Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Ranch on the Boulder

We were called to help out Peter's second family this weekend. The 80 year old couple needed help in vaccinating 40 or so calves on their ranch an fixing a front-end loader.

Many of you hear Pete's stories of his time with the Titeca's on their cattle ranch on the Boulder River. They live in McLeod, MT. A very tiny town (if you can really call it that)a few miles south of Big Timber, MT. There is no real "center" to the town. Their is a post office that is essentially an old cabin, a run down old store (not even open any longer), and of course, a bar - The Roadkill Cafe. Peter actually bartended at the Roadkill when he lived with the Titecas (not sure he was 21???) and there are some pretty infamous stories of what went on there.

McLeod is smack dab in the middle of some of the prettiest country you can imagine. If you'd like to see McLeod and the Boulder River Valley, check out The Horse Whisperer - most of that movie was filmed right there, with many of the "real" townfolk in the film as well.

Going into the post office there is a couch (where there is usually a few folks "hanging out and visiting" and some tattered shelves in the corner where there are used paperback books --- this would be "the library" where you just take a book and bring it back whenever you are done with it. There are a few cubbies with handwritten address labels on them and before you are through the door the 1 person that works at the PO has your mail sitting out for you. Of course, there are dogs lounging around with their owners as well.

When we think about it - there are a number of stories of Peter's living and working with the Titeca's that many people would never believe. Truly, it could be a novel.

John and Clara's (now in their 80's) families homesteaded here in MT and they have owned that remarkable piece of riverfront property for longer than many can recall.
They are what is sadly common here in Montana - a hard working (understatement of the century) ranching family that is land rich and cash poor.

If they were to sell this property to day, by our guestimates it would go for amounts in the double-digit millions... But, in true Montana style, NO ONE will be moving on to that property as long as John is alive. Some of his "neighbors"- Tom Brokaw, Michael Keaton, Aaron Eckhart, Tom McGuane... to name a few.

Instead he wakes at 4am to keep his wood burning stove going, the lights in the house "sometimes" work, the stove is broken, you throw the dirty dish water outside with a bucket, and most who drive past the property on their way to their "hollywood friends" mega mansion/second homes would most likely assume the whole place is abandoned.

The only thing revealing life on the place are the cattle, sheep, stray cats, and Smokey the Dog.

Peter moved to their ranch when he was 1 month out of highschool in Atlanta. He drove his audi sedan from Atlanta to McLeod to "be a ranch hand" for this family. For the next 6 years he stayed and worked and played. It was in that first year (14 years ago) that he brought another friend to live and work with him - a little red spaniel dog - Brutus. Bruttie still "rules" that ranch and prances around there like he owns the place.

The kid from the city learned a little bit of everything there - in's and out's of cattle ranching (this could be a whole list in itself), sheep, shooting bear, fixing tractors, 4 wheelers, plumbing, building, logging, bartending, shooting at just about anything, but most importantly... fishing.

He was steps from the Boulder and everyday after or between chores he fly fished. I think this was what cemented his love for the river and it's still his favorite spot on earth.

Peter still visits and helps John and Clara as often as he can. In their even older age, running and taking care of a place like that with NO hired hands is hard work. Again, this is an understatement. Sun up to sun down they are hauling, moving, feeding, fixing, covered in cow poo, oil, grease, and mud. Cooking a simple dinner there is twice as much work as it is for us and even "sleeping" is nothing like we are used to. Are cows calving? Did we hear a wolf out there with the sheep? Did the stove go out?

lone sheep at the Titeca Ranch

Have you ever wondered what 15 years of POO in a pile looks like? Here it is... Yes, that is cow dung... crusted over and eating a fence.

An old cow shoot... I love the way these photograph

The frozen Boulder river. All of the white is usually flowing water...
it has been cold.

The cows we went to help vaccinate and "old man Titeca" walking away.

The McLeod Post Office Sign on a beautiful sunny winter day

The PO... Peter trying to get out of the door after 20 minutes of catching up with old friends. What does your post office look like?

The road across the River to the Titeca;s place (the bldg on the right). Peter and Shawn, the Titeca's son and one of his BF's, built that rickety bridge you see.

This trailer on the property is where Peter lived for many of the years he worked on the ranch. I looked inside this weekend it was filled with some very peculiar old bachelor memorabilia (bullets, fishing nets, canned food, and "magazines")


Jacqueline said...

We have an old cattle shoot just like that one.

Jacqueline said...

Is this place on the left hand side of the road?? I think that we may have driven by it last week when I went with G on a site visit.

Meg said...

can you tell me how you vaccinated these cows? - where did you stay while you were there???

Meg said...

Dear Micca,

WHY WHY WHY?? I don't understand! why did you stop? It was so fun to check in on your life? what didn;t you like about it?


Anonymous said...

I love hearing how Peter turned into the man he is today. How did he end up with this family? Did they recruit him all the way from MT? Meg - I have no good reason for canceling. I never had anything good to blog about! I may put it up again.

Brooke & Peter said...

peter came through MT on vacation like the rest of us as a child... was into fishing and new the fishing was great out here. his family somehow had friends of friends who new the titecas and asked them if they could use some extra help from a strong young kid... they said yes... peter said yes and he blindly came up here. he met people, fished alot, decided to go to school in Missoula (U of M) and worked on the ranch/did school at the same time... By then he was really into fishing and decided to start guiding and eventually moved off the ranch and dabbled in a 1,000 other things along with guiding. it is a CRAZY life he has led....
Meg, this was simple lice vacination... this time we just sprayed some nasty chemicals down the spine of each calf... the other type of vaccinations are done with a needle in their neck area... thos e aren't for a while and is usually done when they are branded.
we didn't stay the night... usually don't... we drive back home (1 hour away)..
it's a lot of fun... you should come out and try it sometime!
micca can tell you much more about cows --- hmmm... micca - might be an interesting new blog post to start of your NEW blog!

kerri said...

loved the story! best reading I've had this month. . . Montana extreme . . .

Lon said...

Wow, what memories. My name is Lon Butcher. My grandad, L.D. (Butch) Butcher was a good friend of John & Clara when I was a boy. I practically grew up in McLeod, fishing on the Titeca's and some of the adjoining ranches. Over the years I spent a few winters there helping during calving season. It was a magical place to grow up in.

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