The Bison Courier •
Thursday, July 10, 2014
It’s getting close to weaning timefor my bums lambs. It may even bepast time, but I figured we mightas well finish the last bag of milkreplacer. This is my third batch of bums -- the other two years’ worthare in the little pasture as I writethis. That includes the wether Ibrought home the first year, nothaving a clue that he, like mostboys, was not meant to be a keeper.Two of those babies have babies of their own now. In the circle of life,they are passing me by. I startedout as their mother and have beendemoted to a kind of semi-trust-worthy, younger sibling. Theyallow me in the vicinity of thelambs, but they would never let mebabysit alone. Pearl and Theo were my firsttwo lambs, the beginning of thisgrand experiment that is slowly be-coming a way of life. I can’t remem-ber when or how I decided to takethem home, but I do rememberwalking into a barn full of ewessoon after arriving in SouthDakota and feeling like it was loveat first sight. The dusty smell of fresh straw, the warm, musty airsoft with the sounds new mamasmake, and the gentle eyes follow-ing me as I entered; I loved it all. And bottle feeding those first twobabies? Well, what can I say -- itseemed like I’d been waiting to dothat all my life. Last weekend, me and my sweet-heart went to Hulett, Wyoming tovisit a ranch where he used towork, and where he is summeringsome cows. Aptly named the LakeRanch, it is situated in a roundbowl beside Devil’s Tower and theMissouri Buttes, and therefore, be-side a sparkling, sky blue lake. Itis home to an odd assortment of folks: a soft spoken Italian calledFerdinando; a tough, no nonsenseGerman gal called Heike; and an-other Italian who wears a silverfeather in his ear, and is neverwithout his cowboy hat, calledRoby -- just to name a few. All of the folks who make the LakeRanch their home, at least for afew months a year, share one thingin common: hippophilia, or love of horses. Many of them came fromoffice high rises in European cities,where sitting in their cubicles, theyplanned vacations to the great American West. Once here, theydiscovered they could not go backto their old lives. In almost everycase, it was a passion for horsesthat started it all, and for many of them, their lives now revolvearound the daily care and keepingof members of the equine race. Where does this passion comefrom? This singular love of aspecies? Early on in my time here,I discovered that most rancherscome down pretty strongly on oneside or the other in a sheep versuscattle debate. As a rancher, you areeither a shepherd or acow(wo)man, and never the twoshall meet. Of course, I’m exagger-ating -- but only a little. Folks maykeep both, but they are usuallypretty opinionated on which theylike better. Since my first time inthe barn with the ewes, I’ve knownwhich it was for me, and it was asclear a feeling as I’ve ever had. I think horses are beautiful, Ithink cows are useful, I love mydogs and consider them somethingakin to family, but I am, inexplica-bly and inextricably, a shepherdessat heart. What does this say aboutme? Possibly something unflatter-ing, especially if you take a cattlerancher’s word for it. Most considersheep stupid, or at least capable of making spectacularly stupidchoices (and they are, even a sheeplover like myself can admit that...) In fact, it is a relatively univer-sal idea that sheep are extraordi-narily unintelligent. In thecommon vernacular, sheep areoften used as a metaphor for hu-mans that are foolish and easilyled. Thus, the modern expression,“sheeple.” However, sheep are alsomentioned hundreds of times inthe Bible, more than any other an-imal, often as a metaphor for God’schosen people. In that context,being easily led is not a bad thing.Or, it’s not bad as long as you arein the “chosen flock.” If you end upwith a bad shepherd? Well, thenyou are in trouble. In my adulthood, I’ve come torecognize that I am neither easilyled, nor a good leader, so wheredoes that leave me? Perhaps, I amattracted to sheep because theyrepresent something I’ve alwayscraved, but previously lacked,namely, a sense of community.Sheep, on occasion, may make lifethreatening choices to stay withthe flock, but the center of the flockis still the safest place to be in thevast majority of dangerous situa-tions. Outliers are easy targets. Toextend this metaphor to humans, Ioften wonder if our desire to get just what we want, just the way wewant it, and the ability to actuallyachieve these desires, (often vicar-iously via the digital world) leavesus exposed to more harm than werealize. Like sheep, most humansfind they are happiest in the com-pany of other humans. More andmore, we find ourselves in flocks of a virtual nature, with characters intelevision shows or movies beingthe other humans we spend themost time with. What does it meanto live with these new versions of flocks as the center of our lives? It’s the kind of question I canspend a great deal of time ponder-ing, but I don’t know that I’ll everreally reach a satisfying conclu-sion. In the meantime, my littlesheep dog and I will continue totake our daily ramble around thepasture, stopping where we findthe flock grazing, gathered peace-fully together. The puppy is new tothis, so she keeps trying to playwith the lambs like they are pup-pies, confused when they don’twant to wrestle. Sometimesthough, we get around to doing the job she was bred for -- waiting qui-etly, part of the flock, but not really.The birds over our heads twitterconversationally, the horses in thenext pasture shuffle by, the grassand the wind chat in whispers, andEllie and I sit on the outskirts, con-tent. Being an outlier isn’t alwaysbad, especially if it means findinga sense of belonging where youcould never have anticipated it.Like the folks at the Lake Ranch, Ifeel blessed to be in the center of alife I could never have imagineduntil I arrived, breathless and be-wildered. I know to some thechoices I’ve made looked impossi-bly stupid, and certainly many of them were; but, I still believe if love is your shepherd, you will notbe led astray.
Little Pasture on the Prairie
by Eliza Blue
Little Pasture on the Prairie
by Eliza Blue
U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), Ranking Memberof the Senate Committee on Com-merce, Science, and Transporta-tion, today applauded theenactment of his bipartisan legis-lation, the Reliable Home Heat-ing Act (S. 2086). Thune’s bill,which he introduced earlier thisyear along with Senator AmyKlobuchar (D-Minnesota), willprovide governors greater auton-omy when declaring emergencies,without the need for the FederalMotor Carrier Safety Administra-tion (FMCSA) to declare that adisaster exists beyond the cur-rent 30-day declarations avail-able to governors. The legislationwill also require the Energy In-formation Administration to pro-vide early warnings to governorsif the inventory of residentialheating fuel (propane, naturalgas, and home heating oil) fallsbelow the most recent five-yearaverage for more than three con-secutive weeks.“Propane shortages and record-high home heating fuel prices puta tremendous strain on familieswho struggled to heat theirhomes and businesses this pastwinter,” said Thune. “With theenactment of my bill, I hopeSouth Dakotans can rest a littleeasier knowing when futurepropane and heating fuel short-ages arise, governors and fuel dis-tributors will now have autonomyto take the necessary steps toswiftly address shortages.”In late January, the FMCSA ex-tended state emergency ordersfor 36 states providing regulatoryrelief for commercial motor vehi-cle operators transporting homeheating fuels into areas experi-encing propane and heating fuelshortages this winter. Commer-cial carriers were exempted fromfederal Hours-of-Service regula-tions to allow for greater deliveryof home heating fuels. As a resultof related bipartisan legislationthat the president signed intolaw, FMCSA extended the emer-gency orders for certain impactedstates until May 31, 2014, unlessa governor felt that such a decla-ration was no longer needed. Dueto widespread shortages, residen-tial propane prices nearly dou-bled to $4 per gallon in Februaryof this year creating hardships forfamilies and businesses alike.Previously, the governor of astate could declare a state of emergency due to shortages of home heating fuel, which wouldprovide a 30-day exemption fromcertain federal regulations for op-erators of commercial motor vehi-cles. At the conclusion of these 30days, the exemptions would ex-pire unless extended by FMCSA or otherwise addressed by a pres-idential disaster declaration. Thislegislation will give the governorof a state the authority to extendthe state of emergency for two ad-ditional 30-day periods, for a totalof 90 days without FMCSA ac-tion.The Senate Commerce, Sci-ence, and Transportation Com-mittee has jurisdiction over theFMCSA, which is a component of the U.S. Department of Trans-portation.
Thune home heating fuelbill signed into law