Welcome to Almosta Blog, the stories that happen every day here on Almosta Ranch. Come on in and be welcome, draw up a chair and set a spell on the front porch with me and my sweet wife, Melinda, better known as Mel.|
What you will find here are stories about our many animals, and our daily life on a working ranch. Not the most riviting of subjects but I will try to hold your interest.
|I just put a new short story in my portfolio and I would really appreciate it if you could take a moment and let me know what you think about it. "One Shot"
It is about a three minute read and I hope to add more such stories in the future as I try to reconnect with my writing roots. thank you, in advance.
|I have decided that with this new blog I want to use Sundays as a day to remember my blog past and visit the vault to find something to share again with you who may not have been around the first time the story appeared. Today's entry is from 2010 and first appeared in my blog on Open Salon. Many things have changed since then. My wife has died and I no longer live on the farm but this memory of our early time endures and is one of my favorites.
JUNE 27, 2010.....A YOUNG GIRL ON A CHESTNUT STALLION....
The Red Truck carried me toward Poplar Bluff, inexorably toward work, on the now familiar ribbon of blacktop. Inside the truck I hold one hand on the wheel and let my mind run free....this is my time and I have grown to cherish the half-hour commute.
The radio is playing softly and the strands of Dan Seal's country hit, Everything that Glitters is not Gold fills the cab of the truck. I love this song but not because it is about a woman who leaves her husband and child behind to pursue fame on the rodeo circuit, but because of one verse in the song:
"But, oh sometimes I think about you
and the way you use to ride out
in your rhinestones and your sequins
With the sunlight in your hair."
That one verse always reminds me of my wife, Melinda. Now all of you who have followed my blog for any length of time know that Mel and I have only known each other for ten years and have been married for nine and we met on the Internet. She was born and raised in Michigan and I in Texas.
In those early days of "Getting to know you" time, we use to talk endlessly on the computer and the phone. We stayed up all night exchanging life stories and telling tales of our childhood and generally sharing everything of importance in our lives with each other.
It was during one of these phone calls that I told her the story of my Summer of Discovery. My buddy and I were supposed to be traveling to Michigan to work on a pipeline for the Summer....no nonsense...just work. We were teenagers for God's sake...like that was gong to happen!
Now the trip itself was a once in a lifetime experience, filled with high drama and low comedy that I may one day share with you in its entirety but for now the important part of the story is that my friend and I ended up in Flat Rock, Michigan working on a pipeline.
On the way to Flat Rock, we were traveling a little used, rural black-top road when we happened upon a vision of beauty that stayed with me for the intervening forty some odd years. As we blasted down the road at seventy miles per hour, we topped a hill and entered a flat stretch of road that ran through a large farm area, the land on both sides of the road was plowed and planted as far as the eye could see. There, on the side of the road and headed the same direction as we were headed was a sight that took my breath away.
A young girl, maybe fifteen or sixteen, was riding this big Chestnut stallion bareback and at a full canter. As we passed her I turned and looked closer and saw at once that she was beautiful. Her long blond hair blew in the wind as she rode that horse not like a rider, but rather like she was a part of the horse; knees tucked in and back straight. Her hands held the reins loosely and her head was slightly turned in our direction as we passed. Her bright, blue eyes pierced me and held me captive and there was a slight smile on her full lips.
She blew me away.
My buddy was driving and in spite of my repeated blows to his shoulders and my yelling: "Stop the freaking car! I gotta meet this girl!" He kept going....we had miles to go and work to do.....damn his soul!
When I related this story to Mel there was a sudden silence on the phone line. "What's wrong?" I asked her.
"Well," she said. "That particular stretch of road is very familiar to me. Back then it was sparsely populated and I rode my horse along there almost every day during the summer."
Now it was my turn to be quiet. I was wondering.....could it be that she was that girl?
Fast forward a few months: I am standing at the airport gate waiting for Melinda to step off the plane for her first visit to Texas. She was the last person off the plane and when I first spotted her striding confidently across the space that separated us, her blond hair tossing on her shoulder, a lump formed in my throat. When she got to me and didn't even slow down.....just walked into my arms and kissed me.....I knew....she WAS that girl.
She brought further proof of my first "almost" meeting with her in the form of old pictures of her on that big Chestnut Stallion!
So Saturday, as I rushed toward work and I listened to that song again and that one verse, my mind was filled with the beautiful sight of that young girl on that horse....so wild and free and so very beautiful.
But that's not so very peculiar. You see, every time I look at my sweet wife I see her as she was that long ago Summer day; riding that big horse bareback with the wind in her hair and that smile on her face.
She will always look that way to me.
|I was reading blogs this morning when I ran across one that was answering a prompt. The prompt was: "If you could travel through time to another era to live what would it be and why." Or words to that effect anyway, and it got me to thinking. There is only one other time in history that I would consider and that is the American West during the era of the Mountain Men. Roughly from 1810 to 1840 men like Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, and Hugh Glass, roamed the great wilderness West of the Mississippi river.
Jedediah Smith once remarked that while he was out trapping beaver, if he happened to spot the smoke from a chimney, he knew it was time to move on, that it was getting too crowded at that spot. THAT is the America I would love to see, one that is free of the pollution and destruction brought on by today's overpopulation.
Can you imagine coming upon a wide, green, valley bordered by aspen and fir, with a wild, clear and clean river flowing through it and the only living things you see are deer and buffalo, wolf and cougar and bear. My God it would be enough to make a man believe in Heaven again. To be able to live a simple life in that valley surrounded by nothing but nature and with no other people within a hundred miles or so....perfection.
As long as I can remember I have yearned to live the life of a Mountain man. When not grudgingly attending school, I spent every free minute I could manage, riding my horse through the deep pine forests of East Texas and spending my nights camped along a creek or river and trying to imagine myself exploring a new land with Jim Bridger and his companions.
So here I am today, well into my sixth decade of life and that yearning and that dream is as strong now as it was when I was a child. Who knows, maybe one day......
Today I was reading one of my absolute favorite blogs here on WDC written by Sarah in which she was telling about Winter in Africa and it reminded me of my own experiences with this season when I lived in Missouri, on Almosta Ranch.
Now you have to understand that because I was born and raised in Southeast Texas I knew little or nothing of the phenomenon of four distinct seasons. All we ever had was varying shades of hot, warm, or mildly cool. When my wife and I first moved into our old farm house it was well into Fall in Missouri and I was lulled into a false sense of euphoria by the mild temperatures and the beautiful, changing colors of the foliage.
Then, within a month of our arrival, Winter made its appearance and I was shocked. Never in my life had I experienced temperatures below zero, never watched ten inches of snow accumulate in my yard or ice cover my trees. In short, I was spending days, snowed in and checking train schedules for passage back to Texas. I hated everything about Winter!
Then, one day when I had just about reached the end of my tether, the temperature took a spike upward to almost 50 degrees and I was amazed at how warm that felt after sub-zero weather. The snow had started to melt and patches of bare ground was visible when we ventured outside onto our front porch. That was when Mel pointed toward the back of our property and said softly, "Look at that sight."
I looked in the direction she was pointing and saw the sight pictured above. I can truly say I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. All those trees, leaves striped bare by howling winds, had now replaced the dead foliage with new, sparkling " leaves" of ice which sparkled like jewels in the weak Winter sun. From that day forward to this one, Winter became my favorite season. Oh yes, I would still bitch and moan about the cold and snow, but secretly I reveled in each and every day of that lovely season I was lucky enough to experience.
|Today I thought I would bring you an excerpt from one of my older blogs. I have saved a collection of my favorite entries from my three blogs on this site as well as my long running blog on the now defunct Open Salon which i will one day publish as a collective work in the genre. I know some of you might remember this particular entry and I hope you don't mind this retelling of a good story.
HELLO DOLLY, THUD!.....
To those of you who say that animals don't have the ability to reason like humans I say: Balderdash! Animals think things through just like people....better sometimes, the thing is their thought process is done without vocal support.
Case in point.....Not long ago I was sitting and watching our collective herd of horses and goats graze in the front pasture (Yes, my life is that exciting) when I noticed Billy, our Quarter-horse stallion standing very still and watching the goats intently.
All the goats were more or less grazing together at the lower end of the pasture while the horses nibbled the grass up near the front fence. Billy watched them for a few moments and I could almost see the wheels turning in his head. He was thinking: "Da goats ain't paying me no mind. They got their heads down and eating so....if I run at em they are gonna scatter."
So he did.
Just like he figured, the goats scattered when he came thundering toward them. Except Dolly.
Dolly is our Fainting goat and when Billy came running at the goats, neck extended, teeth showing, and whinnying loudly, all the goats ran away and Dolly promptly FAINTED!
This turn of events caught Billy completely by surprise. Dolly dropped to the ground so quickly that he had to jump over her to keep from stepping on her prone body.
Billy cleared the downed goat with room to spare and came to a screeching halt about ten feet past her. As the dust settled, Billy turned around and stared at Dolly who was just then struggling to her feet, having recovered her senses.
"Wow, now that was different." I could read his thoughts through those big, expressive eyes. " I wonder if she will do that again?"
Billy then made a quick turn and ran at Dolly again.
THUD! Dolly hit the ground again. This time Billy merely stepped carefully over the prone body of the poor goat.
For the next two or three weeks this became Billy's new hobby.....Run at the goats....watch all the goats run off....watch poor Dolly hit the ground. Watching Billy do this became MY new hobby. I'm not sure who got the biggest laugh out of it, me or Billy.
Funny thing is, I caught Mel looking at me and just shaking her head and a few minutes later, I noticed Lucy, our brood-mare looking at Billy and doing the same thing...just shaking her head.
Yeah, that proves it.....horses are a lot like people.
|And so it came to pass, in the fullness of days, that I wandered into this place called WDC....translation: Back in 2004 I was directed here by a friend who said it was the place to go if I was serious about writing.
Well I joined and I was amazed by the depth of talent here.Fiction, non-fiction, drama, Syfy, horror, suspense and Romance; all the genres you can imagine were represented here and I loved the place. Then, one fateful day, a few months into my membership, a friend suggested that I try something called a "Blog". Now to be perfectly honest, I didn't even know what a Blog was. I had no idea how to even start, but I figured, "What the hey, how hard can it be?"
You see, back then I was pretty cocky about my writing, having done it nonstop for most of my life. I was a storyteller who loved to weave words around a campfire and the writing just stemmed from that love. Alas though, my very first trip into Blogville(that's what it was called back then)proved to me just how little I really knew about writing.
As I wandered along the streets of Blogville, I would randomly open the doors of these homes and I would find.works of art in the form of the written word. It was like finding the Mona Lisa hanging over the mantels and I realized that these weren't just houses, they were mansions inhabited by masters of the Word. I knew then that I had a lot to learn and this was the place to do it.
These Masters who called Blogville home did not write diary entries or small blurbs in answer to prompts, they wrote magnificent, stand-alone essays on life and the human condition that moved the reader and inspired the reader. In turns I found myself cheering at their words, or moved to tears and sometimes laughing out loud at their humor. It was a magical time and I learned so much from all of them here.
Now, upon my return after a long absence, I sadly find most of those mansions boarded up and empty, their occupants long gone to greener pastures and their masterpieces which once hung with pride, gone with them.
All is not lost though, I have managed to find a few of those mansions still inhabited, some only part-time, by Masters who have not gone on to other places. I still see a shadow of the place it once was and so I think I will hang around a bit and maybe move my own simple travel trailer into the outskirts of town and see what else I can find. I will keep opening doors and hoping to find more masterpieces hanging over the mantels...who knows...it could happen again.
Melinda, my wife, was the undisputed Heart of Almosta Ranch. It was she that decreed, shortly after moving in, that this place would be a refuge for all the unwanted, unloved creatures great and small who were fortunate enough to cross our path and she made good on that promise over the years.
Among the animals though she had a counterpart, a kindred spirit who saw himself as the protector of all creatures and humans that lived on the ranch. His name is Sherman and he is a gentle giant. A mix of Labrador and Great Pyrenees, Sherman was a large, strong dog. He weighed a hundred and fifty pounds in his prime and every pound dedicated to nurturing the babies born on the ranch and protecting the weak from all predators
Sherman was one of two original dogs we brought with us from Texas when we moved to Missouri and bought the ranch and he was there from the beginning, greeting each new castaway that Mel brought home. It was common to see Sherman playing with the many baby goats we had and curled up taking a nap with a couple of baby pigs curled up next to him. They would all follow him around when he came into the barn and call to him when he left. There was one baby goat in particular, a little orphan, who we brought into the house for a time who stuck close to Sherman everywhere he went, indeed we had trouble when it came time to introduce him into the goat herd because he was convinced he was a dog, not a goat.
Sherman was the first dog to greet the little white puppy Mel found freezing in a snowbank one night on her way home from town. The little fellow was half frozen and starved, barely alive and Mel and Sherman hovered over him all night, keeping him warm and feeding him. We named him Booker because he was found on the same day my first book was published and as I write this he is laying asleep on my bed. I think he still misses his big buddy, Sherman.
When Mel passed away and I left the ranch for the last time I knew i would be unable to take Sherman with me so I did the next best thing; I found him a great home with my friend and neighbor up the road who Sherman already knew and liked and now, today, Sherman has his own couch to nap upon, two humans who love him, and a whole new set of babies to care for and raise. He's an old dog now and in a good place.....what more can a dog or human ask for.
At this writing, Almosta Ranch is no more. Nothing left there but ghosts and warm memories carried by me, the lone survivor of a time that was golden. Now i reside in a busy city hundreds of miles from the ranch. Now though the Ranch has been assigned to the past, what lingers still are the many stories of the animals that called that place home and the two humans who spent happy years caring for them and that's what you get with this blog.
This first story is about Jeremiah, the Porch Donkey. Jeremiah got his title because of his love of greeting me each morning on my front porch. I would come out with my first cup of coffee and there he'd be, waiting patiently tail swishing flies and his long soft ears perked forward in greeting.
We would spend about an hour enjoying each other's company each day. If it were in the Fall we would debate on wither or not I had enough hay in the barn to last the Winter. Jeremiah, of course, never thought I had enough. He was always fretting we might run out. Of course we never did. If it were Winter we always talked about the weather....Was it going to snow? How bad is the ice going to be on the pond? All subjects that directly impacted him of course. Each season had its own group of worries...things that had to be tended to.
Now all the time we would spend on the porch, Mel would be right there with us, keeping my coffee cup filled and giving ole Jeremiah liberal ear scratches which he absolutely loved. It didn't take long for what little traffic that frequented our dirt road to take notice of the strange old man, sitting on the front porch with his donkey. It was not unusual for a car to stop on the road in front of the house and the driver or passenger get out and take a picture. I would wave to them and Jeremiah would bray a loud greetings. People always seemed amused at that for some reason. You would think they had never seen a friendly donkey before.
Now don''t get the wrong idea, Jeremiah was not just a one-trick-donkey, no sir he had his own thing going on and once our little coffee time was done we would both mosey out to the barn where he would be greeted by his own wife, Jenny and their baby, Snowball. The donkey family would eat side-by-side with the ten horses of my herd and afterward would follow the horses out into the pasture to graze for the day.
Jeremiah and Jenny's job on the ranch was acting as herd guardians. They were forever on the lookout for predators and God help the poor coyote or pack of coyotes who strayed too close to the horse herds. The two grown donkeys would make short work of them. Of course, little Snowball spent her days playing with a couple of young colts that were about her same age, though twice her size.
Jeremiah and his family stayed with us for almost three years until one day, one of those many gawkers who would drive by the place, stopped. It was a lady who lived not far from us and she said that she just HAD to have the donkeys, she was in love with all of them. She told me to name my price and I did but then i told her that before any animal is sold from my ranch, I had to know that the animal would be happy in his new home. So, I informed her that before the sale could be final she had to spend a hour each day for a week getting to know the donkeys and seeing if they took to her.
Well they did and at the end of that week Jeremiah and his family was headed off to their new homes where, I am happy to say, they still live today just as happy as the day is long, as my daddy use to say.
|In my absence from blogging here I had forgotten the struggle one must go through with this whole archaic system of HTML. I managed to lose a complete entry early this morning. I'd like to tell you that the lost entry was something special....prize winning stuff...but we both know I'd be lying.
I wanted to write about the human ability to adapt and how that is our strongest asset. I am adapting now. With the death of my wife, the selling off of all the animals of Almosta Ranch and the eventual sell of the land itself, I find myself r faced with the prospect of adapting to a whole new life and lifestyle. Soon me and Booker will be living among 6 million souls...a big change for a country boy.
It occurs to me that with this lifestyle change I really need to change this blog. After three complete blogs and almost twelve years, I no longer have the same subject matter available to me that I have always written about, namely a wife I love more than life and a simple ten acres we called Almosta Ranch and the animals that lived there.
A matter of adapting.
And I will adapt to the new normal in my life and I will find something else to write about, either here or another blog format but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the only reason I am here and able to adapt is because of online friends who cared so much and kept in touch with me and kept me hanging on with their kind words and encouragement. It is at times like this that one finds out who their real friends are and now I know and I appreciate them so very much.
So that was what my blog entry was supposed to be about and as soon as I figure out how to change the blog title I will do so and I will continue to write. Who knows, I may even rediscover my sense of humor. Now if I can just get this posted......
|So here we are again at my long neglected fourth blog on WDC. So much has changed since last I visited here to deposit my poor words, where do I begin?
Well I guess the first thing is to ask if there is anyone left in Blogville who even remembers me I know there are a few since we met up in other places but mostly all I see is new faces around the old neighborhood and that's a good thing. It's good to have new blood, new words, a new point of view.......keeps us young.
For myself much has changed. My wife, the love of my life and my constant supporter and biggest fan, who constantly pushed me to write, died in October and now I am alone but my sadness is tempered with the joy she brought me during the fifteen years we were married. We made our home on a little ten acre tract, in an old farm house and we called our place Almosta Ranch, where we raised, horses, donkeys, goats, pigs and chickens and she rescued countless puppies that others had thrown out on the road to die.
She loved all animals great and small and I loved her. We were happy.
But that was then and this is now and now I need to get carry on until we can find each other again, and we will of that that I am sure.
At the moment I am in the process of finding homes for all my critters and when that is done I shall return to the place of my birth....Texas, where I will live out my life surrounded by family and friends which is something that I have sorely missed these last few months. Dealing with the death of a loved one is bad under the best of conditions but when you have to do it alone, it is almost intolerable.
So now here we are and I must decide what my short range goals are to be regarding my blog and this site. I want to try to blog here again on a more or less regular basis. I have had successful blogs on other sites like Open Salon and Medium but this was my first blog home and in the spirit of my decision to return to my real life home, I think I would like to see my old blog home thrive again.
My biggest hurdle right now is relearning how to navigate this site and use HMTL or whatever it's called. I swear, in all my wandering about the Information Highway, I have never encountered a site that made, it more difficult to post anything and from the looks of things, they have no inclination to change either. Oh well, this old dog is just going to have to learn a new trick or two it seems. Though I have to admit, in ending this entry, I do miss my shiny yellow case I had before I became a non-paying member. The black is okay but just doesn't have the flash that the yellow had. Well, let me hear from you now...tell me what you think, feel free to offer any suggestions you think might help. We will see what happens next.
|This is a test. Since coming back to WDC I have found it impossible to add a pic to my blog and Mel has had the same trouble. She got the message: Must have a premium membership to use pics in a blog. So here we go...I'm going to try it again with my upgraded membership because Party told me you could do it with an Upgraded membership.
Party? Are you reading this? Here is what I get: Invalid Photo #1926288 Now I jumped through all the hoops, put the picture in my portfolio, which took a small act of congress to achieve and still....nothing. Even making the words: Invalid Photo bold was a chore and not even sure if I did that right.
This all leads me to the conclussion that even if I can add photos with an upgraded membership....which is still in doubt....the whole process is just too damn time consuming and troublesome. I blog on two other sites where adding photos can be done with a couple of simple clicks of the mouse. I think I will just continue to do my blogs there and miss all the aggravation which goes along with blogging on WDC.
To the management: You got a total of a hundred bucks from me and my wife so that we could blog here again but until you get rid of this antiquated system, we must forego doing any blogging on this site. In my other blogs I have always urged folks who seriously want to improve their writing, to join WDC....I won't be guilty of that anymore.
Party, dude, sorry but it don't work. It would have been fun but it looks like that ship has sailed.
|It all started a couple of weeks ago when my trusty, old Mr. Coffee bit the big one and finally died. After an hour of waiting for it to brew my morning medicine, I had to admit that the old thing had mangled its last scoop of Folgers.
Now, being the resourceful fellow that I am, I just grabbed up one of Mel’s sauce pans and made up a batch of “River Bottom” coffee. It’s real easy to make and always served me well on cold nights along the banks of the Trinity River, fishing and hunting. All you have to do is put water in the pot, dump in some coffee, then throw in some egg shells if you have them. The egg shells sink to the bottom and the grounds tend to adhere to them, thus keeping your cup fairly free of chewy stuff when you drink your beverage.
Well for some unknown reason, Mel took umbrage to my using her good sauce pan to burn me some coffee…women….go figure.
“I’m going to town,” she said. “I will pick you up another Mr. Coffee.”
That was when the inspiration struck me. This was my chance to not only enter into the 21st century, but to get something I always wanted: A Coffee System! That’s what they call those new fangled machines that brew coffee by the cup…a System…not a pot. They come with those cute little packets of that Gourmet coffee of all different flavors and all you do is pop in one of those packets, push a button and BAM! You got a cup of fancy coffee.
“No, no.” I told her. “I’m going into town with you and we’re gonna price some of those fancy coffee systems.” She rolled her eyes. I’m use to that so I ignored her and off to town we went.
We ended up having to go to “Big Town” which is what we call Poplar Bluff; population, 19,000. We had to go there because the two stores in our “Little Town: Doniphan: pop. 1900 just laughed at me when I asked them to show me their coffee systems.
So off to the Bluff we went and boy was I surprised to see the prices on those things. The cheap ones started at like $150.00. So we returned home, devoid of a coffee system. Time for plan B. I instructed Mel to get online and check out the prices…they had to be cheaper than what we found at the stores. They weren’t.
Damn. No coffee system for me and Mel had already laid down the law about the use of her pots to make my coffee. What’s a guy to do?
As she so often does, Mel came to my rescue. “If you are dead set against another Mr. Coffee,” she told me. “I may have something that will serve the purpose.”
With that she disappeared into the spare room where we keep a bunch of boxes, some of which are filled with stuff that belonged to her mom who passed away last year. In a few minutes she came back holding a coffee pot. It was one of those old Corning Ware percolators. Some of you might remember those things. They were made of ceramic material and had the metal guts you filled with coffee and placed inside the pot. It has the glass bubble on top where you can see the coffee bubble up into when it is perked. I hadn’t seen one of those things in years.
I was all ready to fire that puppy up and make a pot of coffee but Mel told me to wait. She wanted to call the Corning Ware company and find out if this particular model was one you could put directly on the burner or if it was one that needed a small wire stand to hold it off the fire.
So she calls the company and she describes the pot to the young lady on the phone who was amazed that there was still one of those things out there. She told Mel to throw the pot away because it had been recalled in 1978 because it had a defective handle that tended to break loose from the pot and scald people!
1978? Recalled? I couldn’t stop laughing. “Oh hell no, we ain’t throwing that thing away. I’m gonna use the hell out of it.”
Mel rolled her eyes yet again. She’s good that that.
So now I proudly drink my coffee each morning from a pot that was recalled in 1978. To hell with the 21st century. Old it good and I’m not out a hundred and fifty bucks either.
|It happened a few weeks back, before my ailing leg caused me to be housebound. I was out in the barn feeding the animals. I had just finished spreading hay beneath the run-in shed so the horses could graze out of the cold wind and I paused for a short rest.
Leaning on the center support beam of the shed, I let my eyes wander across the landscape of the ranch, settling at last on the far pond, a place of singular beauty on the ranch where deer come out of the forest to drink.
The surface of the pond rippled gently, teased by the North wind and the Willow trees on the bank swayed slowly…so peacefully. It was at that exact moment that the vision came to me. Like looking through a glass darkly, an indistinct shape taking form until it came fully into view.
I am hesitant to admit here that this is not the first time a vision has come to me. Indeed, ever since I was a small child, I have gotten these glimpses of what was to be or what could be. To be honest, many times the visions were wrong, but sometimes….a few times…they have been right on the money. Regardless, I have learned, over the years, to take heed and remember them for future reference and a couple of times they have saved me a bit of trouble by the knowing.
So on that Winter’s day, as I rested under the run-in shed and stared at my lovely pond, I saw it all unfold like a picture, a mural painted by a Master. I saw this Nation, this country I love so much, ripped apart in violence and this peaceful place I call home swept away in fire and blood.
I saw it all there, what we were rushing toward. A Nation, a People so severely divided that we see no middle ground. There is no longer many voices, there are only two…Left and Right. Both sides convinced that theirs is the right path, both sides unwilling to give in to what they see as evil. People rush to join one camp or the other while the real evil, the politicians and power brokers of Washington callously play upon the basest fears and prejudices of both sides to solidify their hold on the country.
This is the real cliff we are rushing toward. You can not keep three hundred million people scared and angry for long before that fear and anger spills over into the streets.
Violence, once let loose and spilled into the streets, will grow like a snowball rolling downhill and we will find it impossible to stop. Everything good and decent about this country and its people could be blasted away in a self-righteous orgy of destruction.
But like I said….it was only is only a momentary vision visited upon an old man out feeding his horses…what do I know.
|As my old daddy use to say: “There’s frost on the pumpkin this morning”. Well, actually there is more like two foot of snow on the freaking pumpkin, but you get the idea.
The air is cold and crisp and the snow blankets the ground and muffles all sound and makes the land into some artist’s idea of a Winter scene on a huge canvas.
It is into this white world we venture each morning to feed the herds. You see, we have a number of different groups or herds that need caring for each day, no matter what the weather happens to be. Gator, Rosie, and Sparkles comprise our herd of mini-pigs and they have emerged from their burrows of deep straw and demand their breakfast.
We also raise and sell Quarter-horses and our Brood mares, Lucy, Scarlett, and Thumper are standing at the fence watching the house for our first appearance. They are joined by my only non-Quarter horse, Shadow Dancer. This is my own personal horse…the “other woman” in my life. She is a coal-black Tenn. Walker with a flowing mane and large brown eyes. She is not a part of our breeding program, but is strictly for my own riding pleasure.
The resident Stud of Almosta Ranch stands in a separate pasture from the mares, along with his constant companion, Dolly, the Fainting goat. The stud’s name is Billy and he is a big, muscled pure breed Quarter horse and direct descendent of the greatest Cutting horse ever to come out of the state of Texas: Cutter Bill. He and Dolly also stand and watch the house, waiting for Mel and I to come out the front door.
Inside the barn, out of sight of the house, stands row upon row of Holland-Lop rabbits…Mel’s personal project…each one waiting for their two human feeders. The chickens have long since left the roost and are busily scratching in the yard. They free range over the ranch and are not penned up which makes finding eggs like an Easter egg hunt every day.
Yes, they are all out there waiting expectedly, watching for our approach. So, we will bundle up and head out the door to do our job. We will dispense food for each herd, each animal and we will pat each head, scratch the ears, and speak to each lovingly. Then, when all are happy and fed, we will retreat back to the warmth of our home and feed ourselves.
So it goes each morning here on Almosta Ranch. Two old lovers living the only dream we ever had and loving every minute of it. Ya’ll come see us, we love company.
It started the day after Christmas. For a week or more I had been having trouble with my left leg…weakness, pain…and by the day after Christmas I could barely stand on it. Pulling my pants leg up, I examined the offending limb and was shocked to realize that it was roughly twice the size of my healthy right leg.
“Honey, I think I may have a problem.”
Mel walked over, took one look at my leg and gave me the ultimatum; “I’m taking you to the emergency room.”
Oh hell no! I purposed an alternate solution: “Call the doctor and see if they can see me and I will go in there.”
Now I have a great doctor. He is set up in a large medical center and he will take patents who have no insurance. All you do is pay fifty dollars up front, when you walk in, to cover the office visit and he keeps the tests to a minimum.
She didn’t like it but she agreed and made the call. I figured it would probably take a week or more to get an appointment this soon after Christmas so I was not going to have to endure his poking and prodding for awhile. Imagine my surprise when the nurse told my wife: “Get him in here within the hour and we will work him in.”
So, trapped by my own devices, I had no choice but to bundle up and head to the city to see the doctor. Once there, it only took minutes before I was ushered into an examination room and before I knew it the doctor came bustling in wanting to know the problem. I explained as best I could, then I showed him the leg. He poked and prodded…it’s what they do. He asked a few questions and I answered them, then a funny thing happened. I actually saw panic in his eyes.
He told me that it was possible that I had a blood clot in the leg and if that clot broke free, which it could at any minute, it would travel to either my heart or lungs and kill me.
In that moment I stared into a very deep and dark abyss.
The doctor informed me that he was sending me downstairs to have a test done to find out if it was indeed a blood clot.
“Hold up doc,” I said. “How much does the test cost?” He told me and I nodded agreement. I figured the bank account could cover that one.
“If it is a clot we will need to get you right into the hospital and start you on a blood thinner and you may need surgery.”
I closed my eyes and gave a loud sigh. I guess I knew a day like this was coming and a decision like this was going to have to be made. I just wish it wasn’t now….this day.
“Doc,” I replied, trying to keep the emotion out of my voice. “You and I both know there’s not a hospital anywhere that’ll take an old man with no insurance and perform the costly procedure it would take to fix a clot. If there is a clot, just let me go home and do whatever I can there.”
I could see it in his face; he knew I was right. “Let’s just get the test done,” He said. “Then we will go from there.”
I agreed. So I was loaded into a wheelchair and with Melinda pushing, we began the long journey to the labs. Down two floors and across two long hallways that seemed to stretch on forever she pushed and I rode. Neither of us could find the courage to talk.
The test…an ultra-sound…was done quickly and we were told the head Naboo who determines the results would be back within a couple of hours to give his determination on what the test showed. So left with no other option but to wait, I told Mel we should go and have lunch somewhere to pass the time. We had a nice lunch. We laughed and talked about the ranch and the animals and anything but what we were both thinking about….the damn tests.
The longest two hours of my life.
But, as hours are prone to do, these two passed and I found myself back in the exam room and confronting the doctor.
The News: It was not a blood clot. Bullet dodged. It was a couple of weak veins that allowed blood to leak into the leg and the blood was pooling and causing the infection. This could be treated with antibiotics and bed rest…two weeks minimum. There was also the matter of wearing a ace bandage on the leg and keeping hot packs on it. No problem. No hospital.
So that is where I am today and it is why I have not been around the blogs much lately if anyone has wondered.
Now the Hillary part: I heard yesterday that the Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton has been diagnosed with a life threatening blood clot. Wow, me and Hillary ALMOST had something in common. Of course she, being the Sec. of State and a fairly rich white lady, has an army of bright young doctors standing by to move heaven and earth to get her well whereas if I had of had that clot….well…let’s just say I wouldn’t be making any long range plans.
Health Care in America? Oh yeah, it’s reformed isn’t it. I’m old, I’m sick, and I find myself just not caring anymore. Bring on that Fiscal Cliff and let’s all go over it together…Me, you, Hillary…everybody and maybe, when we hit the bottom and are blasted into pieces, we can pick ourselves up and start to put the pieces back together again. Maybe we all need to stare into the Abyss in order to see what is really important…or…maybe not. What the hell do I know, I’m just a sick old farmer who almost had something in common with Hillary.
| The holiday season is upon us and so I decided to repost my own Christmas story that was first written a few years ago in one of my first blogs here. I hope you enjoy the read....thank you.
My Perfect Christmas
Whenever I think of Christmas there is one in particular which stands out in my memory. My sixteenth Christmas was the single most perfect Christmas I can ever remember. I think one thing that made it special was the fact that for the first time since I had been old enough to remember the holiday, we were having a gathering of the family at our home.
Two uncles, three aunts and all their assorted families from my father's side and three aunts and three uncles and all their families from my mom's side. That was a total of eleven spouses and about twenty five kids, not to mention mom, dad, me and my brother and my grandmother...mom's mother, all of them converging on the house Christmas eve and all were spending the night so they could enjoy the whole of Christmas day together with us.
We had a very small, three bedroom house so that night there were bodies laying about everywhere on every available space in every room, for us kids it was great!
Some of these folks I had not seen since I was twelve years old and that was at my older brother's funeral. He had died of cancer at the age of twenty-one, leaving a widow and a small baby girl behind. Mom and dad had withdrawn from all family gatherings after that as a pall of pain and loss totally encased them. So you see, this particular gathering was made extra special for me because I knew that this marked a milestone in their healing process.
Now as special as all that was, the really wonderful part was waiting for us all when we awoke the next morning. As was the custom on Christmas morning, all the men along with the male children over the age of ten would be up before daylight and head off for a morning of deer hunting. This, of course gave the women a lot more space to work their magic in the kitchen, a talent which each of them excelled in.
Well it was a good hour before daylight when dad woke me with a gentle nudge.
"Get up, sleepyhead," he said softly. "You have a surprise waiting for you outside".
I knew it wasn't a gift because we had decided not to open gifts until after lunch so I was a bit confused as I stumbled up from my mat on the floor and followed dad into the living room. This room sported a large picture window which looked out upon our front yard and to my surprise most of my cousins who would be hunting that morning were already standing in front of that window, their mouths hanging open.
When I shouldered my way to the front of the crowd where I could look outside, I understood their awe.....
A full moon illuminated a foreign landscape for those of us who had lived our lives in Southeast Texas. The ground was completely covered with a fine carpet of snow! Snow and ice clung to the tree limbs as if God had decided to decorate for Christmas.
The whoops and yells coming from us was deafening and served to wake the rest of the sleeping household. We could not wait to get dressed and head outside into this rare environment.
There was a general melee of all of us kids charging about trying to get dressed. All the grownups were already dressed, of course and they were waiting on us so we could head out on the deer hunt.
As everyone made ready to leave, I hung back. Today of all days, with this special blessing of snow, something I rarely got to see other than in picture books, was not a day I wanted to share with a mob of kinfolks.
I pulled mom and dad off to one side and I explained that I didn't want to go hunting that morning. I told dad that I had a special place I wanted to go to by myself. I think dad must have understood what I wanted because he didn't put up a fuss at all. He just told me to be sure and take my saddle-gun with me in case I ran across any deer, which I promised to do.
So they smiled and watched as I tore out to the barn and saddled up my horse. The rest of the men were loading into trucks as I lead Skipper out of the corral and mounted up. I sat silently in the saddle as they pulled out of the driveway on their journey to the deer camp about ten miles from the house.
After they had gone I wheeled Skipper about and walked her into the woods. I can still remember the magic of that three mile ride in the bitter cold.
The snow-there really wasn't much by northern standards, maybe an inch on the ground-served as a pristine blanket. As I rode deeper into the woods I was amazed at the hundreds of small trails of animal tracks visible in the fresh snow. They cris-crossed each other like mad little highways going from who knows where to somewhere else.
While I rode I was keenly aware of the silence of the pre-dawn forest; all sounds muffled by the fresh fallen snow. I was aware too of the puffs of smoke-like breath coming from the soft, brown muzzle of Skipper as she walked carefully in this unknown stuff on the ground, her hooves making small crunching sounds with each step she took.
My eyes, my ears and even my nose were assailed by the strange whiteness, the silence and the clean smell of what had been a very familiar woods. It was now an almost alien place for both me and Skipper.
I had a place in mind where I wanted to go to spend this morning and even though it was hard to pick out landmarks with everything wearing a new white coat, I managed to steer Skipper to our destination.
As the sun was just beginning to cast out it's first weak rays upon this changed earth, I left the thick forest and entered a small clearing. Rocky creek lay just below me. The clearing I was in ended in a bluff bank which sloped downward about ten feet to the edge of the stream. Just upstream from this spot was a small waterfall. I say small for it only fell about four or five feet to a small pool below.
The water was not flowing....everything was frozen. The morning sun reflected off the water, frozen in mid-fall and onto a pool of ice below it. That light reflection off the ice was the most beautiful thing I think I had ever seen up to that day.
I sat quietly in the saddle, my breath fogging out of my nose and mouth. I was in awe of the beauty of the land around me. Soft, silent and white; frozen not only in the moment of cold, but also in my memory forevermore. I almost cried at the beauty of the landscape as I sat astride my horse and felt so very small and insignificant amid this wonder of nature.
I was about to climb off Skipper and go down for a closer look at the frozen waterfall when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I sat perfectly still and waited. Within a few moments my patience was rewarded. A doe and a young yearling deer came walking into the clearing, nosing the ground in search of something to eat. I watched their soft, tan bodies as they walked about trying to graze. The deer ignored me because I was still on my horse and to them I was a part of that animal and they had no idea of the danger they were in.
As I continued to watch them they were suddenly joined by a large buck with a massive rack of horns adorning his head. He too began to forage for a meal after giving me and Skipper the slightest of glances.
My hand eased, ever so slowly down to the scabbard which rested against the saddle and under my leg. Inside that scabbard I carried a loaded 30-30 rifle...my saddle gun. I had eased the gun half-way out of the scabbard when I stopped. Suddenly it just wasn't right. I didn't want to kill these beautiful creatures below me, peacefully grazing in the dim, cold morning sun.
I just wanted to watch them live. I wanted more than anything else to cherish their freedom and their surroundings in this magical, white fairy-land the snow had made of my forest.
I gently replaced the gun in it's scabbard and settled back on the saddle and enjoyed the scene....my heart soared at such beauty. There would be time enough for killing another day, this day was magical and to be enjoyed by man and beast alike.
Besides, the deer was not what had brought me to this particular place. No, this place had been shown to me when I was ten years old. My older brother had brought me there as a special treat....just me and him. He had wanted me to know that waterfall and the land around it for it was special to him too. It had become my secret place, my special spot to go to whenever I needed to refresh my soul, or just to feel better.
It was the place I always went to after my 12th birthday when I wanted to be near my brother again. Mom always said he was in Heaven but to me he was always there, at that waterfall, in that forest.
I knew, when I first saw the snow that I had to be there in order to, in some way share this special Christmas with my brother. I stayed there a long time, watching the deer and other animals which ventured down the water's edge. Finally I turned Skipper around and made my way home.
I arrived in time to greet the successful hunters who were just arriving back from their hunt and I took some good natured ribbing for coming home empty handed. I didn't mind at all for you see I was not empty handed....my heart was full. I got to spend Christmas with my brother, what more could a kid ask for.
|Almost two years ago I let my paying membership lapse here on WDC, packed my blog bags, and headed out on the Information Highway for further adventures and God knows, I had a few of them. But, just like in real life, I found myself yearning for my first blog home here at WDC. So, yesterday I bit the bullet and I renewed my paying membership and that of my wife and I came home.
I have spent most of the morning dusting off this old house of mine called Portfolio and revisiting a lot of old “rooms” I had forgotten about. While doing a lot of house cleaning I discovered a rather disquieting fact….I had forgotten how do to damn near everything on this site. No matter, I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually.
Now the thing about returning to an old neighborhood is that the first thing you realize is how much it has changed. First thing I did yesterday was go over to the blog page and check out who was writing, boy was I surprised.
I saw very few people there who I recognized. Seems like a whole new bunch of folks have moved into the old neighborhood. Gone are some of the most creative, funny and talented writers I had ever read. But, I’m sure that these new folks are just as talented as the old guys…I’m just going to have to get to know them.
It is my hope that a few of you drop by my place too. I know you don’t know me but I hope we can get acquainted in the coming days and months. I also hope that maybe a few of those old neighbors of mine will decide to drop in for a visit. It would certainly be nice to catch up on what’s been going on with each of them.
So, anyway, as to what you will find in my blog. You will read about life on Almosta Ranch, our ten acres of heaven located in Southwest Missouri. Almosta Ranch is populated by various animals both great and small. We raise and breed Quarter Horses and have four brood mares and one Stallion. We also raise and sell mini-pigs, Holland Lop Rabbits and the assorted chickens and their eggs. Add to this mix a rather extensive dog pack and you have a full time job for one old retired guy and his lovely wife. You also get humorous adventures on an almost daily basis.
I look forward to getting to know each of you and maybe entertaining a few of you with my future entries.
Welcome to Almosta.