Friday, June 30, 2006


My husband is a perfectionist when it comes to shoeing a horse. You probably can't slip a horse hair between the shoe and the hoof on his latest shoeing job. And not because it is very tight, but because the hoof and shoe were so perfectly aligned. He works very slow because of this and because of his bad back. Mostly because of his back. I don't know how farriers do it, bending like that. Husband says it is all in the technique. Well, I sure don't know what it is.

My preferred exercise on these hot summer days is swimming. I don't even break a sweat! Although I do get a cardio workout. I never used to worry about things like that. Life on the Double Barrel Ranch had a lot of work to it. I never gained an ounce. Then something changed. In the Steppenwolf song "Monster" the lyrics say: "we grew fat and got lazy". I'm thinking that middle age has something to do with it too. I've gained more than an ounce or two. When I bend to check a horse hoof, there's something in the middle, making it more difficult. It must be my technique!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Broken Trail

I've never done a movie review. Here is my first.

Robert Duvall has done an outstanding acting job in another western film that was broadcast on the AMC network. Adapted from the book of the same name, Broken Trail was aptly named and expertly filmed. The horses and scenery were breath-taking. At times the actor's words were hard to follow, sort of like real life. After all, gruff old cowboys haven't normally been to oratory school. But there were some real gems in the language. Listen close and you'll be rewarded. In the end, true to any good western movie, the bad guys lose. And you feel like your team has just won a world championship. Very satisfying entertainment.


Even though the horses can get into the shade, they spend a lot of time in the full sun. Their hides get hot to the touch. But they are tough. As long as they have plenty of water.

I, on the other hand, am not tough. I do not particularly care for summer. Not in Arizona, not anywhere else. One exception: on top of a mountain without any insect pests. The other day I climbed up to a peak at 8780 feet. I sat on top, looked out over miles of Arizona and the edge of New Mexico. The air is thin at that elevation. My pale Caucasian skin was bombarded by radiation. The desert below was baking. On my lofty perch, with a slight breeze, it was 78 degrees. I could have stayed there for hours, alone. But just as I left a troop of 8 hikers who arrived in 4 SUV's arrived to check out the view themselves. I wondered if they were some kind of hiking club. When they returned from the peak trail, they all changed their shoes before driving home. They changed their shoes! I found this terribly amusing. Our society is so specialized that you can't hike and drive in the same footwear. I also thought that they went to a lot of trouble, hiking up the trail to that spectacular view, only to glimpse it briefly and go home. They were not local folks. Local folks would have car-pooled first of all. I don't know. Maybe I am strange. As long as I have plenty of water, I will soak up that sunshine.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Rain On Me

I have 117 posts on this blog. I think I've had at least one other person read every one I've wrote. But it has been months since anyone has left a comment. Ok, so I am not the most engaging writer on Blogger. I basically write for me. But secretly I hope that others find my words meaningful or entertaining.

I put small rocks inside an empty plastic jug and shook them at my horses. Immediately they thought the world was coming to an end and trotted off with their tails over their backs. I am going to call this jug my "photo aid".

Algae took over my pool about 3 days ago and I've been fighting the green ever since. Green is my favorite color, but not for my pool water.

A fire in the next state over, New Mexico, sent smoke into our valley yesterday, seriously degrading out air quality. Winds have shifted and today it is clear.

We are all waiting for the monsoon. There is a folk story that predicts it rains on the anniversary of St. John the Baptist, which is today June 24. I think it might have something to do with Baptism being a water thing. But there is a very small chance that it might rain today. Monsoon moisture comes from the Gulf of Mexico, to our east. So when we see the clouds building over New Mexico, we become cautiously optimistic. In this devastating drought we are in, we will take any drop of water that the Rain Gods deign to send us. Even if it carries algae seeds in it!

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Trees

the trees
Originally uploaded by edification.
View in a grove of Giant Sequoias.


One of the highlights of my visit to Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park was of course, Sequoiadendron giganteum, the Giant Sequoia. Some of the trees are believed to be 3500 years old. They are not known to die of old age. They have columnlike trunks, stout branches and fibrous, reddish bark. The tallest are up to 310 feet tall, and the fattest 40 feet in diameter. They are the largest living things. At one time sequoia species were more common around the world. The Petrified Forest in Arizona consists mainly of extinct sequoia trees. A citizen who lives on private land inside the park gave me a sequoia cone with seeds in it. (It is illegal to collect any material from a national park.) I plan to try to sprout them and maybe they will find their way to an appropriate niche on a mountain nearby. Wouldn't it be marvelous if 200 years from now, someone "discovered" a Giant Sequoia grove in eastern Arizona?

The trees are thrilling to see. As big as they are, they seemed to hide amid their pine and fir neighbors. At this time of year the Pacific dogwood is in bloom in the forests. Their large white blossoms were startling in themselves, but when viewed next to the red trunk of a sequoia, they were magical.

There aren't many sequoia left in the world. These in California are the only ones in the New World. Imagine if they had a consciousness and stand witnessing the host of human encounters with them after they stood so long in obscurity. Do they know we have changed from looking at them as number of board feet, to some kind of arbor royalty? Are we puny things, unimportant in the passing of centuries? I'd like to think so, for their sake.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Old South, New America

During the long hours on the road during my vacation, I amused myself with an audiobook. On four cassettes I listened to the voice of Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the U.S., read his book: An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood. He grew up outside of Plains, Georgia on a farm with a powerful farmer father and a nurse mother. Parts of their farm were worked by sharecroppers. Many of his boyhood friends were negroes and it wasn't until he was about 11 that he realized they were not his equals. Carter explained how the segregated south operated in those years of the Depression, and leading up to WWII. It sounded like a hard, hard life, for white and black folks. (Harder for blacks.) But he has such fond feelings for the land that the Carters still live there today.

I've heard that many urban northern black Americans are returning to the south. But it is a much different south than their grandparents left. Oh, the peanuts still grow, and the rivers still give up their fish, but everyone is a sight more better off. You'd be hard pressed to find teen-age boys having to plow their Daddy's farm with mules. And machines do the cotton-picking. But most importantly, we all get soft toilet tissue from Wal-Mart now and don't have to use the pages of the Sears Catalog.

Anyone who has a romantic view of life on the farm in the olden days should listen to Carter's description of the ringworm, lice and plentiful rats that were part of everyday life then.

I was curious as to how he would explain how he could accept segregation and then be a champion of civil rights in his adult years. We all change. And I think he always felt the injustice of his having benefits his young black buddies did not.

I feel I grew up in an enlightened home as my mother often stressed the equality of all people. So I felt a natural closeness to the anti-segregationists. I voted for Jimmy Carter. I believed in the platform of the Democratic Party. (Until their platform became nothing more than opposing everything the Republicans stood for.)

Today the new "minority" (that is not a minority) that is discriminated against are the Hispanics. They are the ones out in the fruit and vegetable fields, hoping for a better life for their children. But they are also starring in music videos and on television shows. They run the gamut from mexican gang members to state governors. It is even more stupid today to have dreams of an America for only "white" Americans. The world has changed.

It is unbelievable to me that people intentionally segregated the races in the south within the memories of many people living today. I expect that the current difficulties between Latin and non-Latin Americans will soon be a bad memory too.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

S'il vous plait

I listened to the fellow tourists atop Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park. They were most definitely speaking french. Praising the view, smiling for photographs. I wondered if they were from France or Canada. I wanted to reach out to them, tell them I was happy they were here, visiting this beautiful place with me. But it has been too long. The words failed me.

Father Marceau (college french teacher) would be so disappointed. I did well in his class. We even went to Quebec City during Carnivale. I could communicate in french then. Mostly I read in french. It was so beautiful to read. The sound of the accent moved from the page to my ears and it tasted like champagne.

I don't know what keeps me from studying french today. I guess it is a lack of Fr. Marceau. Also I no longer have a regular french speaking penpal to impress. I used to try hard to write parts of my letters to L.G. in french. I felt cultured. What am I now? Uncultured? A klutz in the foreign language department? I hardly ever put a non-English word in my blog anymore. And that is one of the things I intended to do regularly.

Ah, life. It rolls off the years like the "r" rolls off the tongue in french.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

West of the Ranch

Ok, so I took a 16 day sabbatical from my blog. It isn't like a major terrorist was killed. Or the first named storm of the hurricane season arrived.

I went for a swim at sunset tonight and then watched the rich colors grow in the west. Vapor trails followed jets heading east out of Phoenix which is a world away from the Double Barrel Ranch and I like it that way. On my way home from my vacation, while doing 80 MPH on the freeway in Phoenix - it is called keeping up with traffic- a mattress flew out of the bed of a pick-up truck two lanes over and naturally came to rest right in front of me. I managed to hit it only with two wheels at a somewhat lower speed, but praised God it wasn't worse. I've never seen a mattress look so graceful as it arched through the air in my direction. My trip totalled 2068 miles and about 150 miles from home I have to confront bedroom furniture in my path.

The weather was outstanding in the Sierra Nevadas. The Giant Sequoias were stately and beautiful. Snowmelt-fed rivers were in full-throat roaring down from their lofty 10,000 to 14,000 foot origins. Campgrounds weren't overly crowded. Firewood plentiful. (But still we saw neophytes buying wood for their campfires.) The horse rental folks weren't yet open for the season, so at home here I'll ride my own horses exclusively this summer. All-in-all it was a pretty good time to visit Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park.

What I could have done without was the air pollution. It was shocking. From a haze over any distant scenic view to a full blown brown cloud hanging over the central valley of California, it was an unwelcome constant companion. I now understand the strict emission standards for California cars. The bad air is slowly poisoning the forests. Although I did not learn any time-table, I can see a sense of urgency. Plus its' current effects are not healthy. A Park Ranger told us that the day before a woman had to be evacuated from the park because of respiratory problems due to the ozone or some other air pollutant. From the park!

I went to California to enjoy the outdoors. And I did admire the wonders of the National Park, but I came away with sadness. What is more basic than the air we breathe?