Summer in Sheridan, WY

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Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
Red Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Red Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

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Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
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Female Blue Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus)

Dear friends and supporters,
 

It has been such a pleasure to watch spring fade into late summer here in Sheridan. We’ve watched the hillsides burst into the bright blues and purples of lupin and penstemon and the electric reds and oranges of Indian paintbrush. They’re now shifting into their early fall colors. The grass has dried blonde and the last summer wildflowers are having their final say–prairie blazingstar and goldenrod bud into grass that now glints golden. Western meadowlarks let out their notes into an enormous sky from their posts on fences and barbed wire. The joy and surprise, the flap and rush of wings, as a Sharp-tailed grouse and her fledglings are flushed up from the silver-green sage brush have truly been wonderful to experience.

These last several weeks on the ranch we have mostly been helping out with the cattle operation and working with some of the young horses. One of the best parts of ranch life is the early mornings–waking before sunrise every day and hearing the sandhill cranes call in morning’s first light. We’ve met ranchers whose families have been working the surrounding land for generations. So many of the people we have met live in such intimate connection with the land, their livelihoods so closely connected to its changes, droughts, and abundance. They’ve been able to supply us with a wealth of stories about growing up in country that has a backbone of ranching, farming, and horses. Last week we interviewed a man who has lived in Laurel, MT for over 80 years. He farmed wheat on his family farm growing up and told us about his experience of the dustbowl, how the skies grew black as the dust rose.

Though we have learned a great deal these past few weeks on the ranch and have made some incredible connections, we haven’t yet found the right horses to continue our trip with, making a fall departure impractical given the rapid approach of the colder months. In light of this, we’ve adapted our plans once again and hope to begin riding in the coming spring. Though certainly a significant shift in our original time frame, a spring departure offers several advantages that we believe will ultimately make the project stronger: we will be able to work with our horses more extensively and thoroughly before setting out to help ensure they are as prepared as possible for the challenges ahead, we will have the opportunity to broaden our contact base and diversify the projects we’ll highlight, and we’ll be able to plan our route in even finer detail, making the trip safer for our horses and for ourselves. In many ways, early spring is an ideal time to cross the plains on horseback, before the extreme heat and thunderstorms of summer come and when water and good pasture are abundant. We look forward to seeing the spring blooms sweep the prairie and hearing the grassland birds beckon in the new season as we begin our journey east.

We have already begun filming and conducting interviews, and look forward to continuing to document the prairie around us as its landscape shifts into its fall and winter veneers. Our resolve to move forward with the project remains strong, and we are thankful to our sponsors and partners who have agreed to extend their support of the project into the spring. Please be in touch if you have any questions or concerns about contributions to the project or our new plans. We are so grateful for all of the encouragement and support we have received from everyone; it has helped reaffirm our conviction in the importance of celebrating the vast and open beauty of the prairie, and we look forward to sharing our discoveries.

You can check back at our website this fall and winter to stay tuned to trip developments, stories, photos, interviews, video clips, and more. You can get in touch with us by sending an e-mail to rediscovertheprairie@gmail.com. As always, we would love to hear from you. Enjoy this last stretch of summer, and we’ll be in touch soon.

All the best,

Robin and Sebastian

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