Saturday, October 3, 2009

View from my horse...

Depression hits; pills are popped. The head is fuzzy; the heart still sad. Effexor, Prozac, Paxil-all chemicals remain the same. Ahh but clarity can surface. The heart can be transformed; the mind can be revived.

The smell of alfafa, old leather, sweat and sage are my elixors. I head to the barn; I call for my horses. My burro is first looking for treats or to play a trick. Smoke my appaloosa stands in the shade of the sturdy mesquite. Pajon, my paso fino cannot stand to not get treats. He follows me to the hitching stand. His coat is brushed; his feet are picked. I remove my leather gloves, smearing the greasy Swat on my hands to cover his face. Endure is sprayed on his legs and the saddle is place. I grab my water bottles, stuff them into the saddlebags, and check the cinch and bridle buckles one last time; giving Pajon a last tasy apple oatmeal treat.

Alien my coyote'/golden retriever mix, and Dharma my Australian Shephard bark with ecstacy as I struggle nto the saddle. Almost any other horse would stamp and snort and heave as these crazy canines erupt, but Pajon somehow patiently waits as my arthritic joints find the stirrups
and settle in saddle.

We are off.

The western sky is blue. A red tail hawk leads the way. I ramble through the acacia brush, by the push up posing lizard, and watch the dogs chase the jackelope from their maze of holes. My horse and I climb the rocky path. I feel good. My head is clear. My happiness surrounds me. Below my husband is puttering patiently on fixing something that needs to be fixed. The dogs are back by my side, waiting to see what direction to turn.

But I am content and happy right where I am.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why do you have all these animals?

Why do you have all these animals?

John and I get asked this question often,along with other animal related questions. Most are easy to answer, ,but some even we have to ponder.

Do you ride your horses?

What do you do with a burro?
We feed him!

Don't you think three dogs are too many?
No-perhaps ten would be-if they were all the size of Nahkohee (100lbs)!

Do you let your cats in the house?
We try not to let them out of the house!

Why do you have a llama and alpaca?

Hmmm that animal question is more difficult. We don't raise them for their fleece. Although some people are able to earn money for the alpaca fleece which is incrdibly soft and not scratchy like wool. Other love llama fleece for felting hats or bags. .

We do not show them at fairs or competitions, but we know people who do . Other owners we know spend much of their time trucking their critters to win blue ribbons or best of show. But our animals don't like leaving the ranch,nor does my husband John! I was informed that if Skippy , my 3 year old alpaca was in Peru, he would have been a rug a year ago, and Desi, my llama would be ever so humiliated to trot around a ring. He much prefers to chase after our donkey on forty acres.

Originally I thought having a llama would be the ideal answer for backpacking into the wilderness. About ten years I spent several days having two llamas carry my wine, luggage and small guitar to a lake ringed by wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains. I only carried my water trail mix and camera. These were wonder animals. They pooped ver y neatly off the trail, only leaving raisinettes . They nibbled the grass when we stopped for the night and were very satisified with llama kibble for deserts and snack that they lso carried in a small bag. They didnt spit, except at a racoon which they also alerted us when they screamed at our small campground intruder. Best of all my back didnt hurt from carrying a fifty pound pack.

So when Desi the llama was rescued and offered to us, shortly after we retired to Arizona -I quickly bought "Camelids for Dummies". Learning that it is never good to have just one camelid and with no camels or other llamas coming our way we accepted Skippy, the inquisitive doe eyed alpaca as a companion for Desi.

We soon learned that having cameli (the genus of camels, alapcas, and llamas) are much like having cats. They do not always come when called. Treats are sometimes desired and sometimes Desi and Skippy act like they are being posioned when offerd a carrot or apple or slice of watermelon. I have discovered, however if I leave it in their dinner dish it always disappears, but never when I am watching. They also scream and wiggle and run away if they even think I might have a brush in my hand! They also do not want to be ridden and do not reallyenjoy it if i put on a halter or leash.

It has been two years and we have not gone backpacking with or without or llama and alpaca. I can not really blame it on the animals. It seems like too much trouble to head to the Chiricahuas or White Mountains to get away. We are away!
So what do we do with these creatures?

We spend our time watching our camelids. Whether it is Desi peering through the windows as we watch his antics outside,or laughing as Skippy dances while being sprayed with water while filling the horse trough, or laughing as both camelids take turns at chasing the dogs,we are amused. When Skippy puts his nose to the ground to check out a fluttering butterfly and Desi prances to the fence and stares at the cows on the other side , we have to watch too.

Our animals are our entertainment. We do not go to concerts, or movies, or sporting events. We
have our coffee in the morning and watch our animal interactions. In the evening we have a glass of wine , view the glorious Arizona sunset and watch our animals so more .
This is why we have all these animals.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crying Wolf (berries)

Yesterday our neighbor called and told us the wolf berries were ripe. As new denizens of the desert, my husband and I were both clueless about this announcement. I was thinking that a wolf berry was an exotic cousin to the much hyped and sought after goji berry or a cousin to a mangosteen of Noni juice fame or perhaps it was the exotic wonder that my brother bought at Whole Paycheck err Food. Regardless I was sure it was something I too should be excited about.
Immediately I got on line and discovered that indeed this was a wonder plant from the nightshade family resembling tiny tomatoes. It was rumored to cure almost anything, very expensive to purchase and most people ordered it from some place far away like China or Sedona.

Even after looking at the leaves and the berry/fruit/globule pictures on the internet, I wasnt sure if it grew on the ground or high in the tree. Hoping it would be hanging aloft since it is rattlesnake season I opted for the wolfberry quest on horseback.

I gathered up empty plastic cartons to laden with berries, bottles of water as I was sure it would take awhile for me to find this holy grail of flora and a camera so I could take a picture of Smoke my horse and I proudly retrieving nature's bounty. I quickly saddled Smoke up with extra cantle pack and saddle bags to hold all the goodies and we took off despite the darkening sky.

When I heard thunder I didnt even consider turning around -our all knowing neighbor Raven said if I didnt get them soon- the birds would have them. I thought about how much the dried berries sold for on the internet and urged Smoke to keep going.

It started to rain. I hadn't included a jacket in this excursion-this is the Sonoran desert and early June. My head gear was enough to keep the rain off me. Of course my first hint of doom was when my large brimmed hat had blown off as I cantered down the drive. I had been to lazy to pick it up, convincing myself I really didnt need it and could use some tan on my face.

As the drops trickled down my face, I started searching the vegetation with blurry vision. All I could find were striped lizards scurrying among the rocks from the hoof beats or the rain. I saw nothing red.

When we had traveled three miles from home, I started to wonder just what I would do with these berries. Would they really give me more energy? Could you eat them on ice cream? Could I can them and present them as gifts at Christmas. Perhaps I could dry them and use it as tea? This would be a wonderful story to tell my Midwestern family and friends. However,
I was beginning to wonder if I was looking on the right trail?

I called Raven and asked again where he had seen the elusive plant. He repeated where they were and I repeated back to him that is where I had been. There was no sign of any wolf or berry along the deserted roadside-no birds feasting on anything and the only foliage was mesquite and a few pricklypears that werent yet bearing fruit.

Perhaps I had missed them in the rain. I turned around, Smoke quickened his pace. The rain came down faster. But still I kept looking . I must admit i was losing my fascination with the wolfberry. I had plenty of vitamins. My Christmas shopping were done. I already had plenty of stories about Gila monsters and rattlesnakes to entertain family and friends from afar. I just wanted to get home. I would be altruistic-the birds, deer and javelina needed this desert delight far more than I did.
However this afternoon adventure was not without treasure. I didn't find the wolfberry, but the sun came thru the rain and the gleaming rainbow appeared with the tail disappearing behind the hill where my house and husband were waiting. I took out my camera; the rain dissipated, I took the shot, and I went home with empty cartons , but a great picture and memories of a rainy day in a dry desert. But I am beginning to think Raven was just crying WOLF "berries".

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On friends and family!!

Friends are the family we choose. A loyal friend is worth a thousand relatives. These sayings are hanging from my kitchen wall in ceramic tile, the other in bedroom hand lettered on wood. I think about them often and find great comfort from the truth that is painted on those signs.
I am blessed with an abundance of fabulous friends. In fact I often wonder why I am so lucky when it comes to friends, but family is a different story.
As an only child for almost seven years, I cannot recall any childhood friends only family. Usually kids have lots of buddies,but my friends were classmates in Sunday school or a member of my small now extinct school. I remember two friends growing up from first grade to twelth-one was my beautiful exotic cousin Nancy who lived part-time in Florida , another a neighbor on a nearby farm, Ruth Ann , another tomboy who wasnt allowed to wear jeans who rode bicycles with me for miles on the gravel roads surrounding the fileds of corn. Lving on a farm, kids were separated by both miles and lineage and , play dates were a rare treat. Mostof the time it was me and the dog-at least that is the memories of yesterday that are with me today.

The story of true friends begins at Illinois college in Jacksonville in August of 1972. Instantly I had dorm friends, college pals, enough dates to be considered popular. There was always someone to borrow books from ( I usually spent my book money on beer not required text), another to borrow a new dress for the dance, or Jean my roomate (now living in Frisco, Co who just made her 3rd visit to spa with me Arizona -who would lend me her super wide bell bottomed Levis ;38 years later we are still sharing clothes . Those are friendships to endure. In fact I felt like I had so many friends I changed roommates every year always wanting to live on a different floor with a different friend expanding my network.
After college was a return to my hometown to teach for a year- I only remember too many margaritas, too many lonely nights with Monty Python and Mary Hartman. I ventured to graduate school -I immerssed myself in my classes and substitute teaching to pay for my .20 cents a carton of mac and cheese, or 10 for a dollar ramen noodles. I lived so much in the darkroom in the photography wing-I became allergic to chemicals. There were no friends; there was no family. It was a dark and stormy night that lasted from teaching high school to Sangamon state thru teaching at Danville Junior College. This three year vacumn of friends ended when my brother and I went to the University of Illinois together. He was a freshman and I was both teaching and studying in Shampoo-Banana.

When I went to graduate school for the second time in the fall of 1979 I found myself once again swamped with people to do things with ...walking dogs, hitting Murphy's the grad bar or Garcia's for a slice of pizza, riding bicycles into the country, walking around Allerton, taking up golf to meeet men or occasionally even studying for exams. It was a wonderful time to sit in a darkened theater and watch foreign films; it was a time to protest the treatment of the Iranians on campus by the FBI, and there was always time it on the shady porch on Green street with my housemates and lament and wonder about our lives.

In 1984, I moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I was released the summer of 1991. This was my time without friends. I was a college professor in a land of people all over thrityand I was 29, aquaintances who were right wing Rush Limbaugh lovers who went to the local Holiday Inn to hear lounge lizards sing songs from the fifties. My true friends were the neighborhood cheese steak shop with extra onions and peppers please and my canine companions, who were too furry to be allowed to accompany me to any of the wonderful Italian dining establishments where I also met my friends Ravioli, Pizza and Eggplant Parmigiana.
I had two colleagues who were kind and caring,but were busy with their own careers and pursuits. It was a time when a few wonderful studentswere my family and with whom I share many memories of laughter both in and out of the classroom. However there were no real compatriots who were able to share my life, my loves, my interests.

I found my true friend mecca in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Everyone I met was on my page. We were all reading the same book, wanting the outdoor life, the green path, the explore nature-how many days did you ski, backpack and hike this year life. Everyone had 2.4 dogs and took them everywhere with them. I was home. Even tho I was a thousand miles away from where I was raised. These people shared my story. This was a community of 6,000 comrades.
When my mom disappointed me by not showing up to my first wedding,but I had four friends who traveled two thousand miles to be there(Jeanette and Darla from Pennsylvania and Karen and Tim from North Carolina) . Madeleine made my wedding dress and luminaria, and helped clean out my closet and we had only known each other for a year. These friendships have had the occasional lapse but I know I can call or tap the keyboards and they are still with me. My father' cousins and their children and my aunts and cousins came across four states to see me married for the first time at age 38.
When my brother and his family didn't bother to make it to my second wedding 15 years later, I had even more friends who showed up , who cleaned my house, arranged chairs, and read from the Bible for the wedding. My cousin Bernadette married us. My Swartz cousins, once again made the trek and I had both friends and family.

I now live with the best friend I have ever had in my life (well that is not counting canines of course). When we met , he promised me he would be my best friend-I didn't believe him but he has proven true. John and I do not live in Steamboat anymore, but I have discovered I still have a family of friends even here in the wild west of Arizona..

My pal from Illinois College days has moved here to teach in Bowie. One of my bestest buddy's and her hubby from Steamboat are moving to Arizona in July and bought twenty acres just a short horse or bike ride away. Another Colorado pal is splitting her time between Colorado and Tucson and we are able to sip martinis and munch sushi and hit resale shops as frequently as I can afford. My cousin Bernadette, her husband Paul and son Bob share their Christmas dinner with John and I each year. It is a family tradition and we dine off our grandmother's state plates. Friends and family meld and in a good way.

Even within this sparsely populated Cochise County I have managed to make new friends, Dusti and Tony who live across the sage and cactus and who were professors in Montana, Tim and Therese, Midwesterners at heart who are our social directors for all of Dos Cabezas parties, Kas who helps me with my U of A job, and Diana who shares my love of horses. Our neighbor Raven who gives injections to my horse, helps John with building and shares storie sof the Salados, and Mogollons and other peoples of the past.

There are others too who have re-entered my life via Facebook and email including extended Swartz family -long neglected by distance and time but now re-connecting for this chapter of my life.
My husband has called me a maven in people interactions; others have suggested I am starting my own hippy enclave here in the high desert foothills. Margret Mead the famed anthropologists has said No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back.
And that is okay too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Unexpected delights in the desert...

Life as a retiree in rural Arizona has a plethora of unexpected perks:

~Rainy days and Mondays never gets me down.

~Fuchsia cholla blossoms

~Gila monster sightings; these are exquisite creatures...salmon or pale yellow beading on black velvet...just don't let them chew on your toe.

~ Incredible lightening shows during the monsoons.

~Javelina parents parading with their young down the driveway.

~Free tomatoes from Eurofresh-almost every week.

~Ringtail cats playing on the bedroom balcony.

~Birds of paradise flowering by the thousands in our wash.

~Roadrunners running...

~Basha's Food City in Willcox, limes only 50cents a pound for my Coronitas...

~Prickly pears' lemon yellow blooms, followed by magenta fruit being made into prickly pear sorbet and syrup...

~The mail lady calls me when I have an important package arriving-great service!

~Neighbors who give my horse its needed injections, coz I am too squeamish.

~A patient and well mannered farrier who gives me much needed advice on my equines, when my veterinarian is out of town.

~The poem DHARMA by poet Billy Collins tucked in a Christmas card by my vet. ( Dharma is my always charming much too psychic Australian shepherd).

~St. David's monastery tucked away under gigantic cottonwoods.

~Pumpkin tamales sold at the grocery store at Christmas time.

~The smell of fresh roasted chiles anytime.

~Hiking Muleshoe canyon and discovering a troop of coatis scrambling up the side of a hill. They are sooooo cute.

~A picnic at 9,000 feet in the Chiricahua National Monument

~Sitting outside for Friday night dinner at Coronado Vineyards with live music by Whiskey Girl and Nowhere Man.

~Fort Bowie Historic Site .

~Wine tasting at Crop Circle .

~Rooftop campouts during the Perseid Meteor shower

~UFO sightings while sipping dirty martinis with old friends.(this seems to always happen-do aliens like vodka or what ?)

~Dawn breaking on Cochise Stronghold.

~Going to a dinner party with new friends in Dos Cabezas

~Old friends deciding to move here too-just a few more and we can have a commune!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Laments of neophyte desert dweller

I knew there would be regrets when I moved to rural life in Arizona, but I am still having a hard time adjusting.....

*Not having a rhubarb plant…I miss homemade rhubarb custard pie in the spring…

*Ditto - fresh picked asparagus

  • A daily paper delivered to my door

  • The regrettable exercise of driving my car 100 miles to get sushi

  • Should have invested in Johnson and Johnson-I have never seen so much dust.

  • Scarcity of animal assistance groups in rural area-I guess it is the Old West-people out here forget animalss are human!!!

  • Mojaves and diamondbacks-Snakes not on a plane…..but should be and get the hell off my property....

  • Scorpions and brown recluse- ok I must admit I almost ever see these guys-but I know they are out there...

  • Speeding ticket on 191 near Safford-so if everyone gets fined there-why didn't anyone tell me?

  • Sneaky emissions from power plants-you wouldn't know unless you get up early

  • Tarantula hawks …the name is scary enough-get the idea

  • No holly jolly feelings in December-

  • Hunter harassment laws-don’t get me started on this one-$300 for defending our property

  • Fish and game -no more Macho-B…Ken Salazar come and kick these assholes butts-

  • …available signs-adopt a highway please

  • Temperatures over 94 degrees…really it is a dry heat until it hits 95. Then it is too damn hot!

  • Long lines at Safeway Pharmacy……Walgreens? CVS? -you could make a fortune here.

  • Dairy Queen addiction……having lived 20 years without a DQ I am making up for lost time…chocolate truffle Blizzard anyone?

  • Antiquated meeting formalities which waste time…uh excuse me…what is the point of this protocol?

  • Abandoned dogs in Bowie-please contact Best Friend Animal Shelter Kanab, Utah..maybe they can do something, or if you have any extra goes for abandoned ad abused animals all over.

  • Bees, honeybees, yellow jackets, bumble..killer…You can hear them humming the theme from the Godfather as they pass overhead

  • Cows on the road-it’s a Bar-B-Q- tonight….I’ll bring the beef…

  • Canyon wrens disguising themselves as chattering monkeys in the early a.m.

    fights over shady parking spots

  • burning trash in barrels-uh are you reading this John?
  • Mail delivery four miles away

  • Here comes the monsoons, there goes the road!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I want a gun!!

I want a gun! Not an Uzi or Luger or anything automatic..but a colt 45 with a mother of pearl handle. I see myself as a modern day Annie Oakley, a pistol in one holster; my Blackberry waiting in the other.

Almost every week I see an ad extolling the virtues for women to sign up for a concealed weapons class. And almost every week I think "hmm maybe I should sign up" and I picture myself on my horse with my gun hidden in a saddlebag waiting for that moment when I defend myself from a rabid bobcat, or fierce pack of coyotes, or a herd of rattlesnakes refusing to move, not allowing my horse to tiptoe around them..

For a brief time I almost had my husband convinced. I told him of all the women I knew in Cochise County who carried guns. Finally one weekend he loaded his 22 and we shot at cans and bottles. I didn't do too bad, if I am ever threatened by a diet Coke can or a Coors Light bottle, there is a good chance I will win the fight .Encouraged by my sharpshooting skill, the next day I took his Beretta and shot up our NO TRESPASSING signs. I scared the horses with the loud blasts and had to wear apple treats to get them to come near me for the next week.

The following weekend I dragged my reluctant better half to three pawn shots in Tucson and perused their weapons. None of them had pearl laden pistols. When I got home I called my brother in Wisconsin remembering he had inherited a lady like pistol-maybe I could convince him it should be mine.

On the phone I reminded my brother I had take riflery class in college. He reminded me I supported the Brady Bill. I reminded him I had joined the NRA when I was 18. He reminded me I was thrown out of an animal rights group for being so militant. I told him I needed the gun to protect myself from rattlesnakes and rabid coyotes. He relented and said he would send me just what I needed.

I thought about our conversation. There was some kind of cognitive dissonance going on with me. My brother was right I was opposed to guns. I had a bumper sticker on my car saying "Support Our Right to Arm Bears". When I was still teaching college I always lectured to my cross cultural communications classes against guns, revealing the research that more murders occur in Washington D.C. yearly than in all European nations combined where guns are banned.

But now I live where Mohave rattlesnakes creep inches away from my Tevas when I walk ito the house, where a gang of coyotes lounging between our front door and our gate, took a chunk out of my brave dog on Thanksgiving day. I ride my horse alone following a sandy wash and am three hours from the nearest point of civilization. I am in the Old West-I need a gun.

I prematurely put "Janie's got a gun" on my Blackberry's ring tone. My old friends freak out when they leave a message, obviously I have been in the Arizona sun too long. Where is their bleeding heart liberal non-gun toting pal? I call my brother again wondering where my weapon of choice is. My brother says the package has been sent. My husband is starting to worry-a scatterbrained wife and bullets will not mix well. I do have a tendency to scream, then run wildly in circles stuttering when I see any kind of snake. My patient spouse is fretting I will shoot one of the cats, or dogs, or hot tub, or him while stumbling around getting my up up my courage to aim at the evil venomous rattling shaking snake .

At last a package arrived with the appropriate return address from Cheeseland. My brother had came through. I ripped into the brown paper wrapping, and withdrew the weapon my brother had sent.

It was a Walmart slingshot.

I sent it back postage due.

Do they have a gun section on Craigslist?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hay 17 dollars a bale, farrier 90 bucks a visit, riding your own horse in the desert-Priceless.

When I retired to Arizona, trading my career, my friends and my home in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for my life in Arizona-I had one condition for moving to the desert of the Sulphur Springs Valley-my own horse .

I was brainwashed by Misty of Chincoteague in print. I was glued to the TV by shows like Fury and My Friend Flicka. So infatuated by these four legged creatures that people rode in the west I talked of nothing else. Surprisingly it was the Easter Bunny that heard my pleas and in 1961 when I was 6years old that generous old rabbit brought me my own Shetland pony and saddle. I think I might have stayed in the saddle for about 3 minutes. I was terrified. I don't remember the equine's name-I only remember being so very ashamed that I was so afraid of a small fuzzy pony. The fate of my first pony is also lost in the reality and fantasy that muddles in our mind when we grow older.

In high school, I rode my friends' horses any chance I had. I was braver or maybe just more foolhardy in the Age of Aquarius. . By graduate school in the 80's.I enrolled in some class offered by the University of Illinois and drove somewhere outside Urbana twice a week to officially learn to ride. In the mid 80's I was driving 25miles once a week with 3 other friends in our 30's to ride at a stable in Milton, Pennsylvania when I wasn't teaching college classes in Williamsport.

By the time I moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 1991 -I had lost my cowboy boots, but not my passion for horses. Sam, my next door neighbor had two horses and I was soon in the saddle again! It was like Christmas anytime she would ask me to ride. We rode Sarvis Creek trail , crossing the water carefully -each hoof gingerly being put in the water by Maverick and I was on his back praying that he wouldn't slip. We rode along Copper Ridge at sunset and became so emerged in our ride that we hadn't noticed the sun setting. We took a short cut back-no time for timid wading thru the stream. It was hold on and just shut my eyes..Maverick decided to jump it. I held on and felt like I was the wind. I was 45 years old and still wanted my own horse

When we moved to Arizona, I bought Horses for Dummies and almost every book related to horses and their care on I read the Tucson Star ad the local Strange uh.. Range News for horse classifieds. I went on line every day looking for my that was gentle, , smart and wanted me for an owner. My price limit was $2000. I found Smoke on the Internet at Christmas, thought about him until January and when he finally arrived on our 40 acres it was almost February. My husband thought I was crazy and the horse crazier.

Smoke growled at me when I went to pet him; ran in circles bucking in the air, and wouldn't whoa when one of my horse savvy neighbors volunteered to ride him first. I was horrified I had spent $500 on a saddle and tack , 2500 dollars for a trailer (that I still haven't used) ,and I paid the farrier $85 dollars for my equine's shoes and a pedicure. All for a horse that I was afraid of...I was 53 and knew my bones would be slow to heal if I was bucked off, but I was channeling those fears of my 6year old self.

It took me 8 days to get up the courage to get on this underweight Appaloosa that had been salvaged from a drug auction. Armed with apple oat treats I approached my horse talking horse baby talk . I started brushing his back, blowing my breath into his velvet nose, relying on my readings from Parelli and Cameron. I remembered the bond between the Lone Ranger and Silver, Roy Rogers and Trigger, Rex Allen and Koko. Finally I brought out my Troxell helmet, instead of a cowboy hat, a handful of molasses grain,not silver spurs and with bridle and saddle waiting on the corral, I talked to the Appaloosa that was finally mine. I am not sure what transpired but soon I was on my horse's back, singing Happy Trails at the top of my lungs . We have been best friends ever since.

If I forget to tighten the saddle Smoke will refuse to trot until I discover it. When the dogs decide to jump underneath him..he shakes his head at them; smiles knowingly at me. He lets Skippy the alpaca give him a kiss while we are leaving for a ride, and knows to stop when he hears the sizzle of a rattlesnake. Somehow he makes me turn around when a storm is going to approach in an hour and we always make it home before it rains.

So even though hay has gone to $17 a bale, a vet visit is more than I make in a week working for the U of A., riding my own horse into the desert sunset is priceless. I am finally living my childhood dreams.

Desert Journey

An appaloosa of a thousand desert journeys
carries a breathless me.
Through the tracks of quail, and doves we search
of signs before...

Homesteaders, Cochise, Coronado,

legends of lost treasures,
lure me with thoughts of lore.

My husband, even sometime hears, the ghost of Rex
sing in a voice forlorn.

The magenta hue beckons,
a prickly pear explodes.
A Calliope and Rufus
become vibrant in their quarrel.
The loser lights upon the century plant
and I continue to explore...

Down the sandy wash we travel,
my faithful partner and I
looking for chunks of f gold
washed from a Dos Cabezas mine.

My horses’ ears flicker
and I look up towards the sky,
the rush of circling sandhill cranes
whirling on a downdraft to find
crops of corn calling,
and Playa shrimp already brined.

A mesquite maze beckons
with promise of more wings
but dusk is deepening over the Dragoons.
The sunset starts to wane.

Reluctantly I turn my reins ,
but not before I see the raptor
roosting in the walnut tree.

I have not had the wilderness sojourns
of my dedicated horse.
I thrill at the sudden splash

of a crimson tail
hidden with a mouse
not so mighty in the brush.

We tiptoe by the smell of musk
we hear the muffled grunt
of javelina jostling
and selecting which cacti to munch.

We hear the wings of a night hawk
then a great owl hoots goodbye

My horse and I turn toward home
no gold of Coronado,
or Apache arrowheads found
but I have been enthralled
with all the valley’s sounds.

I too have found treasures
not perhaps in Wall street’s worth
but of four leggeds , flying feathers,
and simple pleasures of the earth.

My Mom wears army boots....

I was mean to my mom yesterday .....and you would think the vibes of Mother's Day would have restrained me. Or that she is 87 years old should have prevented me from wanting to strangle her, but it didn't.
You have to understand, my Mom was a Marine. ( OK, so she really didn't wear ARMY boots-but you get the idea.) My mother was never a General or a Colonel or even a Sargent ...however, she has the ability to make people ask ..."How High?" when she tells them to jump and she tells everyone to jump as often as possible. She does this in a raspy voice laced with venom and syrup as she jabs them with her finger or cane if possible to make her point.
It isn't just my brother, or his new wife, or her grandkids or me that she makes run over, under and through the hoops...she does this to complete strangers and my Dad's relatives as well....She THINKS it makes people feel good to help little old ladies....and my Mom is little and she is old.
She asks the cashier from India at the gas station to put gas in her car. She tells my cousin's wife, to make her a quiche, another sainted cousin is allowed to take her grocery shopping, and the neighbor that mows her lawn, well she lets him plant zucchini for her in her garden which consists of some flowers and a few tomato plants that she makes the cleaning lady plant for her.
Another wonderful attribute is her cheapness. When I was little my Mom hated auctions and thrift stores and would never let my brother or I go to a yard sale...Today she gets everyones' gifts at the local resale shop and then brags that she only spent a quarter on the fiftieth wedding anniversary plate. She recycles the gifts that she is given. I got a great set of steak knives for Christmas my brother had given her the year before.
She would deny that she is selfish , she tithes weekly at church . However , most of the time it is all about her. She doesn't call her grandson and find out about his trip to Thailand or the is about how she was worried to death while he was gone. A few years ago she told my husband he could not have a sopapilla for desert as she was paying the bill. I was not allowed to go to college unless I went to her alma mater, but I rebelled, received a scholarship and went to where I wanted to go. Now forty years later why haven't I learned to tolerate this behavior ?...Why am I surprised by her words or actions?
I thought about turning her ill mannered behavior into a book, but I was afraid Tom Brokaw would find me and beat me up...I wanted to call it "The Rudest Generation". My cousins have assured me my aunts and uncles at times share some of these similar characteristics, and it is not just MY mother that is flawed.
John, my husband says I revert to a five year old around her, so maybe that is why her shrinking brittle five foot frame seems so big and tough and threatening to me.
And how was I so mean? I told her she should be nicer...I told her she should say Thank you to her daughter in law for the thoughtfuless of a facial, not demanding a pedicure instead. I told her she shouldn't yell for others to turn on "Wheel of Fortune" , but should say please. She responded by telling me to "shut up"( a word so evil when I was young that if I ever said it, immediately a bar of bitter soap would appear and be shoved in my mouth). Consequently I hung up the phone on my mom -the octogenaarian plus, the veteran, the wizened school teacher, the widow ,on the day after Mother's Day.
It will be awhile before I am forgiven. I will succumb to guilt. I will send yet another Mother's Day gift and an apology, and maybe I will recieve a "Thank you". Or if she feels guilty, I might get the Red Lobster gift card my brother gave her for Mother's Day.

Desert Dreams

Fifty years ago I had tea parties with my imaginary pals, Cochise and Morningstar, Fury and Flicka, Rin Tin Tin and Sky King; I was always in my cowgirl best - dressed in cowboy boots and a bolo tie, western hat and a fringed vest. The closest neighbor child was five miles away. My friends were the characters from my favorite books and the cowboy TV shows always riding their horses around cactus and boulders somewhere in the Southwest.

Twenty five years later I was drinking mudslides in the same bar as J.F. K. Jr. and Carly Simon, deciding between outfits by Willy Wear and Norma Kamali to keep up with my island friends. I had spent six years in graduate schools and had earned several initials after my name. I vowed never to return to a life without city lights, a Barnes and Nobles down the block or a corner espresso stand.

Today I drink coffee on my balcony with a view of Cochise Stronghold, where the Apache warrior's remains were secretly placed over one hundred years ago. I can see the Dragoon Mountains where the Lone Ranger was filmed. I alternate between a stretched out swim suit and flip flops in summer to the winter wear of worn cowboy boots, faded Levis, and a wide brimmed straw hat , very similar to my togs of fifty years ago.

I don't have tea parties, but I do have many happy hours with visiting friends from other times and places drinking dirty martinis laced with a jalapeno stuffed olives and munching on locally grown pistachios. I don't watch those TV Westerns of my childhood, but I am torn between the horse and rider shows on RFD TV and the Colbert Nation in the evening.

I did not return to the cornfields and wheat fields of Illinois where I grew up , or the beaches of Martha's Vineyard which was my 1980's utopia, but I am in the foothills of the Dos Cabezas with my patient handsome husband, my ex-drug smuggling Appaloosa, my gentle, but spirited Paso Fino, an Australian shepherd smarter than I am, an aloof llama, an inquisitive alpaca, a magical burro, a giant 8 year old pound puppy, a coyote cross canine, and three spoiled cats. The closest thing to city lights is the sparkling of the Milky Way; to get a latte is a thirty minute drive. There are no Borders Bookstores within a hundred miles, but the county bookmobile comes once a month and I can get my best sellers for free. I am living my desert dream.