I received the lovely photograph (see below) from a friend and amateur photographer, Jim Harris. In truth the picture was taken of a woman in chaps from New Mexico, but it fits well our local situation. Many folks moving into the Texas Hill Country bring with them their lifestyles and fashions.
Branding In Style
The photograph depicts this aspect nicely. You can notice the clean red ostrich boots on this well-dressed lady rancher. If you look closely, you will notice a diamond bracelet on her wrist. She is, nevertheless, wielding the branding iron with an air of competence and determination. Her dress is not the usual dress of our locals who typically wear worn out jeans, muddy work boots, pearl button shirts, and beat up cowboy hats.
Gillespie County, the county in which Fredericksburg is located, continues to have agriculture as its number one industry. Admittedly, this distinction has been helped of late by the 100 or so wineries and vineyards that have flocked to our area. Gillespie county ranchers continue to raise many cattle, goats, and sheep.
Being a newly minted rancher back in 2001, I felt the probing and suspicious eyes of my fellow ranchers when I attended Field Days or other agricultural events. I was, after all, a newbie and likely seen as an Auslander with questionable intent. I certainly lacked ranching experience. In any event after eighteen years, Trudy and I feel better integrated and believe we do a reasonable job ranching cattle. Nevertheless, this picture reminds me of the social divide and suspicion we felt in those early days after moving in at Medicine Spirit Ranch.
Have you ever experienced similar cultural divides? Would love to hear from you.
As Garrison Keilor was fond of saying on Prairie Home Companion, “it’s been a slow week” at the ranch, but then most weeks blissfully are. Recently we had concrete poured in two places at Hidden Falls Ranch. One wag on seeing the results of our concrete work harrumphed, “Looks to me like you have built two of the world’s shortest roads!”
Admittedly the concrete slabs measure only 36 and 55 feet in length, much too short certainly to qualify for roads. If you look carefully though you may be able to determine that these are really low water crossings.
World’s shortest road? No, actually a new low water crossing at Hidden Falls Ranch- Photos by Ramsey Hutton
One of the slabs is where the outflow from our spring-fed stock tank (pond to those non-Texans reading this), and the other concrete slab allows traffic to pass unhindered over Sugar Creek. These low water crossings remain treacherous though if a flash flood occurs.
Generally these areas though are dry and easy to cross. Nevertheless, during a rainy spell, both can become muddy quagmires. Previously I’ve become stuck even when driving my four-wheel drive pickup or our John Deere utility vehicle. Thank goodness for a tractor and ranch hand to extract me from the muck.
Two 12-inch aluminum pipes traverse the concrete slab at Sugar Creek. This allows the water to flow under the slab and for the dogs and me to keep our paws (feet) dry.
Hopefully our efforts will prevent getting stuck in the mud and provide improvements at this our newest addition to the Hutton ranch.
Ramsey Hutton- Ace Cub Photographer
Ramsey Hutton is now the official photographer for Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch. Yes, in case you’re wondering, Ramsey is my granddaughter and has a personal connection and warm feelings for our family ranch and its animals. She began coming to the ranch as an infant. She’s ridden through its pastures on her horse, Fancy, celebrated her birthday with friends, explored the hills, and enjoyed the scenic beauty of the Texas Hill Country. Ramsey is one with the ranch.
She assumes her role immediately and will, no doubt, improve my earlier attempts to visually represent that about which I write. Her Uncle Paul Plunket provided her camera and its a vast upgrade from her previous one.
Please welcome Ramsey to this blog. Her photographic skills should enhance the experiences for readers of Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch and my Facebook page.
Incidentally Ramsey Hutton has started her own blog. It’s entitled Ramsey’s Reality and is really quite good. Check it out!
Come visit me at Ramsey’s Reality as well as at Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch
I recently viewed a dozen or so cattle egrets within and perched upon our cow herd. These white, long necked, and long legged birds have been absent from our ranch for about a year. Our cattle tolerate them well. I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture of them but have some images taken from the internet.
The relationship between the egrets and cattle is a symbiotic one, as the egrets eat flies and ticks off the cattle. Both egret and cow have mutual benefit from their relationship.
What I discovered yesterday was that the egrets also provide entertainment for our friskier Spring calves. The calves playfully run at them, scattering the birds for a short fly around. The egrets soon after land in the herd and the chase is on again. The calves appeared to be enjoying themselves, but I can’t speak for the egrets.
Several times recently I’ve spotted a Great Blue Heron hanging out in the pool below the waterfall at Hidden Falls Ranch (our ranch across the county road). I can’t say for sure that it’s the same one about which I wrote the blog series last winter, but it looks the same. It’s dramatic to view it taking off from the pool, gaining altitude, and flying by me at eye level and not more than 20 feet away. According to Native American legend Great Blue Herons bring good luck. Bring it on!
Bulletin: Just viewed a Great Blue Heron in our stock tank below the house. It’s back! What wonderful news. Life is good in the Texas Hill Country.
I’ve written several blog pieces lately on a Great Blue Heron that has daily visited our stock tank. The heron and I have developed a predictable morning routine. Initially I find it perched atop a tree on the opposite bank. Then I throw fish food into the pond. I backtrack to my pickup from where I watch the heron glide gracefully across the stock tank (what a sight with its immense six foot wing span), land, and creep to its protected spot alongside the water. There it stealthily awaits a fish meal to swim by. When this occurs and with lightning like reflexes, it dives into the water to retrieve a fish. Our routine has become part of my morning ritual and, frankly, I’ve come to enjoy and expect it.
This is not really my heron but a look alike. Mine is too camera shy to allow me to snap a good image of it.
Imagine my disappointment the past two weeks when the heron has failed to show up. Initially I shrugged it off as happenstance, as the heron had at times missed a single day. Now it seems all too clear that the heron has left our ranch for another lofty perch.
Spring has sprung in the Texas Hill Country. The Red Bud trees have blossomed and the Bluebonnets are up. The Live Oak trees are changing over their leaves. Perhaps with the changing of the season, the heron has taken on new territory to fish. Alternatively, my heron may have fallen for a mate and been lured away by surging hormones- Spring is known to do that after all. I can only hope my heron has not befallen some worse fate, a consideration I’m loathe to even consider.
I’ll keep my eyes peeled each morning for the Great Blue Heron but fear it has departed the area or at least left my stock tank. If so,it leaves behind both good memories and hopefully good luck. To be sure, I shall miss its gorgeous flight, its prowess at fishing, its gorgeous appearance, its curious waddling gait, and the way it folds itself into a small package just at the edge of the water.
Come to think of it, The Great Blue Heron may just have tired of my bluegill! Why not for a change dine on Guadalupe bass or fat head minnows?
Farewell Great Blue Heron. You will be missed.
Great Blue Heron in flight
I recall the shiver of excitement coming over me like a blanket of wonderment the first time a Great Blue Heron flew just over me and landed nearby. Given its majesty, not too surprisingly a mythology has grown up around these impressive birds. Several weeks ago I posted “Chumming for Heron,” a piece describing daily visits to our ranch by a Great Blue Heron. Unwittingly I was aiding the heron by luring fish near to the bank and improving its prospects for fishing. This experience with the heron got me to wondering what myths might exist about these striking birds that are such incredibly good fish hunters, so I did a little research.
The Greeks believed the heron was a messenger from the gods. The heron was thought to have been sent by Athena and Aphrodite, the goddesses of wisdom and love. Athena, for example, once sent a heron to Odysseus during his odyssey as a sign that she was watching him. Celtic mythology had herons as messengers of the gods as well and thought the herons were imbued with superior intelligence.
Our ranch is named Medicine Spirit Ranch in honor of the original Native American inhabitants and their belief the land was “strong medicine.” One myth from Native Americans is about the heron and the hummingbird who raced for possession of all the fish in the rivers and lakes. The birds had a long race with the heron flying slowly but never stopping while the hummingbird zipped ahead but slept each night. Because of this, the hummingbird lost the race and now has to eat nectar while the heron dines on fish.
Wolves and herons are the subject of another Native American myth. The story goes that a Blue Heron helped two weasels cross a river because they had asked it nicely. Along comes a rude wolf, demanding to be taken like the weasels across the river. The heron proceeded to fly the wolf halfway across the river and then dumped the wolf into the river to drown.
The symbolism of the heron varies by culture. It represents strength, purity and long life in China. In Native American tradition the heron symbolizes wisdom and good judgment. In ancient Egypt the heron was a symbol of creation while in Africa and Greece the heron was a messenger of the gods.
Watching a heron fish also instructs us in patience. This is particularly a good lesson for our busy, rushed lifestyles these days. They watch and wait for long periods of time, remaining alert to the presence of fish. Ultimately the heron strikes with lightning like speed and precision.
Herons are also believed to be symbols of good luck, particularly when they land on your home or even shed a feather on your property. Not a bad way at all to start out a new year!
From all the critters, stock, and folks at Medicine Spirit Ranch, we wish you wonderful holidays.