Bark

Four years ago I set out for Colorado. I’d sold my house, I’d quit my job and I was leaving California behind, hotel and all (ha ha). In my rented van were Lily T. Wolf, Dusty and Mindy T. Dog, the only companionship I’d have on that journey and in my new life in a new town where I knew no one.

Life in the mountains of CA had been hard on Dusty T. Dog. My neighbor hated him and was abusive and mean to both of us. Yes, Dusty barks, but 1) He was never outside unchaperoned after 8 pm, 2) I scrupulously cleaned the yard and their dog run, 3) Dusty would not leave the yard even if someone left the gate open.

One day I went out and my asshole neighbor was standing next to the fence in front of my house (at that time it was a 3 foot fence; it was soon changed to a 6 foot fence) shaking the fence, screaming at Dusty and yelling, “Come on you son of a bitch. BITE me!” He threw rocks at my dog. He hoped to provoke Dusty so that Animal Control would haul Dusty away.

Animal Control came in response to a formal complaint the guy lodged against me. They found three friendly dogs and a clean yard. I conferred with Animal Control and my trainer and the consensus was that if Dusty wore a bark collar it would control the barking. It didn’t. Dusty’s urge to bark was stronger than the pain of the electric shock. One day I felt a scar on my dog’s neck, took the batteries out of the collar and put it back on him. To the world it looked like he was wearing the bark collar, but it would never shock him again. Grrrrrr.

Dusty was a rescue. I got him from a shelter. He was on his way out as an unadoptable, nervous and aggressive dog, but I didn’t know it when I met him. He was a 4 month old black puppy who let me know as soon as he saw me that he wanted to be my dog. The Animal Control people who ran the shelter warned me that he was not adoptable, but when they put us in a little room together, Dusty laid his head on my chest and talked and talked and talked. The Animal Control officer said, “I guess he’s your dog after all.”

I spent $1500 to have him professionally trained and socialized because where I lived he would not meet people or dogs and he needed to. He never really got calmed down with either (though he is a very sweet, affectionate and friendly dog if you get past the bark) but he did learn to love horses. Dusty barks at people as a warning, to protect me, and to protect himself. You see, when Animal Control picked him up, he was a two month old puppy who was injured and left by the side of Interstate 8 outside of Alpine, CA. Someone had intentionally hurt that dog — puppy, rather. How could he trust anyone?

But he does trust a lot of people. He’s come a very long way from the scared creature he used to be. He used to be terrified at the vet — scary terrified, and now he’s happy to see Dr. Crawford, Dr. Ratzlaff and all the other people who work at Alpine Vet in Monte Vista. He loves my friends (and their dogs). He adores everyone at the kennel where I board him. He likes other dogs, just not from a distance or if they charge him.

Still, my early experiences with Dusty made me wary, and I have always tried to keep him from scaring people, even when it was the people who were the assholes.

Until today.

There’s an old guy who sometimes walks where I do. When I see his truck parked, I go somewhere else. There’s just something about him that creeps me out. The first time we met, the dogs and I had just arrived. Dusty was off leash, and the guy pulled up beside me in the parking lot. Dusty barked and ran to him. The guy was obviously (and naturally) afraid. Dusty’s a big dog.

“I’m afraid of dogs,” he said. “I used to be a mailman.”

“I’m sorry.” How many times have I said, “I’m sorry” because of Dusty? Thousands.

“Keep him away from me.”

“He’s friendly.”

“I don’t like dogs.”

Somehow, that guy’s “I don’t like dogs” trumped my dog. Until today.

We got to a spot to walk. I let Dusty out (off leash because he heels off-leash very very well) and Bear (on leash because she catches a scent and she’s GONE) and off we went. Dusty pooped on the edge of the parking lot. This parking lot is used by teenagers for, uh, parking, (snicker, snicker) and it’s replete with used condoms and beer bottles and dog poop. Lots of people take their dogs there. There is no trash can. Sometimes I pick up my dog’s poop, and sometimes I don’t. It depends whether I am prepared or not. Lots of people don’t, but it’s the country, it’s out of town and who cares?

On the trail are cow pies, road apples, coyote shit, cat shit, elk, deer and rabbit droppings along with god (and Bear) knows what other excremental delicacies.

Today we took a walk by the river (humid, mosquitoes, flies, horseflies, not fun) and then we turned back. I saw the guy walking toward us with his stupid ass hiking stick and not wearing a shirt. Did I say mosquitoes? Flies? Horseflies? I leashed Dusty, took both dogs to the side of the trail, pointed their noses toward the woods, away from the trail, and held them tight.

The guy approached. The guy approached me. “Don’t stop,” I said. Dusty was barking like crazy, of course, because a guy with a cudgel was coming toward his human. “DON’T STOP!!!” I said again because the guy just didn’t get it. Finally he walked on, and I got back on the trail. He stopped and said, “Someone let their dog poop in the parking lot.”

I’ve been Dusty’s human for 12 years. For 12 years I’ve taken the peoples’ side in their objections to my dog. Today, I didn’t. “Big fucking deal,” I said thinking of the museum of excrement that is a path along a river.

The guy yelled toward my quickly retreating back, something about “Don’t talk to me that way.”

The thing is, I never wanted to talk to him at all.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/06/rdp-thursday-prompt-bark/

Walk on the Wild Side

One of the places I like to hike in summer, fall, winter has enclosed part of itself with electric fencing. When I first saw the fencing, I wondered why (duh) but yesterday I saw the absolute bovinity of the reason.

Cows. Moms and kids. I don’t think they’ve been in there long as the herbage hasn’t been chewed down and there were no cow paddies on the trail.

And the fence isn’t secure.

Not everyone likes hiking with cows. In California it was the way things were up in the higher mountains east of San Diego where I hiked most of the time once I mooooved out of town. I thought of that yesterday. Pastures. I hike in pastures. There are dangers involved in hiking in pastures, especially with heifers and calves, but (so far, apparently) I’ve only had one scary moment when a mom cow thought her precious child, Hamburger, or, rather “Grass Fed Beef,” was in any danger from me and my dogs. Heifers are very protective.

The BLM, Bureau of Land Management who has the care of the refuge, had put a sign on the (new) gate saying, “Cows in field. Please close gate.” I’m a rabid gate closer having once — as a little girl — allowed 20, 50, five million chickens to roam freely in the pasture between my Aunt Jo’s house and my grandma’s. I paid dearly for that sin of omission and have NOT committed it again.

We closed the gate and began walking. It was really, really nice to be out there with my dogs. My knee was fine, I was fine, the whole thing was fine, but I didn’t bring water and at 1/2 mile, we had to turn back. It was hot and 30 minutes is all I could see was fair to walk my dogs without a drink.

Meanwhile, almost literally back at the ranch…

As we were leaving, I saw a black cow and a white calf make a subtle moooove (yes, cattle may be large but they can be subtle) near the gate. I didn’t see them where they should have been when I passed the spot.

They’d escaped.

I got into the car, backed out of the lot and headed down the dirt road. There they were. Strolling together in the shade.

Trapped between an irrigation canal on their (and my) left and an electric fence on the right, Mom sauntered along with child behind. I wanted to find a way to circle around and drive toward them, possibly turning them where I would heroically open the gate and shoo them back in with the others, but the opportunity never came.

They made it to the busy county road at the end of this lovely lane. They were nearly hit. I called my vet, whose office is very nearby, thinking they might know the owners, but the woman answering the phone had no clue, and thought I was talking about the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge. As I didn’t know the number of the county road (I live Where the Streets Have No Name) so I could set her straight, I gave up. It’s amazing — but true — that people living in this tiny Colorado town don’t have intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny. I headed back toward home, and who should be coming out of Sonic but the BLM truck with an actual BLM worker inside. I blocked his exit and motioned him to come to my car.

I don’t think that would work in LA.

“There’s a heifer and a calf loose on the 3E.” (I’d learned the number of the road in the meantime.) “By the Wildlife Refuge.”

He grinned and said, “I’ll go see if I can herd her back inside.”

I came home. I hope they’re OK.

***

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/08/16/rdp-77-encircle/

Life’s Topo Map, Bastion of Hope

 

I’m not a bastion of anything. Not a bastion of virtue. Not a bastion of values. Not a bastion of tradition. I have friends who think I’m “passive” (so not the case) and others who think I’m easy going (also not the case). I have boundaries as most of us do, they’re just not in places where anyone is likely to fall over them. I’ve also learned that REAL boundaries are not subjects of conversation. Open your mouth to someone about your boundaries and negotiation begins. My boundaries — like those of any well built medieval castle — are not negotiable. Have at them with your catapults and battering rams if you must, but the little person inside has probably escaped through the back staircase up the cliff.

People have to go through their shit. Me too. At the moment, some of my dear friends are confronting inter-personal cataclysms in their lives. For now, I am blessed with the absolute clarity and simplicity of recovering from hip surgery. I know what my job is and how to do it. My list of priorities is comprehensible, elegant and  beautiful.

There’s a left turn in the town of Del Norte that leads up a road to an alpine forest and hiking trails. “Just turn left at the car wash and keep going to the turnout/parking lot,”  explained my physical therapist a few months ago. I checked it out and found a six mile one-way trail.

The trail leads to an alpine lake and a mountain. It will be my first mountain hike since I moved here four years ago. We will attempt it on the third anniversary of Bear coming to live with us, July 30. We’ll arm ourselves against ticks, carry our bear spray (will we need it? doubtful…) I’m sure we won’t go very far that first day, but that’s OK. Among the lessons I’ve learned in my life are how to get better at something, how to go farther, and how to appreciate the wonder of the expansion of my powers and my vision. When will we actually get there? Who knows. I don’t, but I look forward to the clarity of a mountain trail, every bit as sweet and hopeful as my efforts now to regain the ability to walk.

I am being driven forward Into an unknown land.

The pass grows steeper
The air colder and sharper
A wind from my unknown goal
Stirs the strings of expectation.

Still the question
Shall I ever get there?
Where life resounds
A clear pure note in the silence.

Dag Hammarskjöld

 

 

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/prompt-11-bastion/

Juggling

This is a lovely post from a group of bloggers who call themselves “The Dihedral.” I love their blog.

My days in nature are changing because time takes a toll on all of us, and my body’s wearing out. The trails and hills of my future will be different from those of my past. It’s (kind of) OK because I’m different, too.

BUT… god willing, earth and its beauty are eternal. I love this blog because its writers are young people who love doing what I have always loved doing. It’s heartening and inspiring to me that they are there, writing, questioning life, contending with the crises of the moment in life when we’re holding up the sky AND they are writing, hiking, climbing, thinking, teaching.

They describe themselves as:

“A team of writers, artists, scholars, and professionals, who share an endearing devotion to “the outdoors”. Friends who share a warmth and predilection for mother nature and the possibilities she presents to us all. Our mutual interests in rock climbing, hiking, writing, and exploring brought us to The Dihedral, and we hope you find our eccentric little “corner” of the community just as inviting as we do.”

This — written by a young single mom — is a good reminder about what’s best in life (besides a hill).

Juggling

Lovely Blog Post on Courage

One thing I’ve gotten from the Blogger Bash thing (You can still vote. Vote for me here 😀 ) is exposure to more blogs and some of them are great. I’m following more blogs and I think I’m being followed…

This is a really good post by a young hiker from her blog, “Must Hike; Must Eat.” She writes about the question of courage. If you read my blog, you know that question interests me I guess because maybe I’m scared a lot. Enjoy!

The Definition of Courage

Tread Lightly

It’s a radiant day in the real west. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Bits of green are poking through the dead and brittle grass. The golf course has opened in spite of not being in the least ready. People are out and socializing with neighbors they haven’t seen in months. Winter — even this very open winter — is always a kind of cocoon here. People LOVE spring and summer (except me). OH well. At least last week we had a real snow and frost on the trees, and, all in all, I think, I’m kind of glad that winter never really materialized this year. It was probably for the best, except for nature and farmers and everything that really matters…

California. When I moved there from Colorado back in the 80s, I was horrified that trails in (frequently used) wilderness areas were fenced. I didn’t understand it, but after a while I realized that hordes of people have a deliterious impact on nature. When I worked for an urban wilderness park, I was always recruiting people for trail maintenance which often meant fencing. Friendly fencing, but still obstacles to keep people on maintained trails. I went 180 degrees.

Because of the mild winter, my little walking place — Shriver/Wright Wild Life Area — has seen so much foot traffic that it looks like an overused vacant lot. I don’t even want to go there and add my 10 feet to the impact. People are cutting trails, trampling on plants (and they probably? might?) not even know what they’re trampling on (wild iris!). And bicycles — I love mountain bikes. I have one, but they are very, very bad for the ground and really should stay on trails. BUT someone is ridiing a mountain bike out there wherever, and it’s damaging the surface just as if the bike were a tank.

Just because there are hundreds of square miles of undeveloped land here in the San Luis Valley, doesn’t mean that one small place (a 1 mile loop trail) isn’t vulnerable. It’s vulnerable. VERY vulnerable. I think it should be closed for spring and maybe people need to get in there and put up signs like, “Stay on designated trails, please!” “Cutting trails causes erosion.” “Cutting trails destroys plan life.” “Give animals their space. Stay on human trails.”

But maybe summer — which is mosquito filled and nasty — will do the job.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/radiant/

In Other News —

Ridiculously warm day here in Heaven. Dusty, Bear and I took off for our usual places, but there were people. As a last resort, I turned down the dirt road leading to probably my favorite walk (so far — there’s much I have not yet explored) and Voilá! No one! I whooped and “Yay!”ed, parked and off we went.

The light right now is slanted and silvery across the yellow winter grass. The only colors are a pure raw umber, gold, blue, black and white. It’s stark in its way, but very lovely. We walked nearly 2 miles in sixty degree temps. I should have brought water for the dogs…

fullsizeoutput_39e

Sky…

fullsizeoutput_399

Little Melt Spot Reflecting Grass

fullsizeoutput_39c

Lenticular clouds above the Meadow of the World

 

I kind of thought I might see or hear Sandhill Cranes, but though it feels like late spring, it’s still just February 1. Definitely improved my attitude. Once again, these words ring true.

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
Hills and a cloud.”  Wallace Stevens

P.S. The bison in the header photo are across the street from Rio Grande Hospital. 🙂 Not a bad view!

Where I Live

Today Mindy got groomed. My groomer has a small farm. Really small. She lives in a mobile home across from my vet. In the backyard are a couple of sheds. One is for storing bikes on one end and a pony on the other. The other is her really pretty grooming studio. There are pens for sheep and the goat. It’s far and away from any urban grooming set up like you might see at Petco or something. She LOVES animals and she has two great kids who help out.

Mindy loves to go there and they love Mindy. “She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body,” says the groomer. “She’s the most cooperative dog; she seems to know what you need and helps you.” Mindy is 10 or 11; she has bad hips. I don’t like brushing her because I’m afraid I’ll hurt her, so it’s great I have found Muddy Paws.

Mindy the groomed

“Aren’t I pretty?”

When I picked Mindy up we talked about what people talk about in an agricultural community. I didn’t grow up here. I never farmed anything or raised any stock, but I like it. I would have liked doing it if I’d been plopped down in that world. I’d have been happy. I know that because I was always happy in Montana with my family and their borderline farms. I am happier here than I’ve been ever in my life.

In a farming community, you talk about the weather and it’s NOT small talk. We’re having the driest winter Colorado has seen in 30 years. It was 56 degrees this afternoon; for reference, on this day last year, it got up to 12. That’s normal for January.

This is nuts.

“I don’t know what to think,” I said. “I like the cold and snow, but it’s kind of nice not having to worry about it.”

“I know what you mean. By now, usually, I don’t have any grooming business but I’m booked solid.”

“Last January I wouldn’t have brought Mindy. It was 20 below!”

“It’s strange,” she said. “This weather is good for the loggers, but the farmers? We got a lot of rain in the summer.”

“Seven inches extra for last year,” I said.

“That’s a whole year of moisture,” she nodded. “I think we’re going to have another one of those wet summers. That’s bad. I’m lambing now and we’re good, but next year, if we have another wet summer, hay is going to be sky high.”

“And the potatoes,” I said. “That was a little iffy last summer.”

“Yeah, it was. I don’t know what to wish for. I guess it depends on your work.”

And work depends on the land and the weather. I like that so much. I like those imperatives so much more than some arcane discussion about teaching methods or what degree I have or how I manage a classroom. I know farming (and everything else that happens here) isn’t easy for a lot of people and a lot of people are having a hard time, but  man. When nature is your partner there’s a lot different kind of negotiation and if you lose your job, it’s not because some dumbass boss doesn’t like you.

While Mindy was being groomed, Bear and I walked for a mile and a half along the river. It’s mostly frozen, here and there the unfrozen channel surfaces, but sections of it are like a mirror. We found the femur of a deceased large mammal — probably a deer — a little bit of fur hanging on, but mostly cleaned off completely.

Femur

 

Animals that walk along the river during other times of day include bears, coyotes, foxes, stray dogs, a cougar, badgers — and human hunters. Who knows how that femur came to be beside the trail and it wasn’t saying anything. I think Bear has some idea, but she’s not saying, either.

 

Oh Well…

The hiking book has been a strange kind of challenge and “learning experience.” Couldn’t find a good cover. Ended up with a photo I hadn’t taken and on which I’d have to pay royalties if I sold the book. OK. I didn’t need to — or plan to — sell the book. That cover came out “OK” — exponentially better than any of the other covers Createspace had sent me, all of which had been affected by the Doppler Effect and shifted to red…

Then there were (are?) the innumerable internal flaws haunting me (and maybe you, if you read it). Finally, I came to grips with the reality that everything about the book, life, the places in which its set, the stories contained within it — all flawed. This book isn’t fiction; it’s real life. Flawed.

So I printed 15 and gave them away as presents.

And then…

A couple of days ago, in a journal from antediluvian times, I found the perfect photo. This afternoon I found Createspace had a template that was exactly what I wanted. I found a couple of errors that mattered.

Shit.

OH well. Bottom line, it will be for sale on Amazon at a very low price in case you want to read it. Advance reports are that its good, tiny errors and all. 🙂