BULLS


Baby Jim in Living ColorBaby Jim

Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

BULLS

 

 

 

 

An aging Baby Jim was involved in a conversation the other day about bulls.  It started because of an article about an elderly man and his son both being killed by a bull at the same time….Presumably the bull attacked one and the other went to his assistance and the bull killed both.  It is a sad event…the article made no mention of the breed or age of the bull…not that it is particularly relevant.

For a bull to kill a full grown man is little more difficult than that same man swatting a fly.  Far too many people, including those who work with and around them, have no idea of the strength and power extant within a bull.  Often today many advertisements and listings on Craigs List and Facebook can be seen, authored by modern day homesteaders looking to buy or sell gentle Jersey bulls.  Gentle Jersey Bulls is a three word oxymoron.  Baby Jims countenance is filled with dread when he sees such things.  The sweet little Jersey cow is one of nature’s wonders.  Small, gentle, efficient, prolific, attractive and productive.  People then think the same thing about their male calves….. and if neutered it is true….The steers are similar to the cows and heifers and the steers make very good well marbled beef.  Left intact, however, the bulls are subject to becoming death on the hoof.

Anyone who works around a bull stud with all sorts of bulls will tell you that in general the dairy bulls are the rankest: and most difficult and among the dairy bulls is the Jersey, while the smallest, is

generally acknowledged to be the most dangerous.   And with dairy bulls going from one extreme to the other often happens like flipping a switch……a switch that often cannot be turned back off.  When a bull decides to get mean, they seldom say I’m sorry lets be friends again….

Todays homesteaders scoff at Baby Jim’s admonitions and warnings and reply back that he is just a pet and we raised him on a bottle and he is the gentlest thing on the farm….The bovine translation is that he is absolutely not afraid of you.  And if the switch flips you are most likely to be toast…because you will not see it coming and most likely will not have had any warning or missed the subtle signs.

First….no one realizes the power in one of these animals….Oxen which are simply aged steers are extremely powerful…pound for pound stronger than horses and able to pull great loads with a simple yoke laid across their shoulders….Oxen are stronger but horses are faster and we know which one people generally prefer….

Some illustrations of power.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

BANGEL OF WYE

 

Several years ago Baby Jim use to breed a small herd of cows for a neighbor….they started out with one cow who had a lot of heifers.  The cows were bred to good quality Bulls via AI and the small herd was quite productive.  But they were all like pets and any time it was time to sell anything more than a few tears were involved.  Many cows were buried on the place because they did not have the heart to sell them at market.   At one point they had a bull calf that was better than any previous bull calves and they decided to leave him as a bull.  So they kept him and he became a big stout bull that replaced the need for AI service for a couple of years…Of course he was one of the babies as well, even though he weighed over a ton.  By and by Baby Jim was called on to consult on some cow related matter.  While there he observed the interaction between the owner and the bull and commented that the people needed to be more careful with the bull….It was met with he would not hurt a fly he is just a big baby….Baby Jim stated the he never thought the bull would be outright mean but any animal weighing a ton can hurt you by wanting you to scratch an itch.

About a month later the owner was going across the field on his tractor.  It was a 35 or 40 HP Massey Ferguson tractor.  He had a five gallon bucket on the tractor which the bull assumed to be feed.  The bull circled the tractor a time or two in an attempt to stop the tractor for the feed.  When the human did not stop the tractor the bull decided to handle things his way….He stopped…lowered his head and pushed the tractor from the front….It was all pretty laughable until the bull began pushing the tractor backward while the drive wheels were still going forward.  When the owner depressed the clutch the bull rolled the tractor backwards forty or fifty feet and then stuck his head in the five gallon bucket for the feed….the bull was gone less than thirty days later….

That same operation naturally loved the arrival of all new babies and they were met with loving hugs and adoration…Baby Jim observed the mistress of the manor bestowing such adoration on a calf less than 12 hours old and getting between the mama and the calf…He advised caution……”My girls all know me and they would never hurt me.” was the response.   About a year later one of her girls rolled her about thirty feet across the field.  Fortunately nothing was injured except her pride.

horned-hereford-bull

a HORNED HEREFORD BULL IN THE SELECT SIRES CATALOG   MCR BLUESTEM 977

 

Now into the way back machine, with Mr. Peabody.  A couple of tales from the Youth of Baby Jim….

First was Sam….Baby Jims dad and his good friend had some cows….In the early sixties they got some charolais cows…They liked the calves so well that they decided to get a charolais bull.  Don’t know where he came from but one Sunday afternoon Baby Jim’s daddy rolled up into the yard with a bumper pull stock trailer and after he stopped the trailer kept rocking….Baby Jim stepped up on the running board to see what all the noise was about and about 750 lbs of white fury slammed into the side of the trailer….A young Charolais bull.  Baby Jim opined that he didn’t think he would unload him until he got back to wherever he came from or a stockyard which ever was closer.  Baby Jims dad said he had been put through the chute and vaccinated and dehorned and was just a little rattled and that he would settle down.   Another look confirmed that they had not dehorned but had only sawed off his horns… Baby Jim countered with the observation that if he did not settle down on a fifty mile ride he didn’t think settling down was in his future…but the older generation prevailed and the bull was turned out into the pasture and that was the last time anyone set foot in the pasture for over five years….well you could ride a horse or drive a tractor in the pasture….but no one was brave enough to walk….Over the next few years, the entire cow herd got so wild that doing anything became an expedition and when trying to trap any cows they tore down everything.  They were led in these endeavors by Sam who grew to be huge and his blunted horns grew out to about 10 inches of battering ram on each temple.

One time while Baby Jims daddy was feeding silage with a crawler loader, the bull tried to fight the loader…Baby Jims daddy dropped the loader on the bulls head and knocked him down and made him back off.  They decided that he had to go…

While baby Jim was in the army they decided to build a super pen nearly seven feet tall and stout….they would put feed in the pen to entice the herd in.  Somehow they got the gate shut….the next problem is how do you load the bull?  Now back in the day people did not have stock trailers.  Stock trucks were the rule and normally two ton or greater trucks with oak bodies and a roof.  So the bull had to go up the ramp and into the truck….how to get him to do that….after several hours of frustration and several brushes with near death, baby Jims cousin who was quite the athlete had an idea….when he saw a clear path, he jumped into the pen and sprinted across it and up the chute and practically leaped onto the top of the truck…With malice in his heart the bull gave chase across the pen and up the ramp and his impetus took him into the truck and the gate was dropped, locking him in.  They managed to get him to a stock yard and no one knows how because afterward they had to rebuild the truck body.

In the meantime another charolais bull appeared at the farm where Baby Jim had always kept his horses…there had been a few cows there for years as well…This bull was unlike Sam in that he was quiet and calm and the farm owner had made a pet of him…A couple of years later Baby Jim was working at a big farm up north and came home for a visit.  Little Charlie Brown had gotten to be a big boy and was still calm and easy but there was something foreboding about him.  Baby Jim sat down with his Dad one night and asked him for a favor.  He asked him to move Charlie Brown to one of the other herds.  His daddy agreed that it was probably a good idea, but asked him why?  Baby Jim replied that he was afraid the bull was going to hurt the landowner….Baby Jim was not so much worried about malice as he was about an unfortunate accident.

A few months later Baby Jims paternal ancestor called him one night…this was surprising as neither of them was ever noted for their conversational skills.  Both were too brief and too direct for most people and most of their communication between them was non verbal.

Anyhow Baby Jim’s sire asked him how he knew….

Baby Jim said, “knew what ?”.

“How you knew that Charlie Brown was gonna get mean.”

“I didn’t but I was afraid he might step on the other landowner by accident.  Did he get mean?”

“Almost as bad as Sam.  Glad you asked me to move him because mean as he is now we would have never gotten him away from the other place.  Bye.”

Then there was the stint where Baby Jim worked at the Richmond Stockyard between a couple of years of college and going into the Army.

On sale days Baby Jim worked intake in the morning and the sale ring during the sale.  Mostly because he was young, quick, indestructible and expendable…

One day this fellow arrived with a big black bull….Story was that he had bought the bull at a sale the day before and in loading him someone had hit him in the eye with a stick and the bull got nasty….the guy had taken him home but the bull was so irate that he never took him out of the truck and brought him to Richmond the next day…At least he warned us before he turned the bull out into the processing area…on a side note it was amazing the number of people who felt no need to warn us of bad cattle…don’t know if they were just so happy to be rid of them that they forgot to warn: or whether they took a perverse pleasure in seeing other folks scramble for their life.

Nasty was putting it mildly….he could only see out of his right eye with the left one closed and weeping prolifically.  He went through that stockyard like Sherman went through Georgia.    For any who may not be familiar, stockyards normally have a couple of long alleys with lots of gates as cut off gates and other gates into pens…designed for rough stock, the fences and gates are normally pretty heavy and tall.  One of the first steps is to get an animal onto the scale to get a weight and then get it penned in the appropriate pen.  This bull having spent a mad night in a stock truck had no ambition to be confined again and seemed intent on murdering someone…anyone really…

A common trick was to open the intake scale door and stand behind it ready to slam it shut and open the outlet doors just enough to make it look like an escape route and then slam them as well.  This bull was too savvy and too fast…he just blasted thru the scale and down the long alley…the procedure then was to shorten the alley and keep closing gates behind him until he had to go into the scale…there was a guy there on the penning side that day who had just started…Baby Jim did not even know his name…Normally his job was to just have the correct pen gate open after the scale called it to him on the loudspeaker.  In this case the guys job was every time the bull went the other way he was supposed to advance and close the next gate shortening the alley….he was doing this faithfully but he took his eye off the job and was talking to someone up on the catwalk above.  He was standing behind the gate just closed and talking while looking up.  The bull hit that gate on the opposite side of where he was and busted the latch to matchsticks.  He drove the gate over the mans body and Baby Jim could hear bones breaking.  Baby Jim was running to try to drive the bull off the man but the bull stepped into the guys midsection and mauled him with his head and then ran on down to the far end of the available alley….Baby Jim got to the down man just as the bull got to the other end and turned….Baby Jim grabbed the guy by the belt and threw him over the fence and then jumped over after him just as the bull slammed into the fence…Thank goodness the fence held.  Baby Jims rescue was brutal enough to have killed the guy…they said he was still alive when the rescue squad took him away but Baby Jim was still trying to pen the damned bull and never saw the guy again……The bull was weighed and penned.

The Big Bull Fight….

This one was in the mid 70’s.  Our hero was working at the big farm up north.  This farm had four hundred registered cows at this location.  Near the farm managers house was a Pennsylvania style bank barn with cattle access underneath and hay storage above.  On the east side of the barn were two permanent bull lots….these lots were the near permanent home of two bulls.

On the west side of the barn was a working facility and some associated catch pens and feed troughs.  This adjoined a very large pasture and on the far end of the pasture was a large grove of white pines…this was the heifer raising pasture and 80 to 120 heifers were raised there every year….the white pines were where the heifers stayed when the weather was brisk…We won’t say it was like a trip to Florida but the white pines were a terrific wind break and shelter from the snow and the cattle would rather stay there than in the barns…but the heifers were called up and fed and counted and checked in the barns daily.

In the spring they had the vet out for several days running and did the herd test work…the primary reason was to conduct a TB test on every animal to maintain the herds TB free certification.  But everything that needed to be done and could be done was done when the animals were in the chute…it took five or six days to process all the animals on the farm.  And each test had to be read by the vet three days after the shot.

The day the heifers were processed the two bulls were normally the last two animals of the day.  These two bulls were beside each other all day every day…one was a mature bull who weighed at least 2200 lbs.  he was huge….especially for a Belted Galloway….The other bull was a younger bull and was a Red Angus who was about two to three years old and weighed about 1800 lbs…not quite mature and this bull had some value….maybe 10 or 12 K in the mid 70’s.

The two bulls had to be brought around through the pens to the working facility for the test and shots and they had to be brought around separately and then one had to pass the other on the return trip.  This was done by shuffling one bull into a pen and then taking the other bull by him….On this particular day the smaller bull was feeling his oats and jumped the fence and tried to tackle the big bull….it really was no contest as the little bull had no chance but he was bound to try…..There were no less than six experienced hands there trying to intervene.   But the fight was on…sticks whips shovels all manner of yelling and dissuasion were employed to no avail.  The young bull gave a valiant effort but he had no chance from the outset….in addition to trying to separate the bulls there was a concerted effort to keep all the cowboys alive.  As one bull gains purchase in the mud the tide of battle and the direction of travel could change in an instant and everyone was trying not to end up under two tons of battling bulls.

Finally the inevitable happened.  The young bull had a front foot slip and he got pushed sideways.  The big bull, knowing he had victory, pressed his advantage and pushed on and lowered his head further until he got his head under the younger bull…recall that the smaller bull weighed 1800 lbs and the older bull lifted and threw him at least eight feet into the air.  It was a surreal moment that seemed to play in slow motion, looking up at an 1800 lb bull flying thru the air two or three feet above your head.  Then he fell to the earth  on his right side with a ground jarring thud.  And the Big bull right back on the attack.  But the big bull knew he had carried the day and allowed himself to easily be driven off by the cowboys….Baby Jim was in pursuit of the big bull and expected to come back to find the young bull either dead or badly injured…but when he got back the young bull was prowling around and grumbling the losers lament to prove to himself and all who would listen that he was still a bull.  The whole thing was easily the most awesome sight ever.  Thank goodness they were polled cattle.  Had they been horned it would have been brutal and the young bull would most likely have been gored to death.

And finally…

About twenty years ago right here at the poor farm…
Pipe Dream Farm has raised a few bulls over the years.  Never a large number, but the intent was to have a bull or two for sale at all times…

This one time there were two bulls here that had been raised together.  Both were farm raised side by side.  Nice quiet bulls with good pedigrees and good conformation and good productive capability.  They were about 18 to 20 months old and Baby Jim was taking both of them to the barn for a reason long forgotten.  Here on the poor farm we have a lane that runs about two thirds of the perimeter of the farm and via that lane animals can easily be taken to the barn and the working area.  The two bulls probably weighed about 1600 lbs each and were playfully moving along when a wrestling match broke out.  Baby Jim yelled at them and applied his stick.  But suddenly the far bull prevailed and the near bull was pushed right into our hero knocking him to the ground….the only thing to be done, was to assume the fetal position and hope for the best…. The two bulls continued to wrestle and both bulls with all their churning hooves passed over him….While he was beaten up a little and unnerved a lot, no real damage was done but there could have been some brief suffering, a quick death and a heartfelt funeral service with half a dozen people in attendance.  As it was, all that had to be done was to go back to the starting point and get the two playful bulls headed back to the barn again…In full playful mode they both ran, butted, frolicked and bucked all the way to the barn.

Neither of those bulls had any intent to harm Baby Jim…they did not even intend to harm one another…they were just being baby bulls.

The point is that the power and agility of these animals is nearly unfathomable….unless you are really lucky and live a long time to see the things that have been described above.  All of the above was real and true and unembellished.  Names have been omitted to absolve the guilty.  And we did not even report on the time Gertrude and Baby Jim chased and were chased by Sam the charolais and his herd of wild cows all day one day.  But that story has been written of elsewhere.

Escape and Evasion


 

Baby Jim in Living ColorBaby Jim

Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

 

 

Escape and Evasion

 

Today is Independence day 2016…and the wife is held captive in the hospital and it is a rainy day and funny thoughts run thru your head…thoughts of independence and its costs and the many who paid the price over the centuries.  Maybe because of a recently watched  PBS special on the D Day invasion the other night.

It has been many years ago now…..but Baby jim was once a government issue ground pounding infantryman.  This was during the Viet Nam unpleasantness where our government sacrificed over 56,000 brave young warriors and injured many thousands more and then after years of failing to proscecute the unpopular war, abandoned it by fleeing.  A political failure and not a military defeat.

By the grace of god, or the ineptitude of the department of defense, Baby Jim was never sent overseas.  He has often thought that perhaps he was supposed to accomplish something in life but so far has no inkling of what it is.  He fought the war mostly in Colorado at Fort Carson in various capacities working at a battalion headquarters.  The people around him were mostly either fixing to go to Viet Nam or just coming back from Viet Nam or national guardsmen finishing out their six months of active duty in avoiding the war…National guard was popular back then as not many guard units were sent to Viet Nam….unlike the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The National Guard and higher education were very popular.

But our mission here is not political commentary…..Rather it is to attempt to share a humerous and memorable event that occurred during that time in the life of our Hero.

Baby Jim received his basic training at Fort Dix New Jersey during January and February of 1969.  The most fretful thing about that was the cold and snow…The day Baby Jim qualified with the M16 was the day of a blizzard….Side note is that our company was among the first to be issued the new M16.  On our second day we were issued brand new M16s and spent the morning cleaning off all the cosmolene they were packed in…..the best explanation is that they were packed in grease…..”That is not grease trainee…It is Cosmolene….and you will remove it until the weapon is pristine.”

The unit shot M16 for a while almost every day….Baby Jim was a fair shot anyway and got to be pretty good with the M16….then came the day to qualify…this day had been delayed for our Hero because of a couple of broken metacarpals in the right hand but that is a whole nother story…Baby Jim was delivered to the range to qualify with assorted other misfits and the sick lame and lazy.  The regular company training staff was judged and evaluated on what they turned out, but being in a makeup group no one cared how you fared.  That day it was snowing.  Targets were popup targets at ranges from 25 yards to 300 yards.  You shot what ever you saw pop up…there was a corporal sitting on a stool behind the shooter scoring hits…the only problem is the only targets that could be seen in the snow that day were the 25 yard targets….the rest were obliterated by the snow….the corporal who was freezing his butt off sitting on that stool kept saying “SHOOT” .  Baby Jim reponded “At what Corporal?  I can’t see a damned thing.”  Coporal says just shoot dammit, You will pass.  Baby Jim shot and he qualifed as a Marksman which is average shooting and he knew he was an Expert.

When Basic was finally over, a whole mess of newly minted soldiers left Fort Dix in another big snow storm and all were dressed for the weather in class A uniforms and big heavy overcoats.  This was about the first week of March.  When the plane landed in Lake Charles Louisana and it was 85 degrees and the corn was knee high. We were bussed to Fort Polk Louisana, then known as “Tigerland” .  It was the training center for Jungle warfare….wading around in the swamp with snakes and gators and sweating your butt off 24 hours a day.  At Tiger land the troops had barracks but seldom saw them.  All training was done in the field and this included camping….Baby Jims Equestrian friends sometimes wonder why he has no enthuiasm for “camping”.  Tigerland had every species of venomous snake in the United States and there was no shortage of them.  Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, Cottonmouths, Coral Snakes and even little Pigmy rattlers.  Everyone saw so many snakes that stepping over a snake got to be no big deal. Tigerland had gators.  Tigerland had mosquitoes the size of humming birds…..truly a pleasant place to enjoy living in perpetually wet conditions carrying everything you owned on your back.  Then there was the continual reminder that “This is a day in the park compared to the Nam” delivered in all seriousness by guys who had survived it.

During all this training we were again shooting almost daily and Baby Jim had the opportunity to qualify as an Expert on the M16 Automatic fire range…the M60 Machine Gun and the 50 Cal Machine Gun.  Our hero had landed in a company of darned good shots and as a company,  set many range records with combined shooting scores.  The Company commander had a good company and he loved it and treated the troops pretty good.  Best Chow that Baby Jim ever had during his soldering time was at that Advanced Infantry Training company in Tigerland.  Even in the field we had one hot meal per day and it was good.  The world war II C rations were not especially good but most learned to survive on em…Made most of the company really appreciate a good meal in the mess hall when available.

Anyhow to finally get to the point of this excursion into third person narration, there was a particularly interesting night in the adventures of our hero.

Escape and Evasion.  The talk of training from the time of arrival on base.  It was designed to simulate avoiding the enemy and not getting caught or not dying trying.  The whole platoon was basicly trucked in and dropped off at a location on what must have been a pennsula in the swamp in the dark.  There was an alleged safe zone and anyone who could get to the safe zone was free.  There was a light on a hill in the distance.  There were other troops positioned to capture all the trainees.  Very quickly there were sounds of struggle and crashes in the brush and yelling…those who ran in the opposite direction soon suffered the same fate.  Finally there was a small group including Baby Jim who had wandered around avoiding capture and were actually getting near the safe zone…It was clearly visible and less than a mile away.  But all approaches were cut off by a body of water about a hundred feet wide…even though all who were left had been in this swamp for about six weeks none recognized this water body.  The team went upstream about a quarter of a mile and heard agressors ahead and the water seemed to be a small river.  They backtracked and again heard agressors and the water was getting wider.  Then there was the sound of people coming up from the rear…the small group saw one option….cross that water…Now our hero is not a strong swimmer and certainly not in combat boots…three fears were manifest: drowning in water of unkown depth or footing, being spotted in the open water and as a result being captured, and cottonmouths.

After a whipered discussion, all decided that the water was the only way out and thinking that all were in agreement Baby Jim headed in scanning growth on the far bank for the opposition.  Thinking his compatriots were right behind him Baby Jim was happy to find that the water was no deeper than chest deep and the footing was not too sinky and not much current…about half way across and past the deepest part,  now maybe waist deep, Baby Jim glanced back to see that he was almost alone…not a GI in sight but there was a gator….Our hero was inspired to continue on to the far bank.  In the few seconds that seemed to be an eternity, the bank was secured and unbeknownst to him our hero was safe…there were no agressors on the far side.

Our hero gathered his wits and began to slink up the hill toward the light expecting to run into sentrys all along the way .  If there were any he avoided them and detection.  As he travelled he wondered about the fate of his companions..he had not heard any noise to indicate that they had become gator chow, nor had he seen any other sign of them after entering the water.  Slinking around in a swamp for six weeks had taught enhanced skills of moving quietly and finally he worked his way to the edge of the clearing and saw some officers and  senior NCOs  sitting around a campfire and drinking coffee.  After observing for a few minutes, Finally Baby Jim Stood up and stepped into the clearing, took a defensive posture, and surprised all in attendance.  They were all taken aback because Trainees were not supposed to beat their escape and evasion course and Baby Jim had done it.

The Captain was there and he said “ Come over here young man and have a seat by the fire and a cup of coffee.”

A little while later some NCOs began reporting on how many had been captured….then more news of captures came in and finally there was a fire team from one squad that was still unaccounted for…That was Baby Jims Team…He just sat there and drank coffee not wanting to get his team caught.  Awhile later another report that all were accounted for except one man and Captain said “Oh ,he is here.” and pointed to Baby Jim.  The Range Officer and the range NCO were going off on their staff for letting a man get through.  Finally someone asked how he got here and when he told them, they asked why he ventured into the water and Baby Jim opined that he thought the object of the exercise was to avoid getting caught.  The water was the best option.  Their response was that they never though anybody would be fool enough to come through the deep swamp without a raft or boat.

A while later everyone was reunited and debriefed….Baby Jims Team had been captured not too long after the adventure… Baby Jim asked why they had not come with him as all had agreed….they said that they were but all had been trained to leave a space between men and not get bunched up and when the second man went into the water he saw a gator and turned back and by then you were over half way.  They all laughed and recounted that when Baby Jim saw that gator he “Crossed that stream like he had an Evinrude up his butt.”  For the remaining time in Fort Polk, Evinrude was his new name.

 

Photos around Pipe Dream Farm in mid May 2013


To view any photo in a larger size simply click on the photo and then use your back button or arrow to return to the blog.

Saturday morning I walked around with camera in hand just to try to illustrate why I love living here…again no particular order….just shots from my life….this first is the current view from the road looking in toward the barns….this area will be about 12 grazing paddocks for the horses if it ever dries out enough to graze….we have had over 2.1 inches of rain this week not counting the storm last night…I have not been out yet to check the gauge this morning….there is a drainage running across those fields and when it gets wet it stay wet for a while…..

I have switched the horses and the bulls and the horses are back in their normal place at least for the summer….they are also back to three and four day paddocks now.

a 12 paddocks when ever it dries enough

The bulls went into the other cover crop field on Friday night…..it was so tall that I had to bush hog a lane to put up the division fences…the bulls had been in it for about 18 hours when I took these photos….now these are 18 month old bulls that weight 1400 to 1500 lbs and the rape is over five feet tall….they have simply walked down a lot of it…which is good….lot of clover and turnips and wheat as well as grass.

a 18 month old 1400 lb bulls

Below is a shot of my bale bean experiment….these are straw bales that have been setting out all winter. I planted butter beans in them a couple weeks ago. It is finally warm enough that they are beginning to sprout. The ones I put in the soil have not yet sprouted.

a bale beans starting to come up

Here is a shot of the blackberries I planted two years ago….I love blackberries and decided that I wanted to have some….these have taken off this years and are putting up new canes all oveer…..

a blooming two year old blackberries

This time the bulls are eating the rape seed….when they last grazed rape they sort of ignored the rape all together….there is lots of rape seed out there….I suspect there will be rape on this farm for years now….

a bulls are eating the rape seed

This is the strip I had to bush hog thru the cover to put up a portable grazing fence. I had to stand up on the tractor to see where I was going….I had to start grazing this becasue the boss was starting to fuss about a snake sanctuary right next to the house….similarly had to regraze the cover crop plot in front of the house where the horses now are….next I have to take the horses to the already grazed field behind the house again because of the snake sanctuary….she is messing up my grazing schedule…..

a bush hog a strip to put up the fence

This is the field in the corner where I grazed the horses for 14 or 16 days in April in strips….it is already 18 inches tall again….It will be rank by the time we get back to it.

a filed grazed 14 days in April

More Blackberries….these are the Kiowas that I planted last year….looking forward to a few berries from them….

a Kiowa berries planted last year

Last fall I broadcast some seed on most paddocks immediately after the last grazing….I was still boradcasting seed after Christmas….This is one that I hit fairly early with Crimson clover….

a paddock broadcast with crimson clover

this one was broadcast with Lana Vetch….

a paddock broadcast with lana vetch

Perkins and Star Baby regrazing the cover crop lot that the bulls were in a few weeks ago….

a Perkins and Star Baby

Here is a paddock boradcast with Rye and Lana Vetch

a rye and lana vetch

Austrian Winter peas blooming are beautiful

a winter peas blooming are pretty

Apache finally stood still long enough for me to get a shot of his new haircut…..

apaches new haircut

Blackberries planted two years ago

This is a part of the normal routine for Dee Dee and Apache….they run and wrestle and sleep and eat….Marie is always worried that Apache will hurt Dee Dee, but Dee Dee is actually the meaner and if she gets mad will eat him up, but Apache is the stronger and if he gets too rough Dee Dee will put him in his place….

dogs at play

The Creature


I have led an interesting life….nothing fantastic but it has been interesting to me…

Lately a new chapter has opened….in retrospect it probably began a while ago, but I did not know it.

for quite some time now I find the horses to ocassionally be agitated and distracted at the evening feeding….It is only every now and again but there are some evenings when Star Baby does not want to come into the stable or the barn to eat and she will take a bite and then turn to look outside…..

I have never seen the cause for her agitation….We have bears and we have coyotes but I have never seen either on the place.

About a week ago my wife called to me in what for her was a very quiet voice.  I was upstairs and barely heard her…..Wondering what the devil was going on I went to the top of the stairs to find her with the front door open and the dogs at her feet wanting to go out and she was just staring out into the darkness.  We do have a security light in the yard so it is not real dark but it is not light either….

I asked he what she was doing.  She said there is something out there.   I scurried down the stairs as fast an arthritic old man can and looked over her sholder and asked what and where.  She said I don’t know what it is but it is bigger than the dogs.  Our Aussie Apache is about knee high to me and weighs a bit over fifty pounds….Dee Dee the pound puppy is a bit taller and longer but weighs less.  She said it is a lot bigger than the dogs….

Still not seeing anything, I asked her where…..She said, “In the field beyond the cars.”

Beyond the cars is our small vegetable garden and beyond that is a paddock of poor grass that in my youth was more garden and now is a summer grazing paddock for the horses.  I stared and scanned and could not see a thing.  Figuring she was overreacting to a oppossum or coon or skunk, I grabbed up my big million candle power flashlight and hoped it was charged and slipped out the door. 

I flipped the switch and flooded the area in light and saw …..nothing…..I walked forward and scanned with the light…. still nothing…not even the usual rabbits that like to munch on the wheat and clover cover in my garden…

I continued to walk and scann with the light and suddenly about a hundred yards away in the open woods on the south side of my place the light reflected an eyeball….it was huge….and it just stared back at me…..It literally looked like I had illuminated an orange…..and it continued to just look back at me…..Funny how many thoughts run thru your mind at a time like that…..thoughts about what it could be….thoughts about what I should do….thoughts that whatever it is ….it is not afraid of me….for the life of me I could see no shape or form in the darkness….only that eyeball staring back at me…..this went on for thirty or forty seconds while I strained trying to see some shape or form as the cacaphony of thoughts raced through my head….

Suddenly it turned and was gone……where to, I still don’t know.

I shined the light to find the horses and they were alert but unpreturbed….I could not find the two yearling bulls but trying to find black bulls in the dark is a fairly futile persuit. No… it was not a bulls eye that I had illuminated…I have been lighing up cattle eyes all my life and this was no bulls eye…wrong color…..  And they could have been anyplace in a wide area.

I went back to the poorch and let the dogs out and tried to minimize it with Marie….If she thought it was something scary she would be shooting up the whole place….

So a week or so has gone by and last night I was roused from my sleep at about two thirty by one of the mini donks braying awfully….I grabbed the 44 mag from the bed table and dashed down the steps and grabbed the big light and stepped out….Scanned until I found the braying donkey….he was alone….I don’t know why as those donkeys are normally attached at the hip.  I continued to scan until I found the horses and the other donkey…Once I lit them up, Jonah saw them and was satisfied and began to make his way toward them….

I shined the light all about and saw nothing and the horses were unpreturbed so I figured everything was all right…..Still do not know why Jonah was alone in another lot away from the others unless something chased him….

I let the dogs out and Apache took the opportunity to relieve himself….Dee Dee would not go off the porch…..

went back in the house and went back to bed but sleep would not return,,,I was still tossing and turning when the alarm went off at 4:30.  Put the dogs out and hit the area with the light again and Jonah was back with the others and all apeared to be normal….

I expect this story to be continued….and you can expect me to be armed when I am walking around on my own property…..I don’t know if it is a bear or a lion or sasquatch….but none of em are welcome in my yard or my pasture….it was not a coyote….that eye was much too big to be a coyote….and no coyote is that brazen around a human.

Apache update


The new dog, Apache, was sent here to take care of us by his Forerunners Monte and Rose…..

He took to our place and our ways as quickly as any dog we have ever had….He acts like he was born and raised here….
He and the pound puppy Dee Dee, who was so unconsolable and grief stricken after the loss of Rose, have bonded like soul mates. Being near the same age and energy level, all they do is play, eat and sleep….they run and play so much that in just three weeks Dee Dee has visibly developed her hind leg muscles….Apache has too but with longer hair it is not so visible….

Apache has taken ownership of the property and Marie said he very much objected to the presence this week of both the Select Sires rep and a Fed Ex delivery man. He has the visage of a small lion with intense golden eyes and a big blocky head and can only guess how intimidating he would be to growl and bark at you….with us he is a love sponge, as he has been with anyone we have introduced him to. At fifty pounds he is not a large dog but he moves like a bull with power and agility….

Before sending him to us Rose must certainly have given him a crash course on our ways and what was expected of him here….he has traits and habits of both Rose and Monte….Some might claim that it is simply my influence, but Dee Dee who we have had since a pup does not exhibit these same behaviors. I still miss Rose but she is free of pain now and I Dee Dee has stopped grieving and is enjoying her new play mate….She had missed rough housing as Rose became unable to play with her, and now she can be as rough and tumble as she wants becasue she cannot hurt Apache. He can tumble her at will….but he can not catch her if she turns on the speed….It has been fun watching them strategize and learn, each how to deal with the other…..

It was truly amazing how quickly they bonded….they eat together out of the same dish at the same time….they drink together out of the same bowl at the same time….and each is vigilant that the other does not get an extra petting or treat….

Marie says that when I am not there they Apache is at her side as she moves from room to room….if she stays in one room he is satisfied to lie down and observe or nap…..Meanwhile Dee Dee will be napping on one of her favorite nap spots….she has several.

When I am there she feels neglected….but then I am the one who takes them outside and lets them frolic all they want to….they also accompany me on my rounds about the farm….

Apache has learned about the electric fence but Dee Dee is teaching him where and how he can get under gates or low spots to access the pastures I go to….I was burning brush Sunday and they roamed and ran and played and wrestled all day long and when we went in for supper they just collapsed….Marie asked me what I did to them….

I still miss my old gal Rose who was a stalwart companion for so long, and Apache reminds me of her nearly every day, but in a good way and he has been a wonderful addition to our pack.

FIRST DAYS WITH APACHE.


Apache is here and has taken command of the house….He is only a bit older than Dee Dee and while it was a slow start they are now frolicking all over the house and we had to separate them to slow them down a bit. but then Dee Dee started whining so now they are both up here with me… Apache has classic Aussie good looks with a good blocky head and stout muzzle and classic aussie conformation….he is a blue merle beauty with light brown eyes. and like all the aussies we ever had he is as smart as can be….took him all of five minutes to Teach Marie how to dispense treats….he was real forward and wanted to tow eveyone who took his leash but we already have him heeling softly and he is learning sit and down….He has already learned what the electric fence is all about and will not go near it now…..major hurdle crossed……now all we have to teach him is the outer limit of the driveway and in a few weeks we can begin to let him loose……He seems to have pretty much taken over already and I don’t think he wants to leave…..he just has to learn our boundaries…..already giving kisses and wants to be in my lap…..will be interesting to see how sofa arrangements work out when I turn the tee vee on later.Dee Dees normal routine is to stay with Marie downstairs until she goes to bed….But tonight she wants to be up here with Apache….I am so glad they are playing well because she was so sad and lonely without Rose. Both are tired and walking around with tongues hanging out now……Apache is about the same height and length as Dee but he is twice as wide….stout little dude. Photos tomorrow.
 
 Already decided that Monte and Rose have sent him to look after Dee Dee and me.
 
Poor little Dee Dee misses Rose terribly….but she is overjoyed to have a dog to wrestle and play with…even if he won’t let her win….
 
It has become obvious that Apache has never been a house dog….but he is taking to it and adjusting well.  frankly I don’t think he ever had much handling or training….he was obviously too much dog for whoever had him.  Shame becasue he is a love spong and responds so well to any instruction and handling….Marie has never had a preference for the merle dogs and always liked the red tri because of Tana and Tee Tee, but she is amazed at how pretty and sweet he is.  she is busily teaching him to sit before she will give him a treat.
 
looked for my camera all weekend and was beginning to think it had been liberated from my truck….found it this morning….photos soon.
 
As for me….When I am handling him, at least I am too busy to dwell on the loss of Rose….Dee Dee too…she goes from sulking and sadness to playful frolic with Apache.  I even trusted him enough to let him off the leash yesterday and the two of them had quite the wrestling and running match.  he sits and looks at the bulls and the horses with sort of an awed look….you can almost see the wheels turning in his head….

Yesterday when I got home, I let them both out in the yard and that was the beginning of over and hour of unbridled enthusiasm….those two young dogs who had become soemwhat aquainted over the previous 48 hours, embarked on a rollick and running and wrestling good time.

Dee Dee can out run Apache when she really tries but not by much….she turns her head to look at him and they collide and go rolling and wrestling….He plays hard and I thought for a bit he might be to rough on her but every time he turns her loose she jumps on him agian or takes off on another run.  When I put them in the house it just kept going….

I think I nearly had as much fun as they did just watching them….It was so good to see Dee Dee not grieving over the loss of Rose….She is still looking for her….but at least now she has something to distract her….They get along great and share food and water and treats like they were raised together…

hard to get photos with all this action but I tried…..below are a couple .16

ROSE


Image         Baby Jim

  Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

Rose

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I really don’t remember how long Rose had been with us…..She came here to live with us after our old home raised dog Tee Tee died….Tee Tee was the one we kept from the only litter of puppies we ever raised…..They were sired by Monte and out of Montana Crystal, or Tana.  Tana and her daughter Tee Tee were known as the Gator Girls.  They were a tough pair and both were absolutely devoted to Marie and they would bite a stranger as quick as a gator would.  Thus the name.  Even regular visitors like our long time Neighbor Jack who had seen both of them raised from pups and was a nearly daily visitor due to the cows, was not immune from those teeth.  When Jack knocked on the door he put one hand on the handle to keep the girls from opening it…..

But time passes and ravages us all….and we have an ever expanding graveyard of family members to remind us…..

This week Rose joined those who had preceded her.

Rose came to us from Aussie Rescue and was the first dog we rescued.  I remember having to fill out application and having my references checked and we even had to be inspected.  On inspection Day our Aussies Lore and Maggy were present when the Aussie Rescue lady, Susan, brought Rose to check us out….

I was sitting on the edge of the porch and when Susan let Rose out of her car,  Rose walked across the yard and came over and put her head in my lap to be petted….I asked Susan how long it took her to teach Rose that trick….Susan was mortified and said she guessed the inspection was over as Rose seemed to have made her decision.   Lore and Maggy were introduced and Lore nonchalantly ignored the new comer and loving Maggy embraced her immediately.

And so Rose became part of our pack.  Lore was the alpha dog at that time, which Rose had no problem with even though Rose was nearly twice the size of little Loreal.   About three days in Loreal decided to discipline Rose over some triviality….there was a good bit of snapping and snarling and every time Baby Jim would pull Rose off of Loreal, Loreal would jump up and try to tackle Rose again.  Finally Baby Jim got a hand on both collars and put an end to it…..only to hear that ever the non partisan Marie was vehemently stating……”I won’t have it….she has got to go.” Over and over again….

We only know of one other time when Lore tried to assert her dominance with similar result, except that Marie tried to get in the middle and one of them bit her….. and then life evolved into a tolerant harmony…..Rose had no desire to be in charge and Lore thought she had proven her point.  And Marie became accepting as well and for years after, Baby Jim was heard talking to Rose telling her “I won’t have it…She has got to go.” As he chuckled in amusement….while Marie fed her treats.

While drafting this, we have searched for photos of Rose when she came here….Sadly while we have photos, they are on digital media for which we have no device to retrieve them.  We have stacks of 3.5 inch discs and a small stack of zip drives.  So the oldest photo I can put my eyes on is 2008. And this album has photos of Maggy and Toby who have both passed on as well.

Rose.  She always loved to lay by a fan or ride in the air conditioned truck.

So I am hot...wanna fight bout it!

Toby and Rose lying under the kitchen table…..

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Sweet old Maggy

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When Rose got here she was housebroken and ever the lady and only wanted some attention and affection.  Maggy was head of security at that time and Rose became her back up.  Maggy would sound the alarm and Rose had a camouflage of looking intimidating….but she loved everyone….

She was the first dog I ever had who liked to play with mice like a cat.  She would catch them and then lay them between her outstretched paws and let them try to run away so she could catch them again….fully half of roses Mice escaped unharmed by running under her and out the back when she stood to look for them.   Little Lore used to hate that….she was an intense little cattle dog and thought it foolish to play with mice.  If one escaped Rose, Lore would grab it and quickly dispatch it.  After Lore was gone Rose taught both Toby and Later Dee Dee this game.  Dee Dee had a mole just last week….

This trick brought Rose the only calamity she ever had with us.  She was hunting for mice and ended up Snake bit by a copperhead.  Her head swelled up like a basketball and we took her to the emergency clinic and they pulled her through…

I spied and got the offending snake about two weeks later and had to turn over a 100 gallon water trough to get him but he got his just deserts…..

For years Rose was my nighttime foot warmer….when I got on the sofa and turned the tee vee on as soon as I put my feet up Rose would jump up and lay her head on my legs….she would lay there as long as long as there was a hand on her….

Rose was a lot like my first Aussie, Monte, and I used to tell her that I thought Monte had sent her to look out for me and she would just look at me and lick my hand as if to say “Of course he did, silly.”  When Loreal passed away both Maggy and Marie took it very hard…Lore died in the bed sleeping not far from Marie….And Marie picked out Toby to take up the slack.  Maggy adjusted and accepted Toby, but he became Roses Dog.  We are crazy people….even our dogs have dogs….Then years later when Toby passed away and Devil Dog Dee Dee came here she was adopted and raised by Rose.

In advanced years Rose would lay in the floor and wrestle and play with this bundle of fur and teeth….Dee Dee would grab Rose by the collar or her ear or her neck and just run along side her, as Rose always accompanied me on evening chores.  Rose accepted this and it carried on to the end…As Rose got older and more infirm we tried to stop the behavior in Dee Dee but she had difficulty changing and finally came to understand what ‘don’t hurt her’ meant.

Like all our aussies Rose loved to ride in the truck….didn’t matter where to or how far…she just wanted to ride and preferably with her head in my lap.

About two years ago we found some lumps on Rose and took her to the vet….They gave a grim prognosis and offered to do several thousand dollars worth of exploratory surgery and chemotherapy on her…..with no promise of improvement.  I asked if she was in pain and they said probably not yet and that they didn’t expect her to go six months….Two years later she bagan to decline…A tumor in her udder blew up….not the one in her neck that they thought would take her out….but she was still vibrant and alive and enjoying life.  Then she began to slow down and other symptoms began to show….A daily aleve seemed to push back the pain and she was running and playing….then trouble urinating and discharges…..but she was still so happy and loving, just at a slower pace….last week her eyes began to dull and then Thursday she became extremely nauseous .  Marie called me to tell me how sick she was, so I called the vet and came home early.

Knowing this was coming and knowing how bonded Dee Dee was to Rose we had begun searching for another Aussie.  I had hit all the aussie rescue sites and then suddenly BARK right here near home had a registered Aussie.  We had not dealt with BARK and had to go through their application process.  We wanted Dee Dee to have some time to adjust….We got approved but not soon enough…..I could not have Rose suffer unnecessarily….

When I got home Rose came to greet me and put her head in my lap and wagged her butt feebly.  I asked her if she wanted to ride and she headed for the door….She spent her last hour riding in the truck with her head in my lap…I did okay until we headed home and I nearly wrecked the truck because I could not see.

On Friday I buried Rose, but I dared not let Dee Dee know because she was as distraught as I , and I am sure that if she knew she would have dug her up.  Dee does not like to Ride like the aussies, but she tolerates it….and she was by my side all day Friday and Saturday.

Saturday afternoon we got the new Aussie Apache and they are bonding better than I had anticipated.   But that is another story and I can already tell that Monte and Rose have sent this dog to take care of me and Dee Dee…..He is just a few months older than Dee Dee and I have already told them both that they have to outlive me cause I am not sure I can do this again.

SUNDAY BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY


Stewart and Dancehall Dixi and Palladin Perkins and I made a foray down to Pocahontas State Park on the day before Memorial Day 2012.

STEWART AND DANCEHALL DIXI

It was quite warm and the may flies have come out in numbers and the horse flies are beginning to be bothersome.  But we slathered on a good bit of bug dope for equines and rider alike and we pressed on.

I did find a small gathering of seed ticks settled in for dinner at the area where the top of my boot had been.  I put a little vicks on them, waited a couple of minutes and easily wiped them off.

Perkins is wearing a good coat of mineral oil with tea tree, cedar and peppermint essential oils mixed in.  Not a magic bullet but works as good as the twenty dollar stuff.

THERE IS A TWO TREAT FEE FOR MY IMAGE

This was our first trip to Pocahontas.  Since it was a place neither of us had been to and it is not too far away we figured we owed it to ourselves to visit.  Easy to get to once we get to an interstate.

We found nice broad trails that would be well suited to driving horses as well as riding.  Most were graveled or sandy or had crush and run on them.  Most of the ones we rode were thru the woods and so they were shady and cool.

Most streams were culverted and there were a couple of nice wide bridges.

We only saw two other horses but did see a few hikers, joggers, dog walkers and bicyclists.  All were handled with aplomb by both riders and mounts.

of course below was our usual view of Dixi,,,,

OUR NORMAL VIEW OF DIXI

That little mule walks like a big walking horse.  She does not take big steps but she takes a lot of small ones .  She just scoots right down the trail without being in any hurry at all.  Perkins and I were either trotting to keep up or Stewart and Dixi were waiting for us.

JUNIORS BUG HAT FITS OK

Perkins gave Dixi Juniors old bug bonnet.  Fits her okay.  Ears are a little long but they were long on Junior too.

We only rode the southern side of the park.  there are supposed to be a lot more trails on the other side of the road but by the time we had done the 7.83 miles and came around to the trailer we were all ready to cool off and go home.

We had our usual good time and all came home safe and sound.  Goodness knows the Va State Police were out there doing their part to keep us all safe.  And they all had plenty of customers.  blue light specials every couple of miles..

MY VACATION AT JAMES RIVER STATE PARK


 

This may sound silly to some folks.  But I took a vacation.  At 63 years old I took a week off from work and went somewhere I wanted to go to do what I wanted to do for the first time ever.

I have scads of vacation time built up….in fact I lost some this year because I did not take enough time off, even though I take most Fridays off.

But old habits die hard.  For the last 25 years or so I have taken the week after Thanksgiving off and it gave me about eleven days at home to synchronize the cow herd and try to get an AI service on as many of them as possible.  My vacation week was the hardest working week of the year for me as I put the whole herd through the chute multiple times during that long week.  In addition I was with the cows 18 hours per day checking for heats to determine when to breed each cow.  Not complaining….it was work I enjoyed and was pretty good at.  Cows, horses and dogs have been a big part of my life ever since I can remember.

We sold the cow herd nearly three years ago now and for the last two years I don’t even remember if I took a vacation because I only have three pet cows now.

But last fall I took a Memorial Day weekend trip with Stewart to Stem North Carolina for a big fund raiser ride. That report is elsewhere on this blog.  We had such a good time that we planned on doing it every year.  Alas that ride is no more for reasons unknown to me.

So quite a few months ago Stewart came up with the idea of going to a park and camping and riding.  Originally a bunch of us guys were going.  James River State park was selected as the venue.

http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/jam.shtml#trails

A date was appointed where all four of us were available and Stewart started making reservations.  I announced in a January staff meeting that I had put a week of vacation on the staff calendar during the month of May and half of my coworkers nearly expired from shock.  We managed to pull them through it without any long term effects.  Although one refused to believe it and was still e-mailing me about appointments and calls this week as late as last Friday.

We actually only went for three days.  I did chores around here prior to going and tried to make it easy on Marie to care for the stock while I was gone.  In the days when I travelled as part of my work Marie ran this place by herself with a little help from Jack, my late neighbor.  But when I started living at home and working locally, I promised her that I would try to hold up my end for a while so she could take a break.  Until last Memorial Day weekend I had only missed two days in 16 years of doing the daily stock chores, and both of those were days when I had a surgery and was knocked out in the recliner.

But it was three days that matched our anticipation.  By the time we left, the ranks of attendees had been thinned to just Stewart and I.  But Stewart had declared that if he died he wanted his hearse to drive through the place before he was interred.  I was just about as resolute, but too cheap to pay for the extra hearse ride.

We had been planning and stockpiling goods since the inception of the idea.  Stewart is a veteran camper and had a lot of gear.  Not camping much since my retirement from two years of olive drab, I had only the essentials.  As certified old farts we both had Doctors appointments on Monday.  Mine was my quarterly Rheumatoid Doctor.  After the doctors we met at the local Walmart and we purchased the perishables we needed for the trip.

We were going on vacation and we figured there was little need for us to go to a distant and foreign place and impose suffering and hardship upon ourselves.  We planned on riding, fellowship and fun and good meals.  To that end we bought double redundancy in food supplies.  We had a week’s worth of supplies and planning and we had to try to eat it all in three days.

The weather forecast was not favorable…..but we decided that neither us nor the horses would melt in the rain and as long as there was no lightening we would ride and feast.  We set out undeterred Tuesday morning.  The drive was uneventful with little discourse as we were both driving and pulling our own trailers.  About two and a half hours later we turned in near the James River and it was up in flood and rolling and roiling muddily.  I knew there was a trail along the river and I hoped it was not under water.

Upon arriving at the check in our reservation packets were there waiting on us although there was no one at the station.  We found the designated camping area and pulled in to see it totally vacant.  Stewart and I got out and looked around and studied our paperwork and decided that there was no assignment and we selected where we wanted to set up the trailers and where we wanted to stable the horses.

We were impressed with the facilities, both human and equine.  The camping sites were nice with power and water at each site along with a permanent fire ring with a grill and a lantern hanger and picnic table.  The stalls were fabulous and Perkins came to love his, even though he did not like being shut in there alone at first.  Here at the Poor Farm, the horses have separate stalls, but they can see and reach each other.  There, the walls were at least seven feet high and Perkins could not see Loretta and that bothered him a little ……until I gave him some hay and grain.

Bathouse was as nice as it looked.

The stalls were very nice.

We went about setting up camp.  Did not take long as Stewart is an old pro and has a penchant for organizing things and has a methodology and a routine.  All I had to do was try to follow  directions.  Pretty soon we were set up and decided to have a little lunch and try to go for an afternoon ride.  We had a nice lunch of pre-prepared foods and soda.   Then we tacked up the horses and rode out.  The rain had held off and the skys were rolling clouds in and out but we decided to chance it.  Turned out we had a beautiful ride and it did not rain until after I had crawled into my blanket in the van.  Rain on the roof put me right to sleep.

The trails were absolutely beautiful.  There are three albums of photos from this ride at my webshots photos site and they are on my wall at facebook as well.  The albums all start with James River State Park and one is trails, one is facilities and the third is bill of fare.  All of these photos need to be viewed in large format to truly see the beauty.

http://community.webshots.com/user/pdfangus

https://www.facebook.com/pdfangus

The terrain is varied from long flat level stretches of nice wide trail to curling descents and inclines and most of it is through beautiful southern hardwood forest.  I was surprised to find more than a few white pines interspersed through the forest.  When we were on the Branch trail in particular the air was fresh and fragrant and I never did discover the exact source.

The first afternoon we rode the southwestern part of the park and managed to make our way to the river trail and hoped that it was not under water.  At Dixons landing we encountered some folks who were actually trying to fish in the roiling river.  I don’t know if they were successful or not but the river was way up and rolling on by.  Fortunately the river trail is high enough that it was not flooded and we embarked upon it.

Long flat ride of nearly three miles right along the river for the most part with alternating grass land and marsh on the other side.  A soaring eagle watched us for a good part of the ride.  Close enough that we could see his white head and tail as he circled above us and the river and marsh.  We rode 6.54 miles and found our way back to camp.  We hosed off and cared for the horses and put them in the stalls.  Perkins went to munching hay and took a good drink of water.  That was a relief because Perkins is usually finicky about water and on day trips seldom drinks til he gets home.  Marie says it is because he is partial to the pond water pumped in fresh daily here at the Poor Farm.  We have a solar pump that pumps water from the neighbors pond to storage tanks here for the livestock.

We washed up a little and then began supper preparations.  I think Stewart and I both surprise each other at how well we cooked and managed to get things done together.  For the first evening meal I grilled Steaks and made a fresh garden salad with mixed lettuce I grew here and Stewart fixed potatoes with butter and sour cream and chopped up green peppers and onions for the salad.

After a nice meal we cleaned up and put away and tried to bear proof things.  Checked on the horses.  Got Perkins some more water and hay and then after a nice shower, I hit my air mattress and crashed and burned to the sound of gentle rain on the roof of the van.  Stewart said he was wakened about 3:00 AM by the horses making a fuss.  He went down and checked and all was in order.  I never heard a thing.  I woke about four and turned over and went back to sleep until it started to get light.

Stewart started coffee and we tended the horses and then we got some fires going.  Five cast iron frying pans and one boiling pot can generate a good breakfast.  Omlettes, country bacon, fried potatoes with peppers and onions, fried apples, toast and sausage gravy and plenty of hot coffee.

 

After this lumberjack breakfast we cleaned up and stowed stuff and tacked up and set out for a morning ride.  Perkins had consumed at least seven and a half gallons of water during the evening and morning.   Our plan was to ride a few miles and come back for a light lunch and give the horses a break and then ride off again.  This is what we did and we had a nice morning ride on more beautiful trails.

The weather was beautiful and there were no bugs to bother the horses or the riders and we had a delightful ride.  We rode six or seven miles in the morning before finding our way back to camp.  Along the way we found a pretty little mountain stream and Perkins had a big drink of water.  This is something he never does, so my worries about him drinking went away.  We untacked and hosed the horses off.  I put Perkins hobbles on and just let him graze.  We had a light lunch and relaxed for an hour or so.  It was so peaceful to have practically the whole park to ourselves.  We ran into a couple of rangers a time or two and they said that on weekends the place was packed and that we had picked a good time to come.  We ran into a few guys doing maintenance and construction work.  We thanked them all for their work on this beautiful park and told them how much we were enjoying it.

We rode back out and did another six or eight miles in the afternoon.  I am guessing at the mileage by breaks but know we did 14.54 miles on Wednesday according to the GPS.  Stewart and I are not speed demons and we enjoy just ambling along and enjoying the beauty and seeing the sights and talking a bit.  We saw numerous deer, about a thousand squirrels, tracks from all kinds of wildlife.  We did not see any signs of bear.  But at one point the horses tensed up and were watching to the left and we did not see anything.  But there was a loud crash in the woods that sounded like a tree falling.  We concluded that it was sasquatch and had a light hearted discussion of, if we saw him should we shoot him.  After a discussion of laws and regulations and possible legal actions, we decided that if we could drag a dead sasquatch out of the woods it would be worth it.  That is just the kind of silly fun we have when riding.  We might retire and become professional sasquatch hunters.  We can not do any worse than the existing sasquatch hunters.  No one has found one dead or alive yet.

Arriving back in camp we went through what was becoming our routine.  Cared for the horses and cleaned up a little and then started some supper.  Cheeseburgers and Hot dogs with all the fixings, baked beans, fried potatoes with green pepper and onions, fresh garden salad with Kens buttermilk dressing and a couple of golden beverages.  That cheeseburger with good cheese and tomato and onion was delicious.

Clean up and stow the food.  Catch a shower.  Check on the horses again.  By now every time Perkins sees me even glance in his direction he is nickering at me to bring him a treat or some grain.  Old boy knows an easy mark when he sees one.  Then we made a campfire in the fire ring mostly to burn the burnable trash and a few sticks that Stewart had been shaggin back to the fire ring with every foray outside the camp site.  We sat and chatted for a while until the fire made me so sleepy I nearly fell out of my chair.  I hit the blankets and was down for the count.  I awoke once during the night and listened to see what had awakened me.  Hearing nothing, I rolled over and was gone until first light.  Stewart was already up and fussing with a crow that had perched over his trailer and awakened him with its cawing.

Checked on the horses and Perkins started nickering as soon as I emerged from the Van.  I don’t feed in the morning at home, but it did not take him long to acclimate to two meals a day.  He tried to hide it but I could tell he had laid down in the stall that night.  He had some flakes of shavings stuck in his sparse little mane and a few on his belly.

Breakfast the first day was so good that we did the same thing again the second day.  It was even better because we remembered to slice a tomato for breakfast.  We had a hot dog left over from dinner so Stewart sliced that up and added it to the morning potatoes.  We did not have any sausage gravy the second day.  We had sausage but decided that too much of a good thing might spoil us so we just finished off the bacon.

After enjoying another feast and while we were cleaning up and breaking camp, I threw down the gauntlet for Stewart.  I said that when we do this again we have to come up with some different menu items so that we would not be one trick ponies.  All morning and ever since we have been discussing future culinary possibilities.

We decided to strike camp and have most of the stuff ready to go.  Then we could take a morning ride and have a light lunch and then head home.  We put away most of our stuff and packed up.  We figured out what we would have for lunch and fixed it and so that all we would have to do was pull it out of the cooler and eat.  We got packed up and then tacked up and rode out about 9:30 or so.  Guessing at times as my cell phone did not have a signal and I use my cell phone for a watch.  Stewart is on Verizon and he had a good signal.

We rode nine miles and it may have been the prettiest day of the three.  Mild temperature, nice breeze, no bugs and back on the beautiful trails.  What was interesting is how much the horses bonded with us during the short stay with close association.  Perkins seemed to not be just looking for treats.  It seemed he actually enjoyed my company.  Given the choice he would rather hang out with Loretta but he liked me too.  Being home today he has nickered at me several times and after he ate supper tonight he came and put his head over my shoulder.  Stewart says that Loretta has been the same way since he has been home.  Maybe when we retire and become professional sasquatch hunters I can spend more time with my horses.  Marie suggest that any more time and I will have to move em in here with Dee Dee and Rosie.

While we were eating our last lunch, we turned the horses loose to graze.  I put hobbles on Perkins just to be safe.  We thought Loretta would stay with him.  We had already cleaned the stalls but left the doors open.  We spied Loretta going into Perkins stall and Stewart went down there to get her out and Perkins was in there as well and they were both munching on hay I had left in the rack.  Perkins had not seen Loretta in over three months, I would guess, but the two of them are fast friends.  I told Stewart it looked like she was going to have to come live at my house.  He didn’t think it was too funny….

Got home and Marie had some excitement as well.  There had been a big black snake curled up beside the house.  Marie was trying to keep miss nosy Dee Dee from fooling with it and hurt her back picking Dee Dee up to get her into the house.  Marie said the snake was as big around as her arm and she was afraid it would hurt Dee Dee.  I am on stict orders to be on snake patrol now and the dogs must not be let out of sight.

Dee Dee and Rosie did miss me.  When I was walking down the Driveway from putting Perkins in the pasture, Marie let the dogs out to greet me.  Dee Dee was a black streak running down the driveway to me.  Rose was trotting along behind after she howled her welcome home howl.

It was a great time with a great friend, at a beautiful venue with beautiful weather and good food.  Nothing busted.  No tragedy befell us.  Everything went just like we hoped.  Some have opined that it is as close as I am likely to get, when I say it was like three days in Heaven.

Baby Jim The New Puppy


  Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

                 The New Puppy

  A  few weeks ago now we lost Marie’s little dog Toby.  Toby was supposed to be a miniature Australian Shepherd, but Baby Jim’s own theory was that he was a cross between a nomadic wanderer and Sylvester the cat.  Toby was a rescue dog that came to the Poor Farm from Georgia via Aussie Rescue.  Marie saw his photo and that was the dog she wanted.  It was up to Baby Jim to make it so.  He did and Toby became an erstwhile member of the Pipe Dream Farm staff, eventually. 

 Toby spent the first year or so with us trying to find a way to get to Pittsburg or some other foreign and exotic locale.  For a long time to venture outside, he was required to be on a leash as unfettered he would simply head down the driveway and take a left on Old Ridge Road.  As an Alternative he would sometimes continue straight through the woods and cross the Smith Farm and as a breathless Baby Jim pursued alternately calling and cursing,  Marie would drive around to Coatesville Road and pick him up there.  It was not that he didn’t care for the hospitality of Pipe Dream Farm.  He just had places to go and things to see.  Baby Jim said he apparently had the wanderlust gene.  The folks who had fostered him before his arrival here said that they had experienced several explorations of the far flung reaches of their suburban neighborhood.  He had originally surfaced in a pound somewhere in Georgia after being picked up for vagrancy, with eye problems and a full complement of worms including heart worms. 

 In later years, Toby had better resisted the urge to leave.  He had become comfortable with sleeping on the bed and eating regular and he learned that Marie was a soft touch for treats.  He would occasionally look down the driveway but apparently gave up on his quest to see Tahiti.  He would however take out after the hounds that run 365 days a year in our locale.  If Toby spied them he was off to drive the marauders away from his home with 25 lbs of vicious intent.  Baby Jim does not think any of the hounds ever noticed the danger they were in as they continued their single minded quest in pursuit of the quarry of the season.  Apparently something is always in season here, because the hounds go on forever.  This weekend it has been the spring fox hunt with nary a horse in sight.  Just hounds and pickup trucks.  It was supposed to be Thursday and Friday and Saturday but it started on Tuesday and dogs will still be alternately on the trail and looking for something to eat, sad looks, anything really, can you spare a quarter, have you seen my truck?, for the next week.  

 But we digress.  Toby fell ill.  At first it was occasional incontinence for which he was always ashamed.  Pretty rapidly the lethargy set in and then he lost his appetite.  Marie would cook chicken or beef for Toby and shove a nice TV dinner in front of Baby Jim.  Finally he (Toby) quit eating and was in obvious pain and Baby Jim took him on that last ride in the truck.  The young women in the Vets office were somewhat unnerved to have an ornery looking 250 lb old man standing in their midst with a little dog in his arms with tears rolling down his cheeks and barely able to speak.  Thankfully Toby was not aware of where he was, he hated the vets office, and soon it was over and he was interred with the great company of those who had preceded him here.

 Baby Jim missed the little rascal terribly but was glad that he no longer suffered.  Marie was heartbroken.  Even Rose went through a grieving process but she did benefit from the increased attention and not having to share her people.

 Eventually Marie started dropping hints about a puppy.  Baby Jim had become accustomed to the dogs that came here with a layer of civilization already installed.  There has not been a puppy here since Maggie came to live here.  Maggy was a shy and quiet type and she had Lore who was a year or so old at the time to raise and train her.  Our Aussies have always raised and trained the young ones.  Maggy grew to be an 85 pounder who was as meek as a lamb unless she thought one of us needed protecting.  She lived a good long life with us and we buried her in 2008. 

 But…… then someone, whom Baby Jim previously had thought to be a friend, called and advised him of an Aussie Puppy in the local pound.  Baby Jim stopped by on his way home from work.  For one who has been thought of in many areas as a mean old SOB, Baby Jim does not do well in that environment.  A hundred dogs in cages all clamoring for their people, or any people, or just a little love and attention.  He tried hard to shut it out and not look at the faces…….Then the lady opens a cage and deposits a black ball of fur that is all feet and tongue and energy and love in your arms.  Once you have your face licked and your arm peed on you are pretty much committed.

 A few minutes later, Baby Jim opened the front door of the poor house and put the pup in and closed the door and went out to retrieve his gear from the truck.  He returned to the house to find Marie with her face buried in dirty stinky pound puppy hair.

  

Even though on one on earth knows what this mutt is…..she can pass as an Aussie as a puppy…… and there might actually be some little bit of Aussie in her pedigree but it is too late to care.  She is more likely a cross between a starving hyena and a manure spreader.   Nothing is safe from those needle teeth.  Not shoes or pants legs or even poor Rose.  Rose is such a great dog and accepted this new trial with grace and aplomb.   She tolerates the chewing, and jumping and stealing and wrestling and outright adoration.   Right now there is a large black fuzzy dog lying by the feet of Bay Jim and nestled up to that is a small black bundle of fur, asleep thankfully but chasing something in her puppy dreams.

 Her name is Dee Dee and she knows her name already but often still chooses to ignore those who don’t use it appropriately.  She must be kin to Marie as she is strong willed and determined to do things her way.  But unlike Toby, she took all of five minutes to claim title to her new address.  She is still exploring her new realm and finding new things to chew on.  She knows what “NO” means but has serious backslider tendencies.  She knows the kitchen counter is the source of Maries Treats.  She knows she has to sit to get a treat from Baby Jim but will snatch one out of Maries hand in an airborne leap of unbridled enthusiasm.  Rose can still seek refuge by getting up on a sofa or her table bed by the window.  But only because Dee Dee prefers not to get up there.  She can jump up because as Marie was doing dishes one evening she found that Dee Dee had jumped up in a chair and onto the kitchen table to make sure Marie had cleaned everything off.  Maries solution is to warn and chastise Baby Jim to push the chairs all the way under the table.

 Baby Jim is too old and infirm to run and play with her.  Mostly he fears that he will step on her or take a fall trying to avoid stepping on her.  Some think a fall has already been narrowly averted, but he aint talking.  He has been observed lying on the ground wrestling with her however.  Dee Dee is still not a big fan of truck riding, but she does not get car sick as so many puppies do, and she is going wherever her Rose goes, and Rose loves to ride and is also happy that she can now once again lay her head in Baby Jims lap to be petted in transit.