Ranch Stories

What’s said at Cow Camp stays at Cow Camp. Except here.

First came the massive torrent that ripped through our beloved Sylvan Dale Ranch during the pre-dawn hours of Friday, September 13. Linda and I, and Susan and her Dave, couldn’t believe our eyes. How could another "500-year storm" happen only 37 years after the one that menaced our parents, Maurice and Mayme Jessup? This time, unbelievably, the destruction was even greater than the famous flood of 1976.

View the full letter, photos, and video at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch blog.

Big Thompson River by Jessup Lodge

Big Thompson River by Jessup Lodge

Want to help? Consider a donation to the Sylvan Dale Ranch Recovery Fund

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It wasn’t your usual gate crasher. Long legs, big ears and a schnozz the size of Rhode Island. A young moose, big enough to be dangerous, splashed into the end-of-the-week party for fifty guests at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch Friday night.

Moose at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

Moose Swings by Sylvan Dale


 At one point the moose appeared to be headed for the buffet line of fresh rainbow trout and grass-fed beef bar-b-que, but the flashes of cell phone cameras seemed to dissuade it.
Moose swimming in Daddy-J

Loch-Moose!

The moose was last seen heading up the Big Thompson River toward highway 34.

David J

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Calf - just born 2 84dpiMonday, April 15.

Springtime in the Rockies.  Hah!  We’re in the midst of the biggest snowstorm of the season, nine inches and counting.  We delayed our calving season this year on the theory that mamas calving in April and May (as opposed to our past practice of February-March) would fare better on the spring flush of grass and save us the expense of feeding hay in corrals.  Not to mention being a lot warmer.  Looks like Mother Nature has up and changed her season too.  Guess she thought we’d miss taking care of newborns in the freezing snow.

Calf 2012 01 - mama 010 - 1 smallWednesday, April 10, 2013.

From Linda J:

One sign of spring:  After helping move our fifty-five yearlings across the highway and onto Red Ridge, David J, Promise and I went into the Big Valley where the first little calf was just hours old.  A sweet looking little red heifer with ridiculously long eyelashes, was lying in a little hollow in the dirt.  A very bitter wind was blowing, and as we left, I saw her mama actually lie down with her, to keep her warm. I’ve never seen a cow do that before.  She’s a good mama.  Mango, our cattle manager, was coming to walk them down to water and some better cover, but I hated to think of them out in that cold all night.

PS. From David J:  The calf is doing great at 4 days old.  Her mama, #010, has stashed her baby in the tall grass in a hollow close to the irrigation ditch.  Anytime you approach the calf, Mama comes running and mooing.  Don’t mess with her baby!

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From June, 2012Cow with hang-up 1

Cows are more athletic than most people think.  They are also usually pretty sensible.  But every once in a while they do something really weird.

This is number 601, veteran of five calving seasons, steady mama, six years in the herd without incident.

Until last Tuesday.

We had just finished separating cows from calves in preparation for branding and vaccinating the little ones, when a passing ranch hand let us know we had a cow with a high-center problem.  We dropped our syringes and branding irons and ran to help.

We don’t know what possessed this cow to take up the sport of high-jumping.  But her labored breathing and frantic leg thrashing told us she was in a world of hurt.  Her hind legs, stuck through the gate rungs, were in danger of snapping.

What to do?

Our cattle manager had the wit to thrust a piece of plywood between the cow’s back hooves and the gate, then clip the wires holding the gate panel to the fence.  We slowly tipped the panel forward to the ground.  Number 601 scrambled off, huffing for breath, drooling, wild-eyed, and looking like a candidate for a bovine psych ward.

As we tried to edge closer to assess any damage, Number 601 eyed us as if we were the cause of her troubles and galloped off to the far side of the corral.  That’s gratitude for you.

David J

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Jessup Family 1944

The Jessups, 1944
“Tillie,” Maurice
Susan, David

October 25, 2012

Our first snow of the season.  Wet flakes, barely covering the ground.  I woke up, peered out the window and glanced at the date on my watch.  With a start, I realized it was my father’s birthday.  One-hundred years ago.

He passed away in 1993 at the age of eighty.  A terrible lung fibrosis stilled his great heart.  During the nearly twenty years of his long decline, he never complained.  He kept plugging away at his dreams and projects at Sylvan Dale, the place he loved, even when he had a hard time moving from his chair to his desk. 

We still experience the beauty of the place he and my mom developed and nurtured.  A great privilege.  My sister, Susan, delved into the files and pullout out the “Remembrances” book for his memorial service.  I thought I’d share what we wrote about him: Read more on Maurice Jessup Would Have Been 100 Years Old Today…

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Buy This Book

Publishing your first novel is a bit nerve-wracking.  First you get an ego adjustment from your critique group as they pick apart your precious prose.  Then you get more character-building experience by having your finished manuscript rejected by scores of harried agents and editors.   When you finally get published, expectations sufficiently lowered, you wonder whether anyone will come to your book launch.  You’d be happy with a crowd of three, over and above your immediate family.

 So it was with a sense of wonder and gratitude that I peered out at a crowd of over one hundred book enthusiasts who elbowed into Loveland’s Anthology Book Company Friday night, October 12, to hear about my historical novel, Mariano’s Crossing.  Thank you thank you and thank you.  The book store thanks you.  They sold some eighty books, and not a few beers.  And let’s add the thanks of the Loveland Historical Society, who will receive my part of the proceeds of your generous purchases.

 Now the euphoria is fading, and I’m wondering if anyone will like the book. 

 Attention, readers:  If you do like it, feel free to infect the social media with your viral accolades.  Tweet away, however that works (it’s a mystery to me).  On the other hand, if you don’t like it, contact me privately.  I’m used to it, but why spoil it for others?  Heh, heh. 

 David J

 PS.  You can buy autographed copies from my website at www.davidmjessup.com.  The book is also available at Anthology Books, 422 E. 4th Street in Loveland, CO, and will be distributed through regular channels to bookstores and on-line retailers after November 26.

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Promise

By David Jessup

She was supposed to be a companion dog for my wife, Linda.  Suburban-raised, well trained, affectionate, calm (the dog, that is).  A classic Australian Shepherd:  blue-black back, white collar, buff patches around brown eyes.  A polite dog.  She’d chase a ball to humor you, but nothing obsessive, like some Aussies we’ve known.  Nothing unusual about her.

Until she spotted her first elk herd.  (See video here)

Promise came to us in Maryland, courtesy of a friend who had to move away to take care of her aging mother.  A month later we flew Promise out to Colorado for our annual nine-month stint at the ranch.  It was April, time to begin irrigating our Big Valley hay field.  I invited Promise to go along.  She cocked her head and stood by the open car door.

“Hop in,” I said.

She sat down.

“Up,” I said.  I tried to make my voice sound excited.  I snapped my fingers.

Promise looked at me as if she suspected I was taking her on a one-way trip to the dog pound.
Read more on Promise, the Elk-chasing Cow Dog…

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By David Jessup

The Yearling Cattle are the troubled ones

There’s no such thing as a routine cattle drive.  Just ask the group of Sylvan Dale Ranch “adventure riders” who helped move sixty yearlings from their winter pasture back to the main ranch on Saturday, April 14, 2012.

Seven of us saddled up at 9 am, the spring sun warming our faces, the deep blue Colorado sky and crisp air thrilling our senses.   We figured we’d be back by noon.  We figured wrong.

As we rode toward the winter pasture, we took note of the problem areas we’d encounter on the way back:  several driveways, a home with an inviting lawn, a stretch of county road with occasional cars, a highway crossing, and a steep, red-rock ridge to cross.  The yearlings had made this trek in the opposite direction six months ago with their mamas.  Now they would be on their own. Read more on Troubled Teen Cattle Drive…