Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A field trip to remember

Capital Press

MAY, Idaho — The Capital Press covers four states with only 10 fulltime field reporters, half a dozen staffers in the headquarters newsroom in Salem, Ore., and a band of dedicated, but very part-time freelancers.

Given the size of the staff compared with geography, it behooves us to get out in the field occasionally on overnight trips so we can interview for a few stories in some of the more remote areas.

Thus it was that I found myself in Salmon, Idaho, for a week recently, doing stories on several different ranches.

Being unfamiliar with the area, I naturally quizzed ranchers carefully in advance for directions to their operations.

Glenn Elzinga’s directions were very clear, and easy to follow.

He told me to watch for the Pahsimeroi River Valley turnoff on Highway 93, at the Ellis Post Office, and follow the road east for a certain number of miles to a side road labeled with a certain name, then turn south again and go about a mile and a half to the gate to his ranch.

“Just open the gate and drive on through,” he said. “I’ll be expecting you. If you cross the river, you’ll have gone too far.”

I found everything just as he described, very easily. There was only one problem. The gate to his ranch turned into a pasture where he’d left his horses.

Now, anybody who has ever been around animals knows they see fences as a challenge. The grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side.

Elzinga’s horses were no exception. No sooner had I stopped at the gate than they came crowding forward, ready to bolt the minute I opened it.

I tried shooing them back from the gate. They moved back a short distance, but with a very cocky, “who the heck do you think YOU are, lady,” look in their eyes.

When I thought I’d shooed them to a sufficient distance, I unlatched the gate, ready to wave my arms and shoo them away still further so I could jump into my car, drive through, then stop and refasten the gate before proceeding on up to the ranchstead where Elzinga had promised to meet me.

Any rancher could have predicted that wasn’t going to work. It didn’t. Giving me another one of those cocky, “oh, yeah, lady” looks, the horses bolted right past me and onto the road the second I unlatched the gate. No arm waving, yelling or jumping up and down was going to stop them.

They were, by the way, considerably larger than me, and half a dozen strong against one woman.

That left me with only one choice. Leaving the gate open, I drove quickly to the house, located Elzinga, and told him the horses had bolted onto the road.

He was working on his car at the time. He jumped in, and drove to the road. I followed him back down the lane in my own car, parked a short distance away from the gate, and stationed myself in the road on the opposite side of the gate so I could turn the horses as he herded them back into the yard with his car.

The horses hadn’t gone far. They really were after the lush, green grass growing by the side of the road, positive that it was greener than that in their pasture.

Three of Elzinga’s seven daughters also raced for the gate, one or two on their bicycles. They helped chase the horses back inside, and on up the lane to a second pasture where they couldn’t bolt again when I left.

The girls latched the gate behind all of us, and I drove back up to the house, ruefully shaking my head.
“Wow,” I said, “That’s some way to make a first impression!" Elzinga burst out laughing. Like so many ranchers, he had a good sense of humor. Then he apologized for forgetting to put the horses into the back pasture away from the ranch lane before I came.

It all went to prove the old truism: ranch people are friendly, and a lot of fun to be around. It’s all part of what makes writing for the Capital Press fun.

To hear a short interview McCoy did with Elzinga, click here.

Capital Press staff writer Pat McCoy is based in Boise.

Technorati tags:

No comments:

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

Our most popular videos