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Landmarks on wheels

Tayler Teichert for Progressive Cattleman Published on 04 October 2016
old bus

“You’ll go just past Mineral Springs and hang a right at the camp trailer. If you pass a random recliner on a switchback in the road, you went too far. You will know when you’ve made it to the paint cans because you get service and there is a little clearing in the sagebrush.”

If you live in rural America, I am sure you have gotten some directions similar to these. When you have lived somewhere forever, you know about all these landmarks, but if you are new to the area, you have no idea what they are talking about, especially when these so-called landmarks aren’t permanent!

“Mineral Springs” is our newest landmark – a few weeks ago, a guy on our crew went out to pump water and came back with this new addition to the ranch. The waterline had a crack and created some mud on the road, but he was feeling brave and decided to stay on the soggy road and just blow through it (well, it didn’t exactly happen that way). He got very stuck with no shovel or cell service. He had a handy man jack and 23 bags of mineral in his gasser Ford. I’m not sure how he did it, but I’m guessing he used most of the mineral and all of his swear words to get out of that one. It is up in the air on how many bags were used in this process, but he informed us that spot will be called Mineral Springs from here forward. The spring has since dried up, and the cows have probably found the mineral, thus doing away with Mineral Springs.

My first week of work, we went to clean “The Rabbit,” a large allotment with a lot of rabbits and rabbitbrush – I can understand that name. My brother and I got sent on circles to the west, and they told us to cross the creek at the camp trailer (that had been there for 20 years) – we did and it worked out great. A few days later, we went to re-ride The Rabbit and we knew we needed to cross at the camper, but we got a bit discombobulated because there was no camper to be found. After a while of trotting around, we found a pile of trash and some fresh tracks pulling the old honeymoon shack off to its new love birds. Landmarks should not be allowed to have wheels!

A few years ago, I was going on an evening drive up Burma Road, and as I rounded a corner, I came across an abandoned recliner sitting in the sagebrush. Of course, I had to capitalize on this fortune, so I took a seat and enjoyed the majestic mountains of central Idaho. A few days later, someone moved it up to a switchback in the road, which just so happened to be the trailhead to a rope swing we made in our high school days. So I guess I too am guilty of using a nonstationary object as a landmark. If I have given you directions to our swinging tree, you’ve heard me say, “Park at the recliner, have a seat and take this opportunity to get mentally prepared for the looming hike up the hill.”

I have worked at my new job for about three months now, and it was about two weeks ago when I couldn’t handle it anymore and I just had to ask where in the heck “The Paint Cans” were. The guys laughed at me and said, “You drive by it every day; it is the turn-out spot above the meadows there where you get service for a second.” Apparently, a few months before I moved here, they got ambitious and decided to clean up a whole pile of paint cans that some weekend warriors hauled up there to shoot to smithereens. Don’t make it a landmark if it’s trash you plan on cleaning up.

If “Let’s meet at the Green Gate,” wasn’t confusing enough when there were two green gates within a few miles of each other, now it is really bad. They ripped out both green gates and put fancy black arches and different gates in. But you can bet they still say, “Let’s meet at the Green Gate.” If I didn’t know better, I would think these guys were color-blind.

Creative landmarks are like an inside joke, pretty awesome if you were involved from the start, but really confusing if you weren’t in on the whole story. These landmarks are a part of rural America; I guess we better get used to it or move to the city where navigator can be our guide.  end mark

Tayler Teichert, a 24-year-old sixth-generation rancher, was born and raised ranching across the American West. Since she left home, she has worked in the Sandhills of Nebraska, the shadows of Elk Mountain, the high desert of Idaho and the sage of northern Nevada. You can learn more about Tayler and check out her photography on her website.

PHOTO: Landmarks should never have wheels, or serve as something you "intend" to clean up one day. Photo by Tayler Teichert.