A Christmas Tail

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“I love this bird bath!” . . . .

Maud came into our lives late in 2017 and anybody who has elected to cope with an energetic, rambunctious puppy will know what ensued.  Life became puppy-centered chaos!  The tragic loss of our former dog Rosie led us to become very protective of Maud.  She is confined to the yard, walked on a leash and is billeted at night in her crate in the house.  She has a large, covered outdoor kennel where she stays when we make day trips to town in hot weather and she cannot be left in the car or pickup.  Nor can she be left in the house, for a variety of reasons (she chases our two cats, Katya and Bleu; she chews on everything; she empties the waste baskets, etc. etc. etc. )>

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“What’s this white stuff?” . . . .

It has taken all of 2018 to learn the lessons of Maud.  Her first long trip was to our cabin at Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.  We made several “comfort” stops for her along the way but she was having none of it.  She chooses where and when.  She loves life at Red Feather, with endless walks around the lakes, barking at the squirrels and chipmunks who seem to be everywhere, diving into snow banks to unearth voles and critters hiding below and chasing her frisbee, off-leash at last!

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“This stuff gets in my eyes!” . . . .

In February she made her first overnight trip to Denver.  She thought life at the Marriott was dandy.  She was able to identify our room after a couple of passes, enjoyed long walks through the adjacent office park and neighborhood, and barked at our selection of TV programs.  We had to turn that off or be evicted.  She became very excited riding around in Denver’s non-stop traffic.  We had to confine her to the back seat for safety and sanity.  She prefers to ride between us on the console in the pickup where she can choose the radio programs, crank up the heater and mess with everything on the dashboard.

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“I got it, I got it, throw it again!” . . . .

In March our challenge was what to do with Maud for our date at the Wyoming Symphony in Casper.  We had season tickets and missed the January performance due to a blizzard.  It meant leaving her in the cold car, in the dark, for several hours.  We packed her dinner, her bowls, a blanket and she managed fine.  Michael volunteered to walk her during intermission and missed out on the traditional cookie and coffee break.  What we sacrifice for a dog!

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“You’re not getting me in that thing!” . . . .

Maud is an Australian Shepherd.  We have been told this breed ranks in the top ten for “separation anxiety.”  In July we had to confront the problem of driving to Omaha for son Royce’s wedding.  This was not a trip for Maud.  Not only does she bark at trucks (I-80 is a truck train), but we couldn’t leave her in the hotel or a hot car while we made the rounds of pre-and- post nuptial events.  Departure was traumatic.  Michael was anxious, I was crying, and our caregiver was grimly determined.  Maud was not be comforted and roamed every room in the house looking for us.  I phoned home and cried.

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“That’s my frisbee, Gus!” . . . .

Maud’s best friend lives nearby and comes to visit frequently.  He always seems to get ahead of her to retrieve the ball or frisbee and she gets pretty annoyed.  The expression in her eyes says it all.  She is bigger and stronger than Gus, but he out-maneuvers her.  Isn’t that like a guy?

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“Come down out of that tree and I’ll have you!” . . . .

We took a jeep trip to the Big Horn Mountains later in July to attend a memorial service for a dear friend.  We usually take the doors off the jeep, swathe our heads in a bandana and hope the dust doesn’t overtake us before we reach the top.  Maud is supposed to ride in the back of the jeep, however she prefers to stick her head out and smell the air and look for varmints.  Before I know it, I have a 40-plus pound dog sitting in my lap trying to hang out the door opening for whatever adventure might be discovered.  One rabbit and we’ll never see her again!  By the time we reached our destination and the ensuing service, we were barely presentable.  Maud only barked once or twice during the speeches and I was able to keep her at a distance so she wouldn’t jump up and lick everybody’s face.

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“Want to play ball?” . . . .

We planned a getaway to Taos, New Mexico in September.  We were determined that Maud would make a real road trip with us and were delighted to learn our favorite bed and breakfast had one pet-friendly suite.  We were a little nervous, as the Hacienda Del Sol is pretty cushy and wraps around a walled courtyard which is beautifully landscaped.  We rose early to walk Maud off premises and sorted out where we could take “comfort” breaks.  By this time, Maud was more accommodating and accepted our choices, for the most part.  Her only faux pas was peeing in the courtyard in the presence of the proprietor as we returned from shopping one afternoon.  Bad form, indeed!  They did not evict us.  I hope we can go back.

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“I’m waiting” . . . .

We have been busy all of December shopping, baking and making the usual round of holiday gatherings.  Michael’s black-tie event in Sheridan posed yet another challenge.  The Holiday Inn was very accommodating.  Maud took her first elevator ride with grace and aplomb, remained calm in the presence of children roaming the corridors (she loves children and wants to hug and kiss them!) and was perfectly well behaved until we reached our room.  Then she became agitated, whining and finally barking at us with commands.  In years past we would have taken the time for a glass of wine in the cocktail lounge and relaxed before dressing for dinner.  Not so this year.  We put on our coats and with Maud on her leash, walked to the PetSmart store just a block away.  Maud was so excited to finally be invited in to shop, and what an array of dog treats, bones, toys and other dogs!  We settled on a lime green ball, fed her a complimentary cookie and headed back to our hotel where we spent the next hour bouncing her new ball around the room while she raced madly around retrieving it.  She had to wait for us in the pickup while we tried to enjoy the rest of the evening.

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“You mean I wasn’t supposed to?” . . . .

Barring a blizzard, we will be at Red Feather for Christmas and Maud, Michael and I send our best wishes for the holiday season.  We look forward to the New Year and the next chapter of life with Maud.  It truly is a dog’s life!

 

The Tower of Babble

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“I hear you talking” . . . .

A colorful chapter of ranch history resides in a 100 foot communications tower (give or take a few feet) with about a 20 foot antennae that stands on top of the hill overlooking headquarters on Dry Creek.  In the late 1950’s or early 1960’s Dad erected a tower right alongside the ranch house to support a two-way radio system.  Acquisition of a ranch 20 miles east made it necessary to communicate with hired hands and there was no telephone service.  Phones were installed in pickups with a base station in the ranch house.  The stub of the tower is still planted in the ground right outside a large living room window and is a humorous (to some family members) reminder of an unfortunate (or humorous) INCIDENT.

Brother James was home from college working on a dry farming project just west of the house and as he drove the tractor up the creek bottom, snagged a guy line that was a critical support of the tower.  At the time Dad was having an afternoon siesta on the sofa which sat indoors alongside the living room window.  The tower collapsed on the roof of the house right outside the window.  The scene that unfolded would have been something like this: Dad would leap into the air; dash outside to investigate; let loose with a stream of profanity that would turn the air blue; and discover a collapsed radio tower draped over the house and an unattended tractor sitting down in the creek bed.  The tractor driver (brother James) was long gone, knowing it was better to stay away for a few hours until Dad had worn himself out and cooled off.  Amazingly, damage to the roof of the house was not too serious!

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the INCIDENT . . . .

An insurance settlement and a summer pasture lease negotiated in the mid 1960’s would require yet another tower and radio system.  The new tower was erected, this time far enough away from the house that no one could possibly snag a guy wire.  If the new tower fell for any reason  (wind, lightning etc.), it was far enough from any of the ranch buildings that it could not do any damage.  Communications with the mountain camp 65 miles southwest in the Big Horns was successfully launched.

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Buddhist prayer flags . . . .

Brother James gathered up the salvage of the old tower and transacted a deal to trade the sections that were not bent to a local rancher for a mammoth antique cast iron stove which he installed in Dad’s new shop.  It’s big enough to power a steamship or locomotive when loaded with wood or coal and heats the whole place.  Dad was quite happy.  Eventually analog cell phones took the place of  radio technology and the tower has stood useless except to hang our prayer flags which indicate which direction and how hard the wind is blowing.

 

Muskrat Love

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“I hear you knocking but you can’t come in!” . . . .

By coincidence, I was in the basement reorganizing jars of last year’s canned goods to make room for the current crop when I heard a “scritch-scratch” noise coming from the window well.  It was very difficult to see what was making such a commotion through 100-year-old window panes so stained you cannot see through the glass.   I could observe movement and a shadow running back and forth, but could not see what creature might be in such a frenzy.

I assumed we might have an eager pack rat trying to dig his way into the basement. We have had these pesky visitors before.  They make a terrific mess and their downright thievery of a variety of small objects which they tuck into their nests is a nuisance.  Dad had a solution and would go for his pistol.  Sometimes it took several loud, booming shots before he would emerge victorious with a dead packrat.  There are still bullet holes in the basement walls.

I went outside to get a closer look and there was a fat, furry little brown creature with a long tail scuttling around frantically trying to climb out of the window well.  It was too big to be a packrat, and I didn’t want to deal with it.   I called for help.

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“Out of the frying pan, into the fire!” . . . .

Michael brought the live trap and after some maneuvering, was able to capture what was clearly a muskrat.  But muskrats are water creatures.  What was it doing so far from the pond, half a mile away?

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“There must be some mistake!” . . . .

There was only one solution.  Take it to the pond and hope that is where it lives.  If not, it will perhaps find a new home more appropriate than a concrete window well.

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“There is no place like home . . . there is no place like home!” . . . .

The muskrat took off down the bank of the pond as fast as its little feet would carry it.  It seemed pretty familiar with the terrain and didn’t hesitate to jump in the water.  It swam right to the den on the bank of the pond and disappeared from our view.

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A happy ending . . . .

Little Musky is home at last, and we hope he or she decides to stay put.  We can only wonder what led it to our window well.  Lover’s quarrel?  Doing lunch?  Checking out the real estate?  Only Musky knows.

 

 

 

Maud’s First Birthday

 

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“Aren’t I adorable?” . . . .

Maud was born on Memorial Day, 2017.  We lost our dog Rosie to poison a couple months earlier in the year and felt the only way to fill the hole in our hearts was with a new puppy.  I read a notice in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup last July advertising “purebred Australian Shepherd pups” and could not put the idea out of mind.  We hemmed and hawed for a few days and decided we needed to see a photograph of the puppies before we could decide.  The breeder, a rancher in Columbus, Montana was most helpful and friendly, but decidedly not into email or texting.  Could we wait until his daughter could help him out?

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“Where’s my furbee?” . . . .

Finally, after what seemed like an interminably long period of time, I received a photograph of a wooly-looking puppy with a freckled face.  It was love at first sight.  We called the breeder and said we would take her and would send a deposit right away.  She had been spoken for previously but the potential buyer did not follow up with the deposit.  We were thrilled that she was available.

 

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“Oh this water feels good!” . . . .

We drove to Montana, a trip of 259 miles to Columbus, and another 20 miles out in the hills to the ranch where Maud was born.  There were still four pups left, including Maud but we definitely liked her color the best.  She was hiding under a dog house in the center of a large fenced kennel and had to be pried out so we could have a look at her.  I held her while we visited with the breeder, then put her in a crate in the back seat of our pickup.  It was a very long ride home, as she became car sick and was so dehydrated.  We stopped to buy a couple bath towels to wrap her in and I held her in my lap the rest of the way, which calmed her and she settled down.

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Oh puppyhood! . . . .

Maud became a good traveler and began accompanying us to our cabin in Colorado,  resulting in huge messes on a regular basis.  What are puppies for?  She could not resist a bowl of pine cones and anything else available that she could chew on, including her puppy pad.  Aussies are notorious for needing something to do at all times, and Maud is no exception.  I believe she can set the standard for busy.

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“What snow?” . . . .

Maud has earned several new nicknames for her mischievous behavior–“Maudzilla,” “Maud the Marauder,” “Maudly,” to name a few.  She loves to chase chickens, dig holes, maul the cats, growl at Feed Lot, and harass the herd of deer that lurk around outside the fence.  She has learned to behave a little better around Tilly the filly.  She has to be kept on leash when we leave the confines of the yard, for now.

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‘My furbee–don’t try it!” . . . .

Her friend Gus loves to play ball or run for the furbee.  He lives in the neighborhood and stops in to play and see if there are any treats.  He always seems to outsmart Maud and get there ahead of her for the furbee.   She hasn’t figured out how to outmaneuver him, even though she is bigger and equally as fast on her feet.   The look she gives him in this photo makes it clear the contest isn’t over.  Isn’t that just like a female?

 

 

Cow Pasture Virtual Reality

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Good fences make good neighbors . . . .

A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal “Startups Give Livestock Fencing a Jolt – April 8, 2018″ seemed far-fetched, amusing and downright silly.  One of the latest technology start-ups is devoted to high-tech collars for cattle, sheep, goats and other livestock to round-up and relocate the animals using electric shocks and audio signals to direct movement.  The goal appears to be to eliminate fencing, which in the U.S. “cost $300 million last year,” and to give more control of pastures and animals.  Now what could be wrong with that?

Imagine–a virtual fence that the bossies won’t cross because they have been conditioned by electric signals not to.  Only critical requirements are a large supply of solar-powered collars (only $155 per collar for each cow, sheep, goat, or whatever,)  and an internet or mobile phone connection.  The companies producing the collars claim shifting a herd can be as easy as drawing a line on a smart phone app.  Really?  I can see the protests coming from People for the Ethical Treatment of animals or PETA (known in some parts as People Eating Tasty Animals!)

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Mama and baby boy . . . .

What is to happen to the cowboys and cowgirls, herders, dogs and even helicopters that are currently employed to gather herds of livestock for branding, pasture relocation and shipping in the fall?  I can see it now.  Mother cows standing in a virtual corral as their bawling, howling babies are thrown to the ground, vaccinated, castrated, branded and turned loose crying pitifully for their mamas.  Same scene come weaning time.  Anyone who has spent time with a mother cow separated from her baby will understand what I am getting at.  Virtual fencing around the bull pasture?  Are they kidding?

My technical know-how simply doesn’t stretch far enough to understand how the annual migration to the Big Horn Mountains will play out.  The stock trail is fenced with real barbed wire for a good reason.  I challenge some computer geek to keep everybody in line to prevent commingling with other herds long the route.  That should take some app!

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Don’t mess with me! . . . .

I am reminded of my dad’s colorful description of our cattle drive to summer pasture when a couple of guys on motorcycles chose an inopportune time to plow through our herd, scattering cows in ten directions.  The air turned blue with invective as the day was spent rounding up spooked cows.  I doubt very much if a smart phone app would have been much help.

Dad usually managed the drive each year with the help of a lead cow who was his prize assistant (the term “bell cow” must have come from this tradition) and the 60+mile journey up the mountain and back down usually came off without a hitch.  I think placing our faith in a smart old lead cow will have a better return than putting electric collars on everyone and expecting some farmer or rancher with five thumbs on each hand to sort it all out.

Home On The Range

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Homestead at Nine Mile – home in foreground was Ernest and Clara Ullery’s built in 1921

Samuel Ullery and his son Ernest filed on homesteads in an area known as Nine Mile in 1921, receiving patent and the seal of the General Land Office authorized by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924.  Samuel had “proved up” on 480 acres and Ernest on 320 acres.  The home pictured above was built from logs hauled from the Mayoworth sawmill.  It consisted of two large rooms with a full porch that extended the length of the house on the east. This photograph was taken of the west side.  Unusual in early-day construction in the area, the exterior of the logs were covered with cedar shingles on all sides.  The Ullery family compound included this house, as well as the home of Samuel and Clara, and later on, the home of newlyweds Jim and Nella Ullery.

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Bird hunting . . .

The group standing in front of the porch appear to be holding recently killed birds.  I don’t know who the members of this party are, or what kind of birds they are holding.  My grandmother raised a huge flock of chickens and turkeys, so perhaps this was a sale transaction with neighbors.  Note the cold frame resting against the foundation where she likely grew some lettuce or other vegetables during the colder months.

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Gone but not forgotten . . . .

Until recently, this is what remained of Ernie and Clara’s homestead house.  Ernie had it relocated from Nine Mile in the late 1950’s to ranch headquarters on Dry Creek.  And there it has been, still resting on temporary supports, all these years.  A microburst windstorm tore the roof off four years ago, which shot down any plans I might have had for restoration.  The porch had collapsed many years ago and hangs on the side of the house.  But still . . . .

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Planed logs nearing 100 years old . . . .

The chinking is falling out but the logs look like they could be reclaimed, if I could figure out how to dismantle them and reuse them.  The only ones with serious rot are along the top of the structure.  We decided to start cleaning up the site last month on a couple of nice days (rare in March).

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Peeling away the porch . . . .

The boards are tough and tenacious – we finally had to hook up a rope and pull the remaining porch structure down.  It didn’t help that a currant bush loaded with spiky thorns was standing in the way!

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Salvage pile . . . .

A pile of boards literally full of nails grows on the side.  I love old wood and will find some way to recycle most of it, similar to what we did with Granny’s old poultry shed.  Much of that salvage went on the old horse barn we restored last spring and appears to be holding up well.  The age, color and character blend well with the existing structure and the whole appears to have been standing forever, except for a few new boards that had to be added.

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This old house . . . .

What stories could be told of the lives herein from 1922 until about 1940 when the family relocated.  They could survive the depression in the thirties, but not the dry years that brought no rain.  When the reservoir that irrigated the garden and two wells that furnished a little domestic water dried up, it was time to move on.

What I have trouble understanding is why, after moving the sturdy log structure from Nine Mile, my grandparents didn’t restore and live in it when they retired, sold the Telephone Store in Kaycee, and moved to the ranch. They purchased a new mobile home, incurring far greater expense than it likely would have cost to restore the old cabin to its former glory.  When it was relocated in the late 1950’s, it was still in very good condition.  Oh well, it was an opportunity lost that makes me sad.  I must do something to save what I can of the remains.

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Sam Ullery’s homestead house . . . .

This little cottage was relocated at the same time as the log house.  We used it as a bunkhouse for a string of hired hands and then for storage.  Restoration is detailed in a previous blog post, and not a day goes by that I don’t look upon this little house and feel glad that I saved it.

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Clara, granddaughter Janet and Sam, circa 1922 . . . .

Little house on the prairie.

R.I.P., Rosie

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“I’ll just have a little nap” . . . .

A little dog came into my life one winter day, and soon came to be my best friend, protector, and daily shadow.  She was fearsome, and stood her ground when a vet-tech brought her into my home in Laramie.  She was wet from a bath and it was February.  I remember going for a towel to dry her and gave her a good rub to reduce her shivering. A friend’s big dog (about 10 times her size as a 4-month-old puppy) tried to offer a friendly sniff and she bristled and barked, approaching the much larger dog in an aggressive stance that said, “don’t mess with me!”  I had no need of a dog and tried to convince the kindly vet-tech that, although this little dog desperately needed a home, I was much too busy to get involved with owning a dog.

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“I know this is TuTu’s throne, but I can fit!” . . . .

Sooooo, ten years later I am left with trying to figure out how to fill the hole left in my life by the loss of this little dog, who I named Rosie (my mother’s nickname) and came to love dearly.  She died after a four-day struggle with what we can only surmise was due to ingesting something poisonous or toxic.  We are still puzzling over what it could be–a dead animal carcass?  The vet said that can cause botulism but Rosie’s symptoms would have been more severe immediately.  Rat poison?  Again, the vet said they ran a test that ruled out that as a cause.  Fertilizer?  We have none on the premises, having used all we purchased last fall on the lawn.  Our garden fertilizer is kept in a secure place.  A dispenser with Round-up was sitting on the porch where I left it recently, but would have required Rosie to open the handle, depress the pump and drink out of the hose.  Not likely she would have been attracted to the taste or smell even if she could have managed to drink it.

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“A little sun is nice” . . . .

We were on the way home from a trip to Colorado when we got a call from Joyce, our caregiver.  She was alarmed that Rosie was nowhere to be found as she was doing evening chores.  A little dog who for 10 years has always been at the gate or nearby, waiting for the people who matter to her to return, had disappeared.  When we arrived home it was growing dark but we began the search with flashlights.  We called her name, whistled and poked into all the sheds and likely places for her, to no avail.  By 10:00 p.m. we gave up and went to bed.  I did not sleep but tried to imagine why Rosie would have vanished.  And shed a lot of tears.

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“They could make these cat beds a little bigger!”

We put a photo of her in the post office and hoped if she had decided to leave home to find us, someone would have seen her along the highway.  We knew something was really wrong with her, because there were dark ominous stains on her sleeping pad out on the porch and her nighttime perch on our sofa was stained.  Rosie must have been mortified, because she has never in her entire life left a mess in the house. Later that morning Michael was coming from dropping off a salt block at the pond, and saw a white blob near a neighbor’s cattle guard.  He drove closer and found Rosie, still alive but barely.  When I saw him walking up the road toward our house with her in his arms I thought she was dead.  When I called to her,  she lifted her head.  We wrapped her in a blanket and raced to the vet clinic in Kaycee with her, knowing there wasn’t much time.

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The straw boss . . . .

Rosie never left our side.  Our daily travels are as varied and taxing as can be imagined but Rosie was not to be left behind.  She would snarl at Ricky, our goose if he became too aggressive when I penned them at night; she flew at Cromwell, our rooster when he decided to get too frisky as I was placing feed in his pan; she nipped at Michael and the entire universe of visitors if they came too close to me, which could be exasperating.  We tried a variety of things to reduce her insistence on protecting me, fearing she would eventually bite someone and we’d be in real trouble.  Nothing would deter her.  Michael fed her daily, warming her food and trying to win her over.  After nearly eight years, it didn’t make any difference.  She loved him too, but not enough to alter her fierce protection of me.

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“Bleu is bugging me!” . . . .

Competition for attention was foremost in Rosie’s mind.  If our cats Bleu, Oscar, TuTu or Mr. Mouse came around for a rub or a scratch, Rosie could not tolerate it.  Consequently, the cats migrated to Michael’s lap, leaving me off limits and bereft if Rosie was around. When I worked with Tilly, our horse, Rosie was vigilant and would try to sneak in a nip at her tail, which would get her a scolding and banishment from the barn.  She would wait patiently in a shady spot nearby, watching and waiting for me to finish.  To understand her psychosis, one must merely know that she is half Border Collie and half Australian Shepherd.  She looks more Aussie, but her obsessive compulsive personality is pure Border Collie.  She loves to herd the guineas and chickens and while her methods are not always successful, her failures can largely be attributed to her mistress who has done a lousy job of training her!

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“More critters to herd!” . . . .

X-rays determined Rosie had no broken bones or bruising, nor obstructions from a bone in her digestive tract.  She had suffered from severe diarrhea which had evolved into a yellow fluid leaking from her behind which she seemed unable to control. She was severely dehydrated.  She could stand for a short period, but could not walk. Diagnosis was inconclusive.   We were referred to a clinic in Sheridan, 84 miles north.  As we neared town, Rosie seemed to rally a bit.  She moved around on her pad into a new position and when I looked back at her, she was trying to sit up, panting and grinning like she always does when she gets to go with us for a ride.  High on her list of favorite things to do was go for a ride and her only regular opportunity was a monthly trip to the landfill in Brownie, our old trash truck.  Now here she was, getting a real long ride!

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Coming up Rosie . . . .

We answered a battery of questions regarding Rosie’s environment as they prepared to do more X-rays, ultrasound and get her on fluids and antibiotics. We left her believing she would perk up and overcome whatever illness she was suffering from.  A lengthy message from the vet when we returned home confirmed all the ongoing tests and efforts being made in her behalf throughout the day since we had departed. We were to pick her up in two days since we had dental appointments in Sheridan and we were confident that she would recover. The next morning we had another message from the vet with a lengthy update and a request that we call her.  The update was not encouraging and I began to fall apart again. After a thorough discussion with the vet, we concluded we should return to Sheridan right away and bring Rosie home.  We would care for her over the weekend and have her euthanized at home.

The only diagnosis the vet could come up with was a wild card and quite rare–dysautonomia–a condition currently under study at the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab.  Some, but not all of Rosie’s symptoms seemed similar.  It typically appears in dogs age three or younger; living in rural areas; spend half time outdoors; and it is prevalent in Kansas, Missouri, and some reports in Oklahoma.  The vet had arrived at no conclusions on this diagnosis. She was not optimistic they could do more for her, however.  Rosie’s vital signs were all pointing in the wrong direction.  She offered to euthanize but we declined, deciding to bring Rosie home and say our goodbyes.  We picked up some supplies for her care and when we arrived at the Sheridan clinic, we were ushered into the waiting room while they prepped Rosie to go home.  After what seemed an interminable amount of time, the vet came to us with the bad news that Rosie had just died, probably just a few moments before we arrived.  Her IV pump had stopped and they did not notice right away.  We were devastated.  I only wanted to hold her once more and tell her how much I loved her.  I was too late.

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A quiet place in the orchard . . . .

We buried her wrapped in a shroud in a white cardboard coffin furnished by the vet, with a few mementos tucked inside.  The fruit trees and flowering shrubs are just beginning to bloom, and the Maine bell hanging above her chimes softly in the breeze.  I will plant a climbing rose bush in the hope it will cling to the rustic metal stock panel we erected in the orchard as yard art.  It will be a place we visit often.

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R.I.P., Rosie . . . .

Tilly Goes To School

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“So, what’s up?” . . . .

The Ides of March

Monday, March 13, 2017 was a noteworthy day.  Call it bad luck, bad Karma, bad timing or just plain bad news.  The minute the stock trailer rolled into the barnyard, Tilly started having fits.  She knew it wasn’t her trailer and I guess she smelled a rat.

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Nothing to get excited about, Tilly . . . .

The following photographs of Tilly capture her typical fit.  The actual events of March 13 could not be photographed because all hands were on the end of a rope.  This is how things went.

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“I’m going to act up a bit here” . . . .

At four years old, Tilly is ready for the next step in her development–saddle training by a pro who can get her attention.  She has been a fine filly since we got her at six months as a weanling, giving us fits at times but basically being cooperative and showing real signs of intelligence.  I had her in a daily routine of desensitizing tactics, lunge exercises, and a pretty thorough grooming ritual.

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“I hope they’re watching me” . . . .

We had previously worked with Tilly tying her to a patience pole, saddling her with a bareback pad and then a real saddle.  She was reasonably calm.  She crow-hopped a couple of times with the saddle, but settled down to her lunge routine.  Being very head strong and sensitive about her mouth, she gave us resistance to a snaffle bit.  We succeeded in getting it on her but not without a fight.  I attribute some of this resistance to several nasty procedures she has undergone to clear up infection in her throat and gutteral pouches, as well as treating an eye for a corneal tear from a weed stem that poked through her face mask.  Ah, horses can be a wonder!

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“I’m really getting wound up” . . . .

But I digress.  Back to March 13th, an unlucky day if you see it from Tilly’s perspective. Not only did she start to act up in the corral, she carried on her tantrum and resisted getting into the stock trailer.  Ord and Michael had to push her from behind with a large cotton rope (this was not our first rodeo) while I hung onto her lead rope and tried to steer her into the trailer.  Finally she knew she had to do it and jumped in.  I fastened her lead to the ring at the end of the trailer and closed the inner gate on her.  We loaded several bales of hay, closed the end gate and she was ready to ride, wide-eyed with fear.

Memories

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“I think I’ll have a bite of this straw” . . . .

I miss her terribly and spend time looking at all the photographs we have captured of her since she was a weanling.  This is one of my favorites which I used on our Christmas card.  She is wearing a personalized halter which was a gift from Kristin and Chris.

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“Can’t scare me!” . . . .

We borrowed a youth saddle to place on her first, since it would not be so heavy and cause her much alarm.  Her expression says it all.

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“I’ll get rid of this thing” . . . .

She is trying to dislocate her snaffle bit, which she found quite annoying.  Boy is she in for some surprises!

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“I’m just a little girl” . . . .

My first sight of Tilly, after waiting eleven months for her birth on Mother’s Day, 2012.   We engaged a mare that belonged to my niece Sue, selected a sire after a few months of research and we were on our way.

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Tia and her baby . . . .

Tilly’s sire is a handsome black and white tobiano paint, Sugs Tru Luck, and we hoped she would have his coloration.  When breeding for color, anything goes.  Tilly’s dam is a registered paint breeding mare, although she is predominantly sorrel.  Tilly seems to have taken on the colors of JB Classic, her grandfather who was a sorrel overo.  Tilly is registered as a bay tobiano/overo.  She has blue eyes.

Meanwhile, back at the barn

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Tilly’s new yoga mat . . . .

In Tilly’s absence we laid a wooden plank floor in her stall and covered it with heavy rubber stall mats.  The ancient barn where she lives had a dirt floor and she had dug a hole in her favorite corner that went down to hard-pan clay and was a mess to clean up.

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Oscar does a test drive . . . .

The mats will cushion Tilly’s legs and feet while she is indoors.  They are also easy to sweep clean and remove the wood chips that go down each day for her bedding.  We did some additional strengthening of the walls, patched a leak in the roof, and we are ready for Tilly when she comes home.  In the meantime, I have to wait for Ord to call me and tell me 1) he needs more hay; 2) she is ready for visitors; or 3) she is ready to come home. He made it perfectly clear HE WOULD CALL ME.  I got the message.

Chicken House Rules

My little flock of 21 laying hens (plus one rooster and a few guineas thrown in) are great fun.  Certain individuals become dear friends and have conversations with me when I visit the hen house in the morning and evening to fill their feeding stations and gather eggs. We recently watched my favorite film “Cider House Rules” yet again, and it set me to thinking about some Chicken House Rules for my girls.

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“Cards, anyone?” . . . .

On this particular day, the girls are hopeful to go outdoors.  They have been shut in for 24-hours due to a nasty spring snowstorm that dumped 6-8 inches of new snow.  I believe we can relate to how they feel!  A mix of Barred Rock, Ameraucana, Buff Orpington, Silver Lace Wyandotte, White Tufted Black Polish and Australorp round out a colorful display with personalities to match.  They give us eggs of all colors and so delicious to eat!

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“Carrot peelings for lunch again?!” . . . .

Goldie, an Ameraucana, is typical of her breed. Shy and aloof, these girls like to roost on the highest outpost–in this case on top of the screen door that hangs ajar inside their ancient chicken house. It allows just enough space to perch for the night and typically there are three of them teetering on top of the door.  I don’t know how they decide who gets to perch there – they must draw straws! A little bit wild, these girls can fly over the fence into the yard and do so regularly, which is discouraged. They have figured out there is a good snack in the garden shed where Oscar and TuTu reside and if I don’t lock the door, they clean up the bowl of dry kibble.  Ameraucanas lay the most beautiful green and blue eggs and are very hardy.  Some of the girls are getting old by chicken standards, but they keep on keepin’ on.

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“What’s this about Rules?” . . . .

Luvena and her Barred Rock sister Vonna are two favorites.  Inquisitive, gentle and always under foot, they like to carry on a conversation when you are close by.  Luvena in particular is very gregarious and even as a chick, she would come to the door and peer up at me with great curiosity while the other chicks would huddle in the corner, afraid to come forward. You can be sure she will be giving me a piece of her mind about the Rules.

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“Have you seen the Chicken House Rules?” . . . .

  1.  Please don’t dribble in the food bowl if you have been drinking.
  2. Please don’t smoke on the roost or use candles.
  3. Please don’t go up on the roof if you’ve been drinking–especially at night!
  4. Please don’t take bottles with you up on the roof.
  5. Please don’t go outside to sleep if you are very hot or have been drinking.
  6. Please give your food order to the chicken house keeper before 7:00 a.m.
  7. There should be no more than half dozen chickens on the roof at one time.
  8. Please don’t sit in the nest too long–other chickens need to use them!
  9. Please do not break any eggs in the nest.
  10. Please do not leave messes in the nest – Cleanliness is next to Godliness!
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Chicken Fruit . . . .

The Rules are posted where everyone can see them, and the girls for the most part are trying to observe them.  They know they will be rewarded with good groceries and lots of love.  What more can a chicken ask?  Nevertheless, I believe some of the commentary from the free-thinkers is rising to a Greek chorus.  “What do they think we are,  just dumb chickens?”  “Who decided we need rules?”  “We do the work around here, laying eggs right and left!””What about us?” “Are we just a basket of deplorables?””The sky is falling!”

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“Now where do I wish to sit?” . . . .

The girls are assembling on the roosts for the night and will rise at dawn to begin a new day. Perhaps tomorrow we will have a Town Hall and discuss the Rules.   Hopefully they will settle down before feathers begin to fly and the clucking chorus drowns out the voice of reason.

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Chicken tanning salon . . . .

Heat lamps have come on and the girls cozy up to catch the warmth.  And now, we close the day with “GOOD NIGHT ALL YOU PRINCESSES OF DRY CREEK, YOU QUEENS OF WYOMING!”

Year of The Rooster

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Man about town . . . .

The Chinese New Year has just begun and it seemed appropriate to crow a little bit about it.  First, it is my Chinese zodiac sign and 2017 has been declared the Year of The Rooster! Having established that, I will move on to the roosters in my life.  The fine specimen above is “Fonzie,” a white-crested Polish who approached his manhood last summer in a stop and start frenzy of crowing, strutting and running after the hens like a kabuki dancer.  His amorous forays in the chicken yard created hysteria among the hens and two roosters were not in the chicken yard plan.  It was only a matter of time until Cromwell, Rooster Number One escaped his pen and dispatched Fonzie into the great unknown.  Imagining the spectacle of that, I suggested we take Fonzie to the vet to be gently euthanized.  I received a derisive snort from the better half and he promised he would be “gentle” when he euthanized our errant rooster.  I don’t want to think about it.  Moving along.

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Center stage, Cromwell the Great . . . .

Cromwell’s arrival was a surprise also.  But he was so magnificent a specimen (we are not sure if he is a Leghorn, Orpington or fowl play) that it seemed only natural to allow him to establish his kingdom–for awhile.  He made a great contribution to the flock when he and Betty White hatched a nest of babies.

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Rite of spring . . . .

From this lovely batch of chicks it was determined we had two roosters.  How to tell?  Some suggested their combs were different.  Another suggestion was that if you grab them by the feet and hang them upside down, the roosters will . . . . .now I can’t remember what they are supposed to do?  By the time we had these chicks, I realized I had exceeded my self imposed limit of 22 laying hens if even half of these turned out to be hens.  After a few weeks, it was time to find four of these babies a new home.  I marched on the brooder house with a fishing net and after a tussle managed to capture four and placed them in a cage for their new owner.  Turns out, the two remaining were hens.  I was happy to be spared the trauma of disposing of another rooster.

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Portlandia rooster . . . .

A visit to a Portland import/export shop several years ago turned up this wood-carved fellow who won my heart.  He wasn’t all that much fun stuffing in the overhead bin of the airplane, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  He keeps watch over the front yard a safe distance from Cromwell, and was joined by a motley crew of wood and tin imposters.

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Folk art frenzy . . . .

Roosters arrive in many forms at our house.  I believe I must have a subconscious attraction for them as they seem to have accumulated in various forms. I had to wipe some dust off before taking this picture of Archie, the most flamboyant of the collection.

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Reginald . . . .

Reggie came as a treasured Christmas gift from a nephew last year and won my heart with his bright colors.  We placed him out on the porch one day when Cromwell was given freedom to roam the yard, which in winter has been quite rare.  Snow drifts have been too deep for poor Cromwell to venture very far.  He ignored Reggie utterly and completely! Probably a good thing, as he might have come away the worse for wear pitted up against Reggie’s sharp metal feathers, comb and beak.

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Chinese Zodiak Rooster . . . .

This giant bronze was created by contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and displayed, along with the other Chinese zodiak symbols, at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming May-October, 2015.

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Imposing symbols . . . .

The artist of these bronzes, Ai Weiwei, was inspired by an 18th century zodiac fountain in an imperial garden in Beijing.  These images are at least 12 feet tall and were an awe-inspiring exhibit. For all the roosters everywhere, have a splendid year!  Cock-a-doodle- doo!