Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “horses”

Four Eagles

I’ve got poetry in me
Sometimes, like after a foot of snow,
Followed by sub-zero temperatures,
Requires me to walk to the barn
And I want to describe what I see
And how I feel.
At such a time, like today,
Frost forms on my mustache
From breathing cold air
And the breath of the horses is visible
For the same reason.
I like the smell of the hay in the barn.
I like the smell of the horses’ coats of hair
And their breaths of alfalfa.
Coming back inside
The house welcomes me
With warmth and the beauty of flames
Visible through the glass front
Of the wood-burning stove.
Today, my lovely wife had soup cooking
Which smelled better than alfalfa even.
Then she showed me the photo she took
Of four eagles in the same tree.
Don’t you wish you were here?



Equine Companionship

Walked out in the pasture

To clear my mind

To enjoy God’s outdoors

Walking alone through the grass

When I heard the hoof beats.

Two geldings ran up to me

Inquiring about my presence

And whether I needed friends.

I did need their acceptance

And their comfort.

They each sniffed my hands

And my hair, letting me pet them

Even hugging their necks.

It feels good to know they care.

One can have a relationship

With horses as well as dogs.

I Wasn’t Always Like This

A group of people, a family I supposed, emerged from the restaurant next door to where I was sitting outside the art gallery wherein my wife was hosting an exhibit of western art.  She had recruited some excellent artwork by local artists.  I was outside the gallery as a decoration in my cowboy hat.  I was playing a character — me.  As people passed by me on the sidewalk, I would invite them in to see the western art exhibit.  I solicited the group mentioned above.

A young man, college age, was pushing an older gentleman in a wheelchair.  There was a middle-aged couple, an older lady, and a younger woman.  The man in the wheelchair stared blankly ahead and did not participate in the conversations of his companions.

I smiled my award-winning smile and initiated eye contact with some of them.  The man in the wheel chair did not smile back.  Nevertheless, the group went inside the gallery.  Sugar took over the public relations.  I went in too, to see her in action.

The young man pushing the wheelchair kindly placed it in front of one of the walls adorned with paintings of Old West scenes, such as Remington or Russell created, scenes with cowboys, buffalo, cattle, Indians, locomotives, mountain scenes, running horses.  He waited patiently for the man in the wheelchair to take it in before moving to another wall.  The man in the wheelchair was not staring blankly.  He was intent, studying the images.

As I watched him, a lady came up behind me and explained that she and the man in the wheelchair had been professors at the university.  She added that he, Dr. _____, used to teach a course on The Philosophy of Art.  No wonder he seemed to be enjoying the art exhibit.

I introduced the doctor to Sugar.  She had a table of treats and beverages.  She asked whether he would like lemonade, coffee or wine.  He spoke.  He told Sugar he would prefer wine, using one word — “Wine.”  So Sugar brought the professor a little bit.  The young man, who we learned was his caregiver, pointed out to his charge, “This is not juice like you drink at home.”  The young man seemed surprised that the professor was partying at the gallery.  The professor smiled at Sugar and indicated that he would like more wine.  She gave him a little bit more.  He smiled again.  He was enjoying the gallery scene.

I am glad that the professor visited us.  I watched him studying the art and saw him in a new light.  At first, I just saw him as a person who seemed very limited in his abilities.  Now I saw him in the light of his history and accomplishments.  I could imagine him back when he was teaching college students.  He must have been knowledgeable and  bright to engage them.  He must have been respected.

He was not always like this.  And his present condition was not exactly as it appeared.  He still could enjoy a night out on the town.  He still could enjoy art.  And he still could choose whether to have lemonade, coffee, or wine.

And he can still be respected, and loved.  And he is.

The Horse Whisperer


Horses blow in each other’s nostrils to get acquainted. I do that too — with horses, not people.
horse coach

I have loved horses my entire life. When I say that, I mean from my earliest memories from age two. In this blog, I have written about some of my favorite horses. I have also taught many people how to ride. I like bringing the two species together.pointing the way
Here I am pointing the way.

Beau Makes Friends, Or Not


Those readers who have read this blog for awhile are familiar with a certain Yellow Labrador Retriever named Beau because he has been the subject of many posts.  Here we go again.

Today, Sugar pointed out to me a sight she saw while looking out the dining room window.  The sight she shared with me was a view of Beau making friends with two horses who are already friends.  It reminded me of the old saying, “Two is company; three is a crowd.” 

Beau was obviously the “odd man out.”  He does not look like the horses and they noticed that.  You will notice too in the photo above.  

One of the horses was laying down, taking a nap in the sun, I guess.  The other was standing guard, a frequent phenomenom among livestock who are herd animals.  Well, this guard did not do an adequate job.  He allowed Beau to bother the other gelding.  The photo shows just one instant.  I can report that Beau stayed on the task of bothering the two geldings for over fifteen minutes.  He could not take the hint that he was not welcome. 

Should we attribute his cluelessness to supreme confidence or to lack of sensitivity about the feelings of others or does he just enjoy ticking off everyone in his life? 

The Yacht Club

Sugar and I have invited outsiders to pay us for coming to our ranch for various purposes that, until now, involve horses.  For example, we have boarded horses, taken people for trail rides, given riding lessons, and hosted birthday parties for kids at which the attendees got to ride horses led in the arena.  We have a horse hotel, for which I got two inquiries this very week.  We even had a pumpkin ranch, but I don’t want to talk about that because advertising costs exceeded income.  I also don’t want to talk about our horse-breeding operation because our stud has been transformed from a stallion to a gelding.  He doesn’t want to talk about it either.

Today we just “launched” a new venture — The Cross Creek Ranch Yacht Club and Marina.  We are branching out from the horse facility operations.  We are going nautical.

The rains and flooding in Colorado have been devastating for many people, so I do not want to make light of suffering of others.  I am writing to report a new lake and, as an example of making lemonade from lemons, to envision a new business opportunity.  We looked out our bedroom window and saw a large lake that was not there last week, prior to the rains of Biblical proportion.

Therefore, those of you who own yachts will be interested in this opportunity to join the yacht club and get in on the ground floor.  I will give you a real good deal, but don’t delay, this is a limited time offer.

It might dry up again.

In the meantime, we have some lots on the beach available exclusively for members of the yacht club.  I am humming the song, “I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona.”

Beau, who enjoys living on the beach, would welcome some neighbors.  By the way, members of the yacht club and residents of the beachfront community are allowed to bring dogs, provided they can swim.

Rainy Day

In the movie Primal Fear, Richard Gere plays a criminal defense lawyer.  In one scene, he says about himself, “First thing that I ask a new client is ‘Have you been saving up for a rainy day? Guess what! It’s raining.’ ”

Guess what!  It’s raining.  Again.

A meteorologist on TV last night said that 10″ of rain, which we have gotten in Northern Colorado, is the equivalent of 100″ of snow.  That is difficult to imagine.  In a normal year, we only get about 14″ on average.

The court house and other government offices in Boulder County and Larimer County are closed due to flooded roads.  Schools are closed.  And our law office is closed.

With the inventions of the telephone and internet, I am able to work from home.

With the invention of the Ford F250 SuperDuty Supercab diesel 4-wheel drive pick up truck, Miss Sugar might be able to make it to the grocery store for provisions for a rainy day.  I sure hope she does not have to go “off road.”  Our ranch is 20 miles from town.

horse and dallas days

We have saddlebags.  Maybe she would be better off taking one of our horses because a horse can swim, whereas a Ford F250 pick up truck cannot.

Maybe we should have gotten a Hummer.  Or an ark.

Hollywood Survivor

In 2004, this very week, a nice young mare of ours nearly died.  She was only three at the time.  Ironically, her registered name with the American Quarter Horse Association (A.Q.H.A.) is Hollywood Survivor.  We call her Holly.

What happened?  Well, Holly showed up at the water tank with a grossly swollen nose.  She looked like a cartoon character, but it wasn’t funny.  A rattlesnake had bit her on the nose.  There were telltale fang marks. Now you know why I wrote in a couple other blogs about killing rattlers.  We don’t see them every day or every week or even every month, but in the summer, we kill two or three that we come across.

When a horse gets bit on the nose, it is usually while grazing, accidently crossing paths with a snake.  Horses cannot breathe through their mouths, so when their nostrils close from the swelling, they just plain suffocate.

Sometimes it helps to put a piece of garden hose in each nostril to keep them open.  Regardless, time is of the essence.  Fortunately for me and, of course, Holly, our veterinarian arrived very quickly, considering we live twenty miles outside of town.  Holly was getting some air, but was not getting enough.  She was wheezing.  She was weakening.

The vet performed a tracheotomy by cutting a hole in her windpipe and inserting a PVC pipe.  If you think of medicine and, particularly, surgery as something mysteriously scientific, let me tell you that this procedure was more like a combination of plumbing and carpentry.  Cut a hole and stick in a plastic pipe.  Actually, the pipe was jointed at a 90 degree angle so one end went down the trachea and the other stuck out of the horse’s neck.  When she breathed out of the pipe, it sounded like Darth Vader in Star Wars.  It was off-putting that the air did not come out of her nose but from her neck.  Since horses have long necks, the breathing was in a new area, far below Holly’s head.

Besides the immediate need to be able to breathe, Holly had other problems.  She was given shots to fight infection.  I suppose she got an anti-venom drug too.  Another problem was eating with the tube in her throat, but it was removed when the swelling subsided.  Still, the interruption of her normal diet caused a serious problem.

Holly had to stay in a pen by the barn, separated from the other horses, so she could be doctored.  Not able to graze, I fed her a “complete feed” in the form of pellets.  That led to impaction after a few days.  The vet had to return for another procedure, which I will not describe.  It involved trying to clean out her intestines.  Use your imagination.  Unfortunately, it did not work entirely.  He could not get to the blockage.  Gastrointestinal pain in horses is generally referred to as colic.

The vet told me that Holly could go to the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital for an expensive surgery with no guaranty of success or survival.  I declined, yet worried whether I had made the right decision.   I had another syringe containing a dose to put her out of her misery.  I felt like Dr. Kervorkian.

She was in pain and wanted to lay on the ground and roll, but I had to try to keep her from laying down, especially from rolling over because if she twisted her gut in the process, that would likely be fatal.  So I stayed up all night, keeping Holly standing, and walking her for fifteen minutes, resting fifteen, and walking again.  All night.  I never let her lay down.

The next day I called the vet to tell him that Holly had made it through the night because he had warned me that she might not.  She was feeling better.  She was no longer compacted.  The crisis had passed.  It felt good to hear him say, “I believe that you saved her life.”

Holly seems to believe that too.  Since that night, she and I have had a different relationship.  She trusts me more.  She even seems eager to please me.  She is actually kind of possessive of me.  When I am in the pasture or pen with loose horses, she gets between me and others so I will only pet or brush her.  I guess she thinks I belong to her.  She is also the horse we trust the most with inexperienced riders.

I am grateful to our vet and to God for the survival of Hollywood Survivor.  Read more…


Some of you reading this might not have had the experience of living in the ranch country of the American West and might not believe all of the stories I write about, such as seeing buffaloes and pronghorns or killing rattlesnakes.  I want to assure you that all the blogs I have written so far are all true.  Today’s story is no exception.   

Today is June 30, 2012.  Miss Sugar and I had planned to go up to Cheyenne, Wyoming for the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) event known as Hell on Wheels.  That adventure was going to be the subject of today’s blog, but it will have to wait until tomorrow because I want to first write about what just happened when we got home.

So as we drove up the lane, we noticed a pickup truck with a  stock trailer backed up against a gate by the barn.   That is not an unusual sight.  We have a pickup and we have a stock trailer.  The trouble was, this particular pickup was not ours and this particular stock trailer was not ours but the barn and the gate are definitely ours. 

So the question that Miss Sugar articulated with her Texan candor concerned her suspicion that persons unknown might be up to no good.  Rustlers!  Rustlers?  That’s a hangin offense around these parts.

There were two cowboy types in our pen by the barn trying to convince a calf to join his friends in the trailer backed up to the gate.  Apparently, this calf was not that close of a friend in that he was very reluctant to join the other calves. 

You are probably wondering, “Was it your calf being rustled by badmen?  Did you shoot them per the Code of the West?  Did you use the Colt .45s you have for the SASS competition?”  Those are excellent questions, which I will answer for you.

No, it was not our calf, so, no, I thought it would not be proper to shoot them.

However, the question remains, why were the cowboys, calf, truck and trailer in our barnyard?

So I drove down to ask the cowboys that very question.

A young feller came over and introduced himself as Brad Hall.   Then Brad offered an explanation.  He said that he and this other feller, Ken, were hauling cattle when something happened to a tire on their trailer right in front of our place, which caused them to stop and unload the bunch in our pen.  He said that they knocked on our door but no one was home.  That was because we were up in Cheyenne at Hell on Wheels, which, like I said already, I will write about tomorrow.

Miss Sugar said, “Your trailer looks o.k. to me.”  Which it did.

So Brad said, “Oh, it ain’t this trailer.  After we unloaded, we took the other trailer with the bum tire to our place and came back with this one.  We got all the critters loaded in this trailer except this last stinker.  We been trying to get him in for more than an hour.  If I had a .45, I’d shoot him right here and give you the meat.”

I know what you are thinking, gentle reader.  You are thinking, “Al, didn’t you just say you have two Colt .45 pistols for your SASS competition?”  

No, I did not offer Brad the use of one of my .45 sixshooters.

Instead, we offered to help him load the calf.

I wish I could say our help was valuable.  It was not.  That dang calf got around Ken (not me) and took off out of the pen into the pasture.

I know what you are thinking.  “Didn’t you write in Where the Deer and the Antelope Play that your buckskin gelding, Woody, is perhaps the fastest land animal in North America?  And didn’t you write in Wonder Horses that Scamp is a real smart trick horse like Trigger?  Wouldn’t Roy Rogers use Trigger to chase that calf right into the trailer?  Or would you just rope him and drag him?  Didn’t you say you have participated in roundups and cattle drives and brandings?”

We four were not mounted on cowhorses.  We just chased the calf on foot into a different pen, our stud pen, which is six feet high and made of pipe and cable.  It is a good thing it was available.  (Remember, Woody used to be a stallion, but no more.) 

So Brad go out a rope and roped the little calf in our stud pen.  Ken helped him hold the calf while Brad tied the calf’s hind legs.  Then they dragged him to the trailer and lifted him into it and that was that.   

They thanked us and left.

Miss Sugar and I walked from the barn to the house.  There we found a note taped for us in case we came home and wondered about our new calves before Brad and Ken returned.  It said, “Dear Folks, Sorry about the issue at hand but we were forced to unload these calves.  (Two phone numbers were next).  Please give us a call.  We will return ASAP.  Going to Middle Cherokee Park.  Thanks, Brad.”

What a fine young man!  I’m glad I didn’t shoot first and ask questions later.

Life’s Challenges

Presently, there is a wildfire in our county, Larimer County, Colorado, near Fort Collins.  It has been named The High Park Fire.  This wildfire has burned over 43,000 acres, an area that could contain both the cities of Fort Collins and Boulder.  The fire is not in the cities, that is just a size reference.  The fire is burning in the mountains where there are many trees dead from beetle kill and the underbrush is dry from lack of snow and rain this spring.  So there is plenty of fuel.  And wind has fanned the fire out of control.

Over 100 structures have been destroyed, including homes, of course, but not all are homes as the count does not distinguish between residences and outbuildings such as barns, sheds and garages.  Regardless, that is a lot of property loss.

One life has been lost.  A 63 year old woman, who had twice been called by phone to evacuate, either chose to stay or did not receive the messages.  It is sad that she died in the mountain cabin that she loved. 

Many others, hundreds, have evacuated.  They are dealing with the fear of the unknown about whether their homes will burn.  Others already know their homes have burned.  Others have been allowed back in.  Others on are pre-evacuation alert.

There is an evacuation center at the county fairgrounds.  It used to be at a middle school but had to be moved farther from the fire due to smoke.  At the fairgrounds, large animals of evacuees may be kept as well.  Small pets were taken to the Humane Society until filled to capacity.  Now a vet clinic is taking overflow.  Many of the evacuated folks are staying with friends and relatives.  There are kind people helping those in need in addition to Red Cross and Salvation Army.

The real heroes are the firefighters, of course, ranging from local volunteer fire departments to professionals from other states.   The number keeps growing as the fire has grown.  Today there were more than 500 firefighters, including “boots on the ground” and pilots of planes and helicopters that drop retardant and water on the flames.

There are many to praise and no one to blame.  The fire was started by lightning, not even negligent humans, and especially not evil terrorists like those responsible for 9/11/01.

The Bible says that “It rains on the just and the unjust.”  I pray it will rain on this fire.

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