A Very Cold Day

One of my fondest memories with my two younger sons happened a bitterly cold, snowy day. We had a free day to do anything we wanted together, which was a rare occasion. There was always work, mother railroad was always calling me away or these two boys had a sport to practice or a game to play. When neither one of those things were happening there was always school for the two of them. But this day we could all go someplace together. It was freezing cold with the north wind blowing, but I said load up your guns and lets go shoot, I think it was coyotes we were hunting. I can’t remember for sure but we drove to the Milk River that has some wonderful coulees and formations that hide deer, coyotes, rabbits, snakes in the summer. Of course we didn’t have to worry about snakes this time of year for no self respecting snake was gonna crawl on frozen earth with the wind chill well below zero.

I know we didn’t see anything of deer or coyotes, maybe we saw a rabbit or two I honestly don’t remember. About 2 or 3 in the afternoon we drove down a very long coulee and parked back a little way off the bluff that overlooked the Milk River. If you have never been to the Milk it must have been a much greater river at some point. The river is small now but the valley below the edges of the alkaline coulees is about a half a mile across in some areas. The river itself can be very tiny in the middle or near the edge of the bluffs in some places. The river bottom is very flat and the only thing that grows on this broad flat is bunch grass, sagebrush, with a little grease wood and willows in places.

Antelope - single

This particular cold bitter day something else was marching down the flat river bottom southward. They came single file streched out maybe 3/4 of mile long, maybe longer. It was a great herd of prairie antelope, the swift pronghorn marching southward from Canada toward I’m sure what they hoped was warmer weather. The north wind was at their back and any noise they would have made with their hooves was drowned out by the ever present wind. The three of us just watched, and watched and still we watched. I turned to my sons and said “What a magnifiecent sight, what a sight. You boys are witnessing something that very few will ever see.” I can’t estimate the number of animals that paraded in front of us or how long we stood there admiring them.

The cold finally must have won because we returned to the pickup before the marchers were done by far. ¬†Glad the “Lopes” were on the parade ground that very cold day. The time we spent together that day in the cold was time well spent, the memory of the antelope, the north wind, the march, and my sons faces are crystal clear.

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