Category Archives: Bitter Brush Blogging

Snow Shovels from Heaven

 

It was getting more difficult to look for the silver lining in this winter as I sat in my car, stuck in a snow drift waiting for the grader to clear a path. With that said, I believe adversity is relative and any situation could be worse if given enough time and opportunity. Cupped hands covered my frozen ears stinging from the 30 mph frigid wind and blowing snow. Like holding a seashell to your ear – ocean sounds filled my head. That’s when it hit me. The silver lining: The risk of a shark attack at this particular time and location has been drastically reduced.

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Stupid Women Drivers

You come upon two people, a man and a woman, standing beside a  tractor stuck in a ditch. Who would you assume was driving the tractor? The man, or the stupid woman driver?

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Gunpowder, Pendleton and Poop.

Gunpowder, Pendleton and Poop.

wy_cropI sat hunched over the reloading bench meticulously seating Circle Fly wads into brass loaded with canon grade powder and .45 magnum pistol primers. Reloading is to me what I assume knitting is for the crafty: relaxing. My mind is freed from the swirling cyclone of troubling current events and day to day fodder that clutters the human existence.

A repetitive, uninterrupted motion of my left hand sweeps the casing from the holding brick to the drill – the slot-machine action of my right hand seats the wad. I am lulled by the slight crunching sound of compressing powder. The waft of spent gunpowder and Hoppers #9 are aromatherapy to my senses.

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Beanee Weenee Treasure Hunt – AKA Rock Chuck and Rattlers

Here’s the deal. I cached a can of Beanee Weenees on one of my trail rides in the Weiser area. I want to see how many people actual read my blog and figured this was one way to generate interest. Sort of an interactive blogging experience if you will.

If you have a GPS – this is a great way to learn how to use one. If you already know how to use one, this should be a piece of cake. If you don’t have a GPS – you might be able to follow the clues in this blog piece to find the cache.

What’s in it for you? Well, besides the opportunity to get out and explore some beautiful country – the winner will receive the coveted decorative and magical horseshoe  pictured below. It is rumored the possessor of this horseshoe is empowered with magic powers beyond imagination. What exactly those powers entail are yet to be determined.

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The BW’s is a specially marked can. Simply find the cache, snap a picture with your cell phone that proves you found the cache and behold the magic of a successful treasure hunt. (Nope – that’s not corny at all)

Good luck…and watch for snakes.

 

Beanee Weenee Treasure Hunt

Aka Rock Chuck and Rattlers

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Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? From Easter eggs to arrowheads, there is something thrilling about the search and potential discovery of hidden treasure. Years ago I unearthed an antique porcelain and metal canning jar lid using my grandpa’s old metal detector. You would have thought that rusty old remnant of kitchens past had been attached to a jar filled with gold bullion as excited as I was to find it.

Years later I took up geocaching as a way to learn how to use a GPS effectively. It didn’t matter if the cache contained old door knobs, empty thread spools or keychains; the thrill is in the hunt – not the find. Unless the find is a jar filled with gold bullion – in which case the find may very well out-trump the hunt. Totally beside the point.

A thought occurred to me during a trail ride on the Weiser River. Surely I’m not the only one that likes to search for buried treasures and I know I’m not the only one who frequents the WRT. Instead of snapping my obligatory Beanee Weenee photo – I’ll “hide” a can instead. Mark the coordinates with my GPS and post it for others to find. So…that’s what I did.

I hobbled Jack and J’Lo in a grassy area next to the river. I pulled the specially marked can of BW’s out of my saddle bags and looked around for a good caching spot. I’d have to hide it from casual site or somebody might inadvertently pick it up. Not by the tree – too obvious. Definitely not in a pile of rocks – too many rattlers on the trail; don’t want to risk getting somebody snake-bit. It shouldn’t be so far off the trail that a person has to switch from cowboy boots to hiking boots to go after it, either. Ah ha….there’s a good spot!

I sat my camera and lunch supplies on a downed snag and went about “caching” the specially marked can of BW’s. The piece of RR relic obscured the can completely. I created a waypoint of the coordinates on my GPS: N. 44.32322 ~ W.116.79700

Jack, J’Lo and I continued on our trek shortly after setting the BW cache. The plan was to ride farther down the WRT than I’d ridden before. The old RR track converted to trail follows the river for 84 miles from Weiser to New Meadows. I’ve ridden sections of the trail in Weiser, Midvale and out of Cambridge. One day I will ride the total 84 miles.

You always run into something new on the WRT. I’ve heard people say they don’t like to ride the trail – they think it’s boring. I guess if you find hikers, cyclist, fisherman, coyotes, cool rock formations, waterfowl, game birds, eagles, wolves, cougar, elk, deer, rafters, rock chucks and rattle snakes boring, the WRT is not for you.

A group of rafters waved up at us with big smiles visible from 150 yards; obviously enjoying one of the first nice days of spring. I snapped pictures of them as they snapped pictures of my exclusive pack string consisting of two horses, two dogs and one human.

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The trestle bridge was the highest bridge I’ve crossed on horseback to date. Albeit higher than we’ve crossed…I suppose in the grand scheme of bridges it’s really not that high. The planks and railings looked sound enough. Here goes nothing. Never weaken. Just go for it. Jack didn’t bat an eyelash. I refrained from looking behind me at what J’Lo was doing. I was content with knowing we all crossed to the other side without incident. John Edward would be proud.

A nice little camping area with picnic tables lay off to our right. I made note of the spot for future reference and checked my GPS – 8.1 miles. 16 miles for one day was adequate. We turned around and headed back to the trailer.

Jack stopped dead in his tracks refusing to move on. Jack is a looker – always gawking to and fro as he moves down the trail, much like myself. Usually it does not impede his forward movement as he checks out the scenery. This was different. He planted all four hooves and snorted. I scanned the area over the bank and didn’t see anything other than a pile of dog poop in the middle of our trail. I gave him a gentle squeeze – come on horse! He didn’t budge. Hank barked at the poop pile and jumped back. The poop buzzed back. That was no pile of poo…that was a pissed off rattle snake! The dogs ran behind Jack and J’Lo. We stood waiting for the rattler to let us pass.

Do you know how long it takes a rattler to uncoil itself and let you pass? However long it wants and not a minute sooner. I turned us around to give the snake some room to relax a little. Eventually he slithered off the trail allowing us to pass…buzzing as we rode by.

I worked at positioning Jack at the last swing gate. I’m never very good at this. Do you position the horse toward the open end or toward the hinged end? Do you side step into the swing or away? I fumbled around long enough for Jack’s liking. He pushed the gate opened, walked through and shoved it closed again for me to latch. Smart ass.

I un-saddled at the trailer and studied the sweat patterns on both horses. It was perfectly uniform. Several weeks ago I started positioning my saddle farther back on the horse according to an article I read on Facebook. It might be the only intelligent thing I’ve read on Facebook in the last 10 years. Normally both horses have a dry spot around the shoulder/wither area that can turn into white scalding. It drives me nuts. My vet told me that if you ride your horse like they should be ridden – it’s going to happen. Still – it drives me crazy. After moving the saddles back – I noticed the sweat pattern improve and the white spots diminish. Who’d a thought Facebook could teach us about proper saddle positioning?

We’d ridden 16.2 miles total in 4.55 hours travel time stopping for 46 minutes to eat and cache a can of BW’s. We averaged 3.3 MPH with a top speed of 13.7 MPH. I planned to post the BW cache on my blog in hopes it will give others the incentive to check out this cool trail. I figure if they are bored by rock chuck and rattlers – perhaps a Beanee Weenee treasure hunt will provide some motivation.

The End
The End

 

 

STD’S AND OTHER SUCH COOTIES

The dreaded STD. A fear capable of reducing the punchiest of cowgirls to a quivering mass of Q-babies and spurs. Our precious pony has contracted a “Steed’s Transmitted Disease.” How did this happen? We practice safe saddling. We don’t share water buckets – blankets or grooming supplies. We freak out when our equine companions touch noses with other equine companions. I personally am not above grabbing for that bottle of hand sanitizer after a hesitant “curtesy pat” to Sally Mae’s new pasture pet rescued from some cesspool auction yard from god-knows-where.

I strive to be a diligent and responsible horse owner. I feed the best hay money can buy. I worm and vaccinate on schedule. My horses are protected from Equine Encephalomyelitis (Eastern and Western strains), Equine Herpesviruses/Rhino (EHV-1 and EHV-4), Equine Influenza (virus subtypes A1, A2 including KY93, KY02), Tetanus Toxoid and West Nile. Most of which I can’t pronounce but damn it- my horse isn’t going to contract it!

I reached under to scratch Jack between the jaw bones. It’s an area he can’t scratch himself without impaling himself on a T-post. Which reminds me – I need to get some of those T-post covers…anyway – as I ran my hand along the underside of his jaw, I felt a crusty scab like thing about the size of a quarter. It came off easily in my hand. I tossed it on the ground – gross! What the heck was that? I stood under his neck peering up to investigate. A hairless patch peered back. Huh…

I thoroughly examined both horses when I got home. My mare didn’t have a spot on her. Neither had been sick, both were eating and while I don’t take their temperature every day – I was pretty sure neither had a fever. A few days later and I notice another spot similar to the first under Jack’s jaw. This one hadn’t completely scabbed over yet. Is this new or had I overlooked it? My heart sank. I’d heard rumors of strangles in a town not 100 miles from home.

If Jack had it – J’Lo was sure to have it, too. My mounted shooting career was over. I’d have to cancel the shooting clinic the end of the month. I’d be sanitizing every inch of my property, the horse trailer, tack rooms and every piece of clothing that ever came in contact with a horse – which is pretty much everything I own. Both horses would go into quarantine. Might as well wrap them in bubble wrap while I’m at it.

I googled strangles. Never google strangles. Never google any ailment equine or otherwise. Just don’t do it – it’s not worth it. Jack had none of the symptoms of strangles. No fever. He was not lethargic. No swelling of the lymph nodes. No nasal drainage or cough. I strained to remember if J’Lo had any of these symptoms. I’ve heard mares are tougher than geldings. I imagined J’Lo contracted a mild version and brought it home to Jack – who would die a slow and painful death covered in oozing abscesses. Damn you Google.

Strangles is highly contagious. I envisioned calling everyone I’d ridden with since last fall. That was going to be a long list. How was I going to tell them my horse exposed their horses to an STD? Jack’s reputation would be ruined. Nobody would ever ride with us again. It’s one thing for them to risk riding with me and getting lost for 12 hours – something all-together different exposing them to a highly contagious and socially inacceptable disease. Jack’s day at court was over.

I would start with the most recent riding partner. I visualized her sweet face as I gave her “the talk.” Jack had exposed her beloved, delicate mare to an STD. I couldn’t do it- but I had to do it. It was the responsible thing to do and I would want to know if it the horseshoe was on the other hoof. Maybe I’ll call the vet first.

I called the vet. Carol answered the phone. I spoke barley above a whisper as if the closest neighbor could hear me 5 acres away: “Hi Carol…I need to bring my horse in. He has something under his jaw…yeah…uh huh..yeah and it’s FREAKING ME OUT!” I confirmed with Carol I would not unload my horse in the event it was strangles. Good hell – my horse was an equine pariah.

I prayed as I somberly walked into the pasture with halter in hand. “Hey God..it’s me again. I know you’re busy with curing cancer and world hunger and all. I know it’s a small, insignificant thing to ask for – but could you please let this be something other than a life threatening communicable disease? But if it has to be, please give me the fortitude to call all of my riding partners and own up. Amen…” Speaking of halters – I’d better burn these and replace them ASAP. Jack lowered his head for me to halter him. It was as if he knew. We were taking the last, long walk across the green pasture of shame.

I announced my arrival at the front desk. I took care not to touch anything. Carol’s eyes filled with pity and a knowing look of concern shared by a fellow horse-woman. “Go on out with your horse and I’ll let the doctor know you’re here.” I complied.

Jack nuzzled my face through the stock trailer. I didn’t care. Besides, humans can’t get horse STD’s – they have their own variations of those to contend with….or so I hear. It was the longest five minutes in history before Dr. Johnson came out. I was glad it was him. He’s my favorite vet down there. He at least pretends to like my horse. If you want to make points with a girl – tell her you think her horse is pretty. Seriously – it works. He thinks he looks as if he’d make a nice roping horse. I’ve never told him Jack’s afraid of cows.

Dr. J checked him through the slats in the trailer and asked me some questions. I answered them all and several he didn’t ask. “Hmm..let’s unload him.” Was that good news? Apparently he wasn’t concerned about my horse contaminating the greater part of the Weiser Valley just yet. Jack deftly backed out of the trailer. I’m proud of how well-mannered my horse is and how easily he loads/unloads. We might be lepers – but damn it- we are well mannered lepers that can load and unload with the best of them.

Dr. J checked him over completely. Jack doesn’t have strangles. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! I wanted to grab Dr. J up in a bear hug that would turn his lips blue. My horse wasn’t a leper! He didn’t have a communicable disease! So…what does he have? Either a systemic allergic reaction to something or he scraped it and it got infected. Damn T-posts. I could live with that. My horses wouldn’t have to go into quarantine and I wouldn’t have to start down the list of riding partners and alienate them from ever wanting to ride with us again. Best of all – my shooting career was back on track. Thank you, GOD!

Dr. J and I discussed the strangles vaccination. A vet friend told me once that he felt the vaccine for strangles was more important than vaccinating for West Nile. He didn’t understand why people were concerned about the W.N but not the more prevalent strangles outbreaks. For some reason, we don’t commonly vaccinate for it around here. Dr. J promised to do some research on it and let me know. I plan to vaccinate for it first thing if his research supports it.

I suppose if you never take your horse out of the pasture you don’t have to worry about such things. They aren’t likely to come in to contact with various germs and other such cooties if they never leave the barnyard. As I look out my kitchen window at my ponies grazing in the pasture I know in my heart it is worth the risk. Jack loves hitting the trail. He excels at long runs through the open desert. J’Lo seems happy to get out and explore new country and if the last few practices are any indication – I think she enjoys killing a few balloons now and then as well. It seems cruel to never take them anywhere for fear they might pick up a cootie now and then.

I slipped the halter from Jack’s head and turned him out with J’Lo. He wouldn’t have to explain to his adoring mare that he contracted an STD. Of course – now I’d have to wrack my brain and fret over what exactly it is that my horse got into that didn’t agree with him. I’d stew over that tomorrow – one over-reaction for the day is enough for this cowgirl. Do I realize I over-react? Absolutely. Do I plan to change my ways? Absolutely not.

cootiesThe End

Heal, Inspire and Revive…

The last of my nannies finally kidded out. Meet “Inspire and Revive.” Odd names for goats, you say? Well, there is a back story. There is always a back story.

Inspire and Revive
Inspire and Revive

I was perusing the Dr. Carson for President FB page when I came on a photo of a guy wearing the same “Ben Carson for president” T-shirt that I have. I thought to myself – why not. I’ll snap a selfie of me in my T-shirt and post it to my FB page to show support to what I believe may be our only hope for this struggling country that for decades has gone so very, very wrong.

With cell phone camera in hand and donning my freshly washed and oh-so-comfy wearable bumper sticker – I head for the general area of the goat shed where adequate lightning is sure to be had. As my finger lingered over the shutter button, a distressing sound emanated from the goat shed. I have heard that sound often enough to know that a goat was in need of assistance.

Sure enough, my last nanny was trying to give birth. This was her first time kidding and she looked as if she had been at it for some time. She was tired and weak. I could see tiny feed inside of the water sack “bubble” protruding from what I will refer to as “the baby shoot.” I know – silly – but there are some words I have difficulty saying, let alone typing.

I don’t have dainty little girly hands. There wasn’t room for me to reach in and help pull the baby. I couldn’t do a goat episiotomy without running back to the house for a sharp knife. Remember, I was dressed for a photo shoot – not capra aegagrus hircus obstetrics.

I broke the water bag and was able to barely get hold of the tiny hooves. I pulled and “Checkers” pushed. The baby came out backwards. Rather large for a first time momma. He was lifeless. I cleared the sack from around his nose and mouth and gave him a brisk shake. He sucked in his first breath and commenced to coughing. I tossed him toward Checkers head and waited for the next. It’s better for first time mommas to have singles, but not uncommon for them to have twins. I could tell by the way she was acting there was another one in there.

Checkers got up and down several times – totally ignoring the little buck she’s just given birth to. I left her alone for a few minutes while I ran in the house to get some clean towels. I was covered in goat-goo from my favorite T-shirt to the bottoms of my Dickies.

Back at the barn, Checkers was on her side and struggling to push out baby number two. I was able to reach in this time and feel for two feet. Backwards like the first. I winced as I pulled. It always feels like you are going to pull off their little legs. Out came a multi-colored, lifeless baby goat. I cleared her mouth and nose. Nothing. I hung her upside down by the feet and swung her around. It sounds cruel – but has revived a lot of babies by clearing their lungs. Still nothing. Shit. Aside from the momma and twins I’d lost a few weeks earlier – I’d had an excellent survival rate of 100%. I cupped my hand over the babies muzzle and blew several good breaths. A few seconds later and the baby sneezed and coughed to life. I tossed her alongside her brother and backed away. I learned if you interfere too much – the mommas can reject the babies.

Checkers is doing exceptionally well for a first time momma. The babies are thriving and healthy. Inspire and Revive buck, kick and strive to keep up with their rambunctious cousins nearly two weeks older than they. I soaked my Dr. Carson for president T-shirt in Shout and set it to cold wash. It came out surprisingly clean with no trace of blood or goat-goo.

Needless to say, my photo-op would have to wait until another day. Back at my computer I posted a reply to the post of the man wearing the identical T-shirt. One of the posters suggested I post a picture of the babies and name one of them Ben. I thought about doing just that. However, I’m not sure how city folk would respond to being named after a goat. I thought about naming them Ben and Candy – or maybe Carson and Mrs. Hughes… (Downton Abby friends will understand where I’m going with this.) Instead– I opted to call them Inspire and Revive, part of the slogan representing the healing hands of a man I feel would make an excellent President. A man who has not lowered himself to the reality TV circus that has become the norm in today’s politics. A man who in every debate has been the only contender to answer every question to the point and with integrity.

Unlike my T-shirt – we can’t toss the country in the wash and hope for the best. We need to wake up, pull our heads out of the sand and take action. Like two little goats that came into this world kicking and fighting for their first breath – I pray that Dr. Carson kicks and fights his way to the White House despite the odds. I whole heartily believe the very breath of our country depends on it.

Support Dr. Carson for President

MORNING GOAT UPDATE!

This is your morning goat update

brought to you from the crazy goat girl of County 70

 

Status date: 2-9-2016

 

Summary: 12 baby goats have been born to 7 nannies. 1 nanny is still to kid out. She looks as if she might burst any day. I don’t know what’s holding her back. The last nanny to kid out is a first time momma and rejected the female of a set of twins. She will let the buck nurse – but not the doe. This is not uncommon with goats, especially first time mommas. I still want to club her over the head with a 2×4 but I refrain. Twice a day I would stanchion the nanny and let the doeling nurse. This gets to be a pain in the butt when you need to be at work by 7:00AM. So – I opted to give the little girl goat to my granddaughters to bottle raise. Problem solved.

 

 

The enclosed attachment is a picture of “Polka-Dot” being coddled by Emily. No doubt this is going to be one spoiled goat.

 

PS: I am testing posting to my blog via email. This is kind of cool….you are likely to be inundated with blog notifications until the novelty wears off. I apologize in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Man’s Music

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Bad Man’s Music

Life would be a lot less complicated if the events and the people comprising them were accompanied by appropriate background music. Like in the movies. Think about it. You’re watching a favorite episode of GUNSMOKE. You can bet your bottom dollar on the light-hearted, silly composition to precede the appearance of a beloved Festus. A symphony of dramatic sonata might usher in the stoic, no-nonsense figure of Marshal Dillon. Listen for the oeuvre of melodramatic depiction of a love un-culminated as the lens zooms in on the lovely, forlorn face of Miss Kitty. Fancy yourself the villain? Good luck with that. You were tagged the moment the first two howling notes of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” pierced the screen.

Reality is far more complicated. There are no sound bites to warn us of pending doom. We are obliged to assess the situations and people we encounter based on…what? Their spoken words? Written words? People can say or write anything whether they mean it or not. There’s only one written Word I put faith in and it was written LONG before the first episode of The Sagebrush Burns.

I use the two extreme opposing views of the situation occurring in Harney County as an example. The general public has been presented with few actual facts. Media of all formats including news, independent, mainstream and social, have been on fire touting opinions and “facts” regarding the situation. Who’s right and who’s wrong? I certainly have my opinion, but it is just that…my opinion. My opinion is one based primarily on my gut instincts. I would be foolish to present otherwise because I have not been given all the facts. That is where I see the problem. We live in a society rarely presented with pure, unbiased fact void of ulterior motives or political agendas.

It’s easy to be an arm-chair “opinionator.” We all do it. We sit behind our keyboards cutting, pasting and sharing the latest “fact” that supports our opinion. Justification for any stance is a mere Google click away.

I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer to the unfortunate situation in Harney County, but I do know a tell-tale track of background music isn’t going to mysteriously appear….directing us audibly down the safest path. I must base my opinion on gut instinct built on a foundation of what I do know.

Two people were imprisoned for arson; allegedly setting fire to their own property and subsequently setting fire to less than 150 acres of leased BLM land. Such action, according to the courts, is a crime punishable by five years in prison. To my knowledge, the evidence presented to the jury in that court room have not been publicly disclosed. Did father and son intentionally back burn to save their own land from wildfire? Did they set the fire to cover up an alleged poaching?

Questions come to mind. Why would cattle ranchers need to poach deer? Anybody that would fill a freezer full of gamey venison when they have fatted, grass fed beef might have messed up taste buds….hardly justification for five years in prison. If the poaching, of which they were not convicted, did occur, why? I doubt they were going to eat the animals. It makes more sense to me that if poaching occurred – it may have been done to eliminate nuisance vermin. Bambi and friends can wreak havoc on a haystack faster than piranha on a dead cow. I don’t really know if piranha can strip a dead cow to the bone in under 2 minutes, but if it’s good enough for Theodore Roosevelt, it’s good enough for me.

Regardless, it is my gut feeling the Hammon family did not maliciously set fire to public land. The scenario that makes more sense to me is this: The federal government has wanted to acquire the Hammon ranch and the surrounding area. According to local citizens of Harney County, the BLM has harassed the ranch for over 30 years. I have no proof of this – but I am more apt to believe my neighbors than I am a bureaucratic entity.

Why is it difficult for us to trust the autocracy? Because of their track record. I’ve seen it in action. Stealing land from citizens under the guise of “preserving” it for…what…I’m not really sure. Possibly to sell off the mineral and natural resource rights as collateral for the national debt? Sound like a conspiracy theory? Perhaps. According to Barack O’Bummer – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk9l3brCenI) the American’s tendency toward conspiracy theories have been ingrained in us by our forefathers. Huh…I guess we inherited it. Fortunately for O’Bummer…it’s a trait he doesn’t have to worry about inheriting – being it’s an American trait and all.

Call it what you will –it is a theory more plausible to me than a couple of hard working cattle ranchers running around willy-nilly shooting Bambi and playing with matches. And what about the disgruntled young “witness” who claims his grandpa gave him a box of matches and told him to light the place up? I’ve raised three kids. One of them still talks of the alleged gigantic 2×4 wooden spoon I broke over his backside.

Right or wrong – two people are now in prison for a little bit of nothing. I’ve heard some say that’s justice. Really? Does the punishment fit the crime? I read another article “on-line” supporting the actions of the courts to imprison the Hammons. The document stated the Hammons negotiated the dismissal of certain charges in exchange for a promise of a minimum sentence as mandated by law. I suppose to some, that puts a new twist on the Hammons culpability. Not me. Many cases involve a plea bargain of some sort. I would go so far as to say that most do. When you’re negotiating with the devil – I guess you take the lesser of two evils – either way, your ass is going to get scorched.

Will we ever know if the Hammons maliciously torched 135 acres? Maybe…maybe not. I don’t think it matters anymore. Two wrongs don’t make a right and those people and thousands like them have been wronged by the very government that was designed to protect us and work FOR us. It is a fact the federal government is “acquiring” private land at an alarming pace and seem to stop at nothing in their endeavors to do so. I have my opinions on that as well…but I’ll save it for another episode of “as the conspiracy theory turns.”

Guilty, innocent, justified or not – the Hammons have been tried and sentenced…twice actually. I watched a movie once that called such an illegal practice “double jeopardy.” I guess that’s another one that only counts in the movies. It is beyond sad. Prisons are for serial killers and rapists. Not for people trying to eek a living in a world determined to consume their way of life and toss them aside. Prison is not a place for people who may have made a mistake in trying to protect that way of life. As the Hammons sit in prison, the world will go on without them. Their ranch will likely end up in the very hands they fought so hard to keep it from. Maybe not today or tomorrow – but eventually.

The America that once was, is an America that is becoming harder and harder for me to recognize. Is there hope? I so desperately want to believe so. I don’t believe the majority of the American people can possibly remain oblivious to what is going on around them forever. Our freedoms are being chipped away bit by bit, chunk by chunk…acre by acre. I hope that what has occurred in Harney county (and other counties across our nation) will force us all to open our eyes – unbiased and outside of political and religious boundaries.

Say what you will about the protestors at the Wildlife Refuge…their action has opened the eyes of this nation and drawn attention to what they and countless others see as a gross overreach of the federal government. Yes, they are protestors! They are not terrorists – they are not militia – they are protestors. No different than the protestors that occupied Wall Street or the protestors that march down the center of town shedding light upon various causes. Just because they wear cowboy hats and camo does not make them any more of a terrorist than someone in a beanie and rainbow suspenders. How many protestors have chained themselves to a giant redwood to prevent it from being cut down? Were they labeled terrorists? Was the FBI and the S.W.A.T team brought in to protect the locals? And don’t try to tell me it’s different because some of them exercise their second amendment right to bear arms. You can bet the S.W.A.T team didn’t arrive with bags of candy to throw at them.

History is bound to answer my questions and more. I pray that same history finds us a free people living in a nation we can once again be proud to call our Country. A history which may well prove we have people like the Bundy’s to thank for some of those freedoms. People who are willing to take a stand and fight for the constitutional rights this country was founded on regardless of personal cost. People with the backbone and fortitude some of us wish we possessed.

No, life is not a television episode or a Spaghetti Western. The good guys don’t always wear white hats and Marshal Dillon won’t be riding in on a buckskin to save Dodge. I sure wish he were. Our country could use a Matt Dillon. Heck, it could use a Festus and a few more Miss Kitty’s, too. In the real world, a person must wait for the scene to play out before them. The only Toccata and Fugue warning us of what is to come may be the one beating within our hearts.

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The Dissipation of Pepe

PepeI adjusted the minors head lamp to high beam, stretched the zipper of my coveralls to its maximum height around my neck and lowered into the crawl space leading under the house. If I pulled the ball cap any tighter I’d risk cutting off the blood supply to my brain. The last thing I wanted was to pass out under the house with the source of the horrid odor permeating the house and surrounding yard for the last two weeks.

On hands and knees, I glanced back at my dog peering down the crawl space at me from the breezeway. Her large shepherd ears cocked in curiosity.

“I’m going in girl. If I’m not back in three minutes…go for help.”

Shade shook her head, sneezed twice, whirled and left me under the house to fend for myself. Some Rin-Tin-Tin she turned out to be. Ungrateful canine.

The smell hit one night about two weeks earlier. My dreams incorporated the undeniably pungent mephitidae odoripherous, aka “skunk stink.” I swore the thing had crawled through my bedroom window and sprayed me in the face. The smell was worse inside than out. I opened all the windows for several days. The smell subsided only slightly.

Under the guidance of my neighbor, the great white hunter, we baited the raccoon trap with tuna fish and Vienna sausages and lowered the trap into the entrance to the crawl space under the house. Retrieval of the trapped skunk was a bridge we’d cross when we came to it. “If you catch ‘em – throw a tarp over the trap and lose my cell number.” He chuckled. I nodded my head in false agreement. Images of shooting it when the time came danced in my head. I wondered if skunks could spray the moment a .22 entered their smelly little skulls.

Every morning for a week I opened the trap door to the crawl space in anticipation. Like some sort of morbid Christmas like anticipation. What would Santa leave me this year? One skunk? Two skunks? Perhaps a whole family of tuna fish and Vienna sausage eating skunks!

At the end of the week, I pulled the trap up by the small chain we secured to it before setting it under the house. An untouched can of tuna and a fuzzy can of green Vienna sausages was all it contained. No skunk. The smell was stronger some days than others. It seemed to focus around the front of the house. We (my dog and me) determined it must be living under the front porch. I tossed out the moldy can of Vienna sausages no self-respecting varmint would eat and placed the trap next to the hole the cats use as an escape when being chased by the dog. I assumed the skunk entered the same way when he wasn’t repelling into my bedroom window for a direct hit.

I woke early to a commotion of crashing and clanking on the front porch. This could be it! I grabbed the .22 and slipped quietly out the front door. I have no idea what my reasoning was behind the stealth approach. A desperate varmint is a dangerous varmint I suppose. Shade barked at the caged critter. “Get back before you get sprayed girl!” I took aim making sure a stray bullet had a safe backstop. A blur of black and white flashed across the cross hairs of my scope. I needed a clean head shot. I searched for the eyeball of my trapped nemesis. A curtain of metallic yellow with black lettering came into focus…”S…N…O..W..B…A…” SNOWBALL! OMG! I almost shot the neighbor’s cat! Snowball was released back into the wilds of her neighborhood haunt and the now empty can of tuna fish tossed into the trash. Who names a black and white cat Snowball?

The days passed and no skunk. No company coming to visit and no solicitors. Those nice folks at the Watch Tower searching for Jesus must have found him because their visits dropped off significantly, too. UPS deliveries were being left farther and farther from the front porch. If something wasn’t done with the smell soon I could expect my next winning eBay delivery dropped off at the neighbors and my soul condemned to hell for an eternity.

The odor had gone from pungent skunk to something hideous and unworldly. I remembered a friend mentioned finding a dead skunk under her front porch. The search and rescue mission for Pepe Le Pew had turned into a recovery operation.

I searched through the cracks of the front porch. Unless Pepe was buried under a pile of leaves, a collection of spoons that went missing 15 years ago and cat hair, the porch “grid” was cleared. The last option to pursue was under the house.

I prepared for battle secured in an oversized blue mechanics jump suit, lace up boots, leather gloves and ball cap. All I needed was a hockey mask and I could have auditioned for the lead character in Friday the 13th. I giggled while stuffing my pockets with grocery bags, “Would you like plastic or paper?” Plastic please – because everyone knows you don’t bag a dead skunk using paper.

To say I am not comfortable in confined spaces is the understatement of a lifetime. The crawl space under my house might be larger than most but accessible on hands and knees only. I crawled through a mine field of spent bug bomb. When was the last time I bombed under here? Man, I hope it was recently. Shivers spread across the back of my neck with thoughts of spiders inhabiting the labyrinth of cobwebs dropping down the back of my coveralls. I wove under electrical wires and over sewage pipes. I felt like a huge, blue boa constrictor slithering through a maze of urban jungle. Boa Constrictor. Great. Wish I hadn’t thought of that. You read in the papers all the time about a pet boa that escaped 20 years ago discovered only after the disappearance of small children and neighborhood pets. I started to back up and retrieve my pistol before remembering I had lent it to my son. Great. Boa Constrictors.

Armed with a headlamp, mag light and pocket full of grocery bags, I continued my mission. The light from the flashlights reflected off old concrete blocks, hunks of true 4×6’s and a cardboard box. I don’t even want to know what’s in that box.

The underside of my house is divided into two sections separated by a concrete ledge and 16” headers made of 2×4’s. In order to get into the second section, you have to slither…I mean crawl…over a black sewer pipe without putting weight on it, mind you, and through one of the 16” x16” squares. The first section was clear. I slid over the concrete ledge into the second section of hell.

“Shade…?? Are you still up there? Don’t you leave me down here all by myself. Shade?” I heard what I chose to believe was my dog whimper in acknowledgement that she had not abandoned me. I continued to mumble to myself and pretend like I was not crawling under a house full of spiders, boa constrictors and varmints dead or alive. Suddenly, water gushed through the sewer pipe. Who the hell just flushed the toilet up there? I live alone! Toilets don’t just flush on their own! I would have attempted to slow my breathing….had I been breathing.

My eyes burned. A putrid taste in my mouth appeared as the smell grew stronger. The beam from my light scanned from left to right and back to…there it is. A large black and white pile of stench in the far side of the house. The closer I got, the stronger the smell. I started to gag. I can’t gag. I’ve been to confine space training. If you gag you risk choking…or was it you let yourself throw up and pass out – then continue on? No, I’m pretty sure if you gag, you choke and die. “Shade??? Where the hell are you? Lassie wouldn’t leave me you damn dog!” I held my breath for as long as I could. For reasons beyond me – I started to laugh. Ever try holding your breath in the worst, most horrid smell imaginable and getting the giggles at the same time? Nothing good comes of it.

I can do this. Never weaken. Get in there and get ‘er done. I tucked my face in my arm, took a deep breath, pulled out a plastic bag to cover my gloved hand and the other to bag Le Pew. The second I disturbed the body the rancid stench compounded 100 fold. I wasn’t going to make it. I jabbed the maggot covered hide into the bag and started backing out at mock 1. I somehow managed to back out through the 16” header and over the sewer pipe feet first. At that point I didn’t care who had flushed the toilet or if the pipe broke and dumbed on my head. Nothing could be worse than this. I needed to take a breath – dragging the bagged Le Pew behind me as far from my face as I could reach – I took another breath and scampered for the opening.

I flung Le Pew up and out of the hole smacking Shade in the head. “Shade! You didn’t leave me!” I burst out from under the house gasping as if I’d emerged from the ocean depths. The smell would not cease. I crammed the bagged skunk into three more grocery bags and tied it off, opened the trash can, stuffed the bagged Le Pew, along with my gloves, into a thick feed bag and slammed the lid down. I rolled the trashcan to the end of my driveway for trash pickup in a wake of putrefied stench. Thank goodness tomorrow was trash day.

My neighbor met me at the end of my drive as I came from leaving the trashcan on the side of the road. “What the hell have you done this time?” He muffled from behind a hand clasped mouth and nose.  I recounted my tale of the Le Pew recovery mission and its tribulations and successes. It was hard to see his face through his hand, but I swear I saw him tear up a little. I’m not sure if that was from the smell or trying to keep from laughing at me. “My god girl, don’t you ever move away from here. I couldn’t pay for this kind of entertainment.”

The smell has subsided considerably in the few hours post Le Pew recovery. However, I’m certain I will be making another trip under the house; this time with a bottle of bleach, tomato juice and Fabreze in hopes to hasten the dissipation of Le Pew. As for the burning in my eyes and the rancid taste in my mouth – I’ll let you know the effectiveness of a shot of Visine and Pendleton.

The end

PepeEnd

Sturgill Peak

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Jamming my foot in to a pair of dress shoes for work wasn’t happening, but I was cramming that mashed toe into a pair of cowboy boots come hell or high water. A week earlier a treated 4×4 fell from the rafters and headed for my big toe like a missile on a mission. Naturally, I was barefoot when it happened…because barefoot was how God intended farm girls to be.

An extra layer of gauze and duct tape ought to do it. I eased my left foot into the oversized Durango’s. Perfect. Fortunately I wear riding boots two sizes too big. That way if I get dumped, my boot is more likely to come off. Like most riders, I have a fear of being drug.

I wasn’t the only one needing extra medical attention for the ride. My horse, Jack, had been laid off with a girth sore for the last two weeks. I’d been riding bareback until it healed. The wound had healed nicely except for two small scabs behind his left shoulder. I added a strip of sheepskin under his cinch for good measure and headed for Mann Creek store to meet up with Joanie and Dusty.

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The caravan of 10-12 trailers followed Lee, the ride organizer, from Mann Creek Store to a parking spot just above Spring Creek Campground. I was third in line. Dusty and Jones followed behind me. The recent rain kept dust at a minimum.

A handmade poster-board sign hung on a fence a few miles past Mann Creek reservoir. I squinted to read the small print. Something about please slow down – horses, dogs and children playing in the road. I couldn’t make out much more. At 10 MPH I couldn’t go much slower. I kept an eye out for rouge horses, kids and dogs and proceeded with caution.

We approached a 5th wheel RV parked on the right hand side of the road 100 yards from the sign. No rouge kids, horses or dogs; just some crazed woman waving a spatula and ducking in and out from under the tongue of her 5th wheel. Crouched over like a spatula toting predator– she darted in and out of the road at the passing trailers spewing expletives. Lady – I can’t go much slower – but I can promise that if you dart out in front of my truck I have no intentions of slamming on the brakes and tossing my horse around. I suggest you hand that spatula off to your husband hiding behind the RV – he’s going to need it to peel your sorry hide off the road.

Somehow we managed to squeeze the dozen rigs off the road at a wide spot Lee had chosen for the trailhead. I was already saddled and went about filling my saddle bags with the necessities of life: camera, SPOTS, GPS, extra batteries and Beanee Weenee’s.

I checked the sheepskin under Jack’s cinch; everything intact there. I stood staring up at the stirrup. It sure seemed like a long ways up. I’d been riding a much shorter horse for the last month while Jack was on a ranch with my son and later healing up from the girth sore. I wasn’t sure my wounded toe had enough leverage to hoist my butt quite that far. I positioned Jack downhill and swung into the saddle. Ironic, isn’t it? I couldn’t get on a pair of shoes for work the last week but I managed to swing a leg over the saddle. Everyone has their priorities.DSCN6533

I’m always happy to be riding but today was extra special. I’d not been able to ride Jack outside the pasture in over a month. I really do like my new horse, but all things said and done, she’s not Jack. I reached down to stroke his neck. I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face if my life depended on it. I was at home. I doubt most people would understand why I found myself choking back a tear more than once.

It was a perfect day for riding. The sun occasionally peaked from behind a cloud covered sky. The gradual climb to Sturgill Lookout offered scenic vistas in every direction. The picturesque lookout perched atop a massive krag; old glory painted the breeze with her majestic colors of red, white and blue.

I paid the local outhouse a visit while the horses rested. It was the cleanest little outhouse I’d ever seen and cleaner than most public restrooms for sure! Complete with crossword puzzle and a wooden stick for opening the outside latch from the inside in the event you found yourself locked in. The thought of someone finding themselves locked in an outhouse made me giggle. You know it had to have happened at least once for them to come up with the idea of needing an exit strategy.  DSCN6538

The ranger manning the lookout warned us of a pending storm expected to arrive at 13:00 hours. I was never in the military. I have no idea what time 13:00 hours are in American. It didn’t matter. I’d been keeping an eye on the sky since we left the trailers.

The majority of riders would make a loop down the back side of Sturgill to the trailers. The trail was steep. I didn’t want my saddle riding forward and reopening the delicate skin under Jack’s armpit. I don’t know if horses really have an armpit but that’s what I call it. Dusty had been towing their yearling, Rooster. The young horse was showing signs of tiring. I also had to be back in time to meet the brand inspector that afternoon. Dusty, Joanie and I decided it was best to head back the way we came.DSCN6542

Distant thunder rolled across the sky. I hoped the rain and lightening would hold until the others returned. It wouldn’t take much rain on that back hillside to slick things up pretty good and no sane person wants to get caught on horseback in a lightning storm. Our small group made it back to the trailers before the storm.

I kept an eye out for the crazy, spatula toting woman on the haul home. I passed another of her signs. I couldn’t read the black scribbles of permanent marker on this one any better than the one coming in. I slowed from 10 mph to 8 mph. I was ready. I half decided if she darted out at us again, I was pulling over to suggest if she was so concerned she might camp farther than 6’ off the road next time. The RV was more deserted than before. No crazy lady. No spatula. No horses, kids, dogs or otherwise. I’d cheated confrontation yet another day.

I pulled into my drive just ahead of a micro burst. J’Lo was visually happy to see us. She tossed her head, dashed across the pasture and commenced to kicking and bucking for all she’s worth. Hopefully she refrains from expressing that happiness when I’m on her!

Jack dropped his head for me to slip the halter off. There was nobody around to judge. I threw my arms around his bowed neck and let the tears fall.

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