You know how you should never congratulate yourself on anything?? And remember how I was crowing about our warm winter? Well, take a look . . .
Please click on the images below to see the full size version.
On Danny’s days here, I help him with the feeding, which is a pretty light job, as it consists of driving the Polaris while he pitches out the hay – which requires a lot more effort, and also means tramping around various corrals, putting feed bags on certain selected horses, and giving some others whatever it is they need to get, fighting off the rest – and so on. As I said, mine is a pretty light job, except on the weekends, when Danny is off, and Jimmy and I do the feeding …
Sadly, Jimmy is having a very bad time with severe emphysema – due to a lifetime of smoking…… and, when it’s very cold and the air is dense, he has a lot of trouble breathing . So … we trade jobs, and he does the driving while I do the walking and pitching. And I want to tell you, that is a job to appreciate the cold weather – this said with sarcasm, you understand!! Danny, who is about as unhappy with the cold as Gerry was, manages well, as he comes swathed in about seven layers of clothing, but I tend to run out of the house in a pair of jeans and a jacket, perhaps something short under it, and on my head a cap, which, thankfully comes over my ears – but I do feel the cold – and, on my feeding days I sure appreciate our (mostly) wonderful weather! And so, Claudia, I would not enjoy sharing your Canadian wonderland up there on the prairies….
The evenings in the winter are long – without Grapevine and that lovely group of people around the fireplace to chat with – so I watch a lot of television, and recently I remembered that wonderful series of books by James Herriott, “All Creatures Great and Small” and the rest – so, I bought the videos. The series was made in the 80′s, I would guess – and I am really enjoying it. As most of you are probably familiar with the books, you will know that Herriott writes about his early days of being a vet, in the mid-thirties, well before the advent of a lot of the miraculous drugs we so take for granted today – and his recollection of the tough breed of farmers in the Yorkshire Dales, and their often horrible home remedies, but funny experiences, have made my winter evenings pleasant.
I remember when his books were first published in the States – at that time I was living on a farm outside McNeal, the town (if you can call it that) between Elfrida and Douglas, and I was just getting started in my life with horses and cows. I remember an occasion when I had a colicky horse – a hateful situation at any time – and I couldn’t find a veterinarian. Finally I phoned a woman in Willcox, who was quite famous for being a good vet, but a not so good people person. I asked her to come out. “No” she said brusquely, “you come here”. “I can’t”, I said, “I don’t have a trailer. “Borrow one!” she snapped, and slammed the phone down. About then I found a wonderful veterinarian in the person of Dr. Gary Thrasher, who is still, some 40 years later, my vet today. He not only came out, but he also introduced me to “All Creatures Great and Small”. It turned out that James Herriott had, about that time, toured the US, promoting his books, and had given a series of lectures – and Gary had been lucky enough to attend one. He said Herriot was just as funny and warm hearted in person as he was in the books. So, of course, I bought the first one, became a believer, bought the set, and have re-read them many times over the forty years since.And so imagine how pleased I was when I discovered, at the end of this CD series, a snippet of an interview with the author, and I had to agree with Gary – he was (sadly, he is no longer with us) as charming and funny in real life as he is in his books. But I was amazed to learn about his many literary rejections – he submitted his first book to several publishers, and had been either rejected, or ignored, for months, and even years, so that he almost gave up the idea of publishing at all. Finally, somehow or other, an American agent got a-hold of one of the books, sought him out…. and the rest is history. The original books in the UK were not named “All Creatures Great and Small” – and the other titles of the sequels – that name was suggested in the USA, and, happily, used. I think it perfect – but it did give me pause to think that this wildly successful author was almost never published at all. Not an easy life, getting your stuff out there. It is probably, sadly, a lot easier if the books teem with violence, blood, sex and profanity – a sad comment on our society.
And, still on the subject of authors, some of you may know that my niece, Carrie – or Caroline Abels, to give her full name, as a writer, and editor of a magazine published in Vermont called “Vermont’s Local Banquet“, and she has a blog page. Of course, I knew she had it, but had not visited it for a while – and then, when I did, I found a series of blogs about her visits here, detailing her help during various round ups. I just visited her page again to make sure I had the right address, and re-read her blogs. I was impressed all over again by her writing skill, and her different outlook on our daily life. And it should be different, I guess – she is, after all, a New York gal, having been born, raised and schooled in Greenwich Village, then a college in Ohio and one in Strasbourg, France. She now lives in Vermont, where, in addition to her writing and editing career, she spends her summers putting in long days of physical labor on various farms. How far away from the West can you get!! But they make such good reading – and with such a different perspective on our life here – that I thought you might enjoy reading them. The URL is www.carolineabels.net
In case you wonder at the coincidence of more than one person who enjoy writing being in the one family, it’s due to our grandmother on my father’s side, who was a published author in the then Czechoslovakia. I guess we all three inherited her propensity for writing, as my sister, Carrie’s mother, Janet, is a published author, albeit of a serious book called “Making Zen Your Own”, (Wisdom Publications, Boston) as she is also a teacher of Zen, and the founder of Still Mind Zendo in New York City.
But back to reality – we are about to do a quick little round up of the cattle on the Flats, in order to gather in the X heifers who are due to begin calving. I want to get them onto the Cochise South Pasture so that supervision will be a little easier. I don’t know if I told you this or not, but I have finally discovered a system of numbering cattle (which is widely used, world wide – but which managed to escape me all these years) – and we have adopted it. The system consists of letters representing years, and 2011 is X, with last year’s heifers being Y’s. We plan to gather on Friday, and so, naturally, here comes a cold spell….but we hope that by then some warmer air will move in!Some of you have been asking about Miss Ayita, or, better named, Miss Hateful. She really is the most unusual little horse I have ever come across – in fact, only today I spoke with Dr. Thrasher about her and her propensity for wanting to kill the person bringing her the goodies, and he was also surprised – an attitude like that was news to him, too. If there are any among you reading this who don’t know what I am talking about, know then that Ayita, when she is being fed, tries her best to kill the person bringing the feed. As one appears with the bucket, she rushes up to the fence (we have learnt, for safety’s sake, to feed her over a fence), backs her ears, swings her hind end at the bringer of the food, and does her best to kick the living snot out of him or her. And that isn’t the only time she is hateful – after the morning feeding, we take her and her corral mate, Joey, down to the big arena so she can get in some free running around and learn to be a horse. Nice of us, don’t you think? Apparently not always appreciated – there are days when she pins her ears back all the way down the hill, snaking her head to see if there is something on the way she could kill. Of course, Danny doesn’t take that sort of behavior – she gets a smart yank on the halter for her pains, and generally that straightens up the ears and the attitude. But isn’t that something? Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we decided to take her off the grain feed altogether, and, after checking to make sure we aren’t depriving her of necessary nutrients, have put her on nothing but grass hay, fed alongside of corral mate Joey. It did stop the unseemly behavior, and we are glad to see that Joey exerts discipline on the little miss! Kind of funny to watch – he has rules. For instance, she is not allowed to eat on his left side – her dining place is on his right, and, though he lets her eat her fill, he is very strict about that dining rule – and she obeys. Good to see that there is someone out there who has the Indian sign on her!
When I was talking to Dr. Thrasher about all this, he told me about having visited the famous King Ranch in Texas, accompanying a friend who was there to purchase some 800 heifers. As the King Ranch is famous for its Quarter Horses, and as they were, at that time, teaching the foals to lead, the two went down to watch. Gary said it was very interesting. They ran the colts – I think he said they were around 2 months old – into a chute, slipped a halter on the head, and attached the other end of the rope to a burro – a donkey – and turned the pair loose. I guess a few weeks of being towed around by an opinionated donkey would make a Christian out of any foal! I wish I had known of this before – maybe Miss Ayita would have benefited by this treatment – and I am sure that my donkey ladies Katie and Sarah would be up to the job, too!
And so here we are, all into the New Year! I remember I was telling you about my Christmas tree – little did I know then that this would be its last season! I noticed even before the great day that some of the lower branches began looking a bit strange, and, after the festive days were past, I took a good look, and discovered that quite a few of them had parted company from the main trunk … and seriously so – no attaching them back! So the poor little tree was disrobed of all its splendor, and taken out to the place where, sooner or later, all Christmas trees go. Sad – I have had it for at least twelve years – and I wonder if I will have the heart to go buy another one this year, and start over!!
My New Year’s Eve was a totally novel one for me – I was by myself. Last year Danny, Bonnie, Carlos and I were invited to a birthday party for our friend Ferne, who used to work at Grapevine, and who, for many years, was the wonderful voice – and bass accompaniment – to Danny’s and Dave’s singing; the year before that was the sad New Year’s Eve, the first one without Dave. It was also the last one at Grapevine, although I had not made that decision yet at the time … but it turned out that way. So – this last one was the first New Year’s Eve in some 30 years that I spent alone at home – as also did Danny and Bonnie. We all three enjoyed it very much. I didn’t stop to watch the ball drop, contented myself with the knowledge that it was well into New Year’s Day in Australia, and went to bed.
And now a little postscript. As often happens to me, this blog didn’t get posted before our cattle gather, but a day or so later, and I want to tell you that I have NEVER been so cold as that morning. We began at a very non-cowboy time of 9 am, but the temperature didn’t get above 35-40 degrees all morning, with a nasty, chilly little breeze which seemed to come directly from Alaska. Sarah, once the head wrangler at Grapevine and our good friend, rode with me, and we were like a pair of icicles. The only really smart person in the group was, of course, Danny, who once again came bundled up to the nines and kept reasonably comfortable. But I did notice that he had a great deal of trouble getting on his horse in all that gubbins!
And, to end, I do want to thank all of you who have written of your good memories of Grapevine. I am so glad that the place made a difference in your lives, as it did in ours. I wish you again a wonderful 2013 – all best, good health and peace.