You know that Arizona is on the national map when the New York news channels start talking about the awesome spring flowers that are about to appear! Generally, especially with the weather news, we are, to put it in cow vernacular, sucking on the hind tit. Are there storms in the east? More than well covered. Frost in Florida … heat wave in Chicago …mud slides in California… you bet you hear about it…. global warming, global cooling, long and short summers – we are treated to it all, as long as it doesn’t concern the south west. Perhaps they think we are still a part of Mexico, before the Gadsden Purchase?
But the other morning they amazed me, talking fulsomely about the coming rioting colors of the southwestern deserts! And so it should be – we have had 7.40 inches for the months of January and February – so wonderful for the trees and bushes on the mountains, which, over the last few years, have had to go for 12 months without a drop of water, and not all that much in the summer, either. Yet with all this wonderful weather, it is still true that Arizona has 360 days of sunshine a year – that is, the sun shines at least a part of the day – there are only 5 days when it doesn’t come out at all. Even yesterday began sunny and bright, so that I doubted the forecast, but looking out the window later, I appreciated the Apache word for winter – “Ghost Face”. I remember Gerry telling me that in the early sixties, I think it was, there was a winter in Tucson when it rained some time in the day every day for forty days (sounds a bit biblical!) – and he said that later that spring you couldn’t take a step without stepping on a wildflower.Our first Cow Camp of 2010 went off spectacularly – the cattle were gathered in from the Flats on Monday morning by the morning ride, while the would be cowboys and cowgirls practiced learning how to make, and throw a loop. There were a couple of spots left available on the team, so two more guests who just happened to be at the ranch right then joined up on the spot. Tuesday dawned clear but colder, and I got to the barn equipped with spare jackets, raincoats and other sundry bits of cowboy gear, which were all gratefully snapped up. The day was then spent putting their roping skills to the test, first on a dummy and then on live cattle. They learnt sorting, heading and heeling, penning – a busy day. I was glad to see that most of them made some pretty good catches off horseback, no mean feat for beginners! And the evening meal, steak dinner cooked over an open fire and enjoyed by the same fire, was a hit. We had had the foresight to erect a big ten man tent on the camp site, and some of the crew enjoyed its hospitality. The next day they drove the cattle out to their winter pasture again, and the cowhands all came back smiling and proud of their achievement. A whole slew of photographs was taken, of course, and you can view them all if you go to Leapfish, then to Grapevine and to the U-tube videos.
Another Cow Camp is slotted for March, and the one after that, for April, is almost booked out, so if some cattle work is on your horizon, come join us! It can be truly a life changing experience, as most of us these days are a long way removed from physical effort and from animal life and behavior, and it broadens our horizon.
I was listening to the reports from the earthquake zone in Chile this morning and the reporter had a dog barking in the background. On being asked about it, she said that dogs barked just before more tremors came, as they could sense it …. and “Here it comes!” she said, “another small one!” It made me remember, some 33 years ago, before I came to Grapevine, I lived on a ranch in the Swisshelm Mountains near Douglas. I was out riding my reliable and steady mare, Skoshi, (who died only five years ago at the venerable age of 39!) and suddenly Skoshi, the most civilized of horses, literally threw a fit. She wanted to take the bit in her teeth and run, and when I wouldn’t let her, she expressed her disapproval in no uncertain horsy terms. And then, just as suddenly – she stopped – and went on as before, as if nothing had happened. I was pondering this, when all at once, a repeat of the same performance – let’s run! let me run, let’s get out of here!! – and then, again, all quiet. After the third time of this circus I noticed I was getting closer to a big truck parked in the middle of the pasture. The driver was laughing up a storm – “They all do that!” he yelled at me, and when I looked uncomprehending, he added “they all try to run when I turn on my thumpers!” It was an oil exploration rig, sounding the ground for oil deposits – and I guess to the mare it felt like an earthquake coming. I learnt a lot about animal behavior and awareness that day, and since then I have always paid attention to their signals. (And no, thankfully, he didn’t find any oil!)
And, as I began this blog with a weather report yesterday, I may as well end it with one today – the skies are a blazing blue, the snow on the mountains has melted, and is adding to the little streams gurgling down into the creeks, and later today I plan to take a ride and see all this glory for myself. Dog Tuffy feels let down if we don’t ride – after all, what doggy delight to be able to wallow in all that mud!