Cows, and Then Some!

Dawny got an eyeful of cows and we both got some great country walks on our vacation from our vacation!  My bonus was a few extra pounds put onto my very spoiled self by our hosts’ incredible cooking, which included home made pecan pie (I pronounce that correctly now), fire-broiled steaks (of the melt-in-your-mouth variety), and meal after meal of just simple good country cookin’.  Our Texas friends, Carol and John, could not have been more gracious, generous, and accommodating.

We took a couple of day trips through the local countryside.  North Texas is beautiful.  We saw Gene Autry’s home town and drove by Randy Travis’ estate.  Pastures, lakes, and vineyards, small towns with their town squares (including the bank from the movie Bonnie & Clyde), country roads and big-city suburban traffic snarls–all painted in North Texas hues.

The area is blanketed by gently rolling hills and is home to some of the best horse country there is.  The soil is sandy, rather than the clay you find further south, and it is easy on horses’ legs and good for growing the grasses they love to chomp on.

I learned about that from Carol, who went to Agricultural College after she met John and began helping him with his ranch.  If she gets herself a lamb to raise, she will have all the agricultural animals covered.  At this point she and John have raised cattle, horses (wild ones, which Carol personally and patiently tamed), chickens, pigs, goats, and donkeys.  They have simplified over the years and now work just a small herd of cattle.

And then there’s their dog Ashley, who Dawny decided was an arch enemy in her quest to take the ranch over for herself!  I love Dawny, but sometimes I think she’s a bit of an idiot.  Ashley was wooed from a pack of wild, abandoned dogs that had been frequenting the area.  Carol and John  worked tirelessly to gain her trust and draw her into their garage so she could give birth to a litter of 12–yes, 12!!!–pups that winter many years ago.  Ashley is now firmly ensconced in her self-selected abode under the backyard shed, unless it thunders and lightenings, at which point she comes inside to cower next to John and Carol until Father Weather calms down.

FullSizeRender-609John has had his ranch for over 50 years.  Carol has been with him for over 35 of them.  Theirs is a second marriage for both.  They met while their respective children (teens at the time) played in a soccer league.  Both divorced, they recognized kindred spirits in one another and had the gumption to give the whole love connection another go.

Rarely will you meet a couple who completes and complements each other so well.  They weave in and out of each other’s sentences, completing them, or simply filling in a few words mid-sentence, bouncing back and forth, reading each other’s minds with uncanny fluency, pulling from the same memories–although from slightly varying perspectives (hence, you often get some conflicting opinions on what really happened and when, where, why and how).  It’s an amazing thing to watch, especially when the give-and-take is a loving, light-hearted, respectful dance.

Back to more mundane matters, I was hoping to get an opportunity to shoot a cow, but with all the rain, the fields were too wet to be able to move them to the pen where they do inoculations.  John and Carol did get prepared, though, by moving the herd with the young bull in it to the field that had the lone, older bull (let’s call him Hamburger), and then putting Hamburger where the rest of the herd had been.  This had to be done efficiently and quickly as the two bulls needed to be kept a good distance away from each other.

FullSizeRender-628Carol helped with the gates, and John (a.k.a. the Cow-Whisperer) led the herd to the next field by calling them, slinging out feed from a huge feed sack, and working the gates.  The picture here shows John with Hamburger, who weighs in at well over a ton.  A ton.  Of bull.  Think about it.  They are close enough to be bosom buddies there as John leads him with his sack of feed into the field just vacated by the herd and the young bull.

By the way, I just read today that more people are killed by cows than by sharks every year.  That probably mostly happens to people who are careless or don’t know what they are doing.  Or just plain unlucky.  John and Carol work very closely with their herd, though, and they know each other well.  Raising cattle is an art.  And a science.  I was privileged to get a glimpse of both.

After feeding us for a week, Carol and John sent us off with our refrigerator packed with leftovers for another week.  They also gave us a precious souvenir.  For wine-thirty, I can now sit back in my little house wherever we are and reflect upon our friends and our time on their beautiful ranch.  They gave me a wine glass with the name of their ranch etched onto it!

FullSizeRender-617So, cheers!  Cheers to Carol and John, who through their southern grace made Dawny and me feel welcome beyond welcome.  Cheers to Ashley, who protects her people and her turf with a gentle, laid-back, but firm, ranch-dog personality from upstarts like Dawny Virgil Prewash Sassy…  as well as from the coyotes we heard in the evenings singing with raucous abandon (I had to wonder what they were drinking!).

And cheers to all the farmers and ranchers throughout this country who work incredibly long, hard hours and against often capricious odds (thank you Father Weather) with a dedication and love that few know, and we would all be better off if more understood.

My Good Side

Did you get it?  Ya?  Awesome!  Mom finally got a perfect picture of my good side.  Actually, all my sides are pretty darned good.  But that side you see there, with the soft, sunlit lake in the background, and the shiny floor reflecting my beating heart… ya, that’s the best of the best sides.

Better yet, the picture was taken on the road.  Yes!  We are back on it!  That endlessly wagging tail known as the road.  I simply adore all the new smells when I get to leap out of our little house once we finally arrive at a new spot.  This picture was taken at Sherando Lake campground yesterday.  Mom says it is FULL of BEARS!  Even the garbage cans have detailed instructions on how to use them (for the people… not the bears) so that those bears don’t get into them.  We didn’t see any of them bears–Mom sighed a great sigh of relief over that–but I swear I smelt something really big, and furry, and powerful.  Don’t worry, Mom.  If we run up against one someday, I’m sure I can handle things just fine.  You just sit back and relax… like you’re always telling me to do when I bark at other dogs.

Today we made it to Tennessee.  Every time I looked out the window the last couple of travel days, I got an eyeful of greens and blues and grays, big mountains and rolling hills under clear blue skies that soon surrendered to churning gray clouds.  Mom smiled a lot.  She appreciates that beauty.  I smiled too.  I appreciate that wildness, that excitement.

Honestly, I’m just happy to be rolling along.  I know it’s going to be a “long road-trip day” when Mom puts my bed between her seat and the passenger seat.  Then, when she is feeling comfy with the traffic conditions, she’ll often give her right hand time off from the steering wheel to treat me to a good belly rub.  I’ve gotten to the point where those crazy “rumble-strips” simply tickle my dreams, instead of shock me awake like they used to when we first set out.

Yup.  Things are good.  Life is good.  I hear we are heading to Texas next.  We’ll visit some friends, then Mom has another “job” she has to do.  I’m not real fond of those “job” things.  They take her away from me.  But I suppose it’s not really all that bad.  That’s what naps are for.  I am nothing if not flexible, gracious, and cooperative.  Especially my good side.  Gorgeous… simply gorgeous.

Happy Birthday…

When I conceptualized and designed this blog earlier this year, I figured it would center largely around reflections on aging in America while toodling around the country in my RV.  Well, I am toodling around the country in my RV (once it is fixed, I will be, at any rate).  I am in America.  And I sure am aging!

I suppose today deserves a little more reflection on aging than I have previously given, since I am now a whole year older than I was yesterday.  At least for me, and I think for many others, the older I get, the more I prefer to just let the whole birthday-thing slide.  I often have to do the math to remember what age I actually am.

The big birthdays are harder to ignore and are usually approached with a measure of dread.  Personally, I have found that the degree of “happy” or “dread” totally depends on how contented I am with my life at the moment.

I remember turning 30 ages ago.  That’s supposed to be a hard birthday.  It was a good one for me, though.  I had recently graduated from college–late bloomer–and was promoted to a professional position in the government agency that had employed me for the previous few years.  I was more or less happily married.  The birthday was easy.  No regrets and a lot to look forward to.

Turning 40 was a breeze.  I was a newish mom–another late bloom–to a wonderful little boy.  I was happily married (different husband than at 30), and we lived in a nice little house of our own.  No regrets and a lot to look forward to.

Hmmm, 50 was a bit difficult, so I won’t talk about that one.  Aw, sheesh, I’m supposed to  be honest here so all right. Recently divorced (oh well, bummer).  Navigating motherhood and a more challenging financial situation.  Watching my Daddy sink further into the quagmire that is Alzheimer’s.  Definite regrets.  Uncertain future.  That was not an easy birthday.

This birthday is not one of those big-O ones, but I am getting close, and I have been feeling my age more with every passing year.  Working with a client a year ago, I stood up from sitting on the floor (I was organizing a bookcase) and my knee popped.  It hurt like the dickens and made walking painful.  An X-ray showed the beginnings of arthritis.  Arthritis!  Eeeeek!  My doctor talked to me about my weight and gave me some simple exercises, which I did faithfully for all of three weeks.  Then I stopped.  Oh, and I had to deal with skin cancer too this past year.  Sort of a scary thing that reminds you of your mortality.

Since my humongous life change–selling my house and becoming a full-time RV’er–things have really started to improve.  All the fresh air and dog walks are melting away the fat that had attached itself to my poor body during those difficult years.  My knee feels great.  The challenge of doing something so new for me, while pursuing a childhood dream reopens my horizons and  I feel like I have a tremendous amount to look forward to again.  I don’t know what it is.  But I am happily looking forward.

My biggest blessing is that I have family and friends to care for and who care for me.  I am watching my son grow into a magnificent young man, doing a better job than I ever did of navigating the complexities of life, love, and assorted relationships.  His father and I have worked past our troubles and pain to become wonderful friends.  My big brother–I love you!–actually takes the time to read my blog.  And so many friends, old and new, gathered over years and over miles, each enriching the tapestry that is my world.

So, yes, it is a good year.  A good birthday.  A sincerely felt “happy” birthday.  And to each visitor to today’s post, here is a piece of triple layered chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and red hot candies sprinkled on top… and two scoops of chocolate-fudge ice cream!  As for my traveling companion, Dawny–the greatest doggie in the world–she gets a bowl full of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cheese, hamburger, and bacon bits.  🙂