Mustang. Rimrocks. Utah mountains. Clouds in the sky (rare). Body, grounded.
Kwana. The eyes are windows. The eyes are mirrors. His look like the blue of Earth from space. The Earth that allows our lives as we circle the sun. What we do under that sun affects everything. Do good.
Amazingly, all 10 Missourians came back yesterday for their second day of work on Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern boundary fence line. Actually, it’s no surprise! Students returned bundled up against the brisk wind and gathered beneath the Temple-Butte-dominated horizon – dusted with snow! – to gather tools and supplies and head back up the trail. Smiling. 🙂
Day 2 was more of the same: Taking out old wire, stringing new wire, installing staves to keep the wires stable. Here, MK Thompson (SJMA), Evan, Aloe, Tom West (SJMA), Jordyn and Mary wire in staves while Jessi carries a bucket containing more cut-wire pieces and Zach carries more staves.
Two more H-braces were built – Miranda pounds in the spike to attach cross post to brace post.
More wire was tightened to hold H-braces in place – Aloe twisted the post with help from student leader Chalen (far right) and BLM range tech Justin Hunt.
Did someone mention all the staves wired in place? Evan, Aloe, Jessi and Lauren complete the task, which is the last step in each fence section.
But this group did something a liiiiiittle bit differently this year.
They put items in an ammo box designed to serve as a time capsule, to commemorate their time in Southwest Colorado and Spring Creek Basin. Items included notes written to future fence-builders (or themselves in 20 years?!), a Mizzou ball cap signed by students, BLM and volunteers, an SJMA bandana, a pair of watermelon-colored sunglasses similar to the protective eyewear issued to students without their own shades and – appropriately – a pair of fencing pliers.
To end the day, students took turns pounding a “golden” spike into their last H-brace post …
… then gathered ’round to collectively feel the good vibe!
Of course, the very last task is to carry out old wire and tools.
It was the girls – Mary and Sarah – who still had the strength to carry the lion’s share of old wire on one of the heavy tamp bars.
Young ladies and gents, sincere, heart-felt and appreciative THANK YOU for your work to help rebuild our fence and keep our mustangs safe! At the end of the day, we drove into Spring Creek Basin to see those for which we labor with such good cheer: the mustangs. We saw several bands and got to see some of the horses “running with the wind.” They make all our labors worthwhile!
Justin, Mike, Aloe, Miranda, Zach, Lauren, Sarah, Mary, Evan, Jordyn, Chalen, Jessi, Kathe and MK (and Tom and Dave) … thank you, thank you, thank you! (The box on the cross post is the time capsule, and it was buried in the hole Jessi and Kathe are *not* falling into!)
Mizzou, every spring, you send us a crew of brilliant, enthusiastic, kind, productive, hard-working and happy young people. Hopefully we send them back to Columbia with one-of-a-kind memories of an experience that will stick with them for the next 20 years. We think our fence will last at least double that, but we’ll see you in 2035 to find out!
Thank you, truly, for your exceptional work for our mustangs. 🙂
It is alternative spring break time again in Missouri and Colorado! This is the awesome time of year when the weather is fabulous and the University of Missouri sends us several of their marvelous students to do good work on San Juan public lands. This includes Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area, managed out of Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores.
This is the fourth year students have helped us rebuild the basin’s southeastern boundary fence. Here are some more stats: This is the third straight year for student leader Chalen (who got married right before coming to Colorado – congrats!). It’s the 19th year of the alternative spring break program here; that means next year will be the 20th year! Wow. Kathe Hayes, leader extraordinaire and volunteer coordinator with San Juan Mountains Association, has been organizing this program for “16 or 17 years.” She may have said 17 years last year, so she may be underestimating her dedication to this super program.
Chalen said Mizzou sent 138 crews out of Missouri this school year for projects in the USA and abroad. Wow again!
As always, we are incredibly appreciative and wonderfully humbled by the students’ enthusiasm and get-‘er-done attitudes. Most come with little or no fence-building experience, but as Kathe noted at the start of the day, they all came equipped with excellent footwear!
Let’s take a look at their progress Tuesday:
Zach and Evan were two of three boys (including Chalen) on the crew this year. Here, they’re carrying a roll of wire and a tamp bar to the start of the to-be-worked-on fence (we should measure this – probably half a mile from the road? – and it ain’t flat). Jessi follows them with buckets of tools. Check out the awesome fence beside them, built by last year’s crew.
Putting their muscles to work right off the bat. It is NOT easy to carry those wire rolls.
BLM herd manager Mike Jensen demonstrates the use of fencing pliers to the girls: Miranda, Sarah, Mary, Lauren, Jordyn and Aloe.
SJMA’s Kathe Hayes and BLM’s Dave Sanders walk along the fence where Sarah, Miranda, Mary and Aloe are undoing the wire pieces that hold old barbed wire strands to fence posts.
After they removed the wire, they had to roll the wire – again, NOT easy. Sarah, Aloe, Jordyn and Jessi keep their strands untangled.
It’s hard to tell what’s going on here, but Mike and Chalen are moving an old tree away from the fence line. It fell in such a way that previous fencers used one spike of a root to stabilize wires. It was cool! But ultimately not very appropriate. Sigh. If you must …!
Kathe demonstrates the start of the wire roll to Mary.
On any fence-building project, there’s a little bit of this – carrying rolls from brace to brace. Chalen and Zach carry the wire while Mike follows to keep it smooth.
Before the new wire gets strung, the old wire must be rolled. Lauren shows off a perfect roll!
Do these girls know how to have fun or what? Lauren (right) and MK rolled one strand of wire from either end and met in the middle, where Miranda stepped in to separate the two.
Sarah shows off her wire roll while Miranda prepares to photobomb!
Kathe heckles the photographer …
… then shows off her mad fence-post-pounding skills!
It’s not ALL about work. We do allow a few minutes for lunch, during which, we got to know a little more about the students and what they’re studying at Mizzou. This year, students span all classes – from freshmen to seniors – and have a variety of majors: accounting, photography, journalism, forestry, exercise science, health science, anthropology/international studies. Most are from Missouri, but others are from Illinois and Texas (interestingly enough, a town in the same county as yours truly’s parents call home).
After lunch, it was right back to work. Sarah, Miranda and Zach (and others) took turns pounding through shale to dig a hole for a new brace post. Talk about sweat equity!
Students coined a new term this year: fox-holing. Instead of using what was decided to be the most inefficient tool of all time – the post-hole digger – students shoveled dirt and shale out by hand.
Hole-digging is an arduous process, especially through rock. Justin Hunt (BLM range tech) and MK Thompson (SJMA) double their digging.
Mike drills a hole for a spike to be pounded to attach the brace post to the tree while Chalen steadies the post. Readers may remember that the southeastern fence line is wholly within McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, where no mechanized or motorized tools are allowed.
After the hole is drilled, Jessi pounds the spike. The drilled hole eases the way, but it still requires some muscle!
Tightening the wires on the braces is fascinating stuff! Go, Mike! Jessi, Kathe, MK, Chalen and Jordyn appreciate the effort. Note the fancy duct-tape circling Jordyn’s jeans-clad leg, which fell prey to a barbed-wire barb – a hazard of working with the stuff.
Yep, there was more of this with Zach and Evan doing the heavy lifting and Mary keeping the wire flowing free.
The students built two braces yesterday. Jordyn, Kathe and Aloe help Mike (out of sight behind the tree) while Justin and Miranda (background) feed the wire from the roll.
Kathe pounds a staple to attach wire around a tree at a brace (out of sight to the right). She soon switched from fencing pliers to a bigger mallet.
This post was pretty wobbly with a rotten bottom. MK rocked it out of the ground, and Dave sawed the rotten bottom off with help from Evan. When they flipped it (the former top went bottom-down in the new hole), they wanted it to look pretty for the mustangs! Always thinking about the horses – love it!
Old wire out (and rolled) – check. Braces built – check. New wire strung – check. Clips attaching wire strands to T-posts (and staples to wood posts) – check. More new wire strung – check!
Sore arms are a given after a day on the fence line (and they’re coming back today!). Sore cheeks from smiling? Yep, those, too. MK and Justin attach wire to the tree to run to the next brace.
Jordyn and Mary use a measuring stick to attach the top wire of the new fence. Students are following wildlife-friendly fence-building concepts; the top and bottom strands are smooth-twisted wire (for wildlife), and the middle two strands are barbed (to deter cattle). The bottom strand is 16 inches off the ground to allow fawn and (elk) calf movement, and the top and second-from-top strands are wider spaced to prevent legs from getting twisted in the wire when jumping the fence. Note the helpful “UP” note on the measuring stick.
Note the great smiles! In the background, Mike and Kathe admire the students’ handiwork.
Kathe, Mary and Sarah carry old-wire rolls back to the trucks at the end of the day.
By the time we got organized enough to take a group pic with the wire proof of their labors, Evan, Aloe and Jordyn already had headed for the trucks. We’ll get a group pic today with everyone! Front row from left: Kathe, Sarah, Lauren and Mary. Back row from left: Justin, Chalen, Miranda, Dave, Zach, Jessi, Mike and MK.
THANK YOU, Mizzou students! Every year, you impress us with your energy and ability to make a mundane, labor-intensive job a whole lot of fun. This year is no exception, and we so appreciate that you chose to come to Southwest Colorado for your spring break, to work instead of party – though we hope you have a lot of fun!
Kwana hangs out with his other pal, Kreacher, in luscious light. Note by the lift of their forelocks and sweep of their tails that the spring winds are here.
In other news, the Missourians are coming! The Missourians are coming! Actually, they’re already here in Southwest Colorado to work on public-lands projects. Today and tomorrow, they’ll be in Spring Creek Basin, continuing the fence-building/replacing project that started four years ago along our southeastern boundary. As always, we’re excited to work with these enthusiastic young folks on a project that benefits our mustangs!