So here we are, in the 3rd week of April and this blog is just being written! But I have a good excuse – so much has happened that events seem to fly by and overwhelm me and there was just no time to sit down and get with the program!
Anyway, here it is…
The most awful thing that happened this month is that our beautiful Sarah, Grapevine’s last barn boss, had a horse wreck, and was badly injured. It could have been much worse, but it’s bad enough. She was riding a green horse at her place of work, where she is head of the horse operations – the horse blew up and went to bucking, and, though she rode it for longer than seemed possible, she was finally pitched off over its head, and the horse stepped on her face – her beautiful, classical face. She sustained smashed cheek bones, a broken nose, and damage to her teeth – she has had surgeries the description of which almost made me sick to listen to – the plastic surgeon went in through her eye sockets to repair the cheek bones, inserting metal to re build them – she has her jaw wired shut and can only mumble through her lips and, as you can imagine, he face is swollen beyond recognition. But her spirit remains the same – she is planning to return to horses and an active life. Her new husband, Lonnie, has been wonderful throughout, and now her mom, Susan, is with her, and she is making a good recovery. I think there are several more surgeries awaiting her, and about the only positive thing one can say about the whole business is that it’s a good thing it didn’t happen before the wedding. If you would like to send her a get-well card, her mailing address is Sarah Morrison, PO Box 243, Dragoon, AZ 85609.
The round up went well, and the windy weather stayed away – it makes my life such a misery when I am branding, as it cools the iron sufficiently to make for splotchy brands. I guess we had the only two non-windy days this month, as it’s blowing a gale again today! The new calf crop is looking well, and I have made one change to the ranch’s program, which I think will improve the bottom line. A few weeks ago Steve and I went to the bull auction, which is held in Wilcox once a year, in spring. I had never been to it before, as I imagined that only registered bulls qualified – but then I found out that grade, that is, non registered bulls, were also offered, so we went to see. About 100 young breeding bulls were sold, and we were amazed at the prices – the thousands flew around like confetti, and even mediocre conformation bulls – and never mind being registered! – went for high prices. So our greedy sense kicked in, and, seeing that every year we have quite a few handsome bull calves that always seem to be too good to castrate, we kept back 14 head, and plan to take most of them to the bull auction. Those that won’t qualify as good enough when the time comes, I plan to sell at the normal weekly sale, but the best of them will go for the special bull auction next spring.
Early in the month Danny and I took the pups to Snake School, which took place at a veterinary clinic in Sierra Vista. The trip was enlivened by the fact that both pups threw up in the car, luckily on some old saddle pads which I had the foresight to install in the back – they were prone to do that when they were teeny tiny, and I thought they had got over it – but no! Luckily again, they only did it once and the rest of the trip and the return were uneventful.
The snake school was very interesting, run by a pleasant man who had a real rapport with his pupils. Each session had only four dogs, and I soon found out why the numbers were so limited – he took a long time with each pupil. He had two rattlesnakes, both defanged, and both plainly rather bored with the whole business. He placed a blanket on the grass, put one snake on it, and then put a shock collar on the current pupil, along with a leash. He then let the dog approach the snake, and, when it was at a pretty close distance and getting interested in the snake, he pressed the button. Before some of you begin to protest the inhumanity of a shock collar, let me tell you that it’s not too painful at all, as I tried it out on my own thin skin first – and, furthermore, if it prevents a dog from going up to a snake close enough to get bitten, it’s worth it! Both of mine got the training – I left Tuff at home, as she has been bitten twice already, once on a back leg when she stepped on the snake inadvertently, and once on the face when she got too close – that time I nearly lost her – and, as she has a very healthy respect for snakes now, I didn’t think she needed the lesson. But it was interesting to see how Bella, who has had no experience of rattlers, bounced up to it in her usual exuberant way and got the required anti snake dose – but Buster, who was bitten when a pup, approached it with a much greater respect and kept a good distance away, showing us that he remembered all too well his bad baby experience. Overall, I think it was money well spent, and I would recommend it to anyone with dogs who lives in snake country. And, just to show you how hard their life is, here is a photo of the two of then stretched out on my bed, living the good life!
I may have mentioned in a past blog the fact that I decided to have the old Horse Vacation Pasture fence repaired, as I want to use it for each years’ new heifers, who will be installed there with their special heifer bull, Tommy, guaranteed to throw small-birth calves. So, from now on it is known as the Heifer Pasture – but, of course, as always, there was a catch. The 100-year old fence, built probably by the Coronado Land and Cattle Company in the 1800’s, was in sad need of repair, or, I should say, replacement. I employed a great fencing guy going by the name of Smiley, who agreed to replace the fence for not much more than what was, probably, the original purchase price of the whole ranch in 1890 – but worth every penny. The posts are jammed firmly into the ground, and, where the fence crosses the many washes, the wires are festooned with “dead men” – rocks tied to the wire above to keep it weighted down so that cattle can’t crawl under it – and generally, as fences go, it is a work of art. After Smiley was done with that fence, he repaired the fence between the West and East Noonan Pastures, where a horrendous flash flood washed it out about three years ago, and now he is repairing the fence between the Bull Pasture and the East Noonan, so that we can use the Bull Pasture again without having to worry about losing bulls through it. The last time we had bulls there, one handsome, 1600 lb. fellow jumped the fence and disappeared into the Noonan. When we gathered the cattle in spring that year, we couldn’t find him, no matter where and or how hard we looked. No neighbor called to say that our bull was in his pasture, no vultures circled overhead signaling his end, and his absence remained a mystery. Some time later Danny, out on a ride with some guests, looked off across some bushes and …. there was the bull, large as life. “Look!” he said to the riders, “there’s that bull we’ve been looking for!” The ride turned the corner – but the bull had vanished – and hasn’t been seen since. That was some years back, but it left us with a healthy dislike of the fence of the Bull Pasture, so we hadn’t used it since. But now that the fence is repaired to the tune of some $5,000, perhaps we can venture on using it again. You can probably see, after all this fencing talk, why I am so interested in getting more money for the bulls in spring!
And, as I said in the beginning someplace, the round up went well. We had some friends from Switzerland come and visit, a visit all the more exciting in that they had been the first guests of Grapevine way back in the 80’s. Since then they’d had a family, two sons of 22 and 23 now, and you could hardly find anyone better for all that flanking than these two guys, strong, tall and capable. As well as those two, Carlos, who used to work in Maintenance, and who is famous for his strength (he once picked up an engine block off the ground, and heaved it into a pick up truck) came as well, and also Danny’s nephew Kevin, who manages a cattle ranch across the valley and who is a slick roper – so we were done in good time.
And apart from that, things are humming along in the same fashion – the spring is exceptionally windy and it seems as if each morning brings almost gale force winds gusting a times to 40-50 mph – not so pleasant. But someone told me that the forecast is for an exceptionally wet summer – now wouldn’t that be nice!
So – that’s my news this month – some good, some bad. I hope next month to give you good news of Sarah and I hope you will all think of her and say a prayer for her quick and complete recovery.