Monthly Archives: December 2017

What is a Snow Shovel

Now that Christmas has been thoroughly celebrated at our house, we find ourselves in a state of torpor not unlike a sea turtle washed up on the beach. The furious activity of the past couple weeks has used our energy reserves, and we are into being reflective about the year which seems to have whizzed by like the Roadrunner in the Wiley Coyote cartoon. It’s either that or I’m just asleep in my lean- back chair between the fireplace and the Christmas tree dreaming about reflecting.

Glass Christmas decorations hanging on a agave tree

A new year is approaching and I’m not sure what it will bring, but I can only hope the pace will be a tad more sedate than this one. Or maybe it’s just that I’m not is able to keep up the pace as I once was. In any event, I’m hoping for more time to kick back and enjoy the family and the ranch without feeling like I just ran a quarter of a mile. I suspect a lot of folks are hoping for the same thing, along with fewer international upsets and a little less terrorism and some moderation in the weather. I think the Gulf Coast has seen enough hurricanes, and the Pacific coast enough fires, to do for a while.

Looking out at the cows and horses clustered around hay bales in the gray drizzle, I’m ready for some sunshine and those moderate Gulf Coast days that make people migrate to Texas from snow country. That reminds me of the guy who left Minnesota with a snow shovel tied to the top of his car, heading south. His neighbor saw it and remarked “Why do you have a snow shovel tied to your car, Oley? You’re headed south.” His answer was “When I finally get to a place where someone asks me what that thing is tied to my car, I will know I’ve gone south far enough!”

I hope that we continue to not know what a snow shovel is here in central Texas.

Usefulness of Horses

Did you ever wonder why we (some of us) continue to mess with horses? I find myself frequently wondering about that. After all, for transportation they’ve been replaced by cars trucks and trains. As for horsepower, we’ve now got electricity fueled by coal, natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear power plants. So what do we need horses for?

Of course there are a few holdouts in the ranching business who actually use horses for cattle work.They’re also pretty handy for getting around in feedlots efficiently. But more and more, fences, four wheelers, and sacks of range cubes are taking over even some of those jobs.

Well, you might have guessed by now, it’s a trick question.

I have finally come up with what I consider to be a legitimate answer.

Horses have trotted their way into the industry and profession of therapy!

Glenn riding a horse next to Tia the dog

Horse programs are now popping up all over the country for wounded warriors, the nation’s veterans returning from foreign wars with physical and mental injury. It turns out that horses not only exert a calming effect by their movement, but solving equestrian puzzles engages these veteran’s minds. This helps them re-organize their thoughts and emotions in order to reintegrate into civilian life.

In addition, horse programs have been pivotal in therapy for children with developmental problems and genetic problems. Often kids with intractable seizures begin to have fewer episodes once they begin equine therapy. Recently an equestrian program for children afflicted with autism disorders has blossomed. These kids have also “blossomed” as it has been discovered that cantering develops a part of the brain involved with speech.

Another type of therapy is the prison system’s programs utilizing prisoners to train mustangs. This has true dual purpose: making otherwise unused mustangs into useful horses, while re-programming and rehabilitating those prisoners. In addition to the occasional parolee who finds a job in the horse sport industry, these programs develop a new approach to problem-solving which appears to reduce recitivism (return to prison for repeated criminal offenses).

Let’s not forget the therapeutic effect of attending a big horse show, with exhibitions of showmanship and even cattle work. There is also a whole industry of competition horsemanship, rodeo, roping, and even horse racing. These all involve expenditures of time, money, and effort that give participants something to work on to distract them from their daily jobs and worries!

Finally, what could be more therapeutic than a trail ride on a trusted mount in a beautiful countryside, with affable friends under a clear blue sky!

I’m a Human Doing

“ I am not a human being, I am a human doing”

 Christmas Eve I was building coffee in the dark kitchen, waiting for sun-up. I had a loaf of holiday bread in the oven, and was anticipating a day of fun with the grand kids. Since it was not raining or below freezing I was hoping we would ride horses.

Back lit cowboy with a sunrise or sunsetThen, as the sun rose, I looked down at the barn. Through the front gate I could see a corner of the training pen. It looked like the reflection of light off water. Upon a second look from another window I verified it. The working pen was flooded. We’ve had no rain in several days, so I knew I had a water leak somewhere in the barn. I threw on my barn clothes and headed down the hill. The training pen was a lake. The water was gushing out of a PVC pipe that fed one of the “aromatic” water troughs. My heart sank. The big outdoor arena was still a mud-hole from the rain, so I’d been counting on the dry sand of the small pen to work my outside horses.

The saying goes “Cheer up! things could be worse! So I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse!”

I headed to the shop to get the John Deere that had the front-end loader with the bucket. It wouldn’t even turn over. I cranked up the 4040 with the hay forks  to move in and connect the batteries. Couldn’t find any jumper cables. I went to get the truck, because it had cables in the toolbox. It was attached to the stock trailer so it was difficult to get in close to the tractor.

Finally with jumper cables, a tractor, a truck, and skinned knuckles from removing the “convenient” snap-on battery housing, I got the 2955 started.

Now the job was to “drain the swamp.” Meanwhile I had turned off the water, so none of the horse  water tanks were going to fill for a few hours. I then found the PVC supplies, and lo and behold – surprise of the decade, I actually had a one inch coupler and some PVC glue. So the pipe was repaired and I spent a couple of hours draining the water out  and resurfacing the pen. Then we had to clean out gloppy stalls, so that meant more hours of backbreaking labor. Bill got the visiting cousins up doing rides on old “Ferrari the Reliable” (thanks Tonya) while Sallie, Billy Bob, and I practiced equine digestive byproduct relocation

 While this all took place, the breeze out of the north began to bring clouds and temperatures rapidly approaching freezing.

The good news? After all that, it was time to feed cows and horses and go to the house for Christmas Eve supper with the family, try to forget the trials of the day, and remember how wonderful it is that we have each other‘s love and a warm house.

Merry Christmas!

Jake and Toad: Eastern Star

Jake and Toad are sitting on their horses on the snow-covered hilltop, waiting for a line of cattle to pass, heading for the corral. It’s almost dark, and the sky is cloudy, while between the clouds, a few stars are beginning to wink.

“Dang, Toad, it’s colder in a pawnbrokers smile out here!”

 “Yeah, Jake, it feels like there’s nothing between us in the North Pole but a bob wire fence!”

 “Why couldn’t I have died when I was a baby, then I wouldn’t have had to endure this misery!”

 “Yeah, my mama told me I should’ve started a grocery store, ‘stead of being a cowboy; then I could work indoors where it’s warm.”

“So, Toad, what you gonna do for Christmas?”

 “Reckon I’ll. go home, if the road’s clear, You?”

 “Well, I ain’t got nobody to go home to. Guess I’ll hole up at the bunkhouse and celebrate with Miguel and the cook.”

 “You could come with me. My mom is a hell of a cook, and my family would love to have you.”

“Aw, thanks, but I guess I don’t fit into town things. My place is out here where churches don’t grow and the roof is the stars. I know you don’t think I got nothin’ but hair under my sombrero, but it always seems to me that out here, alone on my horse on the prairie, I’m actually closer to that Jewish rabbi who walked around in sandals in the Middle East 2000 years ago.

Toad standing next to his horse looking toward the eastern star

The scene fades away to music by John Denver “Tall in the saddle he spends Christmas Day”