Friday, December 8, 2017

COWBOY HEAVEN




“Cowboys ain’t easy to love, and they’re harder to hold,” according to a country music song. 

Nevertheless, I’m trying my best to get my hands on one and haul him home with me. I’ll even buy his plane ticket.

Ethyl, aka Annette, and I are in Las Vegas, and this is the week of the National Finals Rodeo. This place is crawling with cowboys and lots of cowboy wannabes. The two in the photos accompanying this post are the real deal. I found both of them at Cowboy Christmas, a humongous indoor bazaar of western tack, apparel, boots and doo-dads at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The young hottie at left is Sage Kimzey. At 23, he’s a three-time world champion bull rider. I told him people who ride bulls are just plain crazy. They have no saddle, no rope, nothing to hold onto but a silly little string. On top of that, they must  keep one hand in the air during the entire ride. He laughed and said he had always liked bulls. To each his own.

The other guy with whom I’m pictured (right) is Buck Taylor, a 79-year-old actor and western watercolor artist. I recognized him immediately as he walked by pushing a dolly loaded with some of his art work. I stopped him and told him I had one of his paintings, and regaled him with the story of how I had talked his wife, Goldie, into selling it to me without its gosh-awful cowhide frame at the Pendleton Roundup (Oregon) a few years ago. 

When I told him I was from Alabama, he said he was there recently making a movie with John Travolta. Didn’t tell me the title. Folks might remember Buck’s recurring role as Newly the gunsmith on TV’s “Gunsmoke.”  He has appeared in more than 50 movies, including “Tombstone” (1993), “The Alamo” (2004)  and the CBS mini-series, “Comanche Moon.”  His art includes portraits of some of his fellow “Gunsmoke” cast members, such as Jim Arness (Marshall Dillon) and Milburn Stone (Doc Adams ). We stopped by his booth and talked to Goldie, who said she had something she wanted to give me. It was a print of Buck’s watercolor of another character actor, Morgan Woodward, whom she said had appeared on ‘Gunsmoke” more often than any other actor besides the main cast. Woodward had signed the print for Goldie. She rolled it up and gave it to me. How sweet.

Several of the rodeo riders are showing up at Cowboy Christmas and other venues during the week to sign autographs. Tomorrow we’ll meet team roper Patrick Smith at one session, then up-and-coming country music singer Aaron Watson at another. Sunday we’ll meet rodeo champion Trevor Brazile, who has been called, “the world’s best cowboy.”

Meanwhile, tonight and Saturday night we see George Strait in concert. That’s the main reason for this trip. Sunday night we’ll see Reba McIntyre and Brooks and Dunn at Caesar’s Palace, and Monday night it’s Ronnie Milsap at the Golden Nugget. Tuesday night we go to the NFR.

I’m in cowboy heaven.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

ORPHANED

Mallory and Luna


My five-month-old foal is an orphan. 

On October 25, I had to put down her mother, Mallory. She was my 15-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse. I’m still reeling from the shock. I couldn’t write about it until now.

When I went to the barn to feed the critters that Wednesday morning, Mallory was lying down in the far pasture. She didn’t get up to eat. That’s always a bad sign.

Colic was uppermost in my mind. That’s a fancy name for a stomach ache, but it has many causes. If it were a simple impaction colic, a good poop would remove it. So I found my Banamine, which relieves pain and relaxes a horse, but couldn’t find any needles. Some emergency kit, huh?

My vet couldn’t get to me, so I took Mallory to him in Oneonta. I left Luna behind, fearing Mallory might try to lie down in the trailer and fall on her. It was the last Luna saw of her mother.

After parking and checking in, I walked Mallory until Dr. Whitley could see her. He gave her a shot of Banamine and listened to her heart. Its beat was elevated, He didn’t like what he found during the internal exam, either.  He recommended taking her to Coosa Valley Equine in Pell City. That didn’t sound good.

At Coosa Valley, an ultrasound and another internal exam determined her intestines were slightly out of place, The problem could be corrected through surgery. She had a 70 percent chance of going home…in two weeks.

I watched the procedure from an upstairs office window. It wasn’t a pretty sight, seeing your treasured mare upside down, tongue hanging out, legs propped in slings, her hind ones spread like a woman on a gynecologist’s table. I had to turn aside once they started fooling with her innards.

Within a few minutes, the vet who had examined her came upstairs. It was worse than originally suspected. They found a fatty lipoma that had strangulated the far end of the small intestine.  Eight to ten feet of tissue was dead. They could cut it out and re-attach it to the cecum, but the procedure carried an 85 percent chance of failure. Barring a miracle, euthanasia was my only option.

The clinic uses a potter’s field for burial. I couldn’t stand that idea. A vet tech gave me the card of a guy who brought Mallory home and buried her. It was dark by then, so he did the deed by floodlights.

I now have four horses and a goat buried in my woods. Pet Cemetery. Didn’t Stephen King write a horror novel by that name?

Luna spent the next few days pacing the fence line, whinnying. Fortuitously, I had put the rescued gelding, Chance,  in the same pasture as Mallory and Luna a couple of weeks earlier. When her mom didn’t return, Luna attached herself to Chance. I hadn’t planned on weaning her at three and a half months, though.

These past few weeks have been rough on both of us. An affectionate foal, Luna seems to crave my attention. I brush and hug her more, take her for walks in the woods, talk soothingly to her about how much we both miss her momma. I never see her running or cavorting any more. I’m thinking of buying another foal as a playmate. I bought a pony for my grandsons, but Luna hasn’t taken to him.

Mallory was a great horse and a good mother. She was calm, crossed bridges and streams on trail rides, rarely spooked and was so gentle I could put anyone on her. I had envisioned her dying of old age about the time I moved to a nursing home.

I’ve lost two horses, a beloved dog, a barn cat, a goat and four first cousins (humans) in the past 14 months. 

I don’t know how much more death I can take.












Monday, August 21, 2017

Happy Birthday, Luna

Luna & Mallory at Auburn


Luna, my foal, turned one month old Sunday, August 13. We celebrated with an midnight emergency run to Auburn University’s Veterinary Hospital.

I noticed she wasn’t her spunky self that evening. She was listless, didn’t dive for Mallory’s grain, wasn’t interested in nursing. Something was wrong.

I called the after-hours number for my vet clinic. Dr. Whitley was on call. He told me to take her temperature and call him back. Luna was very still and patient during that process, a first for both of us. I have a hard time reading mercury thermometers, but it looked like her temp was near 104 degrees. Anything over 102 is high, so I asked him to come out and examine her.

His thermometer read 102.8, still higher than it should be. He listened to her breathing, heard something he didn’t like. He pulled and pushed on her skin. She was dehydrated.

“It could be rhodococcus,” he said. “It’s a bacterial infection common in young foals. It can be serious, even fatal. “

I swallowed the lump in my throat and asked what our next step was. 
“How much money do you want to spend?” was his reply. I couldn’t believe the question. “Whatever it takes,” I replied. The Oneonta clinic doesn’t keep the meds to treat the disease. He called Coosa Valley Equine Center in Pell City. They don’t keep them, either. I would have to take her to Auburn.

“Let me change clothes,” I told him.

“I wouldn’t take the time,” he said. That was scary.

I threw some clothes and toiletry kit into my overnight bag and some snacks into my truck. Dr. Whitley helped me hitch up my horse trailer and load mare and foal. By then, it was after 9 p.m. I couldn’t see well. I scraped the side of my trailer against my gate as I left the barn area. When I got to Auburn, I had a shredded tire. 

My thoughts swirled during the drive down. I was so sleepy I could hardly hold my eyes open. I felt the same anxiety I had last summer when I rushed home from the beach knowing I’d find my dog, Moses, dead. 

I prayed. I told God how attached I had grown to Luna. I pointed out that my grandsons would be devastated if we lost her. I asked Him to spare her and keep my wheels between the white lines. God gave me peace. 

The clinic’s night staff was ready when we arrived. They helped me unload. The resident in charge, Dr. Rebecca Legere, did an ultrasound. She had a student pull some blood. She listened to Luna’s breathing. 

Her temp had gone down, she was only 5 percent dehydrated because she had nursed in the trailer, and her breathing was better. The situation wasn’t critical, so Dr. Legere decided to save me some money by waiting until regular clinic hours to do the major blood work. I dropped my trailer in the designated parking area. It was 2 a.m. when I got to a motel.

Monday morning, Luna’s temp was down to normal. The blood work indicated some inflammation, but they couldn’t determine what was causing it. With rhodococcus, the temp would have stayed high, Dr. Legere said. 

She said I could take the pair home if I wanted, or leave them 24 hours for further observation. I elected to leave them. Monday afternoon Dr. Legere texted me three photos of Luna and Mallory, with the message, “Much brighter, curious, and spunkier!”

The Auburn vet clinic teams fell in love with Luna. They couldn’t believe how easy she was to handle. As I was opening my trailer to load her, I overheard one student tell another, “I’m gonna miss her. She’s so sweet.” 

Another commented, “You must have handled her a lot.” 

“Since she was one hour old,” I responded. “It shows,” she came back. My chest puffed up like a proud grandmother.

She has been fine since we got home Tuesday (August 15) afternoon I’m checking her temp twice a day and Mallory’s once a day. We still don’t know what happened. Dr. Legere says she may have gotten a bug that her immune system fought off.

Praise God for Auburn University’s vet clinic, U.S. Rider Equestrian Roadside Assistance, and 
the power of prayer. 


Monday, July 24, 2017

A Rose By Any Other Name

Most of my friends know my Tennessee Walking Horse, Mallory, gave birth to a healthy filly on Thursday, July 13.  Mallory is 15 years old, This is her first foal. Mine, too.

Although I had been watching Mallory carefully, the birth caught me off guard. I didn’t think it was imminent. Never mind that she was five weeks overdue. She hadn’t been leaking milk, nor had her teats waxed over. Both are signs that the birth will be within 48 hours. Imagine my surprise when I walked to the barn that morning.

Major, one of my dogs, ran ahead of me. When I got to the back, he was lying on the ground facing the barn, barking at something. That’s unusual. He doesn’t normally bark at Mallory. By the time that thought had registered, I saw Mallory. A split second later, it was, ‘Well, hello there, little one!” 


That was at 7:30 a.m. She couldn’t have been more than an hour or two old. She was still having trouble standing. Her legs are long and spindly. She doesn’t look anything like her mother. Mallory is black, with a white snip on her forehead. The filly is a very light reddish brown (sorrel?), like her errant father. She has an unusual white blaze across her forehead. Her mane is the same color as her coat, and her tail is red on top but flaxen underneath. She flicks it like a deer. She’s wearing a white stocking on her right rear leg.

I began handling her immediately. It has paid off. She’s friendly, coming right up to me when I go to the barn. She enjoys a head or body rub and having her tummy scratched. It’s getting easier every day to put a halter on her. She doesn’t mind my touching her ears any more. I can pick up her feet, too.



Problem was, I couldn’t come up with a name. I had been hoping for a black colt that I could name, “Paladin.” It’s from that 1950s TV show, “Have Gun, Will Travel.” l would have called him, “Pal.”

Alas, Paladin wasn’t in the cards. 

I had not settled on a girl’s name. I had several in my head and on my list. I liked “Cheyenne,” another old TV western, but what would I call her? Annie? Nope. Still another western came to mind, “Sugarfoot.” Hmm. Could call her Sugar.
Had she been born on July 4th, I would have named her Independence and called her Indy. My oldest grandson favored that one. I also liked Firecracker. I tried Indy and Cracker on her. Neither seemed quite right.

Facebook friends offered a dozen suggestions, but none suited her.

I decided to give her a few days to see whether something would pop up.

The way she flits and darts about, Mariposa (Spanish for butterfly) came to mind. I really like the idea behind that name, but it’s a mouthful. My youngest daughter suggested Luna, which is Spanish for “moon.” Her blaze does look something like a crescent, albeit with a hook on it. I tried both Luna and Mari (for Mariposa) on her for a couple of days. Mari didn’t appeal to me.

Luna it is.



Welcome to the world, Luna. We’re going to have lots of fun together.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Progress




Chance let me hang a small rope around his neck earlier this week. Yesterday and today, he let me scratch his belly. That's the one place a horse can't get to. 

I can rub his back, his sides. He lets me pick up his front feet. That's essential for the farrier to trim/shoe them.

My goal is to have him accepting a halter and lead rope by the time Mallory foals. She's due around June 8. When the vet comes to check the foal, he can examine Chance and give him his shots. 

I showed Chance's photo to a fellow horsewoman. She has raised sevens foals from birth. She believes his straight spine indicates that he's young. If so, perhaps his skittishness is because he was never really handled. In person, however, his spine doesn't always look so straight. The vet can tell more by looking at his teeth.

He still won't let me approach him outright. He walks away, stops, turns, snorts, looks back at me. Or looks sideways. Then, if I have his food, he approaches cautiously to within a few feet. With outstretched hand, I walk up to him. I pet him. I talk softly to him. I try not to make any sudden moves that might scare him.

I wonder how someone got him into a trailer to haul him to my neighbor's farm. That scenario makes me shudder.

He's fattening up. His hip bones are less prominent. You can still see his ribs, but not so much as when I got him. He's quite handsome, too. 

Will he make a good trail horse?

Time, and a good trainer, will tell.



Friday, May 12, 2017

A Second Chance

Chance. That's the name I gave my new gelding. With me, he has another chance. A chance for trusting and bonding with humans again, a chance to eat enough to stop his ribs from showing.

We've made great progress over the past two weeks.

 He follows me to wherever I take his food. I started holding it at arm's length, forcing him to eat with the smell of my fingers so near. Now I can hold the bowl against my body. Sometimes, he'll even take food from my hand.

It took a couple of days for him to allow me to stroke his head and cheeks while he eats. Now he lets me rub his neck, too.

He still won't let me approach him. I have to wait for him to come to me. He won't let me touch him until the food is profered. Even then, he usually snorts and turns his head a time or two before accepting my touch.

It's not much, but when you're trying to gain the trust of a skittish horse that has been abused by humans, it's a great start.

Friday, May 5, 2017

R.I.P. Betsy


My barnyard menagerie is smaller now by one. Betsy, my goat, died yesterday. My handyman, Floyd, and I spent two and a half hours burying her. Floyd dug. I shoveled some. Mostly, I just watched, in shock at the turn of events. 

I had taken her to the vet for a mastectomy. Dr. Jason Coe at Animal Hospital P.C. in Oneonta said she had balloon teats (common name). Wacky hormones caused them to fill with milk. They were dragging the ground when I got her in late 2013. Dr. Coe drained them, and said a mastectomy might be in her future.

Gradually, one of them filled again. Dr. Coe drained it February 14, the day he preg-checked my mare. He said if it filled up within a few weeks, surgery would be on the docket. 

This time, it filled more rapidly.

It hurt me to watch her walk. The enlarged teat obviously got in her way. She had to spread her back legs to run. She had dragged the bag over something, because she developed a wound on it. 

Floyd had come up Thursday morning to help me load her. I had a wire dog crate on the back of my dually. She was so scared inside that she was shaking. (Despite appearances in photo above, she wasn't tied to the crate.)

We arrived at the clinic 45 minutes early. I sat in the bed of the truck next to her. Rubbing her. Making soothing small talk. I assured her she would be okay, that she would feel so much better when this was over.

She came through the surgery fine. Dr. Coe heard her gasp. Cardiac arrest. They got her heart started again, placed an oxygen mask on her face. She would not take a breath. Respiratory failure. Coe and staff did all they could. It wasn’t their fault. These things happen in animals and humans. We do not always know why.

I’m already missing this goat who thought she was a dog. When I would bend over to clean my mare’s hooves, she would lick my face and nibble my hair. If I were standing up, she might put her hooves on my chest and look me in the eyes to get my attention. Her hooves were like rough concrete. Dr. Coe was going to trim them after the operation.

I had to lock her or the llamas up during feeding times. She gobbled her ration faster than they did. If I didn’t separate them, she’d shove them out of the way and finish their food. It never dawned on the llamas or bothered Betsy that she was a third their size.

As Johnny Cash once sang about a lost love,  “I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.”


Yeah, they do.