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Baby Horses Die in Government Pens September 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 1:09 am

“We Don’t Count Foals”

It’s July. Outside Reno, Nevada, in the baking desert, a tiny mustang foal tries to lie down to get the sleep her growing bones needs. But there is no shade; the sun burns as relentlessly as the circling flies. She folds her stick-like legs, and thuds to the hard manure-spotted earth. The air temperature is 105, but the desert ground is over 160. Minutes later, the foal struggles back up without sleeping. Her mother is thirsty. There are over seventy wild horses sharing one trough of water. The mare can’t fight her way to the water as often as she needs. Her milk is compromised.

The foal fights for life, but in a few days, dies.

“The extreme 105-degree temperature overwhelmed me within minutes,” said Marjorie Lynne Wagner, advocate, of her visit on July 1 to the Palomino Valley Holding Facility. “When I tested the ground temperature with a new Ryobi infrared thermometer, I was shocked to see how high it read… up to 164 degrees.”

Thousands of public pleas to provide shade and more water for the horses at Palomino Valley and other facilities went unanswered this summer. Jetara Séhart, executive director of Native Wild Horse Protection, offered the Bureau of Land Management funds and materials to erect shelters for the captured mustangs, but as July’s sweltering days dragged on, there was no response. Instead of shade, the BLM installed sprinklers, which the horses studiously avoided as seen in this press release.

Unhappy with the government’s response, advocates planned a “Gimme Shelter” protest for July 20 to draw attention to the suffering horses. When they arrived at Palomino, they were met with threats and told their cars would be towed.

“You need to play nice,” BLM special agents reportedly said. It was insinuated that more protests and public scrutiny could lead to the entire facility being shuttered to the public, like what happened at Broken Arrow.

The protest was moved to Carson City.


“Little Feather” a.k.a. “Sorro” was euthanized photo: Cat Kindsfather

Until 2010, the public was welcome at Broken Arrow, another Nevada mustang and burro holding facility. Most of the almost $80 million annual budget of BLM is spent on the “long term holding” of over 50,000 once-wild mustangs and burros.

Author Terri Farley toured the facility that year and was shocked to see a “tiny emaciated foal standing at the fence line, seeming to plead for help… I was shocked at his condition.”

“I never did witness any shelter to protect near two thousand horses, foals and burros,” said advocate Cat Kindsfather, who photographed that foal the day before its death.

The dead foals are removed from the pens, and their bodies discarded in secret locations. Their deaths are secret, because dead babies are not counted among casualties of the Wild Horse and Burro program.

Not counted.

Why? The official answer is that the foals are too young to have been branded. (A freeze brand is applied to all horses and burros once captured from the wild. The brands serve as identification for each horse.) The obvious beneficial side effect of this policy is that the official death count of the round-ups is kept artificially low. Farley has dubbed them “Phantom Foals”.

“If you are managing the horses properly you need to account for all deaths as these are necessary indicators as to the standard of care,” points out Neda DeMayo, director of Return to Freedom, a 300-acre California sanctuary that houses 400 mustangs, some in intact family bands. De Mayo and others, despite their sanctuaries’ already strained resources, recently outbid killers for mustangs that mysteriously ended up at an auction mixed with Indian mounts, at the Fallon, NV auction last month. For decades, the non-profits and citizens have been left with the clean-up job for a problem artificially created by the wild Horse and Burro Program.

“No animals have passed since July 2,” Palomino Valley Director Jeb Beck said to advocates at a recent press event. But many no longer accept the agency’s numbers.

“We’re concerned about the foal deaths,” Séhart said. “There were 2,000 wild horses at Palomino Valley. The numbers there keep changing mysteriously… now there are 1700. But no horses are dying?”

 “If this is what we can see, then what’s going on behind closed doors?”


Jetara Sethart: Protesting at At Palomino Valley.
“They kept asking me which one I had picked out to save. I choose all of them.”

The horses have their enemies: the corporate ranchers, the oil and gas guys; everybody wants the public lands, now more than ever since “energy independence” is a popular refrain. The Ruby Pipeline that cuts the US out of all profit, while we bear the risk; the frackers, the oil explorers, shale oil diggers, uranium miners, and even the military would all rather operate without having to worry about a bunch of horses dying all over the place. Poisoned water, destroyed ranges and fences: the mustangs are the potential canaries in the coal mine that is the rape of the west.

The semi trucks carrying poisons in and money out don’t want to slow down for a bunch of horses on the road. But most articles that reach the public don’t point to the corporations or the ranchers, but instead scapegoat the horses and burros, and are stuffed full of tired old facts and figures. Despite outside scientific censure the BLM keeps spouting the same numbers year after year despite the thousands of horses whose lives are shattered with the round ups each season. In the last twelve months over 3,660 horses and burros were captured, their future uncertain.

“The Wild Horse and Burro Program has not used scientifically rigorous methods to estimate the population sizes of horses and burros, to model the effects of management actions on the animals, or to assess the availability and use of forage on rangelands,” said the National Research Council’s Report. The product of almost two years worth of investigation and research, it devastatingly details the failure of the BLM to manage the federally protected wild horses in its care.

Reporter Andrew Cohen who has followed the issue for years put the report in regular language. “There is no scientific basis for removing thousands of the nation’s horses from public lands and placing them in expensive and dangerous enclosures. There is no scientific basis for ignoring or minimizing safe fertility controls. There is no scientific basis for claiming that the relatively small number of horses do more damage to our lands than do the vast number of cattle and sheep who graze on it at vastly under-market “welfare ranching” rates.”

Off the record, BLM employees admit “Nobody knows how many horses are out there.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva, touring the facility with the press last month, agreed, calling the BLM “a very broken management system” that is “not functional.”

“When advocates are passionate about an issue — as advocates for the wild horses are — sometimes unfortunately you dismiss that as being ‘a point of view,’ the congressman said. “I think what the academy did is validate it.”

Towards the end of August the BLM held a public meeting to discuss whether the mustangs at Palomino and other holding facilities required shelter, and if so, gather information on how to proceed.

Some of the advocates were encouraged that the agency was finally responding. Others said action was needed, not a discussion, pointing out that in the wild, mustangs have the freedom to seek shade. “It’s ridiculous to question whether a baby horse needs shelter on a 106-degree day. The BLM requires mustang and burro adopters to provide a 3-sided shelter. It’s a no-brainer.”

Deaths of foals are not counted; herds are  not actually or factually counted; photographers are fenced away from entire pens of horses at holding facilities; and kept miles away from round-up trap sites…

A report almost two years in the making is still not acted on half a year later. Facilities that have received negative publicity, like Broken Arrow, have been closed to the public…

Thousands of rounded-up horses with no adoption market end up every year in long term holding are on private lands. A gal who calls herself Pioneer Woman is among the few with lucrative government contracts in the millions, to run mustangs on their properties with no oversight. The BLM’s budget is 70 million dollars and most of it is spent on round ups and long term holding costs…

Thousands of signatures on a petition were counted by the BLM as one public response…

Wild Mustang Robin, a twelve year old, traveled to Capitol Hill with 250,000 signed letters, asking for humane treatment for America’s mustangs. She was told she could not deliver her letters, and she was ridiculed, but the next day, she prevailed.

A court battle over reporter’s rights to document the roundups has gained support from thirteen press organizations and overturned a lower court’s decision:  “I have spent the last four years trying to tell the story of the wild horse on the range, during capture and in holding,” stated Laura Leigh, plaintiff. “I have been met with restrictions at every turn.”

Sally Jewell, the new head of the Department of Interior, has said nothing specific about her plans for the program. Her predecessor, Ken Salazar, stepped down a few months after threatening a reporter.

Despite lots of talk of transparency, the BLM is still opaque. The hot light of public scrutiny and dissatisfaction may be beginning to sweat the agency – though still not as painfully as the desert sun on the backs of the mustangs at Palomino Valley.

Copyright Sept 2013 by Kate MacDonald

*italics by author

correction 9/24 Top photo was incorrectly attributed, photo is courtesy Cat Kindsfather. Apologies!


#LiveLikeJulia @mountainmouth55 September 14, 2013

#LivingLikeJulia Week Two – Empire Strikes Back

I love that girl Karen Karbo. We are not close friends though, and I am old enough to be her maiden aunt, the one that works at the DMV and has gross lip wrinkles like Marge Simpson’s sisters.

K2 has awesome dimples, and an un-fancy, honest way about her.

Having met her is right up there in my life with passing Michael Jackson in a hallway, flirting with Dustin Hoffman, and answering the phone for Diane Keaton one day to take a message for Al Pacino.

When I got to hang with Karen, she was one of the first working writers I’d met since I realized that was what I wanted to be.


As we sat by the edge of the pond she told me a little of her life: and that a magazine column each month paid her mortgage. I still think: How amazing that she shared that, making my own goal somehow tangible.

I have written four novels, several screenplays and many newspaper articles that have never been read, or if sold, never paid me enough for a sushi dinner.

For a while I got paid $25 bucks a newspaper article, plus $5 for a picture. In one year I wrote almost 200 headline stories for the local paper. Some months I made almost $250.

But I keep bumping into people who seem to keep me from slitting my throat over such things: Karen – so approachable and encouraging. The incomparable Jane Smiley, and Janet Fitch, Deanne Stillman, Carol Walker, Terri Farley – none whom I know well but all have been so helpful to me, amazingly so; that it seems that the sisterhood that I envisioned as a 17-year-old member of National Organization of Women buoys me to this day.

I write because I can I write and because it amuses me, and because people I respect, and who turn me on, encourage me and challenge me.

I believe Julia Child wrote and cooked and went on TV for the same reasons.

Julia embraced who she was; and my challenge is to live for a month under one of Julia’s rules. It’s without any sort of ego I have got to say: I always have. I am short, my hair is like a baby’s, but I swear like a sailor.

Julia had money, but I had the pride of being different. The lure of the Disney princess never called to me. I was the barefoot, bareback hoyden trampling Midwest farmlands and deep rivers, my kaleidoscope eyes  absorbing  the moon landing, the sixties, rock and roll rebellion…when your family is composed of generations of  liberal democrats, actors, activists and musicians… your rebellion has to be really wild, man!

Julia Child adored being different.

I, too, had a big old bug up my ass. Having scored a scholarship to a fancy women’s college, I left with the first guy going west. The fact that he was a dead ringer for Cat Stevens and wanted to be a forest ranger, okay, that didn’t hurt. My dad cried as I packed up my childhood room and I remember him pleading with me to stay in school. I reasoned with him, we did not yell; even so, as I drove away in the truck with Ferrucio, tears fell hot and I felt my heart being ripped from my body.

But it was soon after that I first tasted food. Endive, sea bass, sushi, avocado. Margairitas with anejo tequila, lime and Cointrueu. Al dente handmade pasta with olive oil, garlic and anchovies. Cracked Dungeness crab, sourdough bread, smokey chardonnay. Cake made with butter and sugar, a French chef’s cheesecake, still puffing hot from the oven. A burrito as big as a baby’s head with real simmered pintos and quesa fresca and fresh jalepenos that blew off the top of your head.

Leaving the Midwest was an intellectual journey, but the journey of food was one I had never imagined. Korean Barbeque. Dim Sum. Sake. Lobster on the grill with a pound of melted butter and a bowl of lemons. Croissants, bagels, yeasty sticky cinnamon rolls fresh and hot from the oven.

I was not a foodie, yet I got to eat some great food – in Oregon, and San Francisco and LA, Chicago, New York and Central America. Along the way I became unafraid to throw in some tumeric, or fish sauce, cilantro, cumin, coriander, dill, or lemongrass; sprinkle on some basalmic vinegar, or fresh ginger, or roll stuff in Panko.

In Illinois, in the 1960’s, talking like this might get you a weekend in the lockup with Sylvia Plath.

Thank god we women have helped each other evolve. I don’t have kids; neither did Julia. But with a little help from our friends, we all can make a memorable story, or a meal or two, that some might remember, and pass on.


Week One as Emperor of Five Acres and a Trailer September 7, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 3:27 am


In “Julia Child Rules”, author Karen Karbo writes: “…she could spend her life trying, and always failing, to be cast as a princess, or she could embrace her height, her quick wits and big personality and she could go with it. She could own her role as the Emperor, who, unlike a princess, is active, not passive, takes up a lot of space, strides around issuing edicts and proclamations. Expresses not desires, but demands.”

I chose Chapter Two, Be the Emperor, to live for a week because having fallen from my horse I am stuck in a green leather throne (it reclines!). As much as I am a normally control freak, and insist on doing everything for myself, suddenly, and for the next few weeks at least, I must depend on others for everything.

I can’t work, or drive. Or feed my horse, nor muck his corral. I can’t clean house, or cook anything more elaborate than a smoothie, or even wash my own hair.
Right away I realized I could whine about my fate – or enjoy being treated like, well, royalty! Of course, I strive to rule my kingdom benignly, always saying “Thank You Sweetie”, and so far I have not chopped off anyone’s head.


The Blind Leading the Blond.

I am incredibly fortunate to have a loyal subject, who like me is somewhat captive in our little empire. My lover and Best Friend of the Opposite Gender Is Dave. He’s blind, having been born with glaucoma, and became completely blind at age 14 after a botched operation. We share a five acre property where I have my trailer, he has his which he shares with his 14-year-old daughter, Princess Crankypants. In addition to Dad duties, he sings and plays Swamp Music for food and tuppence at the local Farmer’s Market and bars.
Because Dave’s blind, I’m used to doing all the driving; and when out and about, he lightly holds my elbow, and I try to not walk him in front of a truck or off a steep curb without warning. But since breaking a couple ribs in my fall, I am the one leaning on him, as he strikes far beyond his comfort zone by feeding the mustang, dogs, chickens, watering the garden, feeding me and monitoring both my bowel health and my Vicodin intake.

While an unexpected injury has the potential to be awful and stressful, we have embraced it as an unasked for gift of Time. We spend all day lounging and FaceBooking. Napping and watching old movies and talking politics and gossiping and laughing, although that hurts. I tell him “Quit it!” and he makes a face.
Right now he’s making breakfast burritos from his homemade salsa and eggs from our chickens. I am not allowed to help; and I sit here and Blog. After he feeds me, I won’t even worry about the dishes. I shall post my blog then watch “Chopped” or read Cheryl Strayed’s first novel, and later fall sleep right here in my throne. In the morning I plan a bath, and Dave can wash my hair.

God help me – I could get used to this! Thanks Karbo! *

-Emperor Kate Mac MountainMouth

*Dave may not necessarily agree.


#LiveLikeJulia Emperor #1 August 30, 2013

                       I love food. I love cooking. I love life. I am Me, and do not conform.Image
That’s why, this month, I want to talk about Julia Child.
I met Julia Child on TV, but in the heat of adolescence, forgot about her, and food, until Dan Akroyd’s parody. I still pee my pants watching that.
I learned about food as an adult in the hippiefied atmosphere of Ashland Oregon, in 1976. Discovering sex and vegetables at the same time might explain my preference for a tomato from the garden versus a Big Mac to this day.
I met Karen Karbo, author of “Julia Child Rules” in my backyard, which at the time was a house five thousand feet up a mountainside in Kern CA. Karen had been visiting The Rankin Ranch since she came as kid, with her Dad. It was 2008 or so… K2 was there with The Man of the House, and a bunch of kids and cowboys whose legs, always encased in Wranglers, gleamed like a glaciers in the unfiltered Arctic sun.


My life appeared to be amazing. Acres of forest, a deep, clear pond, mustangs and chickens, shiny SUV’s and a two-story house that crowned the mountaintop. But I was caged, abused. I was a ferret that wished it could rip out its’ own throat. I had a “boyfriend” that was psychotic, a gun totin’ excitable, paranoid, faux survivalist; a narcissistic, controlling man-boy who could not tell the truth about anything.
I was thrilled to meet Karen but at the time was paralyzed in despair. I’m not worthy!”. But as others fetishize sport teams, fashion, music or whatever, I have a THING for writers.
So imagine my pure joy when Karen Karbo included me in the experimental group blog, #LiveLikeJulia.
Last Friday I was riding Reno, then I wasn’t. Down by the lakeshore, I fell hard, he galloped off – but came right back, and before the pain hit, I “got back in the saddle” and rode home.
Tonight I type bent over & whacked on pills, due to some broken ribs. I am stuck in a chair, for a while, so I might abuse this privilege with a tsunami of words.



Kids Go To Court for Dad June 27, 2013

RODDY MAC postcardMy Dad, as “Roddy Mac”

Kate MacDonald

Editor, writer, director

Kids Go to Court for Their Dad

Posted: 06/26/2013 6:00 pm

Imagine waking to an unfamiliar hospital-looking room. You recognize no one; you can’t remember how you got there. Everyone you ask lies. No matter how logically you ask, they will not tell you why you’ve been imprisoned; but from the looks on their faces, you begin to fear you will never get out. You will die here.

This is not a Kafkaesque torture scene. It is happening here in America, to my 87-year old father. He, and five and a half million other Americans, has Alzheimer’s.

Growing up in Rockford, in the ’50s and early ’60s, my Dad, Rod MacDonald, was well known in his trademark red beret as TV personality “Roddy Mac.” The popular kid’s show was just a side-line for Dad, as he also wrote, produced, and sold television and radio ads at WREX Channel 13; he was also an actor, a musician, a WW2 veteran, and typical Dad who did lots of chauffeuring and dispensing petty cash. He worked a lot, as all Dads did then, and he and our mother Virginia MacDonald were for decades, until Ginny’s death of cancer in 1987, a driving force behind the inception and success of the Rockford theatre scene.

After Ginny died, Dad remarried and seemed happy. He and his wife continued to act, and travel occasionally to New York and Chicago to visit theatre friends and see shows. But his memory problems began to become apparent; he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

For a few years the disease did not seem to make that much of an impact on his daily life, although he did quit driving and later, going to the gym. Then a year ago, my sister began getting paid to stay with him during the day, while Dad’s wife worked. Sarah and Dad did crosswords, drank coffee, sang songs, and took naps.

Then I heard Dad’s wife was talking about putting him in a nursing home. My sister and I both offered to take dad home with us and care for him, but were told that wasn’t feasible.

Within weeks, Dad was on the waiting list of the Illinois Veteran’s Home in La Salle, Illinois, about two hours from Rockford. Sarah initiated a tour of the facility, which was not the awful B movie nightmare they’d imagined; the staff seemed caring and the facility modern and adequate. We were told Dad would adjust. We were told there were no restrictions on visiting: we would be able to take Dad out for a walk, a sandwich on a park bench, even on vacation if his doctor agreed.

But he was adamant he didn’t want to go, he wanted to be with his family.

They all said leaving him there was awful. “It was the hardest thing I ever did,” said his wife. “Don’t leave me here, please,” Dad cried.

Scott was shaken to the core by this scene. He thought back to helping to care for dad’s own parents, in Madison in the 1970s. And Ginny, during her eight-year battle with cancer. Scott decided to step up.

My brother offered to quit his job and take Dad. We phoned and emailed with detailed plans for Dad’s care. This is when I first heard that Dad had signed a POA — or, Power of Attorney, giving the power of healthcare decisions to his wife.

What sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea has turned our dad into a virtual prisoner, a man with an ankle bracelet, a “resident,” who is not allowed to talk to his own kids; a disenfranchised, income-producing ex-person, a man with no room of his own, who wonders what has become of his family; whose identity is gradually wiped away along with his civil rights.

In theory, a POA entrusts someone with one’s healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated. In theory, your POA has your best interests at heart, and is bound to act in your behalf. But in our reality, we have found out that a POA can be a concrete wall,isolating patients from all contact with friends and family.

We were told to wait a few days before calling Dad. I waited a week, but in the meantime, talked to the staff. Dad’s social worker said something I thought strange, something about the family problem. I told her I wasn’t aware of any problem; but soon found out that the staff considered my sister’s call’s to dad a “problem.”

From the very first, every conversation we had with Dad, he begged to be released from the VA Home. We would try to change the subject in creative ways, but he would have none of that.

“Not another night in this place,” he’d suggest hopefully, and when we would dodge that question, he would ask who wanted him to stay there. “I’ve already done four weeks in this joint,” he said to me on June 1. “I’m ready to go. I went to war with these guys, why do I have to live with them now?” We would explain he had Alzheimer’s. He’d say, he knew he had “memory problems” but still couldn’t understand why he had been committed to an institution. “Don’t I have family that will take care of me?”

It became more and more difficult to dodge that question, and explain his wife’s position because by the time I visited at the beginning of June, communication had broken between my siblings, me and our stepmother.

When Scott offered to care for Dad, I questioned his commitment and motives, but after a few lengthy phone calls, was satisfied it would work just fine. Scott and Dad could live on Dad’s social security income; Scott’s is a first floor apartment, with a fenced backyard. And like before, Sarah could help out.

But Dad’s wife replied it was “unacceptable.”

I made plans to visit even before Dad went into the VA Home, and managed to get a couple days off at the end of May. The rain, endless construction on the toll roads, vivid greenness and humid air — I was home. We drove to LaSalle the next day. Dad cried when he realized we were not all there to take him with us. He looked a lot smaller and thinner but he was still Dad — a confused, lonely version, but no zombie. I was so relieved. We stayed several hours, but Dad didn’t want to leave his room, unless it was for good. We were there several hours, and he never let go of the topic of going home although we tried lots of diversions.

The staff was friendly, but when we broached the topic of taking dad home to live with Scott, the smiles faded. Sarah was taking video of Dad when one said, “That’s enough. We’re not going to have any more of that.”

The next day we saw the director. He spent over an hour listening to our concerns about dad, and seemed sympathetic to the idea of Scott living with family, but said “we are bound by the wishes of the POA.”

We were about to find out what that meant. We tried to take dad out to dinner. They made a call; permission refused. It struck me that he was wearing an ankle bracelet, and the near-constant beeping that was giving me a headache was caused by the residents straying too near a door. The Alzheimer’s ward, behind a locked door, consists of twin dining rooms, a circular nurses’ station, a sort of sitting area next to the locked outdoor patio, and twin hallways off in either direction. There is a locked “nourishment room” that Sarah had already found for making coffee. The resident’s rooms are hospital-like, with personal touches, except for Dad’s. The pictures Sarah had put on the wall were gone, he was packed. Ready to go.

He was happy to see us, and had spruced up for our visit; he’d remembered we were coming back. We cajoled him into the dining room and sang songs. Dad belted out verse and chorus to “Old Man River.” The other residents gathered slowly for their dinner, and soon were clapping along. Dad laughed at our dumb jokes and danced a soft-shoe to show us he was fit enough to go home. The next day, he did four pushups. (“See? Nothing wrong with me that hugs won’t fix.”)


Sister the Great October 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 11:18 pm


Dear Neighbors,

Who do you look to for inspiration? Some people’s heroes are historical or political figures; famous people, artists, thinkers, writers. I have lots of heroes. Wild Horse Annie, for her lifelong commitment to legally protect the wild horses and burros. Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey for devoting their lives to the study of primates in the African jungles; and Jacques Costeau for pioneering undersea research. Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Mother Theresa for their humanitarianism. Helen Keller for overcoming and teaching.  Then there are the artists: photographers Diane Arbus, Annie Liebowitz, Ansel Adams, Jim Westin. Too many painters to list… but definitely: Van Gogh, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol; filmmakers Stanley Kubrick, Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese. Ellen Degeneres and Oprah for being Ellen and Oprah. Writers and musicians? Too, too many to list … so many brilliant lights sharing their visions, emotions, longings and insights.

I’m inspired by these people because they were not born famous. They turned a life into a statement. They gave and achieved and held fast to their vision of what was right, what was beautiful, what mattered. As I look at the list, all of them suffered for their vision; struggled against haters and critics, held fast to their mission. They made something of their lives, shared themselves in a big way.

But not all my heroes are dead or even famous. I’m inspired by people I know who are just amazing in their everyday life.

Lately my hero is my sister. She six years younger than I; growing up, she was a cramp in my style, a pain in my posterior. As young adults we became tight and have remained so through many an up and down.

Sarah was wild like me. She got kicked out of the fancy shmancy Catholic high school, but graduated from the next, then went to college where she lived with our Aunt and worked her way to a degree by selling shoes at a department store. (Some weeks she would barely get a check because it had already been spent. My sister loves shoes!) She got her degree, the first in our family. She got married and moved to Cleveland, then Tampa. She had a kid. Then another. Then… another, her one girl. Everyone assumed that would be it, but she wanted a big family and got it by having two more boys! During this period my sister struggled with addiction. The family had some rocky times. They lost their house and moved back to our hometown. Finally Sarah overcame her addiction and all of a sudden she was super-capable, unstoppable. Her daughter just graduated from high school as Valedictorian, with a necklace full of achievement medals and is now a freshman, away at college. Now with only two boys left at home you’d think my sister would be lunching and shopping, maybe taking up scrap-booking. But instead she went back to school for another degree. She got hired for an internship too. Now she’s taking classes, working, still raising those two boys, but that’s not all. She takes care of her grandbaby a lot. She’s also taking care of our Dad who has gotten old while nobody was looking. He’s been having some memory problems and since his wife still works, my sister is over there all the time. Helping my Dad with the everyday stuff, keeping him laughing and looking on the bright side.

Sarah always admired me for my career, my adventures. Now I admire her for her quiet, everyday heroism. To go back to college at age fifty with all her obligations is an act of hope and courage. Yes, she is tearing her hair out some days, but she just laughs off the exhaustion, the difficulties, the car breakdowns and the spilt milk.

Here’s to Heroes!

The Mountain Mouth


Zombie Apocalypse July 14, 2012

Dear Neighbors,

I’m writing from town these days but am still the Mountain Mouth; because the girl can leave the mountain but the mountain won’t ever leave the girl.

It has been an easy transition mostly because even though this place is in town, it’s still a little bit country. The dogs, the chickens, the garden; and mainly, the horses.

They should be running free, but at least they’re here with me.


I still write a big check for hay before I fill up the propane tank and briefly wonder about my priorities. I know quite a few people whose pet food expenses do not exceed the human food budget each month. But the twinge is only momentary. There is something about taking care of these animals I have stepped forward to adopt (in one way or another!). They are my kids, and if I had human children, I can see saying, “No ice cream this week, Princess Fleabag needs medication.”

Humans have weird powers over the animals that share our world; we worship some of them. We buy our dogs monogrammed jackets, fluffy beds and toys; and cats get an inside toilet! But some animals are just food and others are abused and denigrated.


Most weird to me is the continual battle of the government versus the wild horses.

The BLM plans to round up herds of foaling mares again this summer. The justifications are bogus packs of outright lies and manipulations of obsolete statistics.

Would it bother you if you knew that perfectly healthy herds of wild horses were being destroyed so some corporation can make profits from poisoning government land (YOUR land)? Would it bother you to think about day-old foals, being run for miles in the desert in mid-summer, until their hoofs shatter and they are left behind to die? How do you feel about spending your tax dollars to feed fifty thousand horses for the rest of their lives when they could have been left on the range to graze for free?

Horses are planned for removal because of “drought conditions” Really? Then why is it okay to replace them with cattle and sheep?


Then there is the zombie apocalypse. A huge group of flesh eating zombies want to normalize horse slaughter and put a horse burger in every fast food restaurant, school cafeteria and on your barbeque. These zombies want you to believe that slaughtering horses is just the same as say, slaughtering a cow. When was the last time little Cindy begged for a cow for Christmas? When was the last time the Derby was run by milk cows? All brides dream of a heifer-drawn carriage, right? Let’s not forget our mounted police, oh so intimidating (and crowd safe) atop their calves. The cowboys sure did ride cows. And let’s not forget the many beeves that sacrificed their lives in our wars and in opening our frontiers. Let’s not forget the loyalty, the breathtaking beauty, the courage, the athleticism and the companionship of America’s cows…

Come on. Horses are extremely sensitive and there is no humane slaughter option.

Horses are family oriented. Their herd – their family – is very important. They feel emotion; the feel grief and fear. Imagine being able to hear death, to smell it and to be forced towards it. What has any horse done to deserve that end? Being born in America?

Then there is the issue of many common horse medications, which once ingested by the horse, remain in the tissues and are known carcinogens for humans.

If America had a catastrophic food shortage; if the cows and pigs and sheep and chickens suddenly vanished, along with all the edible plants and horses were the only thing left for humans to eat, to survive, would I jump on board? Sure… unless there were any humans around that looked tasty!

As I say, beware the coming zombie apocalypse. Horse flesh-eating monsters may live in your own state, in your own community! You can tell them by their soulless expressions. If you have any doubt, put on the movie “War Horse”, or “Flicka” in their presence. They will explode, shrieking hellishly, into a flaming, goopy mess.


If any of this disturbs you, welcome, human! You can contact your representatives and tell your friends about the round ups and the slaughter plants being planned. There are a lot of excellent people more knowledgeable, informed and calmer then I. It is not too late to halt the summer round ups, it is not too late to ban horse slaughter in America.

Begone, Zombies!

The Mountain Mouth