State of the Figure 8

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Special Forces Team, Figure 8 Ranch

I was inspired last night by the President’s annual address (yawn) to bring all of you, my fellow Americans, up to speed on the condition of our rancho in the pines.  I am happy to report that State of the Figure 8 is healthy, happy, and good, and I am delivering this address with an empty chair here in my office, meant to symbolize the continued absence of any inspirational candidate for 2016.

It has been a busy year.  Looking back, it’s hard to see where much of it went.  Since our arrival here three winters ago we have been engaged in an endless series of improvement projects.  Tree clearing, fencing, more fencing, fake river building, more tree clearing, garden construction, greenhouse projects, barn building, and more fencing.  Thankfully, the barn was completed just before the snows hit–it was a touch and go project beset by various delays–because it has been a tremendous winter so far.  We have not seen bare ground in three months, and more snow is on the way.  That’s good for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the Cascade snowpack, upon which we all depend.

And the population of our homestead continues to grow.  We lost two chickens, but have added another border collie, and on Sunday I will be hauling in two horses from California. So we are +1 in total ranch population, which I’m told is good for the economy.  I am most excited about the horses, and starting a young colt named Remi.  He is a find and a prospect, and most importantly will fill a large hole that has existed in my solar plexus since I last rolled my bed and moved to town.    

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The house that Remi built

I did not get an elk this year, though not for lack of trying.  In fact, I can now reveal, after further research, that I was indeed a member of the “Most Difficult Elk Hunt of All Time.”  Four of us drove to Durango, Colorado, with every intention of overloading our freezers with gigantic bulls, but much like the relief parties sent up the Nile to rescue Chinese Gordon from Khartoum, we were beset with any number of problems: indecision, grown men who could not ride horses, loads of gear that fell off the mules, a shortage of firewood and propane at the drop camp, a heart pounding, life-before-your-eyes, 100 foot uncontrolled slide for life to the edge of a cliff, and strictly vertical climbs to ten thousand feet in eighteen inches of snow.  Bottom line:  no bull for Craig this year.  I never even saw one.  I saw tracks, I could smell them, and I jumped them twice, only to hear them crashing away into the dark timber.  Hugh Glass I was decidedly not.  But we are nothing if not adaptable on the Figure 8, and we will be raising a feeder steer this year to cover the gap.

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The Road Goes On Forever, and the Party Never Ends…High Rock, Nevada

And so that’s the state of it, folks.  And I would add one more thing.  What we are doing here is an experiment in roping a dream out of the ether, of holding it in our hands and shaping it into something tangible, while we still have the life to do it.  We made a bold decision to blow out of California, leaving ludicrously well paid jobs, friends, and family, to chase down our dreams and to embrace the bumps and scrapes, the heartaches and smiles a long the way.  And we are not alone.  I had the opportunity to interview a fascinating man yesterday, a former Blue Angels pilot who flew 120 combat missions in an A6 Intruder over Vietnam.  He is now an accomplished oil painter, a humanitarian, and man of abiding faith.  His name is Jim Horsely.  He said, “If your memories are bigger than your dreams you are headed for the grave.”  I like that quite a bit, and that’s the spirit that underpins the state of the Mighty Figure 8.

***Lastly, Nugget News editor Jim Cornelius has gallantly risked his reputation and career by taking me on as a freelancer.  My first column appeared there today–you can find it here.  And I would encourage you to check out his terrific blog at FrontierPartisans.com.    

  1. Wonderful again. I am increasing your readership by sharing with friends! Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2016 18:17:44 +0000 To: cynthia_wall@msn.com

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    1. Thank you! The more the merrier!

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  2. And now, I have just read your news column. Why did it take you so long to reveal this hidden talent! You’ve found your niche which I believe is a lot bigger than it appears. This story is being covered nationally… your column should air on that stage, too. Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2016 18:17:44 +0000 To: cynthia_wall@msn.com

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    1. I spent much of the last 15 years with my head sewn into a gunny sack. I had to move to Oregon, have it removed, and smell the fresh air. I am very blessed to have the opportunity at Nugget News, and am enjoying it immensely. I am hopeful this trail leads to more writing, more readers, and a better understanding of this big ol crazy world.

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  3. Craig, your words make me long for retirement. A cabin on a dirt road surrounded by horses, dogs and chickens is where I spent the first 15 years of my life and if I have it my way it will be where I spend the last 25.

    Keep it coming, the glimpses you share with us inspire me and keep me optimistic

    -Kasi

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    1. Soon, very soon, you will be able to do it. In the meantime, be careful in the pit of vipers. Some of them are deadly poison. The main thing is to be safe and go home every night.

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  4. Bravo my friend, excellent blog and newspaper article.  How did you and Jim Horsely meet up?  I’ve known him for quite a while, amazing artists.  Hey I’m looking for a buyer the longhorns, at least the Mad Mama with the calf.  Might make burger out of the other gal.  I want to put feeder steers on the grass in the spring too. We need to catch up one of these days, 3 Creeks would be a fun occasion.Tell your lovely wife hi for me. AdiosBrent Gourley

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    1. Thanks Brent. I met Jim “on assignment” for the Nugget News. Terrific guy, and I’ll have a feature piece on him in next weeks paper. I’ll fish around and see if anyone wants a homicidal longhorn. At least she has good motherly instincts, and Wendy and I are still impressed by your Dukes of Hazzard style leap over that fence! I’ll be in touch soon. Would love to have a 3 Creeks summit over a fine IPA.

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  5. christine DeForest January 13, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    A short comment from the mother of the gifted one. He has had this talent since he was a little critter. Before he entered kindergarten, he would run down the road looking at his shadow that wasn’t his shadow at all, but Tony Dorsett running beside him. He was notorious among the teachers at Janesville School for his “imagination.” His use of the English language and vocabulary takes one on visual journeys…that, of course, is what “writers” are supposed to do.

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    1. Only one correction…I was Tony Dorsett, the shadow was Roger Staubach.

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  6. You just described why Bob and I love this Ranch we built. We did the same as you left our very well paying Jobs to build a dream. I must say every day in every way , every blister every scrap and cut and broken thing have been very worth the journey. Thank you for reminding me , some days I get bogged down in the details. Congrats on everything

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    1. It’s easy to get sucked into the wrong details. You guys have a great place, and it is fun to watch you enjoy the adventure out there.

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