Category Archives: Ranching

The Mystery of the Rattling Boots

 

boots

It’s been many months since I wore my cowboy boots, but yesterday seemed like the day to get them down from the top shelf in the closet and put them on.
As I brought them down, however, I heard an unusual rattle that I thought came from the left boot.

Now, all Texans know that it’s not a good idea to stick your hand down in your boot if you hear something suspicious; so I just turned the boot upside down to see what would fall out. I was, of course  prepared to use the other boot to smush what ever was in there.

It’s good to be prepared but what came out was nothing to be feared.

mac

It was only macaroni. As I pondered how in the world that one piece of pasta got into my boot, I noticed the other boot emitted a similar rattling sound. Less afraid, I dumped out the contents of the second boot and founds another single macaroni shell – nothing more.

I looked for other pasta clues on the shelf where the boots had been, but found nothing. Hmm . . . a mystery. Initially I thought a rodent might have deposited the pasta, but my spouse assured me it would have been quite a feat for a mouse to carry a pasta shell half its size all the way from the kitchen to the top shelf in the bedroom closet. Then, there’s that problem of how the rodent would have skinnied up my boots.

Next, I wondered how my three-year-old grandson might have completed the pasta-to-boot trick. Just the day before, when I removed my bracelet mandrel from the vice, several small objects fell out of it. I DO know who put those in it! Yet, it seems unlikely that any small urchin could have placed or thrown anything so accurately into my boots on the high shelf.

So, the mystery remains. How did that pasta get into my boots? Will it happen again? Should boots come complete with lids to keep things out of them? OR should boots be stored upside down?

I guess we have enough to wonder about without lamenting too much about the rattling boots; yet, it is a mystery. I just hope that pasta is the only rattling thing that ever gets in my boots.

Life is Like a Crooked Road

When I was a girl, I thought that life came in a straight path. If I just behaved myself, studied hard and sought the goal, everything would pan out. Work = results – right?  If I didn’t get the top score at a piano contest, it was probably because I didn’t practice hard enough. (Remember that day I went to the drug store with my friends instead of practicing?)  If my African Violets didn’t bloom, I probably over watered them. If my children acted up, I must have not taught them properly. If I ate too much, I gained weight (now that was is actually true!) Even now, if a piece of jewelry doesn’t sell, I think that I must not have polished it enough.  I could and probably still can justify most everything through cause and effect.

Now, I’m grown up and I know I’m not responsible for every occurrence in my life. Today, I’m coughing and sneezing because of the allergens in the air. Is it my fault? . . . I don’t think so. As confident as I am, I don’t really think I can control the elements. One of the classes I offered didn’t have enough participants. It’s not all my fault; people are just busy. My favorite dog is growing too old to last much longer . . . it’s not my fault; things just happen on this crooked road.

You can practically drive yourself crazy by trying to avoid the inevitable and working hard visioning what might come next. My former idea that life follows a straight path from A to B is absurd. Life is just plain crooked.

When we first bought the ranch, every day something broke; an animal got in the wrong pasture or something else initiated a crook in the daily routine. We wondered when we could just get on with the plan. The fact is that these things were the plan; we just didn’t know it and we learned to expect the unexpected like the pit in a cherry. If the young bull fell in the well (as he did one night), you just get the tractor and pull him out. After all, it’s not my fault he fell in!

There are tiny crooks in the road and enormous ones. There are crooks that narrow to the point that you feel yourself being strangled while other crooks pleasantly open up to a plethora of possibilities. I think the trick is to accept all the twists and turns both ahead and behind us and embrace the road. I remind myself that life would certainly be boring if it were totally predictable. Do I really want to be able to manipulate what comes next? (actually, some days I do)

If life is a crooked road, my current thinking is “give yourself a break.” I can’t straighten the road by working hard or caring more. Let’s just hope my best efforts help to smooth out a few bumps on those hard turns.

Here’s hoping all your crooked roads lead you toward happiness.

Hooves in the House-A Sunday Caper

The signs were everywhere through the house and there was no question about it. Something had been there and it was NOT human. The prints, though no larger than a woman’s foot, were an entirely different shape – they were familiar and yet . . . what made them?

cow prints

Luckily the young sleuths arrived in the nick of time to help with the conundrum.

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They discovered no less than seven sets of footprints about the main level of the house and upon close examination and consultation they agreed. These prints appeared to have been made by something bovine. It was, however, impossible to determine whether one or many animals had been in the house. Luckily for the home owner there were no other more disgusting signs of the animal(s).

The visiting sleuths shared their hypothesis with the home owner, but requested assistance with gathering data since they were both too young to drive around the property alone. Unfortunately, neither sleuth’s legs could reach the foot pedals of the needed vehicle, a jeep. The home owner therefore chauffeured the sleuths carrying one of the sets of footprints with them on the fact finding mission.

First they checked the front pasture, but the hooves of the cows there were much bigger than the prints they carried. Then they checked the back pasture; but the prints of the calves there were smaller than the prints. Finally, they checked the middle pasture where they found hoof prints that were just right. Actually, they were a perfect match to those found in the house.

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Feeling satisfied that they had solved the mystery, the young sleuths said it was time to head back to their office. “But wait,” said the home owner. “ How did the cow prints get in my house?” “Well,” said one of the youngsters, “you didn’t hire us to answer that question and our time on this job has been spent.” With that, they were gone . . . riding off into the sunset with their parent drivers . . . ready to face the next challenge and solve the next mystery.

If you ever need help solving a mystery at your house, you might want to call the young sleuths. They work pretty cheap and are especially good nature.

Winging in the New Year

We are a family that thrives on playing music and singing; so it is certainly fitting that our grandson ushered in 2011 with his drum set and the ABC's song. His new hat only added to the festival of laughing. I’d have to say he definitely “winged” it with the drums.

g drumWe were also blessed with the beautiful sound of our new wind chimes given to us by wonderful friends. These alto chimes resonate (wing) gently through the air with wonderful clear tones. The photo verifies the fact that we finally received some rain here and the outside terrain is looking much better. This was much needed moisture since the last loads of hay that arrived here came all the way from Mississippi.

chimesI winged it by creating some new wire jewelry that looks a bit like some type of flying creature. It’s already time for me to start using Spring colors since this it what my wholesale customers will need next. These are just the beginning.

wings3

wings1

I created this garnet piece at the end of last year, but it got me started on the “winged” pieces above.

garnet necklaceIn between drumming, singing and making winged jewelry, we did find a little time for baking. My grandson was only too happy to help me bake a chocolate pie. Amazingly, the rest of the family was only too happy to eat it!  

baker2Since the New Year has been properly winged in here at Dreamcatcher Ranch, the only thing left to do is say “Happy New Year” to you.

Time to Rest

I knew it was over when the pickup pulled up in front of the house with shovels in the back. The driver got out and started digging a hole beside the fence, but I couldn’t watch.

Soon thereafter, I heard the car arrive. I watched out the front window as the men gently took a box from the back of the car, carried it to the hole and put it in. As they began to shovel dirt back into the hole, I couldn’t think what to do. I turned away, not wanting to look any more, and almost ran into the big grand piano. Sitting on the bench, I softly played Amazing Grace. This was not planned and it seems a bit corny, but it was the only thing I could think to do. My dog, Cheyenne was gone.

I believe when its time, we must let our pets go and not allow them to suffer. This ten year old dog had multiple problems and it was her time. I also believe that the best way to get past an event like this is to tell stories and Cheyenne gave fodder for many a tale. These have continued to pop into my mind for the last few days.

I can’t possibly tell them all here, but suffice it to say that she was a spirited dog. She gave us beautiful puppies and she showed me that a dog can feed eight of them while standing up.

Cheyenne nurse A dog can also survive being sprayed by a skunk, bitten by a rattler and giving birth through a C-section (among many other calamities).

She also showed me that even when your legs hurt, you can still run flat out at least one time. Then, you can take your ball into your dog house and rest for a while.

Cheyenne didn’t like veterinarians and even tried to bite our vet during her very last moments. As I said, she was a spirited dog.

She left the lucky few with beautiful progeny, many of whom went on to be good cow dogs at other ranches.  I’m privileged to have kept her daughter Frosty who then produced our alpha male, Bruno.

puppies  frost Bruno

Cheyenne was the kind of dog that would lick your face and then turn around and bite your hand if she didn’t think you were doing right. She had her bluff in on all the other dogs until age and Bruno took over this past year.

We will miss Cheyenne, but if you’re going to have a pet, you have to be prepared to let it go when it’s time. For Cheyenne – it was time.

More Chaos and Cattle

If you read the blog entry for March 29th, you will recall that we experienced considerable consternation here at the ranch when another person’s bull was hit by a car in the middle of the night. You may remember that I wrote about how we always get the call and it’s never our animals. Last night, it happened again. Luckily, this time there wasn’t an accident, but some cattle were out so the Sherriff’s department called us at 12:30 AM. We always go to check and see if the culprits belong to us, but anyone can see that our cows live in a fortress and it would be hard for these inmates to escape. Of course last night when we went out to check, by the time we arrived, no cows or deputies were in sight. The dispatcher phoned the deputy who reported that the animals went back to where they came from; so he went on. Now why that warranted a call to wake us up, I do not know, but UP I was. It was just another chaotic night at Dreamcatcher.

Since I’ve experienced these calls so often and know that I can’t normally get back to sleep, I started in on several unfinished pieces of jewelry. It seemed fitting to finish the “chaos” necklaces that I had on the workbench. I wrote about this style on February 24 and have since made several other chaos necklaces. The first one shown has a riveted charm.

chaos4

 

 

 

A second chaos necklace is a bit larger and the middle charm has a soldered flower on it. This one has sponge coral and jasper beads.

chaos1

 

One of my customers called and ordered a couple of these the other day. I had previously told her I could make them with “less chaos” if she wanted. She called and ordered two  confusion necklaces and one with less confusion. Hmmm – I had to think about what she meant for a bit. The “less confusion” pieces are pictured below.

chaos2                  chaos3

 

 

 

 

An article with chaos in the title caught my eye today and a read enough to learn that in time of chaos, we are supposed to rely on our creativity  in order to be innovative and work our way through a tough period.  It looks to me like I’ve certainly found the chaos and it’s time to be creative. Taking this to heart, I’m playing with new designs based on the double wire structure of these chaos necklaces. I hope the new pieces hatch and pull me forward. Yet . . . I rather like this decorative chaos – what do you think?

When Life Hands You Junk

It was a  l o n g     dark      night.

Most of you know that I live on a cattle ranch here in Texas. A well traversed road runs by the front of our property and you can usually see a nice part of the herd from that road. Our cows are black. Our fences act like a fortress. Our cows don’t get out on the road. Yet, when any cow is on or near the road in front of Dreamcatcher, we receive calls. We receive many, many calls.

There is always a very slim possibility that the caller has spotted one of our animals where is should not be and we, therefore, always get up, get dressed and drive to the road to check it out. In the last eight years, none of the animals have belonged to us.

When the phone rings, we always ask callers the same litany of questions: what color are the animals? Do they have Dreamcatcher brands? Do they have ear tags? We use these questions so often that we could easily program our phone to respond with them with them when we receive late night calls.

It started a little after midnight this time. We could see the red lights flashing out on the road and the deputy on the phone said some of our cows were out. This time there was an auto vs. bull accident in front of our property. The bull was not ours (no brand, no ear tags . . . ) and it had been severely injured by its battle with a car. We asked the deputies to put it down. They would not. We asked if we could put it down. They would not let us. So they tied the poor animal up and left it there beside the road.

Since our phone number is on the ranch sign, each time a car went by and saw the poor beast,  they phoned us to get something done. One of the strangest calls came at 2:30 AM from a person who was riding his bike along the road. I answered no less that seven calls from drivers informing us about the animal. Obviously, this was not conducive to restful sleep. By morning the bull had passed and animal control is now trying to figure out how to move it. I didn’t volunteer to help them.

Lest this saga continue it’s downward spiral, something good did come from the lost night of sleep. First, I learned that people are compassionate. I didn’t know any of the roadside callers; yet they were concerned about both our loss and the poor animal. Secondly, rather than spending the night up and down answering the phone, I remained up and started stringing jewelry about 2:45 AM. There’s little else you can do but string since hammering while your spouse is asleep is not permitted in this establishment and I was afraid to light my torch while I was so tired. By this morning, I had completed a nice little pile of jewelry and even though I’m sleep deprived, I think most of the pieces look OK. See what you think.

The first two necklaces are made from mookite and kiwi rubies.

mookite1  mookite2    

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next photo shows a piece made from faceted apricot moonstone and pearls.

 

apricotThe red necklace below is made of pretty, faceted, rectangular stones. I regret I can’t remember what they are. The final photo shows a piece of agate dangling from blue sponge coral. It will probably require a bit more attention. I also made earrings for all of these necklaces.

red

 blue

 

 

 

 

 

Now that you probably wish you hadn’t read this post, let me leave you with sleepy words of wisdom. You know what you are supposed to do when life hands you lemons . . . I’m going to rephrase it to say that when life hands you junk, make jewelry!   (yes, I AM very tired!)

By the way, we’re removing our phone number from the ranch sign on the road!

Things I’ve Learned Playing Ball . . .

. . . with the dogs. My four blue heelers, cattle dogs, and I try to play ball every afternoon. At first, I did it for them, but over the years, I’ve realized that it’s for me too. Ball playing mid afternoon has become a habit and even if the animals don’t start barking, I know when it’s time to play. For several years when there were only three dogs, the hierarchy of who usually got the ball remained the same. The big mama dog, Cheyenne, had her bluff in on the other two and if she and another dog arrived at the ball at the same time the other dog receded and Cheyenne came back with it. Yet, as she has gotten older and arthritis has set in she has gotten the ball less and less. This is not because the others are now less afraid of her, but because she doesn’t run hard after every throw like she used to. She carefully selects when it is prudent to run and two or three times each day, she runs flat out even though she comes back limping. When she tries this hard I secretly hope that she has retrieved the ball. Hurray for Cheyenne, pictured at the very bottom. She feels good if she actually beats the others but doesn’t seem to enjoy it when I throw it directly to her.

The fourth dog, a male named Bruno, is the puppy who entered our game about a year ago. He’s rough and tough and often acts like a bully. When the older dog, Dixie, the first dog shown below, gets the ball, he chases her and nips at her all the way back to me. I’d whack him if I could catch him, but I can’t. After about four months of this, little Dixie has had all she can take. Dixie Yet, instead of giving up, she is becoming the aggressor. The other day when Bruno got the ball, Dixie nipped at him all the way back to me. Hurray for Dixie! Now when Dixie catches the ball and Bruno tries to bully her, she just stops and walks slowly back to me. Smart Dog! 

The third dog, Frosty, is Cheyenne’s daughter and Bruno’s mother. She is the smallest and the fastest of all my dogs. She leaps high, has a good eye and runs like the wind. Of the four dogs, she is the one that doesn’t display any transgressions other than being wimpy when her mother growls at her. Good dog Frosty.

frost

When Cheyenne gets the ball and is too tired or hurt to run for it anymore, she takes the ball in her mouth and goes into her dog house with it. She will not come out and bares her teeth if I come close or try to reach a stick into the house. The other dogs and I just look at each other. chey We’re not going in there!

I usually keep a second ball in my pocket for when Cheyenne steals the first one and goes to her house. The other dogs appear to appreciate this and rather enjoy playing for a bit without her. Eventually she comes out of the house and we end up with two balls in play. The dogs have now learned that you can’t get two balls in your mouth at the same time. It’s very disconcerting to them and they can’t figure out what to do when arriving at the ball just thrown and there’s already one in the mouth. The dog with this problem usually just stands with the ball in the mouth pressed against the ball on the ground until I arrive to retrieve them both. Heaven forbid that some other dog should get their catches!

Finally, Bruno figured out a plan about what to do when Cheyenne takes the ball toward her house. Yesterday, she took the ball and headed toward her house. I ran to try and head her off before she got there and Bruno rushed ahead and got in Cheyenne’s house. Smart Bruno! Boy was Cheyenne surprised! She considered getting in one of the other houses, but I had them covered. Cheyenne ended up bringing the ball back to the yard and playing with us. Hurray for Bruno!

Bruno

While there are far too many dog/ball episodes to share with you at this time, I can point out a few specifics that I’ve learned from the afternoon exercise.

  1. You can be hurt and still work flat out if you are selective about what you want to do.
  2. Even when you are old and infirm, you still want to win fair and square without any pampering.
  3. When there’s no one who can help you with a bully, sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.
  4. Good problem solving pays off even if you have to move into someone else’s space.
  5. It’s not becoming to put too much in your mouth at one time.

If you have a dog, pay attention. You might learn something too!

Happy Birthday Bruno

There were harbingers of his birth days before he arrived. The restlessness and pacing let us know it wouldn’t be long. Yet, when he finally came into the world it was a struggle. His mother required help during his delivery; but, thankfully, he was born healthy, a whimpering mound of whiteness and fur. He and six other pups arrived one year ago today, January 15.

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Little did Bruno know or even care at that time, that he was to be chosen as the Dreamcatcher Ranch male blue heeler. Little did WE know that he would be such a BIG blue heeler.

dog bonnet His first Spring days amongst the blue bonnets at the ranch allowed him to display his spirit as he romped and played with his mother, grandmother and aunt, also blue heelers. That was back when they still liked him, back before he grew and grew and grew, back before he began to dominate the dog pen.

Bruno1What a difference a year makes as now Bruno rules. He is 56 pounds of ambitious dog who must surely be digging to China by the look of all the little holes around the back yard. We know they are his holes by the tale tell dirt on his nose. The girls all have clean noses. hmm . . .

Bruno catAs with all self respecting dogs, he would love to eat the cat. When he gets to come in the house, he must always check through the window to see if the poor calico kitty is anywhere close by. When he spots her, he chomps his teeth and makes biting sounds, surely thinking . . . Macho, Macho, DOG. He also displays his maliness by grabbing his little momma’s collar and pulling her around the yard.

All in all, Bruno is a pretty good dog. Although the girl dogs can’t wait for him to settle down, we enjoy his exuberance and have fun with him. I guess he’s going to get to stay. I thought about creating a beaded collar for his birthday, but realized he would just eat it! I guess he’ll just have to get an extra bone today. Happy Birthday, Bruno! 

A Ranching Tale: How Many Aggies Does It Take to . . .

I think most people have a favorite “Aggie” joke. In Oklahoma, my father was poking fun at his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, formerly Oklahoma A & M, when he told an Aggie joke. Here in Texas we are usually thinking about Texas A & M when we tell an Aggie joke. If you are out of the country or unfamiliar with Aggie jokes, they are usually told to make the Aggie look ignorant as in the following example: Why was the Aggie housewife mad at her husband?
He was out shooting craps and she didn't know how to cook them.

I never thought these jokes were particularly funny, but yesterday a few of them flashed back through my mind during a ranch episode. Here’s the question: How many ranchers does it take to feed a new born calf?

We were out bottle feeding a new born calf. He was a big strong fellow, but his mother hadn’t yet come into her milk. We thawed some colostrum previously saved from a mom with a still born, put it in a calf-sized bottle and set off for the pasture. Luckily, we picked our foreman up at the barn prior to heading to the pastures. Yes, we wondered how many ranchers it would take to feed that newborn. When we started the feeding, the answer became obvious. The foreman straddled the calf to keep him in one place, no simple job since the bull weighed a good 70 + pounds. I poked the bottle in and the bull drank his fluid while the third party, my husband, carrying a big stick kept the momma cow from killing us. The latter was the most difficult. You just haven’t felt fear until you’ve heard a great big momma cow who just delivered a calf bellow at you and start in your direction with her head down. They don’t just stand in one spot to do this; they circle you creating a smaller and smaller distance from you with each round. As if this wasn’t dangerous enough, another new momma cow thought we were too close to her calf and decided to help out. Now there were two people feeding the newborn, one person keeping the cows away and two cows wanting to flatten the people. Meanwhile, the little calf was taking his sweet time downing the bottle. Once he finally finished, we all backed away, keeping a close eye on both angry mothers. Of course, the silly newborn followed me because I had been his only source of nourishment. This didn’t help his mother like me any better.

So, back to the original question; How many ranchers does it take to feed a newborn? From the reading, you would most likely answer “three”;  From my experience, I think FOUR would have been safer!

Aside from this experience, when the three of us went back to the pasture for the second feeding, the buzzards were swarming near the fence and a different cow was going crazy. That’s when we saw her just born calf on the opposite side of the fence from her. When a cow is calving, she may back up to something, thinking this will help with the delivery (if a cow really thinks). We’ve found many calves that were delivered outside the fence from their mothers. We picked up the calf and tagged his ears for identification. This, of course, caused him to holler as though we’d shot him and I thought him mom would come right through the fence. Eventually, we pushed him through to her side and all was well. She quickly herded him away from the terrible people.  We were certainly glad that we made that second trip to the pasture and saved this little heifer.

I’m hoping that no Aggie jokes are needed today and that all will be well out in the pasture. Yet, with another seven calves due at the same time, you just never know.