Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Memoir--Sort Of...

Monday’s Memoir

I’ve spent a good part of the afternoon trying to organize and separate a mess of papers pertaining to my family history and memoir writing projects. I have a terrible habit of scribbling things on pages of steno notebooks I carry around. They are each supposed to be for a specific project, like one for my Alaska Sled Dog stuff and another for my serious socio-political essays and diatribes, one for current to-do lists and projects, goals etc. and still another for odd tidbits that pop into my quirky memory and may trigger an essay or vignette, an entry into the life-calendar or the register of livestock I worked with and so on.  Even worse, I may find things on line or in reading old journals etc. and scribble them on some errant scrap of paper that just happens to be within reach. The result of course is a scrambled mess!
I’ve always made lists and notes and reminders, written pages of goals and resolutions (in earlier years I did them whereas I now do goals) and dissertations of philosophy and such. I laugh to read some dating back into the mid 1960s and seeing how much is still the same and where the changes occurred. I really make a fetish about trying to stay organized but I think I am a natural born slob, not to mention a packrat, a squirreler-awayer, and at times just plain lazy or rushed into throwing things into folders, boxes or a handy draw haphazardly. Of course that creates its own special punishment, for eventually you have to fix it. You are looking desperately for something you know you saw, wrote, found, or suddenly need and it has to be in that folder, this box or the third drawer there.
Out it comes. Piles all over the floor of like stuff—until you forget which goes where. Or you get distracted stopping to read something that looks utterly fascinating though you have no recollection of ever reading or even seeing it before! There are days I have the attention span of a kindergarten level gnat and anything can distract me, especially from a tedious and tiresome chore. I’ve fought that today and I actually did make some headway. Papers, notebook pages and haphazard jottings are roughly sorted into several categories which make sense to me although they would probably blow anyone else’s mind. And each is stowed in its own labeled file folder. Brave for me—for now!
The next step is to find several partial drafts of three related but dissimilar projects in my computer—probably on my main document storage flash drive-- and begin the task of putting these notes into digital form. Some will go on existing lists and tables, appendices of a sort to one or more of those three big projects.
You might ask: what are they? Well, one is a family history with quite a bit of genealogy and anecdotes that have come down through both sides of my family. There I keep finding new marriages and begats and property acquired and moves made, an occasional perhaps true story about something some ancestor or distant relative did and so on. That one doesn’t have a title. I began it the winter after my husband died, working on what I knew of his family first for the kids and grandkids and then picking up a start I had made for my two brothers and me after our mother had passed. I had a loose leaf binder for each of us with photos, documents and a fairly short narrative. I’ve had  my youngest brother’s since his death and looking through it realize the whole thing needs updates and additions.
The decision to write my own life story came along sometime during those processes. I have not gotten too far but it’s inching along. I’m about ready to get through high school in that narrative. For now it is called Shoving Smoke and Herding Cats which pretty well portrays the way I always seemed to have gone about life!
Then when I was participating in the Older Writer’s League (our self chosen moniker) at the Senior Center and involved with a memoir-based vignette and essay project there, I saw a different approach to sharing my memories. I have several friends who have written some humorous and poignant short tales from their life experiences and published them in collections and the idea has a lot of appeal. It would be a kind of prose companion to my poetry book, Walking Down My Shadows. For now the working title for that is Memoirs of a Rawhide Butterfly.

I went through those short works today and got them into a loose leaf notebook. There is too much—damn, but I am a wordy creature! There is also duplication and redundancy among some of the individual pieces so that will take more work too. I may get brave and try to format it for an e-book myself and then get it up on Amazon or somewhere. I will have a long learning curve there, especially since I want to put photos into it as illustrations for many of the stories. Anyway, that is ‘where I’m at’ right now and the excuse for not having a new piece ready to go—with photos. Next week I will do my best to have one for you!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sympathy for the "Snowflakes" --warning, a bit of a diatribe!

Sympathy for the “Snowflakes?” Not so much.

I have a very hard time finding any sympathy for the college students who have had hysterics and nervous breakdowns about the election.  They are, at least allegedly, in such a demolished state that they need “safe rooms” to go to, coloring books, puppies, teddy bears and many counselors to help them find their balance and the strength to carry on with their studies. Exams were waived and I imagine grading scales have been modified to accommodate a major dip in work completed and other normal factors. Goodness, we cannot expect these poor souls to work, can we? And we could not add to their tragedy by giving failing marks.

Why am I so hard hearted? Well, let me tell you a true story about a student I knew the 1960s. I know this person and every word that I am going to tell you is true. She came from an impoverished family and would not have been able to go to the state university nearest her home without the scholarship and grant she received. She had worked hard in high school and earned good grades which gave her this small foot up.

Just as she was ready to begin her second year, her family was evicted from their home and left essentially homeless. She was torn but knew if she did not return to continue her schooling the financial aid would be gone. Her parents and siblings bounced around in several substandard temporary dwellings for some weeks. Finally her father was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon after firing a shot at a car that drove slowly past where they were living. He was incarcerated until his trial and then sent to the State Hospital once it was determined his actions were the result of a nervous breakdown. He recovered at least enough to be back in society after awhile.

This student returned to her ‘home’ for a number of weekends that fall to help her mother and siblings store or get rid of the family’s remaining possessions and then sent them off to shelter with relatives in two different locations. During the same period, her fiancĂ© lost his job and had to move to another state to work; they parted ways after realizing the long distance relationship would be difficult for them both although hoping to resume it later.

This student continued her classes, usually sixteen  or more hours each semester. She did earn the only grade of 3 or C received in her college experience during the next semester as she struggled to find her emotional and mental footing after the extended period of trauma. Otherwise it was all 1s and 2s or As and Bs with the higher grade most often.  She had no counseling, no ‘safe room’ other than her room in an older—less expensive—dorm on campus. She had no car and walked everywhere she needed to go, taking a bus when she had to leave the immediate area. I know she had no puppies to pet; as to color books or teddy bears, I really cannot say. But she pressed on and managed to turn in all required assignments and pass all exams that year and the next two as well.

She graduated in four years and five intervening summer sessions with not one but two degrees, just a percentage point or two below cum laud status. Part of the time she also worked about twenty hours a week. The week after completing requirements for her second degree, she reported for work at the opposite end of the state, moving with the help of a friend. That job was the start of a career she stayed with for twenty five years.

I would never call her a hero or anything exceptional. She just did what she had to do in order to reach the goals she had set for herself. I am sure it was a difficult and painful struggle much of the time but in that era, you were allowed to fail if you did not measure up; you got very little in the way of ‘slack’ no matter what went on in the rest of your life. Nobody was too concerned about feelings being hurt or anyone taking offense at much of anything. You got tough or you did not make it. 

So no, I’d tell these pitiful excuses for young adults to put on their big kid britches, pull up their socks and dig in!  One election is not the end of the world no matter how  troubling it is to many, myself included. The fact remains, it is what it is and if you cannot deal with setbacks and trauma, then you may as well just give up and commit suicide or go into a sanitarium and live out your days as an aging infant, taken care of by those more competent.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Memoir Monday--All About Snow

I suppose when I was little, snow was not anything major, cold, sometimes fun, beautiful and  mostly just accepted as something that happened. Kids tend to be that way.

The first snow I saw and really do not remember, although the photos trick me into thinking I do, was in 1944-45 when my parents were living in Cambridge, MA,  a suburb of Boston and Dad worked at Raytheon for a season. That must have been a snowy year. I had a nice snowsuit and appeared bundled in it in several shots. Oddly that snowsuit went through all three of us kids even if it was pink. The boys were too young to protest wearing it. It was warm and kept us dry!

Then we came to Jerome, AZ. For the first few years, it seemed to snow a lot and be very cold. Our house sat next to four big water tanks that fed most of the town's municipal water system. At least a couple of them were wooden, little more than huge barrels, and they leaked. I can recall a number of times when the fence on the west side of our yard was an ice sculpture. It was pretty but the whole yard was slick as skating rink. I am sure the temperatures must have been down in the teens and not above freezing for several days for that to happen.

It was probably 1949 when there we got a very heavy snow. We had to drive up the highway, 89-A, to see how Mingus Mountain looked. Dad figured our new 4-wheel drive Universal Jeep could make it. It did but only because they had plowed the road! The walls of snow on either side were probably close to eight feet high! On the level it must have been two-three feet anyway.
Of course out at Camp Wood, the very remote community north and west of Prescott where Dad taught the one room school for two years, was in the mountains and got its share of white stuff. There was where my one and only experience with skis occurred. I decided that sitting on my derriere in cold wet stuff was not fun!

By the late 1950s, a drought was in full swing and perhaps the initial phase of the last half century or more of climate change had kicked in. There was a lot less snow in central Arizona. I saw some while we worked with the stock but it was occasional and only one big snow that I recall. And on December 16, 1965, it did not snow much in the valley but that night when my friend Dusty drove me to Flagstaff to catch the train to go to California--at the time I was not sure if it was just a visit or permanent, but I did come back in mid January--the trek up Oak Creek Canyon was a real feat. He was a good driver and made it without scaring me once.

However, when I lived in Flagstaff for four years while going to Northern Arizona University, I got to see plenty! It was cold but even when I lived off campus the last two years, I walked everywhere and it did not seem too bad. One year though it really snowed round Christmas and New Years. That would have been 1967-68. I was again catching the train for California to spend the winter break and we sat in the depot all night. The trains were slow but the only thing running as all the highways were closed. While I was gone, more snow fell. It totalled about nine-ten feet but did melt some and settle between storms so there was probably no more than six feet on the ground at any one time!

My next encounters with snow--often and lots of it--took place the four years we lived in Colorado, settling in what was then a small, rural community called Falcon, about fifteen miles east of Colorado Springs. We had our first blizzard just before Christmas 1973 which almost kept Santa from appearing for the two Walton kids still at home.  Our last blizzard hit in March of 1977. The highway was already closed when my boss finally dismissed us at the Chidlaw Building (NORAD/ADC Headquarters) down in the east-central part of the city but Jim and I thought we could get home via Marksheffel Rd. We didn't make it and spent about eighteen hours in my Ford Pinto while the storm raged. Then we waited another eighteen or so at a nearby little farmhouse before we finally caught a ride home.  Jim and I both got carbon monoxide poisoning to some degree since I idled the car all night. The lee-side window was cracked but funes still built up. A few people did die in this storm and I did not fight when my position was cut later that year by a reduction in force. We moved to central California that fall. No snow there but plenty of fog.

Since then I saw real snow only a few times in Whetstone, outside of Huachuca City, AZ where I lived for almost twenty five years and a bit in Hurley. NM, the winter of 2008-09. Back in Colorado for two years I saw some but no huge amounts and since we have been back in southern New Mexico, it has been only skiffs. We had to sweep off cars and clear the drive of ice once that I recall. Usually it is gone by noon except a few bits in the shade.

Since that storm in 1977, I have been very leary about driving in snow and will not unless it is a real emergency. I like to see the cold white stuff on the mountains and wish copious amounts for Alaska for the sled dogs to enjoy but otherwise, I consider S**W one of the uglier four letter words!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Story Gift

This is for my friends and regular readers.  I've long had an odd habit of dreaming something so close to complete that just a little writing and editing made it into a finished tale. This is one of them. It also became the spring board to a much larger project which has been in the WIP (work in progress to non-writers) for a long time. I do not normally write fiction in first person but this tale needed that approach. It is a holiday story but not of Christmas, Yule, Solstice or New Years!.One perhaps for the dreams and the Druids,,, Happy holidays!

Here, it is May Day 1989. Where was I four hundred years ago?
Today is May first, 1589.The winter has been harsh in England, this season past, in the thirty first year of the reign of Queen Bess. Spring comes as a blessing, a respite. Finally we are freed of the oppressive snow and gnawing cold. The leaves are again green and streams leap and dance, full to the brink. Valleys and glens in the low-lying areas are briefly flooded as the mild weather melts the snow from the highlands.
As a fosterling in a western hold on the Welsh border, I do not have high expectations.  I know I shall not be May Queen nor even have a truly new dress, but I can still welcome spring and the Mayfest. I know there are those who scorn it as a pagan day, a sinful flaunting of the proper sobriety of good Christian folk…the May Queen, the Jack ‘o the Green and the rest. They term sin the licentiousness, the Balefires; even perhaps the May Pole and the Morries Dancers are frowned upon. But here, where the lady of the manor is Welsh and not too taken with the new religions, be they Papish, Knoxist or even the New Church of King Hal…we turn a blind eye to such grim rules.
So it is Margery, her ladyship’s youngest daughter, who will be clad in the May Queen’s white with flowers crowning her bright head, ridden in the blossom-decked cart pulled by several of the village’s sturdy lads who deem it a great honor to be her team. There are even flowers for my mouse brown hair and a dress of green, handed down from Margery’s elder sister, wed the summer past and gone south and east with her groom. And I, with the other young folk, can dance a ribband around the peeled log set in the Commons. There are no duties this day. As I join the gathering throng, I see it is Tam, the miller’s half-wild son, who will be Jack, clad in tatters and leaves, spikes and ringlets of his dark auburn hair thrusting out through his leafy cap.
Tam capers around the cart that the other youths draw, carrying Margery. Most of the time he is jut Tam, stern faced and solitary, the miller’s half-mad boy. But today, this one day, he is like one possessed, fey of eye and madly gay, flirting a tail of green-dyed horse hair as he leaps and cavorts. Even his eyes seem green… Are they not usually gray or at the most hazel? He stops and looks at me, peering into my face as if he had never seen me before. I want to draw back, to vanish into the crowd but after a moment he moves on.
“It’s just Tam,” I tell myself. “Only weird, wild Tam, playing a foolish Mayday game.” But as I hurry on, I stay as close as I can to Margery’s cart even though we are nothing like friends. She never lets me forget that I am poor kin, dependent upon the charity of her parents.
It has been nigh two years now that I have been here with them. Uncle Geoff and Aunt Mattie and their two youngest, Margery and little Jeff’ry now twelve and fostered away as the nobility tends to do. I am fifteen, tall for a girl. Margery is but a month younger, shorter than I but more full bodied with golden hair and blue eyes. My mother was Aunt Mattie’s baby sister. They say she married beneath her station and my da died at sea, leaving her with almost nothing. She went back to her old home in the Welsh hills, there to die three years later, leaving me alone. Two of the old family retainers brought me to Aunt Mattie, the nearest kin they knew. Since then I have been something more than a lady’s maid to Margery but much, much less than an equal.
I fell to thinking as we went along, winding about the village lanes, how different it was here. I could vaguely recall our home on the coast, a stone house in a fishing village of which da’s father was the head man. Then there was the crumbling manor of stone and timber, once the Big House on the Hill but even when we came to it, a crumbling ruin of all it might once have been. Here the Keep was mostly timber and stood at the head of the valley, well kept and proud still. Yes, it was different here, hard to learn to be nobody of any note or importance.
With my mind’s eyes turned inward I had not realized we’d reached the Commons. There was a scramble for the ribbands and then as the village band struck up the Maying tune, the dance began. Tam darted in and out among us, ducking the ribbands, twisting as agily as a hare fleeing the hounds. For a moment he danced backwards, keeping pace and facing me. This time he did not so much frighten me as strike a spark of matching wildness which I had not known I harbored. He was whistling, a thin wild wail of counterpoint to the band’s tune. He stopped for breath and smiled at me, teeth flashing bright in his mud-daubed face, nearly as vivid as his eyes.  Then he winked and danced away.
I nearly missed a turn, ducked quickly under a ribband held by the baillie’s stout son. Then I had to arch out and reach high to take my strand over one held by tall Jaime, one of the laird’s squires. Usually just being near him made my heart skip a beat and saw me go pink in confusion, but this time, all I could think of was Tam while Jaime seemed over-tall and awkward as a scarecrow.
I could not fathom what was happening, so I danced blindly on until the ribbands were woven almost to the ground, encasing the pole. The rest of the day passed in a blur and I cannot really remember anything until after sunset, when we gathered again to await the lighting of the Balefire. This rite was even more ancient than the Maypole dance, and here the May Queen had no role. This night belonged to Jack o’ the Green. It was his command that set the first spark alight on the heap of last season' straw and gathered wood. He was the first dancer to leap, up, through and over the flames. This was a dance for only the men and for only the boldest, strongest and youngest ones.
Margery still wore her white gown, a fresh crown of flowers about her brow and there were still many who paid court to her, but the fire was now the center of attention. The fire and Jack.  I was no exception, watching Tam’s every move in total fascination.
Gradually the blaze sank and as gradually, the leaping youths chose a maid and slipped away. Suddenly there was hardly anyone left and the light of the wild red flames turned dusky. I blinked in the darkness, saw that Margery was gone, and then felt a hand catch mine. Strong masculine fingers entwined with mine and a callused palm rasped against my softer skin. Out of the dark a voice said, “Come.”  It seemed a voice I did not know yet it also seemed I had waited all my life to hear it. Although I could not see at all, as if in the dark at the bottom of a deep well, that hand led me steadily and my feet found sure purchase for each step. We went up a steep path the wound as it went.
“Wait,” a caution said within me. “There is no such path as this so close to the village. You know not where you go or who is leading you thence!”
But my new wild self laughed in abandon and paid no heed. “I will go where I am led this night.”
A wind sprang up and the air turned cooler, scented with a salt-sea flavor. The leaves rustled in a manner more of autumn than spring. At least we came down a short way into a little dell. Then I could again see—my gaze discerned the outlines of tall, rough hills, dark against the star-strewn sky. Even the stars did not look familiar.
I stared upward, puzzled, and then in a moment found myself on my back, bedded in a sweet softness of grass and leaves that cushioned me well even as an unfamiliar weight bore me down against the earth. The wind sang wild in the trees nearby but that cry did not reach me, though I felt its stir as the air caressed my damp, bare skin. Somehow the green gown was off and laid aside.
A burning pain lanced through my body briefly but it was followed and replaced by a thousand shapes and shades of delight that finally melded into a crescendo of trembling, twisting power. It was if I was torn apart and remade in a second. My lover did not speak nor could I see him as more than a dim shape but I think he hummed a faint air, a harmony with the wind’s song, combining Greensleeves with Tam’s whistle.
In the darkest lateness of the night I slept at last, wrapped in a heavy cloak that was mossy and warm. Perhaps I dreamed. Perhaps it was all a dream...

When morning came, I awoke and found myself lying on my regular pallet in the anteroom of Margery’s chamber. I lay angled across it, still in yesterday’s gown and there were leaves in my hair. At first it seemed an unfamiliar tenderness lingered on and in my body but it faded as I rose and went about my tasks. May second was no holiday. If I thought of the night, it seemed as if it had been a dream. In my mind a shadow of a shadow lingered but I could never get closer to a true memory than that. Still, by midsummer I knew I was with child.
Out here in the western borders, it is no shame to bear a May Eve babe. Such a child needed no father, only a mother, and would never bear the brand of bastard or hedge-baby. Indeed they were honored as gifted and fey. Despite that, I was not left to birth my babe alone, for at harvest I was wed to Jamie and soon became the chatelaine or housekeeper under Aunt Mattie’s direction.
It was not until that first child, a girl, was old enough to herself go a-Maying having past fourteen winters that I chanced to learn Tam was also a May eve babe, born to the miller’s daughter who died in childbirth, leaving a son for her parents to raise. There was now nothing wild about Tam. He’d became the miller in the old man’s stead, a bit heavy in the middle as his gamper had been, and wed to a rosy-cheeked Welsh girl who bore him a half dozen dark and lively children. My Mary May was dark of hair but otherwise as fair faced as blonde Margery’s daughters. Mary May had gray eyes.
Aunt Mattie seemed old now, and after Uncle Geoff died, she quickly went stooped and gray, finally going off to a priory to end her days with the nuns. Jeff’ry is the new laird, wed to a thin, pale slip of a girl from far to the east. They say the old ways are dying out, but surely they will have a Maypole and later the Bale fires. My Jaime is grounded now after a young horse fell and crushed his leg. It grew back too crooked for the stirrup but he serves as Baillie while I am now housekeeper for Jeff’ry’s lady.
I sit this late April day making a May gown for Mary, hurried in my stitching since it is but two nights away. Below she is playing in the courtyard with Marjory’s two younger girls and the laird’s little daughter, Guinevere. Mary calls to her little sister Johanna, drawing the child into the game, Ring Around the Rosy. They are all laughing, sweet and innocent, until Mary feels my eyes on her and looks up, smiling. She waves a slim white hand and tosses a kiss. Soon some lad will be the target of that gesture.
“No,” I pray silently, not sure if I call on the ancient Lady of our people or the other Mary, mother of Jesus. “Not yet, not this year!”  I suspect it is a vain prayer. Time will not stand still. My daughter’s shape in her outgrown dress is no longer that of a child and as her ladyship’s brother, visiting for the season, walks by carefully ignoring her, she sighs. He is older, at least sixteen, and rumor has it he was banished from court for gambling and wenching, even beyond the extent expected of a young nobleman in these wicked days. He has the face of a petulant child but also a glamour the girls see, the reflected glory of the court and the capitol.
Ah, better Jack than a lecherous lout like that, and it will be someone soon. Someone for my daughter… I shake off my fey mood and resume my stitching. It may be small of me, but I am glad that Margery’s eldest girl is fostered along with her brother while the younger ones are barely out of swaddlings, and little Gwinnie is still small as well. Mary will be alone to represent the lasses of the manor.
I remember back fifteen years and wonder who will wear the Jack’s green and tail this Mayday. There’s a tinker who has come through, trading horses and he has a son, a canny black-eyed lad, too old seeming for his apparent years…but that would probably be too obvious. It may be one of our own, an ordinary lad you hardly see in an everyday way.
There will be a May Queen too, some girl from the village. It won’t be Mary but she will not be out-shown, clad in a new gown and well decked with flowers. After all, Jack never chooses the May Queen. Will he recognize a kinship with my Mary and lead her away into some distant hills after the fire dies?
In many ways I dread it. The experience left me forever with a dim longing and melancholy for what can never happen again. But I would not have missed it for the world. I have my daughter… And after all that, I think I made Jaime a good wife. I have given him two sturdy sons and a little daughter with his rusty-colored hair; I have mended his clothes and healed his injuries, seen him well fed and bedded, and sent him off twice to battles from which, saints be praised, he returned hale and whole.

Still, sometimes when the wind blows just so, my feet itch for a hilly path and I hum under my breath, a wild nameless tune. For a day or two I cannot abide Jaime’s touch and chafe sorely at the tedious sameness of my days.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Memoir Monday

Installment 1—The Summer of 1951

Do you ever have to kind of con yourself to get things done that you know you need to do, maybe even want to do but can’t seem to fit them in? That’s my problem. This time of year it is harder than normal since I get a seasonal spell of the blahs and have to work to pull up my socks every day and go walk with my dogs.  So I came up with a small gimmick to get myself back on a more regular schedule of posting to this blog and maybe a bit will spill over to my others. 
Every Monday I will post a memory from years gone by with some photos.  I know I have posted memoir tales before but I am going to approach this a bit differently. I’ll take a small slice of time and go into more depth with it. I’m not sure how this will work but here we go!

Gaye, summer 1951
lookout tower in background
The first summer that I can recall as a unit was the summer of 1951, between my second and third grade years. Before that, I can remember incidents and vignettes but time began to take on a different dimension that year.  That summer was unique and a special adventure!
1951 was the year we spent in the North Kaibab. My parents took a summer job operating one of the forest service fire lookouts.  I know there were at least two or three others, perhaps more, but we made our home for ten or twelve weeks at the Big Springs Lookout. It was not far from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon although outside of the park boundaries.
Big Springs Fire Lookout

The lookout consisted of a tall tower with a metal cabin on the top with big windows on all  four sides. It held an instrument like a surveyor’s transit and a spotting scope. These were used to get the exact location of a fire spotted by the person or people manning the lookout. There was also a cabin tent, about ten by fourteen feet or so which provided shelter and a temporary home for the fire watchers. The canvas was stretched over a frame and it had wooden side walls up about three feet. There was a wood burning stove for cooking and heat, if needed. I had a cot and I think there was a double bed my parents used. We had an outhouse, had water hauled in, and used Coleman lanterns for light.
I was allowed to go two flights up the tower by myself and climbed the stairs with no fear. I’m not sure why the two flight limit for a fall from even that high would have likely been very serious if not fatal but that was the rule. My mother scampered up and down with little problem although she was three to six months pregnant with my future sibling. There were no ultra sounds at that time so we had no idea whether I’d have a brother or a sister. I suppose the exercise and active life was healthy since she had the baby in November and both she and my new brother were fine!
A circular drive ran around the base of the tower and past the door of the tent-cabin. I remember drawing elaborate ‘floor plans’ in the dirt which became houses, castles and stables for my solitary games. I was used to playing by myself and never lacked a vivid imagination which apparently served me well.  The specifics of my games are forgotten but I know I had a good time and was never bored or lonely.
Some days when the fire danger was low—after a good rain, mostly—we could take off and go exploring. The family car was a Universal Jeep, not much different from those the military had developed in WW II and were then using in Korea. It had four wheel drive and could handle almost any dim track out through the forest so we visited many of the more remote view points of the Grand Canyon such as Toroweap and others. I am sure Dad took pictures, but for some reason I have not found even any negatives.
Mule deer herd, bucks' antlers
in the 'velvet' stage, actively growing.
We also saw the famous Kaibab mule deer. Herds came out to forge in many of the meadows or cienega areas (seep springs that create more verdant vales) and there were photos of them. They are larger than the average mule deer and have evolved into almost a sub-species due to their isolated location. The bucks have very large antlers and often they are rather deformed or oddly shaped with tines going at strange angles and very asymmetrical. Even the does were fairly large.
Every couple of weeks we went in to Kanab, Utah to get supplies since that was the nearest town large enough to have a real grocery store and other shops with necessary goods. I recall it as a pretty, neat little town with lots of trees and a clean aspect.  I am sure it is much larger and different now.

The experiences of that summer left a mark on me. I did not mind the primitive conditions nor was I fearful to be out in the woods, a number of miles from “civilization” and to this day, I can enjoy an extended period of such a life. It is nice to come back to all the modern conveniences –well some of them at least—but for several weeks, it would still be good to get away from it all! I did so earlier this fall with a stay at a sled dog kennel off the grid outside Fairbanks, Alaska. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Still In Shock?

Another one of my rants--but it is not pro or con on the Trump/Clinton matter. I am just upset at what I am seeing happen around me!

November was an insane month.. I was not as dismayed as many by the results of the election although I was very surprised.  What has shocked me was the eruption of violence and viciousness. That has frankly left me reeling! I have cut way back on my Facebook activity because many people that I have thought of as friends have become almost unrecognizable with their rants and vituperative spews of hatred! These are people who claim to be all for peace, love, harmony and being nice! I will freely admit that Donald Trump comes across as a jerk but this tsunami of rage and 'fear' and "we cannot let this happen" leaves me troubled, shocked and very concerned.

I am shaking my head and trying to understand. I am a far cry from "Christian Right" and certainly not what they are calling Alt Right. and consider myself mostly middle-of-the-road on most issues or more or less fiscally conservative and socially liberal but this over the top reaction in many places leaves me dumbfounded.  There has got to be a happy medium between the extremes of Left and Right, Red and Blue or however you want to label them.

The way I see it, both extremes, have been brainwashed by the portions of the media which cater to  those opposite ends of the political spectrum. They believe literally ""everything"" said on Fox News or CNN etc.  The candidate of the opposition is satan incarnate and will surely bring death and destruction and unmentionable horrors if they were allowed to take office.  Give me a break!!!

We have been bouncing back and forth between Democrat and Republican administrations since my first time voting in 1964 when I cast my ballot of LBJ. So far the world has not ended; some things have gone  on under both sides that I was not happy with and felt did not make either me or the whole country better off  but the sun still rose and set and basically life went on pretty much as it always had. This is why I cannot understand the hysteria that has blown up like a volcano.

There is no question that America is deeply divided--roughly 50-50 between the liberal and conservative camps. (Somehow Democrat and Republican do not seem to have much meaning anymore.)  To oversimplify, the former deeply distrust free enterprise and business in general and feel that people are incapable of taking proper care of themselves, each other and the earth itself so the government must step in and micro-manage almost everything. On the other side, the people deeply distrust government at all except the most basic local level and resist any effort to direct, control or limit their freedom of speech, action, reckless behavior or resistance to the current mantra of diversity/inclusiveness that the Liberals deem sacred.

It has become almost the classic rock and hard place--there is no middle except to get smashed flat between these two implacable resisting forces.  And that is where I am. It is not comfortable  I do not want to have to shut out friends who lean strongly to one side or the other but the noise is making my head and heart ache. I am truly sick of the extremes of political correctness and I DO NOT think anyone has a sacred right to never be offended. I am offended often and somehow manage not to need therapy, counselling, protection or --perish the thought--violent protesting to salve my wound!

I cannot help but feel that various minority groups and special interests are being used in a most callus way by the Leftist Establishment to create disruption and to deepen the fractures in our country as much and as quickly as they can. I can theorize the reasons but I really do not know--only know what I see.  They are making issues of non-issues and convincing many people that these things are really important when jobs, national security, the economy, the real environmental issues and similar matters are swept under the rug and ignored. In the dying days of the Roman empire, the government used "bread and circuses" (ie-lions versus Christians and gladiator-slaves fighting to the death) to distract the people. Now we have pro sports, flashy celebrities, and non-issues to do the same thing so WE fiddle while Rome--or our country--burns.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Another Beloved Canine

Today she's been gone four years--Belle, aka Belle Starr (the bandit girl), Missy B,, Baby Girl etc. I still miss her in so many ways. If you are blessed with at least one 'angel dog' in your lifetime, you are so lucky; I've had more than one but Belle is in the midst of that number.

Belle was the dog who came into my home to keep Rico company after Sadie had crossed the
The shot that won my heart
Rainbow Bridge in the fall of 2006.  I contacted Aussie Rescue in Arizona and she was the one who was meant to come to me. A sweet lady in Phoenix who was the state coordinator at the time--I seem to recall her name was Alice--sent me two photos of a girl who'd been taken in and fostered in Kingman. I fell in love at once. In January 2007, Rico and I made the trek to Glendale, Arizona where we met Belle's temporary folks and I brought her home. She seemed tiny beside Rico, who was a big moose of a dog, but she was a standard sized Aussie.

Belle was a classic blue merle with copper points--legs and some face markings. She had one eye that was neatly divided half brown and half blue and a tiny wedge of blue in the other eye. When she came to me her poor little muzzle was terribly ulcerated to the point tissue had been eroded. I took her to the vet the next day and she was diagnosed with
After about six weeks' meds
Discoid Lupus, an auto-immune disorder that impacts the mucus membrane tissue. hers was concentrated in her nose. From that day on, I treated her with prednisone, which is a nasty drug but the only thing that would suppress the condition. I used a ton of salves and treatments and finally got to where I could give her 2.5 mg a day instead of the 20 she started with but we could never cut it out all the way.

As I've mentioned in the past, the match of Rico and Belle was not made in heaven. They ad a bad fight about a week in during which Rico bit me badly enough that I put Belle in a crate and him in the house and drove to the ER--where triage kept me waiting for most of nine hours! Things went fine for months but gradually the fights became more frequent and more severe. I knew I had to rehome one of them or there would be a tragedy since trying to keep them completely apart was almost impossible. In the end it was Rico who went. That broke my heart but I knew it was the only choice I could make. I have prayed often that he had a good and happy life.

Belle was happy as an only dog and got very bonded with me, She went nearly everywhere with me and only a few times was left in a kennel. Part of that took place while I was moving from Whetstone to Hurley, NM in the late summer of 2008. She also went with me when I moved to Colorado the
Snow dog in CO
next spring. She did not get along too well with Kaycee, my brother's young male Blue Heeler; they had one bad fight while I was back in Arizona later that year and were not left alone unsupervised after that. Kaycee was a rowdy bully at times and Belle did not know how to play. She perceived any roughness as an attack and would fight to the death although she was never the aggressor.

Dear MissyB had one weakness and that was food! She could not resist a tempting  morsel and would go to considerable lengths to  get outside  of one. I could share a dozen stories about some of those escapades but I'll save them for another time and place. Still they were part of this very unique and special little girl's one-of-a-kind character. More than once I was torn between fury and laughing my backside off at one of her little acts of banditry!

Belle and I walked nearly every day from the time Rico left us until the last few days of her life. We walked along the road to tombstone in Arizona; we walked all around the main town of Hurley; we walked over a large neighborhood in Colorado Springs, and then we walked in Alamogordo.  As 2012 went along, I knew she was slipping, almost noticeably every day, The walks got shorter--just down the street to the LDS churchyard where she enjoyed walking in the soft, green grass, often wet with dew or from the sprinklers. I started putting booties on her to help her keep her footing on the laminate floors in the house and I upped her dose of tramadol to keep her calm and ease her pain. She had arthritis and aso the prednisone was taking its toll on her organs.

Belle and Rojito--Aug '12
Finally the day came that I had dreaded. She was telling me that she needed to be set free. My brother and I held her as she slumped down and drifted away. I had her cremated and my plan is that her ashes will be scattered with mine when that day comes. Meanwhile she waits at the Rainbow Bridge near the head of a wonderful pack of my dearest friends, with Flash and Alanna and Madra and Sadie. For now I have little Rojito (he had bonded strongly with her in the few months after he joined our pack in June 2012). and Ginger to maintain my connection to dogdom.  Ginger is not Belle but a sweet girl in her own right and another link in my life-long chain of rescued canines. No, I have never bought a dog and never will. There are too many that need someone to rescue and the Doggie Deity always sends the right one my way.  Go in peace and harmony, Dear Belle, always loved and always near my heart.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Five fast years

Five years ago yesterday, Charlie and I had just gotten here with the second U-Haul truck from Colorado. Up there we had loaded in spitting snow and temperatures hovering just above the freezing mark. We got a late start and made the long and exhausting trek to end up here around midnight. There was a harrowing incident with an aluminum ladder in the middle of the freeway between Rio Rancho and Albuquerque but no harm done. I just envisioned torn brake lines, gas lines or ???  But the big truck had smashed it enough that the little Focus wagon sailed over it clean. I was going on adrenaline and willpower the past 2-300 miles but followed the lights of that truck and talked to Belle. At least we had beds and dog dishes waiting for us here.

It is hard to believe that much time has passed. A lot has happened in those years. Missy B has been gone nearly four years now--I'll do a tribute for her in a few days--and I've been on a number of trips to include over two months in Alaska. Most of the time it still feels like "The Promised Land" as Charlie says, much better than Colorado in terms of weather to desert rats like us. The dust and wind can be an aggravation but otherwise it's very tolerable and pleasant a lot of the time.  My four climbing roses have thrived and we have made great headway on the various noxious weeds we do not tolerate in our space. The overburden of stuff stacked all around has been reduced and neatly stowed away so the carport is clear for two smaller cars and only appropriate things reside outside the workshop/garage out back.

We have three dogs now that were not with us and it is not sure how much longer Beebee and Kaycee will be around. Both are showing age and some decline but with little Rojo who joined us in June 2012, Ginger in December 2012 and Riata last November it is not likely we will be dogless any time soon. If I have my way I will never be!

I've moved into a new decade and next month Charlie joins the Medicare set. We are far from well off but we have all that we really need and a reasonable level of comfort and security. Another high desert fall is underway and despite an odd little thunderstorm about three o'clock this morning --more flash and noise than either wind or rain--it is drying off and starting to cool down slowly. I put the cooler on for a bit this afternoon but mostly just to air out the house and freshen the feeling. Will we be here in another five years? One never knows and we do talk at times of maybe drifting back to Arizona but I really don't expect that we will.  Time will tell--I may even wind up spending a greater part of my time in the north 49th. At any rate, it is not over until it is over and the fat lady has certainly not sung yet!

It cheers me to compare then and now!! Progress is where you find it.
5 years ago

In front of workshop-then

current state

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Columbus Day or not?

I have not been a huge fan of this particular 'holiday' for ages. I am not even sure why we feel a need to celebrate how a crafty  Italian adventurer conned the queen of Spain into bankrolling him to cruise around looking for fame and fortune and maybe the east side of Asia.  He certainly did not "discover" America and had no clue where he was when his small fleet made landfall. 'Nuff said!

There is little doubt that the Irish monk, St. Brendan the Navigator, had been across the Atlantic. After all, Ireland is lot closer than Spain if you follow a route similar to and opposite of that which Charles Lindbergh flew close to ninety years ago.  It is likely that some seafarers from Wales also made the journey and certainly a number of Vikings traveled from Scandinavia to Iceland, Greenland and the maritime regions of what is now Canada.  In short, there are many legends and artifacts to attest to the fact of various journeys from Europe to the "New World" substantially earlier than 1492.
So if we are going to celebrate a Discoverer's Day it could as well be January 30, May 11, September 17 or the second fifth Friday in any particular month and year. We have no way to know who was really 'first' and when that landfall was made. And it really doesn't matter.

As for indigenous people, I actually have a  lot of sympathy for them because since substantial numbers of Europeans began to arrive, most of the tribes have caught a lot of hell and been mistreated, lied to and abused in many ways. However, I do get my back up a little bit at the term "Native American" since I am as native as anyone else, having been born here and being able to trace my ancestors, at least the bulk of them, back for a good three centuries on this overall piece of real estate.

A few anthropologists might still argue a bit but it is fairly well accepted that the ancestors of the modern tribes in North America did come out of the northern quadrant of Asia and worked their way down from what is now Alaska into north, central and even south America. So why are they "more native" than the Caucasians who sailed across the Atlantic?  It's just a matter of a millennia or so. As far as we know, they did not displace any preexisting residents, at least no human ones, but I don't think we are a hundred percent sure of this.

It is a fact that the beings who became modern humans probably originated and dispersed out of Africa, maybe even while the land mass of the newish planet Earth was closer to being a single continent than it is now. I mean, who was there to observe? And as various groups, bands and tribes migrated and dispersed, some went into new and unoccupied land and others may have overrun, absorbed, or eradicated previous dwellers. I do not say that is right or good or anything else, but it is a fact.

So, who is "native" of any place is highly questionable and subject to a great deal of debate. Yes, today's "Indians" (incorrectly termed this since that scam artist Italian thought he had reached the East Indies, a term used in ancient times and somewhat more recently as well  for the southeastern area of the Asian continent where wonderful spices and great wealth was believed to exist) were here when most of the ancestors of modern U. S. citizens arrived. We probably took possession without much due process. Not the first time and likely not the last. When we eventually go out into the greater universe it will probably happen again. Humans are greedy, rapacious and despite a thin veneer of civilization still mostly observe that might makes right. Most of us are pretty shitty folks!

In short, I am fine with an Indigenous Peoples Day--let's have one world-wide and sponsored by the United Nations and do it up in good style. There are lots of indigenous groups on every continent.  I am not fine with Columbus Day, but if we were to declare a Discoverer's Day, perhaps we could both placate and piss off a lot of folks.  Being of Irish and Welsh descent in good part, I'd be happy to recognize their adventuring efforts and according to what I've seen on TV, Vikings were big, bold sexy guys, so let's recognize them too! Forget Columbus; what the heck did he do?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Into and Out of Time

I ended my latest Alaskan adventure a bit early due to circumstances beyond my control and not connected to my ability or lack thereof to fit in and work out. My host had some major personal/financial issues crop up and we decided it would be best if I got out of the way so she could address her full attention to them but I am welcome to go back again once things calm down--hoping that actually happens!--and can have a good recommendation when/if I try to find a similar situation. Still I crammed a great deal of experience and learning into the available days and enjoyed it thoroughly. I'm not ready to be a real musher yet but I know a lot more about sled dogs than I did a month ago!

While I was away, summer has decamped and it is now in the midst of high desert fall, always a favorite time for me. We did get another 5/8" of rain the first two nights I was home but then it has warmed back up (mid 80s) and the skies have gone to their bright blue October beauty. We hope for 10-15 days of good weather, just cool enough that some fairly strenuous work is not unpleasant. So far I have trimmed back my four climbing roses, a rosemary bush that insists on trying to become a spreading shrub, and a "butterfly bush" that has ambitions to be a tree.

My two red dogs were ecstatic to see me. The little guy ran dizzy circles for fifteen minutes, up onto the bed, behind me, down and around again. Ginger, meanwhile, snuggled close and licked and licked every bit of exposed skin! It was good to know I had been missed! I'm sure they caught the scent of some forty four assorted huskies I had been much around but they didn't seem to be too concerned. All is now back to normal, more or less. Tomorrow we should resume our morning walks.

I had planned to be at least 45 days in Alaska so have been slightly at  loose ends and trying to decide how to get back to my routine. It almost feels like some "free time" since I had pretty well cleared my calendar and am not sure where to go and what to do first and next. However, my usual practicality and tendency to stay busy is asserting itself and I am sure I will be heading off into a number of projects soon.

Here is a rare selfie of me with part of the dog yard in the background. That is just to prove I have been there very recently!
Temporary dog handler at Slow Rush Kennel,
Fairbanks, AK

Friday, September 16, 2016

Leaving on a jet plane...

Out of El Paso at about 8:30 a.m.tomorrow. North to Alaska at a time other than summer. It was 46 in Fairbanks a few minutes ago and is currently 87 in Alamogordo. But I am going--I've worked on this for over two years now and to finally see it happen is amazing. I am not sure how long I will be able to stay--mid December at the latest and possible not that long but it will be the real experiences I have hoped to gain for the authenticity of my future book.I hope to be able to post several times to the GwynnMorganAlaska blog. Probably not much if any here.

Yes, I am scared but very excited and I am going to give this my best shot! I have all my cold weather stuff and work clothes in one big suitcase--30# or so--to be checked and my computer case and a small daypack to carry on with me. I will be toting a shirt jac which may look silly in Phoenix but I am going to Alaska!

Whenever I get shaky I look at my special picture taken in June with Aliy and Deedee, my two amazing heroines, and I know I have to musher up and dream it, dare it and DO IT!!

A prayer or two and some positive energies are appreciated!!  Go in peace until I check in again.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rico--the next special dog

I mentioned Rico in Sadie's story but he deserves his own tale. Early in 2004, Butch and Jim had been gone for around two months and I had started to look for another dog hoping to pull Sadie out of her obvious depression. And do not try to tell me a dog cannot have such emotions! We checked the shelters but none of the candidates seemed quite right. Then a friend of a friend alerted me to a possibility. An Australian Shepherd had been found and was staying at the kennel of a woman who raised GSDs (German Shepherds) down in the southern part of the valley between Hereford and Palominas. Sadie and I drove down in my Buick Century,

Rico, newly adopted
She didn't get hostile and the woman who had found and taken the dog in wanted him gone--an intact male, he did not fit into her crew. Her daughter had called him Oreo since he was black and white but I later learned he was actually a blue merle although not the classic or typical one.  He came home with us that evening and quickly fitted in. I took him to the vet shortly since I do not keep intact dogs as pets and had him "fixed" and got his shots, probably overkill but I had no way to know. I decided to name him Rico (Enrico) a bit after Alanna's  Henry in California who was not an Aussie but a Blue Heeler although I was vague on the difference at that point. My late husband liked bird dogs and I had not really had a herding type dog since my dear Flash, so long ago.

A few days later the lady who had brought him to Cochise County from northern California got bck from somewhere and looked for him. He'd been left in the care of a disabled friend who could not handle him and he had escaped. I offered to return him but said I would need to be reimbursed for my vet bill. When she learned he was now 'fixed' she had  a fit and cussed me out.She had meant to use him as a stud. "Too darn bad," I thought. "You didn't take great care of him."

Although Sadie never bonded with him as she had with Butch, it did help. I soon acquired a little red
Rico, standing stacked
Mazda pickup with an extended cab and fixed a bench between the two jump seats in the rear area so a dog could ride there --or even two. That was not a popular spot but two mid to large dogs did not fit in the passenger bucket seat and I do not do laps when driving.  That was usually Rico's spot and he accepted it with mild grumps. I took them with me often for the next couple of years and occasionally left them in a kennel and one time at my youngest brother's new house in Sierra Vista. when I went to Colorado to help the other brother move when he and his wife decided to split..

Sadie lasted another year, until October 2006. That left Rico as a solo dog. Perhaps I should have left well enough alone but I like to have a pair. I got involved with the Aussie rescue organization in Arizona and arranged to take Belle, who was fostered in Kingman. She seemed so small beside Rico, who was a very large Aussie (near 75 pounds), that I thought at first she was a "mini."

They had one fight within a week and I thought that settled the matter. Splitting that up, I got bitten badly on the left hand by Rico. I grabbed for his collar and missed. He put fang marks on both sides of my thumb joint. I wrapped my bleeding hand, put Belle in the crate I had gotten and drove myself to the Sierra Vista hospital's ER. Triage--a bleeding hand was not life threatening. I finally got home about nine. He was quarantined for two weeks but it was not his fault--my stupidity. Breaking up dog fights is dangerous at best.

Belle and Rico on good day
For quite awhile the two of them got along fine, They were not furniture dogs but slept on rugs near my bed and chased ground squirrels and the field rats. I had half my large yard fenced so they had plenty of room to run. I was gone one day and came home to find Belle cut up some. I thought she had gotten into a pile of wire and trash in the yard,but learned different soon. From that point on, the situation went down hill,.. When they had a major fight indoors in the spring 0f 2008, I knew we could not continue. I kept them separated from then on and began to look for a place to rehome Rico.

If that seems odd and unfair, I will say it broke my heart to let him go after four years but Belle had a medical condition that required daily care and I suspected most people would not give that to her and manage the expense for drugs etc. I had guaranteed her a forever home when I took her. After a few weeks a lady up the street from me saw my notice in the post office and came by. She said her mother lived in a small ranch near Patagonia, AZ and wanted a good big dog to keep strangers out of her yard. I let her take Rico although I was not happy about it. I kept planning to go see him after he had a few months to get settled in his new home but many things changed in my life along about that time and I ended up moving to New Mexico in August.

I always missed my big doofus--like most male dogs he was a bit of a doofus!--but he was loveable, loyal and generally a good dog. I just pray he had a good, long  life and ended up peacefully.  He'd be an old dog now if he is still on this side of the Rainbow Bridge. He was not quite two early in 2004. I never stopped having regrets and that is the only dog I have ever rehomed. I just have to trust that I made the right decision. I hope he is there with his stumpy tail wagging his whole backside, as Aussies do, when I get to the Rainbow Bridge, and that he won't be too mad at me.  He may have another owner of his heart now but maybe he will at least say hello.
My handsome boy!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Cops, Anniversaries and Memories

Yesterday there was a 'shoot out' in my little southern New Mexico town in which a cop and a wanted felon were both killed. That makes two in two weeks--a 'routine traffic stop" that turns into death for two young officers, both leaving kids and a loving, grieving family.  At least this time the career criminal went down, too, but at such a price.

I know policing is dangerous work. I've known that all my life, really. I was very blessed that my husband always made it home--and in time he shifted to a slightly different career path after he learned how much I worried each time he donned that blue suit and left home... And that was some years ago; it has only gotten more dangerous.  I will be the first to admit there are a few rotten apples in the office barrel, people who should never be wearing a badge, but 95% of the men and women who serve o so with a sincere calling and a true desire to "protect and serve." Most are color blind and share a brotherhood with all the other officers in our nation who serve as well. I am getting very tired of seeing our officers killed, often needlessly. How can we get young men and women to serve with this danger and a sense no one supports them?  I am reminded of the military people during Vietnam--they so did not deserve the hate and nastiness they were shown. Whatever we thought of that war--and there are no good wars!!--we should not have been so brutal to those returning; too many were in coffins and body bags. as too many still do in today's war. Blue Lives Matter and so do military lives!! They all bleed red and die for a cause--and there are many Black, Latino, Asian and others among them.

As I shared on my FB page, today would have been my 45th anniversary. September 3, 1971 in
Bisbee, AZ, a day I will never forget. Here is a shot of me and my handsome husband, not in his blue uniform for this event. I was a "hippie bride" wed in green! We were married by a Methodist minister in Jim's dad's home, where he had grown up. The minister first asked the two kids, then 7 and 11, if they would accept me as their new mother; had they said no I do not think he would have done the ceremony! I thought that was very special.  Thank all the powers that we were allowed to have thirty two years together sharing a zillion things we both loved to include writing.

We only managed one novel which I actually finished a year or two after Jim's passing. It  is, of course, a cop story, and as authentic as we could make it. Jim would get so upset at TV shows which were soooo unreal, fifty car chases clear across Texas and such junk! We had planned two or three more books set in the same area where characters would make cameo appearances after their story was told but sadly we ran out of time. I did not dare try to do them alone because I could not get the authenticity they deserved. Still, January Gets Her Gunn stands as a joint effort although it was published in my known pen-name. I won't tout it here; I do not sell on this blog, but I *might* put a snippet on the other one which I share with that naughty Deirdre O'Dare who writes those x-rates stories ;-)

Anyway, my prayers to the families of fallen officers  and my happy memories of a day long ago which mingle smiles and tears today. I'll see you again, my personal hero, and will never forget. Greet these new arrivals who are blue-clad brothers and make them welcome until their loved ones join them.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Alanna--A VSD

I know I have mentioned this dog before, Alanna, a wolf-Chow mix that was with us (my late husband and two kids and I) for a bit over thirteen years. She still remains at the pinnacle as far as smarts and being a unique and very unusual dog!

About three months old
We found Alanna in the Colorado Springs animal shelter early in May 1977, She had just been picked
up so we had to wait a few days to make her ours. However, that first day as we walked through the area housing female puppies and dogs, she came to the front of her pen and gave a rather demanding "yap" that said, "I want to be your dog. Take me out of here!"  That was Alanna--always the 'queen bee' and  Very confident and direct!

We took her home the same day we picked up our new SUV, which we had decided to order after spending a total of about 36 hours in a Ford Pinto and a person's house a few miles from our home during a March blizzard. A car like that with 4-wheel drive might have gotten us safely home. She barfed in the back, the only time she ever got car sick, but confirmed my insistence on getting rubber matting and not carpet in this vehicle, despite the salesman's efforts. I also insisted on several other things--he could not believe a woman would prefer a 4-speed manual shift to an automatic! That is whuy it took several weeks to come from the factory, just to our specs.

That was always Alanna's car from that day forward and she lived to ride. She got a few local trips that summer and then a very long one in a special box on the tailgate with her male dog companion, Angus. In september we moved from Falcon, CO outside of Colorado Springs to north central California after my job was cut when Aerospace Defense Command went through some reductions.
we ended up in the little town of Olivehurst, just south of marysville/Yuba City, the twin towns on opposite sides of the Yuba River north of Sacramento.

In Olivehurst about 1980
We stayed there for six years and Alanna got very well known in the area. She and Jim often wnet a quarter mile or so down the road and visited with friends who had a big rice farm and also grazed cattle. The two Johnson brothers both had herding dogs. Max's was a Blue Heeler named Henry. Alanna adored Henry and since Angus had met a sad end, she wanted a new "boyfriend." However she was spayed so Henry only wanted her as a hunting partner. There were a lot of Norway rats in the area. They tended to hang around the rice fields to glean the left overs and also in the big barn where they stored feed for the cattle.  Henry and Alanna had some great times including once when they were shut in the barn before a new load of feed arrived and between them killed literally hundreds of rats. Both had to be bathed to get the blood out of their fur!

Alanna also loved the UPS guy and wold jump in his truck if she got a chance. he carried dog biscuits for her and other friendly canines on his route. One day there was a substitute driver and she scared him half to death. He had climbed up on a rack with some packages before Jim coaxed  Alanna to get out.  She could not imagine anyone not loving her or being afraid. She had many friends, both human and canine including a little Doxie named Susie who's person carried her in a basket on his motor scooter! She seemed to love little dogs.

After six years we came back to Arizona and lived for a few months in Tucson. There she was confined in the fenced yard and people were not friendly. Kids banged sticks on the wire to tease her and other neighborhood dogs etc. She was very unhappy,  She git sick with what a vet diagnosed as Valley Fever. Up to that point all of our dogs had been outdoor dogs since jim and I had both grown up with a rule that dogs did not come in the house. We let Alanna stay indoors because of her illness and there was no going back! From then on every dog has been a house dog; not that they do not gget outside a  lot and want to be out but they also want to be close.  Alanna won that privilege for herself and all her successors.

play with a little friend
The next spring we moved down to Whetstone, an unincorporated area just north of Huachuca City. Alanna did not like the disruption of moving. Jim told her that was the last time she or he would move and that proved to be true. Once we settled she was happy in her new home and became a neighborhood favorite, wandering a little though not too far and going  with us. Jim would take her to a bakery in HC where he went nearly every morning to a coffee klatch and she waited patiently just outside the door and was greeted by everyone who came and went and often slipped a treat.

at home in Arizona

In the summer of 1990, she began to fail. About the same time we discovered a tumor in her neck or throat. It was too much around the major blood vessels to risk surgery so we had to let nature take its course.  In the middle of October the day came; she could no longer eat and barely drink so we made the trip to our vet's. He gave her the shot and the three of us held her as she slipped off to the Rainbow Bridge, her coat wet with tears of three people who had loved her dearly. She was buried in the side of our yard where some years later Butch and Sadie were placed near her. They were the last dogs we left there, or I left when I moved alone--with Belle--in 2008.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Dog Named Sadie

Sadie--about 1998
Like Butch, Sadie came to us already named. If a dog knows their name I prefer not to change it. With horses it doesn't seem to matter but dogs are closer attuned to us and listen more.

Anyway we know Sadie's mother was a purebred Labrador. She got mixed up with what we are guessing was maybe a Setter. I'm opting for Irish Setter since although Sadie was black, there were a few red highlights in her coat.

She belonged to a young couple who were friends of my daughter. They got her as a pup and added her to a couple of older dogs. They also erred by free-feeding all from one big dish. The older dogs were food hoarders and Sadie didn't get much. Then she dug up their newly landscaped back yard and John threatened to shoot her!  Stephanie called Jennifer in a panic and said she had to bring Sadie over at once. However Jennifer and her kids already had a female dog and the two girls did not hit it off.  We were over to babysit soon after that and took Butch along. He and Sadie seemed to fall in love at once so she came home with us. That was sometime in 1996 although I am not sure of the exact date.

Sadie was a pretty dog but hard to photograph since she was soooo black! Finally as she aged, she got a ring of white around her eyes and along the edge of her lips and muzzle. It looked like exotic makeup and then better photos were possible. She was very outgoing, loved to go for rides and had no fear of heights or much else. She got Butch out of his partial shell also. She and Dog did not get along so well so he did not come around so much after she arrived.

For awhile Sadie stayed home with me while Jim took Butch to the VFW. She would hear them come home and almost go wild. At one time I was going to write a spoof romance story about the girl who rushes to see her beloved in delight and they fall to the floor ,rolling around together etc. and finally at the end admit they were canines! I never did but it was fun to watch them.

It is pretty common for a female dog to pick a male person as her special while a male dog will bond to the woman of the house. That slowly happened with us. Butch became "my" dog and Sadie became Jim's. Usually we let them stay together--both would go or both would stay.  I have not seen many pairs of dogs that were so affectionate and well partnered as the two of them.

We enjoyed their companionship for seven great years. We laughed about "Sadie's wild hair days" since her long silky coat would blow in the wind and get very unkempt but she was a 'tomboy' and did not care. She knew she was pretty and was very confident in everything. They went on many fun trips, stayed in a kennel when we had to go where they could not only a few times and were known around the neighborhood. Most dogs still ran loose in that area and we were back from the highway and did not worry about them too much. They preferred to go hunt in the big pasture behind our home rather than go out near the busy road.

Thus it was a terrible ;loss to Sadie when bother her master human and her beloved companion left us at the same time. She would wander through the house seeking them and then come to me with the saddest look. "Where are they, Mama? Please bring them back." I wept many tears into her silky coat.

The next spring I got Rico, a young mostly black blue merle Australian Shepherd who'd escaped from his new owner. Sadie tolerated him and he was always respectful of her but there was no great bond. I had Rice neutered almost at once before the former owner belatedly tried to find him. I said she could have him back if she'd reimburse my expenses but she threw a fit--she'd wanted to have him as a stud since there weren't too many Aussies around at that time. So I had two dogs again. I took them with me a lot and only boarded them a couple of times.

In the fall of 2006, I could tell Sadie was losing her will to live. I had to coax her to eat and she would wander into a corner and could not find her way out. Knowing what was coming, I spent a couple of weeks digging a good deep hole in the side of the yard next to where Alanna and Butch had been laid to rest. The day came and we went to the same vet who had relesed the other two dogs when their time came. I brought Sadie home and put her in the waiting grave. As I began to shovel the dirt in over her, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice spoke in my mind. It was Jim and he said, "Thank you for doing this for her since I cannot. It's just her empty shell but it deserves honor. She's here with Butch and me now and the rest of our companions. We'll wait for you." Blinded by tears, I finished the job and took Rico into the house with me. He stayed very close for awhile. I missed Sadie but knew she was happier with her dearest friends again.

Two dogs with "Papa" Jim
Going trick or treating!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Dog Named Butch

I was living in Whetstone, just north of Huachuca City, AZ when Butch came into the household. Jim and I had to have Alanna, our beloved wolf-Chow of 13 years, PTS due to an inoperable tumor in October 1990. We went dogless for almost three years. I was reduced to taking treats to neighborhood dogs and feeding scraps to what seemed to be an orphaned half-grown coyote--a VERY BAD practice which I DO NOT recommend!!

We were active in the local VFW Post in HC and became  good friends with an older couple, John and Alyne Pope, who also were. active members. She died from COPD (they were from Kentucky and both smoked like chimneys!) and he carried on for a bit and got a dog, probably mostly Brittany Spaniel, and named him Butch. Butch got to know Jim and me well, so when John had to go into assisted living and move nearer his adult children, he begged us to take Butch and in late 1993, he came to live with us.

For awhile Butch was more Jim's dog and went down to the VFW almost daily with him--he was an officer at the time and had tasks to take care. of.  However Butch and I got along well too and he went places with me also. He was deathly afraid of riding in a car yet he did not want to stay home. Mostly he would crouch in the back seat of our SUV and if we drove on a mountain road, he totally refused to look out. He  did enjoy going on expeditions with us though ,and went along on a number of picnics and hikes.

He was not much to get on the furniture but I tried to keep him clean as his white coat showed dirt badly. He did not like baths but for a long time I think I could have skinned him alive and he would not have snapped or fought. Here is one of his bath sessions. Doesn't he look crestfallen?

In about 1996 we acquired Sadie, who will have a story of her own. She and Butch hit it off at once and became virtually inseparable. Together they went almost everywhere with us although we did put them in a boarding kennel a time or two, like when we made a trip to Kentucky for my grandfather's 100th birthday in 1997 and to an RWA conference in 1999.

I'm not sure how old Butch was when John got him or when he came to live with us. At the time though he was fairly young and lively. A neighbor had a part Border Collie he had inherited from a nephew who lived with him awhile. The black and white rascal was called simply Dog, Dog and Butch were great friends before we got Sadie and loved to play a kind of doggie-tag chase game. Wow, those two dogs could really run! They'd trade chased and chaser positions and run until I was worn out watching them. Dog lived to be 18, a very elderly canine, and  was around until I left in 2008.

We did a lot of yard work and Butch had a favorite hiding place in the shallow basin we'd dug when planting a small tree. We called it Butch's foxhole. He would rest his chin on the rim and watch us work frr that cool and shady spot! He also took his job as guard dog and welcome officer very seriously and would sit in what I called his sentry pose, alert and watchful until his eyes were drooping shut!.

Finally in 2003 he was going down hill and no longer ran. He even got a bit grumpy and we had to coax him to eat. It was Butch who got down and could not get up when I took Jim to the ER the night before the massive heart attack took him and it was Butch who got his release at the Vet's within a few minutes of the time of Jim's actual passing. Thus they went together to the Rainbow Bridge to collect Alanna, Angus, Flash, Mickey, Madra, Beauregard and a number of other dogs that had been part of my life, Jim's and ours as a couple. Sadie and I carried on after that but it was a hard and sad time for both of us.

So on National Dog Day which I extend to a week, I lovingly remember Butch   It will be good to see him again! In the end he was my dog as Sadie had become Jim's.