And so, here is the New Year, would you believe 2014!! To think that the First World War had begun this year, so to speak – but then perhaps thinking thoughts like these makes me sound like an old turtle…Never mind foreign wars – I have some of my own. The puppies, who are now, as my friend Steve would say, not puppies any longer, but “young dogs” – have discovered the joys of visiting the Lake by themselves. At least, that’s the only conclusion I can come to after last night, when I let them into the house around 6 pm for their evening feed. The normal drill is to feed them in the bedroom (you might well ask, but it’s the only place I can keep Tuffy away from their feed bowls, thus preventing all of us from getting stomach ulcers) – and the moment they entered it, I knew they had been someplace lawless. They were streaking wet here and there, Bella more so than Buster, who is somewhat fastidious about his appearance, but they both smelled like the bottom of a dead-fish pond. I could barely be in the same room with them – and, of course, the moment they were in the room, they did what they normally do, which is to jump on the bed…. Which explains why I am sitting here, accompanied by the distant, rhythmic thump of the washing machine … It took all night for the smell in the room to dissipate.
And they have grown, too – I had some friends over today and after they left, I let the dogs into the house. A mistake, as it turned out – I walked into the kitchen and my first impression was that there was a tall person in the laundry off the kitchen back door. A second look revealed Bella, on her hind legs, busily investigating a box containing dog biscuits up on the counter – I think she is as tall as I am! So – no unsupervised house visits!!
My family and friends have departed, gone back to sunny Australia, where it is summer indeed, and left us to our frigid mornings of …. would you believe around 30 deg. F or so? It has been a pretty mild winter so far, the only really cold days (of course!) being the ones on the weekends when I did the feeding alone, when Danny was off, and Chris was back in Toronto enjoying a freezing Canadian Christmas. Since his return, I am back in my lazy hog heaven again, with him and Danny doing the feeding on weekdays, with me helping Chris only on weekends.
And talking of Australia, where it is currently the height of summer, I hear that the temperatures in Melbourne are up to 112 deg. F – unheard of! I remember when I was flying, way back in the late 60’s, the temperature being around 102 F one day, and what hell it was in the cockpit – I recall having to wipe the sweat out of my eyes, and how the salt stung so I could hardly see the runway – but 112! So I guess I believe in global warming…. But I don’t believe it is entirely man-caused – I think we give ourselves too much importance. Historians tell us that it is, at least partly, due to the end of the Little Ice Age, which began somewhere around the year 1200 and is now ending.
It’s strange to have the house empty after the holiday rush, but I have a feeling I will need this quiet month, because busy times are a-coming. A good friend of mine, in fact, the last Grapevine Barn Boss, is getting married at the beginning of March, and so many mutual friends are coming to the wedding, that several of them are quartered here – we intend to drive to Phoenix in a body, happily in Chris’s truck which can accommodate us all. Then there is a little lull, followed by the spring round up, with more friends coming from all over to help and enjoy.
And, just in case I got the idea that I had too much money in my pocket – remember the story of the rancher who won a million dollars and someone asking him what he was going to do with it? “I guess I’ll just keep on ranchin’ till it’s all gone”… he said – and rightly so … Our filly, Ayita, who has just turned two, last weekend suddenly, for no apparent reason, looked colicky. Of course, it’s always at the end of the day, so you can worry all night. I gave her a Banamine shot and she appeared better, seemed not too bad through the night, but just not right, so on Monday we took her into Tucson to our equine hospital and its excellent veterinarian, Dr. Larry Shamis. She spent a few days there, and, to my surprise, returned looking much better – not just feeling better, but looking better. I hadn’t realized that, in truth, for a while she hadn’t looked all that good – but on her return, her hair coat was shinier, her posture brighter and she seemed taller and more filled out. As she only spent 3 days there, none of the last two things are actually possible, but there you are – I guess attitude is everything. And what was wrong with her? We don’t know, apart from the fact that she needed lots of blood work done, and lots of fluids. The best the veterinarian can come up with is that she ate some bark off the many mesquite trees in her pasture, and had some kind of poisoning – go figure!! I’ve had horses in mesquites pastures for over 40 years, and never had any trouble – but I guess she felt she needed the extra attention of me having to pay a hefty veterinary bill!
At least we found out one thing – she had never trailered before, and I expected a battle royal on the day of departure. We had to be at the hospital in Tucson at 9 a.m., so had to leave here at 7. At 6:30 it’s still dark, so we backed the trailer up to the lane between the horse pens, loaded Joey, who is the love of her life and her stable mate, and, optimistically, led her to the trailer door. Predictably she wanted nothing to do with it – then, about half an hour and many attempts later, she suddenly jumped in! Go figure…. horses. And the guys told me that on the way home, at the vet’s, she just walked up to the trailer and hopped in. Of course, we took the precaution of sending Joey with the trailer again – he is probably pretty confused, as he had several somewhat painful trips to the same vet last year, when he had to have some cancerous tissue sliced off – but, like the trooper he is, he made no comment, and just loaded, nice as can be, both ways. Maybe he told Ayita “We’re going home, kid, so jump in quick, before they change their minds!!” And she did.
And I have just spent a joyous two and a half days battling an airline reservation, which I was making for my cousin, who is coming to visit from the Czech Republic. I can fully sympathize with the producers of the Obama Care web site – I thought I would go insane. First of all I tried some Norwegian airline, and their web logic utterly defeated me, so I went to British Air. The page itself was fine, until I came to stupid questions like my cousin’s birth date, and the date of issue of his passport and I don’t know what all – all complicated by the fact that he is in Prague, and doesn’t check his e-mail every day (!!) and so I had to abandon the web site several times – which it didn’t like at all – and so, for all I know, I made the reservation seventeen times….. Having to start over again each time isn’t my idea of fun – what a way to spend a Saturday morning, I tell you. Used to be that, in civilized times, one went to one’s travel agent, gave the required information by mouth, as God meant us to do, waited a bit, paid the money and received the travel items. Nowadays – bah! And all in the name of progress!! And I guess that makes me sound like I’m a hundred years old, and, after battling that website, I feel it. I don’t think I like the modern world at all. Pretty soon I will be signing these pages with “Old Grumpy”!!
Talking of the past, for some reason today I remembered the time at Grapevine when we had our team – I wonder how many of you remember that? We had heard of a pony team for sale, went to look, and, of course, came home with them. They were a lovely, matched team of Welsh ponies, with all the harness, and a beautiful buggy with two rows of seats and a top with an ornamental fringe – the original “surrey with a fringe on top”, in fact! The ponies were named Thelma and Louise, and they were great. At the time we had a gal called Ginger in Guest Services, who also lived on the cattle ranch in the Cowboy House next door to us, so the ponies were stabled here, and trotted out on Sundays to take people for buggy rides.
But I tell you, it made me appreciate more than ever the effort it took for people in the old days to harness up a team, especially if they were a team of plough horses, like the Budweiser teams! Even for Thelma and Louise, to lift all that gubbins on them was a job for a stout person – the collars, the traces, all the hooking up – it made me realize that, in the 1800’s, you didn’t just say to your wife: “Wife, let’s go and visit your family down the valley” – or ”Let’s run to town and do some shopping”!
Ah no – first of all, you had to go out and catch the horse or horses, who were out on the back 40 and didn’t really feel like they should work on a Sunday. Then you had to clean them off a bit, tie them up, and then lug out that monstrous harness. By the time you had that lot on, you probably felt you deserved a beer, but in those days, good people didn’t drink, and besides, there was no fridge to have the beer in, even supposing you had the beer in the first place. So you satisfied yourself with a slurp out of the pump, collected your wife and kids, and you set off on your trip. And so – mostly at a walk, because you, being a good horseman, certainly didn’t want to run the horses for nothing – and besides which, the buggy had no springs and didn’t lend it self to too much speed anyway – you trundled over to your neighbors, all of some 5 miles away. I bet you didn’t do that too often – and your wife, doing, as she did, the laundry on Monday, the ironing on Tuesday, the house cleaning on Wednesday…. etc. probably liked a bit of a rest on Sunday. So you stayed home and mended the harness. But for all, I think I would prefer those day to the darn rush of today – given that I was as healthy as I am now, thank God, and that I was not of the female sex, so prone to childbearing, all alone out on the lonely prairies. I wonder how many of you have read books by Willa Cather – great portraits of the life of the early pioneers.
There isn’t anything good to be said about World War II, but there is one thing I can be grateful to it for, or, better put, to the Nazi regime, which forbade driving a car on the penalty of death, as gasoline was strictly for the war effort. So, as we lived in the country, with horses, we used them as in the old days. Some days I rode my horse to the village school – some days I walked – we went to church in a carriage with a team and a coachman, and so I got a taste of the romance of the past. My grandfather, who was a farmer, had to abandon his tractor, and used his horses for all the farm work – something he preferred anyway, as he was a great horseman – and so, but, for the Nazis and their war, I would have missed all that, and for that I can be grateful.
But I never did learn how to harness a team, until in the American West, in the era of the automobile!