A Merry Christmas to all from our Absarokee, Montana home. The Mytton 2013 year has been made extremely memorable thanks to some great friends and travels that led us to meet interesting people and realize experiences we have dreamed about for years. The first adventure for the year was Bill and our neighbor, Clyde Windecker, driving to Denver, Colorado to take in the cattle dog trials at the National Western Stock Show. They spent time with Jim, Mary and Raleigh Whalen and Mary’s 91-year-old dad, Spud Murphy, and reminisced about last year’s summer tour we took with them and the Windeckers, Clyde and Sonja. Spud, who years ago managed Kendrick Cattle Company, guided our tour of the historic Kendrick/Padlock cattle ranches on the border of Montana and Wyoming. Spud has an incredible memory and told fascinating stories about the old cowboy ways and his adventures as a fighter pilot flying Corsairs in the Pacific theater in World War II. Bill and Clyde then had a great visit with Tom and Consuelo Williams in Colorado Springs, the highlight being a delicious Mexican meal in “Old Colorado City” and listening to Tom’s very tall tales. A big “thank you” must also go to Jim Maguire for the tour he gave them of his phenomenal personal museum near Monument, Colorado. Jim’s collection would already rival any of the more well-known Western museums, but his flair for storytelling puts his tour over the top.

In April, we headed for Australia. Unlike our usual boring layover in Los Angeles, this trip we were invited to spend a most enjoyable day and have a delicious meal with Bill and Peggy Cox. Peggy was Janice’s classmate and friend at U.C. Davis Veterinary School. They have kept in touch so that they can still vividly remember those shared experiences, even if they can’t remember the names of all of the foramina of the skull.

When we arrived in Australia, we headed directly to the National Kelpie Field Trial in Allora, Queensland. We especially enjoyed visiting with our friends Kevin and Kay Howell, Bill and Marg Scott, Rex and Kay Hocking, Scott Amon and David Motley, in addition to having the opportunity to talk with the dean of kelpie books, Tony Parsons. Barry Doonan came to the trial and commented that the old time dogs had a lot more discipline than the current batch. He referenced his “White Dog” that won many championships years ago, but Barry is known to be very opinionated and biased to border collies, even though his dad was a kelpie man.

The main reason for this trip to Australia was to travel with our old mate, Barry Doonan. Barry is a legend in Australia as a stockman and station owner, as well as a master bell maker of genuine Condamine bells, old-fashioned horse and cow bells that can be heard for miles. We went camping for four weeks with Barry to the Outback of Australia, visiting and working on some of the biggest cattle stations in southwestern Queensland. These stations included the famous Kidman properties that ranged from 2.5 to 6 million acres in size. We had a great visit with David Brook in the famous town of Birdsville, Queensland. It was here that Bill entered their annual rodeo in bronco catching and branding after a one day tutorial on David’s Adria Downs Station, where we branded and practiced roping Australian style on some big steers. Our letter head shows Bill leaving the competition, the first “Yank” to compete. We especially appreciated the time we spent with Peter Nunn on Adria Downs learning about the Birdsville area and comparing the American and Australian ways of working livestock. Several of Peter’s family members used to manage Kidman’s Anna Creek Station, which was close to 6 million acres in size and considered the world’s largest working cattle station. There is a picture on our card of us, after working cattle with Peter, enjoying a cold beverage on the top of Big Red, the tallest and most famous of the numerous sand dunes that travellers must traverse when crossing the Simpson Desert.

Another picture shows Barry and Bill in our typical camp, enjoying the smell of lamb chops and damper cooking over an open fire. We saw many dingoes and beautiful birds such as corellas and galahs, but nothing poisonous. We slept in our swags (bedrolls) under the multitude of stars, including the Southern Cross constellation. The facts are highly disputed and completely clouded by Jameson Whiskey, but there was a late night bet that we believe made us the owners of Barry’s Graceland Station. We are planning to hire cooks, ringers, station mechanics and a pilot in the near future to work on our property (feel free to send us your resume). By the way, Barry will be taking care of the gardens and running errands as we agreed to keep him involved as the caretaker of the now American-owned property.

When we returned to the ranch, we had some much needed June rains which helped our hay crop immensely. We are very pleased that Nate and Fay Espeland continue to lease our ranch and Bill enjoyed baling hay with Nate, especially when the fields looked packed with bales versus empty as they were during the drought of 2012. We also used our dogs quite a bit to move cows and sheep, as can be seen in the picture of Bill on Dreamer at our front gate.

We both agree that some of the most memorable days we spent in 2013 were helping the Operation Second Chance organization with their summer retreats and first ever hunting season groups of “Purple Heart” veterans that came directly from Walter Reed Hospital to spend some relaxing time in Montana. They had a wonderful hunt, thanks to some dear friends who opened their ranches to four veterans, all of whom were amputees wounded during their service in Afghanistan. Seth Nieman, Chris Hemwall, Rex Thorp and Adam Devine all shot very nice mule deer bucks, with Adam also getting a 5-point bull elk on the first day of hunting in his life. To give you a feel about how helpful our community was to these heroes, Chris and Adam were shopping in Red Lodge for gifts to take home to their wives and asked if the store had a military discount. When they went to check out, the cashier gave them a significant discount, which they questioned as it was much more than the usual 10% discount. The owner replied that these heroes had indeed given considerably more than 10% to their country. Need we say more!!!!!!!!!!

We wish our very best to all in the New Year. Janice wants to send a special hug and kiss to Paul and Dorothy Marty, who are Janice’s “Wisconsin family” and exemplify the true meaning of Christmas.

Happy Trails in 2014! Bill and Janice

Bill and Janice Mytton