Thursday, November 1, 2018

There's No Place Like Home



So, here we are, back in my favorite town. The Heathen and I are living with friends who are taking good care of us and pouring God's love out on us. We couldn't be more blessed. It looks like it might be awhile before we have our own quarters so we are enjoying a room in their home, with what stuff I figured we can't live without, spread all around us...at least what isn't in the Blu Roo.
Speaking of which...

Well. Let me start at the beginning.

I informed my doctors in Idaho that we were moving to California. They provided me with an extra month of prescriptions, to give me time to get established with new doctors where we would be living. When I went to fill my pain prescription (which is the most important as I am completely unable to function without pain relief) I was informed that California won't honor the prescription from out of state. I had one days worth of pain control left. My pharmacy in Oregon was kind enough to make several calls, and the closest place I could get my prescription filled, was 7 hours away in Reno, Nevada. So I had Roo's oil changed as I knew the trip was going to put us beyond the mileage it had to be done and I didn't want to void his warranty. I had that done, hosed him off, filled him with fuel and we were off early the next morning. We didn't make it in time for the Reno pharmacy to contact the prescribing physician so we were promised they would fill it "first thing in the morning".

TheMan met us at my brother's in Reno (a 5 hour drive for him). Heath was shocked and totally unable to contain himself upon seeing him when the door opened. He was so excited and had absolutely not expected such a fantastic surprise. We went out and had dinner and he went with us to the pharmacy the next morning. Thank goodness. It took phone call after phone call to every conceivable person and place to get it done, and finally, I got my 1/2 my meds at 12:30. I guess "first thing in the morning' means something different than what I always thought it meant. The other half of the meds, I just gave up on. I was pretty much a wreck and unable to make the 7 hour drive home so I went back to my brother's for another night. I was in a considerable amount of pain as I cannot lay down and had already spent one night sitting up on a hard couch trying to sleep. I finally discovered a small chair he had that did recline a bit, so night #2 wasn't considered comfy, but was a huge improvement.

We left early in the morning, expecting to make it home by 3 in the afternoon. After several house we were a few miles N of Bishop on 395. I looked in the mirror and saw what looked like smoke. I checked my dash, but no lights were on so I figured maybe it was exhaust or something. A couple of miles later, the oil light came on. I panicked, thankfully we had just reached a turnoff to a rest stop so I took it.

There was a van full of guys that looked to just be getting ready to leave. Roo had started sounding really bad the last few yards before I stopped and turned him off. I asked if any of the guys knew anything about cars and dialed TheMan. I didn't realize I was shaking, until they pointed it out and Heath was alerting me like crazy and was pretty much beside himself as well, as he's never seen me like that. I don't think that I have ever seen me like that. The guys came over, opened the hood, looked at the engine, noticed an oil trail all the way down the drive and oil puddling under the car, running out past the tire. They were very kind and considerate and made every effort to assure us and help us to feel more secure.
They were kind enough to help me find my insurance papers, my registration, and all my other stuff I might need. They spoke to TheMan for me as I was too shook up, one guy, an off duty CHP took pictures of the oil and the engine for me and sent them to my phone in case I needed them. He told me step by step what I needed to do next. They have no idea how much their kindness meant to me. I could not possibly express it in words, so an old lady hug had to suffice.

The dealership finally sent a tow truck. We waited for almost 5 hours, out in the middle of nowhere, to be taken back several hours almost where we started, to a dealership in Carson City.
It was nearly dark by the time we got there and I got a rental to drive home until things were resolved.

I went to the first motel I could find, as I can't see to drive in the dark and I was both physically and emotionally exhausted. The lady at the desk refused to rent us a room because of my Service Dog.

I calmly expressed my understanding that "faux Service Dogs" are a problem,  but assured her my dog was legitimate. She asked for papers. I explained that there are no papers and if someone has them, it's a red flag because they are purchased online. She seemed as if she already knew that.
Anyway, to make a long story short, she was rude and condescending, refused us a room on the grounds that her "clientele" expects a pet free environment, some "future client might be allergic to dogs", and I should just "go down the road and find someplace that allows pets". I was already frazzled and exhausted so I told her I would go, but would be filing a complaint and she said "go ahead".
I never experienced discrimination before, but now I know how that feels, and I can tell you, it's devastating. I've since filed a complaint and asked a couple of agencies in the city to make an effort to  inform businesses of ADA laws.

Ugh! Rant over. It still makes me upset.

Anyway, moving forward, Roo is currently going under the wrench and having major surgery to see what is wrong with his engine. I am praying for a rapid and complete recovery, then I have to make the stupid 7 hour trip BACK to pick him up and return the rental car. I'm not wanting to do it. But I don't see much of a choice. Maybe some kind person will go with me. At any rate, I'll probably opt to sleep in the car this time, rather than deal with motels.

and now, back to my regular programming...

We are loving being back in our hometown. We've given a couple of riding lessons, seen grandkids and are somehow so busy every day, I haven't yet had time to visit anyone. There's no more isolation or being stuck inside of an empty house. I'm excited and hopeful and can't wait to see what God has waiting for us around the corner.
fishing

quail hunting

riding with friends


Right before the fated trip to Reno, Heath and I went to the PNW English Shepherd Gathering in Oregon. It was awesome!! Of course, due to the fires in N CA.  roads were closed and we had to drive 13 hours to the ranch, then 8 more to our friends' house where we were staying, before making the 45 minute drive to the gathering.

There were LOTS of English Shepherds and their owners. A multitude of dogs is something Heath had never experienced. He wasn't sure what to do with it, but when we participated in some of the activities, he was all about doing it. The setting was incredible, the views breathtaking.

Our first was a "barnyard chores" contest. He had to wait while I opened and closed a gate. Then we walked in and he had to wait while I went and got a bucket of feed, walked over and dumped it out, then returned the bucket to where I'd gotten it. Then we went to a pen of ducks and he was to act as my "gate" while I let them out of one pen into another, then move and be a "gate" again while I moved them back. All of these things he did flawlessly. Then we came to the next obstacle, which cost all our points because of me.
There were several straw bales stacked up with plastic eggs hidden in different places. there were treats hidden inside the eggs so the dogs could locate them. He found the eggs, which were large and slippery. I asked him to put them in my basket as I couldn't reach down to pick them up like the other hoomans. He got the first egg in, but the second was really slippery and he had to grab it harder. It popped open and he discovered it had a "creamy center". With great enthusiasm he located the other eggs in record time and I had to get someone to help me put them in the basket before he helped himself to any more of the contents. We all had a good laugh.

He did an excellent job herding ducks in the next challenge, only missing one.

Then he surprised me by doing a great job in his very first agility course ever.

All in all, it was a really fun, exhausting day.

The next morning we drove 1 1/2 hours into Washington to an incredibly beautiful herding facility to do some sheep herding.

Heath has no training, but he loves to herd. He was torn between staying beside me or working sheep. I couldn't help him as I am not fast enough to keep from getting run over by the sheep. He went in with his grandmother's owner who is a fantastic herding trainer, judge, breeder and competitor. He was too concerned about leaving me to work. Then my friend, his breeder, who knows him well, went in with him. He looked to me, I gave him the release and he began to work for her. He had a great time and I was tickled because we bo both had been getting kind of stressed, what with all the moving around and driving places we've been doing. In spite of the fact it was it's a really stressful drive for me, the weekend was all about Heath and he made the most of it. We both had a really good time with really good friends.

Then we drove the 8 hours back to the ranch then 13 hours "home" to recuperate. So one can see why driving 7 hr up to Reno for my pain meds was not something I was excited about.


-*-*-*-*

It's been awhile, but now we are in Bakersfield for a few months. I've been training one of the partners and her mare and our first show is this weekend. It's been a lot of fun, staying down here with them and 4 of their little girls. Heath has been taking herding lessons from his new bestie, and the Maremmas, sheep and my old horses will be joining us in a week, so we are looking forward to some great adventures!!!

Heath prepares for Halloween

Her man showcases this years horseshow hubby line of clothing

Monday, July 30, 2018

Goodbye to The Alvord





We’ve spent the past 11 years living and working for an enormous working cattle ranch, which covers 250,000 acres of deeded and permitted land. It’s a 4 hour trip to the closest town of any size and 2 hours to the small town of Burns Oregon, which has a Safeway and one other supermarket, a ranch store and a Dairy Queen. There’s not much else, so we tend most often to take the 4 hour drive to Idaho. Because of the time involved and cost of fuel, we manage to make these trips only 4x a year. We coordinate groceries, Dr appt’s, errands and animal feed into one trip every 3 months. We often use the large livestock trailer to fit everything in. 

Cashiers at Costco used to raise their eyebrows at the amount of food we would buy but have since grown accustomed to us. Since there is sadly no pizza delivery, all 3 meals have to be made at home. Hardly any prepared or processed foods are purchased as it takes up too much valuable space. We have 3 upright freezers, 2 refrigerators and a large pantry. We buy flour in 50 lb sacks (for those days I want to save time and not have to mill flour to make bread), as well as sugar, brown sugar, rice and wheat berries (to be made into flour). I had dairy goats, a couple of Jersey cows, chickens, ducks, sheep, rabbits and a garden, much of our food was raised at home. I did a lot of canning which saved a lot of freezer space as well as for those nights I was too tired from riding and needed a quick meal at hand. I can soups, chili, shredded Mexican beef, beef and pulled pork for sandwiches, chicken and rabbit for casseroles, beef and chicken stock, vegetables, pie filling etc. It’s amazing the difference in flavor and texture between home canned foods and the stuff you buy in the store. The first 50 years of my life, I didn’t mind cooking when I had to, but it wasn’t something I looked forward to. Having all fresh ingredients actually made it fun and I surfed the internet always looking for great new recipes. And boy did I find some!



garden bounty

nothing beats homemade bread and apple pie


Jack Cheese
homemade butter pats
home raised chicken













I made all of our dairy products. Cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, ricotta, butter, ghee, etc. My Jersey cow gave amazingly rich creamy milk, and I actually had to use a spoon to scoop the heavy cream off of the top, as it was that thick.

I spent my days riding with the cowboys (up here they are buckaroos) and cowgirls (who are every bit as capable and rugged as the men). The ranch owner has 5 kids who were all homeschooled and have worked since they could stretch their toddler legs across the back of a pony saddle. It warmed my heart to see this small microcosm of what used to be typical America, where the family works, eats and plays together. The kids learn to rely on one another and instead of competition, there is camaraderie. They learned the convictions of their parents without the outside interference of peer pressure and societal corruption. They appreciate their family, friends, the value of hard work, the blessings of God and their place in the world. They are strong and capable, prepared to handle whatever life deals to them because they have support, encouragement, and the knowledge that their contribution makes a difference.

We gathered cattle out of pastures that were thousands of acres, sorted and separated pairs, gathered them into corrals for doctoring, branding or whatever else needed to be done. Some days were long, 11 hours or more in the saddle. It was beautiful out on the range, with deer, antelope, pheasant, coyotes, even a cougar, the occasional badger and other wildlife. From the reverence felt watching a bald eagle soar on the wind currents, to the delight of the song of meadowlarks, I never wished to be anywhere else.


When I’d get back I’d call in my sweet Jersey cow, and rest my head in her flank, relaxing to the sound of her chewing her grain and hay, the pleasant grassy, cowy smell of her and startling from the occasional swat of her tail. I’d strain the milk into jars and chill it, and fix dinner and do whatever other chores I had around the house before bedtime.

I had opportunity to do things I would not otherwise have been able to do. Helping to gather, brand, separate cattle day after day in a spectacularly beautiful setting. Enjoying my little flock of sheep and their Livestock Guardian Dogs, my chickens, Jersey cows, bottle raising up to 30 orphan calves a season, growing huge gardens, making soap, putting the rest of the world on hold.


break in!

Identity crisis?

The polar bears counting calves





 It was truly an idyllic life, but like all things, it must come to an end and the seasons are changing. God is calling me to something new. I will treasure this time and these memories as I step into the next chapter.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Show Time





Deviating a bit from my usual topics, my mind wandered back to my 30+ years of training horses and riders and I thought I would offer some of my thoughts.

As a trainer and riding instructor, one takes on a great deal of responsibility. Keeping a student safe, enhancing and growing their abilities both as horsemen and as individuals while promoting a safe, comfortable environment for the horses.

Spring and summer in particular, bring an increase in activities. There are lots of horse shows, play days and other competitions for which the kids work hard and have great expectations.

This is a huge opportunity for personal growth. Kids demonstrate their skills to a judge, an audience of peer/competitors, friends and family and the public at large. It can be daunting, but the opportunities for success are endless. 
Unlike other competitive sports, in which the participant performs individually such as gymnastics, or dance or team sports where they play a part of a greater whole, such as in baseball or soccer, a rider must be the leader of a horse/partner team, in a relationship where responses are fluid and often unpredictable. This requires great concentration as split second decisions and responses may be called on at any time, as in the event of a horse spooking off the rail because of the sudden actions of a spectator or something as common as a napkin blown by the breeze. The rider must be prepared at all times for such an incident, be capable of controlling the horse’s movements and reactions all while maintaining proper form, having spatial awareness to avoid hitting other horses (or even judges) and “covering” the mistake and the ability to remain focused on the changing instructions dictated throughout a performance. It requires patience, confidence, dedication and skill. Children, even at very young ages, do demonstrate the ability to exhibit these qualities. 

Youngsters tend to want affirmation and recognition and of course, to please their parents. 
Parents, who often invest a great deal of time and money into the child’s chosen sport, tend to sometimes lose perspective, which can place undue pressure on an exhibitor. Others, might not show up, which can be disappointing to a youngster. 
But the most common mistake riders, trainers or parents often make, is to put value on winning a blue ribbon.

Don’t get me wrong, winning is a praiseworthy goal, but is not always an accurate measure of success.

Winning placement is at the discretion of judges. Sometimes judges do a poor job. We are human. Don’t set your child up to find their worthiness as a competitor at the mercy of a stranger’s opinion.

Some of our most successful competitions were ones where my kids didn’t place well or even place at all. Showing horses should always be about personal goals. We always had a clear set of directives we wanted to achieve in each class. It might be as simple as remembering to keep your eyes up. Or learning to circle out of a crowded situation…or getting diagonals correct both directions, or nailing lead changes. It may even be having your horse remain walking calmly on the rail, when everyone else is cantering by, because he has been over reactive, or become “ringwise”, (ie: automatically going to the next gait when the microphone keys over the loudspeaker) .

Practicing this kind of showmanship takes great courage on the part of a rider, because they have to go against the flow and bring attention to themselves that may not be positive, but bring long term benefits to the partnership. I’ve had adult exhibitors struggle mightily with it. One had a winning horse that developed a habit of surging forward when the announcer called for a lope, particularly if there were horses moving up behind him. My directions to the rider, were to continue walking until at least 3 horses had passed them before quietly asking for the canter cue. She found it very stressful to do, as she was a highly competitive person. Imagine how much more difficult this can be for a young rider, who is just learning discipline and self control. But it works, and brings both good habits and perspective.

I always encourage riders to focus on a personal goal, such as remembering to ride deep into the corners. If they get no recognition from the judge, but they consistently did that, that is success. Doing so, teaches a horse not to cut corners and ingrains a habit into the rider that becomes fairly automatic. 

Attention to detail and concentrating on individual goals, brings confidence, consistency and character to riders, and helps eliminate show ring jitters, resulting in ever increasing wins in the show ring down the road.

Make sure parents and kids know what the goal is for each class, so the appropriate recognition can be given to both horse and rider.


Have a great summer!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Something In The Wind





So, it’s been awhile, but much has happened. Really.

As many of you who have followed along for awhile, things have gotten kinda tough. My health has been deteriorating and because of that, I have fought depression and a myriad of other maladies. The ranch, which was once an exciting place, where I was able to ride out on the range everyday, helping move cattle and seeing nature at its best, having my milk cow, raising our own meat and eggs, vegetables etc. has become my worst enemy. TheMan gets up and is gone to work before I am awake most days. Other than a quick lunch spent in front of the Waltons, I don’t see him again until after dark, when he eats dinner, usually with a western on, before retiring to bed. I can no longer ride, milk a cow, garden or do any of the things that brought me joy. I sit in a recliner, day and night as it is too painful to lay down. The pain is always present, it's never completely gone. Sometimes it's excruciating, other times, just annoying. But it's always there. None of the drugs have worked. I have failed every drug regimen they have so far. Pills, injections, infusions, waiting on new drugs hoping maybe the next one will work. Meanwhile, they are all poisoning me in some way. So I finally quit taking them, except for the painkillers, because I won't survive at all without those. The pain is already hard to deal with, when it's being managed. I don't even want to think about what it would be like without something to take the edge off. I have to admit, it's nice not having all the side effects, and not feeling like a pincushion from all the injections and infusions.

The loneliness here is overwhelming, as I usually don’t see or hear from another human being for weeks at a time, outside of the internet, and watching TheMan watch TV. There is nowhere for me to go, nothing for me to do, and no one for me to see here. Everyone on the ranch is busy doing their own thing, and I am no longer a part of it. Add to that, I am unable to effectively clean my own house, take care of my yard or my animals anymore. Everything is a  mess, which of course, increases my depression exponentially, as it is not my way to have things in chaos. My barn and yard at home, in California, were always organized, well run, beautiful and animals well cared for. Here a colony of 3 rabbits became my worst nightmare. Right after putting the buck in with the 2 does remaining after the big processing, I fell ill AND had to have surgery again. I did not realize TheMan never removed the buck from the colony. It never occurred to me that he would throw food at them, but not manage them. Picture, a few months later when I was able to go out, finding it overrun with rabbits and with hay and manure built up. 
I tried to catch and cull rabbits but after doing 5, I was unable to use my arms and hands for close to 2 weeks. I could not clean the colony myself because I am no longer strong enough. I tore the bicep tendon clean off of my shoulder, just trying to lift my old saddle. There is no one to help. No one. Things continued to worsen, along with the yard and house. My “milk room” a 16x16 structure that used to be my stallion’s stall in Calif. but became a multi use tack room, milking parlor, feed storage and chick brooder is now full of empty sacks and trash, along with an over abundance of feral cats. I am not a lover of cats. I am deathly allergic to them. This entire discovery added to the depression.

I became overwhelmed, and hopeless.

Then God moved.

He didn’t move away from me, He made His move. He moved towards me, and showed me He had been answering my prayers all along. Like the angel in the book of Daniel who told him he’d been sent weeks before but had been detained, He’s been working on my behalf all along.

Without going into too much detail, I was contacted by a client I had not spoken to in about 15 years, regarding a business venture they would like to undertake and they have a job for me.


I will be leaving the ranch, going back down where my friends and family are. The job will involve me in something I have always loved, the move will allow me to receive healthcare that isn’t available to me here, where we are living hours away from the nearest town. I can finally get physical therapy, massage, reflexology, there are Doctors close by…no more driving down 50 miles of gravel roads then an additional 3 hours over highways with broken ribs and collapsed lungs to see a doctor.

 I will be able to finally see my grandchildren grow up, as I have missed 11 years of their lives, being in a different state and only able to see them for a couple of days each year.

My friends and family will all be within a short drive. No more spending holidays alone. No more dreaming about them and not being able to see or speak to them, or share their joys and sorrows.

I will live where help is available. If I need help cleaning my house, I can hire someone. If I need help cleaning up the yard, I can hire someone. If I need help feeding, or managing animals, it is available. If I need to sell something, I can sell it. At the ranch, no one is going to drive 4 hours to see or pick up anything here.

I will be able to do more, be more active, get stronger. There are things to do with Heath. We can finally pursue some of the things I have wanted to do with him, such as: herding lessons, scentwork, rally obedience, agility, or whatever we find is fun for the two of us.

Our lives are going to change dramatically and completely. We still have to wait several months, but knowing there is hope, I can endure it. It’s like labor pains. They are all consuming and unbearable in and of themselves, but knowing they can only last a minute or two, and will eventually end completely, and result in great joy, so will this. The only thing that keeps it from being perfect, is that TheMan chooses to remain behind, on the ranch. At least until he is ready to retire, so this journey is just for me and the Heathen.

There hasn’t been anything in particular to blog about lately, but I wanted to share this with you all. Thanks to everyone for taking this journey with me, for your encouragement and friendship. Once we are settled in, I imagine blogging will become easier again and I will be much more reliable.

Til then, here’s some bits and pieces from our travels in April.

Heath is bored

Heath is miffed. A small Jack Russell stole his place, so Heath stole his bed
Teaching my cousin to do stained glass

my cousins' creek
shopping

pulling into Winnemucca

Hwy 20

Mendocino




My traveling buddy

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Got Milk?

It's been awhile, and I haven't been able to write much, so I thought I would take a step back in time and republish one of my favorite memories.

Years ago, living on our small family ranch in California, I was already moving in the direction of becoming more self sufficient, food-wise. I decided a milk cow was in order. I knew I would have a reasonable supply of fresh milk, cream, butter and maybe cheese. The internet, at that time, had not been invented, in fact....we had no computers. So I was on my own to figure all these things out.

On my quest for our bovine beauty, I met a sweet old man with a dairy in Bakersfield, about 45 minutes down the mountain from our town. He told me he had a nice cow who freshened at 10 GALLONS a day, but was currently only giving 2 gallons daily...she had not gotten re-bred and would become a "butcher cow" unless I wanted her. We agreed on a price and I set out to pick her up. It was almost Thanksgiving, and we had heavy snow and ice on the road. I proceeded to hook up our massive 6 horse trailer and head for the big city of Bakersfield. 
About 1/2 mile down our road, I came upon a CalTrans snowplowman, who informed me "You'll never make it down this road with that trailer"...I am NOT a great backer-upper (yes, that is a real word). It took me over 45 minutes to slip and slide down that narrow canyon road and avoid going off the embankment...normally it was a 7 minute drive. A quick and URGENT stop at the first available restroom and off I went to pick up the cow.

My first clue that this may not have been a real good idea, was when it took 8 men to load her, and one got smashed in the gate. They finally got her aboard, and my primary thought was...how am I gonna milk this monster, all by myself?  You see, what I hadn't considered, was, she was a DAIRY cow...in otherwords, she had NEVER been handled or hand milked. She would just follow the others in to eat her 'candy' had electric doodaddy's stuck on her plugs and away she'd go. (yes, that IS a technical term).

I had the entire trip home to devise a plan to get her into my barn, and get her milked. 
Skip ahead about 6 to 8 hours...there are rope marks and burns around every oak tree between the driveway and the barn, skid marks in the snow and mud that match my bootprints...there are several body indentations in the snow about my size, with cowtracks that seemly go right through them...but INSIDE the barn is a monstrous, muddy Holstein cow, with each hind leg tied to opposite corners of a stall, head locked between two boards, happily munching on hay, with a victorious young mother filling her bucket with milk, one squirt at a time. Ahhhh! The simple life!!
**********

Years and years after my relationship with my Holstein cow (whom we fondly referred to as "Jugs") we moved to a smaller piece of property, only 2 1/2 acres, and closer to town. The kids grew up, and moved out, my life had modernized as we lived in a real live, less than 100 yr old, contractor built home, unlike the humble abode at the ranch that was built 80 years before at a Chinese labor camp then moved there...but thats a story for another day...

I had been training show horses for years, spending lots of time on the road, but now HandyRandyman and I were about to enter a new season of life, away from the ratrace. It was time to start living the "Simple Life" again.

I began like anyone else would. I bought 3 chickens (Oprah, Ethel, and Schatzey, because everyone knows chickens with names perform better).
One afternoon, while perusing the Motorcycle section of the CameraAds, (a sign of terminal boredom) my eye was drawn to a great big ad for a newly freshened DAIRY GOAT. 
Now, as you well know, a newly freshened goat, at a very reasonable price, in giant letters, in the MOTORCYCLE section of a paper, is clearly a sign from above. So, I did the sensible thing, and hooked up the latest monster trailer and headed for Bakersfield again, this time to pick up our new goat.

As I mentioned...she was very reasonably priced. I was thrilled. The only hitch was, it was necessary to strip her of milk twice daily as she had no kid with her (that's a term for 'baby goat' for those who don't know...Caprine owners seldom throw their children in to sweeten a deal, no matter HOW badly they want to get rid of the goat)

After lugging her home, it occurred to me there might be a reason she was so attractively priced. I discovered it, when I learned she had a quirky little habit of LYING DOWN whenever you tried to milk her. I threatened, I cajoled, but she continued to fold up like a cheap, portable chair, and it was getting dark. My back was aching, and we didn't have a stanchion yet, so, in desperation, I heaved her front end up on a picnic table, and had Randyman hold her back end up in the air so I could get underneath and get my 2 quarts of milk...all the while with him mumbling "dear Lord, I hope the neighbors cant see me...this looks so bad..."

Next morning: I drag myself up at 4:30 cuz Randyman is gonna leave for work and I want to enlist his help again. Due to the visibility from the breaking light, he stubbornly refuses and I am left to my own devices. But I am armed with confidence that I will prevail, as I have vast experience in animal training, and am known to be very resourceful, if not stubbornly single minded.

SUCCESS!!! It wasn't really that hard after all! All that was necessary, was to rob a few cinches and straps out of my tack room, and fashion a sling....wrestle it around a large, reluctant and recalcitrant goat, then hoist her up in an oak tree far enough so her feet couldn't reach the ground and VIOLA!! MILK!

I just love a bargain, don't you?
******************

Around and about 6 years ago, we took a job as ranch hands on one of the largest and oldest working cattle ranches in the state of Oregon, and here we are now, in this idyllic place 110 miles from the nearest town. The simple life has enveloped us, and consequently, we are once again enjoying fresh squeezed milk, because Randy bought me a Jersey cow for Mothers Day. She is very gentle, but somewhat spoiled and ill mannered.


She is however, not without her little quirks. Having no milking stool per se, I used my little rattan footstool (from Pier1) as it was low and light enough to manage.

As I happily pumped away, morning after morning, Dolly (aforementioned Jersey cow) would munch happily on her hay and grain, occasionally smacking me in the face with her tail, often relieving herself with an unappetizing “plop”, perpetually swinging her hips (from TipMeOnMyButtClose to DangNearOutOfReach) and, of course, always trying to dip her foot in the bucket.


She became more and more skilled at the placement of her hind foot until she finally managed to sink it right to the bottom of a gallon of milk.

Tossing the tainted milk aside, blood pressure peaking, I grabbed a set of hobbles and proceeded to tie her hind feet together, preventing any more attempts to stick ‘em in my business.

With her heels glued together, and her head locked securely in the head gate, I went about filling a new bucket, when without warning, Dolly got mad.  She apparently was not impressed with the hobbles and began to kick wildly in an effort to remove them. It’s a scientific fact that when two entities are tied tightly together, and one swings thru the air, the other tends to follow…

Before I could say “I’ll just buy milk” she came tumbling my way, crushing my stool, and pinning my lower half under her belly…with my arms free, I managed to release the bar on the stanchion holding her head captive, as I was afraid she was going to break her neck. This had the effect of releasing the last several hundred pounds of big, mad, rubbery cow and she melted all over me. Realizing help would not arrive until evening, I managed to wriggle out from underneath that mess of a cow and assume a semi- upright position.

After getting my cow on her feet, I gathered up my now skinny, oblong milk bucket, the 2 sticks remaining of my stool, and my hobbles, and left my cow, my milk and my pride in the corral, and had a cup of very black coffee and some dry cereal.

Having experienced a self inflicted cow tipping of sorts, as a result of tying my cow's hind feet together and incurring her wrath, I found myself without a milking stool.

Milking requires a great deal of squatting, if you have no stool, it can be hard on the back, legs, and disposition. So, I jumped on the nearest internet and began searching.

My quest was successful! A cool catalogue (Lehmans) which carries all manner of nifty, old timey, useful stuff, had a One Legged Milking Stool. Now this is a brilliant concept, because MY cow likes to Mambo and Cha Cha, and its a little hard to keep up with her , so a one legged stool would allow me to tip, pivot and follow as necessary, to keep her plugs within reach...and as if this incredible mobility feature isn't enough, it comes with a belt, which straps around your hips! So, with it firmly attached to your hindquarters, you just have to squat down and scoot yourself into place! I couldn't WAIT for it to arrive!!!

The UPS man finally showed up, and I proudly held my stool out to Randyman, who just shook his head. Clearly he had no idea how wonderful this was going to be.
Next morning, I realized it was a bit heavy, as it is made of solid hardwood (quality stuff!), so I had to hoist it up onto the kitchen table and back up to it in order to get it on.

Stool firmly attached, I loaded myself up with 2 small milk pails (the large one had been totalled in the wreck), another small bucket with warm soapy water to wash the udder, a bucket of soaked beet pulp to keep her happy, and a dry towel in my mouth...I proceeded out the kitchen door. It didn't take but a second to realize the leg protruding from my backside wasn't going to allow me to turn and shut the door on our narrow porch...so I
1. walked to the step
2. unloaded buckets and rags
3.turned back
4. pulled door shut
5. backed up to step again to avoid putting chair leg thru     glass on door
6. reloaded
After reloading, I repeated steps 1-6 at the yard gate, and again at the corral. The stool clearly had a design flaw, and was getting nicked up rather badly every time I swung around.
Believing the worst was behind me, (and, indeed, it was) I put down my stuff, sidled up next to Dolly and proceeded to sit down and take my nifty new stool for a test drive...
...No one, apparently has ever measured the legs on these stools!!! The one on mine is rather SHORT, and after squatting to the level at which I should have made contact, my quad muscles could no longer hold me, and my hips soon reached terminal velocity, as they sped toward the solid  ground of the corral.

With a tooth shattering jolt, which nearly shot my now bugging eyes clean out of my head, that one legged milking stool reached earth and turned itself into a well planted fence post. This had the effect of tightening the belt around my hips and the stool had seemingly become a permanent part of my anatomy.

With a bit of rocking, I was able to finally topple myself over, the @#!!*&$ stool still attached to my backside, and I proceeded to kick my tools out under the fence and head for the house. I do not know for the life of my WHY I thought i would get a different result from squatting in the garden!! Several eggplants and a tomato later, I managed to extricate myself from ground level of very soft soil, and crawl to the rock wall and pull myself up. I found my knife, cut the strap on the stool and shoved it up on top of the garden shed, where it remains to this day.

I located a plastic crate that once held 5 gallon water bottles which seemed to hold my weight. I headed back to the corral with it, convinced my curious cow that NO, she  had NOT seen a unicorn, and I proceeded to finish the job.


I think I can tell you, with some authority, that the cheese isn't the only Laughing Cow!!