Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Stories from SCR: Curse of the Black Sludge

Grant and I bopped along the little two track road in the pasture.  The windows of the ranch truck were rolled down and whisps of hair had escaped from my pony tail and were whipping my cheeks and forehead.  The sky was cloudless and the unfiltered sun poured down onto my face and arm and glinted off my sunglasses.

We stopped at a small stock tank and got out.  Grant tossed me a rubber doo-ma-flatchie that closely resembled a heavy duty whoopie cushion, 'cept it was long and slender instead of round with a small hole in one end and a female water hose connection on the other.  I looked down at the contraption in my hand and then watched as Grant made his way back to the trailer and began unwinding a water hose from the biggest pressure washer I'd ever seen.  He brought the end of the hose over to me and I handed him the skinny whoopie, he screwed it onto the hose and handed it back.

"Stick this into the pipe there.  I'm going to go start the generator."

Still uncertain as to what it was that we were doing, I dumbly stuck the whoopie into the pipe and awaited further instruction.  The generator sputtered, then caught and filled the air with its loud rumblings.

Grant yelled over the noise,"I'm gonna start the water.  Hold that in the pipe as long as you can."

Huh?  I wrapped both hands around the hose with my thumbs on the pipe, anchoring the two together.  Grant flipped the switch and continued to stand behind the generator.

I could feel the pressure in the hose increase as the water made its way down to me.  I widened my stance and tightened my grip when the whoopie began filling with water.  It filled until the pipe was sealed with the bulk of the rubber whoopie. I could barely hold it in, so great was the force. 

Grant remained behind the generator.

When I could hold it in no longer, the whoopie and hose popped out of the pipe and flailed about like an errant fire hose.  We repeated the process a few more times then we loaded up and headed to another tank, just down the hill.

"What was all that about?", I asked.

Grant looked over at me from beneath his cowboy hat.  His expression was unreadable, his face hidden under brim, sunglasses, and facial hair.

"That tank up there feeds the tank we're driving to.  There's a pipe underground connecting the two.  It's stopped up."

Ah ha, I thought, we were trying to push out the blockage with high pressure water. 

The truck bounced down the rough road to the second tank.  We hopped out, Grant went to the generator and I went to the tank.

"Don't you worry, I'll be right over here," Grant said.

If I thought the comment an odd one, I didn't say and we hit replay:  me at tank, Grant at generator, whoopie in pipe, good grip, wide stance, flip switch, water flow, and so on.

Except this time the pressure didn't push the inflated whoopie out.

I stood there holding the hose anchored to the pipe for all that I was worth when I heard a loud POP!  Water shot straight up over my head and into the sky until it lost its battle with gravity and was pulled back down.

Onto my head. 

Water and sludge the color of midnight rained down on me; my shoulders, my face, and down the front of my white t-shirt.  My glasses were black with it and I could feel its cool wetness on my scalp. I was still holding the hose tightly with both hands.  I dropped it and raised my sunglasses up onto my head.  And that's when I heard it.  Laughter.

Full-bodied masculine laughter.  I looked over at Grant through lashes dripping with foul smelling mud.  There was no doubting the expression on his face now as his mustache and goatee were separated by an inch of shiny white teeth.  I'm not sure the cowboy didn't do a little jig of glee so great was his mirth.

"You knew this was going to happen, didn't you!?!", I said.  It was more an accusation than a question.

"No. . .  I mean. . . I knew it could happen but I didn't know it would,"  was his reply.

Cackle, cackle, cackle.  Ho, ho, ho. He, he, he.  He was beside himself.

"Are you kidding me??" 

Stupid question.  Of course it was a joke and it wasn't the first time I had played the part of patsy for Grant.  It took a second but I did eventually join in the laughter.  It was funny. . .kinda.  It would've been a heck of a lot funnier to me had our positions had been reversed.

It wasn't until we finally climbed back in the truck and started heading home that I realized just how badly I smelled.  The sludge was putrid.

Grant looked at me and said,"Ack, you stink."

No crap Sherlock, I thought to myself.  I cut my eyes at him and he started laughing.  Again.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's About That Time!

Summertime, that is!
Okay, so maybe it's still early Spring but a girl can dream and I've got spring fever in the worst way.  My wisteria is blooming, the grass is greening up, and the days are getting longer.  It won't be too long until it's warm enough to take a day trip to Buffalo Lake with a couple of friends and a pack of dogs. 

It might look a little something like this. . .

When a kiddie pool just won't cut it. . .

Load up a few of your best friends. . .

Make the most of your time together with a little close bonding on the drive over. . .

That kiddie pool's got nothin on this!

Take time for a little sunbathin'. . .

And a romp on the beach. . .

Then commemorate the day with a family portrait.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Old Maid

I thought the cat on the box was a nice touch. . .

I used to play the game Old Maid all the time when I was growing up.   It goes something like this:  players are dealt all the cards of a deck, save one that is discarded and set aside.  Each player removes any pairs they have in their hand and then choose from the other player's hands, without looking, trying to form more pairs.  The object of the game is to continue to take cards, discarding pairs, until all players except one have no cards. That one player will be left with the lone unmatchable card; they are "stuck with the old maid" and lose.

It wasn't until lately that I began to find the whole premise of that game mildly insulting.

To be honest, I don't try very hard to not be single.  Okay, so that might be an excuse instead of a reason.  Whatever.  I really do want to find the love of my life, get married, have kids, and all that jazz.
I just haven't pushed that panic button yet.  You know, the one that says you better get married now or you never will.

I don't enjoy going out to clubs or bars or the singles scene, in general.  Late nights have never been my thing (I struggle to stay awake after ten).  Besides, I don't think I'm interested in dating someone that does enjoy those things.  Blind dates and set ups kinda freak me out too.  Not to mention I've got to find a man that is willing to shovel horse manure and doesn't mind the occasional stray dog hair in his breakfast. 

This past February marked the second year of my bachelorettehood, prior to that I had been in three consecutive long term relationships.  After this last one ended and I had suffered through the broken heart phase I really started to enjoy being single (or maybe I should say, thinking and doing for myself without the need to consult another).  In fact, I spent most of that first summer at the ranch (hence the Summer at SCR posts) which I never would have done if I'd had a boyfriend waiting for me back home.  Relationships that had been damaged due to some misguided over-devotion to my boyfriend, and other poorly made decisions on my part, have also undergone healing in the past two years.  I can honestly say that I'm the closest I've ever come to being content. 


I turned twenty-nine last November and the words "old" and "maid" have been kind of rolling around in my head a lot lately.  Along with the words "crazy", "cat", and "lady".  I don't think its time for an intervention yet but it may be heading that way. 

Case in point:

**  I only have three cats (only, hehe) but I did make a run to Wal-Mart the other day and when I got to the checkout counter I realized that my two purchases were a romance novel and a 35 lb bag of cat food.  I'm pretty sure the lady checking me out smirked.

**  This is how I spend my free evenings.  And I like it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Summer at SCR '09: Nature's Call

I've blogged before about camping out during a branding.  It just so happens that the night after we gathered and branded in Chico was my first experience with "roughing it".  It turned out to be memorable in more ways than one. . . .

I rubbed my sore forearms with stiff fingers as I made my way to the camp site.  I hadn't dropped trou to look yet but I was pretty sure that the inside of each of my knees had been rubbed raw.  There was so much dirt caked on my face that I probably could've passed as belonging to an ethnicity with a shade more melanin than my own and any chance at a shower wouldn't come for at least twenty more hours. I was bone tired.

But, I was absolutely happy.

Even with the constant battling with Breeze, the uncertainty of not having a clue what I was doing, and the dirt, grime, and soreness I was having the time of my life.  I was totally immersed in a world that I had only dreamed of before and the entire day had been surreal.  Colors seemed too bright, the sounds too clear, and smells too sharp.  Everything was beautiful.  Hills rose up from the ground while a creek bed cut through to reveal the red dirt below.  Cedar trees and cholla cactus dotted the landscape with shades of green and the grass glowed amber as the summer sun bounced of its blades.  In the distance, great bluffs of crimson and white provided a stunning backdrop.

Situated amongst the cedars at the base of a small hill, our campsite was comprised of several canvas cowboy tepees and an enclosed stock trailer that  served as a chuckwagon.   Weary and with the knowledge that the next day's work would come early, the lot of us ate our dinner, visited for a short while, and then turned in for the night before the sun was even out of the sky.  As the only two women, Connie and I were granted luxury sleeping accommodations in the form of an air mattress on the floor of the stock trailer.  As tired as I was I would have been happy to bed down in a cradle of cactus.

Dressed in the clothes I would wear on the morrow, I barely made it through the "Dear Lord, thank you" portion of my prayers before I was sound asleep. 

Unfortunately, my peaceful slumber would be short-lived.

At 2:15 I was awakened by the disgruntled rumblings of my innards.  It took a few seconds for it to register in my sleep fogged brain just how ominous the sounds really were and even then I lay there for a bit staring into the dark in denial.  When the cramping became too much and I realized it wasn't going to just go away I began formulating a plan for taking care of my, ahem. . .problem.

I threw back the covers and eased my generous length off the air mattress, taking care to not jostle Connie too much (air mattresses have a tendency to shift considerably when that much pressure is removed from the surface).  Fumbling around, I found my glasses and the flashlight I had laid on the floor beside the bed.

Gloop-gloop-gloop.  Gloop. 

My intestines continued to protest.

I dug furiously through my duffel for my roll of toilet paper.  Finding it, I unraveled several feet and then crammed the wad into the pouch of my hoodie.  Beads of perspiration had started to form on my forehead and upper lip by the time I located my boots and shoved my feet into them.  I creeped over to the trailer door and pushed it open.


I sucked in a breath and held it, expecting to see a cowboy, or two, pop out of their tepee to see who was skulking about.  When none came I exhaled and gingerly stepped down.  I closed the door ever so slowly then turned the narrow beam of my flashlight out into the void beyond camp and began walking. 

Determined to get far enough away to be out of hearing distance, I wound my way around the cedar trees and scrambled over rocks  until I met a fence line on the opposite side of the small hill we were camped beside.  The cool night air was filled with the sounds of birds singing and chirping and I remember considering it odd that they would be so noisy in the dead of night.


The rumblings of my stomach joined in the birds' chorus.

Deciding this was as good a place as any, I unbuttoned and unzipped my jeans and shoved them down around my ankles in desperation. 

I hesitated for the briefest of seconds when, as if in anticipation, the birds' joyous chorus came to an abrupt halt and the night became very still.

Self conscious now, with the sudden silence, I was mid-squat when something occurred to me; just that morning one of the cowboys had shot a rattlesnake and we'd all gathered round to take a gander at the thing as it lay dead in the grass, forever frozen in the middle of consuming a hapless rabbit. And here I was, in the middle of the night, exposing my very white derriere like a beacon to all the vermin.

I quickly swung my flashlight round behind me and shown it all over the ground surrounding my makeshift privy.  When I was satisfied that nothing was going to suddenly sink its fangs into my rear, I relaxed a little and resumed my previous stance.

Then. . .

I gave in and answered the call of nature.

The trek back to camp seemed much shorter than the trek out had.  Mindful of the creaky door, I slipped back into the stock trailer, shucked my boots, carefully lay down on the air mattress, and fell asleep for the second time that night.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Break at SCR

Sigh, spring break is slowly slipping away. . . .

I guess I really shouldn't complain about going back to school, though.  There aren't many jobs that would afford me the opportunity to go "work" at something I love so often, and that's exactly what teaching does.

For the last two years, every Christmas, spring, and summer break I have relied upon the unending generosity of Grant, Connie, Trey, and Sterlin at SCR.  This break was no different.  My parents came, as well, and we spent three days working and fellowshipping. 

And teasing. 

Lots and lots of teasing.

Dad, Mom and Grant gathering strays in 41

Mending the water gap after pushing the strays back through.

Me on Cinco in East Galisteo.

Mom on Snakebite and Dad on Stormy

Me on Socks.

I took Socks with intentions of leaving him there for Grant to ride a while but wound up bringing him back home again.  He was a gentleman with a purpose from day one. 

It seems that Socks prefers work to dinking around the turnrows. 

All work and no play may have made Jack a dull boy but apparently it makes Socks a grumpy gelding.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Holy Hail!

It started off innocent enough; a much needed rain mixed with a bit of thunder and lightening.  Then it morphed into an all out pummeling.  The hail was the size of golf balls! 

No, really. Golf ball size hail.  Look.

I'll post pictures from my trip to SCR tomorrow, right now I'm going to go curl up in the fetal position on my bed and worry about the damage that derned hail caused.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Journey: Progressions

12 days old

~4wks old

9 wks

~4 mths

~6 mths

19 mths

Journey is evolving.  She has matured so much these last couple of months and it's more than just size and weight.  Agility has helped her to build confidence in herself as well as trust in our relationship but I think it's the loss of Mekka that has made the biggest impact.  Mekka was my best friend and she was Journey's.  Now that she's gone, we're learning to be each other's.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Summer at SCR '09: Fish Out of Water

Breeze and I survived our first gather.  Barely.  And even got a compli. . .er, comment. 

It came after we topped a steep incline that the Monster Mare made short work of.  When we reached the top, the cowboy who had come up behind me looked at us and said, "She's athletic, ain't she."  All I could do was nod my head, clear my dry throat, and make a suspiciously squeaky sound of agreement.

I think by "athletic" he really meant "a lunging beast of a horse". 

The Chico pasture was a relatively small one and by mid-morning we had the cattle brought in and had begun branding.  My first impression of the branding pen was one of controlled chaos. 

Smoke and dust merged with the acrid odors of burnt hair and blood.  It was a haze you could both feel and smell.  The worried bawls of cows and calves added a cacophony of sound to the bedlam.

Two cowboys on horseback roped and drug calves from within the milling herd.  As each calf was brought up innoculators, branders, cutters, and flankers worked efficiently to get that one done before the next was drug up.  Rays of light from the blistering sun glinted off the metallic surfaces of hot irons, knives, and large guage needles.  Cowboys weaved behind and around each other with all of the intricacy and fluidity of a well run offense.  I lost myself in the rythm of it all and was surprised when the last calf ran bawling back to the herd in search of its' mother.

I washed the blood and grime from my hands in the stock tank and dried them on the thighs of my blue jeans.  My ball cap, white when we started, was now a dingy brown and sand was a grit in my teeth.  I looked across the pen and, through the bars, I could see Breeze tied to the stock trailer. 

There were mounds of earth built up on either side of her and she stood in the hole between, head still high and eyes still rimmed in white.  I had lost track of her during the branding but from the looks of things she had carried on just as I had left her; flopping from side to side like a giant fish on a line.

As I stood there staring in bewilderment at my batty mare Grant walked by and cuffed me on the shoulder.

"She'll probably be sore tomorrow.  Might slow her down some," he said.

My answering smile was more of a grimace. 

Physically, Breeze was in good shape.  It was her mental state that was lacking in fitness.

I wasn't going to hold my breath that what hadn't been fixed in twelve years would suddenly right itself overnight.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways. . .

I love your courage and athleticism
and the gentle slope of your roman nose.
I love your sweetness and charm
and the curved roundness of your hip.
I love your stoic workhorse bearing
and the tawny coloring of your muzzle.
I love your calm, quiet demeanor
and your dark expressive eye.

Bare knees and all. . .

Today, I am thankful for Ruby!

More specifically, I'm thankful that I was given the okay to begin riding her again. Of course, there are limitations to what she is able to do but the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter. With a little luck we should be ready to go full-bore by March 17th!

(My apologies to Elizabeth Barret Browning for the desicration of her classic poem.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Crap Happens

Like most dogs, mine love to roll in crap.  Chicken crap, cat crap, horse crap, crap crap.  They don't necessarily go looking for a fresh steaming pile but if they happen to stumble onto one they dive in, snout first. Come to think of it, an old dry one will work too, they're not picky, just opportunists. 

They'll sniff the guano for a minute and then dump their front end over so that one shoulder is smashed smack in the middle of it.  With their hind end still in the air, they propel themselves forward through the excrement, making sure to get the shoulder and side smeared up nicely before flopping the hind-end down.  Then, they'll roll over to their back, rub that in real good before standing up to smash the other shoulder in to make the job complete. 

Sometimes they'll even make a meal of the crap they stumble upon.  Then they trot over to me with a pleased grin on their face and want a kiss and a pet.  (Huh, I wonder if that's where the phrase "crap-eating grin" originated. . .)

Yep, my dogs love to wallow in the crap that happens in their lives.  Apparently, so do I.

Here's a list of the crap I've been wallowing in lately:

(Cue weepy violin music)

  • My good dog died. 
  • My good horse had to have double knee surgery.
  • My sixty year old plumbing is leaking.
  • My pipes keep freezing.
  • My toilet won't stop running even though I've replaced the ball/cock/flapper thing-a-ma-bobbers twice.
  • Did I mention my plumbing is sixty years old??
  • My roommate used to be my best friend but now all we do is fight.
  • My job has had stipulations put on it recently that make it less than ideal.
  • A kid in my fifth period class drives me nuts.
  • My good friend, who is also the breeder of my dogs, has bladder cancer.
  • My team lost in the playoffs and shouldn't have.
  • The team I used to coach is going to state.
  • The big 3-0 is lurking around the corner and I'm still single.
  • Did I mention my sweet Mekka died??

I realized this morning, in the middle of an especially grand pity party, that I've been wallowing in the poop of my life just like my dogs.  Except for one very important difference, I wasn't finding the experience to be a positive one.

Instead, I've been doing this: 

Yep, that's me. One big ole, snotty-nosed, swollen-eyed, lip-quivering cry baby. 

Well, no more.  I'm tired of being whiney and bitchy and I'm certain the people around me are tired of hearing me whine and bitch. 

It's time for a 'tude adjustment.

The way I look at it, I have two choices:

1.  I can wallow continually in the crap and hate the smell of myself.


2.  I can take a quick roll, then get up and approach the rest of the day with a grin on my face. . . .even though there's poo in my hair.

I choose #2.

Mark that down as yet another lesson I learned from my animals. 

Eu de poo-poo anyone??