The prairies of eastern Montana have a beauty that is all their own. We like to visit each year for some pheasant hunting. For me, it’s enough to bring my camera and document the many beautiful landscapes and the multitude of birds and other animals that live here.
It’s a rough countryside for a dog to run across. That grass is tough, the weeds have prickly burrs, and the cattails in the gullies can cut tender toes. The stubble left after farmers harvest their grain pokes the dogs’ feet. Have you ever tried walking barefoot on stubble? Ouch!
Our spaniels are dressed and ready to go exploring. Ruby, on the left, is an English springer spaniel. Almost nine years old, she’s getting gray eyebrows and whiskers and is slowing down considerably. I can identify with that very well (except for the whiskers part). Emma, on the right, is an English cocker spaniel. At a year and a half she’s pretty much full grown but is a much smaller dog than Ruby. But she’s all muscle, like a little tractor on a Pogo stick. Here they are with their blaze orange skidplates on. These tough little vests will save them from punctures and scrapes as they encounter barbed wire, sticks, thorns, and forgotten pieces of old farm machinery half buried in the ground. When I see the scratches on the vests I am thankful for the injuries the dogs have escaped.
As we hiked over the fields, Ruby panted along doing her best to keep up with Emma, who was always up ahead, checking out every roosting place of pheasants, sharptail grouse, or Hungarian partridge. I wondered at what she had found when I saw her jump high and pounce several times. Often, spaniels will do this in high grass to flush out a hidden bird. I wasn’t alarmed when Emma pounced around and around in a ten foot diameter circle. The captain blew his whistle and called her away. Fortunately, Emma listened (this time), and did not end up with a nose full of quills. She had been dancing around a porcupine.
He was so well hidden in the high grass, that even in the photo, I still can’t tell which end of him is the head or the tail. He is all quills!
On our drive back, we marveled at Montana’s beauty. It had been an invigorating day full of bird sightings and the lovely aromas of sage and prairie grasses. It was time to ride off into the sunset. We found what we needed. Some American paint horses, just like in days of old.
And a gorgeous sunset to put a lasting glow on our happy souls.