Friday my neighbor moved the main herd from one 15,000 acre range to another of about the same size. I tagged along just for the fun of it. It was an easy job since the oldsters pretty much knew where they were going. I also think they wanted a crack at the nice, untried grass on that side. It's interesting to watch their millennia-old habits come to the fore. The bulls naturally gravitated to the front, flanks and rear of the herd and stayed there. Some of the newborns had to run for quite a few miles and were tuckered by the end of the drive. Watching 6000+ of these very large critters move so easily across the Plains is a great sight. One I never get tired of. But it's still hard to imagine millions in a single herd.
Late this morning, as I sat on the deck reading a newspaper, Emma began to bark insistently. At first I thought it might be the UPS man coming down the road. But she kept it up and I could see there was no one on the road. I looked over the deck to where she stood, only about five feet away and right away saw the problem. A large bull snake was in the front dog pen, coiled up against a tree truck and ready to fight my noisy Shorthair.
This is itself was strange, as usually Em will just dive right in, oblivious to bites, and terminate a snake with extreme prejudice. But this time she was standing off and barking. I didn't want her to kill it, so I started down the steps to close the pen gate so she couldn't get at it. Just as I expected she would as soon as she saw me coming she lunged at the visitor to grab him. I had already figured out some time ago that she is far more ruthless with snakes if I am close by. Her protective instinct is flattering but a little too destructive for my taste. This time I managed to call her off and made her keep her distance while I swung the gate closed. She continued to bark but obeyed when I called her inside.
Jack was there the whole time, standing shoulder to shoulder with her but not barking or lunging at the snake. He was very interested in Mr Slithers, but wasn't making any moves toward it. I like this aspect of Jack's personality: He is by no means timid, but rather he is careful and thoughtful about interlopers and "strange things," without the instinct to dive straight in that has made Emma such a consummate murderer of reptiles and assorted other critters. Jack watches, circles, ponders, and as likely as not comes to get me. "Come see what I found!"
When I went back outside, the snake was gone. This is not the first time I have seen him on the place, so I'm hoping that maybe Em is mellowing in her old age.
For those who might not know... A bull snake (Pituophis melanoleucus sayi) is a non-poisonous snake that is a great exterminator of rodents. For that reason alone I like to have them around, but in general am not a snake fan at all.
In just a few short weeks we have gone from High Plains Desert to High Plains Jungle. The rains have brought back the grasses (and weeds!) with a vigorous vegetable vengeance.
In July and August and early September I mowed my out-front 1/3 acre of grass (as I call it) once. So far since the post-winter growth has started I am on my fifth cutting. It can look like the end of the world, but with a few drops of rain it springs to life. Surely one of the great strengths of this environment over the centuries.
Stephen Crane (author of The Red Badge of Courage) has a poem...
A man said to the universe: "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me "A sense of obligation."
A visitor once remarked to me that "This is the most God-forsaken place I ever saw or heard of!" I told him that God didn't forsake it. He saved it for himself.
And we are now in the season that makes this "desolate, God-forsaken place" a paradise-garden of great beauty. This is the prairie rose (Rosa blanda), just one of many lovely spring flowering plants on the High Plains. We only look God-forsaken and desolate to those who are poor lookers.
Yesterday I had to do a long-distance errand and had to pass through the bison herd, which had just been brought into this particular "pasture." (Somehow when a pasture gets to be 12,000 acres it ought to have some other name!) There were 5-6,000 of them, what with the new calves, so they wouldn't fit into a single frame. Both young and old were enjoying the new growth of grass, thanks to some nice recent rains we have been getting.
I was hesitant about adding a third dog, but considering Emma's age it was the right time to bring him on. Today, I am glad I didn't listen my Sensible Self and went ahead and brought him into the family. He has been a blessing from the first day.
I've never had a dog -- and I've had quite a few -- that matured so quickly or bonded with me so completely. He's one of those so-called Once-in-a-Lifetime dogs that I have been fortunate enough to have had more than one of. His even temperament, sweetness, intelligence, passion for work, and good sense of humor has endeared him to everyone who has come to know him.
So here's to you, buddy. Happy birthday and many, many happy returns!
The "transition seasons" on the High Plains are wonderful times for sky-watchers. The sky-ground temperature differentials create some awesome displays that bring real meaning to the old Indian saying "Only earth and sky last forever."
Of course, it can also bring a bit of "sky terror" as unpleasant visitors sometimes drop out of those aerial displays. My friends in Oklahoma have had it real bad. So far where I am (knock on wood) we have been lucky, despite lots of activity and some heart-in-mouth moments.
But the last few days have been about as close to perfect as I could imagine. Temps in the 70s, brilliant sun, little wind. Hard to beat it when it's like that. Makes up for a lot.
Wonderful, green, tall, wind-flowing grass. It's looking good in areas that haven't been grazed. In grazed areas it is much slower coming along. But it is coming along, thanks to the rains we have been having. Unfortunately, along with the rains have come tornadoes and ferocious thunder storms with high winds and large hail. But seeing the plains green again is a real tonic after the Sahara-like summer of 2012.