Tag Archives: Jesse Ballantyne

Cattle “Hat Cam” Debuts and One Week Later, I Dare to Reminisce…

I wonder if there is a line of demarcation following momentous events in one’s life—you know, a dateline you cross that either makes it okay to talk about “it” some more, or on the other hand, signals a point when you really should just let it rest and let everyone around you forget what a great time you had…since it was probably without them.

In this case, a week of work and city under the belt, plus an unruly hurricane bearing down on the Trafalgar Square Books offices, not to mention the homes of family, friends, and colleagues, has made the fading taste of latigo, sweat, and sun-faded grasses a little sweeter and a little stronger…dare I say for “old times’ sake”? It doesn’t take long to make a soft bed and good meal a distant memory. Nor do many days have to pass before a new friend, once close enough to share a quiet riding moment with…or a sunrise…or a flickering campfire…seems almost a stranger again.

The horses I had the pleasure of riding over the course of the week I spent with TSB Managing Director Martha Cook on the Padlock Ranch in Ranchester, Wyoming, have no doubt forgotten me—my scent, my voice, perhaps my weight in the saddle. They have done well by another rider by now…or more likely several. I am not inclined to imagine that they might remember me the way I remember them: Copper…patient, sure-footed, and sweet-faced; Smoky…with a nose for a cow and an unusual gaseous propensity; and TJ…so sensitive off the leg and weight aid, big, and handsome. When we drove off the ranch we crossed their dateline. We no longer figure into their work-oats-range equation.

I’ve wondered a bit if I’ll find the time in the months ahead to sift through the hundreds of photos I haven’t posted here, in order to show more of them. I’ve pondered whether it is worth it–whether anyone really cares. But then, this evening, I finally had a chance to edit down one of the “hat cam” movies I managed to capture (against all odds), and I found myself transported for an hour to a quiet mountain range deep in the middle of this expansive country. I lived it all over again, for a few minutes, right here at my desk.

And that is worth sharing.

The song is “Grandfather’s Brand” by the Padlock’s own Jesse Ballantyne, from the album Cowboy Serenade. Like it like I do? You can download it HERE.


Day Four: Muffins, Mountains, and “Doughies” (and Horses, Too)

This morning I had the best muffin I have ever tasted for breakfast. I thought it might be the way it was baked, but I’ve discovered it owes its singular “delectability” to the fact that, while still warm, it was rolled in butter and doused in cinnamon and sugar.

I somehow ended the day as I began it, reveling in the marvels of culinary wizardry (and frankly, butter) as Martha and I were introduced to a campfire treat known to the Johnson clan as a “Doughie.” With the help of Pillsbury biscuit mix and a patent-pending cooking device that I can promise you will all want once you’ve tried one of these buttery balls of coal-fired goodness, Kristin Johnson delivered, as promised, something far better than the traditional S’more. No kidding. Doughies are the next big thing (around campfires, anyway).

Sandwiched between puffed, buttered, and sugared pastry was a day high up in the Bighorn National Forest–well, we were actually mostly in the grasslands that are located in the Bighorn Mountains, and while some of it is indeed forested, much of it is open and provides grazing for a few hundred head of the Padlock’s cows, calves, and bulls. Ranchers can graze cattle in the Bighorns if they secure a permit to do so, and in tougher years when feed may be scarce, the additional territory can prove invaluable.

Today we actually moved cattle from one part of the permitted area to another, and while really a rather orderly and slow-moving affair, it proved exciting for Martha and me nonetheless. I actually obtained live “hat-cam” footage of this momentous event…unfortunately, the very large video file is proving difficult to download, so you’ll all have to wait.

Isaac Johnson led us all to as idyllic a spot in the world as I’ve yet come upon…at the foot of a rocky face that jutted out of the ground, piercing an untarnished blue sky, wound a cold bubbling river. Far off at the end of a not-unpleasantly boggy meadow we could see two cabins, barely visible at the edge of the woods. A fly fisherman was casting into the rapids as we rode the horses to the river’s edge. There we dismounted, offered the horses a drink and a chance to graze, while we each indulged in a few quite moments…with our horses, with each other, with the grasses at our feet and mountains surrounding us…it was easily the most profound 15 minutes of peace I have known–or at least that I can remember.

I wish that this property, its people, its ideals, and its timelessness, would make itself just a little harder to love and a little easier to leave. I can’t help but wonder, once the sun has set on this week, how I can possibly find a way back again.

Kristin Johnson’s Padlock Muffins (courtesy of Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

Padlock Guest Lodge Hostess and Head-of-Kitchen Kristin Johnson highly recommends this cookbook, and after a glance through, I have to agree–the recipes are great and Ree shares charmingly written anecdotes that will surely make you smile. So will these muffins:

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup shortening

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 F

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, cream the sugar and shortening, then add the eggs. Alternate adding the flour mixture and 1/3 of the milk to the creamed mixture, then fill greased muffin cups, bake for 20 to 25 minutes, and remove from the pan. Melt 2 sticks of butter and combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with 3 teaspoons cinnamon. Dip the warm muffins in  the butter, then roll them in the sugar and cinnamon. Seriously. And Kristin says you really should use 2 sticks of butter.

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