First of all, I want to thank all of you for the comforting e-mails and comments about the passing of my horse Tequila. He was a special horse, and I am glad his end was peaceful. I was comforted by your messages, and also by the e-mail I received from my good friend, our veterinarian, who came to put him down. He e-mailed me:
“Eve~ I appreciate your kind note, and salute you for having the fortitude to do the right thing for Tequila. Too often God’s helpless creatures suffer at the hands of selfish humans that “just can’t let go”. Gary”
I was happy to get that note from Gary – I often think it must be difficult to love animals and be a vet, who so often has to speed their passing. On the other hand, how nice that there is someone to help them along – have you ever thought that if it wasn’t for the curse of money, we, humans, could also avail ourselves of such help?
And, still on the subject of animals – part of their charm is that they don’t nag! Such a difference from people – take the pups, for instance. As you may already know, they share my bed (!! – yes, all 8 ft. of them combined….) and sleep happily, in spite of the fact that I often turn on the light to read at some ungodly hour like 4 am. However, as I said in the last blog, I noticed that exactly at 6 am, Bella opens her eyes wide, wiggles around, and bestows a doggy, sloppy kiss on me, as if to say “Time to get up – 6 AM!” I have deliberately avoided any involuntary signals that I may be giving her, have remained engrossed in my book, stayed in the same position, giving her no hint – but, no matter! At exactly 6 am, not a second too early nor late, Bella wakes up, and begins our day. Quite amazing when you think of it…. (Buster, on the other hand, remains grumpily asleep with the air of one who says, “I defy you to disturb me!!”)Unfortunately, this love affair with the puppies isn’t all roses – they can still be exceedingly destructive, and in some sneaky ways, enough to make one paranoid. Buster is especially the villain of the peace here – he loves to shred things. The other day I came into the bedroom to find him busily destroying a pile of cardboard, paper, and other sundry pieces, some of which proved to be of an electronic nature, like bits of wire, ear buds and other expensive looking items. Further investigation led to the fact that he had purloined a package that had arrived for my son-in-law Craig, who often has parcels sent here to await his and Sally’s arrival in October. This particular package had come some time ago, and, as is my habit, I parked it halfway up the stairs to the upstairs bedroom. So would you know that the naughty dog saw it there, retrieved it, took it into the bedroom, and busily demolished it. Of course, I had to order a replacement, after I pieced it together to see what the heck it was – some kind of earphones for a computer, I guessed.
Then, it wasn’t a week later that I received a parcel from a friend of mine in Wisconsin, who had been the sales director of my parents’ corporation, and who forwarded onto me some corporate papers and photographs as a memento of days gone by. They are truly gone by now…. Buster took care of it! All that remained were three photos of my dad, and a couple of pages of some corporate report. I wonder when this propensity for chewing up stuff will leave him?
He has another not too endearing habit. In the evenings, after their last walk and feeding, I sit and watch television, with Tuffy and Bella in the TV room with me, but Buster often ensconced in the living room, where he entertains himself by yapping. From time to time he varies the yapping by full throated barking, so I can’t be sure there isn’t someone at the door – so, get up from the television, tramp into the living room, open the door… nobody. Yell at Buster, who gives me a look that plainly says “Wh-a-a-a-t!” and who evidently has no intention of ceasing his yap patrol.However, I have found a good way of tuning down their energy level – every morning and evening I take them and Tuffy for a “walk” – that is, they walk, or run, and I drive the Polaris. We go up the ranch road towards Grapevine, to the middle gate. Almost to the gate there is the remainder of an old mesquite tree, which died and crashed there many years ago. I like that tree – it has such an aura of history about it. I sit on it, or sit in the shade of a neighboring live mesquite, and watch the dogs chase lizards and otherwise entertain themselves at speed with a high level of enthusiasm. After some time of this, we head back – at the corrals all three jump into the cattle water tank, and swim about, the picture of doggy happiness. Doing this twice a day is almost as relaxing as the “goat walks” I used to take years ago, and it certainly takes some of that excess energy out of the pups. Of course, it does mean that they come home sopping wet, but hey – you can’t have everything!! After the first few gallons of water have dried off, they are invited in, to eat their dinner and join me in watching the bad news on television.
Still on the subject of animals, albeit of a different variety – like anyone living in the country, we are plagued by pack rats and squirrels, which can drive me crazy at night when they come close to the bedroom door. Immediately sensing their arrival, both dogs erupt out of a deep sleep, going from 0 to 1,000 decibel barking in a nano-second, and out the doggy door they fly, to catch the offender.
After several episodes of this, we decided to trap the squirrels and relocate them out on the cattle range – as we do with the pack rats who love to nest under the hood of the cars in the garage, and eat up the wires. (One such episode cost me about $700 a couple of years ago, when they ate up more than just wiring, necessitating never leaving a car parked without the hood raised up wide, so the interior doesn’t present an enticing view of a potential ratty homestead.)
I hate to kill them – so we trap them and then take them out when delivering the minerals to the cattle, and turn them loose, some 3 or so miles from home. Of course, I don’t know that they don’t beat us home – but we like to think that they enjoy their new surroundings, some of these being actual rat or squirrel condos-on-the-range. Danny was telling me about one time when he took a packrat out to a mound full of such holes. He opened the cage door at the opening of an inviting looking homestead – the rat jumped out, went in, and immediately came flying out, hair sticking up on end, eyes bulging. He scuttled into the hole next door – and, same thing – he was swiftly pitched out by another possessive occupant. Danny said he tried three such holes, and then finally disappeared into a fourth one, where he remained, hopefully happily to this day…
And I have become exceedingly spoiled. Most of the year there is not only Danny here (Kate being at Grapevine, over a mile away), but also Chris, who comes over from Canada and stays as long as the government allows, and Steve from the UK, who comes over for six weeks at a time twice a year. You realize that when those guys are here, be it one or both, my life is one of slothful ease, as they not only help Danny with sundry ranch jobs, but also help him feed mornings and evenings, and do the feeding on the weekends, with me just helping. But – when they both have to go home, this weekend feeding is up to me alone. This doesn’t bother me, but it really bothers Chris, who thinks that this chore is just too much for my delicate being. It’s a nice feeling, this having someone so concerned for my welfare, but the danger is that I will begin to believe it! The feeding isn’t so bad, at that, even though these days it’s a bit more complicated due to the fact that we have two orphaned calves in the pens as well.
So – the drill is – get some warm water and mix up the powdered milk replacer for the calves, and then take your life in your hands when you venture into their corral with the buckets. They have no concept of polite dining manners, and can’t see why they should wait until you attach the buckets on the fence – instead it’s to the attack immediately when you come in through the gate, and it becomes a struggle to reach the fence and get the darn buckets securely anchored. Then back to the shed, and dish out the feed for the one remaining geriatric goat, who, in spite of her very senior years, appears to be in the best of health and spirits, and who is impatiently waiting at the fence with the air of one saying: “Really, this hotel!! The service is awful!”
After that, get the nosebag with the special feed for Comanche – and fetch Comanche out of the corral, so his new corral mate, Waylon, doesn’t attack him. That done, mix up the special feed for Blaze, who, at around 30 or more, has special dietary needs – and another dose for Gus, who recently lost a bit of weight, and who is therefore in the adjoining pen getting special treatment.
That done, you are free to hit the hay barn and load up the Polaris with hay to be distributed among six different corrals…. When you write it down like that, it seems pretty work-intensive, but actually it’s not bad, in spite of Chris’ worrying. The only time I don’t like it is in the winter – I remember that the last winter, which was quite warm, we had a couple of really nasty, cold days, and these, naturally, hit on weekends, when I soldiered on alone…. But hey – I am grateful that I can manage!! At least I don’t have to lump those 120 lb hay bales up there in one piece – cunningly, I cut them in half and stuff them onto the Polaris in bits. But it is nice of Chris to worry…And I know you are all pretty tired of my flower garden palaver, but guess what! I have actually ventured into the growing of a “garden” – that is, instead of flowers, vegetables. This would be pretty funny on the part of someone who doesn’t eat vegetables on a bet, except that I am starting in a very, very small way…. I have one tomato plant, a parsley bush, and, to my utter amazement, some cilantro (coriander) just coming up. The cilantro was not available in plant form, but the man who sold me the seed assured me it was easy – you scatter it, water it, and presto! I didn’t really believe him – I mean, such miracles! But I duly planted the seed, watered it, and, joy of joys, here is the cilantro coming up in the form of solid green fuzz, promising culinary delights to come. Of course, I realize that one tomato plant does not a summer make, but, thus encouraged, I plan to enlarge the operation by several others next year, and who knows? I may have a whole tomato plantation by then … and maybe even actually eat vegetables.
So with this I will leave you – may you have a great 4th of July, safe travel, lots of rain if you live in the desert, and blue skies if you don’t
Hasta la vista, amigos!