Jack has been getting more and more vocal since he turned a year old. He has an amazing range of vocalizations. He also makes eye contact while he is using them and there can be no doubt he is struggling to communicate on the same level as I do to him. And he does pretty well at it.
Today, toward dusk, he really, really wanted to go out one more time. (He caught a pocket the other day and "knows where they live.") I wouldn't let him because I don't like having him out when it's really getting dark. He tried to explain how important it was. ROWR-urrr-woog-ROWR! We went 'round and 'round and finally he gave up and went off to his bed in the living room, but as he went he turned his head and had the last word. RUHR-gurrr-wooo! And then lay down and gave me the malochia.
I had to go to a meeting early this morning down in the county seat. On my way I have to cross Blue Creek, called by the Indians "the blue water." It's a spring fed creek that runs strong all year. In 1855 there was the first "battle" between US troops and the Sioux on this creek. You can read about it by googling "the battle of Blue Water." It was actually an ambush of peaceful Indians by the Army, under the command of General Harney. Crazy Horse was there, as a lad of about 13. He had been hunting but arrived in time to see the results and help some of the wounded. You can see the cut-line of the creek bed in the foreground. At the time of the fight there would have been no trees here. The "battle" actually occurred a few miles downstream (to the right of the picture) but fleeing Indians came up this far and farther trying to escape from Harney's pursuing dragoons.
I have often wondered why it is that when the Indians win a battle it is called a massacre, and when the whites massacre some Indians it's called a battle. The answer is simple, of course: the winners write the histories.
Winter's onslaught always brings with it very mixed feelings. It gets a sort of bitter-sweet welcome in this house.
First, of course, is the loss of the outdoor lifestyle that rules the roost from May to October. Windows and doors are closed, the fans put away, screens replaced by storm windows, and anything that might be damaged by freezing comes out of the shop.
But for all of the negatives, the coming of winter offers some compensations. I have always been something of a book person, and the house if full of them. So many in fact that in a recent clean-up and reorganization boxes and boxes had to be packed up and relegated to storage. Winter gives me some concentrated book-time, and there is always a backlog of reading material of all types from the history of Ireland to the Little Big Horn and from oriental philosophy to the opening of the American frontier.
The "gun room" with facilities for amateur gunsmithing and ammunition reloading gets a touch-up in preparation for extensive use in the dark months of confinement. Notes and reminders scribbled when the weather was too enticing for inside work can now be fulfilled.
As a photographer I will now have time to refine, duplicate, and file what I used to call "negatives" and now must call "files." And in the office/workroom I can catch up on the print-making side-lined over the summer.
The lounging chairs will be removed from the front deck and a supply of fire-wood will replace them, under tarps to keep it free from snow and blowing rain. Kindling is stored in water-tight containers. The fireplace is cleaned, and a fire laid for immediate use when needed— soon no doubt. The propane supply is checked and refills for the thousand-gallon tank ordered up if needed.
Hunting seasons also loom, and though I do not hunt as much as I used to, Jack and Emma will not let me pass them up entirely— nor would it be fair to them to do so. It will also be time to consider topping up the venison supply in the freezers.
And so winter hath its hidden charms. Out here winter used to be the time when people went mad staring at the soddy walls and watching the snow infiltrate around the edges of the makeshift windows. Not a very likely outcome today, even without the glimmering eye of television. There's just too much to do, too broad a reach of activities and projects to have time to experience Prairie Madness.
But the best part of the coming of winter is that it is a punctuation mark in the flux of the seasons. There are four distinct seasons here, although spring and fall may sometimes seem to be demi-seasons rather than the full treatment that summer and winter give us. But there are four and they each have a character all their own. And winter is now on the cusp here on the High Plains, with its peculiar charms and particular dreads. But life is still good, and will spring will come again.
It went into the low 20s last night. The cold weather flips some sort of switch in Jack's brain and he has been an absolute PIA this morning, being as insistent as a small child with lots of presents under the tree.
He is the most vocal dog I have ever lived with. Has the most amazing range of vocals, with assorted UMMMs, OOOOs, YEEOWs, WOOFs, BOOFs, EEEEs, GURMMMMMs, and some that I can find no way to even approximately transliterate on the page. He is obviously doing his best to communicate, to "say something." We have many interesting conversations, with neither of us being completely sure what the other is trying to get across.
But this morning he came through loud and clear. And often. "Let's go out and walk! A long one!"
And so we did. All four of us. We've had a coyote hanging around lately and so I shouldered my little Kimber .243 and off we went. A nice long ramble during which we saw 13 whitetails that seemed a little jumpy this morning. No coyote, which is a good thing since Mags hates gunfire and I try to never shoot when she is outside.
We got back to the house and Jack still wanted to go. But he is a good compromiser and came inside with the rest of the "old folks."
He'll be at me again this afternoon and no doubt I will succumb yet once more.
Took this pic about a week before our present snow. I'm thinking that the snow, which is still falling, will probably make quick work of our autumn display of color. That would mean we had a fall lasting all of about two weeks. Not all that unusual exactly, but a trifle disappointing.
Quite a few whitetails on the place this fall, and several nice young bucks among 'em. This early in the fall they seem less wary and skittish than they get to be later on. I think that's genetic and not related to hunting pressure as there is little of that around here even in season, which isn't until November. Whitetails are said not to graze, but they graze out here. Simply not enough browse to support them. That's for eastern woodland whitetails, not our High Plains fellows.
These crisp, cool mornings and late afternoons have got the dogs all a-twitter with fall fever. Even Mags seems to feel it. But the Big Organizer of our daily rambles is Jack. He can be a very persistent fellow when the urge is upon him, not even thinking about taking No! for an answer. He likes to take his own walks, but these days he insists that I go, too. He will mope on the front deck, staring into the house like a starving urchin, until I finally come out. Then he is off like a rocket, but always keeping an eye out for where I am back at the tail-end of the line. The passion of bird-dogs in autumn is exhilarating. And a little tiring, too.
We got our first snow of the season yesterday. (The day before it was 90°.) About five inches of light, fluffy stuff that was mostly gone by evening as the temperature never went below freezing. This morning it was still snowing, but very lightly, and still is. The ground is white. The moisture is more than welcome as we have had only 4.3" so far this year. We could use a snowfall like this every day for a couple of months. Jack likes it, too, but is taking his rambles in smaller doses than in warm weather. His tootsies aren't used to it yet.
Slowly the range regrows itself after our recent spate of wildfires. It's a welcome sight, the fresh, tender, new sprouts. But we still haven't had any rain, and our official drought condition is "Exceptional." They can say that again. Yesterday the humidity was 6%. We're getting to be the New American Desert. Only the prickly pear is thriving.
Some excitement around the place last week. The first picture, above, is what I saw from the dinner table that evening. The second is what it looked like on the mountain to the west about an hour later. As most of them do, this one started from lightning about twenty miles south and then ran right up to within two-hundred yards of me in a jig-jag mostly northerly run before the wind shifted and sent it west across the mountain.
I had planned ahead and several days before had mounted a 25-gallon spray tank on my UTV. That may seem a little silly but you'll be surprised what a well-placed 25-gallons can do to a grass fire. By the time the wind shifted we (me and a spray truck arriving nick--of-time from a town 40 miles north) had knocked it down on the arm that was heading for the house. Ironically, the really poor grass from the drought was a positive factor for us.
The way the fire system works out here is that each ranch has a piece of equipment (usually forest service cast-offs) and when the alarm goes out they gather and fight the fire. I never saw any of my immediate locals as they were involved with the fire to the south (there were five or six different fires that night). All told, there were 80 pieces of equipment fighting this one. I had neighbors show up from 30 miles away to help. Range fires are terrible things, but out here they bring out the "neighbor" in everybody.
I've been taking some ribbing on another site where I posted an image of a lone tree in a great big surround of bare prairie. So I herewith append proof positive that we do indeed have trees. Usually when you see a large stand of trees out here, like the one I live within, you are seeing the remnants of an abandoned homestead. But in the case of the trees in the picture above, I suspect it was more like "Hey, I got these pines left over." There's not a thing anywhere near them. Just cows.
Funny about dogs. They all have their "things." Jack's are, in order, (1) the truck, and (2) the Rhino. Things that cover ground and go places! Jack's a motor-head.
My truck lives in the shop building, sometimes not coming out for three weeks at a time. But when I do pull it out, getting ready to go somewhere, Jack will not leave it! He stays close by, just in case I might try to sneak off without him. Going in the truck is his Number One Thing, and sometimes I give in and take him when I hadn't intended to. It'd be much more comfy if he stayed at home, but that's not His Thing.
I have a crew cab, with the back seat made down to a flat area for the dogs. Nirvana for Jack is to be back there with both rear windows open so he can ricochet from side to side taking in all the smells and all the sights.
I give in much too often, but hardly ever feel any guilt about it.
The other day I noticed a commotion just beyond the autogate. Turned out that two cock pheasants were having an argument. They went at it for quite a while before they eased off and drifted away into the sunflowers out of the frame on the right. No blood and no feathers that I could see, but it was definitely serious business.
(One head is at 12 o'clock on the "mass" and the other at 3. Click to enlarge.)
Heat. Lots of it. A dry, aggressive assault on the senses. When out in it, you get the feeling that things could spontaneously combust at any moment. At the time the picture was taken, my indoor reader registered 117° for the sending unit up under the eaves, shaded, on the bunk house behind the main house. The humidity is about 15% and has been as low as 7% so far this summer. This is weather more typical of the Atacama or Death Valley. I'm starting to wonder if we are the new Anasazi.
Our heat wave continues. This afternoon my outdoor temp reader registered 116° and I consider that a trifle warm, even for Arizona where I used to live. Jack is always up for going out and running around but the others would just as soon stay inside and snuggle up to a fan. I'm trying to discourage Jack from doing too much wild dashing about, too. Even for a young, vigorous, healthy dog it's just too hot for that stuff.
I have to cross an open-range section of the buffalo ranch to get to the main two-track and this fellow was standing right on the edge of the road. I paused only for a moment and then moved on. These citizens are usually pretty docile but it just doesn't pay to make assumptions about something that weighs two-thousand pounds and might be feeling a trfile peeved about something or other. I like my own space and I also believe in the Golden Rule.
It's about as dry as I can remember. No rain in a long time and none in sight. Critters are staying pretty close to the watering holes. Grass is poor and getting poorer.
Hot, too. With the exception of a few days early last week we have had about three weeks of 100°+ temps. Got up to 114° one day. The old joke about "110° in the shade!" "Well, stay outta the shade!" just ain't funny. Well, a little funny.
I think I've posted before about Emma and snakes. That is, when they meet Emma terminates them with extreme prejudice.
Late last month I might have gotten some insight into what goes on in her mind. I was sitting on the front deck, enjoying a beautiful, mild late afternoon. The dogs were amusing themselves. Em was alone out front about 60 yards and seemed to be interested in something in the grass, circling it, going in, jumping back a little, but not really very excited about it. At first I thought it must be a snake, but then I was sure it was not because she was not diving in for the kill. A turtle? I keep binocs on the table next to my chair but couldn't see enough of it to tell what it was.
Emma got bored and left the scene, and I decided to walk out and see what it was. A mistake, as I should have put Em in the house. She saw me going out there and tagged along. Sure enough, it was a snake: a big bullsnake, maybe 4-1/2 feet long. When I got about ten feet from it Emma sprang into action, charged in, grabbed it, flung it about, and killed it pretty definitely dead, dead, dead. This despite me telling her to drop it and back off. Once committed she cannot be called off a snake. A bird, yes, but not a snake.
Then the penny dropped. She hadn't been all that interested in it before I appeared on the scene. She sprang on the thing when I approached it. My theory is that Em is protecting me, or the other dogs, from something dangerous. "If you're too dumb to keep away from these things then I'm just gonna have to protect you from yourself by killing it!" she seems to be saying. Makes sense when all the evidence is in, I think.
Yesterday morning, from inside, I noticed Emma and Jack and Mags at the bottom of the steps up to the deck milling around and apparently mildly interested in something under the steps. I stepped out onto the deck and Em body-blocked Jack away and almost broke her silly neck getting her head under the second step and came out with another bullsnake, smaller this time. But just as dead by the time she had finished her business with it.
Been away for a while and when I came back I couldn't get into the blog to post anything. Weird. But I shifted from Safari to Firefox and managed to get in— at last for the time being. I'll be posting a few things in the next days and I apologize to regulars who may have checked in and discovered I was being a slacker!
I bought one of those Garmin dog-tracking units for Jack. It has a sending collar, which he wears, and a handheld GPS unit for me to keep track of him. There are two screens on the GPS related to the dogs programmed into the unit: one shows his compass bearing, distance, and attitude (running, sitting, on point, treeing, etc.); the other shows a map with his position and movement indicated. I've programmed the local landmarks into the map, like cedars, old shop, barn, salt house, storm shelter, autogate, and the corner limits of the compound. It gives him so much more outside, active time than I could give him if I had to go along with him. We've been doing this for a couple of months now and so far he has been very good about limits. Just the other day he did fourteen miles and was never more than seventy yards from the house. The exercise is doing him a lot of good, as can be seen.
Yes, that time of year again. Actually some early-breeding ranchers did their roundups and brandings in April and have been long finished. But the season is well under way now and will run into June. These are the social events of the season, sans ball gowns and tuxedos! After a hard morning of work, sometimes stretching into the afternoon, there will be a fine big meal followed by some card games and lots of conversation, some of it based on fact. The calves are quickly over the trauma and everyone else has a fine, tired-making time doing a hot, dangerous job.
And when you consider the odds against them, it's almost a wonder any of them do. None of them would make it without the fierce, obsessive care of the mother bird. You can't watch a tiny female defending her fledgling against a snake twenty times her size without feeling some of the awe and wonder of it all.
The season of the prairie flowers is beginning, probably my favorite time of the year. The so-called desolation of this near-desert is becoming colorful and fragrant with an abundance of beautiful gifts. If April is really "the cruelest month" as Eliot claims (it's not), then it leads to the many kindnesses of May.
On our way to the vets the other day we ran into these citizens. We had already seen several flocks but these joggers were on the road rather than in the meadows. The Shorthairs were leaning out the back window and as I eased past them they gave a few"let-us-out!" barks and whines but that was about it. The first turkey Emma actually flushed, a few years ago, was a real experience for her. She just stood and stared as it flew off. I'm sure she thought it was the biggest pheasant she had ever seen.
This is Bob. He lives with a friend who owns a ranch store near me. (Fifty-five miles is "near.") Today I had to run an errand to a town beyond the store and stopped in to visit and swap lies.
Like all the Rotties I have known (that were not owned by psychopaths) he is a sweet, gentle giant. His favorite thing is to follow me around in the store sniffing at my jeans so he can learn all about my dogs at home. By the time I leave the place I am usually pretty wet below the knees. But he's a fine fellow and I do not begrudge him his little pleasures and I appreciate his friendship. He watches the world go by from his special perch outside the store.
Rotties get a bad reputation, and it's undeserved. It's a fact that some people own them that shouldn't. Because of the bad rep it becomes a self-perpetuating outrage: bad people want bad dogs. But without the bad people there would BE no bad dogs. My experience with Rottweilers (and it is extensive) is that they are gentle, loving, sweet-natured critters. They are also very, very intelligent.
I don't have a Rottie anymore. Whenever I visit Bob I think about that with a tinge of regret. But I already have three good friends that I am completely happy with.
Very thick fog this morning. I love it when the atmosphere closes in on you like this. Light becomes liquid silver, sound is muffled, and everything is either close, or invisible— no longer important. You feel as if you are in a room made especially for you and the rest of the world is excluded. You are at the center of a muted reality, with heightened perceptions. Fog is a poet.
Our long dry spell broke this week. We had a day and a half of almost steady rain. Sometimes only a slight drizzle but it came down steady and long. Jack chewed the bottom off my rain gauge so I don't know exactly how much we got. (My fault: I left it in reach when he was teething.) Inch and a half I'd guess. We've had far more in lots less time, but it was welcome any way it came. Things are greening at a mighty rate and this afternoon I mowed my front grass for the second time this season. In a normal year I wouldn't have mowed the first time yet.
One day last week a friend in town who had borrowed something from me called to say he was going to bring it back and visit for a while. After a bit I saw a storm shaping up toward town and from the looks of it I figured I'd be getting a phone call. Sure enough, about ten minutes later called. He was on his way, but not far from town, when the storm just about blew him off the road. It came on suddenly and violently, as they often do out here. He said he'd have to run for home and reschedule.
We live according to the weather out here 24/7. I doubt urban folk can completely understand how dependent we are on it and how observant of it we have to be. It can be beautiful and it can also be a killer. And it doesn't care either way.
Actually I guess I'm the intruder. They were here first. I've noticed though s I reclaimed my front "lawn" from the prairie they seem to thrive there better than they do in wilder areas. So that's my good deed I reckon: Making the world safe for dandelions. I reckon I could do worse.
Not to be a johnny-one-note, but I am still enjoying the bursts of new life that are everywhere here on the prairie right now. Just as for the trees and the grasses, it is the same thing for me every spring: time to get out the cameras and start walking aimlessly around looking for... well, whatever. Reassurance? Of course, It's part of the human mystery. And lucky for us, it's everywhere this time of year.
A few years back I lost an older, mostly already dead tree to the wind. I cut up a good bit of the deadfall but didn't get around to removing the whole wreck until winter hit and then it was spring before I could get back at it. By then there were new sprigs sprouting up from it and all around it and so I left it. It wasn't in the way and gradually a little thicket grew up around it. It's in the process of renewing itself once again now.
Eliot called April "the cruelest month," because it bred lilacs out of a dead land. I can't see it that way. It seems to me that April is the bringer of new life, a promise of freshness and regeneration. April here is usually just the near-tail-end of winter, but this year it has been the harbinger month. And nothing cruel about that I can see.
The prickly pear is beginning to perk up. These warm days have greened it up substantially. The other day I cut one pad, processed it, and cooked it up. It was good, but will be better with a little more sun and moisture. The Indians thought highly of it as a food, and it has several medicinal applications.
Just a few days ago a long-time reader of this blog asked me that question in the comments section of one of the posts about the return of my deer.
It's a good question, and takes more than a line or two to answer.
I'm a life-long hunter. Over the years, hunting has put much meat on my table and in my freezer. But I have gone "deerless" for the past two years, and not for the lack of opportunity. This past season, for example, stretching from mid-November thru the end of January, saw me with chance after chance for fine critters. Each time the outcome was, more or less, "Nah, not this time."
The attached image shows one of my many cervidaen visitors. It's an infrared "trail camera" picture of a buck that practically lived on the place all winter— finally depositing one of his antlers in the front yard by the porch, perhaps a gift. (In the picture he is standing a measured thirty feet from the house.) He was in my sights several times and the decision guiding the trigger finger was always a "No." Why?
I'm not sure I can answer that question very intelligently. Perhaps still having venison in the freezer has something to do with it? Maybe. But that's not the whole answer, or even most of it. I think I have just reached a point in my life when I have no desire to kill much of anything. Killing was never the best part of hunting for me. In success there was always a measure of regret along with the satisfaction of having "made meat" as the old-timers used to say.
Nowadays, immersed as I am in the day-to-day flux of nature and her many critters, I feel I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else with regard to my ability to take animals for food. (Trophies have never interested me at all.) Younger, more eager (and perhaps "macho") hunters would surely call me a wuss. That's OK. I really don't care and I don't need their approval.
Bird-hunting is slightly different. It's not at all a solitary activity. I am in the field with at least one of my dogs, usually both, and often with several other hunters and their dogs. It is almost a communal pursuit. Following behind and watching the dogs work is one of my greatest pleasures. I could easily do it without a gun, but the dogs will have none of that. The point, the rise, the shot, the retrieve— all are at the very center of their lives and it is no rationalization on my part to say that to deprive them of that whole process would be a cruelty I cannot bring myself to be a part of.
If I choose not to take a deer for my table it should not be taken as a criticism of or a rejection of the practice and ethics of hunting. It definitely is not. I believe in the value of hunting both as a means of responsible conservation and a personal pursuit for sustenance, both physical and spiritual. I'm sure I will take deer again, perhaps when the freezer is empty, or when I feel that the time is right. When that happens, the little voice will say "Yes!" and I will act accordingly.
Yesterday I awoke to a glorious, bright, sunny morning. It promised a balmy day of warmth and spring-time bliss. But off to the west it was very dark, a solid mass of dark blue from zenith right down to the ground. Within half an hour a deep, cold overcast had taken over, the wind came up, and it began to hail. In the next half hour the storm had moved on, the sun came out, and the afternoon developed just as the earlier morning had promised. Boredom tends not be a factor where weather in the 'Great American Desert' is concerned.
Thought I'd post this from the mulie sighting the other day. This little guy is "pronking." I believe it is an Afrikaans word for the stiff-legged, prancing run that some antelopes over there, and mulies here, use to cover ground. Whitetails do not indulge. What fun it is to watch a mob of a dozen or so mulies pronking away over the plains like a gaggle of wind-up toys!
A nice gift for the First of April: the return of the mule deer. Ten females. They left early in the fall and haven't been on the place all winter. Plenty of whitetails, but no mulies. It's good to see them again. Even better will be seeing their fawns in a few weeks.
And, apparently, the first day of summer as well: at 245PM today the thermometer topped 97°.
My poor trees, that are now entirely greened with new leaves, may be in for a rude surprise. Normally at this time of year we would still have snow on the ground, nighttime temps well below freezing, and perhaps even a killer storm on the way. Some of our worst weather "events" have come in April
We are still two months away from a safe window for planting gardens and the like. Never saw anything like it.
No question about it: Jack is the diggingest dog I have ever lived with. He's fascinated by our prairie pocket gopher. He will stand for an hour over a hole waiting for one to show up. If it seems fresh (and sometimes I'm sure he can hear them down there working away) he will go to work trying to dig them out. So far I don't think he has caught one. If he ever does I am afraid he will be a gopher-dog instead of a bird-dog. I've given up on keeping him from digging altogether. But I do have to watch him because he is very fast. I got distracted for a few minutes and he had the hole in the picture big enough to almost disappear into in about two minutes flat. No gopher out of that one, but he never seems to get discouraged.
Been quite a while since I've had a gun-related entry here. So...
I recently had a facelift done on an old friend. My Colt Gold Cup is one of my most accurate handguns, in addition to being pretty elegant esthetically as well. Her only flaw was that the short extension of the grip safety coupled with the long spur of the hammer caused her to occasionally give me a painful bite on the web of my hand. I like a pretty high hold on a 1911 and this tendency of the Gold Cup was annoying.
Not too many gunsmiths around here, but I finally stumbled on one that is experienced in that sort of work. Plus, he's only a 210 mile round trip away. Anyway, I had him install an Ed Brown beavertail grip safety and a Wilson ultra-light skeletonized hammer. I was happy with the trigger as it was at 3 pounds 12 ounces, but when she came back it was 3 pounds 9 ounces so all is well. Years ago I had the Elliason sights dehorned for carry purposes, so now she is about perfect as an all-around "field and target" pistol. The extraordinary accuracy of this old classic has not been changed, of course.
The 'smith only took a little over a month to do the work and it's good to have her home again. I can't think of a single improvement that could be made to her now.
We have had little snow this winter, a very unusual non-event that does not bode well for our spring. The red flag warnings have been out for a long time, and we keep hoping for a good does of rain that will encourage the grass. A couple of seasons back we were thinking that maybe the drought had broken. Now we are not so sure. Wells tend not to go dry here, but we need surface moisture to make good grass. There's also the ever-present danger of fire
My boy Jack is almost a year and nine months old now, and still very much a pup at heart. I don't think I've ever had a dog that was as much of a play-boy as he is. He's always looking for something to carry around, toss, chase, or otherwise amuse himself with.
Lately, his favorite toy has been a toss-ring— a kind of frisbee with a hole in the middle. He likes to "wear" it and run around at top speed (every fourth step a leap into the air ) as if looking for a tree to run into. Fortunately he hasn't run into anything yet but he seems to keep trying. He's very proud of this toy and misses no opportunity to show me how good he is at putting it on.
I love a dog with a sense of humor. Jack qualifies.
It's been a strange winter here on the High Plains. So far— and I say "so far" because it is far too early to be toting up the score— we have had very little snow, and only sporadic periods of intense cold. The last couple of days it has reached the mid-70s, with lovely bright sun and little wind. But as the Ides of March approach I am reminded of the old samurai saying: "In victory, tighten your helmet strings!" Good advice, whether you are a plains-dweller or not.
The light is changing, too. We already have "that certain slant of light" that bespeaks the coming of spring. It's the other side of the coin of fall light that tells us winter is coming. Winter may be starting its departure song, but we still have a ways to go until seeds can go in the ground. As usual, I will use Memorial Day as my garden's inauguration day, however encouraged I am by that certain slant of light.
[And a tangential note— our eyes and brains are so accustomed to a familiar symbology that if you look at the picture above from a slight distance, you will swear that it is upside down!]
Two weeks ago I loaded up my little camper trailer and all four of us headed out for a 350-mile trip to a friend's farm where we got to do some bird hunting.
Birds were scarce, but it was good to see my friends again and have some quality time with them. The dogs, all three, enjoyed the trip, too. Em and Jack were out in the fields every day and Mags stayed back in the trailer, which she loves. She made comfy nests in the big bed and there were no complaints from her.
We had the chance to hunt a lovely private preserve that had some of the best habitat I have seen in a long time. Nevertheless, there were few birds. The day we hunted there we had six hunters and a like number of dogs. Jack and Emma performed well, but we didn't get into more than three rises on the whole day.
My hosts were apologetic but I assured them it had been a great day and I wasn't disappointed at all. The dogs had many great days, as did I. I know the dogs would have liked more rises and more birds in the bag, but I don't hunt to kill things. I hunt to be with the dogs, and revel in watching their joy as they work. It was also good to hunt with friends and enjoy some great days afield.
We were gone almost a week. Excellent trip, but we were all glad to be home. Mags dashed inside, jumped up on the couch, and did her patented head-stands in joy to be back in her house.
Jack and I hunted a neighbor ranch today. We saw a lot of birds but they were all doing their road-runner imitations— tails high, legs flashing in a sprinter's blur. I think they have two mottoes: "You fly, you die!" and "Be bold, don't hold!" Or something like that. But despite a bitter cold wind Jack was enthusiastic and didn't want to quit. Once the snow started (almost horizontal!) I wimped out and suggested we call it a day and he grudgingly agreed.
Emma is ten today. Ten good years with a good dog!
It saddens me when my dogs grow old. Such good friends should live much longer than they actually do. Emma is just now beginning to show her age, but she is still up for a full day of hunting, or anything else that you might have in mind. She's a bit creaky the next morning, but ready to go again if you are.
I am well aware that dogs could not care less about birthdays, but I do. So she will get a "special dinner" today. That's the tradition around here. And that means that Mags and Jack will also get special dinners because they are great believers in their own version of the Fairness Doctrine which states that what One gets the Others get as well. Why not? Birthdays are to be celebrated by all!