from 4-H. I told her to take my stallion to the same arena as the dogs so she loaded him and off she went.
.....Meanwhile other friends were pulling stuff out of the house, like the computer. Other friends were standing on the 100+ degree black roof of our new building running water on it for some time. Someone got the birds – the blue and gold Macaw went into a crate. And someone put our little Cockatiel in a storage tub with a lid. They told me to go put holes in the lid – so I ran out to the van – but there was no bird in there. After asking several people – and making sure I had the right tub – which was obvious because who would put an empty tub in there. He was gone. Someone had lifted the lid to look and let him out. I couldn't look anymore.
.....I had to get the travel trailer hooked up and out – as I pulled the truck over you could see flames engulfing the hill 500 yards from our land. As I was hooking up the trailer I was getting drops of water on me from the helicopter flying over. I wanted to stay longer and help mom so my friend took the trailer up to her place (about a mile from us). I pulled the trailer out of our narrow drive way and told her to go!
.....She got up to her place and called me and said we really need to think about getting out of there – that we really couldn't see what was happening but it was bad.
.....Mom said she wouldn't leave until it hit the grass in our pasture. Until then she was keeping the water running. I told her ok, but I had to go and get all the dogs settled before dark. I was taking the pups to our friend that had the kids as she has raised pups before and had a safe set up.
.....The arena was about 30 minutes away where the dogs were. I got there and no one was there. I called the arena owner to ask her several questions – she said – you take what you need. She said I can use the stalls – told me where the straw was and the water, hoses, etc. I took care of everyone – fed -watered – bath roomed everyone. Then I loaded the pups to take with me. The place I was taking the pups (and getting the kids) was about 30 minutes from there. I arrived around 10:00. The kids were very happy to see me! My friends helped me get the pups situated and load the kids. I had to go back to the arena and get 2 dogs that were going to spend the night with me. I spent the night at my friends place that had the trailer. It was close to 11:30 now and I was straight up exhausted. I needed to go to the house to check on mom and get the phone working (when they took the computer out they unplugged the phone line and she didn't know how to fix it). I also wanted to make sure she was ok as she was just as exhausted as me. Everything was fine at the house, she was ok and she had Yello with her. The house was a wreck – but all the valuables were out. The fire had slowed down and it hadn't gotten our property yet. It wouldn't do much over night. The hill behind our house was a solid glow of fires burning and smoldering, it actually looked like a city there was so much light. But it was all fire.
.....I drove up to my friends house – the kids were already asleep in there car seats so we moved them into the bed and I laid down next to them. Falling asleep I was worried about the Cockatiel! I was more worried that someone ran over him with a car and my just turned 4 year old son would be the one to find him. I fell asleep with the thought – MAYBE he was ok and I would find him in the morning and I passed out.
.....At 5:30 it was just starting to get light and I looked out the window. The fire wasn't doing much – the kids were still sleeping – my friend – and most importantly her dogs! Were still sleeping and I knew I should go back to sleep as well. I also knew if I got up my friends dogs would wake her up and I didn't want to do that. I just couldn't sleep and couldn't lay there – I thought maybe if I could sneak out and let her dogs outside right away ….... but no they were so excited to see me they woke her up.
.....I loaded the dogs I had with me into the truck and headed up to see mom. As soon as I got home I let the dogs out and headed towards the field to let them run. I was close to the fence and I heard a CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP! JOURNEY !! was ok! He was clinging to the chain link and as soon as he saw me started making his sound. I grabbed him quickly and ran him inside yelling to mom I found Journey!! He's ok! He did end up sneezing for several days – but between the smoke and being out in the cool night what could you expect – he recovered just fine!
..... The fire didn't do much that morning – but they were predicting winds that afternoon. I took care of all the dogs and pups. I was so far away from home I didn't know what was happening – and was heading home and decided to stop in Burger King and grab all of us some food. As I started to head toward home I could see the smoke getting extremely bad and then it all blew up. They would NOT let me go home to see mom – so I went to my friends and called mom on the way there. I told her I really really wanted her to leave. There was nothing more she could do and please come up to our friends with me. She decided if the grass lit on fire just across the tracks (about 100 yards from our property) she would leave. Within 30 minutes of hanging up the phone she arrived at our friends place. I was so happy to see her – but also knew that meant the fire was right there.
.....They were evacuating parts of Green Meadow and other main road around us. The wind was crazy – 50-60 mile an hour gusts with probably around 40 sustained! Mom and I were sitting in the trailer – watching the smoke. Watching the helicopters fly. Worried. Later that afternoon they got a retardant plane on it – but before this the plane was gone at the Colorado fire (I think).. We spread some of our friends gravel in part of her new drive way. It was hot – to hot to be shoveling – but we had to do something will all this pent up worry. Then – looking over – I saw a big black explosion type plum of smoke go up. Knowing it was a house – or some other structure close to us – or honestly I thought it was our house. It was horrible. The helicopter was hovering right there and dumping water. Was he dumping on ours or our neighbors ? Was our house there ? Our new building ? The wind was blowing so bad – the smoke was killer. I told mom – lets take the trailer and go to the arena where the dogs are. We need to be with them – I can train the pups. I could let the adults loose and run and play. My kids could play with there kids. We needed to get out of the smoke. I worried about leaving my friend in case she needed to evacuate – but she said she was fine and would call us if anything changed.
..... Our friends that owned the arena were so awesome that night. She fixed us dinner and we caught up on old times. She got a movie going for the kids and insisted that we both take a shower.
.....I got a call from our friend that lives not to far from us where we were staying earlier today – and she said the fire had died down for the night and she was going to get as close as they would let her and see if she could see our house. She called me and said - “Well your new building is fine for sure, I see the trees around your house and half the house – everything LOOKS ok from here”. I cried. Our house was there. It survived.
.....The next day we took care of everyone and tried to head to the house to check it out. The wouldn't let us in until 1:00. So we just waited. At 1 they were letting only people who lived there go in – but they had to be ready to get out in at moments notice. We went home – YES WE WENT HOME! I checked everything out and cleaned up a little. A reporter showed up so we talked to her for a little while.
..... We left to head back to the dogs and trailer and spend the night there. The fire was not much to worry about now – but still we felt better being with the dogs.
.....The next day – Thursday – we went back home with everyone. We had to put our house back together but were so grateful to have a house to reorganize! We were exhausted. Literally exhausted. It was over. The fire came within 100 feet on 2 sides of us. But didn't even take one blade of our grass. It was unreal. When we saw the explosion and helicopter dumping water – the water he dumped saved our neighbors house which was right in the path of fire. The explosion was his white vinal horse fence.....and some out buildings of his. All in all...... 4 houses were lost in this fire – 3 of them on our road. No doubt the fact that we dumped sooooo much water out helped. But God is to thank for the wind changing direction and taking the fire away. We were so lucky.
.....The ironic thing is when we lived in Clancy we always had an evacuation plan. You had to – surround by forest service with one way out. We were always ready. Not here. We had no current plan. We had nothing to worry about – or so we thought. We have so many friends to thank for all there work helping us. Old friends – friends we haven't talked to in years – just showed up. Others were friends I talk to all the time. Everyone was so wonderful and we are so grateful to have friends like you. If our place wouldn't have been spared – we got everything alive out. And we got all valuables out. We had everything of most importance out within 30 minutes. It was amazing.
.....The cause of the fire : that weekend a man was burning a slash pile. He had a burn permit – and called in just like he should have. After the fact – it was a controversial burn permit that shouldn't have maybe been issued. But anyway........ he thought the fire was out and went to work on Monday. Monday afternoon the wind picked up – starting the fire up again – which caught his 4 wheeler on fire and off the fire went with an “explosive” start. The fire started at about 4:00. We were on evacuation order at about 4:30!

To better times!
Leah and Everyone at Omega Shepherds
.....Sooo....... we survived the fire and thought everything was ok now. We got everything put back together and it was the middle of July. I was at an agility trial in Billings (about 41/2 hours away). Mom called me crying – it's sick – it's sick. You won't believe what's happening. WHAT WHAT I yelled! Our place was flooding. Yes – we live in the driest part of the state and we were flooding! Not only flooding – the water was bringing with it – silt and ash off the hillside. The reason for the flooding is because of the fire – which had burned everything to help hold the water back and give the water a place to soak into, a little 10-15 minute “rain storm” caused absolute havoc on us!
.....I got on the phone and called everyone I could think of – she needed sand bags and now. It was flooding our yard, porch, shop and heading toward the building. She needed help and was home alone.
..... She had no sand bags so she was trying to use boards to build a barrier – which was obviously Not working so she stopped and just started picking everything she could up and getting it out of the water.
.....I told her I was coming home but she said it was over. There was nothing I could do until it dried out. She stayed up until about midnight cleaning water out of our window wells. A couple friends showed up to her. But she was right – there wasn't much else to do until it dried up and we could clean it up. Right after the flooding the county showed up and gave us sand bags and a pile of sand, so we made about 200 sand bags and stacked them where the water came in.
.....I stayed at the trial and got a double Q both Saturday and Sunday.
.....When I pulled into our drive way on Sunday night – it was utter shock. Really, it was so gross and so ….. dirty. It was very sad. And everyone was telling me “oh this is nothing – this looks way better than when it was solid black”. As the dirt dried it was more of a grey color and so it didn't look “as bad”. But it was still bad.
......Monday the work started – mom and I started shoveling. Over the next week we took over 30 manure spreader fulls of clay, silt and ash out of our yard. The house was ok – not much got in. The shop was a mess but we got that cleaned up. Our beautiful – used to be green – yard was totally trashed.
.....We got it cleaned up the best we could – there comes a point you can't take any more away and the grass will just have to grow back through what is left – probably next year.
.....About 2 weeks later it flooded again. This time my best friend was watching over our place for a few hours in case in did flood because mom and I were at a wedding. She called me and said “you might think about coming home – it’s not flooding but it's raining pretty good”. That was all she needs to say, I told mom – we have to go now. Put the kids in there car seats and drove home. By the time we got home the main road was already blocked off by police keeping through traffic out of the water.
.....I put the truck in 4 wheel drive – looked at the cops, waved told them I live up there and I am going through. They didn't argue.
.....The water came within an inch of the top sand bag we had – we had 5 sand bags stacked high and it came within an inch of the top one!!!! By moving sand bags from up higher it kept the water out of the yard. The next day we got more sand, more sand bags and started building again. This time we made about 300 sand bags and wedged 4 foot plywood between 5-6 high sand bags – literally making a sand bag wall. In addition to sand bags out behind them for support.
..... So far we haven't had any more floods to see if our method will work – but I am sure it will. I am sure it will flood again this summer as nothing has changed. The fire stripped the trees, brush and everything on the hill side away so nothing has changed – except winter came and we haven't had much rain yet. SO it will flood again I am sure. But I am also equally confident that our sand bag wall will hold. We will have to rebuild sand bags I am sure as they only last in the weather so long.
.....In the fall they seeded the hill side and spread straw to help hold the seed which is awesome. It won't do anything for the flooding for a few years because a little grass won't hold water. But through a few years it will give a place for the water to soak into. Hopefully it will help anyway.
.....Till next time,...
. Leah and Everyone at Omega Shepherds


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