Trails Fade, Memories Remain

Can you believe it’s almost Christmas!! This last Halloween, and of course, all the other holidays upcoming, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are the first in thirty years that I am spending without guests and Grapevine, and it is a very strange feeling. I really miss the decorating, the hustle and bustle of the special days, the guests coming in, so many of you returning year after year, so that it hardly seems a holiday without you – and of course, I miss the wonderful meals that just appeared out of nowhere, with such attention to detail, such deliciousness! I think my stomach will be lucky if it gets a bit of chicken! (The plus side of all this personal housekeeping is that I have lost some weight, all to the good.)

The things I don’t miss are the rising food prices and, you won’t believe this, the sky rocketing hay prices! Hay, which used to be $80 a ton when we began the ranch, and which was, at the time of closing, about $290 a ton, is now $320, and there are expectations that it will reach $400 a ton before long. Obviously, such escalating prices can’t be borne by any business, and I wonder how other ranches are getting by – you can hardly keep raising your own prices, and yet, how to sustain such costs! This, as you can imagine, is an excellent reason why I am not missing “Grapevine, the business”, though I miss “Grapevine, the guests and friends”. And it makes me very sad for horses. I can just imagine so many more of them will be turned out to starve, and in the winter, too. Not a very nice world.

Some of you have been asking how I spend my time. First of all, I am the happy person responsible for all the Cobre Loma books and still for the Grapevine books, and that keeps me busy enough. Then I have been doing more riding, and also more of an important job I had neglected for many years, i.e. the book management of the cattle. There are a lot of tiresome things that come up in the course of a ranching year, such as, for instance, cows not settling – not being bred – and so having to be sold at a loss. There are many possible reasons for it, and I have been delving into my old Animal Husbandry course books looking for them; then, our numbering system, with the large blue tags hanging off the cows’ ears, so prone to being pulled off and lost, and thereby completely nixing any permanent meaningful records, has got to go. I have been looking into electronic tags, and, as much as the idea of standing at the chute with an electronic chip reader in hand is hateful, it look as if that’s the best way to go. The advantage of this system is that the chip number is tied to the cows’ records in the computer, so you can tell at a glance how she did in past years, and it will make the fall pregnancy testing and record keeping much more meaningful. Gerry would have hated this – not the Old West, as he knew it!!

Along with this, I have also taken to visiting the Willcox cattle sale on most Thursdays with view to honing my weight guessing skills. It used to be that I could guess the weight of a cow or a calf to within 10 lbs, but with years of misuse, that skill has gone the way of many other skills. However, unlike some of those (like being able to jump up and catch the stirrup) which will never return, the weight guessing thing is just a matter of diligence, and to this end I have taken to going to the sale and practicing. It’s rather fun – the cattle are run in, in groups of up to 30 or so, more or less the same weight. They are sold and then – and only then – are they run out at the other end onto the scale, which weighs the group, and the weight is posted above the auctioneer’s head, as a total and as a per head average. You can see that if you are a cattle buyer, you have to be pretty slick with guessing weights, so you are not embarrassed when your total bills is presented – a couple of weeks back I was watching a guy who was buying for several purchasers, and at the time his total bill was up to over $40,000. You can’t afford to make mistakes at that rate! Anyway, I was happy to see that at times I was right on with the weight, other times within 20-30 lbs and at times horribly off. The cattle are fuzzy and hairy at this time of year, and of course, some breeds have heavier bones than others and the weight changes with their conformation. Anyway, thus are my Thursdays gainfully spent – certainly better than sitting in a dingy office!

And then I have begun riding more. I may have told you that after GCR closed I came down with a horrible attack of arthritis so that I could hardly walk – in fact, I was hobbling along on a crutch for some time. However, this seems to be improving, and I find that horseback riding actually helps the pain, once you can get past the first 15 minutes or so. As both Comanche and Tequila are now retired, I have been riding Waylon here and there, and then switched off onto Chikala, my big black and white pinto, the rescue horse from Canada, and I have got tell you that the change from one to the other is almost comic. Waylon is maybe 14.5 hands and, as Gerry would say, fiddle-footed. He hustles along in a lively fashion and you get the feeling that you’re really getting somewhere. Chikala, not so much – he has grown some more, so he is probably about 16.5 or maybe even 17 hands – he has also grown sideways quite a bit with all this leisure, and he is the opposite of handy. I was almost out of my mind – he ponders situations before acting, and his idea of neck reining certainly isn’t mine. So we have had to go back to the round pen, and things are improving somewhat. He also has taken a hate against the farrier and resolutely refuses to be shod. Finally Butch, who is a great horse communicator, was able to persuade Chikala to let Butch shoe him and so, after quite a lay off, I am able to ride him again. Too bad you can’t talk sense to horses …. but why am I surprised!! You can’t talk sense to people, and we supposedly share the same language!

And we have had the most wonderful rainy summer!! Rain was always such a problem for me – on the one hand, we need the rain for the grass, and on the other hand, the guests didn’t want to hear about it, so, whenever it rained, we had a sort of guilty feeling for being happy, knowing that it was possibly messing up someone’s vacation time. However, this summer, no such problem – and it rained! We have had, to date, almost 20 inches of rain which is pretty good for this part of the country. One of the more recent storms produced about 3.5 inches within about 40 minutes up in the Noonan Canyon, and those of you who had ridden what we call Ben’s Wash, would not recognize it. That is the trail that you would take when you went through the Rock Gate at the end of the Lake Pasture. Then you went down a little hill and took the first trail to the left, through the trees and the brush, eventually coming up alongside the fence dividing the East Noonan from the West Noonan pastures. That whole fence is no more – most of it is buried under tons of sand and rocks that washed down that creek bed; the bushes and small trees were torn up and buried, the trail is nonexistent, and the wash has quadrupled in width. We estimated that the water was some 70 ft. across and about 8 ft. high, judging by the twigs and flotsam left up high on the trees alongside. It would have been awesome to have been there – but high on the hill!! – seeing all that water rush down. But the end result is that this year’s spring gather will be more work than usual, as the cattle inevitably will be scattered throughout that whole huge Noonan Canyon, instead of being tidily on the east side of the fence, so I guess we’re in for a long gather. Needless to say, the Lake is full and backed up way up the canyon, and the Spooky and South Fork Tanks are overflowing still. A nice summer.

And, with all the rain and lack of use, the trails are slowly disappearing. If it were not for the awesome memory that horses have for following a trail, I would not be able to find my way. The trail up Grapevine Canyon is completely and totally filled with rocks so that it’s a hazard to even take a horse up it, and when we took the cattle over to the other side of it in September, even they had a difficult time scrambling up it.

And what else is new – apart from the cattle exercise, I took a good look at the buildings at the Cobre Loma and decided that the Cowboy House and the Bunk House opposite needed painting, as did my house – so the painters came, and the place looks great. While they were at it I also asked them to paint the Feed Room which has not seen a coat of paint for at least 30 years, I would guess – and I must say I am proud of the place. Danny also completed the railing fence to the horse run alongside the gate to the cattle arena, and I am planning, when it gets warmer, to get busy and paint all the railings white again – some of them are beginning to fade a bit and it strikes me as the kind of job that I can do without too much physical effort. I think Gerry would be proud of the place!

Finally, there was a movie company interested in using Grapevine to make a short children’s movie. The main thing they required was the barn, but eventually it came to be that they also wanted to stay at the ranch with a crew which grew from an original 24 people to over 50, so I had to say thanks, but no thanks. Fifty people would have been a problem when the place was fully staffed, never mind now! All in all, I’m glad – Grapevine is nice and tidy, sleeping and dreaming of the busy past, and, hopefully, of another, perhaps a quite different, future.

So I will end this now with wishing you a very happy and safe Thanksgiving, and I’ll catch this up again before Christmas!

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17 Responses to Trails Fade, Memories Remain

  1. Kelly & Al says:

    Enjoyed reading your update Eve…..
    We are in NM making our way to AZ. for the winter months.

  2. Claudia says:


    enjoyed reading the update on you and the ranch. Wondered about those trails myself, wow Chicala is big I feel little on my mare and she is 16 hh, a beautiful big girl. Our winter has started here I think last night it was about – 25 C, no clue how much that is in F, and most of my horses have their blankets on. Looking forward to next update.

  3. Frankie says:

    Eve, I really enjoyed reading your update, it seems a life time ago that I was there riding the trails that have all but disappeared. My memories will be with me for ever, as I’m sure they will for everyone lucky enough to experience such beautiful riding.

    I’m so pleased your arthritis is getting better, hope it continues to improve.

    Keep well and happy riding.

    Kisses to all the horses.

    Frankie :)

  4. Jerry Van Sant says:

    Howdy Eve…we’re glad to hear you’re still doing OK at “our ranch”! We’re still taking our riding lesson, and that’s very important to BOTH of us…It was because of our visits to Grapevine we fell in love with horses, and we’ll always remember you for that…Have a safe Holiday Season and we’re still hoping to visit soon, Love, Jerry & Cindy Van Sant

  5. Eve says:

    Hi guys – so good to hear from you!! It seems to me that my life at GCR is disappearing into the mists of time like those trails – but I hope we never lose sight of each other!
    On the plus side, I am feeling much more rested, still a strange feeling to go to bed at a reasonable time every night – of course, what’s reasonable to me may be darn early for most of you – and stranger still to have my horizon now occupied mainly by problems bovine, as it used to be in pre Grapevine days.
    Do keep in touch!! All best to all of you, and have a great Thanskgiving!

  6. Rick and Nancy says:

    We got to visit the ranch only once, this past February, and while a weekend doesn’t seem like that long, we left wondering when we’d get to visit again. It was sad to learn the ranch was closing, but it’s good to hear that things are going well for you. I still get a smile when the photo of your Aussie, sitting in the ATV, comes up on my slide show. Warm wishes for a great Thanksgiving, and a Merry Christmas to you!

  7. Sara and Jon Millburn says:

    Hi Eve! love reading about how you and Grapevine are doing…..keep the updates coming! Happy Thanksgiving from this side of the pond x

  8. Dennis and Lizzi Townsend says:

    Its good to hear from you, and always interesting, we will never forget tou or our holidays there. My own pony ( Dollar) died last year, age 31, very sad. So I doubt I will do much riding until I can find somewhere over there to visit and ride. Meanwhile keep the news coming and keep well. Love as always from Dennis & Lizzi

  9. kerry johnson says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Eve, I will miss the Trifle, it was my favorite, Miss you more then Trifle, and that is a lot. love Kerry/

  10. Eve says:

    Hi guys – how wonderful to be hearing from all of you!! And it is rather sad – I went to GCR today and the place looks like Sleeping Beauty’s castle – Cody, who lives on the place, is keeping it beautifully tidy, the roads are fixed – in fact, better than they used to be, with hardly any traffic – the bushes are clipped, the paths are raked up, but it has a feeling of being asleep, waiting….
    I hadn’t brought my keys to get into the Cook Shack, and Cody wasn’t handy, so I didn’t go in, but I did remember those great holiday days….
    And Kery, I also will miss the trifle!! I am taking our diminished family (Jimmy, Colleen, perhaps Danny and Bonnie, if they can make it – sadly, Cody has a prior date) to a Thanksgiving dinner at Taza’s, a great new eating place in Sunsites – and I will think of you all. Have a great Thanksgiving and keep in touch!

  11. Debbie Watson says:

    Great to hear from you Eve. I think of you often and will always remember my visits to Grapevine. The most relaxing moments of my life.

  12. Kitty McMullin says:

    Hi Eve, Just thinking of all the holidays gone by we spent at Grapevine on horseback and it was so packed we had no where to put anyone else! What a privilege to have such wonderful memories. Thank you for those! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone there! Hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving out! Give yourself and everyone there a hug for me! Kitty

  13. Marilyn says:

    The trails must look so different these days with out the daily trek over then and the rain as well. I always wondered how the staff remembered where the trails were, after a time I got to recognise one or two and like you say if we got lost the horses always knew, remember one day during our last visit we went up over the back hills trying to reach the top and I thought I can’t remember this way before and Sabina kept wanting to turn back, then the track seem to fade out and guess what, we had gone the wrong way, the horses certainly knew even if we didnt.
    Dai and I wish you all a great thanksgiving, and when we look at those mice on the tree at Christmas we will think of all the friends we have made at Grapevine over the years and raise a glass to you all both past and present.
    Best wishes, keep well,
    Marilyn and Dai

  14. Pat Crowther says:

    Hi Eve, just been catching up with your blogs after some time. Glad alll is going well with you and you are enjoying your (semi) retirement. I have not been on a ranch holiday since I was last at GCR in September 2010. Thinking about one or two in Arizona (Circle Z or Triangle T) maybe. So glad to hear that you have kept Waylon and Gus (my two favorites) and hope they are both enjoying their retirement too. Happy Thanksgiving – best regards – Pat.

  15. Anita Nash says:

    I was watching a special on PBS before Thanksgiving called “Horsepower”. Martin Clune traveling around to unravel the bond between man and horse. Lo and behold….off he goes to “a ranch in Arizona” to study horses, cows and cowboys…..and there he is talking with Danny! Not sure when the visit was paid, but what a treat to recognize the scenery, the people and even the horses! So fun to read about what you are up to. Not surprised to see that you are finding so many new activities and ways to explore life. I laughed when you wrote about painting the fence…..brings Tom Sawyer to mind. I don’t envy you your jobs at doing the books, but your rides out on the disappearing trails certainly sound heavenly! Love reading your blog, it’s always such a lovely break in my day.

  16. Manuela and Andi says:

    Dear Eve,
    we were shocked when we found out about the closing of the ranch and stil can´t believe it…we would love to start the operation newly but that would need a lot of money and your soul spirit on board. Maybe you remember us, we are the German couple who got lost in the night when coming first time and the boarder patrol escorted us all the way to the ranch way through all the dirt roads for hours ahead of the final arrival hahaha. Let me know where you live now,I will be in Tombstone from Jan7th to 14th morning, maybe we could meet for dinner in Tombstone… Big hug and regards from blackforest Germany, Manuela+greetings from Andi, too

  17. Mary Jane Plank says:

    Hi Eve, i was a guest sept.2000,I am so sorry to hear that you closed, I complety understand, we sold every thing (our farmette, trailer, all horses and all tack) it was a move we didnt have a choice BUT all went well for my family, they all have time to go back to college and finish since the farm took alot of our time, and money, now we are quite contented ha coming from 9 acres to a postage stamp size yard, Ha it takes minutes to mow, I remember Jere had such bad shine splints now you have bad arthritis could it be your house that is causing your pains??? just a passing thought,, also remember the guy who put his hand on your shoulder and the pain went away, Merry Christmas from Mary Jane Plank (Lancaster, Pa)

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