I was going to wait to blog again until after we got back from our trip to California to see our families. I changed my mind last nite because it was just so nifty I have to share. So, I will catch you up, dear readers, on some recent events.
Christmas Eve was great. Randyman and I had both the ranch irrigator and our nephew who is the current ranch cowboss, both bachelors, for dinner. It was an awesome experience as we all got to share our thoughts about the Lord. The conversation filled me more completely than the meal ever could have. It was a truly satisfying celebration of Christmas.
It has been snowing frequently and building up pretty well outside. It’s beautiful. It’s also cold and hard to trudge through when one has a condition that flares in both cold and barometric changes. It is what it is, and we must deal with these inconveniences of life the best we can. The good news is I’ve had a couple of “middle of the night” experiences, which are always exciting, and will relay the most recent here.
In preparation for our trip, I have been confining the Maremmas in the small pasture next to the house where the sheep are wintering. I turn the dogs loose at night to patrol and keep predators at bay and Randyman lets them in to visit in the morning...well, not really. They are usually sleeping in the lambing shed or coming home from work when he opens the gate and they happily shoulder their way past him and push the door open to the house where they wake me up with icy bodies and wet noses. COLD wet noses. Once I am fully awake and Cletus’ hug deficiency has been treated, along with my own, I dote on Bruno for a few minutes then put them into the pasture with the sheep. I am the only person they listen to, so Randy is helpless to do anything about it.
They will have to remain in confinement continually for the week we are gone, as no one on the ranch has any control of them if there is a problem. There usually are none, but I feel safer knowing they are okay, out of trouble and safe with the sheep. They are going to hate it, so I am slowly working them into it by putting them there each day.
Last night at about 10:30, Cletus was barking his ‘Timmy’s-in-the-well, something is wrong” bark. But I didn’t hear Bruno, so I figured Cletus was over reacting. I couldn’t remember if I had left the back gate open or closed. I have finally decided to leave it open so the Polar bears can rest on the porch and defrost before waking me in the morning. I decided to check the gate and make sure everything was okay and to reassure Cletus. He relaxed some when he saw me coming.
The moon had come up big and bright. As it reflected off of the snow, everything was illuminated. I could see clearly all the way across the valley. One of the thoughts that always triggers is, that as the light from the sun is reflected off of the moon onto us, we should be able to reflect the grace of the Savior onto those around us. I pray that someday, He will have conformed me enough to His image that I illuminate the world around me as the moon and snow did this night. I have a long, long way to go. Sometimes both my outlook and my output can be pretty dim.
I opened the gate and instead of coming in the yard, Cletus turned around and looked back at me. He always does this when he wants to show me something. I followed him and worked my way over the crunching, icy snow as he led me through two large corrals and down the long alley towards the huge pasture next to Mister. I couldn’t get over how easily I could see things. I was able to see the cattle in the miles wide pasture across the valley. It was amazing and hard to believe it was late at night. Cletus continued on alone about half way to the willows, I remained by Mister’s gate. This pasture is large and rugged, with willows, sagebrush, large rocks and what is now a dry stream bed. Much of it is concealed from view. A lone coyote was somewhere south of us yipping and calling. I couldn’t tell how far, but there had been a lone calf in the pasture a couple of nights earlier and I didn’t know if he had made it back thru the fence to his mother or not. I was afraid the coyote may have caught up and was making a meal of him. I wondered where Bruno was, as I had not seen him anywhere before or during our trek out. I didn’t have to wait long as he came roaring past me at top speed and passed Cletus, who caught up with him in short order.
The yipping of the coyote continued for a couple minutes while the dogs were out of sight. I heard Bruno start his “put down your weapon and back away” bark. The yipping continued, as did the warning bark. After a few minutes of this Cletus came ambling out of the willows. He never looked my way, but instead, half way back from the willows he turned and sat at full attention, staring intently in the direction of the dispute. I wondered about everything I had been watching. These are the conclusions I have drawn.
Cletus tends to be the ‘close in’ protector of the stock. Bruno does the lion's share of the patrolling, sometimes with Cletus at his side, other times not. Tonite, Cletus was clearly concerned with the close proximity of this coyote, who seemed to be calling others to join him. He wouldn’t wander far from the sheep to confront it on his own and risk leaving them unprotected. Bruno must have heard from where ever he was on his nightly rounds and rushed to address the issue, Cletus joining him. When they had been out of my sight for several minutes, I heard Bruno's warning bark begin. A few minutes later, Cletus returned partway. He was close enough to be able to quickly defend the sheep in the event of a breech in their defenses, but also close enough to help Bruno if he needed it.
As the yipping died off and Bruno’s bark changed to one less combative, Cletus relaxed, rose and turned and walked my way. He greeted me and turned and sat at my feet, watching in the direction of Bruno’s bark. It finally got quiet and I saw Bruno exit the willows. They escorted me home, everything around me bright with the light dancing off of the ice crystals in various colors, which was both surprising and delightful as it was nearly the middle of the night and I never before saw prism like colors at night.
I stepped out of the crisp, cold air into the warmth of our little house, feeling like I had been richly rewarded with an experience few people ever enjoy. I was energized and enchanted by the vision given to me by the overwhelming wonder of Creation. The moon, mountains, the snow, stars, livestock, the wildlife and the heart of these awesome dogs. Their purpose is primarily to protect the sheep from harm, but they are unashamedly demonstrative about their love and devotion for me as well. Somewhat like the guardian angels of the Bible, they protect and defend, as well as impart an amazing message.
Just as Jesus came and ministered to the populace of first century Israel, walking among men, dispensing endless love and grace, standing firm in His willingness to put His own life between the enemy of our soul and those He came to save, He has shown unequivocally that He includes me in that eternal promise of grace, devotion and protection. Like my Maremmas, all I had to do was call out to Him and as a result of His drawing near, I find myself loving Him, just as I need to reach out and embrace my dogs, burying my face in their deep fur, sharing with them my grief, or my joy as life pours it out. With both the Lord and the dogs, the abundant return I receive is beyond comprehension or my ability to describe it.
This blog that I maintain here isn’t about God. I am neither a Pastor nor a theologian. We don’t even have a church, as we are hours away from the nearest town. I merely write about my own experiences and try to express myself in the only medium available to me, which is here. Part of that experience is my God that you also may, or may not know. One I happily committed my life to, because His love and power is so far reaching He is able to make my simple, insignificant and remote life a sermon to me. His near presence and the lessons of my life help me understand more fully, through my surroundings and the animals He has designed, the amazing depth of His love and commitment to me, even though I have done nothing to merit it. So, although I normally just write about the mundane events of my life, such as being knocked about by sheep or milking or making bread, there are times that are so wonderful and overwhelming that I have to let it overflow onto the page and let it rest here.
I continue my simple life after one of these epiphanies, with a lighter heart. I see everything more clearly, through the lens He has given me. All things take on the hues and textures of His influence, from the most banal task of cleaning bathrooms or mucking shelters to the ruefully rare but incredible moments spent on horseback, exploring this amazing place He has sent Randyman and I, in his love and wisdom. Thank you for letting me share and I hope each of you will be blessed with a life as fine and exhilarating as this one we’ve been given.