My good horse pepper died today by Cowboy Clay

my old horse died today. i guess it doesnt matter much to anyone but me. i bought him back in 92. my friend and i were at the cort bar just celebrating another day i guess when a pretty girl stopped in with a trailer load of horses from arkansas for sale. she was full of smiles and full of figure so after a few drinks and a ride under the street lights ( on the horse not the girl ) i became the owner of my new friend pepper. the next morning with a heavy head and a lite pocket book i walked out to examine my new purchase. he was big and black and i guess compared to his previous owner you might even call him ugly. while i was saddling him up and sobering up i wondered if perhaps i had over payed but when i stepped home on him all my doubts were dismissed.there was no buck no runaway. he wasnt real handy with the rein but he had this perfect smooth balletic lope that felt like whiskey on the water. later when my pards and i would be heading out to the gather they would all be bouncing along at a trot shaking their bones and i would be sitting up there on pepper rocking in my chair like a baby. man he made me feel good.he wasnt the cat quick cutting horse type for pushing and sorting cattle but he had the persistence and patience to get the job done.he had the heart to go anywhere i asked him no matter how tough, he would never balk or back down. when it came to roping and dragging calves to the fire he would always get me in position to throw a good loop and he could pull any critter i caught. man he made me feel good. when he got old i didnt ride him any more.i didnt use him for any thing more than just to see him and bring the memories of all the miles ridden together that make me feel good. so my good horse died today. i guess it doesnt matter much to anyone but me. but man it makes me feel bad.  

Daphne in the Doghouse

The winds had howled louder than any pack of coyotes and wolves put together.  Those winds had taken the foot of snow that fell in the night and hurled it on to the last bit of road out of the ranch. As Daphne listened,  the howling began to morph into yelling.  Phrases like “Montana sucks in winter” and “You are crazy as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore, are you?” and, of course, “We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do,” came screaming at her from outside.    MEMO0003

Earlier in the day, she had got out and got back albeit with a bit of maneuvering.  So she thought that 4 hours later it might still be possible to get out.  Of course, there was always the “upper gate”.  This is the gate next to the cattle guard which opens up into the North pasture that borders the frontage road.  Once thru this gate it’s fairly easy to ride over the rocky yet level field and go out another gate on to the frontage road.  This is never “drifted in”.  However, for 20 years Daphne has complained that the “gate” is impossible for her to close.  It’s really really tight.  She can get it open, but then can’t get the darn post back in it’s wire hoop. Plus she can’t open the barbed wire gate without shredding her good coat.  Since fashion is always more of a consideration that practicality, Daphne prefers to try to go out the main entrance.

But even Daphne had become practical in the last two weeks since the weather has been just terrible with snow drifting and temperatures in the teens and lower, demanding that she wise up.  So, she took to carrying a Carhartt canvas jacket in the front seat just in case she had to open the upper gate. She still couldn’t close the thing, but the cows are mostly way down the other pasture and rarely come up to this gate, so it’s safe to leave it open for an hour or two.

Even so, as Daphne neared the cattle guard and seeing that Cowboy Clay had not opened the upper gate, she decided to plow her way through the drifts.  Recklessly, she gunned the motor of the All Road and drove over the cattle guard and into the first drift which was a tad bit harder and less fluffy than she thought.  Her heart lept to her throat as the car came to a dead stop in the next drift. Continue reading

”Shit Happens” Example #2: The Blown Up Bull

Daphne hadn’t been in Montana long and had only been with Clay less than a year when the phone rang.

”Is Clay around,” said the man on the other line.

”No, he’s in town, “Daphne answered.

”Well, this is Soot and I was irrigating and saw that Clay’s black bull blew up.”

Daphne, for once, was at a loss for words.

“I’ll get ahold of him and tell him, Soot,” she murmured.

“Yeh, he don’t look too good,” Soot replied.

“Yeh, I bet, “ she sighed, “Well, thanks.”

She hung up the phone and called Clay.

“I’ve got some  bad news, Clay,” she cried, “Soot said your bull blew up!”

“Oh, shit,” he said.

”Who would do such a thing, Clay?

“What are you talking about?”

“Well who would blow up a bull?  A teenager?   Or did he step on a land mine and why would there be land mines?  Do you use dynamite to blow up tree stumps? Oh that’s stupid, ” she babbled.

”His dick blew up.  He didn’t blow up. He broke it breeding a cow and now it’s swollen.”

Oh,  I didn’t know you could break that.  Well is that better than being blown to smithereens?

“What do you think?”

“I guess not.”

“Shit happens.”

“Indeed it does.”


The Clues are in the Conversation

A few months ago on a website an Australian called the U.S. a “mediocre country”.  There are a lot of USAians who would take an exception to that.  In fact, most presidents wax eloquent about how  the U.S. is the only indispensable nation. Of course, that would make all other countries dispensable.  And most countries would take an exception to that.

I often say when speaking to Europeans that the U.S. is an unsophisticated country and not all that smart although most USAians think they are super smart.   It’s kind of like being sophomores in the history of the world.  We think we know everything.  But prime examples of being not so smart is that the U.S. doesn’t have some kind of universal health care system or a decent pension system.  It also has stopped making practical stuff and thinks that gambling is the answer to almost everything.

One big reason for this lack of sophistication and smarts is that we don’t engage in dialogue except on rare Websites that have civil discourse or at a town meeting.  A lot of USAians talk amongst people who they agree with rather than at “a town meeting” or cafe or watering hole where one must look neighbors in the face and try to make a point and to try to see their point.  The French, on the other hand,  have their cafe society. They do their duty as citizens by talking “politics”. (“Politics” is a discussion, not a shouting match, of the way we wish to live our lives and what we enjoy and what gives our lives meaning.  It has little to do with our politicians who seem to not have a clue or simply not care what the polis is or wants.). The French leave work and go out to a cafe and argue about life and art. They engage in conversation and often use dialectics in search of clues to the mysteries of life. Or at least that’s the way it used to be.  When I was in grad school at the University of Michigan, after play rehearsal we would go to a bar, order pitchers of beer and discuss how we would save the world through art.  When I did Off-Off Broadway theater in New York City, we would adjourn to an Irish pub around the corner from the theater and argue about the choices our characters should make.  We loved to look at all the angles and the contradictions.

But somewhere along the line those personal confrontations became fewer and fewer and didn’t seem to translate into our public lives as citizens.  Historian Christopher Lasch in his book “Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy” has a chapter called “The Lost Art of Argument”.  In it he writes that “what Democracy requires is vigorous public debate, not information.  Yes, we do need information, but information that is “generated only be debate.”  So he kind of takes the “information revolution” and turns it on its head.  Information in and of itself is worthless without being debated.  “Information , usually seen as the pre-condition of debate is better understood as a by-product.”

And how do we gather these clues to the mysteries of life?  By asking questions.  We try to have what Suzuki calls “the beginner’s mind that is not a closed mind.”  We take our ideas and subject them to somebody else’s arguments.  If we passionately engage with an eagerness to learn, we may instead of changing somebody else’s mind find that we have changed our mind.  So we  must listen carefully and be willing to challenge our own beliefs and to say “Maybe what I believe may be wrong.”  How exciting and far less dull than passively taking in information from some newspaper or from some pundit.

Lasch gives a shout out to the social historian Ray Oldenburg’s “The Great Good Place” and with Oldenburg mourns the passing of the local watering hole, the cafe, the hair salon, the soda fountain steps and other places between work and home where conversations used to flourish.  These were places like the soda fountain steps  where kids listened to their fathers debate a local policy with vigor and good-hearted disagreement.  Those places where professions mingled as equals are hard to find in the suburbs, but they still exist in small towns and big cities.  I was lucky to spend the last twenty years in a small town where wisdom came from caring for cows and not from a book.  It came from stories and tall tales told with gusto like the one about a cowboy being out lost in the cold with only two dogs for a Three Dog Night.

Democracy dies if we hide in cul de sacs furtively taking anxiety meds as we peer out of the drawn blinds or retreat to cocktail parties where everybody is of the same class and tows the same party line.    So I suggest this year that you get out and find a Cheers bar in your neighborhood and strike up a conversation with somebody who may see things differently  than you do.  If you don’t have one of those, then go to the nearest town that has one and adopt it as your own.  And for heaven’s sake don’t get your information from a newspaper.  You can get your questions there though.  But also think about this. There may be no answers anyway, only clues.

Bad Dudes

IMG_0935Woke up Monday morning to the news that two fugitives were holed up somewhere around Big Twig.  They were on the run and had abandoned their car and headed into the hills.  At around Noon, word was that they might be heading South on the Boulder Road.  That’s a mile from the ranch.

My husband, to be mild, is not an alarmist.  I’ve never seen him “jumpy” unless somebody comes up to him from behind.  He is one of the most laid back dudes I’ve ever met.  So when I saw him lock the door, I was a bit surprised.

“I don’t want to be alone here when you go out to feed (the cattle bales of hay),” I mewed.

With that he went into the other room and came back with the Colt.

“You can pull back on the trigger and it will fire.  But it will be hard to pull.  So you can also cock the gun and then pull the trigger, ” he said as he laid the gun on my desk.

I just stared at him. Continue reading

How A ‘Farm Bust’ Could Help Renew American Agriculture

Current agriculture methodologies aren’t just bad for land, community, and ecology—they’re increasingly bad for business. Something’s gotta give.

Source: How A ‘Farm Bust’ Could Help Renew American Agriculture


Since Education is back in the news because of the appointment of a Dutch Calvinist from my neck of the woods, I thought it might be a good time for people to examine just what is an “education”. John Taylor Gatto makes the distinction between ‘”education” and “schooling”. I have read his book “The Underground History of American Education”. He wrote an article in 2003 in Harper’s called “Against Education”. You have to subscribe to Harper’s to read the essay, but there are excerpts available on line. I’m not sure of some of his ideas about but definitely like some of his observations about how awful and mind numbing school can be.

You are made to sit in BOXES and are taught to behave so that when you graduate you can sit in another BOX all day long. And at the end of your life you end up in a hospital BOX and then a real BOX. Every four years, in preparation for the ballot BOX, for 18 months we were being herded into two awful BOXES called political parties.  The whole process looked more like that cartoon of the cow staring at a meat packing plant with a sign that said “Enter Left” and “Enter Right”.
My 2¢ is that we need shorter work weeks with one parent working so they have more time to spend with their kids. I learned more from helping my Dad build a barn than I did from awful Miss Bloemendal who kicked me out in the hall every week. As an educator himself, he said, “Children should be hand made and not mass produced.”  I read a lot of books. And I spent a lot of time in the woods making up stories of elves and other mythical creatures.

We hear an awful lot of yapping about “freedom”, but we imprison our children and literally imprision lots of teenagers.  We imprison in prisons around 2.3 million people, more than any other nation.  However, we are a big country.  Proportionately though, we still imprison more than any other nation except maybe North Korea and Cuba.  But according to Politofact, we don’t have accurate information on prison populations in those 2 countries, but they could be ahead of us.  The point is whether we are first or third, it’s a disgrace.

Freedom should not be about the so-called free market of freedom to choose between 20 different cereals.  It should more appropriately be about freedom to think differently and being able to freely express those different thoughts.  But….(there is always a but), as much as we should respect individual freedom, with freedom comes responsibility to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Children should be free to have safe places to run and holler at the top of their lungs.  They should also have mutual respect for others and the good manners not to scream in other peoples spaces.  That goes for adults too!

Good manners and mutual respect for others opinions and cultures are great goals for an educated person.  Since education is a journey, there will be many stops and starts along the way.  So when you come across a different opinion, it is wise to take the PACE approach.  Be Playful, Accepting, Curious, and Empathetic.   Not an easy task especially the Playful part if it’s been knocked out of you due to years of being stuffed in boxes.

The Maven

Notes:  I got the boxes idea from the anthropologist and anarchist thinker David Graeber in his essay on “Revolutions in Reverse” and PACE from cognitive behavioral therapist Dorothy Dacar.