More water work for mustangs

3 07 2016

Welcome back! The following is the report of work on the second day of our apron-installation project in Spring Creek Basin. (Day 3 was just some finish work; no photos.)

Make sure you have plenty of water or Gatorade, a hat, sunscreen, lip balm, more water, neck rag or shirt to soak for evaporative coolness, more water to drink – it’s HOT out there! – and let’s get started. We have a lot of ground to cover – literally!


To reintroduce you to some of our cast of characters, that’s NMA/CO president David Temple atop the Bobcat, mugging for the camera again; Mike Jensen and Justin Hunt, BLM range specialist/herd manager and range tech, respectively; and Four Corners Back Country Horsemen/Wild Bunch volunteer Frank Amthor. Did I mention that this was *weekend* work? The BLM guys are cleaning up the trench that the edges of the apron will go over and be buried into, and Frank is helping David dig out the stump of the lone (small) tree that had been standing in the way of progress.


Let’s take a closer look at that big ’ol mustang-love grin. 🙂 David has been waiting a long time to make this project happen for Spring Creek Basin mustangs!


There was a lot of measuring going on. The apron was 40 feet by 100 feet and consisted of narrow strips seamed together. The edges go over dirt berms and are then buried in dirt along those outer edges. The site was irregular because of the hill, which made for a good place of drainage with a couple of points from which water could hit and drain to the lowest point.


That irregular hill also made for some challenging measurements, and the guys decided to dig a second trench along one side to ensure apron coverage. This was hot, dusty work, and we went through gallons of water and Gatorade.


Here’s another view of the trench work. Yours truly did put down the camera and make use of the shovel in my other hand, but someone has to pull double duty and document the awesomeness! 🙂 Multitasking, don’cha know!


Yet another view and additions to our cast of characters: Advocate Kat Wilder in the center and 4CBCH volunteer/Wild Bunch rep Pat Amthor at back upper right. The pipe standing vertically at lower right is the location of the drain in the apron. When all was said and done, the pipe wasn’t that tall, of course. Behind Kat is the eventual trail of the pipe down the hill to the water tank. Please allow me this moment to point out that Pat will be 70 in a couple of months, and Frank is 73. Our volunteers rock!


Here, we’re looking back up the hill while David fills in the berm around the drain pipe. This is a good opportunity to mention that David is an absolute wizard with that machine. He joked that he needed the last 20 years to perfect his technique and be ready for this project, but that’s all to say that he has had LOTS of experience. We’d consider hiring him out if he wasn’t already so darn busy. 🙂


There’s still a lot of work to be done at this point, but this was a pretty big moment: The apron ready to be unrolled and positioned on the site. Then the big question: In which direction does it unroll??


As it turned out, not this direction. But we didn’t get too far along before we realized it. At right, Justin is handing the all-important “boot” – for the drain pipe – to Pat for safekeeping.


Did I mention that the whole thing weighs 1,000 pounds?


Now we’re cookin’ in the right direction.


While photo-documenting, I might have shed a few tears of sheer happiness at the sight of this apron moving into place. The water it will provide for our mustangs in this area of Spring Creek Basin will have a hugely positive impact on their ability to comfortably graze this area.


For good measure, here’s one more photo of the unrolling process.

The apron covers the site at the catchment project in Spring Creek Basin.

Then it was all hands on deck to (wo)manhandle the giant apron into place so it covered the whole site – yes, it was heavy, and yes, that black plastic got hot fast. The perspective: I’m at the top of the hill, Kat is walking downhill along the edge opposite the drain, Frank is at the bottom – which has a slight slope from which rain water also can drain – and Mike and Justin are at the drain-side edge. The pipe was then fitted together and laid into a trench around the side of the hill (behind Justin) and down to the tank.


Fast forward through the work of spreading and flattening and placing rocks and filling trenches to cover apron edges … and also introducing additional volunteers: Kat Wilder’s sons, Tyler (left) and Ken Lausten. This perspective is taken from the bottom (where Frank was in the previous photo) looking uphill. The drain is to the right.


Now Justin and Frank start the process of measuring the “boot” to fit over the drain pipe (which has been cut down to size in this photo – remember it very tall in earlier photos?). Behind Justin is the filter that will attach to the top of the pipe and allow water down the pipe but keep out other debris.


David starts digging the trench from the apron to the water-storage tank while Ken and Tyler are at the ready to do finer shovel work. At right, out of the frame, Justin and Frank are working on the drain pipe in the apron.


Old hands and young hands. Volunteer hands and BLM hands. Hands doing work for mustangs. YEAH! (Those helping hands are the property of Frank Amthor and Justin Hunt. 🙂 )


We love it when a plan comes together! Justin and Frank are working on the drain pipe in the apron; Ken, David, Mike and Tyler are working on the trench to hold the pipe that will carry the water; and Kat and Pat are supervising. (And I’m loving the whole blessed project!)


As volunteer photo-documenter and volunteer shoveler, one of my most solemn multitasking duties is to accept heckling – and then put it on the blog for all to see. 🙂 Fabulous job, David, Ken and Tyler!


Because, really, we absolutely cannot let all this hard, hot, dry, amazing and amazingly appreciated work go unnoticed or undocumented! We do small projects for the horses throughout the year every year that are documented for our local folks, but this was big – and it was huge – and let me say again how incredibly appreciative we are of our BLM folks and all our advocates and volunteers who make projects like this happen – through funding, through buckets of sweat (it’s “dry” heat, right?!) and through lots of tears of happiness while we try to make sure photos are in focus. 🙂


Because people are watching to see how we have made Spring Creek Basin’s mustang-management style a model. It takes hard work, but it IS possible to work in partnership for our mustangs – and we’re proving it – and our horses are worth every bit of that effort.


This work was hard to illustrate. The “boot” had to be sealed to the apron liner so water will go through the filter to the pipe, not leak out around the edges where the pipe comes through the apron. Justin is using a tool that directs heat (it’s plugged into a portable generator), and Frank is using a little roller to press the heated boot plastic to the apron plastic. As if it weren’t hot enough (did anyone actually look? the air temp may have been in the upper 90s, but on that black plastic, it probably was at least 115 degrees), they’re applying *more* heat. All in the name of gettin’ ’er done for our mustangs.


Ahh! Thanks, Kat! Pat brought the umbrella … and no, we were not expecting rain.


This angle shows a little better what’s going on with that plastic boot and the heat gun.


Meanwhile, work on the trench had progressed to the point that allowed Ken and Tyler to start carrying lengths of pipe up the hill to glue together and place in the trench. In this view, you can see the water-storage tank. Also hard to illustrate is just how steep is this part of the hill. Barely in view down the hill at left are the pipes Ken and Tyler carried on their *other* shoulders to that point from the pile in front of the trucks farther downhill.


Ken and Tyler get right to work gluing pipe together for the long run to the tank.


And David and Mike continue digging the trench down the hill to the tank.


And Tyler and Ken glue more pipe.


Using the technique perfected by Justin and Frank, Mike helps Justin attach another section of apron to the main apron in order to have more surface to bury over the berm in the trench. Because our site isn’t rectangular, we trimmed plastic in a couple of areas and added those pieces to a couple of areas for mo’ bettah coverage in places where needed.


My oh mustang my! Doesn’t that look like it will catch and carry a lotta water for our wild ponies??


It hasn’t yet been mentioned how HOT it was (! OK, it miiiiiight have been mentioned) during this weekend work project. It hadn’t rained in weeks (possibly close to two months), and it was as hot and dry as Southwest Colorado can be (and given our location as high-elevation desert, it can be pretty toasty with temps into the 100s, which we’ve seen already). Fortunately, it was generally breezy enough to keep the gnats at bay. Here, awesome lady advocates Pat and Kat are using ice packs to stay cool under the shade of a handy juniper at the work site.


Mike also thought that was a pretty terrific idea.


David was glad to get off of his bucking Bobcat and start putting together valve parts in the shade of the water tank. The pipe-filled trench gets to the tank immediately to the right of where he’s sitting.


Of course, he had to get right back on that pony – err, Bobcat – and finish the job to end the ride on a positive note: filling the trench and covering the new pipeline, which is worth its (considerable) weight in gold.

Camera-holding and other hands were needed to wrestle the final pipe sections into place to get in line with the tank’s existing steel fitting, so the photos end here. David did quite a bit more work around the apron and installed some water-erosion ditches on the access road this day and the next (third) day, and we also removed the tractor tire (which had served as a trough with a bentonite-and-soil bottom) to put in place a new water trough provided by BLM. As it turned out (after we got our first little rain showers to test – yahoo!), the steel fitting that was at the tank had cracked and was leaking a bit (Colorado’s freeze-and-thaw action at work), so we’ll replace that as well.

After the holiday, BLM folks and volunteers will return to the site of our big achievement to replace that steel fitting, scatter seeds of native grasses around the apron and along the covered pipeline (disturbed areas), and install the new trough to the existing pipeline downhill from the tank.

And once again, it’s imperative that we thank all the people who provided all the hands and funds and supportive efforts that made this water project happen for our Spring Creek Basin mustangs: BLM range staff, Wild Bunch members, unaffiliated advocates and family members (including the ones who allowed us weekend time with their husbands and daddies). Specifically, for your labor and engineering and exemplary work ethic, thank you to Mike Jensen, Justin Hunt, Garth Nelson, David Temple, Pat and Frank Amthor, Kat Wilder, Ken Lausten and Tyler Lausten. For your organization and funding and support behind the scenes, thank you to Connie Clementson, Tif Rodriguez, Lyn Rowley, Lynda Larsen, Sandie Simons, Nancy Schaufele, Karen Keene Day, David and Nancy Holmes, and the Serengeti Foundation.

In spirit, always, thank you, Pati Temple, for our cherished memories of your mustang advocacy and for continuing to watch over and guide us in this work. (I’m pretty sure you had a hand in the recent, blessed rains we have received!)

Everyone, we appreciate your planning, your work, your funding, your organization and your love for our most beloved Spring Creek Basin mustangs.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




13 responses

3 07 2016

Oh my, I cried at the picture of hands. It just makes me grateful we,Frank and I can help the young ones. Thank you for the story and the pictures. What a blessing it is to be involved with the horses all these years.
Thanks to Biff Stransky puppfor getting the 4CBCH doing the wild horse count all those years ago

3 07 2016
Sandy Harris

You folks are fabulous! It is great to see what can be accomplished when working together for a common goal. Sandy

Sent from my iPad


3 07 2016

TJ, you sure know how to tell the story in words and pictures! Amazing work. I think I might have a touch of heat stroke just looking at those pictures!

3 07 2016

Well done. By all involved. And Thank You.
It’s good for the soul.
Thanks for sharing.

3 07 2016

It sure made me cry tears of happiness – for the wild ones (all of them) and the fact that you all have such a good relationship with your local BLM office. What a wonderful project and wonderful people involved! Thank you from afar!

3 07 2016
Sue Story

Just outstanding – your pictures and narrative TJ, the hard, hot work all of you did, watching the beautiful water catchment system “unfold” and take shape in your pictures, and the joy of knowing that our wonderful mustangs will have an additional water source. Thank you, thank you, to everyone.

3 07 2016

God bless you all and your dedicated support and hard work for OUR cherished Mustangs!

3 07 2016
Karen Day

This project is even all the more amazing looking at how far back it has been in the making! Here’s to all of you and our wondrous wild mustangs future!!

6 07 2016

Karen, thank you for your generous donations from your amazing paintings that you always specified go toward water and water projects for our mustangs! 🙂

6 07 2016
Nancy Holmes

What an awesome job from all the people involved! Helping to do the initial measuring was easy compared to the “hands on” work ya’ll did! Mustang love powers all kinds of great things!

6 07 2016

Thanks, Mom, and everyone for your appreciation of our BLM guys, our volunteers and our efforts for our mustangs! 🙂 My mom and dad – from Texas – were involved in two different planning excursions to this site, helping with ideas and measurements and layout suggestions. “Mustang love powers all kinds of great things” – I LOVE that!

12 07 2016

Unbelievable. Kuddos to everyone for carrying on the dreams that began so many years ago. I’m not sure what makes me prouder; the beauty of the critters that are roaming the HMA, the dedication of some of the “old timers” that worked along side me oh so many years ago, the commitment of those BLMers to allow some of those great improvements to continue, the energy/enthusiasm/passion of the young’uns to carry on, or just those big smiles from doing what we can to make the Spring Creek HMA a little bit better. You’re all ROCK STARS!!!

Thanks for sharing.


13 07 2016

Thank YOU, Wayne, for getting the whole advocacy ball rolling on behalf of our Spring Creek Basin mustangs! Where would they be today if you hadn’t appealed to the Durango ladies all those many years ago?? We wouldn’t be in the excellent situation we’re in, that’s for sure. So thank you!!!!!!!!! Come visit us some day … gnat season is almost over. 🙂

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