A Horse Story

Spring Break has begun for me today.  I have 9 days off and 900 things on my ever-growing to-do list to accomplish.  Number one being pack, move, and unpack. 

My husband is super busy, and I can’t wait for him, so tonight I packed most of my kitchen, my china, my plates, my Tupperware, and my pots and pans, loaded them into my dad’s yellow truck, and unpacked them out at our new place.  It was dark when I drove up.  “Dark” in the country is a different kind of darkness.  It’s like dark, dark.  There’s no street lights, or neighbor’s porch lights, or flashing neon signs.  I fumbled around with the padlock on the gate using the light from my headlights, constantly looking around for fear of some critter to rub up against my leg or something.  Being in the country in the dark can be a little spooky.

I’ve always been a town girl, and the bottom line about country living is I’m going to have to toughen up.  Plain and simple. 

And perhaps invest in some night vision goggles. 

 As soon as I pulled up to the house, out of the darkness appeared this silhouette of a horse  walking towards me.  It’s not unusual for a horse to greet us when we pull up, thinking we’ve got some groceries on us.  I squinted trying to make out the color and the size of the horse, trying to recognize it.  It was a strange, gray spotted horse that am not familiar with.  I later found out,  J-Dub and some others got horseback today to get a little cowboy work done, and one of his cowboy friends left his horse at our place with the other horses. 

You want to know a little secret?  An unknown fact about me? 

I’m kinda, sorta scared of horses.  I know, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re married to a cowboy and you’re scared of horses?????  Yes, I am.  I have no reason to be afraid.  I’ve never been hurt by one, but they’re big and powerful, and they aren’t the least bit afraid of me.   They walk around with an air of authority and intimidate me.

I then noticed the other three horses came strutting over in a pack, throwing their gang signs. I began unloading some boxes from the back of the truck, ignoring the horses when suddenly I heard a pounding of horse hooves.  Spinning around, trying to allow my eyes to develop night vision, I saw one of the three  horses chasing the strange, gray horse around the pasture at a high rate of speed.   I yelled and they stopped running, but as I was unloading the truck, on my trips in and out of the house, I kept my eye on the behavior of these horses.  The three horses that have been out there and have gotten to know one another, wouldn’t let the new horse around them.  They had decided to form a clique, and like a bunch of junior high girls were bullying this strange horse. Even when the new horse was off minding his own business, the 3 bully horses would saunter over to him and suddenly one of them would break away from the others and charge at the gray horse, causing him to take off running with the bully horse right on his heels.  It was downright unnerving to me.  I could only imagine them running through a fence or running into me carrying a large box.  I wanted to do something but felt helpless and a little bit too scared to take on two charging horses.  Where’s Mr. Ed and  the Horse Whisperer when you need them?

This little cat and mouse chasing bit went on three more times, before they finally settled down somewhere beyond my vision. 

I got my kitchen unpacked and headed back to the truck, greeted this time by the putrid smell of a skunk permeating the air.  He’s probably nesting under my house.

Darkness, unpredictable horses, odorous skunks……..lawsy mercy, this is going to be quite the adventure, and boy had I better get tough or get night goggles.

A Nest

Spring is coming.  It’s just around the corner.  As soon as I utter that old cliche’, tomorrow we’ll all probably get snowed thirty feet under.  But I am remaining hopeful about the coming spring.  The tulips and daffodils are poking their green heads out of the earth and birds are building nests.

Unfortunately the owner of this particular dwelling will have to rebuild.  I stole this bird’s nest from a tree out at “our place” for two reasons.  1) I found it fascinating and wanted to show somebody, and 2) I could reach it.

In my nearly 36 years, I’ve never studied a bird’s nest, and in my shallow storybook mind, I thought they were only made from twigs and sticks.  But just look at this.  (I only wish my photography skills would enable you to see this better, but I take pictures almost as good as I write my name in the snow, if you know what I mean.)

  This bird has a heaping helpin’ hodgepodge of nesting materials.  Including but not limited to: carpet strands, cotton from a nearby field, weed stems, grass, and sticks.

At a closer study, you’ll see:

Seeds from a cotton plant,

A long strand of something plastic,

A possible wad of toilet paper, but optimistically, a paper towel,

Perhaps pieces from a Clorox wipe,

A hair from a horse’s mane or tail,

and a dadgum lollipop stick!

Unbelievable!

To think the places this bird flew to gather her supplies is beyond my understanding.

My first reaction to this bird’s nest was amazement and fascination.  Even still, when I gaze upon on, I’m in awe.  I want to share it with everyone I know, so I took it to my classroom, naturally thinking that my student’s would feel the same way as I, holding it and examining it with a child-like wonder and disbelief.  Instead, to my utter disappointment, most of them were grossed out.  Several “eeewwww’s” went up from the crowd, others wouldn’t hold it, and the ones that did squirted their hands with hand sanitizer afterwards.  It caused me to pause and reflect, “What is this world coming to?”  that the first reaction of 8 year old’s is repulsiveness instead of curiosity.

While being married to a man who sticks his arm inside a cow’s booty,

who organizes a birthday party contest for cow-chip throwing,

who lances bovine abscesses to drain bucketfuls of puss,

I can’t fathom being grossed out by a bird’s nest.

A sweet little bird who used her resourcefulness and hard work to build a nest in which to start her family.  

Suddenly as I think of what I’ve done, thieving the home of one of God’s creatures for educational purposes, I feel like a wretch.

I’m going to put it back.  I know she won’t accept it, after being touched by so many (germ-sanitized) human hands, but I’m going to put it back anyway.

I’ll be able to sleep better at night.

A Cowboy’s Hat

This morning I stumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, poured myself a cup of ambition, yawned and stretched and tried to come alive.

Not really.  It’s Saturday.  I slept later than usual, I awoke refreshed and feeling great, and meandered to the bathroom.

Then I peeked out the window to see if my husband’s truck was outside which meant he hadn’t left for work yet.  I didn’t see it, and I couldn’t hear any rustling around the house, so I assumed he wasn’t home.

Until I saw his hat on the kitchen table.  Then I knew he was here somewhere.

 

His dirty, black hat,  equipped with a toothpick, only goes where he goes.

It’s pretty crusty, wouldn’t you agree?  Some people think he needs a new one.  But why?  This one is nearing the point of perfection.

He catches some grief from others about this dirty hat.  Not long ago, a friend asked him when he was going to clean it.  Never, that’s when.  It takes a long time, years in fact, to get a hat to fit right and feel right, and cleaning it might mess with the dirt, sweat, and grime that has made it the hat it is today.

My mom has finally resigned the issue.  She gave up the cause for a  new hat.  For years on his birthday or Christmas, she would give him gift cards to a western store in hopes that he would buy a new hat.  He bought jeans and socks instead.

She hasn’t complained about this hat, but his last hat she hated.  She even let him know she hated his hat.

This is his old hat.  It’s pretty bad.  To the untrained eye, it might look identical to his present hat, but look closely.

There are no toothpicks , the buckle is badly bent, and the dirt is thicker.  Much, much, thicker.

On Christmas morning, we opened the door to find a present, wrapped and sitting on our porch.  We assumed it was from my brother and his wife Janene, because that’s their style.  Just leave it on the porch.  But upon opening it, we discovered a brand new black felt hat.  It was from J-Dub’s friend Ol’ Earl, who pitied him for his dirty, black hat.

Of course J-Dub has a going-to-town hat too.   That’s what he calls his dress hat.

It’s stocked with toothpicks as well.  He wears it with his going-to-town watch and his going-to-town belt.

This is my husband’s hat.  It has character, it fits right, and it stays on his head.  Except for the day I had to chase it across the prairie in -34 degree wind chill.  But the only reason it blew off that day was because he had a scarf on his head.

Not an old lady scarf, but a cowboy scarf, otherwise known as a wild rag.  I love this picture.  He hates it.  He looks like  an old lady to me. A babushka, an old Russian grandmother.  Generally he doesn’t leave the house looking like this, but the bitterness of the cold that day was unbearable.  He needed to protect his ears, and the silkiness of the wild rag caused his hat to blow away.  Which didn’t make the day any more enjoyable.

While others look at this hat and see a dirty, black hat in desperate need of the trash can, I see a hard-working husband.  I see the sweat from his brow on a summer day, the mud from the pens where he’s sorting cattle, the dust and dirt caking his face.  I see him rolling out hay in frigid temperatures, breaking ice on frozen water tanks, doctoring sick calves.  I see him branding cattle, building fence, shipping yearlings.  I see the his love for the occupation,  the land, the lifestyle, and his love for me.

I admire this dirty, black hat.

But much more, I admire the man who wears it.

So Happy Together!

My cowboy husband J-Dub needed to move some cows on Saturday.  They had grazed down a pasture pretty well and needed some greener grass.  You know, over on the other side.  It is typically a rather large job for one cowboy alone to move 90 cows from one pasture to another, so he moved most of them with the feed wagon, aka the cake wagon, aka the feed truck.  Cows recognize the Chevy that feeds them and once trained they most of them will follow the feed truck from here to kingdom come.  Or at least into the next pasture.  He later planned to get horseback to go pick up the few stragglers, the loners, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

It is not uncommon for a mama cow to leave her baby calf to come feed.  J-Dub noticed this one mama cow in particular who approached the gate, almost stepped over the threshold,  almost crossed into the Promised Land of Greener Pastures, but then thought better of it and turned to go find her calf that she had abandoned for the buffet line.  J-Dub made sure to leave the gate open so once they paired up, they could return to the rest of the herd. 

Side note:  While my husband was telling me this story, I just couldn’t understand it.  It has been ingrained into my brain as a cowboy’s wife to ALWAYS CLOSE THE GATE!  I just couldn’t understand why in the Sam Hill he would leave a gate open and allow all those cows that he just moved to return to the pasture he wanted them out of.  But then he oh-so-very-patiently explained to me in his most gentle, most soft-spoken, sweetest voice that they had grazed the old pasture down and the grass was better in the new pasture.  And of course any cowboy’s wife worth her weight in Wranglers would know that cows will stay in the pasture with the better grass.  Hence, I hang my head in shame.

All the moving of cows here and yon happened on Saturday.  On Monday, he noticed the same mama cow wandering aimlessly, with a tight bag (a sign that her baby had not nursed recently) through the grazed pasture looking for something she’d lost.  And it wasn’t her ear tag she was looking for.  She and her baby, unequipped with GPS, still had not found one another.   It had been 2 days.   A baby will typically return to the last place it nursed, and it’s mother will find it there.  But this baby must’ve gotten a wild hair and ventured farther than the street lamp.  J-Dub drove around the pasture, looking for the baby without any success.  Needing to get on to other duties, he had no choice but to leave. 

Today when he checked on the cows, the situation was the same.  A mama with no baby.   A baby with no mama.  After 3 nights without the protection of its mother from the Big Bad Coyotes that roam freely, without the warmth and nourishment of its mother’s milk, the likelihood of the calf surviving was bleak. 

But alas, I will not tell a tale without a happy ending.  Not today anyway.   

 J-Dub decided he would get horseback and go to the far end of the pasture.  He began bawling like a little baby calf.  This was an act of trickery so the mother cow would think it was her baby bawling instead and follow.  It worked.  She followed J-Dub over to the far end of the pasture where lo and behold, a small miracle occurred and the baby calf was found alive. They were reunited and it felt so good.    

The calf’s little belly is full, the mama’s bag is no longer engorged, the gate is closed and all is well.

Breaking Ice

I have a new BFF today.

He’s my good pal.

My buddy.

My friend.

He’s a little furry.

And maybe a little smelly.

But I don’t mind at all.  Especially today, when he doesn’t see his shadow.

Picture

I’m ready for an early spring.

Here’s some pictures of our world.

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Yesterday it was 5° at 5:30 p.m. with 30 mph winds.   After you do all that meteorological mumbo jumbo that comes out to equal -15 below zero wind chill. 
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Notice all the wind breaks out here on the high plains.

The wind slices you like a knife.
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Coming down the road, you can see that the cows are thirsty.  Instead of getting down into the breaks out of the brutal wind, they are huddled around the drinking tub.

But this is a first.

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My husband J-Dub has seen many cows, and many drinking tubs, but has never seen a cow standing on top of a drinking tank before.  Frozen solid. 

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It’s a wonder she didn’t fall through.  She weighs approximately 750 pounds. 

When I stood on it to cross over into the other pasture to chase a rolling black Stetson, it began to crack under my weight.

Which means I out-weigh a cow.

Probably by 100 pounds.

Not a happy thought.

It’s a real wonder I didn’t fall through.  I carefully held onto the post and tiptoed on the edge.

J-Dub had to break the ice for them to get a drink.  If you wonder how he does that, it’s probably how you imagine. 

With his brute strength!

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And an ax.
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This is hard work, I don’t care who you are.

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Add the bitter temperature, this isn’t even close to being fun.
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It’s tough being a cow.

And tougher being a cowboy.

Today my sweet husband had to break ice on 18 different drinking tubs across the panhandle of Texas.

Did you enjoy your hamburger today?

Be sure and thank a cowboy.

Preg Checking

There comes a time in every cowboy’s life when the question arises as to whether or not a cow is pregnant.  But only dudes say pregnant.   Real cowboys say bred.  For fear of embarrassing my husband, I shall only speak in cowboy lingo for this blog.  So try to keep up, okay?

Recently we acquired a cow that was believed to be 8 months bred on August 25th.  Cows are pregnant on average 283 days, just like a woman, which meant she should’ve calved (Dude translation:  given birth) back in September, October at the latest. 

As of December 27th, she still hadn’t calved, nor was she springing heavy (Dude translation:  showing any signs).  Click here for a visual.  So J-Dub questioned if she was even bred at all and thought she was probably open (Dude translation:  not pregnant).

Since cows don’t voluntarily lay on a table and put their legs in stirrups or pee on a stick on demand, there’s really only one cost efficient method to determine a cow’s state of pregnancy.   

For this method you need a:

1.  a cow  (for obvious reasons)

2.  a plastic sleeve (for obvious reasons to be seen)

3.  lubrication (for obvious reasons)

4.    one tough cowboy (for obvious reasons)

Here we see Maybelle looking a bit wary.  She knows something is up.  She has been penned away from the rest of the cattle.  And she’s not liking it one bit.

 

First, she takes a big ol’ crap.

Then she takes a big ol’ pee.  If you’ve never seen a cow pee, there isn’t anything dainty about it.  It’s a gusher.

 

Next J-Dub pens her in a chute.

And prepares himself by putting on a plastic sleeve and squirting some lube in his hand.

He enters the chute at the rear of the cow……

 

and does exactly what you’re wishing he won’t.

Sticks his hand into her #2 hole.  His arm rather.   

 Right into her poop chute.  He feels around a bit, concentrating. 

He doesn’t have to go too far until he pokes something in the eyeball.

“Yep, there’s a big ol’ calf in there”

And everyone is all smiles.

 

 Everyone except Maybelle.

A Failed Attempt

We have a bovine dilemma.

It consists of a cow who lost her baby and is left with a bag full of milk.

And a baby who was born a twin and its old momma doesn’t have enough milk for two which leaves it powerful hungry.

The logical answer would be to let the baby calf nurse a momma with a tight bag. 

But it doesn’t work that way.

That’s not her baby.  Which means she will not voluntarily let it nurse.  And even though you might receive touching emails about tigers adopting puppies or wolves letting bunnies hop around on their heads, it’s not the way it works around here.

So Jason forces it, in an attempt to see if this cow will adopt the calf.

After penning the cow and calf, he runs the big bagged momma into a squeeze chute.

Then he gets the poor hungry calf.
And puts it to the tit.
It doesn’t know what to do at first, but with Jason’s coaxing and cussing, it catches on.
So we wait.

Now I would like to end this story with good news. I would like to tell you that this momma adopted this baby, its little calf belly is pooching,  and all is well in the world. 

 But no such luck suckers. 
She isn’t going to earn the philanthropist of the year award in the bovine category.
But the baby was given to a little tyke to bottle raise.
And I’m sure its little calf belly is pooching.
And all is well with the world.
Peace,
Angel

Serenity Now!

My life is hectic lately. 
And I don’t like it.
I like peace and serenity.
I go visit the cows.
Aw, serenity.
The soft moos.
The whisper of the breeze through the bluestem grass.
The sweet suckling at the teet.
 The pictures of nature.
Aw,serenity.
Deep breaths.
Calmness in my soul.
Until Jason cusses.
See all these black ones?  And that charolais?  (pronounced shar-lay; that would be the white one)
See how they aren’t red?
They don’t belong here. They belong to the neighbor. They’ve busted through the fence. They think the grass is greener here.
It’s not.
It’s dead here too.
That creates more work for Jason.
That makes him mad.
All the cows in this pasture should be red. 
Like this pair:  a momma and her baby.

But this pair?  There’s something in the woodpile here.

This one has a booger.  It happens.  One of my second grade students needed two kleenexes, and announced “I have a lot of boogers.”  It just happens.

It’s still cute.
Serenity again.
 And then…..
these two.
They face off.
They go head to head,
 and toe to toe.
They kick up some dirt.
And some more.
ENOUGH!!!!  I scream.  Q—U–I—E—T!!!!! 
Aw, serenity.
Then we just lie in the pasture, and enjoy the day.
It doesn’t get much better than this.

Stickhorses and Dustbunnies

After my last great attempt at horse riding, Adventures in Cowboying,
 I decided I needed some spurs.  Jason said I needed to learn how to ride first. 

If you are any kind of a real cowboy, stop reading right here and go rope a goat or something, this will not impress you one iota.  But if you are like me, a dude who doesn’t know the difference between a halter and a bridle, continue reading and be impressed.
Be very impressed.

I just want you to know, I have absolutely no business with these.  My darling husband, whose desire is to fulfill my every whim, bought these for me, yes even though he knew I had no business with them.  That’s just how he is.  They’re cheapies.  I wouldn’t have known, but he felt the need to tell me.  It didn’t damper my enthusiasm.
Cheap or not, they still poke a horse, which I found out after trying them out with the trusty mount, Money.
Wearing these things got this horse’s attention and scared my socks off.  As soon as I dismounted, I took those bad boys off with the ninja quickness.  Translation:  they were removed at an accelarated rate.  
 

On a good note, I found a horse.  He’s just perfect for me.  Not a bit snorty.  And I don’t think he’ll mind my spurs too much.

My other pets are the dust bunnies under the bed.

Just keeping it real,

Angel

Adventures in Cowboying

I went out with my husband Jason yesterday. When I say “out”, I don’t mean on a date.  I mean “OUT”  in the country, “OUT” away from civilization and Starbucks, “OUT” where men are men and sheep are scared.  Well, not quite that far.

 Now, you must know that just because I’m married to a cowboy, that does not  make me a cowgirl. You know that right? You know that I can’t ride a horse? You know that I can’t rope a steer? You know that my  jeans are usually too short to wear with boots?
Okay, as long as we’ve got that straight.
I’ve got this great idea for a book. I’m going to call it Never Blow Bubbles in the Cowpen and Other Lessons From a Dude.  The dude being meThe only lesson I’ve learned so far is “never blow bubbles in the cowpen.” In order to bring my idea to fruition, I need more material.  So, “OUT” we go. 
I knew we were going to get horseback.  I told you I can’t ride a horse,  but what you may not know is I can’t even get ON a horse.  That’s right, I  need a boost on the butt. 
Here’s my horse.  Not my horse, but the one I’m going to bounce around on, because that’s what I do, bounce.

If you think he looks old, that’s because he is.  He’s old and safe, the way I like ’em.  He goes by the name of  Money.  I like that too. 
Money doesn’t get out much, mostly just grazes in the pasture so he wanted to make sure he looked good. 
Do I have anything in my teeth?
Maybe you’d like a closeup of that. 
Purty, eh?
After I’m saddled, so begins our adventure.  Here’s the plan.  We were going to sort off a sick calf and doctor it, then gather six bulls, load them in a trailer, and move them to another pasture.  Hmmm….. 
I’m a nervous wreck because I am way out of my comfort zone, on top of a horse that needs his teeth cleaned,  and my jeans are too short for wearing boots.  Jason, the cowboss, sensing my angst, consoles my with this advice: 
“Think like a cow.” 
Gotcha!  All my anxiety melted right then and there.
We head out and ride into this trap that is holding some calves. Jason finds the sick one by his bloody butthole (sorry, but true). And our job is to try to cut that one out of the herd. Now, you must know that I don’t like Money to get above an amble. We’re good moseying along. I have no desire to trot, lope, or heaven help us– run. So we’re walking behind this herd, pushing them along, (yes, just like the movies).

But cattle seem to get a little bit stirred up at times and they don’t go the way you want them too. But remember, I am thinking like a cow. Nothing could go wrong, right? Well, it doesn’t. We do pretty good.   Here’s the little guy getting some medicine.  Yes, it’s dark by now, because it took us all day.  I think Jason slowed me down a bit.

We gathered the bulls, we attempted to gather the bulls, before dark.  Things were going okay, I actually trotted a bit and sort of, kind of got into a rhythm. We almost had these bulls where we wanted them to go, when one 2000 lb bully decided he was ready to fight.  There was some pushing, shoving, and headbutting, followed by a small stampede, and then the smaller of the two bulls went airborne, double flipped over the barbed wire fence, and landed in a different pasture.  I sat there atop my trusty mount, hands over my eyes, peeking through my fingers as Jason chased down the bull, expletives flying through the pasture.  We got him though.  That bull didn’t have anything on us.

Needless to say, Jason could’ve done all this by himself in about an hour, but instead brought me along for the experience.  And I am home with some shot nerves, a sore saddle, and some real ranch dressing on my boots.