Dogs Knosh on Dead Deer Parts While Marla is Laid Up With Healing Foot
A report from Marla Bear Bishop – Fruitland Mesa.
Anything I have to report this month will have to be from basically anywhere I can get on crutches. I had a very minor surgery on my foot, which has had me holed up with my foot above my heart, as it says in the instructions for such events.
I had this done for purposes of being able to move across the earth in a manner more conducive to upright humans. To my dogs, however, this procedure took place so that I could lay around the house, day in and day out, with them.
First night, fresh from surgery, I heard coyotes directly outside my window. I heard the dogs that have access to outdoors, going wild from all the ruckus. I didn’t think the coyotes would jump in the fence and eat dogs, but in my mind, in the night, with drugs, I could see this as more than a possibility. This continued for what seems hours until all the noise was centered up near the donkeys.
When the clock struck 3 a.m. I decided to wake the sleeping (how could this even be possible) Long- Suffering-Husband. Even though it was a school night for him, he dressed and took the pistol out to investigate. I think I got up and looked out, but I’m not sure if I just lay there and wished him well.
L-S-H eventually returned with the news that when he showed up, there was no action. None. Donkeys thought that it was time to eat. Dogs were happy for company. No coyotes. The minute he got back in bed and fell asleep, it started up all over again. That’s how it went the first night of my state of limited mobility.
The next morning, a freshly killed deer was found near the house. Coyotes had done a number on it but dogs wanted to investigate. As a matter of fact, this has been an ongoing problem. Especially as time has gone on. Even when the dogs say they are just going out for a pee, they come in with glistening coats and a wretched stink. They top this off with jumping up on my bed. I haven’t been able to escape fast enough to avoid the nightmare that continues to plague me, my bedding, the air.
The dogs feel certain that they smell like roses. They want me to smell the roses. L-S-H reported that first morning that he had called to one of my dogs. He could see him, so the dog could clearly hear him, but as it turned out he had to actually physically grab the dog, because the dog had on deer ear-muffs, (gross!) while he checked out more closely, a sample of what the coyotes left, so kindly, behind.
Neighbor Gail reports that she was brought a frozen ear and a ten-pound dog we have dragged a collarbone across the driveway.
I want to hand out some big bouquets of lovely flowers to all of you who have pitched in to help me keep things going. Thank-you L-S-H, donkeys would be sticks and hide if you did not feed them, Scotty Jr. too, would be in sad shape. I can’t see him, but the little horse must be huge under your policy of over-feeding to keep them quiet.
Thank-you for picking up poops periodically, feeding dogs and sweeping their house. Thank-you for cooking me all kinds of interesting dinners because I too, might melt away or at least be lean without your care.
Thank-you to Pamela, Philip and Cyn for being my first guests and for Pamela’s super-sized, home grown roast chicken with veggies that we ate for several days. Thank-you for walking dogs and giving me a ride to P Town and for taking me to a heavenly breakfast.
Thank you to Cyn for baking L-S-H the most densely chocolate, chocolate cake on the planet. It sits on a fork in his mouth almost always. Thank you to Cynthia Hines for the bean soup, super salad and something she calls mac & cheese but it’s really butter and not your mother’s cheese with some added noodles for texture.
Enjoyed a great visit from John Barcus, where we shared our medical issues and laughed about life and that cheered up a morning. We ate candy at nine a.m. just like we like to do. Thank-you for cards, phone calls, texts and good vibes!
This community of friends did all of this for me while I’m only down for a minute and it’s so appreciated. If there is anyone you can think of who needs your help, don’t let him or her tell you that they don’t need it. I didn’t know what I was up against. I’m sure they would be as grateful to you as I am to this crew.
Birds, red ants, buds on trees, everything trying to renew, have suffered the confusion of a reluctant spring. The lawn already could use a mowing but the lilac buds are toast. We welcome the rain but curse the frost, the wind, as usual, is annoying and we await some consistent warmth punctuated with moisture that the wind doesn’t undo in an hour.
A friend has lost nine acres of apricots and many more acres of assorted fruit trees down towards Delta. It’s their livelihood and a harsh reminder that there is little to do about Mother Nature.
Good news for water may be the snow clinging to the hills, I saw snowmobiles on trailers and heard skiing is still going on!
Big giant thanks to Lynne Watkins up here in Crawford, I just got a call from Craig’s mom telling me that the Pioneer Days Parade is a go and that Lynn is heading it up. I assured her that I will be walking without crutches by then and I will bring an animal to participate in the festivities.
It’s miraculous that someone always steps up to do the seemingly impossible, keeping these fun events continuing year after year. Not an easy job to take on, but again, I’m going with my theme of appreciation, and this is much appreciated by all.
Mud, a New Barn Coat and Needle Rock’s Missing Needle
Mud sweet mud! Never thought I’d be so happy to see it. The annual spring ritual search for my missing cell phones has begun in earnest. Two stack yards, a barn, a couple of wood piles, the ol’ cow watering area, a few worn paths to gates, almost all cleared of snow and ice. I should be finding something soon. Correction, I should soon be finding things that are still useful.
As of this writing a leather glove that mummified and a hat that mice wintered in, have surfaced.
My big news is that I have finally found a barn coat that is in the size range of my general shape. I found this gem on a great sale at ECHO: Choice Consignments in Paonia. Allison McGuigan, the proprietor of this great little store packed full of closet happiness, was relieved that this event came to pass.
I was forever perusing the racks, unable to come to terms with the fact that coats used by adults, anyone older than nine years, might fall apart at a high rate of speed if they had to be washed every three days.
This coat is the color of mustard and as anyone who works around animals knows, ahhh, I’m not washing this coat for a while. It looks fine, smells ok and actually zips up and down without causing me to use descriptive language. Thank-you to whomever consigned this coat, I’m 100% sure it was never really used before.
While I was shopping at Echo, I overheard positive buzz. Not being a shy one, I enquired as to what was going on. No less than half a dozen fellow shoppers shared the news that Paonia private citizens, Ayla Bristow, Isaiah Bristow and others had gone the extra several miles and cleaned up the Town Park. Cleared glass, trash and made it a safe place for the kids to play. They took action instead of waiting for the town.
Big thank-yous were expressed by P-Town park users. Too bad the offenders, the glass breakers, cigarette smokers, trash throwers, dog poop non-scoopers all over the land can’t get it together to see value in not making a mess to begin with.
Another thing that happened in Paonia, maybe something that should stay in Paonia, was that I sat at the bar of Revolution Brewery and had a birthday beer. Never did that before! I had Councilman Gould add some cherry soda to it. Marvelous!
I had to share said beer with my drinking partner, Gail Martin, because I don’t have the constitution for a whole beer. Another favorite part of that fun time was throwing peanut shells on the floor of the establishment. The young man sitting next to me encouraged this and had me throwing shells down with gusto. Sad to say that another patron must have found a lot of these in her purse.
My little town of Crawford put on quite a culinary bash complete with corned beef, cabbage and all the fixings, cooked to perfection. The dinner was served at the Town Hall, looking good during its restoration.
Live music, cowboy poets, real plates, not paper or plastic, a class act occasion by anyone’s standards. The folks who put this on were all so humble that I cannot say for sure just who was responsible for the hard work that went into it, but a few names came out of my investigation. Shirley Cotton, Connie Sanders, Lynn Watkins, Heddy Todd, all the usual suspects that make these things happen.
Crawford Methodist Church has inspired active members. They even had a man at the helm of washing the real plates, doesn’t get more progressive than that around these parts. Danny Cotton presented a blast from the past history night at Crawford’s Town Hall.
I was late on my deadline for this article because I was told that it would be the night Danny unveiled an untouched photo of the Needle Rock up here in Crawford when it is said, it still had a needle. I wanted to have this story and I wanted to have the picture as my header. No such luck.
I sat through Danny’s interesting presentation, enjoyed the old timer’s accounts of the past, listened to small arguments as to what went on when in this building or that, who owned this in 1899 or 1932. Danny had a vast array of terrific pictures to show the large crowd that he drew in. I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the never seen picture.
All of a sudden Danny announced he was finished with his stories and it was time to hit the cookies. Homemade cookies and punch but no picture of Needle Rock except one with a flagpole on top of it. Disappointed, I did my best to drown my sorrows in fruit punch and butter rich treats.
Seems that I spent some real time in all three North Fork towns recently. A beautiful outpouring of love for the Webber family was held at the Creamery in Hotchkiss. This benefit was put together by the Vision School and many in the Valley came together to donate time, energy, products, money and support in any and every way.
The family is so grateful to have the arms of the community wrapped around them in this difficult time and they are asking that all church meetings keep them in their prayers and everyone, no matter what your thoughts or denomination keep sending the positivity to little Jubilee.
My fun book club gathered at P.J.’s Pub in Hotchkiss and we were treated right! Service was excellent, food was excellent, the company was excellent and even though we couldn’t hear much about the book discussion, we ladies had a very definite good time.
Enjoy the start of spring and whatever moisture we can get around the state. Can you believe it’s finally April? No fooling.
Mud, Snow, Selling Off the Cows, and Visiting With the Neighbors
Finally, a bit of snow to cover up what most Coloradoan’s never see, old crusty left-over snow from last month. It had remained white around Fruitland Mesa just to give us hope. If you were to go touch it however, it had the quality of movie-set snow in the Arctic. A winter façade.
The horses are encased in suits of armor, mud from unknown sources. I don’t know where that mud is, even though I went for a walk with them to find out.
I can report that I missed out on several fun events mostly because I have no job at the moment and have no idea what day of the week it is. I missed the Old Timer’s, Newcomer’s dinner where Mr. John Barcus was given the Volunteer of the Year award.
I missed the Valentine Pot Luck Lunch put on by Fruitland Mesa Club, I did not attend the Belt Sander Race put on by Delta Hardware where the L-S-H came in second place. I could go on but it would eventually be edited for space.
What I did attend was the Justin Dunn Wild Mustang Training Clinic put on by Spirit Wind Horse Rescue. The day was blustery and I had it in my mind to only stay awhile but six hours went by in a flash. Justin is from Guffey, Colorado, a place I’d never heard of even though I’m homegrown.
I don’t have a wild mustang to put my new knowledge to the test on; the old horses act like I’m a vampire, holding up their garlic chains when they see me approach with anything but food. They hold the garlic, a cross and a sign that reads, “Already trained by professionals years ago,” but I do have that little pony, Stormy, to work on.
I can handle him. He watches me, has interest in learning. The challenge on the table is for Pamela to wrangle up the wild hinny, Pickle (pretty sure she belongs to her now) and see where she gets with that pint sized wild mustang. I was always proud if I could brush her and lead her from one place to the next, Period.
Anyway, Thank-you Spirit Wind for the great day with Justin, the lunch and camaraderie.
Meeting up with the wise and gentle Steve Allen at that clinic, reminded me that I’d better go visit Rachael up on the West End. Karen happily agreed to go with me. I thought we’d have a coffee break with that beautiful woman and then carry on with our respective days.
Once I sat down at the Allen’s table it was all over. They couldn’t get rid of me. Karen couldn’t drag me out even though she had things to get done. I hadn’t the good sense to think of anyone but myself and I was having a wonderful time.
It had been years since I had the chance to visit with Rachael. I set up camp. Steve stayed outside with chores; he may have been going slower than usual thinking the women talk would conclude by the time he came in for lunch. No such luck.
He graciously fixed us all the best meal, making me impossibly content. Eventually Karen had to strong-arm me, we had about enough time to get home and watch the sun set. Six hours for this outing, too! My mouth hurt from all the gabbing and laughing.
A sad time came, as my cows were being loaded into the trailer and taken down to the Delta Sale Barn. I faced the dilemma that many are facing on a much grander scale. Lack of hay. The cost of hay. The immediate future of hay.
Promises made to these old girls flew out the window and I feel like a cretin. I had to make the choice to feed the human food chain at my house. Yes, there was someone who offered to buy the girls and keep them from being packaged but in the end, safety ruled and the offer, much appreciated, had to be turned down. Horned cows are dangerous when they want to be. I don’t know what the future brings but for now, this herd is coming to its end.
There are still many ways to get meat grown locally. Princess Beef is one of the best options for those who want to eat responsibly around the Valley and beyond. I saw that Homestead Market has pork, too.
Is there anyone heating solely with wood besides me? This has been one cold winter and as the end of it hits, I find that the chimney cap is plugged up. Completely one hundred percent plugged up with creosote. This means I have to call the chimney sweep and all that entails. I really want to put this off until summer.
I want the frost-free hydrant to de-frost and allow the water to flow once again. Before summer. At the same time, I’m praying for the biggest springtime snow ever.
Enjoy the last of the winter sports, (my dogs are the most active in all that, running around and digging for the mice under the crust.) Curl up in front of those last fires if you can because summer will be here before you know it.
A Deep Winter Tale of Two Goats and a Farewell to Earlynne Barcus
It’s the month of love once again; so much time has been spent adoring aspirin, ibuprofen, hot water, anything and everything to make my aching body parts less cranky. The cold I can take, but not the sub-zero kind that has played havoc with chores, pipes and skin. Never thought 32 degrees would feel like a tropical heat wave.
The Deep Winter Tale of Two Goats
Here’s the story: I was animal caretaking for a friend with goats who needed a new life. With his permission, I started asking around for goat-takers. One day at City Market I saw Rinda Pipher and asked her if she would take on these goats. She made a face that said no but she didn’t say no. She did ask if they were dehorned and I said no.
I took this to mean she had some interest, so on Christmas morning I wrapped the goats up in ribbons and drove them over to Rinda’s. No one was home so I unloaded the goats and went home. During my supper the phone rang and before I answered it I felt Rinda on the other end.
Guess what, she wanted those goats out of there A.S.A.P. The worst part was the goats went after her sweetie of a dog. They had become a menace within an hour. Ahhhhh. They stayed the night at Rinda’s in total luxury and the next morning I drove over to Pamela’s and told her she had to help me.
I was in need of help but I didn’t tell her that it was goat wrangling help. After I loaded Pamela up securely, I told her what the mission was. We laughed (ok, maybe we didn’t,) as we pondered the trouble I get into. She’s such a good egg, that Pamela. She went over to Rinda’s and coerced those goats back into the truck and then asked me what my next step was going to be. I had to take her home and good luck with that next step.
After dropping Pamela off to the safety of her home, I drove the goats around for a while thinking about what to do with them. It was pretty out with a gentle snow falling and I was thinking about families who might eat these gals come New Year’s Eve or maybe tonight. At some point I was running on fumes so I pulled into Desperado to fuel up. Desperado.
Perfect. Just like magic I noticed a truck chock full of kids and a dad that looked like he was outnumbered. I approached Dad who just happened to be Gary Peebles. He was in such a terrific mood with the snow, the kids, the glory of the season, that when I told him he had just won the goat jackpot, he was unable to think straight and said “Bring ‘em on!”
The goats would be good for nothing until they were bred but what the hay, they’d figure this out down the road. I followed the Peeble gang over to the ranch where 4-H was in full swing, saw the newborn piglets, a flock of sheep, big pigs and happy kids living a good life.
Add to that two goats and presto, my day was made. I don’t know the fate of the goats over at Peebles’s but at least I didn’t have to go to the sale barn or anything that would be considered unlawful. Thank-you Gary and Co.!
Sad to report that we lost a good friend and neighbor up on Fruitland Mesa. Earlynne Barcus, wife of that fishing fool, John Barcus, passed away at the start of the year. Earlynne, known for her good sense and pure kindness had long been admired in the community and will be missed by all who knew her.
Earlynne’s handcrafted quilts and the thrift store she founded at the Crawford Methodist Church will live on and remind us of her dedication to her church and her art. I was lucky to go through pictures with John and kids, Janie and Marty, traveling back in Barcus history to when John and Erlynne were youthful sweethearts. Nothing about that ever changed but time on the clock.
A lot of us witnessed these sweethearts’ loyalty to each other up until the very end. Perfect for Valentine’s month, this story. Earlynne’s Methodist Church memorial service was full of music and remembrances with a good bit of laughter and plenty of tears, a fitting way to honor a humble and much loved woman.
I was reminded yet again of the love that can live and breathe in a small town and radiate out to its inhabitants. Take care; we’re in the thick of it now, this winter beast. Like us, you’re probably deep into the canned fruits and vegetables of summer and hoping against hope for far more snow and less intense cold. Happy month of Love!
Marla at the Bookstore and Other Holiday Stuff
While I’m welcoming in the New Year, I haven’t quite finished with the old one. As always, the year has been packed with adventure, not like “Craig Childs” adventure but as much adventure as I need at this stage in life. The problem was that this article was due and nothing had escaped, nothing had been lost and everything was orderly in the previous month.
I thought I’d get some inspiration by sitting in front of Tom Wills, my editor, and in that way he could see that I was working, no matter that my deadline was three days gone. I went to visit him at the Wills’ Gallery and Used Bookstore in the metropolis of Hotchkiss.
It was seventeen degrees outside and the same inside. Tom had just opened the store and had a fire going but it made me cranky to be so cold on the very first day of winter. I told Tom that I came to put the finishing touches on this month’s article and I could tell by his weird breathing that he knew I hadn’t even started writing, not one word.
Graciously putting a chair in front of the woodstove for me, he tried to establish a working environment but the truth was, and this made me secretly happy, my poison mood and my non-stop complaints about everything but mostly the temperature, made it more than difficult for him to get any work done. He had a paper to put together.
Tom wanted to kick me out but I made it clear that Gail had dropped me off so she could go meditate, she had to go to a meditation party or something akin to that for the Solstice and she would pick me up at some undisclosed time when she was finished. I couldn’t go anywhere alone and I was wearing several layers of random clothes that I had found on my chair at home topped off with my great wool donkey hat that Pamela got me two years ago and because of this I had to stay with him. That’s what I told him.
The bell on the door jingled and people came in to shop for books. I was amazed no one complained about the freezing store. Chelsea and young Isaac spent quality time browsing the shelves and were clearly comfortable in doing so.
Jeff came in to trade for some new books and he, too seemed at home, happy even. He found some favorite old records and life was good there in that moment.
My own life improved considerably when Tom shared his “ local ingredients,” (except for the cinnamon,) homemade perfect cinnamon rolls with me. Mine was way larger than his and mine had butter on it. You could say I was impressed, not only because the one he gave me was visibly more grand, but because this act of generosity brought me back to the spirit of the season and I no longer felt like the Grinch.
Still didn’t get a lick of work done, but I socialized a lot and Tom reminisced about much colder winters of his youth while I refused to acknowledge that I had turned into such a wimp. What a perfect day. I loved my time at the bookstore.
I loved my time at Farmer Franks, thanks Rick!
City Market was hop’n with everyone wishing each other a Happy New Year and stocking up for the next snow expected. I will remember it as one of those fine Valley days where we are lucky individuals getting along in this world that’s seen a lot of strife.
Our political differences, our land usage difficulties, the deaths of innocents here and abroad…we had better notice when life is simple and good.
Many heartfelt thanks go out to Lynnee Watkins and Connie Sanders up here in Crawford for their hard work and dedication to the Crawford Parade of Lights. Didn’t get this in the last article but should have.
This is a little town but that didn’t seem to reflect the amount of work put into the floats and all the hoopla. Parade participants rallied for one gorgeous event. There was chili supper at the Methodist Church, stew at the Town Hall and Santa showed up to boot!
I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I even got an animal loaded up and lighted up before the parade was a thing of the past! Thanks Eeyore for being the champ you are. That king of a donkey even hit Paonia town for a visit to the Blue Sage Gingerbread-building contest where a number of children fed him candy canes until he became over stimulated and had to go home, but not before he saw his most favorite small person, Contessa the Donkey Whisperer!
That same day, he had delighted party- goers at the North Fork Children’s Christmas Party at the Hotchkiss Memorial Hall where he took in parts of holiday cookies and bits of pizza. When he returned to his pasture, Stormy kept his nose on Eeyore for the rest of the week.
My favorite bank, which would be First State Bank of Colorado, Crawford branch had a party featuring many of the music students of one Mr. David Hauze. Being one of those lucky students I had to stay all day and eat the wonderful treats provided by Merri, Judy and Connie.
The singing and playing of instruments by all the kids, the young adults, the adults and a special time with Donna Saunders singing the way she does! Thank-you to the bigwigs who put that shindig on! What a crowd! Tamara, bravo! What a full and glorious holiday season was had by all! Happy New Year ahead!
A Thank You Note (to all the people who helped when I lost my keys) and Other Stuff
Seems as though another year has gone by and I still haven’t learned what I learn every year. That would be “Do NOT leave home in long underwear covered in various forms of pet hair and topped off with a super-red, huge as Paul Bunyan barn coat” Wow.
As the fates would have it, that would be and also was, the time to lose my keys after getting gasoline at Desperado in Crawford town and just before I was on my way to take neighbor kids to school in Paonia town, after which I was to spend a few hours with an elder in Hotchkiss town who wouldn’t be bothered by my early morning apparel. Double crap.
It took a village to get through it all, so let me begin my thanks. Thank-you to a lot of guys smirking, as “come on, how could you lose your keys from here to there?” at Desperado when John Cunningham and Co., bless them, towed my truck out of the way of the gas pumps and into the middle of the parking lot. The middle because my steering wheel wouldn’t turn without the key in the ignition. Thanks so much John, I don’t know what I would have done without your help. Everyone would have been mad that my truck was taking up that pump space and I wouldn’t have needed the extra stress.
Thank-you next to Tracy and Jean Eichheim for loading the kids up in their van and taking them all those miles to Paonia to school and for going the extra long mile and walking into the school to explain to the teacher why the kids were so late. Those guys stopped and bought me one of those hidden key things for my truck, just in case this should happen again…do ya think?
Next, I have to thank Jock and LaVern Love, Luv, Looooooove. They drove me down to my next adventure in Hotchkiss. I was feeling comfy and secure with them and they had to push me out of their truck. They probably had to take the anti-hair brush to the back seat upon my exit.
Next, I must thank John Ware who volunteered (ok, I was sitting in his van when he appeared) to drive me back up to my truck at Desperado in Crawford. Thank-you to Don the locksmith (Rocky Mountain Locksmith- editor) who didn’t laugh at me because he knows I’m a potential cash cow. Thank-you to all who passed, smiled and encouraged me by saying that now I’d actually have something to write about.
Thank-you to Candy, manning the store at Desperado, for reminding me to go through the large barrel trash containers, just a message from the one I love, and on that note, another very big thank-you would have to be given to the Long-Suffering-Husband who had to interrupt his already hectic and crammed work day and go home to check the ginormous pile of keys for the duplicate, score one, drive down to Desperado and try it out, all for not, and return to hunt in other locales, find one, go back to Desperado and then have it hit him that several years ago, we had to have Brett change out the entire ignition.
This is where I would like to insert that clause that I can’t remember if you, L-S-H, said on that day long ago when you married me. The one about being married for better or worse? I have the transcript somewhere. If you helped me that day and you did not find your name mentioned, you got edited out, the list was so long. Thank-you all so very much.
Now that we’re stuffed from Thanksgiving, it’s on to Christmas, Solstice, Kwanza, Chanukah, the North Fork Children’s Holiday Party, private parties, shopping local, company and more good cooking in the house, stacking firewood, and getting in bed early on a freezing dark night to read a good book. We can now start to eat all the canned foods we prepared this summer and fall. Time to go under the bed and pull out the sweaters and cold weather scarves, hats, mittens and everything else that’s had a few months to chill in that dark space where the sun never shines.
Looking out the cracked window, (cracked in my attempt to put giant tape criss-crosses on the windows to keep the birds from smacking into them in certain light, not knowing that the tape I used would never come off without a major scrub with Goo-Be-Gone or whatever that stuff is called.) Looking out the window that I broke in my zeal to un-tape the window, I am pleased to see new trees planted. Big trees, not seedlings that we got from Alpine Fence down in Delta when they had a great sale.
When it was time, L-S-H went down and picked them up with a trailer and Curley came over with the backhoe and dug some holes for the trees. Specific sized holes. During this time, it was clear that I needed to stay out of the way. Not just because of heavy equipment. Instructions were laid out and had to be followed, step-by-step. The guys had a bit of trouble deciding where to dig said holes.
One of my favorite comments I heard was from Curley to L-S-H. “What the *&^)* do you care where you put them, we’re going to be dead before they grow up. &*^)( as a matter of fact, at this rate we’ll be dead before you decide where to put them.” Curley accused L-S-H of being a “grandma” but I didn’t hear the entire context on that one.
I thought it best to clear out for a few hours and when I returned neither of the guys were around, the trees stood tall in the ground and I had a quiet appreciation of them. I am crossing my fingers (not the windows) that we see life in these branches come spring.
Have a great start to the winter, enjoy the holidays and know once again how lucky we are to be in the North Fork and Western Rural Colorado. Thinking of those on the East Coast.
Escaped, Barren Cows, a Pig on the Loose and a Thanksgiving Wish
Cottonwood colors are still ablaze as we continue into this lovely autumn. Apples are everywhere, bending the branches with Fuji’s, Jonathan’s, Honey Crisp’s—just a few of the many varieties plentiful around here. I‘ve just finished canning apples that were momentary ground dwellers but perfect all the same. I couldn’t let the deer, horses and cows have all of them.
Happy 95th birthday to orchard owner, Jamie Jacobson’s sweet mother, Anita. She, who can still bend at the waist, palms flat to the ground, easily able to pick those fallen apples up like an enthusiastic and active teen-ager.
Maneuvering through sheep flowing like a river down Mathews Lane in Paonia, I‘m grateful once again for the North Fork life. Up here in Crawford it’s all about cows. Guess that would be cows and pigs. My cows found it necessary to leave home four times in a week.
One of those times I found ol’ fancy duded up Dave Mitchell, once again helping out with his extraordinary herding skills. Dave must wait up at the corner in his polished spiffy shoes, expecting the girls to go over to Polson’s to harass the cows and bulls who have just returned from a magical leave of absence. He must remember that this happens every year.
Dave showed patience, as I was distracted in the task at hand. He knew that without his help I might never get the cows to the goal line. I had to stop Luce and Sue Pipher and admire the color of their truck as they tried to avoid me standing in the road. And because I was standing in the middle of the road not really doing anything, I’m not even sure they understood why I was out there in the first place. They were very polite and conversed with me without asking a lot of questions.
As these particular cows have no calves again this year, I have wondered a time or two if this is worth it. I don’t have much love or energy for these yearly shenanigans. Ok, Philip and Pamela, I know you are paying attention to this, it’s here that I will state that I took a long look into their big dark eyes and at their weird black leather noses and I know that I can’t take them and sell them for what we all know would be the best hamburger ever.
And as long as I have your attention, thank-you Hassinger’s for the yearly trip to Hotchkiss Meats to drop off the beasts, to shed a tear (only me) for my last Houdini steer, May Boy, fill out the paperwork for how we want them to line up in the freezer and then end the morning once again at Zack’s with our faces close to a plate of gravy with chicken fried steak added.
Did I mention pigs? I wasn’t the only one with animals on the loose. The Carr’s; Mike, Chandra and kids lost a giant pig that went into the field to try life out as a horse. The pig spent the night out with my horses and seemed quite fine with it. Chandra waved her finger at me and said something about not wanting to read about the incident in the paper and how the whole family had to gather this pig and the effort it was to bring it back home.
Mike was not hoofing it like the rest of his family, he was on a four-wheeler, but you’d think by his demeanor that he’d worked like the devil to wrangle the porcine criminal. Thanks, Mike, for teaching me those new words! A calm seven-year-old Hailey Carr finally brought the pig home with a pan of grain.
More than a few of us will all be preparing for Thanksgiving this month, either making a meal, sharing a meal or being thankful for a meal. For the lucky ones, it’s a time to be with loved ones around the table, friends and family from near and far are making plans for gathering.
Thank-you to the Armed Forces unable to be home and best wishes to their families who miss them. What a good time to remember those who may have a need to be included in the harvest day.
Liposuction, Auctions, Pigweed and Other Stuff
I just heard that a worm could predict what the seasons ahead will look like. I didn’t catch the whole story but I did get the part that said autumn would be long this year. The winter ahead is going to be long and next spring is going to be short. I believe the worm. The harvest continues to amaze Valley residents, apples are heavy on the trees, tomatoes are still abundant and the colors are out in full force, still in garden flowers and in the fall leaves.
I stopped on Mathews Lane and asked a property owner if I could pick up some fallen pears, as there was once again a big windy day to knock some beautiful fruit to the ground. I came home with some bruised but edible fare, grateful to be saved from a certain rotten end. I went and bought some others in perfect fresh-picked condition but the attitude they displayed was not as appreciative as those ground-dwellers.
It’s been such a hot dry summer, fall actually seems like a good idea. We’ve seen some rain, a bit of mud, but as of this writing, not that much. Time to get buttoned down and prepared for the cold ahead. I wish my hay stash felt more secure. I wish I had better fencing. If wishes were horses, I’d really be in trouble.
In preparing for cooler weather, one of the chores to be done was to get fresh light bulbs in my outdoor fixtures. Off to Gambles Ace Hardware in Hotchkiss where I found a waiting and willing Kim to assist me in the task. The selection was beyond comprehension. So many light bulbs in so many sizes for so many things. I had to place a call to the Long-Suffering-Husband and get his input and superior light bulb knowledge on this one.
I had my purse, my candy, a bulb prospect and my phone in one hand and the other hand was free to pull the other bulbs down for a closer look. I put the phone on speaker mode so that Kim could hear L-S-H, and I wouldn’t have to repeat what he said. I’d say there were about four other guys in the general vicinity. Dialing, I thought that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to have this guy on speaker phone as I never can quite trust him to just answer “Hello” but it was too late.
Getting to the point quickly, I said “ Hi! I’m in the light bulb section and I need your help, too many choices.” The response? Oh the response. On speakerphone. Loud and clear. “ Liposuction? You’re getting liposuction? You need help? What?” Tittering, laughing, exclamations and recognition from all the hard of hearing old guys in the store kind of bellowed up and down the isles. Kim and I had a good belly laugh, too. Now the former light bulb section is called the “Liposuction Section”
The weeds have been sprayed but most have survived this past dry weedy summer. Pigweed is everywhere and Scott Jr. the big goat, won’t have a thing to do with it. Donks, ditto. Dangerous Western whirled milkweed and thistles grab our attention but we can’t get theirs. I fed the soft-mouthed beasts tons of pre-tumbleweed spiny things that they do love, but can’t get ahead of the game. I hope the snow comes and covers it all up for months to come.
Sadly for us North Forker’s, Liz has closed the Ark II. Everyone local and all tourists will miss browsing the shelves and sharing conversation in there, a Hotchkiss institution. Liz assures me that she is ready to let go of the antiques and plans to cheer on the auction bidding at Memorial Hall on Sunday, October 7th. If you are reading this after the affair, I hope you have a beautiful teacup or set of ornate dishes or a great painting to remind you of that little store on the corner.
Speaking of auctions, Karla, my boss, and I went to a good one where we acted punch drunk and raised our hands a lot. I ended up with a long antique mirror that goes nowhere. I say “ended up” because I raised my hand on the get go and everyone just looked at me like I was crazy and no one and I mean NO ONE bid against me. I also bought a seemingly hand-made model of a VW bus for the Long-Suffering-Husband to remind him of his old days. I didn’t have money for any of this so I wrote what would technically be considered a bad check if you were Connie at the bank. I got it covered with a few tears and a little whining.
Poor Karla, on the other hand, had to dish out a lot of cash for things I thought she said she wanted. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment at those fast paced auctions that I said I would never go to again after I got the hard fought for and expensive banjo. Did I say that now I’m the proud owner of a new guitar? No more auctions.
Have a great autumn putting the gardens to bed andhunt down those elusive comfortable and warm sweaters for the changes ahead.
September 2012 – Benny the Murderer Dog Did Not Kill Gail’s Cat and other stuff
Now that I’ve killed the beloved potato plants, abandoned the garden pots on the balcony, taken in the County Fair, had company fill the house, eaten enough corn to notice a yellow tint to my skin, now I might be ready to say good-bye to a splendid summer.
These past warm months couldn’t have brought better times or better fruit on the trees. Apricots were everywhere; they were the new “zucchini” as neighbors begged for pickers and takers. I’ve simply frozen the spoils of apricots, peaches and corn instead of canning them as this summer has been so packed with busy days; there hasn’t been a minute set aside for such a laborious task.
Said another way, I’m lazy. I’m scared and scarred from last year’s canning disaster. Seems every year I’ve had something go wrong when I’m not supervised in the process. 2008’s pickles are still looking at me from the shelf. Not the one’s that tasted like pure brine, no, these are the one’s that taste like sweet and dill in the same jar. They still look pretty so I just leave them alone.
Last year it was the jars that didn’t seal even though they did at the time. I called them all kinds of names as I found a little green puff inside each and every peach jar. Reminding me, as always, my father saying, “ahh… just scoop it out, it won’t kill ya!” I’m lucky I made it out of childhood. No, I can’t can the peaches this year.
I spent a therapeutic morning in the gardens of Orville and Shirley. Orville showed me how the potatoes appear with the blooms and allowed me to eat beans off the vines until I couldn’t fit one more in. We picked apricots off the last tree in the row of three and then went and picked more over at Jean and Tracy’s because we were curious about peach-cots. Shirley had been canning like crazy and I’m sure she was pleased with Orville for bringing home yet more work for her to do.
Gail, along with my granddaughter and I spent a minute picking a carload of peaches up at Jamie’s in Paonia. That’s how many peaches there were. A carload a minute. I’m going back for his amazing nectarines and apples. The highlight of the summer has been being able to have our grand girl with us. Her parents wondered if I’d ever quit changing the itinerary and return her to her home state of Washington. I envy everyone who has the kids close by and gets to watch the garden grow.
Thank-you to all who have enjoyed her along with us! We spent time with our family from Oregon, and oh so many special friends. A recent good time, one out of the hundred for her was when she took turns dancing the night away with a polite and handsome cowboy from Gunnison as Devon and the beautiful Ariana tied the knot. (Ruthless Ruth Wenzel, you and the chocolate cake still bring a big smile!)
Some other good things that have happened is that one of my beloved dogs, Benny the Murderer did not kill Gail’s cat but said cat did have to spend a few days at Doc Vincent’s. (Payment coming soon, Doc.) Number two, Carlito Burrito has calmed down considerably since he had his …ummm “brain surgery” and is easy to handle even for a six -year -old child. Amazing what a little decrease in hormones can do.
The Long-Suffering-Husband had a big Birthday, meaning he turned a certain age that has him wondering why he has aches and pains instead of joyful enthusiasm upon waking up in the morning. Thanks to Karla who gave him a party to usher in bona-fide old age! With all the positive events that have taken place this summer, including Rob and Rebecca Miller’s Pickin’ in the Park series, a well attended and well put together picnic and great music in Paonia and beyond on Thursday evening’s affair, I must make a complaint.
What the hay happened to Pro Rodeo at the fair? No one I have asked has been able to explain this to me. I don’t know if it was a financial decision or a political decision or what kind of a decision it was, but for me it was a disappointing letdown. I wait all year to attend this event. Two nights of Ranch Rodeo? (Please note to those who participated, I mean no disrespect to anyone involved in events showcasing local talent.)
It has been a treat to have the Pro Rodeo so close to home and something I know was missed by more than just little ol’ me. As long as I’m complaining, I might as well say that just as I’ve trained up a couple more great animal caretakers for that rare venture out of the Valley…off to College they go. It’s that time of year again. Good-bye to Abby and Megan. Good-bye to Carter. Good-bye to too many to mention by name. Off to school with the lot of you!
It will be fun to see you home on vacations during the next four years and to see where you go from here and who comes home to roost on the ranch with your new smart selves! Wherever you go in the world, here’s to you young people. I’d like to interview all of you about leaving rural Western Colorado for more populated areas. What did you enjoy and what could you do without? To you empty nesters, and to those getting the room of one more freed up, congratulations! Another space for storage is a wonderful thing!
I just walked into a bash being held by animals who took it upon themselves to break into feed meant for an entire week. Now everyone looks like ticks after a gorge. They must know that fall is soon coming and cold will be upon them in no time. Makes me kind of hungry, too. Enjoy the last of the warmth and summer fun in the North Fork and beyond!
August 2012 – Into the Miner’s World: A Tour of the West Elk Mine
It must be my age. Remembering how long summers used to be. Summertime is hurtling towards its end as if it were an out of control meteor. And no, I didn’t go and find the one that really did come flying past me out in Polson’s field a little while back.
This is the summer that I fulfilled a wish that I’ve had my entire life as a Coloradoan. I went deep into the Earth and saw the workings of a coalmine. I wanted to experience, even in the smallest way, what miners do to earn a living. Mining is a way of life that might not be easily shared in an explanation. It seems to be a workplace one could not exist for long in without forming some very tight bonds. The mine is a place where one must remain alert, watch each other’s back and a place where communication is key to the safety of everyone. Lives depend on a system unknown in any other field.
We all have opinions of how to supply our world with energy, building materials, jewels and a myriad of buried treasures, but it must be acknowledged that the curious nature of tapping the Earth for riches is quite incredible. Controversy has followed mining of every kind in every land but I can clearly see what our coalmines mean to the area we live in. They provide a livelihood for many.
I’d been asking Mayor of Hotchkiss, Wendell Koontz, a.k.a. brilliant Sr. Mine Geologist up at the West Elk Mine, for a decade if he’d take me for a personal tour underground. I really had no idea what an ordeal it is to take one down there. None. I bided my time and one day I got the call. A day that I will never forget finally came to pass. Immense thanks to Wendell and the West Elk Mine for this opportunity. Our little group met early with our packed lunches and headed to Arch Coal’s West Elk Mine where we were met by Wendell and intern Geologist, Kendra Hinton. (BTW, this is an extremely coveted position, congratulations on this, Ms. Hinton!)
Mine safety is stressed above all else at the West Elk Mine where we were to be taken underground. My group had to first go through a battery of safety films, lecture, written statements and finally hands-on equipment usage training before we even dressed for the event. We eventually looked like bona-fide miners and that alone was worth the trip even before descending the 800 feet we eventually went down. I had a bit of trouble with my life-saving self-rescue equipment and imagined in graphic detail telling the group, “oh go ahead, just leave me, I’m useless at gadgets.”
Turns out I was with a patient group of individuals and everyone had to wait for me to get it right. There’s a great picture of me with my breathing tube unattached, giddy with anticipation concerning wardrobe malfunctions. Our outfits were ordered in advance so that we had correct boot size, pantsuit, helmet, goggles, earplugs, headlamps, GPS signal apparatus, the very heavy and important self-rescuer and my favorite, bold strappy things with major reflectors so that we could be seen and also carry our equipment. Mine had noticeably more reflectors on board and Wendell had a leash for me. Just kidding, but he seemed aware that I might be the one to wander off into the darkness.
We climbed into vehicles and headed down into the mine, through locked pressure doors that tested our eardrum flexibility and Wendell turned off headlights for a nanosecond around corners to see if anyone was coming in our direction. I learned what “dark” is. Wendell parked the truck and out we spilled into the underworld. We got up close and personal with maps, asked questions, got answers, learned a lot about ourselves and what makes us uncomfortable on what might as well have been another planet. Human moles working in another dimension without the comforts of the natural conditions most of us enjoy, such as sunlight and open air.
Wendell was in his element as we trudged carefully past heavy equipment and negotiated watery pathways. He explained the air system and we ogled at the electrical cables that keep things working. The West Elk Mine has netting on every single surface to keep debris from falling and we witnessed the implantation of such material along with watching the continuous miner machines blasting away. Teamwork, again, seemed to be the name of this game.
I had a moment to speak with a miner named Heff. He mans a beast of a machine that he must keep moving without fail for his entire shift. He has a lot to watch so he couldn’t talk for long but he tells me he loves his job, the responsibility of it and the miner’s way of life. He’s been at it for many years. For some reason, I felt compelled to hug him. I’d been underground for ten minutes and I’m a comrade!
It’s soon time for lunch and we go to a designated mine eating area, sort of like a rough kitchen. Miners are digging into lunch boxes and I feel like a den mother, literally. I want to stay down here and share my lunch with guys who just want me to shut up and eat my own meal. I know I’ve missed my calling as a miner.
Next we go to the working Long-Wall. This is a treat that not all tours get to see. This piece of equipment is so large, three football fields long in fact. The operation of it was explained in layman detail and it was fascinating to all of us. I found out that young Mr. Jordan Clark was instrumental in running this thing. Jordan Clark! Didn’t I just see him as a child running around in a diaper?
I was not ready to surface when the day was over. We piled back into the truck, Wendell at the helm. The feeling was like going up and down in a narrow parking garage in complete darkness. When we came out into the sunlight, the heat, the air, my fellow one-day miner, Alex, let out an audible gasp. He said he hadn’t known how uncomfortable he had felt down there until he was out. He wasn’t a natural mole.
We all went and washed off our muddy selves, turned back into above-grounders, had a debriefing of sorts with none other than Mr. Jim Miller, kind enough to answer a few more questions and said our thanks and good-byes. (I’m not sure if I was the only one with some pocketed coal for a souvenir. I keep it in a Dixie cup on my desk.)
Our group decided to head up the Minnesota Creek and visit the area that we had just been under. We found pristine land and thought maybe we heard a hum of workers underneath. We rested and thought about the things we saw. Amazing, to say the least.
Thanks again West Elk Mine for taking the time to host us curious neighbors!
Too Hot for Hay!
Summer’s in full bloom and you had better get down to Crawford Reservoir quickly or you will miss the beach. Let me rephrase that. Get down there or you will miss the water. You’ll experience plenty of beach and precious little water. I do hope beyond hope that by the time this goes to print we Coloradoans in general and us North Forker’s in particular, get some rain. Our hearts go out to the fire ravaged areas and residents in our state and beyond.
As usual, albeit a month earlier than in all other years, I heard the tractor baling the hay and I ran up to the field to watch the birth of beautiful bales trussed up in bright string. I must have been late; maybe the bales were stacked already in the stack yard down below, because there was one lone bale on the far horizon, none other in sight.
The baler moved along down the rows with no signs of impending labor. Mike eventually drove the machine up close to me and I heard the groan of the interior workings and out fell a tiny green lump. Mike yelled out “It’s a preemie!” My arms went up and a cry was upon my lips as I welcomed the small version of a 1200 lb bale into the world. Estimated weight? Maybe 250 lbs. Maybe.
One average bale born down yonder and now this one. That was it. That was my entire harvest for the dry year of 2012. I am now spending time finding hay to buy for the animals to eat this winter. Word is, it’s going to be a season to reckon with.
Pioneer Days was the best ever. A well attended full out barbeque lunch at the bank kicked off the weekend. This was followed by a baking contest of the most delectable treats, the fire auxiliary dinner, and the auction action of which Mr. John Cunningham proved he’s making his comeback.
Winding through the weekend, were the three performances of the melodrama showcasing the most talented actors and the best play writing around. An early morning pancake breakfast took place that I’ve never been able to make it to. This, before the big parade, the outhouse races, the chili cook-off, and closing out with the always-amazing fireworks!
Thank-you to all organizers, hard workers, vendors, and everyone who took a part in the fun. I took home a lot of cash due to the hard work of the Long-Suffering-Husband. He, who took out the bottoms of my boots, two pairs, and devised a way to put the goat in them. It was quite the outfit and was enough to sway the judges in our direction.
A broken toe was in order for making the goat endure the humiliation of this costume and I hobbled through the rest of the day. Still hobbling now, a daily reminder of that fun weekend.
Cherry Days in Paonia is next, soon to be followed by the Delta County Fair in Hotchkiss. Small rural Western Colorado towns make it happen in the summer!
Wedding Congratulations to Roxy and Tim and to their families. A more perfect occasion would not have been possible. Such sweetness. To Gary and Linda, it was shared that your union was a beautiful morning on the mesa. Congratulations to you both as well. To all the lovers we celebrate this summer!
An entire goat herd went missing off the neighbor’s property yesterday and we searched for them until the sun went down. I swear aliens in spaceships at work again.
Today my cows are gone but I’d bet they figured out the faux electric tape was not humming. It shouldn’t be too hard to find anyone, as the grasses aren’t tall around these parts. Just have to haul myself out into the heat and hobble around until all missing animals take pity on me and come forth.
Said good-bye to old horse Remedy, a good o’l guy that made us smile. I was thankful to have him in his last year. The cycle of life shows itself once again.
Looking forward to family visits, maybe a camping outing or two (behind the house or in the yard?) and a major birthday for the L-S-H at the end of the month. Hope everyone out there has some fun summer plans as well. We live where we don’t really need to go anywhere else to see beauty, take a horseback ride, hike, fish, swim in a lake, pick fresh fruit, drink local wine and have a lovely slice of life.
Enjoy the month of July, and please, review the rules of Smokey the Bear.
Fires, Mysterious and Tragic, on Fruitland Mesa and More
Wishing that I had kept one of those big garden journals for the past decade on my hay crop, I’m just guessing that this year is going to be a bust. Glorious weather at the moment has kept depression at bay.
It’s time for Pioneer Days up here in Crawford and with it comes the best weekend around. I won’t know what animal will be walking at my side in the parade until we get in and out of the trailer, which now has tires. While Carlito, the burrito, may not be ready for the event, Barney doesn’t like to participate anymore, and the goat is shedding in a mangy looking fashion, I’m still excited and am extending a sincere invite to join us.
Be there for the baking contest, the dinner prepared by the Crawford Fire Auxiliary, sensational auction, where we hope to see the mended John Cunningham presiding, the parade, the outhouse races, the Melodrama, the chili cook-off…the list goes on and ends with the fireworks over the Crawford Reservoir. See you there! And if you read this after Pioneer Days, hope you had fun! Fireworks!
That reminds me of an incident that occurred a couple of weeks ago while driving in the night past the pasture of my neighbor, Pat Polson. I saw a ball of fire coming down out of the sky very close to me and instinctively looked around to see who may be setting off fireworks.
I slowed the car down with my mouth agape. The ball of fire was close enough that I saw the little sparkles twinkling before the fire went out as the ball neared the ground. I was so stunned, I just sat there screaming and laughing. I don’t know if I was still driving or if I had pulled over to watch all of this.
I don’t know by the light of day exactly where this transpired. I do know that I didn’t go to it because it was a moonless late night and the location was enclosed in a cattle- proof barbed wire fence. Cows with calves saw this cool phenomenon as well but they are keeping mum about details. When I got home the adrenaline was still pumping.
Long-Suffering-Husband added to the excitement by expressing some disbelief and then a lot of disbelief that I didn’t go hunt it down because if I found a meteorite I could have the money for all kinds of new fence. I asked Pat if she would comb the land with me, with a metal detector. We would split the money for all our new fence. I’ll report back when we find said rock.
Another ball of fire close to home was my closest-by-proximity neighbor’s beautiful house. I saw, as many of us did, some smoke. I talked a while on the phone while I visited my cows. I watched the smoke. My neighbor is a guy who doesn’t do dangerous crazy things like burn the house down. Even when I actually saw flames and heard fire engines, I worried not. I just knew that my neighbor was in control.
Then I saw another neighbor’s car zoom down the drive obviously in a panic. They showed the fire trucks where to go while I watered down the grass. When the ambulance and various vehicles showed up in my field, I finally got the picture that something terrible was happening. Thankfully no one was at home and no one was hurt or worse.
The entire house was gone eventually and it was eerie to visit the scene later in the night when the fire departments were still hard at work. I didn’t understand until then, when I spoke with the firemen and women that the fire department did not have an actual address to respond to. The calls coming in were not from the address, as no one was home when the fire started. I would not have known my neighbor’s address either since I have a hard time remembering my own now that the county changed it so that we would be on the new 911 emergency grid!
Emergency responders had the frustration of chasing smoke. I had the guilt of not responding to an emergency, although I don’t know what I would have done differently with what I did and didn’t know at the time.
Because of the location of the fire, I received many calls from the community inquiring if everyone was ok? Did anyone need help? I realized wholly what the North Fork Valley means to me. There were calls from the Critchley’s offering room and board for the victims for as long as they needed, along with many other offers of help.
As it happened, I didn’t get to extend the offers to my neighbors as they had family and friends quick to support them and so much going on, it was a while before we communicated. I want them to know however, we learned a lot about how things can change in a heartbeat and how grateful our little area of the world is for the positive outlook on life that they shared with us during this tough time. Things are only things; life is the important factor in this game.
Here we go into what is sure to be a grand summer. Enjoy family and friends. Go to weddings, parties and the drive-in theatre in Delta. Be thankful that you live in such a place as rural Western Colorado.
The Day the Mini-Donkey Attacked the BBQ Grill, and more stuff…
Moisture, albeit, not much of it, finally came into the North Fork and to a great deal of Colorado. With ditch burning, rowdy winds and pollen gone wild, almost everyone welcomed the liquid in any form; rain, sleet, snow and even a bit of hail.
Starting with shame that my bag of seeds that I had bought from Dan at Paonia Farm and Home three weeks earlier, still sat on my counter-top, I felt very smug that I hadn’t planted one dangnabit thing as the thermometer dipped to twenty-eight degrees up here in Crawford. Reports of frozen starts and disaster in the garden filtered in from high altitude green-thumbers who had taken planting advantage of early mild weather. I am hoping against hope that all the buds on pear, apricot, cherry and apple trees have come through the danger.
Since I wrote the above paragraph, the potatoes have been planted and horseradish planted last year is coming up. It’s 80 degrees in the shade and it seems we’re out of frost danger––even as I say it, I know it’s not true.
On a recent spring day, three donkeys, one goat and I, took a three-mile walk. Along the way we got a few smiles. As we single filed it, enjoying the view of the West Elks, green pastures full of calves, and a few hours of pure country bliss, only one passerby slowed down, leaned out their window and called me certifiably crazy.
I don’t know if I mentioned that I took on an unaltered mini-donkey project this past month. If I didn’t it’s just an oversight because he’s been an ass that many North Forkians have had a hand in helping me with. I’ll start with the bar-b-que grill over at Gail’s. Carlito, all of three feet tall, took on the grill in a most amorous way. Twice. While it was very funny and I laughed until I thought I’d bust a gut, the grill really did take a beating.
I then promptly made a gelding appointment for him with the assistance of Spirit Wind Horse Rescue, bless them with donations please, and off to Dr. Houseweart we went. Pamela had to help with this because she had a case of guilt as she had something akin to a thread to do with this.
It took us forever and a day to load the little sucker into the horse trailer but we finally did it. The doctor was as tough as Carlito, and the job was done to perfection. It all had the feeling of a small controlled rodeo complete with spectators and excitement. Thank-you Dr. Houseweart, you are a strong brave man, and lucky for Carlito, you harbor a fondness for mini-donks––I, on the other hand, wanted to hit him in the head with a frying pan and call it a day.
It’s now been a couple of weeks since the nuts hit the ground, so to speak, and I think we may be seeing a slight change of attitude although the bar-b-que got it again today and yesterday he ate the battens off the board on my house.
I was able to channel some of that energy into a romp with the four-wheeler. Carlito liked the looks of it and ran after me at a good clip for one mile. That’s no small feat if you think about it. I haven’t galloped that distance on horseback in a decade or more! After the mile he came to an abrupt stop and just chewed grass in the bar ditch.
Wouldn’t you know that a good Samaritan would come along, Ski got out of his truck even though I was trying to tell him, from quite a distance to get back in. I just wanted him to slow down since you can never tell what direction a wild ass may travel. I saw the dance begin. Ski went in circles while Carlito advanced in that special way.
“He’s really strong for such a little guy!” was the chant that Ski was concentrating on. I could hear it all the way down the road and when I finally hoofed it up there after abandoning the four-wheeler, poor Ski was more than confused when I pulled out the squirt bottle and shot the overzealous donkey. This is one effective anti-love tool that works well with this particular case.
Ski wanted to know why I didn’t just hook him to a lead-line and lead him away. Some things cannot be easily explained. I did tell him that I was an experienced donkey professional. I saw in his face, a certain disbelief.
After all that, Ski went on his way and Carlito went into Judy’s gate, fooled around and that’s when I did hook him up and he ran all the way back home alongside the four-wheeler without complaint. I thought he was tuckered out, as I was, and I just put him out in the field instead of in the penitentiary.
Not an hour went by before I got a call from Syd and Keith that Carlito was over in their yard being, yes, you guessed it, an ass. Driving the four-wheeler over there with a dog or two running behind me, I had the thought that life couldn’t get much better. Who else spends such a ridiculous amount of time pursuing such nonsense?
Upon my arrival I was told that Keith had put Carlito in with some surprised cows that marched over like female fullbacks and got a buck and a few snorts for good measure. I just left him there, rolling in the dirt and fully enjoying the magnificent spring.
I hope you can do the same with as much glee and exuberance…standing up, without the dirt. Happy spring days ahead to all!
P.S. To Randy Rodstrom and James Ayer and family, your community is thankful that you came through separate serious accidents in essentially one piece. Thankful, that’s the word.
Spring, the Uncle Issue, and the New Donkey Hat
Is there anyone who doesn’t welcome spring? Maybe the folks lucky enough to heat water troughs with heating elements, avid winter sports enthusiasts and those allowed to use electric saws to cut wood, could be they who don’t salivate at the sight of the first robin or the tiniest blade of green grass, but that wouldn’t be me.
It hasn’t been a rough go, as we didn’t endure the endless cold gray months that sometimes seem to hang on forever, but that said, there were enough days of winter for me to smile that it’s over.
Those donkeys and that fat goat didn’t lose one single ounce while incarcerated in the controlled environment of the penitentiary. The horses spent all winter with grasses available, only a dozen days where feed was absolutely necessary and the cows are as round as a small child’s drawing of them, pinned to the gate with a note that read “Are these pigs or cows?’
Remedy, the old trusty steed I was sure wouldn’t make it through the season, has surprised all with the coming of spring. I walked old wobbly Rem down to friend Karla’s ranch after the other horses shunned him for three months running. He spent the cold days wrapped in fashionable blankets, ate the best feed, feasted on daily love and medicines designed to ease the pain of old age and viola’ he has thrived! Thanks to Karla and Lily for taking the ancient nobleman into the herd.
I did lose two of my old dogs to the hands of time. Sally, my most loyal Jack Russell and Orbit of the old guard, the fun police. No complaints here. I wish everyone could have friends as sturdy and steady as those two. Thanks to Dr. Vincent who eased them onward into the great beyond the fence.
With spring I have also been trying to learn a lesson. It has to do with family. It has to do with this North Fork community and it has to do with what to take on and what to let go. Thanks to Mary for support and more than a ride to the train station to pick up my Uncle from the city. He came to “visit” after losing his longtime home.
I was unprepared for the man I hadn’t seen in a decade. A man who was going through a lot of personal loss and also a man not gifted with a great deal of positive thought. Thanks to the Long-Suffering-Husband for the two-week endurance of a difficult situation and the stress of negativity that begs for air. Gratitude to so many in the Valley who continue to welcome my Uncle in his new home even while his welcome mat has a few nails sticking up.
Ok, more than a few! Thank-you to Louie, Joe and John, new neighbors all, who are learning along with me. Thank-you to that sweet Wells Fargo employee who used humor when mine was used up, and to the lovely woman who gave me a hug out in the parking lot and a story about taking on her father in old age even if his tongue had been full of wrath her entire life.
Thank-you to Kelly for the Uncle Chair, to Cecilia at the Creekside Senior Apartments in Paonia for endless patience, a bed, table, sweet son who hauled the needed items. Cecilia, did I mention your endless patience? Thanks to Chris at Don’s Market for your good nature on Uncle’s first shopping experience!
Oh, and I must mention that I give a truly rotten raspberry to the one or two folks who have taken advantage financially of someone who might not be playing with a full deck. One or two? Not bad when you consider the many who are just awesome! The receiver may not have properly acknowledged gifts of groceries and heart but the niece is sending the love and appreciation two fold. This love extends to former neighbors in the city who went the extra million miles for said Uncle. Blessed, that about sums it up.
How far into the season can I wear my brand new donkey hat? Pamela and Cyn brought it back from Horse Expo for me and I haven’t taken it off since receiving it on the first day of spring! It is wooly and warm with ears, eyes, a tail and lined with fleece. As predicted it is now coated with hay and things out in the real world but it continues to make a splash at City Market. I like to wear it while drinking out of my Santa Fe Cowgirl glass from Todd and Cynthia. So glad to have friends that travel occasionally outside the North Fork!
Skooterz and Shooterz in Crawford was the scene for Donna’s birthday bash, a great time with lots of food and drink. That could and should be birthday central because you can throw peanut shells on the floor and not mess up your own house. The following week I celebrated my own birthday there with a delicious local steak dinner for six! Thanks Pam and Ed Bliss! That, after a sun soaked birthday ride on Hank and after-ride margaritas from John. Thanks for thinking of me, Cedar and DeWitt! This is a giant spring thank-you letter to every positive ion in the air!
Time for re-generation, re-birth and general house cleaning of mind, body and closets. Shake off the winter cold and get out in that warm sunshine. Welcome baby calves dotting the landscape and welcome to all but those damnnabit gas well drillers! (If you happen to be employed by them, well, you can welcome them, too! Quietly, and in your own way.)
Tags: Marla Bear Bishop