Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Horses and Lions and Snow and Lightning: Spring is here!

It's been a wild spring here in the Rockies. We had a lovely, though windy, April with plenty of sunshine. The grass jumped up out of the ground, and the turkeys have been flourishing. The bluebirds were the first to return, but the robins and juncos are most prevalent as of late.

Levi and I spent nearly an hour watching three tom turkeys battle in the field of a neighbor. The three large birds would face off, one would rush in and grab another wattles, and then they would push one another around in this head-locked state. Tom #3 would puff his feathers and chest-butt the other two, or rush in for a flying karate kick! The hens, meanwhile, grazed placidly and ignored the ridiculous spectacle. Tom #2 eventually drove off the larger Tom #1. Apparently #2 and #3 were buddies, and quickly rounded up their ladies, strutting and puffing and gobbling, and moved them to a new spot. Tom #1 continued lurking in the bushes, and would rush headlong into the bunch at a run, at which point Tom #2 or Tom #3 would proceed to chase him off again.

Two mornings later, we stood at our window watching seven turkey hens feeding in the meadow around 6 am. Levi was sipping coffee, and I idly picked up the binoculars we keep on the window ledge, when suddenly the turkeys were flying and scattering and a big yellow cougar was flying through the air, arms outstretched for the hens! It happened so fast, that I hardly recognized what was happening. I had the binoculars up to my face and Levi was shouting, "Is it a coyote? Is it a coyote?" "No!" I shouted back (although we were ten inches apart). "It's a lion!" The young lion had missed his target, and the birds perched in the tall cottonwoods far from his reach. He sat down on his haunches, looking just exactly like a pouting child. He sat this way for nearly a minute, letting us get a good look at him, and then stalked off to the river. What an exciting sight! In all my years in the wilderness, this is only the second lion I've ever seen.

This morning, after three days of thunder-snow and grauple and terrible wind and rain, we awoke to a calm morning. "Santa must be coming tomorrow!" Levi announced as I left the bedroom-- the whole world was covered in a lovely blanket of 5" of snow. The horses were less than enthusiastic, as they've been shedding their winter coats already. Dan couldn't help poke his head in the barn to see if I'd let him in. Firefly (who I let wander loose around the property) had grazed all over the lawn (much to Levi's chagrin, meaning I need to put up an electric fence for her tonight...). She's finally gaining weight, however, and my once-neglected Arabian is carrying her head high, flagging her lovely tail, and trotting in a lofty gait whenever I call her for grain. It's wonderful to see her looking like a healthy horse again. That also means it's probably about time to adopt a new neglect case...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

She gets her way!

"When my great-great grandmother was preparing to move from eastern Ohio to 'away out west in Indiana,' she longed to bring several items that her husband said they absolutely did not have room to bring. Among these things was a little fire shovel her husband's brother had made for them in his blacksmith shop, but my great-great-grandfather flatly said no. Nevertheless, when they reached their new home there was he little shovel-- and there was Great-Great-Grandmother sewing up a seam in the featherbed!"
-Mrs. Eyeman Turner, Portland, Ind.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"In God We Trusted- In Kansas We Busted"

"In the (18)80s many covered wagons passed by our place. Some had signs painted on the canvas covers like "Kansas or Bust," "Going to the Promised Land," and "Home, Sweet Home."

In the fall many wagons came back and the signs had been changed to "Busted, by Gosh," "Promised Land was a Mirage," and "Coming Back in the Spring." The people going west were cheerful and hopeful. The people coming east were ragged, gaunt and tired.

One evening we saw a covered wagon coming up the road, being pulled by one horse and one man! At first we could hardly believe our eyes, but as they came nearer we saw it was really so. The man explained that one of his horses had died on the road. In the wagon were a woman and three small children. They stayed all night with us, and the next morning Father gave them our old family horse. They were so grateful they cried."
-Dora Bucklin, Orleans, Neb.

"In one wagon I remember was a man and wife and three children. They had a fine team, a cow tied on behind and a dozen chickens in a box. On one side of the canvas was printed in large letters, 'In God We Trust.' On the other side were the words, 'Kansas or Bust.'

Two or three months later I saw that wagon return. It was minus the cow and chickens. On one side was printed, 'In God We Trusted,' and on the other side were the words, 'In Kansas We Busted.'"
-Mrs. N.C. Bowen, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Celebrating Life

I am big on obituaries. I think they are a beautiful way to sum up someone's life, in a way that leaves them fondly remembered or vilified or whatever the case may be. I think in most cases, it's the first time someone is being recognized for how neat their life was. I read this recently: an amazing life.

Jim Quivey, 85, passed away February 14, 2011. He was born January 28, 1926 in Columbus, OH. During the Depression, Jim's parents, James and Nona, moved Jim and his sister Jean to Pittsburgh, Pa., so they could obtain employment at a large dairy farm. Jim served as an Army 101st Airborne paratrooper in 19944-45, during WWII. He was stationed in Germany. While attending school in Pittsburgh, Pa., he met Margaret Dolinar; they were married in 1947. Two children were born from this union: Linda and Dennis.

Jim's life was the greatest after they moved to Oelrichs, SD, and he started raising draft horses at 57. For him to go to the field and work with 10 broke horses was the greatest time imaginable. In his mid-60s they had a total of 18 head of work horses.

In 1994, Jim was involved in a terrible accident at Crazy Horse Monument near Custer, SD with a wagon and team. Jim was thrown out of the wagon when the seat broke, and he was run over by the heavy wagon. The wheel pinched his spinal cord, leaving him with no feeling or control in his left leg. Two days after the accident while in the hospital, his aorta ruptured, requiring a five hour surgery and 19 units of blood. If there had not been a doctor and EMTs visiting the monument and a heart specialist visiting the hospital in Rapid City, his buckboard would have remained empty. After beating all odds at 72 years young, he won some more life.

Jim was a person who enjoyed working with kids and horses to help them learn. Whether it was learning how to harness them, lead, ride or drive them, he always had a new protege who was learning how to handle horses... He would have an electric blanket over his weakened legs, and a generator running in the back of the wagon. Jim was never one to sit and watch life go by, so he started a business called Jim's Carriage Service. He would hire out to drive a carriage at weddings and a horse-drawn hearse at funerals. Anyone that has ever hauled around a team and a wagon know it is not an easy task for a young and agile person, needless an elderly man with two legs that didn't work real well. It was a tough decision for Jim to sell the business, but he knew it was too physically demanding to keep it going.

On his 80th birthday he decided he was going to sky dive from 10,000 feet, which he did successfully just to prove he could. He would take trips to Florida driving all the way by himself at 79, 80 and 82 (he could barely walk at the time)...The doctors were always amazed by his determination, and the nurses always made sure he had a plate with special homemade cookies... One time they asked him if he had someone to check in on him. Jim quickly responded, I have a neighbor that checks in on me every morning. Little did they know the "neighbor" was a horse that came up to the window every morning.

While pulling the hearse at a was a tight squeeze through some of the spots in Rapid City, SD, but Jim could park a team of horses better than most can park an economy car... A common sight was Jim in his scooter driving to the buggy so he could climb up there and take hold of the reins. Jim knew his days were drawing to an end, so he traded a funeral home his horse-drawn hearse for doing his funeral services. He is survived by his sister...daughter...etc... two Belgians and nine Suffolk draft horses.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life Long Love

"There is such a thing as lovesickness for good horses and mules, and for this there was no cure. People who operate machines know nothing like it. This creaturely love can keep one interested all day long in every motion of a good team or a good saddle horse. And not only all day long, but all year round and all life long."
-Wendell Berry

Saturday, April 9, 2011

When times got tough, my pioneer grandmothers would've told me to buck up.

"My great-grandfather left New York state in the early 1800s bound westward. His adventures have come down by word of mouth in our family. He married a wonderfully brave woman who went with him to the wilds of Michigan, where they operated a trading post. Great-grandmother never saw a single white woman during this period. She bore several children without the comforting presence of another woman. One day her husband went into the forest to hunt, and he never was seen again! No one ever knew whether he met with a hunting accident or died at the hands of Indians. It must have taken great courage for Great-grandmother to pack her belongings and begin the long, dangerous trek back to Wisconsin, alone except for the children. She was an old, old woman when she died and my aunts can remember stories of how she clung to her worn Bible to the very end-- perhaps because it gave her strength and courage through her terrifying adventures."
--Mrs. Leonard Kristiansen, Nashua, IA

"Father was gone for the day when Mother saw a herd of wild, stampeding cattle bearing down on their frail little shack and the precious garden she had tended so lovingly (not to mention the tiny twins in their double cradle and the two-year-old daughter watching out the window). She snatched a red-checkered tablecloth and ran toward the garden waving the cloth. The herd separated and went on either side of the house, missing it and the garden. Mother was deeply grateful for deliverance!"
-- Ella Besaul, La Mesa, CA