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August 11, 2008
previous weeks' photos
index of all photos
Writer and cowboy poet Smoke Wade was raised on a ranch in Hells Canyon, and he shares his photos and recollections that center around summer haying. He writes:
The cowboy way of life is often romanticized. The cowboy is pictured riding his faithful horse across wide expanses of prairie beneath an endless sky. Perhaps his evening was spent sitting around a campfire, drinking coffee from a tin cup as he strummed on his guitar. Many folks yearned for the carefree lifestyle of the American Cowboy. Yet, cowboy life in the Hells Canyon region of the Snake River along the Idaho-Oregon border was not always that way.
The first settlers arrived in the area around 1876 and made their home with the Nez Perce people that lived there. The Nez Perce maintained large herds of cattle and horses that free-grazed upon the land. After the Nez Perce War of 1877, the land was open for the settlers to expand and they began building cattle ranches. Some of their initial stock of cattle was started from the herd the Nez Perce was forced to leave behind. The settlers soon learned that the harsh climate required that they raise hay to feed to the cattle during the long winter months. And from June through September, the lonesome, romantic cowboy became a field hand during haying season.
Our family ranch system, the Hashknife outfit, included four winter ranches deep in the valleys of the Hells Canyon region. Each of these ranches raised enough alfalfa and grass hay to sustain the cattle herds during the toughest of winters.
The 1936 haying crew at Basin Creek ranch, Oregon. My father is the fifth from the left.
The ranch system was isolated from the modern world, and we continued to use draft horses and mules during haying season until after World War II. The hay fields were flood-irrigated by a system of hand-built dams and ditches. This irrigating process allowed us to harvest three or more crops of hay each year.
The mature hay crop was mowed with horse-drawn hay mowing machines. Then it was gathered into "wind rows" by horse drawn dump rakes. After the hay had cured, crews of hay hands would load the hay with pitchforks onto horse drawn wagons. Beneath the hay, a "sling" was placed that would be drawn around the full load of hay when it reached the haystack. The sling was attached to a cable that ran through a pulley on the top of a boom that projected skyward from the top of an A-frame hay derrick. The cable continued down the backside of the derrick through a pulley at the bottom where it was connected to a team of horses or mules.
circa 1940—The mules would be driven away from the haystack thus drawing the sling full of hay into the air where it could be swung over the top of the haystack. The lead stacker would yell, "Dump ‘er," when the load of hay was in the correct position and a person on the ground would pull on a trip line that would release a clevis mechanism that dumped the hay onto the stack.
circa 1940—Loose hay was gathered by hand onto wagons pulled by mules or draft horses. A sling connected to a hay derrick carried the loose hay above the stack, then was dropped into place for the crew to "stack" in a fashion that would create a hay stack resembling a large loaf of bread.
As a side note, there were usually three distinct types of wood structures used in the western states for "putting up" hay. The "Beaver Slide" which was often found throughout western Montana, the A-Frame derrick that was used in the Pacific Northwest and the "Mormon" derrick found throughout the Utah area. The Mormon derrick differed by having a vertical mast with a swinging boom on top of the mast. The A-frame derrick had the swinging boom supported beneath the apex of the A-frame.
The stackers were skilled at their work and could build the haystacks in a manner that would prevent the stacks from falling over or being blown apart during windstorms. They often seasoned the hay with crushed rock salt to help it cure and to help prevent the hay from developing mold. Moldy hay was associated with miscarriages in the cowherd.
circa 1955 - Loose hay stored in the hay barn for winter feeding along the Grande Ronde River, Washington. My father built the barn in 1950 without the aid of a crane. The ridge was forty feet from the ground. In 2007, the barn was destroyed and all traces removed by the Washington State Game Department.
circa 1951—By the early fifties, machine had replaced the horses and mules during haying season, though the hay was still stacked loose. Wagons, trucks and pickups would often haul the hay to the stacking location. Ranch kids of all ages were enlisted to help during haying season. Smoke Wade, second from right, pictured with his cousins aboard a load of hay headed to the barn.
The use of horses and mules for haying gave way to tractors and trucks circa 1950. Much of the horse drawn haying equipment was modified to be drawn behind tractors, and an operator was still required to ride on the old dump rakes until baled hay came into the canyon in the late 1950’s.
circa 1955- Around 1950, tractors began to replace horse power in the hay fields. The Oliver "Farm All" wheel tractor used a hydraulic system that allowed the lifting of a load of hay twenty feet in the air for stacking. It was this tractor that replaced the hay derrick and beaver slide. Smoke Wade on tractor.
During this era, tractors equipped with "buck rakes"— long teeth resembling a fork lift—would scoop up the hay and transport it to the haystack. The buck rake tractors could lift the large loads of hay as high as twenty feet onto the haystack. Hay barns still maintained use of the sling that drew the hay up to a carriage that traveled along the peak of the barn via a small iron track. The hay could then be dumped in the desired location to be properly stacked. Mule teams gave way to jeeps that would pull the cable for the sling and carriage system.
circa 1955 - The "buck rake" was a home made device that fit on the front of the Oliver tractor. The tractor driver would drive the tractor across the hay field with the "teeth" or "tines" of the buck rake skimming the ground much like a fork lift. Loose hay from the wind rows would gather in the buck rake until a full load was returned to the hay stack. Smoke Wade poses with a vertically stored buck rake. The shop building in the back ground was originally the 1913 Rogersburg School house, Rogersburg, Washington.
circa 1955 - Sprinkler irrigation of hay crops replaced flood irrigation along many of the Hells Canyon ranches during the early 1950's. With river water readily available, pumps could irrigate large hay fields. Cowboys became irrigators as the sprinklers need to be moved twice daily.
The end result of haying season: feeding cows during the long winter months. Our ranch system had about 1000 head of cows and 45 bulls to feed each winter. Prior to the mid-1950's, market cattle—steers and heifers—were kept through the winter, which doubled the winter feeding operation. The need to be self sufficient with hay production was self evident.
As the 1960’s rolled in, hay-baling equipment invaded Hells Canyon, which greatly simplified the entire haying season process.
circa 1960—Hay balers came on to the scene in the Hells Canyon region by 1960, and the haying crews dwindled in size. Tractors would pull sleds or "slips" around the field while hay field hands would load the slip with the hay bales. Then the hay load was driven back to the hay stack to be loaded on a hay elevator which to carried the hay bales to the stackers on top of the stack. A crew of five men would stack 2000 bales a day in this fashion. Smoke Wade driving the tractor.
As hay balers replaced the stacking of loose hay by 1960, large loads of baled hay could easily be moved from one location to another. Photo is of my father's hay truck.
Today, the hay-baling system has become more sophisticated with the option of producing bales of many shapes and sizes including the round bale known as a "jelly roll." But even with modern haying equipment, every summer, our lonesome, romantic cowboy must give up riding his faithful horse across wide expanses of prairie beneath an endless sky, for it is haying season once again.
The Jim Creek ranch was one of the winter ranches maintained in our ranching system by my uncle, Biden Tippett. The ranch was almost four hours from the nearest small town via a seasonal rough dirt road. The hay fields produced enough hay to maintain a four-hundred head cow heard during the winter months. This ranch was the last privately owned ranch on the Oregon side of the Snake river in the Hells Canyon Recreation area. The buildings are now used as a "private" recreation area for U.S. Forest Service employees while they maintain a winter grazing operation for U. S. owned horses.
This story and photos are added here in our Western Memories feature.
Previously, Smoke Wade has shared other stories and photos, including:
photos and recollections that center around log troughs
photos from the 1952 branding of the Hashknife calves at the Cactus Flat branding corral, posted here
a 1905 photo of the one-room school in Joseph Creek, Washington, which he attended for six years (and which his grandmother, mother, brother, cousins, aunt and uncles attended), more photos, and some history and recollections, which you can see here.
a circa 1915 photo of his grandfather, J. H. "Jidge" Tippett, taken at the Tippett home ranch on Joseph Creek in Asotin Country, Washington, and other photos of the area, which you can see here.
photos of the gold mining ghost town, Bodie, California, which you can see here
and some contemporary photos from Rachel, Nevada, posted here.
photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others at her site here.
Read some of Smoke Wade's poetry here.
You can email Smoke Wade.
August 4, 2008
index of all photos
Jonah, a new book, created in collaboration with Wyoming cowboy poet Andy Nelson.
photographer, journalist, horsepacker, farrier, and field biologist Nikki Mann shares contemporary photos from Sublette County. Some of the photos are included in
Nikki calls this photo "Spring in Wyoming."
Nikki refers to this as the "Jonah cowboy landscape," and it is Jonah's cover. The book is described as "a unique look into a small section of desert in western Wyoming called the Jonah Field. Jonah documents an area where wildlife, ranching, history and industry all come together." The Jonah Infill Drilling Project is natural gas drilling site.
I hummed a cowboy melody,
A tune without frills or fuss;
And I wondered if years from now,
Will they sing any songs about us?
from "Will They Sing Songs About Us" by Andy Nelson, from Jonah
The idea for this book began while driving one of the hundreds of roads in Jonah, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a cowboy come riding up behind the truck. He was looking for some lost cows, in the same manner that cowboys have been looking for lost cows in Jonah and the surrounding landscape for generations.
Jonah is an amazing area, tiny really when you look at it on a map, but an area where wildlife, ranching, history and industry all come together. Sometimes they coexist in peace, sometimes they don’t; sometimes one aspect benefits another, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Jonah is a place where men, and even a few women, muscle frozen pipes together with nothing more than brute force. Jonah is also a place where cutting edge technology sends back measurements taken thousands of feet underground to engineers sitting at their computers in mobile offices hauled around by semi-trucks.
Jonah was once a sea where Alligatoroids swam 40 million years ago. It was a place where prehistoric people hunted with arrowheads, where cattle roamed without fences and is now where natural gas is drilled from beneath the surface to heat homes around the West.
Jonah could have a total of 3,100 new wells plus 497 existing wells, or one well every five acres within the Infill by the end of the purposed drilling. The field is expected to keep producing natural gas anywhere from 60 - 105 years. The 3,100 wells approved by the Record of Decision in 2006 were expected to produce 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is enough natural gas to heat 96 million homes for one year and generate approximately 6.1 billion dollars in royalties which will be divided by the State of Wyoming and the Federal Treasury.
Rancher Donny Rogers has been running cows in Jonah since 2000 and he and his wife have lived in the nearby town of Boulder for 38 years. One of their sons is a welder in Jonah and helps run the ranch on his weekends and the other son runs a trackhoe when he's not busy feeding cows.
Jonahincludes a wealth of wildlife photos:
Nikki writes, "Western Burrowing owls have extremely long legs used to excavate burrows where they will nest. Although they are accomplished diggers, they prefer to contract out their dirt work to other ground-dwelling animals such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels. "
This world comes alive,
With the sound of a bird;
And alkali yields
To an antelope herd.
untitled by Andy Nelson, from Jonah
The drilling is documented in Jonah in photos of workers and in the project's relationship to the land and the people.
Nikki writes, "Even with the automated Iron Derrickman on most rigs, the human derrickman may still have to climb the tower for repairs."
Two worlds meet in altercation,
A Yin and Yang of brush and steel;
Beauty and power entwine within,
A dichotomy of cloud and wheel.
from "Two Worlds" by Andy Nelson, from Jonah
Nikki Mann spends summers
horsepacking in Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Jonah will have a web site at: www.rafternjphotography.com
Nikki Mann spends summers
horsepacking in Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Nikki Mann can be reached by email in September, 2008.
Read more about Jonah
Read more about Andy Nelson and his poetry here.
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