What You Love

 

The sound of heavy bootsteps and the jingle of spurs woke me from dreams filled with high heels and travel plans. 

My husband was up, dressed, and stirring around the house, waiting on the “guys” to get here.  It was time for me to rise anyway. I threw the shoes I was trying on in my dream back into the closet,  pushed the cobwebs from my mind and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.

My husband’s day of  branding cows was soon to begin, and he was waiting on his friends/co-workers/fellow cowhands to arrive with their horses, pick-ups and trailers, so they could put the horses in one trailer, put the cowboys in one truck and head off as the sun was barely kissing the morning sky. 

It wasn’t much longer until the roar of diesel pick-ups and the rattle of trailers stocked with horses begin to break the silence of the morning. 

Cowboys have never had much appeal to me.  I’ve never been a cowboy’s girl.  In high school I always thought they were just a bunch of skinny boys with big belt buckles dressing up everyday.  Now nearly 20 years later, I find myself married to one.  Strange.

The cowboys greet each other, unload horses from trailers, and lead them to  my husband’s trailer to load.  They’ve got 3 different places to work cattle today.  

These are good men.  Actually, the best kind.  A dying breed.  Old-fashioned, hard-working, tough guys.  They love what they do, but it doesn’t always pay enough to do it.  These are men who take vacation days from their “real” jobs with health insurance in order to saddle a horse and swing a rope.  They may even call in sick just to get a workday off.  Sometimes they work the night shift at their other job, take an early morning nap, and then saddle their horse for the day.  They have a passion for this lifestyle.  It’s not about the money, that’s for sure.  

As I sit at the kitchen table, my coffee cup steaming, there’s only one word that describes me.  Proud.  I’m filled with a sense of pride.  Not because I’m doing anything.  Heck, I’m drinking coffee.  But because these fellows work hard, love their work, and do it for practically nothing.   They walk tall, perhaps even strut; dark silhouettes wearing cowboy hats starting their day.  

 I watched out the window until the heat from the house married the cold from the outdoors and steamed up the windows. 

Then I listened to the rattle and rumble of the pick-up  as four cowboys head out to do what they love. 

Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still~~Henry David Thoreau

It’s A Boy!!

It’s calving season out here on the Golden Spread. 

Spring is in the air. 

Trees are budding, tulips are blossoming, and heifers are birthing.

Heifers are young cows, first-time mamas.  I might even be as bold as to call them teenage mothers.  Unwed, teenage mothers.  My husband says you have to watch heifers closely because some of them have a little bit of mothering instinct, but they also don’t know what they’re doing.  For example, an old cow won’t leave their baby right after it is born, but a heifer might come a running at the feed truck, and then wig out when they realize they just left their baby.  They’re inexperienced. 

Because of their inexperience, a good cowboy will put them in a smaller pasture, close to some pens, and check on them sometimes twice a day, just in case one of them runs into trouble with calving.

Tonight J-Dub needed to check the heifers.  So I tagged along.  Only one time have I witnessed a calf birth, but it was under poor circumstances, and I would really like to see another one.   No such luck tonight.  We arrived right after the baby was born.  Probably 15 minutes. 

The mother and baby were off by themselves.

You can see the afterbirth has not completely been expelled.  The mama cow was licking him and cleaning him up, which is a good sign and shows that she is going to accept him as her calf. 

When she saw us driving through the gate, she got a little agitated and began bellowing at him and nudging him a bit aggressively.  He hadn’t even stood yet and she was eager to get him up and out of there.

We didn’t stay long.  It’s best to let nature have her way, and cows don’t send out birthing announcements.  They like their privacy.  So we headed home.  As we were pulling off, I asked J-Dub if he could tell if it was a boy or a girl.  He said it was a boy.

I came home to blog about this beautiful birth, and of course my pet chicken Freedom wanted out of the box.  She was perched right on my hand and I was just typing away.  I thought to myself, what a cute picture.  I grabbed my phone to take a shot, trying to get Freedom, my hand, and the keyboard in view, and just as I was about to click the picture, Freedom squatted down and took a grunt right on my desk.

Look closely and you can see the squirt shooting out of her chicken butt.


Okay, laugh at me all you want.  

It’s what I get for having  house chickens.

A Rare Horse; A Rare Friend

My husband’s horse was born on May 5th.  That’s how he received the name Cinco.  A horse with a sweeter disposition could not be found.  As soon as he saw you, he was lumbering your way to nudge and beg for attention.  My husband sometimes got aggravated with him when trying to work.  “He’s always right in my hip pocket, ” he occasionally complained. 

As fitting as his name, Cinco only lived five  years.  He got sick with an upper respiratory infection.  J-Dub took him to the vet, and they gave him some medicine.  He began to pep up.  Then two days later, I drove out to our place to find Cinco laying down.  Now, I admit I don’t know much about horses, but one thing I know is they rarely lay down.  He wasn’t just resting, he was slowly rolling from side to side.  I walked closer to look at him, and his eyes had a look of illness to them.  I felt very uneasy, but not wanting to be the over-cautious wife who freaks out at a rolling horse, I decided to watch him a while.  He got up slowly, took about 5 steps, and then was back on the ground rolling.  I decided something truly must be wrong.  I called J-Dub immediately.  He was far away in another county, so he called his friend Matt to drive out to check on him. 

In the meantime, Cinco would rise very slowly onto his knees with his hind legs in the air, attempting to get up.  Sometimes he would make it, and sometimes he would lay back down.  When he did manage to struggle to his feet, he would walk for a short way, then lay down and begin rolling.  My husband said it sounded like he was trying to colic.  I didn’t know what that meant.  Matt arrived and when he saw him, he ran to him, slapped his butt and pushed on him, forced him to get up.  He put a halter on him and began walking him around.  Matt explained that when a horse colics, they get a terrible stomach-ache, so they lay down and begin to roll to try to relieve the pain.  That causes their intestines to twist, and they die.  The best thing to do is make them walk. 

As Matt walked Cinco all around the place, I paced inside the house.  I felt helpless.  Shortly after, the vet arrived.  She listened to Cinco’s stomach, then inserted a tube down his throat, and began pumping his stomach.  She removed the tube and drained all this liquid onto the ground, and then reinserted it again for another round.  This continued for a very long time.  The vet then decided to take him into the clinic and keep him overnight.  Rabies was suspected, and possibly West Nile Virus. 

The next morning Cinco wasn’t any better.  They continued observing and treating him throughout that day and the night, but he died there in the vet’s clinic by morning. 

Because the only way rabies can be detected is through a post-mortem exam, and the only way to test is to send an animal’s head into a laboratory, my husband had to drive to the vet’s to pick up his dead, headless horse and bury him.  It was a sad day.  I wish I could have helped him, but there wasn’t any help I could give except my words of sympathy.

The results for rabies came back negative.  The cause of death was never known. 

My husband has been without a horse since November until yesterday when his friend Shawn gave him a horse, and a dang nice one at that. 

Here’s Shawn hamming it up as usual.

This new horse goes by the name Freak because of his rarity.  He is a palamino roan. 

Palamino is a yellow color, and roan refers to little white speckles.

Right now he is roaned from his middle to the back, but in the summer he roans all over.

He reminds me of a Californian surfer with his bleached blonde mane.

What a horse!

But more importantly, what a friend!

My husband and I are blessed beyond words to have a friend in Shawn who sees a need and fills it. 

Thank you Shawn!

 

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.