I guess that the older you get, the faster time goes by, and so, sure enough, I can hardly believe that we have been re-opened for a month already! In the last letter I told you a bit about all the moving in, so I won’t repeat myself, except to tell you that the walls are quickly getting covered with some wonderful photographs sent by guests. To my immense surprise several people had, over the years, taken photographs of the photographs, and many of my favorites, mourned as lost forever, have turned up, reincarnated. My special favorites of Gerry, Comanche and myself are therefore back in place, and my absolute very favorite of Gerry, featured once on the cover of a book on Dude Ranches, is once again gracing the mantel. Many thanks, all you good people!!
The returning guests are by and large, happy with the new building. There are some who say, wistfully, that “it’s not the same”, and of course, it isn’t, and it can’t be! That is something that I had to come to terms with myself a long time ago. However, the new building is beginning to grow on me in more ways than one. For a start, the screened in dining patio, aptly called the Wickieup (the name for the Apache teepee, made of bear grass) is attracting lots of diners, especially at breakfast time, and the covered porch entrance at the Gift Shop end, is a lovely place to sit and watch the sunset – and, hopefully, the rain!
Some of you may remember the somewhat sad little yard that was in front of the washrooms, with a few bedraggled mesquite trees and not much else? This has become a very pretty area now, mainly because of Adam’s idea of placing there some big boulders from the Middlemarch Canyon mine. A group of our strong men plus the dump truck and the tractor went up the canyon and returned with some spectacular specimens of copper ore. We planted some desert-loving plants such as sage brush and chaparral, and amazingly, the mesquites and the desert broom that had been burnt in the fire, are all coming back with a vengeance, looking actually all the better for their ordeal. As mentioned above, this porch is also a place where people like to gather – and of course, the bar, so much larger than in the old building, is a favorite spot, and pretty well filled most evenings.
I had an interesting time the other day with my horses. You may remember that just before the fire last December, I had got three rescue horses from Canada – one huge two year old, aptly named Chikala (means “small” in Lakota) and two babies, who are now good looking yearlings – a filly, Alberta or Bertie for short, and a little stud, Yukon, or Yukie. They have Comanche’s old corral, a nice large area for them to run in and enjoy life. The other day I decided to introduce Comanche to the colts – you never know, he may have to share their corral some day, and it would be good if they were acquainted. I took him in and I was amused to see Yukie sidling up to him, doing the little baby horse thing with his mouth, that lovable opening and closing of the lips that tells the big horse, “I’m just a baby, don’t hurt me, please!!” Comanche looked him over benevolently, and then both he and I looked at Alberta, who had just then strolled up. But no baby flapping of her lips for her!! She arched her neck, stretched her back, and gave Comanche a sideways, flirtatious look, and I swear that that filly waved her eyelashes at him! Comanche, flattered, no doubt, and full of self-importance, reached out and took a hold of the skin on her neck and gave it a loving little stud-like pinch – I swear! I think he forgot the little surgery he’d had quite a few years ago!! But it was such a funny little interlude, so interesting to see this interaction and private communication among them, that I was fascinated.
In the evening my shearer, Penny, came to shear the two sheep. One never fully grasps the problems that come down the pike when new animals are added to the fold. I this case it was the sheep, added in the form of one sheep only, some fifteen years ago. It was a lamb, actually, named Lambchop, who promptly became my very good friend. She and I and the goats, to say nothing of calf Clementine (now a huge, 1400 lbs cow) would venture forth with Comanche and the dogs bringing up the rear, and we would spend many a happy hour on the mountain eating grass – that is, they ate grass and I watched and day dreamed. They were such lovely days, those days of afternoon goat-herding! Alas, years have gone by – my favorite goat, Snowball, is no longer with us, and Lambchop herself has left us for the big pasture in the sky – but I still have her two willful, woolly daughters, named Shish and Kebab. And every year they have to be sheared. Normally Penny comes in April, but this year the poor girl was busy shearing peoples’ Alpacas and Lord knows what else, and only got to us last night, so at the very end of June, at 7:30 pm. Luckily we have lights out by the goat pen, so both sheep were speedily caught, tied up and their long woolly coats lopped off. After she was done, about 8:30 or so, Penny confided that she was then off to Alpine, to shear 150 lamas. I was really impressed with the hard work this woman puts in – Alpine is in the White Mountains, about a five hour drive from us, and she wanted to be at work at six the next morning! I doubt that any city dwelling person can fully grasp the long hours and hard work put in by many country people – our own wranglers, lumping around 120 lb bales of hay twice a day, to say nothing of 50 lb saddles, come to mind. But the rewards are many – the crisp early mornings, the sunrises, the colorful sunsets, the peace and quietness of the mountains, make up for all the hard work. Penny confided in me that she was hoping to take part in a sheep shearing competition in California this year – and that the record last year had been one minute per sheep. That’s to catch, hogtie, trim hooves, shear evenly and without nicks and scratches – and release. I think she said the first prize was $1,000. I would have to hand that whole amount over to the chiropractor!! I well remember years ago when helping my sister-in-law bathe show lambs, I picked one up, unwisely the wrong way, and my back regretted it for two weeks to come
Our history evenings are going well, after the evening rides come back around 7 or 7:30, and people then arrange themselves in the Video Room to hear me hold forth. History is one of my passions – while in high school in Australia, I took Ancient History Honors, and always enjoyed delving into the past. It occurred to me some time back that the history of this area, beginning with it being an inland sea, then going on to the early settlers of the Dragoons Culture, followed by the Apaches, the Mexicans, the Americans, would make a good story, and people seem to agree with me. Of course, I bet any lecture is more fun if there is no exam coming at the end of it – but I am glad that people enjoy hearing what all happened here, as it was varied, colorful, violent – all the things that make up a rattling good yarn!!
So with this I’ll finish up – our webmaster is off to Colorado on a mountain vacation, and I would like him to get this in before he leaves.
Take care, all best, and a happy and safe 4th of July!
Eve and all of us at Grapevine.