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A recent news story coming from the Pacific Northwest featured an elk, who got too big for his britches, and begged for a ride home from town by jumping in the back wrong pick-up.
Apparently he had been hand fed through a hard winter in his first year of life, and got used to begging for food from local ranchers. He made one wrong pick-up jump too many, and was relocated to the high country far away from his home turf.
His “handlers” worried that he wouldn’t make it through the next winter and felt badly that they had encouraged his friendly forays into their feed troughs.
For many years in the White River valley, some local ranchers have had a habit of helping the wildlife get through a hard winter, but I have never heard of anyone who had an elk riding in the back of their pick-ups in a run to town.
One old-timer told of one deer who guarded the one room schoolhouse near their homestead, and who had pledged his allegiance to the teacher so often, he had a hard time discriminating who allowed in the schoolroom and who wasn’t.
He chased the more rowdy youngsters away before the start of school each morning, and would threaten the others by lowering his head, and faking a charge.
Other valley residents told tales of every varieties of household and yard “pets,” but none of them were of such a warm, fuzzy nature as the pick-up living elk.
Living in town, we have always had a few winter wildlife visitors, but this year our front yard has attracted a crowd of the creatures dining on our shrubbery year round. They spook easily though, and never appear at our front door for hand-outs.
The Rio Blanco Historical Society’s “This is What I Remember” Volume II noted that one pioneer family, The Patiisons, spent a winter in a cabin up by Trappers Lake. (They later moved down river to Fawn Creek).
During one of the hardest winters recorded upriver, the deep snow (reportedly 11 feet deep that year) necessitated building a “water tunnel leading from the cabin to the lake.
The family did well facing the number of challenges presented by the long, hard winter, and the family dog was also remembered for his unusual resourcefulness as well as Fred Riley recalled, “Mr. Pattison would venture out to do some ice fishing most days-but their two dogs also provided for their own daily sustenance by laying close to the water, and soon a fish would get close enough to be tossed up on the snow.
The other dog would not eat any of the fish until they had enough for both. Then they would carry them to their den near the house and eat together.”