LUCKILY, IT WASN’T QUITE AS BAD as all that, but it was bad enough – not so much the branding itself, but the dry days that preceded it. All the tanks on the Flats dried up completely, and Bones Tank was so low that it was mostly mud with just a bit of water that remained on the bottom, in the softest and nastiest mud. Unfortunately, several cows, trying to get a drink, got stuck in the mud and had to be winched out by the use of a handy device called a hip clamp attached to the cow’s hips on one end, and to the bucket on the tractor at the other end – quite a procedure, and a constant worry that we wouldn’t get there on time…
Finally we had to install a couple of metal tanks by the Grapevine fence and fill them with well water (something that is no fun at all considering the cost of the pumping) and drive the herd to it, so they would leave off trying to water in the mud of Bones Tank. I wonder, now that I think of it, if that is how it got its name, many years before our time? I’m glad that we didn’t contribute more bones…
BUT – it rained now, the tanks are full, the grass is green and the cows (and we) are happy.
However, the cartoon does remind me of years past, when we did have a herd like that. When we bought the ranch, in December 1989, the cows viewed people on horseback as enemy number one, to be avoided at all costs, and no sooner did they spy us coming, than they hightailed it over the nearest ridges. Every round up was a hell for leather ride, through brush, over ditches, under trees – it’s a wonder nobody got killed in those days. I well remember once chasing about five heifers who were hightailing it across the Flats through brush, trees and arroyos, when suddenly, over Comanche’s shoulder, I spied a deep ditch that I could see no way of avoiding. I braced myself for a king-sized wreck, when that wonderful horse, at the last possible second, gathered himself and sailed over it, landing with a hell of a thump on the other side. The thump was so jarring that everything in my pockets fell out and scattered on the ground around us – my sunglasses off my nose, my pen, my notebook – it was not a landing – it was an arrival. Of course, I had to get down to pick up my stuff, as I knew I would never ever find it again, and so we lost the heifers, but I will never forget that awful heart stopping sight of that ditch looming just ahead of Comanche’s ears, and the relief that we didn’t finish up in it.
But time went by, and years of quiet riding and selective breeding resulted in a pleasant herd, which is quite happy to co-operate, and our days of “special forces” cattle are, hopefully, over forever. The last wild-eyed cow of that ilk was one that was born to a pretty lawless mother, and I remember Gerry wanted to sell it as a heifer. However, she had a good conformation, and I claimed her for my own, insisting that she would make a good marker cow – meaning that when you had her in the corral, you could be pretty certain you had them all in the corral. She became my wages for the year, and I named her My Blue Heifer – she was a blue roan – but my, she was wild and unpleasant! As soon as she saw you coming she would either square off in order to fight you, or hightail it over the nearest ridge, and, true enough, when you got her gathered, you could be sure you had them all. But – she produced a calf every year, and they were all good-looking, and, thanks to the moderating influence of the bulls, of a better temperament. My Blue Heifer finally died some years back (at age 15, would you believe), and nowadays, peace reigns on the range.Not so necessarily in the house – the puppies are in control, I am sad to say, and Tuffers and I are fighting a losing battle. They are quite big now, and, standing up, measure around 4 ft in height, which means they (and I must say that the offender here is mostly Bella) can stand up on her hind legs and reach up and get all kinds of goodies off counters and tables and bedroom dressers.
So it was that I came into the bedroom one day and found an indescribable mess on the floor, happily chewed up, dismembered, and jumbled up so I couldn’t even tell what it had been… Closer inspection revealed the fact that it was something electronic – at least, it appeared to have had some kind of an ear-bud with some wires leading from it, but the rest was so mangled that it was beyond recognition. Finally, a time consuming re-assembly of the box revealed the fact that it was something electronic, and what’s more, addressed to Craig, my son-in-law from Australia, who often has items mailed here in order to collect them when he and Sally come to visit. I always put their packets on the stairs, halfway up to the upstairs bedroom – obviously, possible no more! The naughty dogs spied the packet up there, fetched it down and dealt with it at leisure. Of course, when I finally pieced together the bits of paper, I ordered another one, and when it arrived, sent it immediately to Australia via a visiting mutual friend, just to make sure! But no more putting packets on the stairs – evidently that spot is now viewed as a handy hunting ground!
And so, the other day, I once again came into the bedroom, and, like a vision of Ghosts of Christmas Past, there was another paper package strewn all over the floor, demolished and lovingly chewed up, but, what was worse, this packet had obviously contained a plastic container such as the pharmacy uses for one’s medications. Sure enough!! My heart med – scattered all over the floor!As it wasn’t too long after the sad episode of Bella’s poisoning with the stuff used for Comanche, I really panicked. What would a people heart pill do to a dog heart??? What could happen!! I crawled all over the floor, gathering up the scattered pills, and finally counted twenty-nine – there should have been thirty. I figured that perhaps if he or she had eaten one it wouldn’t be all that bad, when, going down the corridor from the bedroom, I spied the last one, clinging to the carpet like a refugee from a hurricane. I felt a bit stupid explaining this to the pharmacist when I went to get another refill – I had to produce the chewed up container with its thirty bedraggled pills, to prove that I wasn’t a heart pill addict, I guess. And, still on the subject of the doggy tyrants, in order to keep them exercised, I take them for what Danny euphemistically calls a walk, twice a day. That is, they walk – or run – and Tuffy and I ride in the Polaris – a much better arrangement! We drive out to the middle gate in the South Cochise Pasture, I turn around there, and drive back to that beautiful old downed tree, halfway down the road. There I sit on a nearby mesquite tree limb, handily near the ground, like a chair, and all three dogs chase lizards. It’s the nearest thing I can get nowadays to my fabulous “goat walks” with Comanche and the four legged family – nowhere near as good, but still wonderful. I can sit and look out across the valley, and think on days gone by – I am pretty sure, based on the bits of old glass, metal, old cupboard handles and such, that many years ago there may have been a cabin on that spot, with the big tree – perhaps a cottonwood – shading it from the hot desert sun. It would have been on the stagecoach route, not too far from where, years before, Mike Noonan was killed by the Apaches. I just realized I talked about this in a blog a little while back, but it makes us all happy, so it bears repeating – at the risk of boring you all! On the way back we stop by the arena and all three enjoy a swim in the horse water tank. We put a couple of cement blocks by the side and also a couple inside so the dogs have a ledge to stand on, but I see that it’s only Tuffy who, at times, needs to use these – the long legged terrors don’t need any help!
You have heard about my flower garden, I am sure, in past blogs – but finally this year I was moved to attempt a vegetable garden!! Before you faint with surprise (as I HATE eating vegetables) know that this means one tomato bush, one parsley plant and one cilantro plant, in pots. They looked very nice, and I actually picked and enjoyed a tomato out of my very own garden – until, to my horror one morning, when I went to visit my tomato plant I found it almost dead, fainting and moaning, with the leaves all eaten up by (as Danny told me later) a tomato worm! Of course, Danny found it – the blighter was big enough to slaughter – ugh! took it away and disposed of it (probably shot it!), looked further, found a smaller one, got rid of that also – and now my lovely tomato plant, looking like a refugee from a war zone, is covered with a huge, ugly metal mesh, under which it languishes, trying to decide if it wants to live or die! Kind of takes the fun out of vegetable gardening, things like this!! The parsley and the cilantro seem well – apparently not too appealing to worms.
And some rains have come – to date we have had almost 4 inches (well, ok, 3.80) in a couple of weeks, and today it looks as if it may rain again this evening… Never enough!
I thought I would finish up with some Dog Rules that some of you may want to use. You know, of course, that I am very strict with my dogs – they are, after all, DOGS, and they have to Know Their Place! To this end I enclose a set of Dog Rules for my house:
Finally, thank you all for the many e-mails, cards and calls about my Comanche. It is good to know we have so many friends.