C2C: Ranching, marijuana and apple pie

Shonda Daily forks grass hay to a grateful herd of beef cows. BY DENNIS FORNEY
June 2, 2013

DAY 19 – Canyoneering across America – We left Baker City around noon today after spending time doing laundry and getting our bikes checked out at the Main Street bicycle shop. The man said our chains were about due for replacement so he put a new one on Becky's bike and put hers on mine since it had less stretch in it than mine. He only had one ten-speed chain. Otherwise I'd have a new one too. Tooling through the Powder River Canyon was fun. Lots of black-tailed deer eating and relaxing along the banks of the flowing water. Beyond the river the high desert was barren of everything but sage bush. No trees on the big hills, just the cottonwoods and willows by the river. This was the eastern Oregon Bill was talking about.

Out the east side of the canyon, the hillsides started greening. I saw a farmer forking hay to a herd of eager beef cows.

I motioned around us. “Is this why they call this area Richland?”

“Well,” he said, “it's not because we have a lot of money. We just get a little more rain than they do further up.”

Shondo Daily. “My mother's friend had a brother named Shondo. Far as I know we're the only two Shondos there is. When you have a crazy name, people don't tend to mess with you.”

This is beef cattle and pasture country. Cattle are being moved up from their winter pens to the spring and summer pastures. “I have two guys I hire just to ride the cattle – make sure they're OK, move them from pasture to pasture. There's a lot more to it than just putting them out on the range and watching them.”

Shondo pointed to a patch of rocks down by the river a mile or so away and up toward a canyon, toward Baker City. “Up there where you can see the trees. We either own all of that or have permits to use it all. Some Bureau of Land Management, other's private. About 50,000 acres I'd say. All pasture. That's enough to sustain about 900 cows.”

He said the hay he was forking over to the cows was grass hay. “Maybe a little alfalfa mixed in. But up until October or November they will be growing on the grass that nature provides.”

Shondo directed us toward the pretty little town of Richland. Population 196. “Annie's Café is excellent and so is the Shorthorn.”

“Sounds good,” I said. “I think we'll try them both.”

We did. Root beer float at Annie's followed by a fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, white gravy and broccoli at the Shorthorn. I wanted a piece of the apple pie with ice cream for dessert but the root beer float before dinner left no room. Unless, of course, I had been like the older lady at Annie's.

She and her husband were sitting at the counter and had just finished supper. Then I saw Annie scoop out two big dips of vanilla ice cream, put it on about half an apple pie on a white china plate, and place it in front of the lady. About the time I finished cleaning the ice cream out of my float I looked to see how she was making out with her dessert.

“I can't believe you ate all of that,” I said.

“I did,” she said, “and enjoyed every bit of it.”

Then she went on to tell me she had stomach surgery four or five months back.

“It wasn't healing right and I didn't have any appetite. Then the doctor gave me a prescription with some marijuana in it. That brought my appetite back. Makes me want to eat everything.”

She looked at her husband. “How many times is that I've eaten today?”

“Three or four,” he said. “It sure does make her want to eat.”

More nice people. We headed east from town after dinner. The air as gentle and soft as the last light of the day. Set up camp by the Brownlee Reservoir. Sun's down now. A few doves cooing. Becky's in the tent dreaming about hiring someone with a pick-up to take us over the next pass.

“I'd do it in a minute and never give it a second thought.”

Here are some photos from today. We cross a high pass in the morning and then drop down into the Snake River Canyon. As usual, not much in the way of phone reception here so I'll probably have to wait until Sunday to post this. So since it will probably be Sunday when you read this, once again, praise God from whom all blessings flow. I'm happy to report that we've now logged 645 miles on this great adventure.

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