Goodbye Tee

4 Mar

On February 25th, we had the blizzard.  It lasted about 12 hours and was intense, bringing 19 inches of snow.  In the morning I couldn’t see anything out the windows so,  I brought Blacky into the garage and checked the livestock to make sure they were in the barn.  I had to wear goggles because of the 45 mph wind and the blinding flakes when I went out to the pens.  I didn’t see the cats because I figured that they were in the shed as always.  I didn’t know that Tee wasn’t.

Amy got me “Tee” as a Valentine’s gift years ago from the SPCA.  I was puzzled about that, but we hadn’t been together long and she wanted to get me something that I had childhood memories of.  So she got me a cat.

My Feline Friend.

My Feline Friend.

Tee was a good fellow.  He was the kind of cat that just wanted to lay in your lap and purr.  When I moved to the country and put him out of the house, he never completely adjusted to outdoor life, and he spent a lot of time in the shed.  But he slowly began to come out more often, and I would frequently find him laying in the sun when I went outside.  He never did really like Stripes, the stray that I brought home last year to replace Minx.  But, Tee wasn’t mean to him.  He just got up and would walk off if he saw Stripes coming.  If he didn’t; Stripes would invariably pounce on him, but Tee never fought back, he’d just scuttle off.  It was surprising, considering how big he was that he let Stripes be such a pest.

I found Tee last Saturday, about half-way between my place and my neighbors.  He had been covered with snow for several days.  I don’t know why he was out in the open like he was, and I wonder if something happened to him prior to the storm.  I kind of suspect that a coyote may have gotten him.  If so, Blacky probably jumped the coyote and ran it off before it could finish Tee off or carry him away.  That’s the only reason I can imagine he would have been out in the open like that.

But it doesn’t matter.  I’ve lost another pet.  Amy cried but I was just disappointed.  Another dead animal:  and Tee this time!  He was the sweetest of the bunch.  Blacky is the only one left from the old house.

Since I have moved the death toll has been:  1 donkey, 3 goats, 2 dogs, 3 cats.  I do not think I am very good at this.  😦

I apologize that I haven’t made any updates of late.  I haven’t been available to do so, other than at Christmas, and I saw you guys at that time.  Anyway, it looks like that job is done and my schedule is returning to normal.  Unless something unexpected happens, I should be around for a while.

Goodbye Pixie

24 Sep
Pixie the West Highland Terrier

Pixie, the West Highland Terrier

I got Pixie a couple of years ago.  She was a wee little cotton ball that would blast into the room to “attack” Kokie and then dash back out as fast as her tiny legs would carry her.

When I moved to the country she stayed outside and she loved it.  She would charge across the backyard barking and chasing after birds that flew over head.  This past spring she became the Great Toad Hunter and seemed to be carrying around the body of one every other day.  She genuinely liked digging up toads.  🙂

After Kokie died, I resolved to spend more time with Pixie and Blacky and to give them more attention and affection.  We’ve gone walking a lot this year because of that, and Pixie really enjoyed those walks and got very excited when I would take her out.  Unlike Blacky, I had to keep Pixie on a leash and she was always at the end of it trying to stick her head down a burrow or wrapping her leash around a tree as she chased a squirrel.

Pixie has gotten out a couple of times and each time she would scamper off as quick as she could for the nearest cow pie or carcass to roll in it and get thoroughly dirty and stinky.  She LOVED that.  I think it made her feel fierce and feral to hide her scent.  She would always come back home a couple of hours later looking bedraggled and worn out, and caked with whatever she had rolled in.  I’d let her back into the backyard and she would go drink for a few minutes and then plop down in her doghouse and fall asleep quick, to dream of whatever she had chased or done while she had been out.

I would have liked to let her out more, but she chased everything, including cars.  Once she got out of the fence I couldn’t lure or entice her back and she would have to run and play before she would return.  Sometimes that was playing in the pasture or the woods.  Sometimes it was chasing cars on the road.

I knew that one day she would get killed by a car.

That day was Saturday.  I was carrying a load through the gate and though I kicked at her, she still darted out of it.  She took off, lickety-split for the pasture and I assumed that she was going to go find some manure to roll around in and then hunt birds.  I let Blacky out to run with her and went back to work.  It seemed like any other time she had gotten out.  But at dark I was a little concerned.  Blacky had come back several hours before yet Pixie hadn’t shown up.  I left the back gate open for her to get in.

On Sunday morning I still couldn’t find her.  I whistled and called but she never came.  I wondered if she might have fallen cross-ways of some coyotes in the night and planned to head out for the woods to search for her after church.

When I got back home I changed my clothes and went out back to get Blacky and then I found Pixie.  She was laying next to the doghouse.  I never looked there for her because I hadn’t expected her to be hurt.  When I found her, she didn’t hurt anymore.  She was dead.  Her body was stiff, and I felt a terrible guilt that she had been there all night and had come home yesterday but I didn’t know it.  I examined her body as best I could.  She didn’t appear to have any visible wounds but it was evident that she had internal injuries.  I think that she had gotten rolled by a car when chasing it and had managed to get back home before she died.

And I felt awful that I hadn’t known or helped her.

So I buried Pixie on Sunday, just a few feet away from Kokie.  I wrapped Pixie in a blanket from her doghouse and Blacky and I sat with her for a while as I remembered the puppy that would terrorize Kokie with it’s high voltage play attacks.  I remembered all the times that she would come back home with her white coat covered with some green or brown poop and smelling like a feedlot and looking as pleased with herself as a dog could.   I remembered yelling threats at her as she would run as hard as she could after a passing car.  I always suspected that this would be how it would end.  I just didn’t expect it on Sunday.

I’ve buried two of my three dogs this year.  I don’t want to dig another grave.

Black Powder Saturday

17 Sep
Black Powder shot from Muzzle Loader

Black Powder produces a LOT of smoke!

I have a friend named Steve who has a couple of sections of land in Kansas.  Muzzle-loader season starts this week and he wanted to sight-in his rifles before he goes on a hunting trip.  So he brought out two rifles around 10:00 am on Saturday and we went out to the berm that I have in a pasture and we set up a table and some targets to shoot at.

Steve is a retired banker who is probably in his mid 50s.  He is a very interesting man whose interests are various and humorous.  He now teaches economics at a local college when he is not busy trying to comply with the strange rules that the states come up with about CRP grass lands.  That’s a whole other topic in itself so I won’t go into that.  Steve has a plane and likes to talk about flying, and darned near everything you didn’t know about American History.  I was really surprised how much he knew about that.  So when he wasn’t loading one of his rifles or looking at planes in the sky, he was telling me something of interest about our history.  It was a very enlightening time and I enjoyed it  a lot.

But the reason for his visit was his guns.  He had put a 4X scope onto a 50 caliber rifle that he had and needed to site it in before he went hunting.  He also brought a 54 caliber rifle with a hexagon barrel and a hammer that reminded me of the old Flintlock style rifles.  I have fired a muzzle-loader only once before (I won that bet) so I really knew nothing about them.  It was interesting to see what all it takes to prepare to shoot one.

Equipment used to load the shot

An image of everything that it takes to load a shot into a muzzle-loader. It’s a lot more work than just opening and closing a bolt!

The most important ingredient is… PATIENCE.  Steve had some useful tools for measuring the powder and loading the gun, but it still took a long time between shots.  I suspect that people who regularly shoot that kind of weapon have methods that are much faster, but Steve would measure the powder and then pour it in, then set the ball in cloth for the wad, force the ball into the bore, cut the excess cloth from around the ball, then tamp it down the bore with the ramrod onto the powder.  Then you have to apply the cap, and finally you are ready to fire.  I would watch through the spotting scope to see where he hit the target and then mark a spot on the target that we had at the table.  Then he would adjust his scope a bit and do the whole thing over again.  We weren’t in a hurry, so I would guess that it took 2-4 minutes to go through the whole process between shots.

For the first couple of shots I was downwind of him but the amount of smoke from the black-powder made me move.  The powder also dirties up the bore (and the gun in general).  This was visibly evident in how much harder he had to tamp the ball down the bore after four or five shots compared to the first time, when it seemed to slide down easily.  He began to set the ball and cloth about an inch inside the bore and then apply a little bore-cleaner to the cloth so that it would keep the bore clean.  I was surprised at that but the solvent didn’t seem to effect the powder at all.

He finally got the 50 caliber shooting pretty close to on target and then let me have a few tries.  I fired both weapons a few times with 50 grains of powder in them and was surprised and pleased with the results.  The guns look heavy because of the big barrels, but that’s only because the balls are big also.  While I wasn’t dead-on, my worst shot was about 4 inches off target.  Next he loaded up each one with 90 grains of powder and that changed everything.  Bigger recoil, louder bang, and a lot more smoke.  I liked the smell of the smoke but I thought that shooting those bigger loads might get a little sickening after a while.

He also brought his .243 and we shot that a few times as well as my 7-08.  About the time that we were finishing up my friend James that I have mentioned before came driving out into the pasture.  He had come by to borrow some stuff and had heard the gunshots so he came out to see what was going on.  Steve also knows James, so he loaded up a 90 grain shot in the 54 caliber that had iron sites for him.  I believe that I have mentioned it, but James is an older fellow, probably around his mid-60s.  But he was rock-steady and hit a 4 inch clay pigeon that I had stuck on the berm with his first shot!  :O  I was genuinely surprised and declined to get in on the bet that Steve made with him about another shot.  James declined also, saying that the gun hurt his shoulder and that he ‘probably couldn’t do it again’.  He was obviously pleased with himself, and I was thoroughly impressed.  🙂

After that we walked down to the berm and collected the targets.  I took my 9mm Ruger and my father’s .22 Colt Challenger pistols and we fired some one handed shots at the rest of the clay pigeons that I had placed from about 25-30 feet.  I was very disappointed because the Colt mis-fired several times, but I can’t guess when the last time my father had shot that gun.  The strikes on the cartridges looked like the firing pin wasn’t hitting very hard, so it’s something that can be easily fixed, but I was looking forward to shooting that pistol.  The 9mm is my faithful pistol though, and we had some fun with that, although I was a little concerned that it had gotten messed up the last time I had used it from the way that they fired it, missing all of the targets.  But it turned out to be okay:  I hit 4 out of 5 of the targets easily.  I think they were just unaccustomed to that gun, or maybe the weight since I had brought the 15 round magazines.

At first Steve thought the Colt was a Woodsman, but even after I told him that it was a Challenger he told me to name a price for it.  I joked that I might part with it for $1,500, but when I saw that he was seriously considering it I said that would rather not since it been my father’s and grand-fathers.  Later that afternoon I did a quick google of the value and they appear to range from $400 – $5,000.  Mine isn’t in pristine condition, but I suspect that it’s worth more than $1,000, so  I think that I am going to take it to my semi-retired gunsmith and have him fix the firing pin properly and see what he thinks the gun is worth.

So Saturday turned out to be a very nice day.  We ended up spending about 4 hours shooting and talking and I got to know Steve a lot better.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and if he gets a deer or antelope, I will try to post the pic on this entry.  🙂

Parking Lot Punk

29 Aug

I pulled into the parking lot at Home Depot and when I got out of the pickup, I heard a couple having an argument.  Both of them had a pretty foul mouth so I tried to ignore it and headed for the store.  I quickly caught sight of them and made a judgement call about the situation as soon as I saw them; they were young and ‘trashy’.  They were standing between a couple of cars and arguing about something that he had done.    He was giving it to her pretty good, and calling her every name in the book.  I thought about going over there, but I didn’t want to.  I needed some lumber, not drama.  But about the time I got to the door, he really cranked it up, and he wasn’t just berating her, he was getting serious and I heard a couple of threats.

So, I stopped and acted like I was looking at a lawn mower as I listened.  Her responses, though still wickedly venomous, were now defensive and what he was saying had gone from vulgar and stupid to threatening.  I decided to intervene.

His back was to me as I approached and I got a good view of his boxers hanging out of the top of his pants and what appeared to be a large tribal tattoo on his back.  I pulled my pocket knife out and held it in my fist, a trick I learned years ago, based on the roll-of-nickels trick.  She could see me coming and I looked right at her as I approached.  She began to tone it down, but he wouldn’t shut up, and actually gave her a shove.  Maybe she was a “biatch” and maybe she wasn’t, but calling her that a five times in ten seconds was ridiculous.  I didn’t like him at all by the time I introduced myself.

I eyed him as I asked her if she was okay.  Of course, she said ‘yes’, and I told her it didn’t sound like it was.  He glared at me and finally said “Why don’t you mind your own #$@ business, @#$%?”.  I told him to mind his mouth and his manners, or I would help him remember civility.  I asked her if she was okay or if this was going to get worse.  She said they would be fine, but her behavior and body language said that it could get worse.

I then turned my attention to him, who had been mouthing me.  I told him to shut up and listen.  “Listen to what, #$@^%?” he snarled.  I gave it to him straight:  he was an ass who treated women badly because he could.  Men don’t act like that, and he needed to man-up and quit acting like a thug-poser and get his attitude squared before he did something stupid that he’d regret.  He didn’t like that.  🙂

He got in my face and started yelling, so I knocked his stupid, cock-eyed hat off his head.  He jumped up and got nose-to-nose, yelling and cussing.  Since he was just trying to intimidate me, I knew that this fight was already over.  To be honest, I felt like I was dealing with a juvenile.  He finished calling me a bunch of names and then shoved me back.  When he bent over to pick up his hat, I stepped on it.  He jumped right back up and got in my face again, so I grabbed his left ear with my free hand and jerked it down and told him to show a little more respect to strangers.  I don’t think he heard me though, for all of the profanities spewing out of his mouth.

He jerked his head free and shoved me again.  I told him that he better calm down and get his act together, but he just kept yelling threats and cussing me and her.  He stepped up again, nose-to-nose, and it was obvious that this was his only trick:  intimidation.  I shoved him hard and he bounced off his ’94 Sentra before his legs tangled and he went down.  I told him to shut his mouth and listen or things would get bad.  But he was young, stupid and “gangsta”, so he scrambled up and came at me to tackle me.  I hit him with my loaded fist on the top and back of the head as he came and he went down hard, hitting a tire and landing on his belly on the asphalt.  Now my adrenaline was up, and I was ready to fight.  I shoved his head down to ground and told him he was a foul-mouth punk who couldn’t treat a woman right, couldn’t fight, and didn’t know how to show respect.  I threatened to knock his front teeth out right there if he said another word and I bopped him in the back of the head hard with the butt of my pocket knife to make my point.  I told him that the girl was leaving and he was going to walk home and think about changing his poor communication habits on the way.  Then I told her to go home or somewhere else, and dump this fool.

When I looked at her, she looked scared.  And grateful.  Really grateful.  Like a dog when you give it a lot of attention and affection.  I realized the punk was probably going to beat her up if I hadn’t intervened.  I nodded for her to go, and she got in the car and left as I held his head on the ground.

Once she left, I told him to stand up and look at me.  He had a little blood coming from his left eyebrow.  He started to scramble but I grabbed him by the arm and told him to shut up, stand still and listen.  He glared at me but he didn’t move.  I asked him how old he was and he said he was 21.  I told him that he was a punk, and a bad one at that.  I said that someone was going to knock his teeth out if he kept trying to use that in-your-face tactic.  Then I told him everyone deserves a little respect, strangers, that girl, me.  And he better start showing it before he popped off to someone who really was as hardcore as he liked to pretend he was.

I let go of him and started a lecture about straightening up and changing his ways, but he was sulking and not listening, so I told him to walk home and figure out something better for himself by the time he got there.  He called me a name and ran.  I doubt he listened to me.  😉

So, it happened again.  It made me think of the time that ya’ll had to drive to Memphis and pick me up in the middle of the night when I was a teenager.  Remember that, mom?  Fun times.  🙂

Ghost Canyon

23 Aug
Down in the canyon

Down in the bottom of the Canyon

Yesterday I was having “one of those days”.  So when I got home I changed my clothes and headed for the canyon.  It’s really big and has a lot of good hiking trails in it and RV and camping spots.  It also has several smaller tributary canyons that feed into it, and I like to go down these where it’s unlikely to run into other people.

I parked the pickup at the end of the paved road and headed Southwest about half a mile to a tributary that I had only gone a little ways into before.  The smaller canyon had the same general characteristics of the larger one, with lots of fine dirt (because of the drought), rocks, and gypsum.  The sage brush that grows in the canyon wasn’t too thick so the going was easy, although I did mind the cactus and thistles that were scattered around.  I walked in a washout for a while, but it snaked back and forth so much that I finally got out of it and walked along the floor of the canyon, which was maybe 100 feet wide at the broadest spots.  I met a young couple who were coming back out of the canyon and they asked me to take their picture. So I had them pose near a cottonwood and snapped a couple of nice photos from different angles.

After about an hour I came to a fork with the main portion of the tributary running to the North and a smaller one running to the Northeast and that is the one that I took.  It was much more narrow than the one I had been in although it was just as deep as the rest of the canyon, with the walls running up at steep angles for a couple of hundred feet.  There were a couple of spots where it narrowed to 20-30 feet wide and I had to climb over debris or navigate through the brush more carefully in those places, listening closely for rattlesnakes that might be lying out of sight.

At one point there was an interesting formation of the left side of the canyon wall that was maybe fifty feet up.  a pillar of rock and dirt stood straight up with a narrow bridge running between it and the canyon wall. It was accessible though not easily and I was out of breath after I climbed up the loose dirt and rocks to it.  The pillar was probably eight or ten feet wide and when I climbed up on top of it I had a decent view of the floor of the canyon and a good perspective of what lie ahead for another couple of hundred yards until the tributary turned to the North again.  I plopped down atop the pillar and had a drink and a smoke and checked the time.  It was a little after 5:30 pm, meaning I had a little less than three hours until dark.  Plenty of time.  I noticed that I had one bar on my phone, which was surprising since there are so few places in the canyon that you can get a signal.

After I climbed down and continued on around the corner, things changed dramatically.  This part of the tributary had a lot of Junipers, Mesquite and Hackberry in it; enough that I had to follow a path through the small trees in a few places because they were so dense.  There was also more rocks and boulders laying about, having fallen from the steep sides years ago and slowly piling up in the bottom.  I also smelled carrion, but that was no surprise; there’s lot of wildlife in the canyon and you often run into some critter’s carcass.  I didn’t see the body but continued on my way and shortly later I must have passed it because the primal scent lessened greatly.  I continued down the floor of the canyon for maybe a half mile, but the brush and rocks made it slow going.  It wasn’t so much a nature walk anymore as it was a true hike, but that was cool; such paths mean that there are much fewer people (and trash- I didn’t see any bottles).  I was in an area that wasn’t frequented very much at all.  I noticed several small “caves” which were really just short tunnels that the the water had cut out of the dirt and red clay along the canyon walls also.

cow skull

There were a LOT of bones

But then I came to an clear spot where there weren’t any trees or brush.  It was maybe a hundred feet long and ran from wall-to-wall in the bottom of the tributary.  It was littered with lots of rocks and boulders, but hardly any brush.  And… lots of bones.  They were scattered all over the place.  Near the East wall I saw the remains of a coyote or dog skeleton, and near the far side was a deer’s.  But there were too many bones to just come from these two animals, and I quickly began to see skulls of varmints like rabbits, skunks, raccoons and opossums.  It was bizarre and eery to be in a place with so many bones.  I looked carefully for tracks but didn’t see any predator prints; only turkey and deer.  I checked my phone hoping to get the GPS coordinates but had no signal.  Then I surveyed the canyon walls, looking for a den or something but none were visible.  So I walked around looking for dens or crawlspaces amongst or under the boulders but didn’t find any there either.

This was definitely strange, and I lit an Arturo Fuente cigar that I had brought along as I sat down in the shade on the West side to look things over.  All those bones didn’t make any sense.  If there were a den, I would have expected the body that I had smelled earlier to have been dragged there.  But, if there was a den for something large enough to kill a coyote or deer, I would have found the tracks and the hole.  It didn’t make any sense.  I surveyed the canyon walls but they were pretty steep here and it would be hard to climb out.  That got me to thinking that perhaps this was just a dumping spot for someone who had property on the rim of the canyon.  The walls were near vertical and anything that got tossed over the side would roll to the bottom.  That made sense, except that the dog was on the opposite wall that the deer was on.  Neither of them would roll across the bottom to the far wall if they had been dumped, so it didn’t explain it satisfactorily.

I began to feel uneasy as I pondered this graveyard.  I looked up and down the walls but still didn’t see anything as my sense of unease grew.  I felt like I was being watched.  Not the heebie-jeebies that we sometimes get when we’re not sure what’s going on:  something was watching me.  I examined the trees to the north of the area, trying to make out anything that didn’t look right in the shade of them.  But I couldn’t see anything.  I looked back the way I had come and again I couldn’t make anything out.  I sure felt it though; that primal sense that something is about and you don’t know what is going on.  I picked up an old stick about as tall as I am and snapped the twigs off of it.  I spent a while trying to decide what to do.  I had a stick and my knife, so I felt pretty confident.  But it was getting late and I had less than 2 hours of sunlight left, which I would need to get back out of the canyon.  The quarter moon wouldn’t provide much light, especially in the bottom of this hole.  So I scrutinized the trees and walls to the North once more and discovering nothing, I turned back the way I had come.

As I moved through the dense Junipers and rocks to the South I began to get the premonition that I was being stalked in the canyon.  That may have been just my nerves, but I kept thinking that I heard something like a rock moving or the swishing of brush.  I moved more slowly as I quieted my trek, trying to make as little noise as possible while listening intently for those sounds.  It didn’t take long to decide that something was behind me, in the brush and moving stealthily.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t a coyote (I’m too big and they’re scavengers).  Bobcats are the other main predator in the canyon, but I can’t imagine one of those thinking that I could be a meal.  I was worried that it was a wild dog, or a pack of dogs that had gone feral; the last thing I wanted was to have some dogs that didn’t fear man following me.  Whatever it was, it was careful because it made no sound whenever I stopped.

It felt like forever before I made the turn to the right and moved into the part of the tributary that was much easier walking.  It would also be a lot harder for something to sneak up behind me from here on.  I got about fifty feet clear of the brush and trees and then stopped and waited to see if I could make out whatever was after me, but it never showed itself.  I didn’t stay long though because the light in the bottom of the tributary was dim already.  I checked my clock and it was 7:30; about an hour til dark.  I would need to make good time to get back to the pickup before that happened.  I scrutinized the trees one last time then I realized something was missing; the smell.  I didn’t smell the carrion whose scent had been so pungent at the bend of the tributary.  I hadn’t smelled it at all on the way back.  That’s wasn’t right; carcasses don’t stop stinking.

This freaked me out, and I didn’t spend much time thinking about it:  I hit the trail.  I walked briskly but quietly, listening for the rush of paws behind me but they never came.  The sense of being watched lessened quickly and I began to feel better.  Whatever was in the canyon had stayed in the trees.  When I got to the pillar I only glanced up at it and continued on, wanting to get out of the tributary and to the truck before the sun went down on the horizon.

A little over an hour later I was heading out of the canyon, wondering what I had found.  The graveyard was strange, especially with the lack of evidence of a predator.  But whatever had stalked me through the canyon obviously had bad intentions on it’s mind, so I can only assume that it was responsible for the bones.  But why there?  Why not close to it’s den?  That made no sense to me at all.  And what about the carrion that I had smelled?  If the animal that had been after me had been big enough to kill and drag a deer or dog, why hadn’t it dragged the other body back there?

Things to ponder, for sure, but for now I don’t know.  I’m just glad that my “one of those days” turned into something much better yesterday.  I got to explore a new place and had enough questions about it that I’ll go back sometime and see what lays beyond the graveyard.  It turned out to be a good day after all.  Next time I’ll take a weapon; just in case.  I look forward to returning and seeing what I can find further down the canyon.  Hopefully there will be something besides ghosts and bones.  🙂