The Caboose is Loose

June 6, 2011

Hold your horses.  If you’re looking for ski content you’d better fast forward to page 2.  If you’re content learning about the wild west, then stick it out and read on through.  (Another note, if you’re a vegetarian, you might fast forward as well.)

The first order of business is to bestow Dwyer’s new nickname (that he first bestowed upon himself) here on FIS.  From here on out, Dwyer’s “The Caboose” and believe it or not, sometimes the Caboose comes Loose, and Dwyer gets a little wild.

The Caboose and I packed up the ‘taco for a Memorial Day weekend neither of us will soon forget.  Our destination was Southern Montana where our friend Wade helps run the Big Hole Lodge, a fly fishing lodge near the Big Hole River.

We had a lot on our agenda for the weekend, despite some dodgy looking weather, which included – branding cattle, a true cattle drive, floating the big hole river, shooting our limit of skeet, and of course some skiing.  True to FIS form, we packed it all in, and then some.

Late on a Friday evening we found ourselves 400 miles due north of Salt Lake City right in the heart of the Big Hole River valley.  First order of business was to drink some beers and hit the hay.  Second order of business was an early way up call and to get the weekend started the right way.  Shooting some skeet off the back deck.

Here the Caboose let’s loose off the back deck, and shows us what a true marksmen he is.

The A-frame is perfectly situated for skeet hunting, so we took full advantage.

Not only did we have clay pidegons in our sights, but we had a whole arsenal of mountains to choose from.

This portion of rural Montana is one of the last few remaining wild places that I’ve found in the west.  I’ve been to some very obscure parts of the inter-mountain west, but never have I been to a place quite like the Big  Hole Valley.  Most places are either populated in a few small towns, with modern amenities, or not populated at all.  Much of Utah is like this, city centers, then deserts filled with dirt roads and not a single human.

This portion of Montana was different though.  It had ranches, and people, albeit sparse, but it didn’t have much in the way of modern utility.  Cell phones ceased to get reception, folks refused to use the internet, and there wasn’t a single chain establishment to be found in the entire county.  Wisdom, Montana was like going back in time – 30 or 40 years – when life was simpler and without the distractions of the modern world.  It was peaceful – you could focus on the task at hand without any of the noise that the our lives normally drown us out with.

The first morning in town, after firing some guns as a wake up call, we took off to meet up with Wisdom’s resident cowboy, Dan.  Accompanying Wade, Dwyer and I were two lovely ladies, Nicola and Ashley.  They were to be  our hosts for the weekend, and they both put the girl into Cowgirl.  They wrangled horses like we wrangle skis.  The Caboose and I sure got a first hand lesson in the ways of the Cowboys.

Ashley (09) got us ready with saddles and horses.

While Nicola played Western wear model –

We got everything ready to go, and hopped on our horses.  First order of business was to move some newly acquired cows to some far away pastures.  The Caboose was the first one to gallop up on those wily Herefords.  Dwyer doesn’t always ride horses, but when he does it’s typically bareback.

We quickly fell into a rhythm, and herded the cows down the road.

Along the way, Dan would lend a watchful eye to our group.  His lone piece of advice, “If you fall off and your foot gets caught in the stirrup, make sure to roll onto your stomach, it’s the only way to get your foot unstuck.”

With that in mind, Nicola, Dwyer and Wade took off.  Hell bent on rounding up every last cow.

Despite our amateur status as cowboys, Nicola never told us what to do or how to do it, she just looked on and made sure we weren’t pushing cows in the wrong direction.

The next order of business was to make sure we could keep track of all these cows.  The way of the west is the brand, and that’s exactly what we were to do.  The brand of the day was “3 bar C” and brand them we did.

The new-school shuffles the cattle down a cattle shoot, and into this cow trapper.  This cow trapper locks the cow in while it gets branded so it can’t flop around and hurt itself.

Despite the smell of branded cattle the girls were having a wonderful time.

One of the first cows in was a Hereford, one of the storied breeds of the American West.  Herefords are known for their excellent beef production and friendly taste. :)

In addition to get the “3 bar C” brand each cow got a shot to keep them healthy through the summer foraging season.

After a few hundred cattle had come through the cattle chutes, we decided it was time to do it the old fashioned way – with a lasso and some western ingenuity.  On horseback  Dan and Ashley proceed to rope up the cows.  Dwyer was put in charge of ground duty, which involved sliding the cow’s tail up through its back legs – which effectively put the cow in the sleeper hold.  Once the cow was pinned down, the branding iron would come over and they’d receive their brand much like their fellow cows did in the chute.

The Caboose doesn’t just like to be the closer in a big game of Flip Cup, he also likes to take care of the rear:

We proceeded to wrap up branding, picked up reinforcement shotgun shells, some T-bones, and some brews to round out our night at the A-frame.

The sunset views were stupendous –

Dwyer and Nicola used the evening night to their advantage –

Dang, how can you look that fresh after a full day of branding?!?!?!

And lastly, our crew gathered for a group picture, with every bit of Western flair that we could muster.

L to R, Owl, Wade, Nicole, Dwyer, Ashley, and Porter (center).

What a Saturday.  Next up was a Sunday filled with river floating (through a blizzard) and Monday with miles of road skinning, some partially frozen lake crossings, and some avalanche starting.  Check out page 2 for the nitty gritty.

Continue Reading: 1 2 Next »

Read about the author:   Porter Haney
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: Moon Mission To Herman


  1. christian
    wrote on June 6th, 2011 at 8:08 pm  
  2. Ben
    wrote on June 7th, 2011 at 12:43 am  

    Awesome write-up port! Looks like a great time, and a truly western experience… Great way to spend memorial day!

    • Porter Haney
      wrote on June 7th, 2011 at 1:35 pm  

      Thanks, Ben. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that I’ve never had a bad time in Montana.

    • christian
      wrote on June 7th, 2011 at 5:50 pm  

      if i’ve learned one thing…it’s hard not to look fresh in 2 flannel shirts, no matter what the day throws at you.

    • Porter Haney
      wrote on June 7th, 2011 at 5:55 pm  

      Flannel on Flannel?

  3. A HO
    wrote on June 7th, 2011 at 1:33 am  

    Lolo Pass/ Lolo Trail? Off the top of my head, that’s what I know is on the border.

    • Porter Haney
      wrote on June 7th, 2011 at 4:04 pm  

      A HO – What demarks the boarder though?

  4. Greg
    wrote on June 7th, 2011 at 8:00 am  

    That ROCKED!!! Jeez louise!

  5. C B
    wrote on June 8th, 2011 at 12:28 am  

    My god i miss this place. Awesome write up Porter.

    • Wade
      wrote on June 9th, 2011 at 4:03 pm  

      CB, this place misses you, get back here

  6. cespare
    wrote on June 9th, 2011 at 6:11 am  

    Continental divide, I’m guessing?

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