I would say that fall is definitely on the way – the cottonwoods in the canyon are turning that lovely shade of bronze, and the other day, while driving across the top of the Chiricahua mountains, we drove through groves of sycamores, surrounded by some sort of plant which was the loveliest shade of dark red, providing a wonderful contrast with the golden shimmer of the trees. I have always loved fall – its only drawback, the way I see it, is that it’s followed by winter, which I could do without.
My ongoing war with packrats and squirrels continues. The garage by the house where I park my city going car – as against the clunker I drive around the ranch – is very open to invasions by these creatures, and to date repairing wiring and other sundry items on my car has cost me a cool $700, no doubt to the delight of the repair shop, who probably smile when they see me coming. However, a war on the critters was declared, and we set a live trap. I hate to kill anything, especially cute little packrats, a sort of glorified big mouse – and squirrels, as destructive as they are, are beyond cute – so we decided to live trap. Dog Tuffy checks this trap line religiously several times a day, and she has learned by now that it’s fruitless to hope she can dig into it and kill the occupant. Instead, she has taken to directing traffic in that direction, perhaps hoping that one of us will pick it up and drop it, thus providing her with her heart’s desire. The other morning she sat outside the garage door when Danny pulled up to start the day’s work. She greeted him, and promptly ushered him into the garage, where he found a packrat in the trap. Generally we take these about 2 miles from the house, to a cattle tank which is surrounded by little hillocks, a packrat’s dream. So Danny took this one out there too. On his return he said that it was quite a show. He turned the rat loose, and it confidently entered one of the burrows. No sooner was it in, than it came flying out – so it entered another. There was a lot of heaving and stomping in there, Danny said, and clouds of dust flew out, followed by the packrat. It tried another, and another, and it was never welcome – the drubbing and the dust and the “get the heck out of here!” was repeated several times, until finally it found a hole where it was evidently welcome. Perhaps the family had been happy to leave it behind at the ranch??
I have a new program I am going to add to the website – actually to the page that describes upcoming events, and I will call it the Rodeo Month. It occurred to me the other day, when some guests asked about the Willcox Rodeo, that October is the “arena events” month in this country. At the end of Sep-tember we have the Cochise County Fair, where you can admire the biggest pumpkins grown, see the best crafts displayed, and the fattest calf or sheep – and see the rodeo. Then, a couple of weeks later is the Willcox Rodeo (part of Rex Allen Days) , the next weekend the Benson Rodeo (part of Butterfield Days) , and I think that the Safford County Fair with its rodeo follows the week after. So I thought we could list this as the Rodeo Month – so, if you like rodeo, come visit, and we’ll either take you there, or point you in the right direction – and I guarantee you’ll have fun!
Anyway, along these lines, I took a group of guests and my visiting niece, to the Willcox Rodeo. I hadn’t been to one for a few years, and I really enjoyed it. The highlight of the afternoon – for me, anyway – was the barrel racer whose cinch broke, resulting in the saddle turning over, dumping her on the ground – and then the real rodeo was on. The poor horse, frightened out of its wits by the saddle hanging off its flank, went ballistic, bucking around the rodeo ground, gradually working its way to the gate by which it had entered. By luck, the gate was fairly close to the bleachers and also by luck, there was a man seated there who obviously knew horses, as he reached out swiftly, grabbed the horse’s rein and held him until his owner arrived, to mumble soothing words and quiet him. He eventually settled down, but my guess is he won’t like arenas and running barrels a bit after this experience! It reminded me of the time my saddle came apart and turned over on my Comanche, dumping me in the creek and causing him, the most civilized of horses, to come unglued. I guess the feeling must be like having a tiger hanging off your belly – just get rid of it at any cost!!
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One of our guests recently gave me a book which he had bought in an antique store, called “The Diary of a Dude Wrangler” by Struthers Burt. The book was written in 1924, so, not too long after the whole idea of guest ranches came into being, and it provided a valuable glimpse into the history of dude ranching. First of all, it’s located in Wyoming, and in the days when guests came to a ranch not for a week or so, but for a solid three months – the whole of summer, in fact – the ranch’s whole season. So in the summer he wrangled dudes – and put them up in pretty primitive log cabins – and in the winter he went east to drum up business for the next summer. It’s a wonderful book, and offers a great insight on a vanished world – sparsely settled country with views of the Tetons (what price today!), good neighbors and an untroubled vision of the world – talk about lost innocence! However, I was amused by an observation he made, that in the process of dude wrangling he was destroying the very thing he loved best about his country – its emptiness. Apparently a lot of his guests later moved to his valley, changing it forever. I was reminded of our own situation – we opened a guest ranch, and presto! By so doing, we must have increased the population of Cochise County by sufficient numbers that the county should pay me a commission! A small percentage of the amount they slug us for real estate taxes would support me easily. I guess some things never change, and, if you live in a beautiful place, sooner or later you will see it changed. I imagine that’s the way the Apaches felt!
And so I will finish this time and thank all of you who gave me a sizeable push toward sitting down and writing this blog. I have the dead line for going to press on all my computer calendars, and so I don’t actually lack reminders, it’s just that, as my friend Steve, from the UK, said recently, and I quote:” I love deadlines. I love the noise they make as they flash by”. And so, apparently, do I. But a plaintive bleat from the audience is something else – so, feel free!!
And now, all best until next time!