Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bacon is a Miracle


I’m not joking. Bacon is a freakin’ miracle. It tastes ridiculously good and is a culinary masterpiece used in everything from breakfast to dessert. But only recently did it demonstrate to me how really valuable a tool it really is.
Our dog was bitten by a rattlesnake last Thursday. He came limping in around mid-afternoon with his leg swollen about twice the size of the other leg. I immediately suspected a snake bite but it’s early in the season so I wasn’t sure. Yet, I’d seen a garter snake a week ago so it wasn’t out of the question. I knew some snakes were out and about. So I looked all up and down his leg. He let me touch it so I carefully ran my hand around his leg and could see no blood anywhere. It didn’t seem to be broken or strained.


Before I go on let me tell you a bit about this dog. This is Teddy our 5 year old chow-whatever mix. Some say spaniel. Some say terrier. I go with the terrier because this dog is obsessed with ground squirrels. All day long he has his nose buried down a squirrel borrow barking furiously, only his rear-end visible and his tail ticking back and forth like an manic clock. He’s done this every day we’ve been here except when the weather is too inclement. He’s a dog on a one-pointed mission and he has no other. I’ve known all along that he might be on a collision course with a snake. The only other land creature I know of that is so obsessed with squirrels are snakes. Around here they are the snake’s main source of food and there are plenty of them. Squirrels that is. I’ve been amazed he has not run afoul of a snake for the almost 2 years we’ve been here. Until now.
So he’s been vaccinated against snake bite because we are not fools. Last Thursday we were glad we had done so. We took him to the vet and here’s where things got really interesting. This dog, this Teddy, has an unusual fear of vets. To say he goes berserk is not an adequate description. Therefore, we give him all his shots and pray he doesn’t need to go for any other reason. When the vet has to administer the rabies we take him and this very clever vet has a wrought iron door to the patio that we squish the dog in between like a cattle squeeze to give him the shot through the bars.
So on Thursday we drove in dread of what now might happen in the vet’s office when he had to examine Teddy. We brought the muzzle and secured it to the dog who was already exhibiting rising hysteria on the examination table. Then with Marty (ex-bull rider and very strong) and nimble Dr. Burnham pinning him to the table by brute force we began the examination. Such piteous howls and screams did commence that Dr Burnham had to close the doors so as not to frighten every one within a mile radius. The dog writhed like that of a possessed demon. It was a sight to behold. Doc said can I sedate him and I said please. Soon the patient was snoring, legs taped and laughing gas firmly over the nose. The examination then produced the tell-tale vampire bite on the paw and we knew what to do.


When it was all over the doc said can you give him penicillin shots for three days when you get home. We looked at each other and gamely said yes. On the way home we were not quite so confidant. But after all the only other choice was $150 worth of sedation each day for 3 days. I don’t think so.
We rigged the dog run hurricane fence pen door and wall into a make-shift cattle squeeze and then I came up with the brilliant idea of frying up some bacon to use as a distraction. Squeezed in between the door and the wall, hoisted a bit up by pinch collar and fed bits of bacon in a steady stream we inoculated him. I think the dog might even be all in favor of getting shots now if bacon is in the bargain. Bacon is a miracle.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cortez and the Wind



I walked all the way out to Three Cross Hill today. It’s the highest point on the ranch at about 300 feet tall. That’s from the surrounding ground. If you’re interested the ranch itself is about 1,000 feet above sea level. It’s called Three Cross Hill because there are three stone crosses up there. They are the brand of the ranch. This brand was purchased years ago by the owners and was the first brand in the new world. It was used by Hernan Cortes when he came to Mexico in 1519 at the age of 33. The brand fell out of use and was not owned by anyone at the time of purchase so the owners snagged it and were tickled pink. Now it’s emblazoned on many buildings here at the ranch and, of course, it’s at the top of Three Cross Hill. To anyone learned in religion it’s quite obvious that the brand is emblematic of Calvary. The ranch truck has the brand decal on the side so when we're in town we get comments like Nice Logo. Some people think we’re a religious cult or way religious but we’re not. We're just normal religious. But people are more likely to relate to it as a Christian emblem as opposed to something connected to Hernan Cortes. I didn’t know. When we first came I said what’s up with the three crosses I see all over the place? I was a little concerned at such a blatant show.


I walked to Three Cross Hill for exercise and to just see the ranch from bird’s eye level. Up there it was breezy, mild and fairly clear. I looked in all directions and thought about how that wind came from somewhere and how somebody and some things had breathed in that air and then breathed it out. That the wind had blown through the hair of some unknown person somewhere out there and I’ll never know who. When I have these thoughts I think about how we’re all connected by being part of this planet. We think we’re separate but we’re not. We’ve got the same air in our lungs that everybody and everything breathes. I felt the wind and thought about a possible person in Mongolia had that wind blow across their face just a few days ago. Here’s my little life that seems all special and separate to me but the reality is there’s other people out there right now living their lives going about their business. I wonder what they’re going through. Are they happy or sad? Are they going through some awful experience or are they having the same sense of wonder I’m having right now?


When I start thinking along these lines it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from other wacky thoughts. Don’t get me started on what I think about how close outer space is. It’s just 6 miles away straight up. Think about that. Closer than the grocery store. Thank you atmosphere. Our air. Our wind. Without you we’d be having a miserable time.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Suited for Solitude



The year was 1983 and I was driving a friend’s car back to Iowa. I was somewhere in Nevada near Elko or Stateline. This was 35 years ago so you know things were a lot different and a lot less developed. I was driving all by myself. I liked it that way. I had my thoughts to myself and no one to tell me what radio station to listen to, where to stop or what to do. I didn’t mind being alone. I had the radio and that was enough. As long as I was progressing in a general eastward direction I was fine. I could gaze out at the scenery and think about whatever popped into my head. In the car streaming along at 65 miles per hour I felt the solace of the open spaces in the miles passing through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and beyond.
In those days gas station attendants still pumped your gas in out of the way places. At a gas station near Stateline I started up a conversation with the attendant. As I gazed out to the horizon with nothing but sagebrush and salt flat in sight I said to him aren’t you lonely out here? He said no I don’t need so many friends. That made me think what was my truth in the metropolitan area of San Francisco? I thought he’s right. I don’t have all that many friends either and I don’t need many. I could number my good ones on one hand. The only difference between the wide open spaces and San Francisco was that if I cared I would have more choice in the big city. But I didn’t care.
I’ve always been a loner. Not lonely. I like my own company and can spend hours all by myself without going freaky. Now that I have been living here at Grindstone where it’s just me and Marty for days on end I find that when I go back to the metropolitan area I feel claustrophobic and beleaguered by all the noise, congestion and traffic. Out here we take the quiet for granted until we experience the hub-bub of the city.  Out here is not a place for people who feel uneasy without lots of people around. I have a dear friend who grew up in New York City. When she heard about my new home she said aren’t you scared of being alone out there. Don’t you feel unsafe by being isolated from people? I thought for a minute and said actually I feel more safe because there’s a lot less people to get up to shenanigans like they do in the city.
Once we were in Hawaii getting ready to take out rental car out to our vacation home on the other side of the island. A man at the counter told us be careful they don’t have street lights out there. We looked at each other perplexed as in yeah and how is that a problem but we didn’t say it out loud. We knew he was from a city where there were street lights everywhere and it didn’t get dark, really dark, at night. For years I lived in the city and looked up at night to see the Milky Way and couldn’t see it. I had seen it every night as a child where we lived in the small town in Iowa. Now it was gone. Out here it’s back and in full force. Every star is visible and I love the new moon nights when they are crystal clear with no moon light to impede the viewing. You got to be comfortable in the dark out here.
You’ve also got to feel comfortable with hardly ever seeing other people. You’ve got to have a partner or spouse that you really get along with if you’re going to make it out here. That person is going to be your only human contact for days at a time and if you can’t talk or be easy with that person you’re going to have a problem. Out here the meaning of teamwork takes on even greater significance so work well with your partner and you’ll never lack for anything the city offers. It’s a lovely life and I’m suited for it.