It looks as if spring has come in the high desert – we had a bit of rain, the grass is greening up, and the trees are leafing out. To me, though, the most exciting thing is that after many droughty years when the manzanita bushes didn’t bloom at all, or the blossoms shriveled up before they could set fruit, it looks as if this year the rain came at the right time, and the manzanita are actually sporting lots of little berries. For me the manzanita has always been a very special bush. It does not grow below 5,000 ft., and, when the rains come at the right time, the mountains are dotted with their red-wood branches and tiny red berries, so good to munch on when you forgot to take your water bottle!!
The Apaches, so much more poetic than the white man, called spring “Time of Little Eagles”, and now we are beginning to see not only eagles, but also the return of the buzzards, who have the good sense to over winter in the balmier climate of northern Mexico, and return only when assured of warmer days. The last of the sand hill cranes are heading back to Canada, and outside my windows is a vast, quarrelling colony of finches fluttering around their special feeder containing thistle seed, with other assorted larger birds quarreling over their big, ever emptying container of bird seed. I do believe that if I were to put out 10 feeders, I could fill ten feeders daily. All this, of course, also to the delight of other sundry earth bound creatures, who happily collect the bounty which is daily shoveled out of the bird feeders by their wasteful, quarreling diners. And there dog Tuffy sits, in eternal hope and a ready to pounce position, but so far, no luck. In desperation, she has a couple of times burrowed into the soil, but all she got for her pains there was a wallop from me – one day a daffodil about to bloom, and the next day violence and destruction.
And yesterday I took Tuffy for her annual hair cut. She is a dog blessed with really long, beautiful fur, which also covers a dense coat of thick white underfur – so nice for shedding all over the house! The long hair, moreover, is the best in the west for picking up seedpods of a multitude of plants, who hope thereby to spread their kind all over the ranch. These get so tangled up in her dense coat that eventually, shearing off the whole lot becomes a necessity. So I take her to my good friend, Sue, in Tucson, who has a dog sitting and grooming service, and she emerges some three hours later shampooed, cleaned up and trimmed, so that one would think I had found a new dog. I think she likes it better in the heat, and I sure like it better in the house!
I think I have quite often mentioned my horse Chikala, whom I rescued from the slaughter house in Canada, as he was a Premarin baby. Briefly, to those of you who don’t know what that is, Premarin is a medication manufactured from the urine of pregnant mares, whose offspring, the unfortunate byproduct, are mainly sent to slaughter. I was contacted by Pegasus, a Californian horse rescue organization, about two years ago, and adopted three of these horses – two were weanlings, and one was a two year old stallion. I named him Chikala, which is Lakota for “small”, because he is huge, of course, and because that is what Chief Crazy Horse called his war pony, also a huge Paint. Chikala is black and white, and is now, at age three, a full 16 hands, which, when mounted on him, makes me look a bit like a pimple on a melon. He is no longer a stallion, but I do believe that, as good natured as he is, he could have even stayed that way. About two months ago I took him to a very capable young man who breaks in horses on a nearby ranch, and now he is mine, to ride and teach the art of being a well trained cow horse.
This of course means that, though he knows what a saddle is, and basically what his job is, he nevertheless doesn’t know too much, which can lead to some interesting situations. The other day I took him out for his second only ride out in the country, and prudently decided that I should join a Grapevine ride. It happened that I was out in the lead and it also happened that the new headstall I had put on him didn’t have a curb chain but only a curb strap under his chin, which, carelessly, I had left so loose that I could put four fingers under it. The net result was that when he decided, which he did quite often during the ride, that he’d had all the fun he could stand, and he was going home, he just turned his massive neck that way and went. It took a lot of hauling and pulling and spurring on my part to get his head turned in the right direction again, no doubt to the entertainment of the riders behind me. Today, having wisely taken off the strap and installed a curb chain, tightened to the more acceptable two fingers, we got on much better, and in fact, in spite of riding through a herd of cows, we not only both survived, but quite enjoyed ourselves. Cows are something that Chikala does not yet recognize as benign creatures – he is quite certain that they are out to eat him – but all in all, he did well.
Recently we had a fun group of men here at the ranch, a riding club who call themselves The Sombreros – and can these guys ride! It is a men only club, and their idea of riding is to get on their horses in the morning, take off at a brisk pace, and not return until late afternoon, every day, and then spend the evening re-living other horsey adventures. We enjoyed their visit – as this was their fourth time at the ranch, we could pick up where we had left off last time – always a fun thing to do! While at the lunch cook-out on Sunday, Wanda took some creative photos of them, and here’s one.And I can’t close without showing you a picture of our current “Spoons” Champion. For those not in the know, the game is not too cerebral, and can be quite ferocious, especially if played by competitive people. You put a number of spoons in the middle of the table, one less than the number of players. Then each player is dealt 4 cards by the dealer, and the object of the game is to collect four equal cards, so four Queens, four tens, whatever. Once you have the four, then you grab a spoon, and once a spoon is grabbed, everybody grabs a spoon, and, of course, there being one less than there should be, the snoozer loses. You continue until all spoons but one are gone, and then there is a ferocious contest between the last two players. Of course, just grabbing the spoon doesn’t necessarily mean you get to keep it – others are out to wrest it from you, and the contest can be brutal at times!! We generally play this game on Tuesday nights – it gets people ready for the team penning on Wednesday or Saturday. Just imagine two of you getting a-hold of the same cow, like by the ear and by the tail ……ouch! but I am being fanciful! So with this nice thought, have a wonderful Easter, I hope the bunny brings you lots of tasty eggs, and that enjoy the Time of Little Eagles!!