All Things Wilder by Shelly Sabrowski
Calling Wilder on the Taylor’s 2,100 acre ranch home since 1995, Shelly Sabrowski works alongside her husband, Don, to protect and preserve the historic hay and cattle operations that have been the center point of the Taylor canyon for over 110 years. At Wilder, Don and Shelley manage the ranch and we feel blessed to have them as part of the team. Shelley finds joy in raising her two sons, Calvin and Clay, in an agricultural environment. In this letter from Shelley, she shares her thoughts about why this is her favorite time of year at Wilder.
I love this time of year. It’s my absolute favorite on the ranch. The hustle and bustle of the summer season is gone and things are settling down into a routine that I can live in the moment and simply enjoy being here.
The Aspen and Cottonwood trees did not disappoint us this year. At their very peak of color, I was able to take one of my friends, Michele Wheeler horseback riding on the south side of the river. She had never seen the south side this time of year and I knew she was in for a real treat. We planned for a one hour ride and it turned into three. I never tire of hearing the sudden intake of breath from the people I take riding when they experience the sheer beauty of the ranch.
I also love this time of year because of the fall gathering of the cattle. Don and I saddle up our horses and push all the cows and calves into the corral. Our veterinarian, Dr. Darby Sullivan is ready to pregnancy check all the cows and Don and I give each one several preventative vaccines. We then push all of this year’s calves into the squeeze chute and give them their vaccines too. I wait with anticipation for this one event all year. It’s the time we choose Clay’s next Grand Champion steer. The one we’ve had our eye on finally comes through and I make everyone wait on me while I look over him closely and feel his coat for the very first time. Don calls his mother “Crazy” for good reason. She really is. She will either run away from you or charge at you. Don keeps her as a cow because she raises some of the best calves in the herd. We kept her heifer calf last year as a replacement heifer and she’s one of our biggest pets. She will come stand next to you out in the pasture for a scratch between her shoulders. If you ignore her, she will head butt you. We are hoping Clay’s steer will have the same personality. I will keep you updated as we halter break him in a few weeks.
One of the other events I wait for all year is the first snow. It happened early this year on Wilder. I never get tired of snow falling on the ranch. I was born and raised in the desert where literally one inch of snow would shut down the entire city. I get as excited as any little kid. I drove all over taking pictures to text to Calvin who is attending Oklahoma State University as a freshman. I couldn’t let him miss it. We had a total of two inches which melted by the next day but I can still see snow on the south side under trees which hasn’t melted yet. My very favorite thing to do is stand outside in the evening when there isn’t any traffic rushing by and listen to the snow falling. If it’s quiet enough I can hear my own heart beating. I live for those moments.
With fall comes migration of the wildlife. Almost all of the Robins and Stellar Jays have left replacing them with Bald Eagles. Yesterday morning my cell phone was ringing urgently with Don on the other end telling me to go out back of our house and see the Bald Eagle circling high above. He knows how much I love seeing them return to the ranch for the winter. There’s several dead standing pine trees along the river by Camp that the eagles will perch on all winter. Don leaves these trees standing just for the eagles. And just for us to enjoy watching them.
We are waiting for the snow to accumulate in the high country to bring the elk back to the Wilder. We usually see them the first week of December. They will migrate from the south side, cross the hay meadows and head toward the Almont Triangle for the winter. When they cross the ranch it’s a sight I feel blessed to see each year. There will be at least one hundred cows, bulls and calves all in one herd. Last fall, Calvin and I needed to go to an owner’s cabin at night because I forgot to turn up the heat. We ran into that herd of elk and that had to be one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen. Calvin turned off his truck and we sat in the owner’s driveway for an hour with the windows down in freezing cold weather. It didn’t matter to us. The truck was surrounded by elk. So close we could hear them calling to each other in chirping tones. We could see their breath in the dim light of the moon. As we sat there losing feeling in our fingers and faces, I told Calvin he was really lucky to be able to experience this. There are many, many people in the world who would never get the chance to.
I feel incredibly blessed to call Wilder my home for the past twenty years and to have raised my sons on this beautiful ranch. As a family we have many memories we have made over the years living here. I am truly excited to see other families make their memories here too.