The Mountain Mouth

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Donkeys and the Meaning of Life May 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 3:06 am

Dear Neighbors,

Don’t you just feel like singing? I’m thinking of that song from “Camelot” – “It’s May!”. Yes, I confess, I dig certain musical comedies. But really, when the sun is deliciously warm and the wildflowers are stupendous, when the birds are tweeting, the frogs a-peeping; in May when the grass is green and the mountain vibrating with life – it’s hard not to feel goofy.

I started taking my camera everywhere last month when it got so darn pretty. Once you leave the gravel road and hit the dirt it is a photo op everywhere you look. This has led to making friends, sort of, with Wildflower the Donkey.* He is there to guard the baby cows from our local pack of feral dogs.

I had heard that donkeys and mules dislike dogs (and other canids like coyotes) while I was researching mustangs, mules, and donkeys. Then I ended up with two mules, and saw it with my own eyes. One day all the horses and mules were loose in the yard, doing some weed whacking, and Butch, (who owes his looks to Jack Russell-beagle-Chihuahua-and –possibly-dachshund ancestors) decided to harass Millie, who was innocently snacking on some Bermuda grass. She trotted away, he followed, barking his head off, and she daintily kicked out her right hind as she went, never breaking stride. Butch literally rolled a few times through the air before landing, then instantly jumped up and shook himself, a clear “I’m good!” in Butch-speak. Both animals then pretended it did not happen. I realized it was true- a mule could easily whop coyote butt. And there is that infamous group of pictures that gets E-mailed around, showing a mule on a packing trip in Montana that kills a mountain lion with its teeth. The pictures don’t look faked! I haven’t talked to my neighbor but I bet Wildflower is doing a good job defending the calves. But if not, maybe he can make a living posing for postcards. Either way he’s living a great life.

Which brings me to my real subject. I was thinking today, whilst doing errands, about how we spend our days. Specifically, I was shopping for food, and thinking it was all kind of pointless. You work, devoting a lot of precious hours, to get money, but then you spend the money just sort of maintaining things so you can get to work the next day. You gotta eat, put gas in the car, buy some new socks, dish soap and dog food, pay the insurance, do the laundry and while you are at it isn’t it about time to wash the car again? Looks like you drove through Hurricane Katrina. As meaningful as Work can be, if it is not doing the thing you absolutely love, then this sense of futility can creep in. Of course the popular wisdom is, find out what you absolutely love to do, find time to do it regardless of everything else going on, and eventually, through the power of The Secret, The Law of Attraction, God, and/or the Power of Your Authentic Self, this thing you love becomes your job and begins to support you.

I believe this entirely, and at the same time, believe in being happy in the moment even when that perfect life I am envisioning seems a tad distant. Maybe it doesn’t even happen all at once, like that big Day I Won the Lottery. (I am not a big gambler, by the way; one vice of which I am pure, in case anyone is keeping track.) Maybe the Perfect Life gets that way through degrees.

One of my Perfect Life fantasies is  getting up with the sun, having some leisurely coffee and oatmeal, and doing some yoga or go for a walk, and write until mid-day; then grab Reno and go on a nice ride up the mountain or over to Murder Cabin. Then some lunch, a little more writing or reading… later, a great dinner, play some poker (Hah! You got me!) music, friends, jalapeños, etc. Or spend the evening alone with the dogs in bed and watch a movie. And of course there is a lot of Romance in there too, but you don’t want to hear about that, I’m sure.

And duh, I have that Perfect Life right now. I don’t get it every day, but I get a lot of it every day. A lot of the hours are mine to do with as I wish and so it boils down to a choice. Life certainly is precious and it surely comes down to a finite time of days and hours, and our choice of what we do with them becomes who we are. It is way too easy to get swept up in events and chores and other people’s agendas and various and obligations and responsibilities, way too easy to get sucked in to TV, dumb magazines and the Internet. Boy, the Internet can really suck your entire day! Does an innocent stand a chance between Facebook, Googling, twittering and apparently highly addictive games like Farmland? I too, would love to adopt a virtual horse. Except I already have four actual adopted horses. (counting the dog kicking Mille mule).

I am not perfect. Some days, some hours, countless minutes, I have spent fairly pointlessly, not consciously, not fully. Opportunities passed by, wrong words said, wrong choice made. But the great thing is that right now I am doing something I love. And when I finish, I might have a long, hot bath, a massage from a friend, a great book and a glass of wine… but not before checking Facebook.

See you in cyberspace,

The Mountain Mouth

*Wildflower is not his real name.


Riding Captain Call May 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 5:13 am
I thought I’d share a column from 2008,
in which I am saddle-starting a  big, 3-year-old mustang named Captain Call.

Dear Neighbors,

Today was just about a perfect day. I love, love, love, spring. Today was warm and you could hear the grass growing. Up here the wildflowers have not yet started but you can feel – almost smell – them coming. The garden has volunteered lettuce, dill, onions, garlic and cilantro; I’ve planted peas, turnips, beets, more lettuce – about eight varieties – radishes, chives, and germinated the tomatoes in windowsill starts. The exciting thing is that the seeds I gathered last year are alive. THEY’RE ALIVE!!

We used to spend good money on a seed order every year. Hmm. Will the seeds I gathered be acclimated to our micro-environment at 5000 forest-and-mountain protected feet? I am excited to taste some second generation Red Lodge lettuce and herbs.

Did I mention, I love spring? I feel energized.

Springing forward on the clock is one thing. I like to use the energy of the fabulously fecund and sprouting earth to spring forward to my own goals.

I confess over this past winter I indulged a passion for carbohydrates. Bagels, with extra cream cheese. Bread, preferably home-baked whole wheat, made perfection with an ounce (or more) of butter. Homemade chocolate cupcakes with cocoa-mocha frosting… With the warming weather I am more attracted to fruit juice and salad. Thank God. That carbo-trend was not in my best interest.

What is in our best interest, anyway? I try to stay tuned in to where I want to be, and where am I going. Much of my energy up here is focused on my rescued animals. The dogs and cats are just family members; obnoxious, obstreperous, complaining, peeing-in-the-house, spoiled family members. But the equines have become my thing.

Why? Because they need us so much. The unwanted horse crisis is real. Dire predictions of economic woes, real and forecast, have Americans in a tizzy.

The American mustang is losing its ranges due to pressures from ranchers, hunters and the federal budget allocations which apparently care not for the will of the American people. Too many more mustangs are being planned for gather this year. I fervently hope that qualified adopters will step up. But adopting a wild mustang ain’t for everybody.

That being said, my adopted mustangs are my biggest joy around here, along with Millie, the abused mule. Government BLM mustangs, Gus and Captain Call, were adopted February ’06. They arrived fuzzy, scared, and full of worms. This spring, they are gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

Today was a perfect day. Not only did I get to share a beverage with Gus, I had people around so that I could ride Call. We don’t have land line or cell phone service; we do have a neighborhood radio for emergencies. But when you are just starting a mustang colt, riding him for the tenth time, you want somebody there… just in case. I do a lot with theses boys when I am up here all alone, but at my venerated age I must be cognizant of the line between foolhardy and overly cautious.

Captain Call came here a 2-year-old stallion from the Salt Wells HMA in Wyoming. He was captured at 6 months, and sent to Colorado. Then, he was trucked all the way to Ridgecrest, California, where a volunteer named Marsha made friends with him, worked with him, and even saddled him. Captain Call has been a joy to work with. Mellow, happy, interested, my huge baby.

So today, the afternoon was sunny, balmy, intoxicating. I headed to the round pen. To get a horse’s focus, you can “send” them around a round pen and ask for changes in direction and speed. So this I did, and when I was sure Call’s attention was on me, I geared him up. I try to slow my suddenly galloping heart. Am I scared? Hell, yes I am scared. This horse is huge – 16 1/2 hands, big for a mustang, or any damn horse (I am 5′ 3″ on a good day). This is a wild mustang, recently a stallion. In my day I was a decent rider. But that day is now about 35 years ago. Riding a horse is just like a bicycle: once you know, you never forget – but I am no longer a strong or fearless rider. But what the hell. I have been on this horse a few times and he didn’t buck or scrape me against the rail or freak out in any way. Of course this time could be different…

When he settled right where I needed him to, next to my mounting stump, I felt that I was just lifted – I flew – up into the saddle. Call was solid and calm, good baby; Calm Call. I nudged his nose, gently, with the rein at the same time a cue with my outside leg. He moved off, easy, nice. We rode around and around for about half an hour. If he got stuck, I’d slap my offside leg. In no time he was turning, stopping, backing up. I finally felt myself relax; my back became independent from my behind; I moved with that big, sweet colt. He could tell I was encouraging him.

I had a moment of transcendence. I saw us going beyond the round pen, up, into the forest, and galloping down in the basin. I relaxed, I enjoyed.

It is a good view from up way there, on that big chestnut mustang colt.

Call and I are off to a great start.

Spring. A time to start; a time to move forward. Press out from the dark earth. Let your shoots shoot. Let’s Grow!

The Mountain Mouth