The Highline Blog

Wild Weather and Thoughts of Spring

Volume 17, Issue 9

Hey everyone! James here. What a week it has been at the ranch. Winter came roaring back with some windy and snowy days and mornings cold enough to make my truck squeal (literally). But around here we won’t let a little cold stop us. With a long list of projects to get through before the summer season begins we have been working diligently all week to continue getting the ranch ready for guest season.

Bird, Scott and I have been cleaning out the housing and working on broken appliances while the rest of the crew has returned to the arena to begin working with horses again and as always learn more tricks of the trade from Des and Shayne.

One major concern when the weather shifts during this time of year is the well-being of the horses. Dramatic changes in weather is always liable to have an averse impact on their health. Throughout the week we have kept a diligent eye on the herd and have made sure to feed them more hay and keep their water troughs free of ice. Their health and safety is and will remain our primary concern. Brenda has been hard at work doctoring and supplementing any horse that needs the extra care and the rest of us are always happy to lend her a helping hand.

I myself have been feeding the herd everyday with Scott. With new prospective employees arriving at the ranch I have also helped to show them the ropes and now they will also be a part of the feeding crew. Kim is perhaps the hardest working member of our crew. It’s thanks to her that if you try to contact the ranch someone will respond. Currently she is busy filling spots for our summer 10-day clinics, so if you haven’t booked your spot yet give her a call!

As we look forward the entire crew is excited at the prospect of warmer days as winter slowly begins to give way to spring. We are also excited to meet the next slew of people to come visit our ranch. The greatest thing about this place is the ability to share our western values and lifestyle with people. Whether it be guests, interns or new employees, we will soon be ready to open our doors and let them in!

It’s How Good You Do at the Jobs You Don’t Like That’s Impressive…

Volume 17, Issue 8

Hi everyone, Des here! It’s been a while since I’ve wrote this little gem and it feels good to yap at ya a little!

Right now, I’m sitting in our cabin on top of Pier Mountain…for those of you who were with us last fall, you will remember that as our newest grazing piece. Our crew got it fenced in and Willy, our big equipment operator, got the land cleared up really nice last fall. It was already one of the most beautiful pieces on McGinnis Meadows property—the views go as far as the eye can see and it connects the ranch in such a way that it is a sanctuary for wildlife and a place for our horses, cattle, guests and for us, that will never be developed—forever and ever.

Right now, covered in several feet of snow, it is currently a snowmobile and snowbike paradise on the weekends. Willy also made wide open faces and cleared out all stumps. It doesn’t seem like the wildlife mind that either as they frequent our tracks to get to and fro around the place.

We are currently bracing for the second wave of a pretty big storm and the clouds above are moving FAST. After some subzero temps in December and into January, February has been oddly warm. It almost feels like springtime weather and we have enjoyed daytime temps in the high 30s to mid 40s just about every day. This storm promises a bit more snow (we’ve got maybe half a foot so far) and single digit temps with windchill temps to -35 over the next several days!

This is a HUGE change in a short amount of time, so as you can imagine, the crew has been preparing. We always have cold weather plans for lodging units so nothing will freeze. Plugging in vehicle batteries so that they do not freeze. Parking feed vehicles indoors. The biggest priority is the livestock. Waters need to be checked around the clock. Feed has to be kept in front of the horses at all times to generate energy which generates heat. When the horses have to share their hay with up to 150 head of elk (whatever decides to freeload on a given day) that means we need to keep a close eye to make sure they aren’t short-changed. Horses are looked over often to make sure eyes are bright and nothing seems amiss. Brenda is the most attentive of horse-care givers so I never have to worry a second about their welfare.

This past week has been a mini marathon for the crew. Although the work has been tedious at times and it has been a grind for all of us, I have enjoyed every minute of it. Up until yesterday when our newest crew member arrived (his name is Bird and he fits RIGHT in), we’ve just been working with a skeleton crew.

It’s hard to express in words the pride I have in this little group of folks. We had some major renovations to get through this week including completely turning over two houses on the ranch and doing some partial renovations. What this meant was that riding took a backseat…in fact, we soon realized it had to be taken off the table entirely. No matter. The crew took to their projects with the same enthusiasm and intensity as they take to excelling at horsemanship. In fact, each day, the crew found new ways to excel. We didn’t just renovate the houses. We renovated all outlying buildings. We literally made each one of these ranch properties look the best they have ever looked, maybe in the history of the ranch. This crew seems to be after my own heart, they have an eye for excellence and it’s not enough to do a job well done. No…they have to do one better. They aren’t looking to finish these jobs. They are looking to the next ones and then next ones. Why not just get everything knocked out the best it’s ever been? Then we can put all of this intensity back into riding because we know that the place is going to be so well set up that it will be a matter of staying on top of light maintenance rather than a matter of scheduling projects.

12 years ago when I first started here, Randy told us wranglers “It’s not how good you are at riding that impresses me. It’s how good you do at the jobs you don’t like to do that impresses me.” This crew exemplifies that. Except, here’s the kicker…it doesn’t matter if it’s scrubbing a toilet, cleaning out pack rat nests, doing dishes, any dirty job you can think of—this crew has the same smiles, the same laughter—in other words, you’d never know the difference between a job they liked or didn’t like because their good nature shines through just the same. I couldn’t be more impressed or proud.

I’m looking out the window and weatherman was right so far. It’s now a whiteout blizzard and the tops of the trees are starting to sway more violently by the minute. Temperature has dropped 10 degrees in the last hour. Wish the ponies well!


Till next time,


Spring Has Sprung…Or At Least it Seems that Way

Volume 17, Issue 7

Bring out your beach towels and shorts! This week felt like a heat wave. Our highest temperature was 52 according to my truck. The snow is melting like spring is just around the corner even though the ground hog predicted six more weeks of winter.

We have had a busy week here at the ranch. In addition to our regular chores, there have been quite a few other projects that need to be tended to. Kevin and I trimmed have been working on trimming all 87 horses this week.

We started deep cleaning all the ranch vehicles. They tend to get pretty dirty with all the use.  With the warmer weather, the horses have started shedding, so we went through and groomed the entire herd.

Poncho Villa, the pheasant is still alive!  We have been seeing him here a lot lately. With these warmer temps, the critters seem to be able to find more food and are starting to stir a little more.  The elk herd is still hanging around and have integrated themselves within the horses.

We are thinking about guest season!

Until next time!


Groundhog Day!

Volume 17, Issue 6

According to news reports that I read, the groundhog saw his shadow, thus another 6 weeks of winter until spring makes its arrival. Here in northwest Montana where the ranch is located, it looks like winter will linger on and blend with the arrival of spring. The extended weather forecast is snow into April. Most of us here on the ranch are ready for green rather than white by spring, but in the mean time winter white lingers on and with it cold and snowy days.

Working on the ranch in the winter means layers- lots of layers. Besides the given hat, gloves, wooly socks and scarves, there are a few things to consider when working outside all winter. Sometimes, depending on what I am doing on any given day, I need to get creative with my oh-so-fashionable ranch wardrobe. When the temps are below freezing, I might put on 3 to 4 pairs of socks (sometimes mismatched pairs, but who is looking anyway, right?), Muck Boots and even feet warmers that have a sticky side to attach to my socks. I most often choose mittens over gloves to keep my hands warmer. But, after Christmas, I was given a pair of gloves that are heated by batteries. Wow! Just amazing!

When it is below freezing and windy, I pull out my ear muffs and ski mask. I get rather claustrophobic in a skin mask, but it is better than breathing in bitter cold air, so I tolerate it.

When I know I will be out in the snow for a an extended period, like when I am out in the pastures looking over horses or pulling snow from roofs, I will wear ski pants and a waterproof jacket with a down jacket underneath. And, always, always, long underwear. I do not think I could survive long, chilly Montana winters without long underwear. In years past, I have worn such into mid to late April. Crazy, I know, but I tend to stay on the cold side.

This January, there was about a 5-7 day span of rain and with that comes ice. The defense of choice is slip-on spikes over one’s boots. I prefer MicroSpikes- the kind that dig into the ice. Some others on the ranch use variations of such, but MicroSpikes are what I prefer. Slipping on the ice can be life altering, like breaking bones. There is no room for tending to broken bones on the ranch- horse and human need you to be in working condition to keep things running.

Lastly, when I am throwing hay off the feed truck when the snow flakes are big and steady, I will choose to put on my Carhartt coveralls and jacket. Carhartts are the typical ranch wear, since they are made to be functional and hold up under much use, but as you can conclude from the above, I don’t always turn to Carhartt to keep my insides and outside warm. I guess I just go with what seems to work at the time.

All this to say, boy, am I ready for the warmer days of spring.


There’s Always a Job to be Done

Volume 17, Issue 5

Hi folks! Kevin here. Let’s take a look at what we have all been doing this past week. Shayne and Des have been teaching us lots of new horsemanship and roping skills in preparation for branding and the start of the season this year. After all, it’s only 60 days away. 

Emily and Kim have been tag teaming the office, getting through the winter deep clean, and starting to prep cabins for opening plus riding everyday on top of that.

Scott just returned from his winter time off. He and James are keeping things up around the grounds. James has been riding a lot and Scott will join right in. 

Scott and James were moving snow.

Chris is keeping all the fences, printer, and feed truck maintained. Yes! I mean printer. He can fix anything. 

Once Brenda is done riding for the day, she checks through the herd and works through her chore list. She is always keeping an eye on our horse’s weight through the winter.

Myself, well, I have been riding everyday. Lending a hand wherever is needed. From ripping the arena to helping Emily get the game room clean to doctoring horses for Brenda. I enjoy doing a little bit of everything. 

That’s what I have for this week’s update. See you next time.


New Friends and Fun!

volume 17, Issue 4

Hi everyone!

My name is Speckles and I get to write the Highline this week! My friends call me Speck for short. I’m new here at the ranch. I came all the way from Southeastern Kentucky with my owner, Kim. She got a job as a wrangler here at the ranch. It took us thirty-three hours to get here, but we made it. I love a good road trip even though I sleep most of the time and Kim says I’m not very much help as a travel buddy.

When we arrived at the ranch, I couldn’t believe how much snow there was!  I’ve never seen so much snow in my entire life. It sure is beautiful!!  I spent an hour running and playing in it. The snow is so deep that I sank all the way down and it was over my head! Kim’s BLM Mustang, Shiloh, also came with us. It’s my job to watch out for him and make sure he’s doing what a horse ought to do.

I love going on rides with Kim and Shiloh and I can’t wait to ride up in the mountains with them this summer.  We spent a lot of time riding and packing in the Appalachian mountains back home and I can’t wait to explore these mountains too. They’re a lot bigger than the mountains back home. Kim says I should watch out for grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions though. Kim said she’s getting to ride some of the guest horses until and she’s excited to work with Shiloh again. I’m sure he’ll make new friends like I have when they turn him out with the big herd.

Speaking of new friends, I’ve made so many friends here!  Kate is one of them and she’s my bestie!!!  We like to play together. She belongs to Kevin. I also met Bud.  Bud is a huge dog and he belongs to Randy and Dori! I love all the wranglers and ranch hands too. They play with me after dinner and I just love all the attention. They’re all so nice to me and tell me I should be on dog commercials to help sell dog things because I’m so cute. I don’t know how I feel about that. I think I would rather just lay on the red mat in front of the door at the lodge and greet people because I just love attention.

I like it here much better than Kentucky because I get to help with ranch chores and stay with Kim pretty much all day. I’ve learned a lot and Kim says she’s learned a lot too since she’s been here. She said if she could ever get her legs to work properly while she’s riding that she might earn a set of spurs someday!

Don’t hide your bones where you can’t find them!

You’re friend,


The elk are coming!

Volume 17, Issue 3

Hi Everyone

I don’t think there is anything more beautiful then when the Sun starts to rise up over the mountain, casting its warmth on our valley below. The snow and frosted trees all glitter at first light and it’s like something out of an old painting of when times were simpler.

The weather has continued to stay rather warm during the day with temps reaching near 40 degrees! The warmer days have brought some extra visitors down from the mountain tops, the elk. Each morning seems to bring more and more elk down to graze on the hay we feed out to the horses and on some afternoons they seem to out number the horses in our catch pen.

Did you know that the state of Montana has the second-largest elk population in the country, with 150,000 elk. Elk are often called wapiti – a Shawnee word meaning “white rump.” A herd of Elk is often referred to as a gang and they can run up to 40 miles per hour, beat horses in short races, and jump up to 8 vertical feet. It’s no wonder they get into our pastures so easily, with a jump like that!

They really are amusing creatures to watch and interact with. Earlier this week I crept my way out into the herd to try and get some close up pictures of the big goofs and it was really cool to watch how they interact with one another. The youngsters really are more inquisitive than they are fearful while the mothers flee at even the slightest unidentifiable movement. The cows also pushed the young bulls around, pawing and rearing at them and pushing them off of the hay to keep it to themselves. The horses, for the most part, aren’t really bothered by the elk and share their hay willingly. We joke and call them free loaders but we do really love that they find safety and sanctuary with us.

Until next week folks…



Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Volume 17, Issue 2

Howdy Everyone

We all here at the ranch hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year. I think I can speak for most when I saw we are excited to leave 2021 behind in hopes of bigger and better things in 2022!

Chris getting some serious snowblowing done

This past week brought with it some seriously crazy weather. It started off with negative temps in the low 10’s. We were all very busy checking waters and horses to ensure that everyone was well and had access to water as often as possible. It can be difficult to keep livestock healthy in these conditions but our crew here at the ranch does an amazing job keeping up with everything that is needed.

Trouble always supervising Em’s work

Mid/late week brought in a snow storm that threatened to drop up to 33in of snow! Luckily we didn’t get that much but instead we faced a different challenge. On the second day of the storm the temps jumped up to near 40 degrees and the snowfall quickly changed to rain. Every gate and pathway still needed shoveling so we all donned our warmer rain gear and headed out to clean everything up. What a day!

Starlit night at the ranch

Thankfully Holly made it back to the ranch safe and sound and after a long day shoveling she made all some absolutely terrific chicken soup with homemade noodles! As as if it couldn’t get any better she also made us her famous soft dinner rolls. It was the perfect meal to warm us all up.

The sun finally came out today which lit up the snow covered valley. It was nice to finally see some blue skies. We almost forgot what they looked like! Well that’s all for now folks, until next week.

Stay warm out there!


Happy New Year to All!

Volume 17, Issue 1


The last week of the 2021 was one for the books with temps as low as -25°, lots of snow on the ground and plenty of work to get done. The cold weather really puts our equipment to the test and pushes them to the limits. They say everything comes in three’s and this week was no exception. Little Blue the ranch truck lost a U-joint, the forklift we use for loading hay blew a hydraulic line, and the icing on the cake was the feed truck going down because the all wheel drive wouldn’t engage.

Luckily we have contingency plans for those situations and didn’t miss a beat when it came to getting the horses taken care of. Just means lots of shop time to get everything back up and running. The loader was an easy fix with a new hydraulic line, and Blue will be back on the trail pretty quick with a new U-joint. The feed truck, which is a key piece of equipment that we use daily, was a little more work but will be up and running pretty soon when a new part arrives.

While it’s never great to have something like that go down, it’s always an opportunity to teach some of the other guys how to work on and maintain the equipment. James and Kevin spent some time in the shop with me helping tear down the front axle on our giant military truck. It’s always nice to have an extra hand when pulling off a 400 pound tire.

Christmas is always a great time of year, while the crew is a little small there was still a big celebration. We had Christmas Eve dinner at the lodge with Shayne and Des. Em whipped up one heck of a spread of sides and desserts, and the big hit was two kinds of prime rib including an amazing smoked one. If you’ve had the BBQ at the ranch you know what kind of treat that is. We all slept good that night in beef comas. It was the perfect end to an amazing year, and we can’t wait for the season to fire back up in 2022 and guests to start coming in when Spring thaws us out.

Happy new year from all the crew at McGinnis!!!!


Merry Christmas to All! And to All a Good Night!

Volume 16, Issue 32
‘Twas the night before Christmas out here on the ranch,
not a critter was stirring, no bird on a branch.
The horses were all resting, munching on hay,
While the crew sat around the dinner table, talking about the day.
Snowflakes fell softly from up in the sky,
Where had the season gone, man time sure does fly by.
Trouble the ranch cat was all snuggled in bed,
While visions of catching mice surely filled his little head.
The night was winding down, the temps dropping low,
There’s no telling if Spring will ever melt all this snow!
Soon we were off to bed, the lodge buttoned up tight,
When something crossed the meadow, out there in the night.
Curious now, to the window we all sprinted,
“Could it be him?”, the crew all hinted.
The moon broke through the clouds, shining upon the snow,
And that’s when we heard it, a booming voice call “whoa!”
“Could it be?” we cried out, checking our sources,
It was a sleigh hitched up to eight of our ranch horses!
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
We knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
And he whistled and hollered and called them by name:
“Now Cooley! Now Nigel!
Now, Chief and Paco!
On, Booker ! On, Brumby!
On, Catman and Mighty!
To the top of the mountain!
No horse to big or small!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”
As dry aspen leaves that in the wind fly,
When met with an obstacle, they mounted to the sky.
So up to the arena top the horses they flew,
With a sleigh full of the finest tack, and St. Nicholas too.
We ran from the lodge, to all catch a gander,
Oh what a sight, it couldn’t be grander.
Up there in the sky as they flew overhead,
Good ol’ St. Nick pulled out a cowboy hat to place on his head.
We all hollered and yipped and called out with joy,
Santa, tonight at least, was a good ol’ cowboy.
We heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Tig looking festive in his antlers!

Merry Christmas from our family to Yours! And Happy New Year!!
See you next year!