Wednesday, December 24, 2008


A very Merry Christmas to all our family, friends and fellow RVers! We wish you God's blessings in the new year. I'm reflecting this Christmas how important family is to all of us, especially when we can't be with children and grandchildren on this special day. Our job near Deadwood is half over, only 3 months to go, then we're off to Missoula Montana for the spring and summer, working at the KOA there. We're excited about that, and hoping to get to see the kids between jobs.

Here is our Christmas tree and nativity scene. I did find a small space where they would fit. All RVers know the space problem! You can see the snow scene out the window.

We had a little adventure the other day. I went over to the office building at 2:00 to give a bottle to Smores, our little swamp wallaby youngster. Entering the building, I smelled a smell I hadn't smelled in there before, kinda like smoke, or electrical stuff. After the bottle, I got Keith and we went up to the attic where the furnace was located. Sure enough, there were flames in there about 2 feet high. I threw off my jacket so Keith could begin smothering the fire, then made 8 or 10 frantic trips up treacherous steps with buckets of snow. He stomped the fire as best he could while I called the owners, who came home in about 10 minutes. They got the fire department out here and all was well at last. The furnace will be replaced, along with my charred and lumpy jacket! God was with us that day, as always. We could see Him in the small details of the events. So many times there are circumstances that only God could plan, and that can't be explained in any other way. Smores could easily have gone without his 2:00 bottle. It's only pedialyte, used to help keep him tame. The person who was supposed to feed him that day was gone. We were substituting. If we hadn't been, the whole building would have erupted in flames before we'd have seen it. We're so thankful it turned out well for everyone, including the small animals in that building!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't I wish I were here instead of in deep snow and minus degree temps! This picture was sent to me by my English pen friend, whom I've had for 40 years. She won an award for it. Beautiful!

But really, here we are in the Black Hills in the coldest and stormiest part, Deadwood. I love this photo of the wallabies lined up catching some rays against the building. They do fine in the snow but love the sunshine. When there is a blizzard or very cold temps they stay inside.

This last photo shows our 4 llamas waiting for their chow. They are very patient sometimes, and other times they can't wait for me to put their dishes of grain down before they stick their noses in it. It's kind of fun having a llama leaning on me with his or her head over my shoulder. They look cold, but at least they have nice, woolly coats on. Sometimes there are icicles hanging from their fur.

I am in awe that God made animals who can be outside in minus 24 degree cold. I certainly am one who can't do that for long before coming inside to warm up. We wear layers and layers of "fur" and still get so cold. But, it is beautiful out there!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Red sky at morning

Remember the old saying, "Red sky at morning, sailors take warning."? This was yesterday morning. Our temps were in the 40s but went steadily down during the day, then the snow came. By this morning it was 7 degrees with 5-6 inches of fresh snow! What a change! We are questioning why we aren't like other RVers who go south in the winter. Must be a few bricks short of a load!

Seriously, we believe that God puts us where He wants us to be. Complaining about our circumstances would show a lack of trust—a sign that we didn't really believe that He answered our prayers to be in the center of His will. It isn't always clear how He is using us, whether we are having an impact on those around us, or whether the lessons are for us personally to be used at a later date. For me, it seems our ministry right now is to some precious four-legged critters that need our attention. All of creation is God's and all stewardship and care for His living creatures is important and of eternal value. So...we get up in the morning, put on our layers of clothing and go out into the cold, hoping always to do our best for our charges, making their lives as comfortable as possible. It's fun to go into the barn or other buildings and see the look of anticipation in the kangaroos, the dogs, the llamas eyes when they see us! Food, food!! Thanks be to God for His many blessings and for His beautiful red sky at morning!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Day in the Life...

Since I have let over a week go by without a new post, I decided to let you all know what a typical day at the Roo Ranch is like for us. We started a new schedule, going to work at 8:30 instead of 7:00. The new time did give me a chance to practice my piano. I was getting rusty! Seems I'm most in the mood for it in the early morning. I banged out 3 Bach Inventions, a Chopin Waltz and a Debussy Arabesque and felt quite good about it, clunkers and all.

The pictures above are of a sugar glider, an Australian marsupial, and a llama, not from Australia!

First thing in the morning we let ourselves into the kitchen at the office where we clean up puppy poop and squeeze the puppy some. What a cutie! Then I fix 2 small bottles for the wallabies in the joey room, and 10 larger bottles for 6 kangaroos, 1 wallaroo, and 3 wallabies in the barn. The highlight of my day is bottle feeding Smores, the male swamp wallaby. He sits on my lap and we cuddle. At the barn I find 5 red kangaroos at the fence all waiting on tippytoe and tail for their warm drink. It's a wrestling match because when I'm feeding 2, the others are trying to steal the nipple away for themselves. I only have 2 hands, guys! Wait your turn! They are the girls Meeka, Belle, Jitterbug, Jasmine, and the biggest, a male named Yaba. Yaba has the annoying habit of grabbing me around the waist from behind when I'm not looking. Those skinny arms with their long claws are quite strong. No, Yaba! Get down! The wallaroo Shadow is easy, always waiting by the fence, too. Matilda, an eastern grey kangaroo, is a challenge because the big dominant male, Sunnyburst, wants to interfere so she can't drink. If I'm lucky, Matilda's joey will poke its head out of her pouch while I'm feeding her. Also in the same pen there is a wallaroo joey big enough to hop around on its own now. Could there be anything cuter? My last 3 bottles go to adorable Bennett's wallabies named Misty, Brittany and Gizmo. I must usually go into their pen to find them—they might be outside in the snow, but they come right up and are very pettable.

After bottles we go into the nocturnal building, which houses many different kinds of critters who only come out in the dark. We give fruit treats to the kinkajous and sugar gliders and listen to their curious chirping. The gliders sound like an electric pencil sharpener when disturbed! Next we check and feed the coatimundis and the possums, which are kind of fun to pet. The 5 possums we have here are American marsupials. The Australian possums look quite different from them. Our possums like to sleep in a cozy fleece sack in a pile altogether. I check the hedgehog to make sure he's okay. He sleeps under a rag, and if I poke him he makes a hissing, humming sound. He can be picked up, but only with his rag around him. Otherwise, Ouch! His name is Prickles for good reason. The chinchillas don't do much except sit on their little shelves. They are so soft!

Also in the nocturnal building are some daylight critters, dogs! We have 4 New Guinea Singing Dogs in this area, a male and female, and the female, Bianca, has 2 chubby pups who will eventually perhaps reside in a zoo somewhere. The NGSD is a wild dog, but ours are very tame and quite lovable and sweet. I love to hear them "sing". It's like a wolf howl but the pitch will change enough to make it sound like real singing.

Back at the barn we load up buckets of kangaroo food and distribute it to the 6 pens. 67 roos eat a lot! We change their water, too. Also in the barn we have a zebu, a miniature tropical animal in the bovine family, named Ziggy. He eats hay all day and looks at us with huge, beautiful brown eyes. Up at the end of the barn there are 2 emus, as tall as we are, and 5 cats who live in a large cage with shelves they can climb on, and an outside area they can go to whenever they want. They always get their fair share of petting from me! We did have a tragedy in the barn yesterday, our first death. We found an albino wallaby dead, suddenly. The owners took him out to the vet for an autopsy. We have no idea what happened.

Next we feed the 2 llamas who reside next to the roo pens. Pardon me, but did you know that llama poop looks like coffee beans? We discovered that when a dear friend sent us a bag of Starbucks. No offense, Starbucks! After the barn we get into our Polaris Ranger and drive to where there are 3 big dogs. These guys are always delirious to see us. Stokes our egos! We give each one a dish of food but there is one who cannot be content with his own dish. He has to pick it up, scatter the food everywhere, and then try to get the other 2 dogs' dishes. I stand guard over 1 dog who would rather be petted than eat, just so he does get some food before the big thief comes after his dish. On up the hill we come to perhaps our biggest challenge, 1 horse, 4 llamas, and 2 zeedonks. Since the big blizzard they are confined to a small area. Unfortunately, the shed where the food is kept is in the zeedonks' enclosure. We must climb over the fence, (not easy for 2 old coots with arthritis and other infirmities) to get to the shed. Freddy is fairly docile, but Frieda is a kicker! Why she thinks kicking is going to help her get her food more quickly is a mystery to me! She kicks poor Freddy to make sure he doesn't get his food before she gets hers. She kicked me once but not badly as I saw it coming. For Keith it's a fight to get the food out and into the dishes and all the while dodging this lady and her hooves. We must pass the horse food through the fence, as well as the llama food. That's not easy either, because they are all right on top of us waiting and sticking their noses into every food dish before we can place it on the ground. I love the llamas' faces. They have huge eyes and they stare at us so intently and inquisitively. The horse is a very big one, but gentle.

Now that the feedings are over, we return to the barn to rake and clean, and then we pick one enclosure in the nocturnal building to clean. Old sand, or hay, or other bedding must be scraped out and new material put in. Yesterday our afternoon was taken up with snow shoveling, 4 hours of it! The latest blizzard put drifts into the kangaroos' outside pens on one side of the barn, so we had to shovel a pathway all around the fence in 3 different pens. Since the drifts were nearly up to the top of the fences, the roos could have jumped right out if they took a notion. They'd been cooped up inside for about a week and were anxious to get a little sunshine. The wallabies are from the snow country of Australia, plus their pens didn't have deep drifts on that side of the barn, so they'd been able to go outside for that same week.

Altogether, we thoroughly enjoy our days with the animals. They depend on us and it is our pleasure to serve them. We are thankful to God for giving us this opportunity!

Friday, November 7, 2008


Any of you RVers out there ever been in a blizzard in your RV? And I don't mean the kind you get at Dairy Queen. What a challenging experience—one I hope not to repeat, but since we are in the Black Hills it may happen again this winter. Blizzards make it quite miserable working outside, and dangerous, too. See what looks like a plowed area behind and beside our 5th wheel? That is what the wind did. It made a circle and piled up about 8 feet of snow in front and on the other side of our rig, as shown in the second picture. We were also encased in ice on all the windows, with icicles hanging everywhere. Today is better, very little wind, a tiny amount of new snow. God has protected us, as always, and made it possible for us to get to the animals whose care is entrusted to us. We'll be here for awhile, not going anywhere! Those wheels won't be rolling till the spring thaw!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cold Weather!

Winter in the Black Hills can be very cold and stormy, we're finding out! It is beautiful, too. Yesterday there was an inch of snow, which is not bad, but there was wind gusting up to 55 mph and a 20 degree temperature, too. That's more difficult to deal with, especially since we have to be out in it, feeding the animals and going between buildings. We've had a mild sampling of what it will be as we get deeply into winter.

Here is a striking sunset outside our 5th wheel back window. I caught the reflection in a large mud puddle nearby.

This is our 5th wheel decked out with hay bales to protect against the wind which comes from the west mostly. It really works! We will have to guard against mice, who love the hay, but the wind is much more bothersome to contend with. We watched leaves and other debris being fiercely blown to the east and almost felt like our "house" was going to go along, too!

Monday, October 20, 2008


The most fun part of our job here at Roo Ranch is getting to feed the "inside" joeys and getting to watch those who are still with their mothers. This is Keith with Smores, a male swamp wallaby. We love to hold him because he is a cuddler, which is somewhat unusual for 'roos. He loves to be petted.

And here I am with Smores. Didn't I pick a good day to wear my maroon cap? It goes so well with the orange "Australia" motive on the walls.

Here we have Axile, a male Agile Wallaby. He's the only one of his kind at Roo Ranch. What a character! He is constantly underfoot while we're trying to clean his and Smore's room, investigating every little thing we bring in.

It is quite a thrill to get to see a joey poking its head out of its mom's pouch. This is a wallaroo mom. The little one will sometimes stick out its paws and scrabble in the food bay while mom is eating. It won't be long before it is out and about on its own, but never far from mom.

Matilda is an eastern grey kangaroo whose joey has just started poking its head out. It looks so new and bewildered at the outside world. Matilda is very tame, since she was a rejected joey who was raised by hand by the Roo Ranch owners.

Here is a close-up view of mom's nose and her little one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What is a Zeedonk?

I'm an animal lover, always have been, but I'd never heard of a Zeedonk till I got to the Roo Ranch! What will people think of next? This animal is a cross between a zebra and a donkey, and is sterile like a mule. There are 2 of them here and both are quite ornery. When they see us coming with their grain and hay, they kick and bite at each other. It becomes a challenge to retrieve their bowls without becoming victims to their shenanigans. Nevertheless, we enjoy watching them and serving them their victuals. (Click on the picture to get a better view of his zebra stripes.) Yes, that is an early snow in the Deadwood area. Brrr!

On another subject, I appreciate the workings of the human body, created by God, never more than when one of those organs or limbs is on the fritz. The other day we were in the joey room where we have the joy of bottle feeding 1 kangaroo baby and 3 wallaby babies. Keith was mopping the linoleum floor and I was getting ready to exit the room, when I felt a critter under my feet. I dodged quickly, slipped on the wet floor, and down I went, badly hurting my right shoulder. I was so grateful, though, that there were no squashed wallabies under me! Several days later I am still in pain and unable to use my arm to work. Even dressing is a challenge. However, it's getting better, and I am able to do many things with one arm so haven't missed any days of work. Keith is great to take over most of the chores by himself. I'm good at opening and closing gates anyway! Praises to God for His excellent care for us, and for the prayers of dear friends!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Call, Wall, Fall

Deadwood, South Dakota

One thing I miss since we've been full-time RVers is being in a regular church fellowship and having close relationships with other members. We enjoyed going to Mt. Rushmore all summer but the only regulars besides us were the 3 young men who held the service! Moving to the Roo Ranch has given us opportunity to find a new church to attend every Sunday. Today we went to Spearfish to one called "Countryside Community Church". I thought that sounded like a good start, possibly a non-denominational body. We loved it! It is a large church with 2 packed services, about to go to 3 services every Sunday. The worship music was great and the sermon was what we needed to hear. I wondered how we would ever get to know anyone with that many people attending, but possibly there is a small group we can join.

One part of the sermon sticks with me. The pastor said that first we get the "call". We realize that we are here for a purpose, God's purpose, and we respond to that call. Very soon we come up against a "wall" and find we can't do what the word says all on our own. Next, if we're smart, we "fall" on our knees and ask God's help to do His will. It's simple, catchy, easy to remember. I've been at the "fall" part for a long time. I know I am helpless to stand on my own so I run to Jesus like a small child runs to its mother and I am comforted, helped and strengthened in His arms.

I am including a picture of Deadwood, South Dakota, 1 1/2 miles from Roo Ranch.
(Click to enlarge.) This whole town is an historical landmark! It was the place where gold was first discovered in the Black Hills. Tragically, that discovery led to the breaking of the U.S. treaty with the Lakota and other tribes of Indians promising that their sacred Black Hills would always belong to them. It's one the darkest parts of American history. The town now is quite fascinating for the old buildings, Mt. Moriah Cemetery, etc, but is totally a gambling town. It's all about Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hug a Roo!

Here we are in the early morning light giving bottles to a few of the kangaroos. They don't really need them but they are given for a treat to help keep the roos tame and to make it easier to give medicine if necessary. These 4 young ones are Yaba, a male, Bella, Jitterbug, and Meeka, females, waiting for their sip. To the right is Boo, the big dominant male. We look out for him because he can get testy when we're messin' with his mob. He did try one on with Keith just before I snapped this photo, but Keith held out his arm and said "no" loudly, and Boo backed off. Gotta know who's boss! He doesn't look all that big in this picture, but he can stand up to over 5 feet and look you right in the eye. He has a beautiful face with distinctive markings!
Jack, another full-grown male in Boo's mob, is a lover. He likes a daily hug from whoever is willing, and pouts if he doesn't get it! Here he is hugging Keith and giving him kangaroo kisses. We continue to be fascinated by these strange hopping creatures and are working diligently to learn the names and characteristics of each individual one. And I think we have finally figured out who's a kangaroo, who's a wallaroo, and who's a wallaby! (Click on picture to enlarge.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Working hard!

Wow! On our first day at work at Roo Ranch we bottle fed 4 little joeys, then were taught how to feed the zeedonks, llamas, a horse, and the adult kangaroos, wallaroos and wallabies! After that we got to scoop roo poop in the inside pens for awhile and put out fresh bedding hay for them. We watched the owners herd the roos from their night quarters out to the large day-time pens where people can see them. At the end of the day we helped cut up donated apples and other fruits and put it in bowls for the roos to eat when they returned to their night pens. We were exhausted, but happy at all we got to do and see. These two old coots are not as young as we used to be! We walk everywhere on the 13 acre property; no more riding in our "mule" like we did at Bear Country!

Day 2—we helped feed the New Guinea singing dogs, coatimundis, hedgehog, possums, sugar gliders, chinchillas, bettong, kinkajoos, as well as all the animals we fed on day 1. So far we have not fed the emus or the miniature zebu. I hadn't heard of some of these animals, like the bettong or the zebu or the singing dogs or the zeedonks. Had to look them up on Wikipedia! We are getting an education!

The tricky part of this job will be learning the names of all the hopping critters so that we give them the proper feedings. Is that Matilda, or is it Shadow? Is this one Yabba, or is it Gizmo? Yikes! Guess it'll take a little time learn them all. They all have personalities.

Day 3—we did get to feed the miniature zebu and the emus today. Also we raked and cleaned the zebu's enclosure and we cleaned out the inside automatic watering pots for all the roos, in the process leaving one running which flooded part of one room! We are learning!

Picture #1 is a swamp wallaby baby, S'Mores, very sweet and cuddly.

Picture #2 shows how the 4 joeys are kept. They get to spend their time in the flannel pouches or they can hop around the room. Showing are Axile, an Agile Wallaby, Gator, a kangaroo, and behind them is an albino Bennett's wallaby.

Picture #3 is an adult swamp wallaby. I think they look like outer space creatures when they are grouped together all looking at us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Waltzing Matilda!

Well, here we are at the Roo Ranch! We packed up this morning, hooked up BigTruk to our 5th wheel, and left our pretty spot at the Happy Holiday RV Park. Two workamper couples who we didn't know very well, but wish we had, came to wish us well and happy traveling. One hour later we were here, definitely the shortest trip we've ever had to a new job. We pulled into our spot right next to the building that houses the small, nocturnal animals, and got lots of help setting up from the young man who is one of the owners of Roo Ranch. He made sure we had what we needed, and he and Keith spent quite a bit of time getting us on the internet, which we can't live without! We have a pretty open view of the surrounding hills on all sides, as well as the path where the visitors walk to see the 'roos. We will love it here!
I went out at my first opportunity to take this photo of Matilda. Fancy a kangaroo being named that! She is in a pen where people can go right in to pet her and photograph her. The other roos are in pens the visitors don't go into, but I got to watch an employee bottle feed several of them. That will be my job, too, as soon as I am shown how. Can't wait!! I will post more photos as I get them, and a description of our jobs.

Moving Day!

Be watching for pictures of KANGAROOS because today we are moving up to the Roo Ranch with our 5th wheel! It's sad to leave Bear Country, all our people friends and animal friends, but we know we can go visit from time to time over the winter.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Pretty Blonde!

Here at Bear Country we have several raccoons, but I had never seen a blonde one like "Steve", in the first photo. He is beautiful! In the second photo he and "Stubby" are asking for treats from us. They are good at standing on their hind legs and looking like they are starving. Actually, they are quite plump. We give them little chunks of what looks like dog food but is really a healthy mix made for them. We'll be sad to leave all our animal friends for the fall and winter. I always wonder how they do in the cold and snow. Their keepers will give them warm shelter; some will be in their same enclosures, and some will be moved to a more protected building. The bears, of course, will be hibernating!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Very Odd Vehicle

We spotted this unusual and odd-looking vehicle in the Bear Country parking lot and we walked all around it trying to figure out what it was! We discovered it had a South Africa license plate, was a Land Rover built in 1940, had 2 spare tires and 2 propane tanks, and just looked very rugged and well-used. We noticed several other tourists stopping to check it out, too. There was a world map attached to one side, with a plastic cover, showing the places this vehicle had been. (See photo below.) We were intrigued!

Then, to our delight, on our next run through the parking lot, we saw a man inside the Land Rover. We zoomed up in our little Mule and he rolled down his window to greet us. He was indeed from South Africa and he told us a long, fascinating story about his travels, along with his wife, through 86 countries. They were retired, and had lived their working lives very frugally just so they could travel the world in their golden years. Their rig was outfitted so that they could go anywhere at all, hence the big tires and the height of the vehicle, and they could stay anywhere along the road if necessary and have everything they needed. I would have loved to have seen inside! I like to think of our RVing lifestyle as being extremely pared down, but it's nothing compared with theirs. We discussed gas and diesel prices in various countries, laws governing international travel, the safety or otherwise of what they were doing, and other aspects of their travels. You can see from the map how far they've gone, plus there were 2 or 3 trips on a ship crossing from continent to continent. What a life! The irony was that they did not plan to write a book and they did not have a website! If they had, I would surely have kept up with them in their journey.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New "Post"

A scene in the Black Hills.
This is my new "post" for the day. Not much else to say for now!
It's an old, tipsy fence post in a swampy area filled with forget-me-nots and other wildflowers, always the kind of scenery I like!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mountain Lion Kittens

Here is Keith holding a mountain lion baby, about 4 weeks old. There are 2 babies this season, Bella and Edward. Both are covered with spots all over their fuzzy coats. These spots begin to disappear after 3-4 months and they will turn the solid, tawny golden color we are used to seeing in adult mountain lions. These little guys love to be held and petted. They have learned to toddle after their caretakers and will come when called. Bottle feeding time is quite an event—one must wear gloves for protection during their enthusiastic nursing! They do not learn to retract their claws until they are a few months old. Once again we've had the joy of seeing up close and, in some cases, getting to hold one of God's amazing creations!

Monday, September 8, 2008

American Elk

Rarely have I seen such beautiful elk as we have here at Bear Country. I'm sure it's because they have abundant feed and are well looked after by the caretakers, and have no predators. At this time of year, mating season, the females and the males are separated. It becomes necessary because they are quite aggressive towards each other and may also do some damage to cars in the drive-through! The first picture is a bull earlier in the season. The second photo, of the cow elk, is recent, after the separation. You can see a baby there, with spots. I had never seen a calf elk before. These animals are quite majestic and impressive. For now, the cows are roaming around with the buffalo and the miniature donkeys, but will soon be reunited with their male counterparts, and with the reindeer who share their enclosure. Click on the photos to see an enlargement. You can see the spots on the baby!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

3 bear cubs & a porcupine baby

Here is the best bear cub picture I've gotten. It's as though they posed for this photo! It was early morning and they were waiting for chow after having just emerged from their sleeping cave. The cubs are 8 months old now and they are getting pretty big and roly-poly. 

...and yet another picture of our baby porcupine. I couldn't resist this one. She is chomping on her favorite food, a carrot. This salad diet will keep her little round figure just perfect.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A New Job!

Yeay!! We've got our fall and winter job! We'll be working at a Kangaroo Ranch just outside of Deadwood, South Dakota, actually working with the roos and several other kinds of marsupials  and assorted animals. What an adventure! I'd never been close to a kangaroo before and today I got to pet one! Look for pictures soon and descriptions of what we're doing. It'll be another 2 or 3 weeks before we are there. Still have a couple of weeks to go at Bear Country. That'll be a big savings on gas just moving 50 miles farther north in the Black Hills instead of 1000 miles or so to another state, which we usually do. God is faithful to answer our prayers and put us where He wants us! Look at the list of my favorite links—The Roo Ranch.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

White Buffalo

Here is a photo of a rare, white buffalo born at Bear Country last spring. He attracts quite a bit of attention from our visitors.

From Wikipedia, "American buffalo (technically bison) are normally brown in color. Rarely, white buffalo are born. White Buffalo are considered to be sacred signs in several Native American religions, and thus have great spiritual importance in those cultures and are visited for prayer and other religious ceremonies." 

I am told that a Native American group from the Black Hills area did come to Bear Country this spring and held a ceremony to honor this white buffalo. I saw the colorful ribbons they tied to the fence as part of their rites.

This is a goofy picture Keith got one day through the fence. It may be a little too close for comfort! These guys are powerful!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

14 Black Bear Cubs

These 14 black bear cubs spend most of their time, running, tussling, climbing, wrestling, swimming, or else sleeping in a pile. That makes it very difficult to get a good picture. This morning we hit it just right. It was early, they hadn't been fed yet, and when they heard the sound of our Kawasaki Mule they looked up in anticipation (Sorry, guys, we don't have any food for you!) and held relatively still for this photo. They've grown so much from the tiny 3 month old cubs we first saw in early May. They are about 7 months old now. After their year in Babyland they will spend 2 more years together in the kindergarten or teenage area before they are large enough to join the BIG bears in the drive-through section of the park. The most difficult part of our job is driving past the cubs without stopping to watch them! The laughter and excitement of the tourists hanging over the rails, madly clicking their cameras and declaring their wish to take a cub home, is a delight to see!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Favorite Photo

I had to add this picture because it is one of my favorites. I love the cute little burro but I also like the glow that the prairie grass has, plus the dead tree. This was taken in Custer State Park, one of the "wild" burros that live there. They are beautiful animals and very friendly. Click to view full size.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Punny" Keith

My husband, Keith, is quite the punster, and well-known for this talent. I love watching him with the tourists at Bear Country. He will catch departing visitors and say, "Was everything 'bearable'?" If they get it they'll laugh and agree. Or sometimes they'll come back with, "bearly", and he'll respond, "bear up"! Brad, the driver of the cart for handi-capped people, has gotten into the spirit. When he and we are parked on the sidewalk with our carts, talking, he'll say we are a "bearicade" to the tourists passing by. Keith loves to tell little kids that bear cubs have 5 paws, especially if they're with an older gentleman. They'll look at him in disbelief, and then he'll count on his hands and feet, "one paw, two paws, three paws, four paws, and a grandpaw"! Occasionally the kids won't get it, but the grandpas always do. In this picture he is talking about his paw pun with Zack, a 15 year old Bear Country employee who gives informative talks to our guests about the various animals they are seeing. He was also the "Mascot" in bear costume, and the applier of temporary tattoos to anyone he could convince needed one. 

Another favorite  pun is, "The Pope came to visit Bear country and he left speaking in 'bearables' ". (The Bear Country owners are Catholics who are very actively and charitably involved the community.) To parents with babies in strollers he'll say, "Oh, are you bringing us another baby bear?" or, "Are you allowed to take that baby bear home?" Most parents chuckle. Here is a picture of our favorite cub, "Little Bit", one of the 14 bear cubs on display this summer.
One of the most enjoyable parts of our job here is talking to tourists. Most of the time they are having fun, are excited about being here, and want to share where they are from and where else they've visited so far. We've kept track of state license plates within the park this summer and have gotten 49. We lack Delaware—still hoping! There have been people from different parts of the world, like England, Germany, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Brazil, Japan and China, and some others we don't know because they were speaking a foreign language unfamiliar to us, probably eastern European. It is so much fun to talk to all kinds of people from all kinds of places. We are blessed to be able to do that!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Baby Porcupine!

This has got to be one of the cutest animals there are, though all baby critters are adorable. It's a porcupine baby, just old enough now to come out of the den by itself and eat from the food dish. This little one's name is "Stormy" because she was born during a typical South Dakota storm, but Keith and I like to call her "Pinecone". That's what she looks like! Porcupines love corn on the cob! They hold the cob in their little paws and nibble off each kernel just like we do. Pa Porcupine can be enticed out of his shelter with a cob. He reaches up and takes it ever so gently and then slowly demolishes it, not letting one kernel escape. Porcupines appear to be all hair and quills and sometimes it is difficult to see their cute little faces—harder yet to get a good picture! They move very, very slowly and make "ummm, ummm" sounds. We love watching them at Bear Country. If you click on the picture you can get a close-up!


We had a wonderful treat on Sunday. As we were heading for the Mt. Rushmore pavilion for the morning church service we saw 2 young people leaning against the statehood pillars watching us. As we approached them we realized they were 2 of the ministry group who had led the worship service 2 years ago, which we attended all summer. There were hugs and kisses all around. What joy to see them! They were at Mt. Rushmore for a wedding—had come from Kansas to be there. This is a picture of them with 2 of the current ACMNP (A Christian Ministry in the National Parks) team. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

No Worries!

See that grizzly? Now, that's how I'd like to be, completely at rest no matter where I am or who's looking at me! I read a Bible verse this morning that struck me anew. "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." (Matthew 14:27) That cheer and lack of fear are deep in my heart because I know who takes care of me. That grizzly, Cherokee, is at peace and relaxed because she knows where her next meal is coming from and she knows nothing is encroaching into her space to disturb her and her mate, Tank. All she has to do is eat, sleep, swim in her pool, climb on the logs, and watch tourists all day! Behind the scenes, the owners of Bear Country USA have gone to great lengths to provide her habitat, her food, and all that she needs. I know that my Creator has done the same for me—taken care of all my needs. These truths are especially comforting to me as I look for our fall and winter workamper job. I don't know where we're going or what we'll be doing in a month's time, but He does! He has it mapped out. All I have to do is knock on doors to see which one will open, and trust Him. It makes life exciting!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wild Burros in Custer State Park

In Custer State Park there are a large number of "wild" burros who have learned how to milk the tourists. These burros are descendants of the ones used to haul people to the top of Harney Peak. They stand along the road looking so adorable and comical (and hungry) that people can't resist stopping to pet them and feed them whatever they may find in their cars. Some come prepared, as we did, with carrots or other "healthy" food, and the others haul out their cookies, chips, etc. The burros love it all. Today there were several cute, fuzzy little colts and some smaller adult burros, but the larger ones seemed very aggressive in trying to get me to feed them carrots . I got a little nervous at one point when I was penned in between 3 or 4 bigger burros all demanding carrots, so I made a hurried escape to the car! In the last picture you can see a nosy burro still looking for a treat. These critters are very well-fed and healthy-looking from the abundance of natural fodder in the Hills. It's great fun to experience feeding the burros and we are disappointed when they are not out on the road. They mix well with the buffalo and the pronghorns, also.

Buffalo in Custer State Park

Custer State Park is a wonderful place for a leisurely, sometimes exciting drive through the beautiful Black HIlls. We hit the jackpot for buffalo today. We saw several hundred of the 1500 or so that are in the park. They chose to stand on or lie down beside the road, thrilling the tourists. Cameras were clicking like crazy. For some excitement—we watched a motorcyclist next to a mama and her calf, who, when he gunned his motor was charged suddenly by the angered mother. He barely zoomed out of her reach in time. "Buffalo are dangerous," say the signs, "do not approach".

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Our scenic country has so many breathtaking, awesome wonders, many of them made into national parks or monuments. One is Badlands National Park, 50 miles east of Rapid City, and a few miles south of Wall, SD. We've visited there the other 2 summers we worked in SD but on this trip the Badlands were especially beautiful because of the large amounts of rain the area has had, the end of a drought several years long. In this first picture you can see Keith standing on the edge of a precipice overlooking a moonscape-like view. There were actually tiny people out there so we figured there must be a hiking trail.

The photo below will be one of my all-time favorites! I love the contrasting colors. Just beyond this scene you will find vast acres of prairie grass and wildflowers, swaying with the winds and pocketed with prairie dog towns. It is one of the largest, protected mixed-grass prairies in the U.S. 

"4 species of wildlife have been reintroduced into the Badlands since its establishment as a National Monument in 1939. The black-footed ferret, bighorn sheep, bison, and swift fox, once exterminated from this prairie, are again thriving in their native habitat." (from website) We were fortunate to see Buffalo in the distance, but this sighting of a small herd of bighorn sheep was outstanding. They were right on the road and looked at us as if we were of no consequence. The lamb helped himself to a meal as we watched and clicked our camera. What a treat! We also have these animals at Bear Country USA and I am amazed at how different the male sheeps' horns are than the females' horns. There were no males in this small group we encountered at the Badlands, only mamas and babies. They were wearing large collars to keep track of their roamings.