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!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Blast from the Past. Commencement?

In today's local paper they had a feature on the Alamogordo High School graduation. I look at those fresh young faces and read about the plans many of them have with a taste of bittersweet nostalgia., Once upon a time, about a million years ago, that was me. Ending  and beginning, transition...

May 31, 1962 was the date of Mingus Union's commencement exercise for me. At that time, Mingus was located in the old Jerome High School complex, up the winding road from the Verde Valley. The friend who went up there with me last fall would probably turn green at the idea of school buses navigating that road five days a week, sometimes with rain or even snow on that pavement! However, we thought nothing of it and the drivers didn't seem to be too concerned either. To the best of my knowledge there were no accidents. Anyway, I've been reading my journal about those last few weeks of school and the culmination of my twelve years of academic effort.  It is really hard to believe I was that girl, even that those days and times are really a part of my life. It is so far away.

I was very happy and proud of the dress my grandmother and great aunt had made for me. Today eighth graders would find it juvenile and laughable, perhaps suitable for first communion or some such event but for me and for that time, it was right. I had pictures taken in it and in my cap and gown--all grown up with heels and makeup and dignity. (Yes, I am smiling now!) Again, could that really have been me? In a prior life, perhaps.

I am sure I have mentioned before that I made a speech, the theme of which was "Dare to be Different" and the difference I spoke of was daring to excel.  Yes, I actually made valedictorian, a fact I was not sure of until the last couple of weeks. As a sophomore when my early crush graduated as co-salutatorian, I said I would. Foolish vow but one I kept. Had I not missed a year of school it is most likely I would not have attained that honor but I dropped from a small group of over-achievers into another class group who were less dedicated.

Oddly the girl I thought I was competing with was not the real competition. Another girl was and became salutatorian but as far as I know she did not go to college and in fact married shortly after our graduation. Anyway, I beat her grade average by a percentage point or two and  the award was mine.Of course there is also irony in the fact I then did not head off to college either for over four years and instead became a professional cowboy girl.

I spent four years in hard labor and dangerous adventures before I finally went on to continue my formal schooling in September 1966. I see now that waiting a year or two between high school and college is becoming "the thing" since the President's elder daughter is going to do it and many less known young folks are as well. Actually I think it is a good idea. Some real work and life experience and a taste of how limited your opportunities can be with only a high school diploma can make college a much more significant and important step in one's progress.

I'm actually in favor of some form of mandatory 'service' for at least a year and maybe two for all young people when they turn eighteen or graduate from high school. Some kind of Peace Crops/Job Corps/NewCCC could accomplish a lot of needed work in both rural and urban areas while letting young people experience work and life away from home under some level of regimentation and discipline similar to that of the military. Not everyone should be in the military but some service and work could be beneficial to both the youth and their country and community! However I am sure the outcry would be long and loud that rights were being violated or something! Expecting youth to work? To live in barracks or dorms and without drugs, booze, sex and rock n' roll?? Child abuse! Cruel and unusual punishment!!

But back to the memoir aspect: Did my four years of "service" do anything for me?  I think so. When I did go to college I was very much oriented to making this new endeavor work and shaping a better future for myself. In most ways, I suppose that happened but that is another story!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Other Brother

If he were still with us, Alex would be 57 today. He came into the world one day short of three weeks after my 16th birthday. Okay--so I give my age away; well I am not ashamed of it as I earned every line and gray hair!! But this is not about me. Mom was 39 and dad 47 when he was born--that is significant later on.

Alex spring 1960 with big sis
That spring and summer I picked up quite a bit of mom's housewifely tasks as well as doing my normal livestock chores. I learned quite a bit about cooking and could already clean--kind of stable style with the shovel and wheelbarrow--just kidding. Mom was the plumpest I ever saw her since she ate a richer diet for awhile as she was breastfeeding; the only one of the three of us for which she did. The few extra pounds softened her face and I think she was basically happy. Maybe for the last time in some ways as life rapidly got much harsher after that time.

Alex seemed to be a healthy and happy baby and small kid. I guess we all doted on him to some extent. Again I had wanted a sister but in retrospect he was better off being a boy; a girl would have had even a harder time than I did. He learned to read very early and was reading Reader's Digest and almost anything he could get hold of before he started school and he had an incredible memory for facts and figures. By the time I left home basically for good seven years later--when I finally went off to college--he was a walking, talking encyclopedia, especially of geography. He could tell you the capital of every state, the highest peak and its elevation, the name and height of most of the peaks in the Rockies and mileage between many places, just for starters!
Alex on QH stud colt, Leo c; 1965

I never quite built the bond with him that I had with Charlie. We did not get to work together although I did take care of him quite a bit while I was still home and would clown around and be silly which he seemed to find amusing. He was a classic 'baby of the family' in some ways but also always very much his own person. We were both Taureans, and shared a number of traits but our relationship was halfway between siblings and maybe an aunt-nephew or something due to the age difference,. The hardships our family went through with dad's physical and mental health issues in the mid 1960s hit Alex at a hard time, too young to understand all that was going on but old enough to feel the stress and experience some of the hardships. I am sure that left its mark.

By the time Alex was in his teens, both Charlie and I were gone from home and often pretty much estranged from our parents for various reasons. Alex finished high school in Silver City, NM and graduated with honors but shortly a major heart defect was discovered and that really changed his life. It was probably a birth defect he had always had--a constricted aorta so that  his lower extremities had very low blood pressure while it was high in the upper parts of his body. In 1978 he had surgery to insert a stint and had to take some blood thinners and other drugs the rest of his life.

Although Charlie and I both tried to encourage him to break free and get on with his own life, he stayed with our parents until Dad's death in a freak accident. He later said he knew someone had to take care of Mom and Dad as they were aging, in bad health and living pretty much on the edge. He chose to share that existence and put his own life on hold. I honor his sacrifice although it may have been unwise and certainly was detrimental to him. When Alex was 20, Dad was 67 and diabetic with vision issues and heart/circulatory problems that ran in his family. Mom was only fifty nine but stress and hard times had taken their toll on her as well. Charlie and I helped them as we could but you have to understand Dad was warped, single-minded and stuck on his difficult path to the point we could not do very much to aid the family. That really hurt and still does.  Dad was asking for aid but it had to be 100% on his terms and they were often totally unreasonable!

Finally after Dad was killed riding a bicycle along a busy road, Mom insisted that Alex go to college and move off toward his own life. He began at the nearest junior college in January of 1990. He was almost thirty-one then. He did very well academically, of course, but socially he had to try to advance from maybe 16 in terms of experiences and 'socializing' (to use the dog-training term of learning to meet and deal with all sorts of external issues and experiences) as he went along.  Of course it was hard, brutal at times. Still he persevered, got his AB from Eastern Arizona, went on to ASU where he got his BA and then to law school at the same institution. He passed the bar the first try and became licensed to practice in both state and federal courts.

He worked with a very independent and strict Constitutionalist attorney  for awhile and did well but most of her work was pro bono and she could not pay him much. After that, he landed a junior associate position with a law firm in Sierra Vista, AZ. , close to where I was then living. Our mother had died from cancer while he was in law school and after that we grew closer and got to know each other and be friends. We cleaned out the old home and shared a few other trips a well.. He was a big help to me when my husband died suddenly in November 2003. But sadly, in September of 2005, just two months after achieving his dream of buying a house and having built a good reputation with his law firm as an excellent legal scholar and writer and learning to be good in the courtroom as well, he developed an aneurysm at the site of the long-ago-surgery. Before the doctors could determine what was wrong, he had lost too much blood internally and died in the OR at the Tucson Heart Hospital.

Lawyer Alex, c: 2004
I miss him very much and often wonder what he might have achieved had he lived closer to a normal life span. He could have been a good judge, an instructor/professor at a law school or perhaps researched and written some very insightful and influential articles. Now we will never know. Charlie and I tried to keep his house for awhile but finally had to let it go when managing as a rental became too difficult and costly. We still have the 1969 Ford F250 pickup which Alex had inherited from Dad who had bought it in Farmington, NM in 1971. Charlie drives it mostly and calls it "The Spirit of Alex." I continue to use the small Ford Focus wagon, 2000 model, that Alex had bought in the spring of 2004. That is the "Pattie Wagon," which I will explain another time. A lot of our baby brother is still with us and always will be. So wherever you are today, Alex, happy 57th birthday from your brother and sister. You are always in our hearts. We are proud of you and love you very  much.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Thought for the Day

I recently came across this essay, written about 1975.  I was both shocked and saddened to realize how little has changed in forty years. If anything the situation has become worse, more polarized and more contentious. At any rate, I will share it since it still pretty well sums up my feelings and thoughts on a subject much in the news and entangled in our lives.

The Tyranny of Labels

Religion is to give humanity hope and government to give them reasoned guidance and protection. Yet over the eons, more brutal and bloody wars have been fought for religion or system of government than even for gain. Though in the end, it usually boils down to a conflict of power by someone or several someones although religion and politics are the magic terms used to inflame the masses into action.
Would that we were capable of life without labels, without authority save our own under the Supreme Authority. Then we could live without war. But will mankind ever be so improved? Nay, never ,one would say, looking to the lessons of history. Civilization is the thinnest and most fragile of veneers, and we are all raging beasts beneath it. It is a sad farce with which we have deluded ourselves.
No form of government is intrinsically “bad.” Rather it is those who govern that make a system either bad or good.  A “good” ruler or dictator can make a utopia of his or her land while a “bad” democracy can result from misjudgment by its electors. “Communism” and “Capitalism” can both work if the leaders are fair and clear-minded and the people believe in and trust them and the system. It is only when we feel threatened by the fact the world holds others who believe differently from us that system becomes problem. It is only when we make jihad over differing labels that peace is impossible.
Do not call me “conservative”, “Democrat,” or “Baptist,” like it is a curse. Do not say “Catholic”, “liberal” or “monarchist” in the same tone and manner as “bastard” or “whore.” We do not need to live in a tyranny of labels. We could stop doing so tomorrow, today, now! Are you not weary of it, too, brain and bone and soul?
Although there will always be minorities of some kind with a degree of prejudice and hatred, we can work to overcome this. Must we really think, “We are flat and they are fat; we hate them?” or “I am light but you are bright, so I shun you?” Life would be utterly boring if all of us were exactly alike in every respect. For the most part we welcome and enjoy those differences. Therefore, why should we be repelled to violence and ostracism by some while we enjoy and espouse others?  Do we really think we are so perfect that we should play deity and make everyone else in our own image?
To the ancient Romans, a “barbarian” was a stranger, one who spoke not Latin but an alien tongue that sounded like gibberish. Barbarians were less than human, somewhere between beasts and demons. Then there were heretics, those whose spiritual beliefs were at variance with those held by the rulers or upper class. What a threat they were! They must be converted or put to the sword! Despite these measures, they might gain adherents and eventually become the majority, making the others the heretics.

Hatred is the son of fear begotten by ignorance. Yet how heartily do we adopt and accept this illegitimate orphan and nourish it to strength and power! We starve our children to feed it and deny our own humanity to its demands. Kick those stupid labels aside and respect the way strengths of difference make the whole better. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Cowboy Girl's wing man

Charlie on Prez, a favorite of us both
There was another person in the family who got to do many of the same things I did. Unfortunately since he was eight years younger,  he often got stuck with the grut* work while I was out riding, ponying new colts and animals we were starting to train. getting new mules and horses used to the reins, going a variety of places that often seemed to be mule-eating or horse-killing  bugaboos until the saddle animals learned better.. There were always corrals to clean, feed and sometimes water to be hauled, repairs to fences, corrals, feed boxes and equipment  and a lot more tedious back-breaking work. Therefore, my brother Charlie never developed  the degree of attachment to the 'critters' that I did although he did ride and was definitely fond of some of those he worked with the most.
Demonstrating a gentle mule.

When Charlie first got big enough to begin to help out in a meaningful way, we had our hassles. I know I was bossy--what big sister isn't! I was also in charge as my dad made a point of telling Charlie. So yeah, we went round and round for a few years but by the time he was twelve and I was pushing twenty we came to understand how valuable a good working alliance would be to both of us.  As dad's health began to decline and he got increasingly more cantankerous and at times downright mean, we learned to stick together and work as a team. That was when we built the durable bond that holds to this very day.

People are often surprised to find we have now shared a home for seven years and had very few cross words between us. We shared several household moves which we did ourselves and many other difficult tasks,  Not a lot of siblings could do that, though I am sure there are others. It just isn't all that common. We often talk about those earlier days, still trying to understand some of the more difficult and painful parts yet cherishing good memories of shared adventures, family outings and the chance to meet many strong and unique people who became our heroes to some degree and certainly examples that we used as role models.

The old saying, ":Bare is back without brother" is so very true. Blood truly is thicker than water and I am eternally thankful that although I missed having a sister-- grateful  various special and dear female friends have filled that place for me--I was blessed with a wonderful brother. Actually there were two of them but the baby of the family, who was born right after my sixteenth birthday,  was taken from us too soon. Alex died from an aneurysm  at a mere forty-six years of age when he had just gotten a good start on his career as an attorney and bought his first house. We miss him still.

*Grut? So now to explain that weird word in the second sentence! Remember we grew up in the late fifties and early sixties before several four letter words became common vernacular for everyone except the elderly and even some of them took them up! We did not dare to use any profanity or crude words in our parents' hearing lest we get our mouths well scrubbed out with Lava soap! However there were plenty of situations, events and frustrations that cried aloud for some hard language! Yet even just between the two of us, we seldom to never used any of those "bad" words for a long time for if we did it at all, we'd be sure to slip and say the wrong thing at the wrong time! Therefore, we coined our own multipurpose swear word: grut. It sounded gross and you know how kids are with gross things--so we could say "Grut happens", "Grut on that", "Go to Grut" and "Grut you!" And there was not a darn thing Mom or even Dad could do about it! No, we weren't cussing or using vulgar language! We still might occasionally slip that in but sad to say, our vocabularies are not nearly as refined as they were in those days.Many years around railroad people, the military, cops and such have left a 'grutty' residue!

It just  happened that I was born first; had our genders been reversed things might have been very different. I might not have become a Cowboy Girl although I suspect that was written in my stars all along and sure to happen, regardless. But even the strongest and toughest of us needs a partner, a trusted someone to count on-- a wing man, in the vernacular first of the military pilots and now much expanded past that original meaning. Thank all the Powers That Be that this was given to me.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

...to all the moms of two, four or other-footed kids and to the aunts, grandmas, big sisters and teachers who find themselves filling in for moms that are MIA, away on duty or otherwise not available-- a happy day and heartfelt thanks for all you do. Good karma and many blessings to each of you. And for the many of us who now have to remember a mom who is no longer physically with us, here is a verse I wrote for my mother's memorial service. I still feel this is true. I miss you, Mom but I know you are there for me and with me every day. Love never dies; that I believe.

And here are two pictures of mom as I remember her, one very plain as the working housewife I remember and the other prettied up a bit but both of them lovely as she was.

         In Loving Memory
I know the loving hand remains
   To urge me on, to ease my pains,
Applaud my victories, share my woes,
   Sustain my friends, confound my foes.

I know the loving heart enfolds
   Me closely still and gently holds
Me when my stumbling steps may stray
   Off the straight and narrow way.

The wise and loving mind still guides
   Me with the wisdom that provides
Direction to each thought and deed
   And comfort in my hours of need.
A mother’s love will never die
   And so I do not need to cry.
I only have to reach to find
   That loving hand and heart and mind.

            GMW, For Mom’s Memorial Service;

Friday, May 6, 2016

Caveat Donor

I know the old saying is “caveat emptor” which means “buyer beware” but in this day and age, it is equally the responsibility of each of us to be sure our donations to causes we support are going to good uses, to legitimate and honorable organizations and to research before we give!
I know a lot of my readers are animal lovers, just as I am, and very committed to helping rescue lost, abandoned or mistreated pets. There are so many these days. The official word is that the economy is booming but there are certainly enclaves, industries and segments of the population that have not found this to be true. People are still losing homes, ending up on the street or moving to seek or get work. In that process, a lot of dogs and cats and a few more exotic pets are being abandoned, dumped at shelters or passed off to less than good homes.
A small circle of friends and I got involved this week in trying to rescue a young female Australian Cattle Dog, also known as ACD or Queensland Heelers. She was in a shelter in Roswell, NM which is known to be a high kill shelter and to have had a lot of problems in recent times. It’s even made the news in Albuquerque, the TV station I mainly watch. Her time was getting very short and my friend Julie in Ohio, who loves this breed especially and has adopted a series of ACDs with physical and health issues learned of her plight and called me.  
Little "Lassie"
Already having five ‘rescues’ in our home, I could not take her, so I called on another dog-loving friend and we tried to get this little girl out to safety. In that process we came up against an outfit that calls its Uncaged Paws. Supposedly they were going to take “Lassie”—but then we learned they had not done so! That got both Julie and me doing some research on this somewhat illusive and mysterious “rescue” organization.
Finally thanks to help from Southwest Collie Rescue with which Kathleen works as she has adopted two dogs through them, Lassie was removed from the shelter, passed along to Kathleen and then on to a wonderful veterinarian in Capitan, NM where she will be spayed, checked for heartworm and other problems and then go to a good forever home. We were all very grateful to have gained this happy ending. We have to use the motto of Best Friends and some other bona fide rescue groups: We can’t save them all but we will save all we can.”
But back to Uncaged Paws, here are two links where you can read for yourself why I recommend that no one do business with them or make a donation! As far as I can see they are totally bogus, almost if not actually a scam and certainly not a reliable friend for animals!  Read and draw your own conclusions!!

Irresponsible Rescuer Kelly M. Barker

Justice 4 Shady People Hiding Behind the Name of "Rescue" (Facebook page):https://www.facebook.com/Justice-4-Shady-People-Hiding-Behind-the-Name-of-Rescue-238325412858330/ 

From now on I will definitely research any rescue or animal care organization before I donate.  There are a couple of no-kill groups here in my community, one with a better reputation than the other. Kitty City and its dog branch deserve support as does Button Brand, a local vet clinic also involved in rescue. On a wider scale, I wholeheartedly support Best Friends, in Kanab Utah.
While it is partly my personal political views, I do not support PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) because of their extreme stance on a number of animal related issues. I am also very dubious about HSUS (Humane Society of the US) as they are top-heavy with high paid executives and also rather extreme.  ASPCA is on my maybe list; they have been a good organization but I feel have been taken over by some extremist elements. I will continue to research these and others.
I admit I have trouble with the notion that animals have “rights” in the same manner we higher animals do.  However our domestic animals rely on us for their needs: food, shelter, medical care, and companionship. Whether we buy, adopt or raise a companion animal, we are ethically and morally bound to provide for it once we take it into our care. There can be circumstances when a person or family truly cannot continue to care for a pet but in such cases they need to seek either a reliable friend or relative to assume their duty or select an ethical  no-kill shelter . Most communities now have one if you look!
And while I believe in rescue and adoption very deeply, to include spaying or neutering 99.9% of pet animals, I cannot go along with shutting down or regulating to death the many honest and reliable breeders. These people raise a specific type of dog for a purpose such as the Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, German Shorthair , Labrador or Alaskan Husky.  They are not “puppy mills” or contributing in any measurable way to the overpopulation of dogs and cats.
            There are many sound reasons to preserve and improve various breeds and to continue to produce them. Good breeders genetically test before breeding a pair and they do not crank out the maximum number of pups they can each year! They have clean, well kept and comfortable—for the dogs—facilities and welcome a perspective buyer to examine the place and research them! They also check buyers before releasing a pup or older dog into their care. But that is a whole other story!