Fall has arrived; it's been freezing at night. Jim is back in the hills working for Bighorn Outfitters, guiding elk hunters. A two-year-old cougar that was hanging around the past two months began spending too much time in the small community at the mouth of the creek. When it killed two sheep in one family's backyard, the Fish & Game decided it was becoming too bold and killed it. This was a relief to all of us, for the safety of our livestock and our families.

We gathered cattle off the range in mid-September. It was such a good year for grass that we left more grass than we used.

We had good luck finding the cattle in just two days of riding and put them in our mountain pasture a few days before bringing them down to the corrals to vaccinate, preg check and wean calves.

We put the steers in a well-fenced pasture with four baby-sitter cows and put the heifers in a pasture above the house. The cows are back in mountain pastures at the upper end of the ranch. It's nice having the new fence dividing the 320-acre pasture. The cows will use the top part and the north slope (parts that snow under first) and we'll save the lower corner until last, to extend our grazing. We sorted out 46 pregnant heifers and young cows that we hope to sell this fall and put them on the 160-acre pasture.

We kept the first-calf heifers in a corral three more days before taking them up. We learned years ago that older cows are easy to wean off their calves, but first-time mamas and open cows are determined not to lose their babies. They'll go through several fences to get back to them. Some don't give up even after they've dried up their milk.

Pregnant cows (especially ones that have already had calves) seem to know they'll have another baby and are unconcerned about weaning, but an open cow is quite stubborn about not wanting to give up her child. In late summer on the range many of our old gals will start kicking their calves off before we bring them home to wean. If some old cow sticks to her baby like glue, never letting him out of her sight, we start to wonder if she might be open.

Pinkeye Problems It was a bad year for pinkeye, with many face flies spreading it from animal to animal. Neighbors who range next to us in low country with a lot of boggy areas and flies had a siege of pinkeye - more than half their calves and many cows had bad eyes. They were taking some home nearly every day to treat. We had three cases this summer, recovering without treatment, but several serious cases this fall.

We had one cow go blind in one eye and brought her home to sew her eye shut. We doctored two more cows and several calves while in the chute for fall vaccination, injecting medication into the eyelids and giving LA-200. One calf had a deep ulceration over the eyeball so we stitched her eye shut.

A steer developed pinkeye in both eyes a couple weeks after weaning, walking into fences and trees. We were afraid he might fall in a ditch, so Andrea and I gathered a small group of cows and calves to bring him home. With the herd he could hear and smell the others and tried to stay with them. He still ran into a few fences, but he followed the others and we got him home to treat.

Any serious eye problem like pinkeye or inflammation from burdock slivers seems to heal better if the eye can be stitched shut for awhile.

The calves have nearly eaten the best pasture - the lush regrowth from the hayfields - so we put out a protein-mineral mix to encourage them to use the rougher feed and to balance their diet. There's still a little green in the taller grass around the field edges and along the creek bottom, but calves don't like the coarse feed very well. They'll eat it better with the supplement. This may stretch their pasture so it will last until we get them sold in a couple weeks