Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jack's first days

Jack is doing very well here at Rancho de los Perros. He fits in well, and the other dogs have accepted him without any glitches or problem-areas. Mags is a bit jealous, but I am giving her extra attention and of course she is the only dog allowed on the bed at night, so that helps. But whenever I pet or make a fuss over Jack she finds a ball and brings it to be thrown. I throw it, of course!

There is obviously a "bond of fascination" for Jack with Emma. (Not the other way. Yet, at least.) Whenever Em is close by he gravitates to her and tries to follow her when she's exploring (which is all the time!). But she is too fast and has no obvious interest in him. Much too busy; makes no concessions to little legs. Typical Shorthair. But he watches her with admiration in his eyes and whenever she comes close enough he tries to go with her.

He also has a thing for brush. I trim the yard right up to the high grass so there is a real demarcation line between "lawn" and "tall grass." He will stand in the lawn, close to the high, thick grass and stare into it -- as if he could actually see anything! Then he makes a mighty leap into it, thrashes around for a few seconds, and bounces out again. The sort of thing that Mags never did, and has no interest in now. But it is just the kind of play you would like to associate with a bird dog. Soon now the pheasant wings!

He spends a lot of his day in the front pen, under the big cedar, often with Mags. Mags is very patient with him and has yet to do one of her big, back-off ROWR-ROWRs as are so frequent with some pushy, rude smaller dogs which she despises. He even grabbed loose skin on her lower neck and twisted and she just got loose and moved away. Given time, I think they will be friends. Once he's big enough to matter, I'm certain that Em will enjoy his company on their rounds and she will be a great help in keeping him safe and within bounds. Nevertheless, I will be keeping a close eye on him as he is sure to get a measure of wanderlust at some point. It'll be quite some time before he gets the freedom that Emma has.

This morning he got his nails clipped for the first time. He did NOT like it, but put up with it pretty well. He's sleeping through the night and has learned that whining and howling gets him exactly nothing.

And that's the news about Jack's first four days. Mine, too, as I'm having to adjust to having a puppy on the place again.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meet Jack

Well, I did it. For some time now I have been thinking about bringing on an apprentice for Emma. She's eight-and-a-half now and it's time to do that. But I was happy with two dogs and not particularly thrilled with the thoughts of the first three or four years with a new pup which can be super-trying, as most of us know.

But then an unplanned opportunity arose that jolted me out of my complacency. And so Jack came to live with us today. He's a spunky little monkey, completely unafraid of the other dogs and very friendly, confident, and outgoing.

Also— I just want to mention how much the comments on my Murphy post meant to me. Dogs and dog-people are special and we seem to have deep reservoirs of fellow feeling about our four-legged friends and the joy and pain they bring to our lives. I don't think I could ever trust a person who didn't at least "like" dogs. Thanks, everybody. Jack says "Hi!"

Saturday, July 24, 2010


This week was the third anniversary of the death of Murphy. Dog-people sometimes talk about our "friends" and sometimes non-dog-people scoff at such an idea. How can a dog be a genuine friend? That's silly. To them, maybe. I pity them for that.

Murph was a special being. Oh, sure— every dog owner says that about their doggie pals. And I have no doubt they are right. I've lived with too many fine dogs to doubt it in the least.

But even so, Murph was different. If I were a Buddhist I'd say he was a bodhisattva. And who's to say he was not. Not a day goes by that I do not think about him and wish he were still here with us.

The two pictures are of him as a young sprout, full of vim and vigor, and just before his death, when the cancer had really eaten into him.

Nobody who ever got to know him thought he was anything but very, very special. He'll be with me 'til my own last day.

A flood of golden light

Just the other evening I was in the kitchen getting ready to make something to eat. The late afternoon had turned very dark and I had flipped on the light over the stove. Suddenly the room was filled with an intense warm glow. I went to the front door and saw that the sun, just about to go down behind the mountain to the west had broken through the gloom and flooded the prairie with a molten gold light that burnished everything with a Midas glow. It lasted only a few seconds, but I managed to bang off a couple of frames.

(I suspect that wind-pump may be the most photographed Aermotor in twelve counties! Can't help that: it's my lawn ornament and keeps getting in the way.)

Foundling report

The dove chick seemed to do well in my fenced garden. It couldn't get out through the wide mesh because I had put chicken wire on the bottom 18" of the fence to keep the rabbits out. Emma was very vigilant, making it her duty to check on the baby's whereabouts first thing every morning and then several times a day thereafter. This was not kindness on her part. After all Emma is a bird dog 24/7.

Mom was often seen feeding the chick and after a few days there was no more sign of it. No body or other evidence of foul (fowl!) play. Looks like the baby got its wings and flew off with mother. As an aside, the morning after I first discovered the foundling I also found two other chicks just outside the dog pen wire. These guys were evidently more advanced than their sibling, because when I approached them they flew off into a nearby cottonwood. It wasn't an elegant flight, but it did the job.

Emma still circles the fence looking for the chick, but she is about to give that up in favor of more profitable patrols.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Foundling

I have a dog-yard just off the deck out front. It's about 24x30'. This morning Mags wanted to stay out for a while and since I had things to do I closed her in the pen. Emma was out on her own.

After a while I looked out the office window to see Emma very interested in what was going on in the pen and Mags walking behind a baby bird as it flopped around trying to get away from her. She wasn't trying to grab it (as Emma would have in a second!) but seemed merely curious about it.

Dogs' reactions to such events are interesting. Emma would have gobbled the little thing. Mags wanted to know what it was but didn't have any interest in catching it or doing anything to it. Had it been a rodent she would have reacted differently. Murphy, my beloved Rottweiler, would have been beside himself with worry. Many times he would find a baby bird or bunny in the yard and come running for me to bring me back to it. He seemed to be saying, "We oughta do something about this!" It simply wasn't in him to hurt such critters.

Anyway, I went out into the pen (keeping Emma out) and picked up the baby. It was a dove and had obviously fallen out of a nest in the cedar tree inside the pen. I try to discourage birds from nesting there but it doesn't do any good. I couldn't see the nest in the cedar so I took Mags out of the pen and set the baby in a big, flat crotch of the tree, then closed the gate to the pen to keep the dogs out.

When you find a little bird like this your first thought is that it is "abandoned," or that something has happened to the mother. This is almost always wrong. Mom is most likely there, watching everything you do, whether you can see her or not. (Try handling baby owls or hawks and you'll meet momma lots sooner than you would like!)

In about half an hour I went back out to see how things were going. Sure enough, baby had left its perch and was on the ground again. This time Mom was there, stuffing food down its gullet. When she saw me she backed off a little and huddled close in the grass. I stayed on the deck so as not to disturb them more than I had to to see what what was happening. But I must have made Mom nervous, as after a few minutes she flopped away, on the ground, in a perfect and very touching display of a bird with a broken wing. I went back inside to let her calm down. Unless a big bull snake shows up, things should be OK in the closed pen for a while. Maybe even long enough for Mom to get the fledgling up into a tree and off the ground.

I suppose I could get a ladder and try to find the nest in the thick tangles of the cedar's mid-story. But usually once a baby starts to get wanderlust putting it back in the nest is a waste of time. If they're really, really young it might work, but otherwise just forget it. (As another aside, it's an old wive's tale that if you handle a baby bird the mother won't have anything to do with it. Except for buzzards birds have no olfactory sense.)

We really don't have a pressing need for more doves around here, but that's not the point. We'll just have to let this little drama work itself out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Irish Geology

I'm one of those travelers that would rather have a nice, typical stone from a visited place than almost anything else. Certainly more than a plastic "souvenir" made in China.

Since I started to going to Ireland regularly, in 1984, I have brought back examples of her impressive geology. My front steps are now lined with an ever-changing arrangement of Irish stones. I like to look at them, when they're dry and when they are slick with prairie rain.

Once, in Shannon airport, a porter hefted one of my bags and said "What have ye got in here, rocks?" I said "I do indeed!" and I think he chalked me up as just another crazy American.

When I moved out here, friends helped me load the semi-trailer I had purchased. I had a large library and they grew weary of toting the many boxes of very heavy books. But when they came to the two boxes of Irish stones, weighing about sixty pounds each, I had planned ahead! I didn't have the heart to tell them they were carrying stones, so I labeled each box "Irish Geology." No questions were asked.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Not another sky picture?

Yep. Sorry, but you can't get away from the sky out here. Even if you wanted to. The Lakota and the Cheyenne were very aware of, and had great respect, for the sky. How could they not, living here in the Home of the Sky-beings?

This rainbow is from last night. Another fast-moving thunder storm came through and then there was sudden clearing. Shortly after this picture was taken, looking due south, the sun came up and flooded the prairie with bright, golden light and the rainbow slowly disappeared.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

O, happy, happy dogs!

Sometimes dogs are about as illogical as homo sapiens. Mine will jump for joy if they are allowed to go along with me to town. Apparently they'd rather suffer in a hot, cramped truck than stay home in a lovely big shop building with couches and easy-chairs and a nice big fenced yard just outside the door. I think it's that old "be-with" syndrome.

Today I had to renew the minutes on my phone or lose my account so I let them ride along with me to the "high point" about eight miles south where I can get just enough bars to make the addition.

You'd have thought I nominated them for the Nobel Prize. Emma really likes it when I lower the left rear window and let her hang out and sniff the smells. Buffalo, deer, antelope, and assorted gourmet poop. Ambrosia!

To listen to them, I deprive them. Well, gosh, we just spent 5000 miles together fer-pete's-sake!

Anyway. They were happy today!

Ol' Timers Never Die

When I started this blog I posted quite a few pieces on some of the guns I own and have used in a lifetime of being around shootin' arns and the folks who use them. But I haven't done that for a while and thought I would remedy that with a little ditty about tradition.

Despite all the modern and up-to-date handguns I own, and use, I still have a real soft spot in my heart, if not head as well, for the traditional single-action revolver. There is no doubt that a contemporary Ruger is a mechanically superior gun to the old-style five-shooter. Nevertheless, the classic Model P still has a lot going for it, even after 137 years. (The one illustrated is not, alas, original, but is so close that all parts interchange.)

For one thing, they are one of the safest revolvers around. Particularly for someone who works in rough environments. You can't get much safer than keeping the hammer (on which the old-style firing pin resides)down on an empty chamber. In that position, an accidental discharge is simply impossible, no matter how far you fall off that hinky horse or ATV. Even when cocked, the gun can still be kept safe by hooking your thumb over the hammer until you are ready to shoot or de-cock the piece.

The old Colt-pattern single-action is also smaller and lighter than the Ruger, and by quite a good bit. This makes for a slightly easier and more comfortable carry, especially on a wide, thick, soft leather belt. Plus, it just feels better in the hand. (Ruger's New Model Vaquero goes in the right direction but isn't there yet.)

My favorite caliber for a traditional SA is .45 Colt. That big, all-lead bullet does not need any fancy jackets or big hollow points to perform well. It's accurate, hits hard, and suits someone who likes old-style, traditional things instead of the latest, fastest, etc. They've sure served me well over the years.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Garden Prognosis Poor

Last year we had an infestation of grasshoppers. Yet, they pretty much gave the garden a pass and there was virtually no damage. Considering how many there were I hoped we might get a reprieve this year.

Apparently not. This picture is from last year, and I have no 'hoppers this big yet. They're tiny little suckers, less than a half-inch long. But so far they have eaten the leaves off my mint plants, completely made away with the lettuce, and have made lacework out of the peppers' leaves. They seem to be leaving the tomatoes and squash alone. Maybe they're saving them for desert.

So far the Plague of Locusts is winning.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Death in the Desert

I did some walking yesterday and came upon the scene above. (You may have to click on it to make it engorge itself.)

Many years ago, when I lived in Tucson, I was told that the most common form of death in the desert was drowning. Seems paradoxical but if you live in the desert for a while you understand it. One doesn't usually associate the desert with super-saturated wetness, but flash floods can be very convincing. The country is full of dry washes, as in the accompanying picture, and when the run-off from the hills and high places from a sudden storm comes down the washes they are not good places to be.

Most dry washes, unlike the one shown (looks like a road but isn't), are dug in a bit, with high sides. I have seen sides ("banks" if you will) that are six inches high and I have seen them ten feet high. The higher ones seem out of place until you have seen a wall of water six or eight feet high rushing down from a high-country storm.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Taking Stock

The Fourth of July is a good time to take stock. I try to use it to ask myself "How are we doing?" Not that I don't ask that question at lots of other times, but I think Americans have been doing that on 7/4 for a long, long time. And this is the 234th iteration of the original.

How are we doing? Not so good, I'd say. We have an economy in tatters and an executive and legislature that don't seem to know what to do about it. We are probably more divided and polarized as a people than we have been since the 1860s. I keep looking for signs that our CEO really loves the outfit he heads up and don't see them. Confidence in, and respect for, our Congress is at a low ebb, beaten out maybe (but just barely) by how we feel about the press. I won't even venture into how we feel about the Groves of Academe.

Dark times for the nation. Republics are often posited to have a life-span of about two hundred years. If that's true then we're already on borrowed time and have been for quite a while.

I'm not sure about this, but I think it was Mark Twain who coined the word "pessimoptimist" to describe how he looked at the world. Seems to me there is hardly a better way to go through life: Hoping and working for the best, but keeping an eye on what happens in the real world most of the time.

I keep telling myself that we'll get through this. We've done it before. We can do it again. But I can't help but wonder, and fear. And I don't think I'm alone.

The Commonplace Landscape

I'm really fond of the "commonplace landscape." Ansel Adams sought and made glorious, dramatic, romantic, perfect pictures of amazing places. He also made less well-known images of less picturesque places. I confess to a fondness for the commonplace landscapes that let you plug into what a country really looks like on an every-day basis.

Obviously, commonplace landscapes are everywhere, and a little order and rhythm can be imposed on most of them with some patience and empathy. Roads are a special favorite of mine. They've all got a story to tell.

A Wild Night

Where I live "a wild night" usually has nothing to do with night clubs, drunken orgies, or mid-street shoot-'em-ups. It most often refers to Mother Nature doing another one of her famous numbers on you. Just before dusk yesterday we had a storm system slip in from the west and give us quite a time for a while. My internet is by satellite and when we get a big storm I usually lose it at some point. But before it went blotto yesterday I could see on the weather map that we had tornado activity just west of me. I watched it for a while as it got closer, but then it slid southeast and disappeared. So far so good.

We got a little hail, a sudden, brief downpour, and then it began to taper off as it moved east. In less than a hour it had passed through and things got back to normal— although exactly what "normal" is on the High Plains is hard to say.

These violent, sudden storms can be beautiful and awe-inspiring, but they can also be pretty scary. Sometimes living on the plains can be a lot like sailing in a small boat: mighty big ocean, mighty small boat. It kinda gives you special understanding of what "helpless" can mean.

But, oh, the terrible beauty of it all!