I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to be so-called “retired” and stay so darn busy! I have no idea where my time is going these days.
As some of you may know, I am about to undertake my first vacation in about 12 years and actually leave the ranch for the first time since going to my mother’s funeral in 2005, and you can hardly call that a vacation! Time to go someplace, you think?? I thought so too, when I blithely made these plans in spring, but here it is suddenly upon me … and now, to actually leave the place and go visit my sister and niece who live in New York and Vermont respectively, has acquired a different aspect. When I began planning this junket it seemed to be very do-able and safely far away, in the distant mists of 6 months or so. But, suddenly, the departure time is upon me, and I am rushing around at the last minute trying to get all my ducks in a row.The fall round up is over – we began last Sunday and only completely finished today, when I drove to the cattle auction in Willcox and collected my cattle check personally, rather than waiting for it to be mailed and sit in the mail box for three weeks… I was also pleased this year to sell some of the calves privately before the auction, for a very fair price, so all in all the round up was a success and all that remains now is to go and have a good time. But there are snags – I can’t leave the puppies here, running around being a nuisance to everyone, so they have to go to a dog sitter place. I know that dogs think differently to people, but I am already worrying about … will they be bored, will they miss me, will they…will they…will they… Of such thought are neuroses made…
Dog Tuffy, who just hates the dog sitter place, will stay here at the ranch, being taken care of by the people remaining here, and I am sure she will be fine – but that doesn’t stop me from worrying about her, too !! Such a good thing I never had any children – they would have grown up to be totally neurotic, I‘m sure!
Still on the subject of my doggy family, I decided the other day to take the plunge and take the dogs along on their first horseback ride. I had no idea if the pups would follow the horse, if they would be obedient, or if they would vanish into the wild blue yonder causing me untold headaches. Well, they couldn’t have been better. Like a sledge team of Huskies, they ran ahead of my horse, an exact distance in front, enjoying their time, but always staying in sight. We went to Spooky Tank where they had a good splash in the water, and then went further up the canyon to the foot of the Gap Trail. We returned along the wash, down a trail which has, since the guest ranch closed, almost vanished, so I had to bushwhack my way through brambles and rock slides …. and, to my amazement, the dog who vanished wasn’t one of the young pups, it was Tuffy!! Old reliable Tuffers, who never strays, though I must say that she often runs out of sight. This time, though, no amount of whistling, calling, yelling, screaming produced results and I was prepared to go all the way back to the foot of the mountain, when, back at Spooky Tank, she suddenly surfaced, all innocent and happy looking, from some brush further up the mountain. I could have cheerfully strangled her.
And, talking of surprises, the other night, at around 10 pm, Tuffy began to bark up a storm, rushing at the front door, hackles up. I turned on the outside light, went to the door, opened it and there was cow Ginger, rioting around on the patio, having a right high time. In the ten minutes or so that she spent there, she managed to do an incredible amount of damage. She nipped off all the rose bushes, turned some pots upside down, dumping their contents on the ground, she ate up my cyclamens and day-lilies – the damage was unbelievable. And this from a range cow!! A range cow, who, because she was my pet cow Clementine’s first calf, and who has spent her entire life on the range producing a calf every year for about 13 years, has now been honorably retired, to live out her remaining days in the company of her venerable mother, enjoying the grass along the drive and being fed as well, as befits a family member. After the attack on my patio, though, I am having second thoughts – what a marauder!! Almost as good as donkey Katie, who spends her days plotting how to carry out similar attacks.
And our friend Steve, who cowboys here for several months of the year, had a dubious surprise the other day. He was out checking the water at South Fork Tank, riding, of all horses, Coco, who is not known for his rock steadiness. Steve was peacefully bopping down the trail almost to South Fork when he heard a rustling in the bushes – and suddenly a bear surfaced right under Coco’s nose. Steve said it was difficult to know who got the bigger surprise, he, the horse, or the bear. The bear took one look at the pair, whipped around and hi-tailed it down the trail, his back legs overtaking his front legs in his frantic bid to get away. Just as well – Coco wasn’t going to stay around either!! Of course, we know there are bear out in the mountains – we often used to see bear sign at the cook-out site following Sunday cook-outs, where our furry friends came to see what goodies might have been left behind … but to meet one head on, so to speak, at a distance of about 6 ft., is a different matter.
And, for those of you who know the place pretty well, I decided to fence off a part of the Lake Pasture, and make the land below the dam available to horses. To this end, we employed a fence specialist who came, and in two days, and for over a thousand of the best, whacked up a fence along the east side of the dam so that the horses can be let out from the corrals to graze all that grass which has always gone to waste, as the cattle hardly ever venture there.
The same fence specialist has also been employed to replace the hundred year old fence of the Horse Pasture, which, being over 100 acres, is somewhat wasted on the five horses now grazing there, and which is therefore going to be turned back into a Heifer Pasture. But wait for it – to replace the fence is going to cost me a cool thirteen thousand of the best – ouch! As someone once said to me, how is it that there is always so much month left at the end of the money!! A good question.
So – for the time being, adios, vaya con Dios, as our friends south of the border say, and get ready for me to bore you with my travelling tales next time!!