So what is taking up my time? Let me start …. but where to begin?
Firstly, I have already told you about the incredible organization of my new office here at the ranch. However, I had not realized how confusing it could become to have five accounting entities on the one computer, plus two e-mail accounts, plus information files from four corporations plus my private “stuff”. The resulting confusion was a wonder to behold. Of course, as you can well imagine, the reshuffled files from Grapevine, especially the accounting files, didn’t like their new location, and refused to open. This wasn’t made any easier by the fact that I had forgotten my passwords (!!) – somehow, in a new setting, these didn’t come to mind as readily as they should have. Yes, they were written down, but where was the book in which they were written down? This was finally found – and some of them, perhaps due to not liking their new home, perversely refused to open anyway. It took many days of phone calls and e-mails to my Internet guru to make them mind their manners, but, finally I was back in business. Then, of course, the information fields all had to be merged on the one screen and they didn’t want to get along, it seemed. None of this was helped by my secret plans to get a Mac – I’m sure that my old PCwhat’shisname found this out and was consequently sulking and refusing to co-operate. Finally, after lots of Tums and frantic phone calls and e-mails to my savior, things seem to have settled down, and it is more or less quiet on the western front.
Then, of course, there was the fabulous weather we have enjoyed. Not that this should have stopped me writing a blog, but enjoying it took up a lot of time when I should have been indoors. The beauty of this summer can hardly be described. Let me begin by telling you that we have had some of the most wonderful rains – to date a whisker short of 17 inches, which would be a good rainfall for the whole year, never mind for the summer only. (You know you live in the desert when you describe rainy weather as wonderful!!) As a result, the grass is once again at the legendary stirrup height, and I am saving on hay, as the horses are mostly turned out to graze. As hay has reached ruinous heights in cost – over $300 a ton – this is nice, and what’s really nice is something that you probably won’t like to hear, but I’ll tell you anyway – it is so nice that I am no longer feeding 60 horses!
By the way, for those of you who would like to know, here are the resident horses and their homes: In the corral, my two old, true friends, Comanche and Tequila. In the vacation pasture, Mouse, Boots, Gus, Koko and Hank. In the trap, my crew, that is Scotty, Chikala, Waylon, young filly Bertie (known as Flirty Bertie), and now also Sabino. In the pasture below my house is Gerry’s retired mare, Bonny, along with Blaze, Joey and Lady. And in the arena, grazing during the day in the South Cochise, are pregnant Isha, due to have a foal in December, and Sassy. The vacation pasture also included Snip, but we found a great home for him. Snip has always been a little bit flighty, distrustful of people, and it turned out that Danny’s nephew, Kevin, who is cowboying on a big ranch east of here, needed another horse for his remuda, and he came to look him over. It was love at first sight on both sides – Snip turned out to be a great roping horse, a hardy cow horse who can keep going and going without any apparent fatigue, and who just loves working cattle. So he is happy, and so is his new owner. He also has an old friend at his new home – Lil’Bit. Some time ago Kevin was looking for a horse for his little daughter, and Lil’Bit just filled the bill. As the little girl is only 18 months old, but already enjoys riding on Lil’Bit, I foresee many happy years for them both. And I mustn’t forget Peanut!! Peanut has blossomed out into what is almost (difficult to believe) a handsome horse, proving the old saying that fat is beautiful on a horse. Most veterinarians won’t agree, but it is most certainly true of Peanut. He has grown round, his neck has thickened, he carries his head high, and, as he is turned out daily to run free on the headquarters, he boils out of his gate every morning at a gallop, head up and tail flying.But back to our fabulous summer…..The most recent rain was last week, and it was a storm of monumental proportions – the rain poured down, totaling 2.7 inches at the house (I am sad to say, also some 1/10 inch IN my house), but likely far in excess of 3 inches in the mountains, as the tanks have all overflowed, the Lake spillway overflowed for the first time since 1993, the creeks ran on an unprecedented scale and the country is, in fact, unrecognizable. Those of you who may remember coming through the Rock Gate at the Cobre Loma and then taking a trail to the left which went along a fence in what we call Ben’s Wash- that fence is no more – it can’t even be seen, being buried under tons of sand, and the wash is now some 40 ft. across, making the East and the West Cochise into one pasture. The end of that wash, at the beginning of Lozen’s Trail, is totally wiped out with trees down across it, and some of the washes have become mini lakes through which the horses have to wade knee deep. The trail at the back of the Lake can’t be crossed at all as the water has backed up about 40 ft. past it, and I can tell you that any horse that didn’t like crossing water (like my finicky Scotty), has now learnt to wade in it happily up to his belly. So – that was the summer. The other thing that happened is that I have had a lot of good friends visiting me, and that was great fun, of course, the most recent group being my Australian stepdaughter Sally and husband Craig, with friends Jenn and David, and we had a most marvelous time. We went to visit the Grand Canyon, and, instead of going directly from the town of Williams, we took the eastern road to the Reservation and drove along the beginning of the Canyon, where it first widens out into its spectacular beauty.
Because I am totally unwilling to go anywhere without my good friend Tuffy, and because she had been so good during our last travels to New Mexico last year, we took her along. It was a good thing that both couples are great dog lovers – how else to explain that three adults squeezed into the front seat of the big green F350 truck, while two people and a dog had the back seat? A dog, you see, is long – and wants mostly to lie along its longitudinal axis, thus taking up more space than a narrow bottomed human. As well as that, the dog wants to prance across peoples’ knees to look out this window and then that window… to lie down and wriggle into its nest, then to sit up when someone looks like eating something – for sure, having a dog along is probably as bad as having several two year olds. We got a motel at Williams which allowed pets, and Tuffy settled happily in our room, on the bed, of course, while we went out to dinner. I am sure she felt she had been left behind to guard my Stuff, as, when we returned, she hopped off the bed and slept contentedly in the corner of the room. All in all the trip was a great success.
Our fall round up went well and we shipped our calves to the sale on a Tuesday, to be auctioned off on Thursday. Because my Aussie family, as well as four good friends from the UK and Germany, were here helping us with the gather, we went to the sale together. We didn’t stay long enough to see our cattle sold, but we did see a great many, and I put the time to good use in guessing the weights of the cattle in the ring. I was happy to be able to confirm my guess by the scale as they left the ring, that I was at times within 5 lbs of the weight! Not too bad for someone who wasted umpteen years in an office!! So now I plan to go every week and hone my skills further so I can be right on the dot every time.
I remember the old days of that sale, when I used to go quite often. It was then under the old owner, and it was even more so than today a real honest to goodness country cattle sale. You sat on solid cement bleachers, the floor was sawdust, and in the front, below the bleachers, just outside the ring, was a row of old movie theater seats, these being reserved for the royalty of the Big Cattle Buyers. There they sat, the moguls who had our livelihood in their hands, bidding on our cattle, making the difference between a profitable year or a loser. There was no visible scale – you had to guess at the weight of the cattle if you were buying, no mean feat as it could mean a difference of thousands of dollars. The cattle were driven in, the auctioneer spieled his chant (which you only began to understand after several visits), the herd was sold, and bang – it was driven out of the arena onto the scale, and the deal was done. The weight did come up someplace or other, but it wasn’t easily read, and largely remained a secret except to the auctioneer and, hopefully, the buyer.
Then the auction house was sold – and the new owner made great improvements. The hard seats are now covered with something or other, a little less hard, and nicer to look at. There is some kind of carpet on the floor, and – glory be! There is a large display of the weight as the cattle go on the scale, big enough to see even for nearsighted me. I must add, though, that, same as before, the scale is at the outgoing end of the ring, so that they are weighed only after they have been sold, and the buyer still has to have an eagle eye and a good knowledge of cattle weights – as well as good math ability. Very seldom is the group smaller than ten, often larger than 35 – so you have to be mentally nimble to guess at their total weight, and multiply by the price you are bidding on, to know what you’re up for. Not easy!
The row of seats for the august buyers is gone, they sit with everyone else, and the day we were there, we had the interesting spectacle of a youngish guy by the name of Jason buying for several groups, for totals like $27,000 here and $35,000 there. You would have to be able to keep your head on straight, to be able to do that, keep all your buyers within their financial limits, and have them be happy with what you bought! My hat off to Jason!
The only fly in the ointment of my life now, which I am enjoying hugely, by the way, even though I miss many of my friends from Grapevine – is my back, which decreed that too much happiness is bad for the soul, and which therefore decided to move my arthritis from places like my hands and knees into the small of my back, where it is doing me great mischief. It was so bad for a while that I was actually on a crutch in order to be able to walk anywhere at all, and you have to agree that this is a real impediment to travel. I finally managed to snag a rheumatologist (another time, when I have about 15 hours to spare to write it, and you have about 10 hours to spare reading it, I will tell you about my efforts to get a referral and an appointment with one – it would be easier to meet the Queen of England, I am sure). Anyway, three visits later I am finally in possession of some kind of pills which are probably not making my liver too happy, but which, coupled with twice a day doses of Tylenol and Advil, more or less manage to make it bearable. Incredibly, the one thing that helps the most is horseback riding!! Can you believe?? After a three hour stint on a horse I am pain free – unfortunately it doesn’t last, but it helps, so I try to ride every day. And it’s lovely now, discovering all the new places where the water has wrought new miracles.
And, there is another thing. Some time ago our erstwhile cook, Ruth, knowing of my back problems, told me of a gizmo that a friend of hers had bought, called a Giddyup, invented by a surgeon who is also a horseback rider.
I went to her place, and, kindly, she let me try it. It’s an exercise machine, in appearance somewhat like the saddle on a horse, where you get on, throw a switch, and you are taken for a 15 minute ride.
It takes off at a walk, then you can feel it walking down a hill, then up a hill, then it trots, then it takes off into a lope – you can even feel it change leads! It’s most amazing – and after a 15 minute workout on this, your back forgets it wants to cause you problems, it changes its mind and wants to make friends. So of course, I bought one of my own and I take a ride on it twice a day. The view is not as nice as the view from the back of a real horse, nor is the companionship there, but then, you can’t have everything! And, it doesn’t eat…
So now I promise I will keep this up to date on a more timely manner!! I want to thank you all for writing to me, for reading these musings, and generally for keeping in touch. It is so lovely to hear from you and to remember the good times we had at Grapevine. I can’t let myself think too often of those days, you realize, as I hate to look back, and I don’t want to start missing it too much. What is gone is gone, and good memories remain. And my motto has always been that the way out is the way through!