Friday, October 19, 2012

I have a talking dog.

I have a talking dog. Really.

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.

Maybe I should buy him a typewriter.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Blue Water in the morning

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.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Winter Approach/Avoidance

 October Sunrise

Not winter's. Mine.

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.

The morning ramble

 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.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A short fall

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.

The New Crop

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.

Insistence & Persistence

 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.

First of the season...

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.