Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, from ours to you!

Merry Christmas from the epicenter of the Bakken Oil formation!

I have written and mailed a Christmas greeting every year since 1996.  Some years this greeting consisted of a few lines on a post card and some years an elaborate picture card and letter.

This year, I decided to 'KISS' (Keep It Simple Stupid (don't tell Kyle I just used this word or I will be in big trouble with him)) the holiday season and along the way save some postage, paper and time.

As always, it has been a crazy and busy year for us and this once cozy little community that we are privileged to call home.   Cattle prices have been strong.  Flourishing economies in Japan and other places abroad have made the high quality genetics of the high plains much more valuable than they once were.  The Bakken is crazy right now and is good for Main Street, but at the same time hard on infrastructure and stress levels.

Business is good and the family is doing well also!  Pete's mom and dad moved into their new house (on the ranch) in late August.  Kyle loves have them close and so do we.  My mom and dad are enjoying retirement.  Did I mention that Pete quit his 'town' career in February 2012?  He doesn't get off the place much now.  Lucky duck!  I past four months I worked for the new veterinarians in town helping them with the things that small start up businesses need help with.  December 21st was my last day there.

Kyle has a new cousin, Jaden a new sister and Kim and Lee a new daughter.  Morgan Rita Murphy was born on November 30th.

WE HAVE NOT MOVED BUT HAVE A NEW ADDRESS (compliments of the dysfunction that comes with having a mega influx of people moving into a sleepy little community in a very short period of time).  PLEASE UPDATE OUR ADDRESS TO:

Pete, Vawnita and Kyle Best
1930 118th Ave NW
Watford City ND 58854

(If our 911 address is 19030, the little post office in the middle of the Bakken will happily send your mail back to you and not deliver it to us.  They take great pride in following ALL the rules.)

Our dining room Christmas tree!  Merry Christmas from the ranch!
Our basement Christmas tree, a badlands cedar.  Yes, the lights are GREEN and GOLD.  Yes.  As a matter of fact they are BISON green and gold.  Why, yes!  They are playing for the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP on January 5th!

Our Christmas Eve supper (Pete was sick in bed most of the day).... tenderloins from our own beef, Mexican style green beans and cheezy cauliflower.  YUM!  After the reading of the First Christmas and supper, we watched the movie ELF and went to bed awaiting Santa's visit.

We are thankful for friends and family as we look back at 2012!  We understand that our fortunes and freedoms are those very few ever experience!  We know that we live in a special place and we are thankful for being able to live, work and play here close to the things that we cherish, value and love!

From our back deck on Christmas Day morning 2012!


Pete, Vawnita, Kyle, Tyra and the rest of the crew (three cats, sixteen horses and two hundred and forty  cows)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Weaning, Winter and 'the Works'.....

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken Oil Formation.

Since my last post, our short fall has since slipped away and winter has been with us for a couple months now.

We have gathered and brought home pairs, weaned calves, ultra-sounded (pregnancy checked) cows and carried out the typical 'winter activities' that normally go on in the high plains region.

Our last couple months in pictures (and in reverse order):

Kyle with Santa Clause.  ONLY ONE request:  A REAL cement truck that makes REAL cement.  No problem.

Pete bringing hay to the home place after an early significant accumulation in November.

November brought the North Dakota Angus Association annual meeting and awards banquet.  Above is the awards table as well as an inventory of North Dakota wine which was auctioned to benefit an Angus family which had recently faced tragedy. 

The head table that was honored at the annual banquet.  Duane and Rita Opp were awarded the 'Man of the Year' award recognizing Angus breeders for their life time achievement.  To their right, the Lambourn family, 'Commercial Breeder's of the Year'.  This award recognizes commercial cattlemen for their commitment to stewardship and Angus cattle. 

Dr. Gullickson ultra-sounding cows in November.  The majority of the herd was ultra-sounded in October (when the fetuses are easy to image, age and sex).  During this same 'chute run' in November all the cows were boosted (for adulthood vaccinations) and 'bled' to screen them for two diseases of concern in the domestic brood cow population, Johnes and Leukosis.

The cows being gathered for their November chute work.... the equivalent of  'flu clinics' for humans.

Kyle and Grandpa Lyle enjoying the first snow fall of the year in early October.

Huckle napping in the dirty laundry.

Kyle and Great Grandma Olga on Halloween

Our 'birthdays of fall' being celebrated - Brad, Pete, Lee and Kyle.

Bringing cows home from summer / fall pastures.  Pete and our friend, Jason McLennon crossing Rough Creek.

Eva and I 'turning' the herd.

Trailing a group home from the Rough Creek pasture... Pete and Dos, Kurt and Oops, Jason McLennon and Hoss.

Our trip to Fargo for the NDSU Homecoming game!  GO BISON (and yes, they are still going)!

Kyle and Grandma Rita harvested their squash and sunflowers in late September.  Lucky me!  I had a beautiful fall display on the fire place hearth.

Here is to a fall of reflection and meaning which 'fell' right into a winter that to date has been about right!  Until next time,  HAPPY TRAILS!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Town and Country - to define a community


It is true.  I have been too busy to blog lately.  Why, you ask?  Several reasons, listed for your understanding:
  1. I am the mother of a soon to be 4 year old.... who is now a preschooler at Wiggles and Giggles, started First Lutheran Church school this fall, and is soon to be a Badlands Gymnastics Tot (just like his Momma, who was in the very first class when the club first started in Watford City back in the early 1980's).
  2. We ranch and are therefore small business owners and operators.
  3. I recently went back to work selling my time and talents (debatable as to what they really are and what their value is, if any) to an agri-service business essential to our rural, ranching based community.  That gig started the end of August.
  4. I have signed on to a committee that raises funds for the continual improvement of the McKenzie County Health Care System (which includes the McKenzie County Hospital and Clinic, the Good Shepard Home and Horizon's Assisted Living, and the Healthy Hearts Wellness Center).  We are currently raising funds for our upcoming New Years Eve Event, Boots and Bling which will benefit the Clinic and it's need for equipment to improve efficiency to serve the rapidly growing population base of the county.
  5. My RLND (Rural Leadership North Dakota) project is in full swing.... and thus the primary topic for today, along with some thought provoking ideas on defining and valuing 'community' (which might lead to a bit of venting on the Bakken play and the North Dakota state government's role in my need for venting).
I started a NDSU Extension adult leadership class in December of 2011.  It has been a wonderful experience and the 18 months are proving to fly by.  One of the goals for the class beyond building a network of rural community leaders in North Dakota (to strengthen the voice of rural North Dakota) was to select an individual project.  The project was  to be one of personal interest which would bring a voice to each participants defined community.  Seems simple, but it isn't that cut and dry.  I am a part of many communities:  the Angus and Quarter Horse COMMUNITIES, a local, state, and national ranching COMMUNITY, the Tang, Best, Dahl, Levang, and Hovet (our families) COMMUNITIES, the western North Dakota COMMUNITY, the McKenzie County COMMUNITY, the Watford City COMMUNITY........ you get my point. 

After much thought and deliberation, the community that I felt needed a voice was our local geographical community of Watford City and McKenzie County.

NEWS & VENTING ALERT.......  Oil has been found here and although it has ensured the short term success of Main Street Watford City businesses, of mineral owners and of surface owners willing to sell their land at the current values, it has also put great stress on many folks and resources caught in the cross hairs of this modern day gold rush.  Currently, oil is king and it sets the standards for almost everything locally from the average commute times on the roads (which for the most part have doubled), to the crime rate (which I don't know what to say about that as it was nearly non-existent prior to the Bakken boom), to the starting hourly wage employers pay for basic employee skills (which are safety netted on a federal level in the rest of the country, but need not be here with only 2.7% unemployment).  Have I mentioned that although 8% unemployment is not good for a country, 2.7% unemployment is not good for a COMMUNITY.

Back to COMMUNITY.... I LOVE Watford City and McKenzie County.  From the time I packed my bags in the trunk of my Honda Accord and headed to NDSU in the fall of 1993 there was a constant pull back to this place.  Back to the community that celebrates it's youth and supported their endeavors.  Back to the place where champions are made through hard work, community support, and steady coaching and guidance by the best teachers and coaches in their fields.  Back to the place where our ranch just so happens to be.  The beautiful and secluded badlands near where Cherry Creek flows into the Little Missouri.  Where TR in his ranching days chased down and apprehended boat thieves and near where the first homestead claim in McKenzie County was made.  Where my sister and I climbed clay buttes and rode our horses all summer long, not thinking about the fact that our kids might not have these same opportunities.  Not realizing that things might change.......

So here I am.  Making sure that our story is told.  Making sure that this way of life, which has made 'champions in life' be told and celebrated.  Making sure that if people come here for fame and fortune or for a fresh start, that they understand this place is more than that.  That it is people who care about their neighbors.  That it is people who care about their youth.  That it is people who care about their land and where they came from.  That it is people who care about their community.... We care so much that this change hurts.  It is hard.  We worry about our families, our neighbors, our community servants.  We hold strong, together, for a quite moment, a peaceful presence, a cherished memory of what our community was.  And then we fight, together, for a bright future and a strong, reinvented community.  One, that although it will look different, will still value, cherish and celebrate what makes us US... and thus makes us COMMUNITY!

Media Men, Inc - Cody Schimick and Dan Lee (both WCHS class of 1991 graduates) were back for a week mid-September filming for the documentary, 'Cowboys and Crude - the story of McKenzie County'.  This project is primarily being funded by the Watford City Roughrider Fund, a half percent sales tax which benefits the Watford City community through funding community projects.  The goal of the documentary is to provide web support to the county's website for professional and tourism recruitment by creating clips for the website.  Additionally, a high quality, edited, voiced over documentary will tell the 'story of us'.

On the first day, we followed Mayor, Brent Sanford around and interviewed him.  The second day we watched the Watford City Wolves football team win their Homecoming game and upset the Velva Aggies.  Throughout the week we interviewed many people and listened to them tell their stories of family and community during the quiet times and the lean years.  I listened to my grandma tell of her childhood, growing up in south McKenzie County in a tar paper shack with her folks and siblings.  She was born in 1918 and she told of hard work, tough winters, determination, family, community, education, how her parents met and why they came to McKenzie County.  It was for the same reason many are coming here now.  For opportunity and fresh starts.

We learned of the strong ranching heritage of the west river country, of the making of the federal grasslands, of the great depression, of the previous two oil booms and what the Risser meant to McKenzie County.  We visited with Coach Fridley and gained insight into what motivates him to keep on inspiring young men to dig deeper for 'team' and protect that blind side.  We learned that when the last lynching in North Dakota took place, it was for reasons other than revenge.

Cody and Dan capturing the ground breaking of an income based housing project which was a combined effort of non-profit, private business (MBI) and government entities for the community of Watford City.  This project should provide much needed affordable housing for nurses, teachers and other essential service providers who are currently competing head to head with oil industry employees for housing.

Cody setting up for an interview with Watford City Mayor, Brent Sanford.

Checking the lighting before Mayor Sanford's interview.

Filming of the McKenzie County Heritage Days.  The Leiseth family provided the horse power for the thrashing demonstration.

Marlene Levang-Thompson overlooking her family land and cattle.  She shared with us insight into the first two oil booms in McKenzie County.

Dan, myself and Cody wrapping up the week after our last interview.  It was a great week.

I have always wondered why when others I grew up with were aspiring to "get out of this place", why I did not feel this way.  I can tell you that beyond all else, I needs to be close to my roots, which are here.  Whether it is out of fear of losing them, or true, deep love for them, I do not know.  I suspect it is both.  I KNOW beyond all else, I need to be near this place.  Not even the temporary nuisances (which will pass) created by this current Bakken boom can tare me away..... 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Doctor Dare and his side kick, Selkirk

And so the last two weeks of August and the first part of September have been 'gathering' time at the ranch.  When our calves are weaned from their mothers in early October it is important that the calves have had their vaccination shots and titers for immunity have had time to build in their system prior to them being weaned.  So we gather all the pairs, give the calves their vaccinations and kick them back out to grass until October.

In addition to gathering pairs, we also gather all of our heifer pastures during this time and Dr. Hovde of High Plains Vet Clinic in Sidney, MT comes out and ultrasounds them so we know their 'due' date and if they are having a boy or a girl (heifer or bull) calf next spring. We market bred heifers for 'replacement' purposes to other cattlemen in addition to our replacements for our own cow herd.

One of the contracts we held this year was for 20 of our bred heifers to be delivered to Missouri River Feeders north of Mandan by September 7th to begin their quarantine period before being flown to the country of Kazakhstan (KAZ).

In the process of riding the pasture where the 'KAZ' heifers were to gather them, my dad and Pete's dad, Lyle reported back that our good neighbor Perry Ecker had a bull in with the heifers that had foot rot.  Foot rot is a bacteria infection that gets into the foot of cattle usually through cracks in their hoof wall.  So, the big bull couldn't walk and he was in a place where pickup and stock trailer could not access him due to the rough terrain.

It was time for creativity.  The next morning, Dr. Pedersen and Dr. Gullickson from the Watford City Vet Clinic came out to meet Dr. Hovde and pick his brain on the fine art of sexing and aging embryos through ultrasound technology.  When I told Dr. Pedersen about the bull, he was up for the field trip with his tranquilizer gun and his portable field medicine box.

The missions crew members:  Selkirk Pedersen (Dr. Pedersen's son), Dr. Pedersen, Lee Murphy (my brother-in-law who provided these photos as I did not participate), Lyle Best and Kurt Hovet (the scouts and guides)....

After getting close with 4-wheelers and a big red, packing in the rest of the way to the sick bull.

Loading the tranquilizer gun and treatment syringes.

Selkirk lining out the 18 yard shot on Dr. Pedersen's soon to be patient.

Dr Dare HOPING the tranquilizer is fully effective.

It worked.  Multiple injection sites were required due to the large dosage (this 3 year old bull weighs over a ton) for a treatment plan that provides pain and inflammation relief, long term bacterial and short term bacterial control.

Taking a temperature of the big bull.

Packing up and preparing the head back home.

We enjoyed a fast rising moon that night out on Sue and Lyle's new screened in porch.

My hat's off to Dr. Dare and his side kick!  Glad to have them in the community!

Blue collar Kyle

I take great pride in watching our son, Kyle grow.  One of the many things that truly amaze me is how important it is for him to 'help'.  He wants to be part of the team and he understands how important productivity is.  He is a busy little beaver.  Labor Day was laborious around here and he was in the middle of it all.

In the morning, he went down to the Rough Creek pasture and helped his dad and grandpa fix a waterline leak.

Kyle and Grandpa Lyle digging up the leaky water line to be spliced.

Grandpa Lyle gave him the long handled shovel and he is very proud of it!

Down 'stream' from the leak.

Oops.... Didn't stay upright.

When you gotta go, you gotta go, muddy or not!
The evening brought moving replacement heifers back out to grass after ultra sounding them.  Kyle in the drivers seat of Hoss.

He has good hands already.

We both fit in Grandpa Kurt's old roping saddle.

My view from the back seat.

An excellent close to Labor Day 2012.

He is one rein away from flying solo, but that will probably wait until next year.

Supervising the gate as the heifers head back out to the north RS pasture.
So here is to our 'little hand' and Labor Day 2012!

Superman wears Dan Brown pajamas!

So the filly that went through the stapling surgery two weeks ago was having issues with rolling to the outside of her foot and uneveningly wearing her hoof down on the outside.  This issue was reducing her probablity of a successful outcome.

I called our most wonderful farrier, Dan Brown last week.  I gave him her treatment schedule (which was rebandaging every 2nd day) and determined that either Tuesday or Friday of this past week were the two prospective days.  The day was set.  Friday it was.

After consultation from Dr. Voight (who performed the surgery), an appropriate dose of Dormasedan, a little more text book research on Dan's part (who did I mention, is an excellent farrier and horseman with a great 'boots on the ground' additude), we (mostly Dan) did an outter heal to mid toe 1/2 inch buildup on the stapled leg.

The left leg that was stapled.  As you can see, it is rolling to the outside.
Rasping the first application of the 'super fast set up liquid horse shoe compound'.

Smoothing the liquid shoe on the outside sole.

Rasping the second application.

The liquid shoe compound and applicator.
I typically don't get really excited about 'stuff', but after I asked Dan if he could help this little filly, his joking response to me was, "Vawnita, Superman wears Dan Brown pajamas to bed!".... and then he got serious and said, "Truely, I think we can help her and I would love to give it a try".

This procedure turned out so well I will say "DAN BROWN REALLY IS SUPERMAN"!