Montana rancher Darrell Stevenson teams up with two Russian cattlemen to export an entire cow outfit to the Russian steppes. In the first of a three-part series, the author rides along with the Stevenson cowboys to the land of borscht, fallow land and the $75 steak dinner.
By Ryan T. Bell
In the Judith Basin of central Montana nuclear missile silos pockmark the ground like an atomic-age prairie dog town. They were installed in the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War with Russia. Of course, the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991 and most of the missiles are now deactivated. But Cold War phobias live-on in the psyche of cowboys that ride herd amidst the sleeping giants of havoc.
That’s why it was shocking for locals to learn that Judith Basin rancher Darrell Stevenson was taking 1,434 cattle, 5 Quarter Horses and a team of cowboys to start a ranch in Russia. Continue reading →
For a group of cowboys hired by the USDA, patrolling for stray cattle carrying a deadly tick species has become increasingly dangerous along the hostile Texas-Mexico border.
Story and photography by Ryan T. Bell
The international border between Texas and Mexico is a hot zone – in more ways than one. Climatically, high temperatures break 100 degrees for months at a time. Politically, the boundary is rife with tensions over immigration and drug trafficking from Mexico. And biologically, the region is home to one of the largest disease hot zones in the world, the “fever tick quarantine zone.”
The 700-mile long quarantine zone follows the Rio Grande River from Amistad Reservoir (near the Texas boot heel) to the Gulf of Mexico. It acts as a buffer against the spread of the tick boophilus annulatus, a.k.a. the “fever tick.” This dastardly arachnid sucks the lifeblood out of horses and cattle, and spreads the deadly disease bovine piroplasmosis.
Patrolling the area are 61 Texas cowboys known as Tick Riders, hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to round up stray livestock that transport the ticks from Mexico. That most Americans haven’t heard of the Tick Riders is a testament to how well they do their job. If fever ticks infiltrated the quarantine zone, the nation would know because cattle and horses would die by the thousands. Continue reading →
West Texas horseman Joel Nelson reflects on the poetic life and how it feels to be a man who has willingly submitted to his muse.
On an unseasonably cool July morning in the Davis Mountains of southwest Texas, Joel Nelson drives through a pasture of Corriente cattle. He recently drilled a well in the pasture, so he’s checking to make sure that water is flowing properly before the heat of the day arrives to parch the cattle.
Maybe it’s the repetitive nature of the chore, but Nelson is in a pensive frame of mind. He recites a favorite quote by the poet Stanley Kunitz:
“If we want to know what it felt like to be alive at any given moment in the long odyssey of the race, it is to poetry we must turn.”
“Boy,” he says, “that nails what poetry means in about as few words as you could hope to get it said in.”
Trail riding and lake fishing go together like, well, fresh-caught trout cooked over a campfire with lemon and butter. So the first time I returned a living trout to a mountain lake, my inner-hunter asked, “What’s the point?” while my stomach grumbled, “There goes dinner.” Fishing regulations allowed me to keep the trout, but I’d noticed over the years that my favorite lake had fewer and fewer fish. So, I released my catch to swim another day.
It turns out, diminishing fish populations are an issue facing mountain lakes across the American West. In the past year, major backcountry areas in California and Washington have cut back their fish stocking programs. Why are they picking a fight with fish?
Horses and the card game poker were a recipe for mayhem in the Wild West. But not today. Horseback poker rides are now charitable events during which trail riders enjoy a day in the backcountry while raising money for a worthy cause. And, as I discovered on a ride last spring in Virginia City, Montana, the events are a good way to bomb-proof a saddle horse under crowded trail conditions.
Four hundred years ago this month, Italian scientist Galileo Galilei published the first book of astronomy, Starry Messenger. It reported such discoveries as the moon is pocked with craters, Jupiter is orbited by moons, and “light clouds” in the night sky are actually clusters of stars (such as, the Milky Way). In honor of this milestone, which forever changed man’s relationship with the heavens, I spoke with an expert astronomer George Beimel, board member at the Museum of the Rockies, for tips on stargazing in the backcountry.
The food at Longview Steakhouse isn’t what you’d expect to find in the Canadian Rockies. Driss Belmoufid, a Moroccan immigrant, opened the restaurant in 1994. The facade lacks the grandeur of a typical steakhouse (it looks like a flower shop), but walk inside and the aromas of turmeric and saffron clear the sinus of preconceived notions.
Ian Tyson has been “eating grub line” for two-weeks on a concert tour through Idaho and Wyoming. Now home in Alberta, he’s ready for a meal with some effort put into it and his choice of Longview Steakhouse is evidence of his knack for finding the West’s back alleys and underdog characters.