Long Winter Nights

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.

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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.

All Creatures Great and Small Book Series

All Creatures Great and Small Book Series

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!

Ayita with Joey

Ayita with Joey

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.

front of Eve's house2And 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.

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16 Responses to Long Winter Nights

  1. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Eve,
    Sounds like the cold is getting to you… Remember it only gets real cold for a couple of months and then comes SUMMER 110* and all of that HOTT WEATHER!!! But you’re tuff and can take it!!! As for Ayita, shes an Appaloosa and has probably been treated badly some time or other and Apps have more memory than an elephant keep being kind and she MAY straighten up or maybe not; I have one that has changed hands 4-5 times and was like that, but came around and is sweet as syrup pie, now!!! Did #2 bull get the job done, where you’ll have a 90% crop this year?? Certainly hope so, as ornery as that set has been !!! Hope you are having a good time playing in the snow; we had 4-5″ overnight and in 36 hours it was GONE!!! BUT AT LEAST IT WAS WATER!!!

  2. Chris Derrick says:

    Hey Eve,
    I really look forward to reading your postings each month, always very interesting.
    It was good to see you again at the end of September 2012 in Tucson.
    I can’t begin to imagine what the odds were that our paths would cross like that!
    Keep well.

  3. Sarah Stanley says:

    Happy New Year Eve! I hope it’s a good one for you. You must be having our cold weather as it’s fairly mild here in the UK. Hope it warms up for you soon!

    We have booked a week at the White Stallion in May – I’m really looking forward to returning to Arizona as haven’t been back since our visit to Grapevine in 2009.

    Best wishes
    Sarah xx

  4. Jan Vance says:

    In April of 1999, my husband and I spent time at your Grapevine Canyon Ranch. It was one of our most treasured vacations. The views of the Chiricahua mountains in the distance as we rode out in the mornings/afternoons were fantastic. Our trail ride in the Cochise Stronghold and stopping at the top for lunch and looking over the valley was one of our favorite rides.
    Last year we again traveled to your area and stayed in Sunsites/Pearce for vacation. We drove up to the Grapevine Canyon Ranch gate and stopped to remember all the fun times and individuals we met there. We explored the areas around Sunsites. Many days, we simply drove over to the Cochise Stronghold and walked the path that our horses took back in 1999 and up to the lookout spot where we had that fantastic brown bag picnic lunch. Thanks for the many memories!

  5. Jenny Childs says:

    Hi Eve.
    As Sarah said, it is remarkably mild here in the UK but the mud in the fields is appalling due to excessive rain since April.
    Your filly is very naughty. Our foals all live in a mixed group and so learn early on how to behave and get put in their place by the older ponies, although they often become possessive of their food after weaning.
    A very Happy New Year to all at Grapevine.

  6. Marilyn says:

    Hi Eve,
    Sorry to read the reports of the Christmas tree. I decorated the one outside with strings of peanuts and pastry stars I made especially for the birds, the enjoyed the pastry but have not shown any interest in the peanuts of the half of coconut Dai attached.
    I did like the pictures of the birds from your window.
    Like me as we get older we start to feel the cold more I can strongly recommend a company called PATRA SILK they produced some great silk undies which in layers are great against the cold.
    Well it seems Ayita is going through the naughty years, I am sure she will change as time and lessons go by.
    Hope all the pregnancies go well with no call outs.
    Sorry to hear Jim is not so good these days, please give him my best wishes.
    All the best for 2013 to you Danny and Bonnie as well as the GCR blog readers.

    Marilyn & Dai

  7. Marilyn says:

    Hi Eve,

    Are there any blogs pre June 2008 if so how can I access them?


  8. Marilyn says:

    Happy New Year Eve. Sounds like your New Years eve was about as exciting as mine! I spent it on the couch with my cat watching corny tv shows.
    We’re having the coldest snowiest winter in a long time here in Ontario. I think it beats the ice though, at least once the roads have been cleared.

    Have you read the book “Half Broke Horses” by Jeanette Walls? A friend of mine recommended it and when I read the review I thought of you. It might be something you could enjoy during the cold winter months.

    “Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, in Jeannette Walls’s magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hard working, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town — riding five hundred miles on her pony, all alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car (“I loved cars even more than I loved horses. They didn’t need to be fed if they weren’t working, and they didn’t leave big piles of manure all over the place”) and fly a plane, and, with her husband, ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette’s memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle.

  9. Claudia says:

    Hey Eve,

    maybe I should send you guys a coverall:) keeps you warm and you can still ride in it.

    I use my mare as a babysitter she teaches the babies manners, helps a lot. One of my guys started that kicking a couple years back, it stopped on it’s own and he’s a good boy now. And the grain, yeah some horses just get too hot on it. I rather used weanling or yearling food if they need it. And otherwise good hay:)
    As allways enoyed your writing!

  10. Jan Grieve says:

    Hello Eve

    I cannot believe it is nearly 15 years since I came with my sons to stay on Grapevine. Oh what a magical place it is. I will never ever forget that wonderful holiday just after my husband died and my last holiday with both my sons to myself!

    Nevada – my lovely little grey Mexican Curly Horse lives forever in my memory and his picture is displayed in my study with my other ‘special’ horses.

    I do not like to think of you all alone with the television – however I could not notice that you are watching All Creatures Great and Small. My second marriage is to a vet! and many a tale he has to tell!! Why not come to the UK and visit Herriott Country – I believe that there is a museum and I live in Newmarket now – lots of horses here! Come and stay with us.

    I am lucky enough to have a retired polo pony who originally came from Argentina – she turns on a sixpence so I can still ride western style, except these days I ride in Dr Bob Cook’s bitless bridle.

    Hopefully one day I might come again to Arizona and call in to see you.

    Love Jan (Simon and William)

  11. Beth Sager says:

    I was looking through some old Arizona Highways and came across the article about your ranch. I read it with interest, along with the accompanying article about Germans who are obsessed with the Old West. I went to my computer and Googled your website. What a wonderful place your ranch must be! A little background of why I find this interesting. I was an entertainment columnist for the Times Picayune in New Orleans for eleven years, starting roughly about the time that the AH article came out. One of my first interviews was with a bluesman named Gary White. He was a hairdresser/musician who had split with his girlfriend. He had decided to spin the globe and move to wherever his finger landed and pursue his life as a musician. I wrote about his quest when he first went there. In the ensuing years, I wrote two more articles about him. He is still there, still playing, composing and performing his blues. What does Gary have in common with the Old West? A particular comment he made during our second interview has stuck in my mind. He told me of the love that a lot of the German people have for Arizona and the Old West. Everywhere you go they are dressed like cowboys and ask him if he has been to Tombstone or other Western locales. He said they travel to AZ and speak fondly of it. Maybe he talked to a former guest of your ranch!

  12. Hi Eve……….
    I just finished reading your blog and I did enjoy your pen.
    Sounds like you are still very busy ever without the Grapevine.
    I would like to register an investor with you if you are interested.
    My cell # is 507-2264 and I can be reached most anytime.
    Please give me a call if you are interested…………Happy New Year….Brian

  13. Jayne says:

    Hi Eve,

    I am so pleased that I happened upon your blog tonight and have already read several entries! I didn’t know you were doing this, but I will enjoy going back to read all you have posted.

    We remember with great fondness that last New Year’s Eve at Grapevine. We still talk about it to this day. Greg had such fun dancing the two step with you. Our first visit to Grapevine was also over the New Year holiday, 19 years ago! I’ll always remember as it was our 1st wedding anniversary. We celebrated 20 this year in Paris.

    I will enjoy reading your posts and knowing how you are doing and as always, wishing you the very best. You are a very special lady!

    Jayne & Greg

  14. Eve says:

    Hi everyone!! It is so wonderful to read all your posts – helps to keep in touch, and also to make new friends, such as Butterbean and Beth … and remember old times, like dancing with Greg. It was fun, wasn’t it? Except this winter none of you would have enjoyed this week, as I will tell you in whining detail on the next blog. For the time being, let me just say that we had to use an axe to beat the ice out of the horse troughs, and some of it was 2 ft. (yes, feet) thick. I can just hear the comments I would have got from guests!! But today the temperature rose and this week it is supposed to be 70 in Tucson – so, 60 here.
    Keep writing!! So good to hear from all of you!

  15. Ken Knowlton says:

    Hi Eve:

    My wife and I stopped into your beautiful ranch several years ago. (Talked about staying for years, but alas…) Today, we Googled the ranch to update and and were sorry to find it for sale!

    Anyway, we enjoyed your story on Miss Ayita. Coincidently we have a 40 (yep, 40!) year old Palomino Morgan gelding with much the same attitude & behaviors which should also surprise your vet! He has always been this way and has required a firm hand, keen eyesight, as well as quick reflexes. He is just too smart. He is an expert escape artist who has mastered complicated “horseproof” door latches, and modifications I’ve made to them in an attempt to outsmart him. We have lost 12 “sitters” and 8 farriars because of his diabolical behavior over the years which makes it a bit difficult to travel. He has outlived 1 cat, 5 dogs, 2 other horses, and I believe he may outlive me! He kicks dogs out of the paddock, chases crows, and has killed a couple of rats who have made the mistake of entering his stall. I could go on with many tales about Aztec, but will spare you. He entertains us greatly, and was once a hell of a tough and saavy trail horse, which is why we’ve put up with him for so long. Guess we’re gluttons for punishment but we love him. (Go figure!).

    If we do win megabucks, we will contact you immediately! Stay well and give Miss Ayita a carrot for us.

    Ken (& Barb)

  16. Eve says:

    Hi Ken and Barb,
    To have a 40 year old horse is a gift, isn’t it? My Skoshi mare, who died not too many years ago at 39, was just that, a gift from heaven – apparently, perhaps, the opposite of your boy. She was a wonderful horse, one who never did an evil thing in all her life, and who, luckily, lived with me for all but 7 of her years , something not given to too many horses. Enjoy your boy and his naughty ways – and give him a carrot from me…
    And yes I do hope you win megabucks – it would be nice to have you and Aztec for neighbors!

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