Apparently the less you have to do, the faster the time passes, although I doubt that someone languishing in a prison would feel the same…. Perhaps it’s because my “less to do” is so singularly attractive, after all the years of cramming two week’s activities into one? Whichever way it is, this swift passage of time can be a bit alarming – and it’s not only I who feels this way. The other day Danny remarked that it seems as if it’s always Friday – and so it does to me. Perhaps we are both somewhat lucky in feeling this way – I remember times in my young life, when in boring, and seemingly, to me, unproductive jobs, it was always Monday! On the other hand, this speed does move you closer to the inevitable end … When I was a child, my governess, a God fearing lady, tucked me into bed each night, with the solemn pronouncement of “One day nearer to death”. My mother never knew of this – when I happened to mention it to her, about 10 years ago, she was horrified.
Anyway, enough of this – what’s new??
A few weeks ago I promised a good friend of mine to help her move her horses to another location, as she is slated for surgery, and there is nobody to take care of her 11 horses until she gets back from the hospital. No problem. I have the huge gray trailer from the Grapevine days, which will take 10-‐12 head, and also the smaller white one, which may take 6 if not saddled, and I am glad to help. So a couple of weeks back I went and took a look at the trailers, parked down at the bottom of the hill before the gates to the big arena, and I was horrified. The last occupants, in fact on several trips, were a load of cattle going to the sale, and, as cattle are wont to do, they left a lot of mementos of their presence along the floor, walls and, almost, the ceiling as well!
“This will have to be mucked out”, I announced to Danny, promising to help. So on the appointed day, which was last Monday, it of course blew a gale, and not only a gale, but a darn cold one. We postponed the operation to Tuesday, then to Wednesday – and finally, on Thursday, we finished the job. I thought to myself – if you weren’t selling the darn cattle by the pound, it sure would pay not to feed them for a couple of days before! I swear the stuff was up the walls as high as my head, and only by a miracle it wasn’t on the ceiling. Not only was it there, but it had been there since the last sale day, so it had plenty of time to harden to cement-‐like solidity, which no amount of scraping would dislodge. Nothing for it but water – lots of it. We parked the trailer on top of the little hill leading down to the creek just past the big corral gate, and set to work with a hose, a couple of shovels and brooms. Suffice to say it took two days, but now the trailer looks spick and span – the floorboards are checked and pronounced sound, and a missing piece of rubber matting was cut and installed so that the whole thing looks an inviting vehicle for a group of classy Arabs. So, today, we do the next trailer. However, due to all this work it became apparent that several bits of cosmetic work are necessary and, while the big gray trailer looks passingly OK, the white one, while solid enough, is in sad need of repainting. Truly – as the old joke went about the rancher who had won a million dollars in the lottery and someone asked him what he was going to do with it. “I guess I’ll just keep on ranching till it’s all gone…” he said. And it wouldn’t take long, either!
I go to Tucson every so often, but mostly on non-shopping expeditions, so, when last week I found I had a couple of hours to spare, I thought I would venture into the wilds of Costco, where I haven’t been for at least six years. Grapevine shopped there regularly with a corporate card, but I thought I would renew my personal membership, cancel the corporate one, and take a look around. Just a look, mind you! Of course, one doesn’t just take a look around Costco – not for nothing are they successful marketers. I came back to the front of the store with some $55 worth of “stuff” and found I was short a couple of bucks in cash, so decided to pay by card. Ah, of course! I had forgotten that the only card they take is American Express, which I had cancelled for the ranch, and didn’t want to renew as a personal card – so I dragged out my debit card, which I have not used for about three years. Fine – all went well until the checker invited me to put in my PIN. I swear that passwords and PINS are the hateful bane of the modern age, something invented by the devil to punish us for wanting an easy life. The moment she said the word “PIN”, it, of course, fell out of my head and hit the floor with a thump – and nothing would revive it. After a couple of wild stabs at it, the lady, in the interest of efficiency, handed me over to a singularly humorless man who towed me and my cart over to another register, and ran my card again. I know exactly how a deer feels when caught in the headlights of a car – I just knew the damn number was gone for good, and that I would have to ignominiously return the goodies – which, of course, by now, I really, desperately wanted.
Perhaps due to the threat of this possible deprivation, the adrenalin kicked in right then, and the wanted number sprang into my brain in its entirety, and all was well. But it gave me pause for thought. I am so addle headed these days – too much leisure? – that there is no guarantee that this won’t happen again. My computer passwords are written down in a book (which threatens to become of biblical proportions before long) but it is in my desk at home, and so this PIN number needs to be written down and kept in my purse. But how to write it down without it being obvious to some lucky finder of my purse, should I be so stupid as to lose it -‐ and anything is possible these days! Finally I decided on a genius idea – write it down in a foreign language, of which I know at least four -‐ sufficient for this endeavor anyway – and then defy anyone to break the code! So – each number in a different language?? Neat?? And with a bit of an effort I could even include Urdu and Hindustani … the languages of Pakistan and India, both learnt a hundred years ago when we lived there. Now it only remains to hope that I don’t forget the languages!! And better yet – don’t lose the purse…
Talking about my governess reminded me of another incident of my childhood, this during World War II. We lived in the country, but my grandparents lived in the city of Brno (or Brun, in German), some ten miles away, which had, among other industries, the famous Skoda works, and which, therefore, was a prime target for allied bombing raids. Our house, set in the middle of vast fir forests, was surrounded by flower beds, lawns and trees, and one day, my father, seized with a fit of grandiosity, decided that the place would look good with some peacocks parading around on it. The peacocks were lovely when they spread their tails, although their by-products were less lovely scattered over the front lawn and the sitting area in front of the house – but, as I said, the tail feathers were gorgeous. So gorgeous that my grandmother, visiting one day from Brno, decided that she would take a handful to put into a vase in her living room. My governess was horrified – “You can’t do that!” she wailed in alarm, “peacock feathers are very, very unlucky!!” “Unlucky, pooh!” said my grandma, who was a very practical woman – “I am surprised that you believe such nonsense!” And she took a good armful with her to the city, where she arranged them in a tall vase which sat on top of the piano.
A little bit of time went by, and, inevitably, it brought a big bombing raid on the city. Luckily, both my grandparents were out at the time, as their house received a direct hit. Half of the building was demolished, but enough of the staircase remained for an intrepid fireman to climb to the top floor to their apartment, to find a time bomb lying under the piano. Of course, he high-tailed it out of there in record time, and none too soon, because, a few minutes later, the time bomb blew up – and all they ever found of the piano was one leg. My governess was vindicated….And the weather has been very changeable, as I said in the last blog. Unusually warm, so that one gets all comfortable, and then an Arctic blast comes along, and we shiver and shake. I am tired of feeding the horses in temperatures of 8 degrees F, and I am glad to see the days lengthening, and the temperatures moderating. Somehow it doesn’t seem so bad when the day is longer – I can’t imagine living in Alaska and being in the dark for months at a time! Someone sent me a link to the coldest place on earth – some town in Siberia, where the winter, with temperatures at times down to minus 71 degrees Fahrenheit, lasts nine months of the year – and then in the short, short summer, reaches the high nineties – I can’t even imagine anyone living there by choice! The accompanying information said that the highway to this fun-filled place was built in Stalin’s day by slave labor, and that there are innumerable corpses buried under the blacktop. A nice reminder of socialist good times!
And the baby calves are coming – Kate, who has the expectant mothers in her part of the ranch, saddles up daily and rides among the herd checking them, and reports that there are quite a few calves on the ground now. And we are behind in our grazing timetable too – there is so much grass on the ranch (a nice problem to have, to be sure!) that we kept them in the north pastures a bit longer than we should have, and it is necessary now to move them to the south part of the ranch, so that some of the grass there is utilized also. Luckily all the cows have been born here, and are well used to the program – so much so that, around the time when they know a move should be coming, they begin to congregate around the next gate.
So, said Danny – let’s just move the expectant heifers, which are in the nearby South Cochise Pasture so we can keep an eye on them, into the corral, feed them hay for a while, and move the main herd from the north end to the south by just opening all the gates, secure in the knowledge that they know enough of the program to drift through the South Cochise and several gates into the far end of the ranch. After that is done, we can return the heifers to the South Cochise, hopefully in time to see some babies forthcoming there. Certainly beats the days of old, when we had just bought the ranch – the previous owners enjoyed chasing the cows at breakneck speed over the pastures, and so each round up consisted of wild gallops over grassy land full of gopher holes and hidden ditches – a wonder nobody got killed in those early days!
And, those of you who have been here for spring round up and branding time may remember the big round cement water tank in the branding corral? Over the years, the pipe bringing the water from the well has corroded and rusted out, so that water is no longer available to it -‐ so, when we had the bulls there for their annual sabbatical, we installed a large metal water tank by the fence, and let the cement tank dry out. Now that we have the plan of putting heifers in there for a relatively short time, it seemed a bit work intensive to bring out the heavy metal panels which, when the bulls were there, we put around the large, ¾ ton hay bales, letting the bulls feed through the spaces in the panels.
So Danny had a good thought – just sit the bale into the old water tank and let the heifers feed off it there! A great idea – and, as I write, I hear him down in the corral with the tractor, cleaning out the smelly bottom of the tank and hauling the dirt away, so that we can sit a hay bale in there for the ladies to dine on! I will say this about the ranching life – it is never boring!
And, in closing, I wish to take issue with whomever it was that coined the phrase “bird brain”. Very insulting to birds! As you may know, I have installed a couple of bird feeders outside my window, and every morning Danny and I drink coffee and watch the birdies. Hordes of them come around to partake of the finch seed mix and the general bird mix, and it’s a lovely part of the day for us. But – the last few days, no birdies. After a couple of days of this I wondered why, and Danny, who is a born naturalist, said that very likely there was a hawk in the vicinity, and they were all hiding. A few days went by – and sure enough, this morning, we spied the hawk, sitting high up in the big tree outside my living room window. He sat there for a while and then, apparently in disgust, gave up and flew away…. And it wasn’t a couple of minutes but all the diners were back, happily pecking away at their breakfast! A great way for us to begin the day, watching other species, who are not worried by stock market dips, unemployment figures, and upward cost of living spirals!I wonder how many of you have read books by Gerald Durrell, an English naturalist, whose childhood was spent on the island of Crete in Greece, several years before World War II? He has written some wonderful and very funny books about his life-‐long love affair with nature and her secrets, several of them of his young years on Crete. Here are some of the titles, in chronological order: “My Family and Other Animals”, “Birds, Bees and Relatives”, and, the one I am currently reading, “Fauna and Family”. He went on to a life spent with animals, and in fact owned and operated a zoo, which is quite famous in Britain. If you are looking for some great reading, I recommend all of his books, as well as a fun movie based on some of his childhood escapades, also called “My Family and Other Animals”.