The Mountain Mouth

Home of Mountain Mouth Press

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


Strange Holiday Traditions December 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 10:03 pm

Dear Neighbors,

The Holidays are here. Seems to happen every year about this time, like the winter flu – predictable, notable, and unavoidable.

Last Christmas was great; three little girls, a beautiful, sparkly tree, wonderful food and fun with friends. Pixie and I stayed up late on Christmas Eve, wrapping presents and reminiscing. We talked, among thousands of other things, about some holidays past. I always love to hear the details of people’s holiday traditions; there are so many similarities, but each family develops their own spin.

One of the most memorable Christmases I ever had was with my then-boyfriend and his parents in Rancho Mirage. They are Jewish, and knowing I was not, they provided their version of the holiday: I woke to a Santa Claus placemat upon which were some excellent bagels and lox. And who can forget the infamous Tex Marx party in NYC on a certain 80’s New Year’s Eve? (Yeah, not Tex Mex. We had Russian vodka and Texan chili. Posters of Karl Marx and John Wayne and… never mind.)

Another family that I spent several Midwestern winters amongst had Scandinavian origins. During a couple frigid holidays on a frozen lake, far north in Wisconsin, we made these little anise-flavored cookies that were a mandatory tradition. Making those cookies was as arduous as mixing cement and they baked up hard as a petrified dinosaur turd. “Dip them in coffee,” I was told. Neighbors, I swear you could soak that cookie for months and it would still break a tooth. I can only surmise that the Swedes are an inhospitable lot – what a rascally trick to play on your guests. If you are ever amongst the northern Europeans, especially if they sound anything like Sarah Palin or the lady cop in Fargo, and you are offered a small licorice smelling cookie, RUN AWAY. However, the same family also made chili rellenos for Christmas dinner (among about 20 other dishes)… those chilis were transcendent…

All this reminiscing made me wonder how other cultures celebrate our revered Trifecta of holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I did a little research online*, and what I found was fascinating.

In Russia, because of the privations of war and revolution and communism, many Russian families cannot afford turkeys or hams for their celebrations. Instead, in a tradition passed down since Tzar Ringo the Great, they lovingly craft the likeness of a roast bird or swine from mashed beets and turnips, which is glazed with vodka and baked at 350 for seven hours.

In Jamaica, the people eat charbroiled breadfruit and drink homemade beer brewed from seaweed, which makes them forget that breadfruit has the exact taste and texture of pizza boxes… at least they have Reggae.

In France, during the holidays guests are served many rich sauces and smelly cheeses, most of which are fed to the poodles on the sly, because the French are not allowed to gain weight. Anything over a 6 pound gain is punished by having to spend the next holiday exiled to Russia. It’s the law! Next door, in Spain, everyone feasts grandly then takes a siesta until March. In Switzerland the annual winter chocolate carving contest dates back to 2400 B.C. And in England, they dress for dinner, eat roast beef in pie crust and then don kilts, dance around, and tell Scottish jokes.

In Canada, they put gravy on everything, and wish it were Monday so they can go to the doctor for free. In Mexico, there are holiday donkey races where each burro is named for a saint. The owner of the winning donkey gets his prayers answered; the donkey gets tattooed like a zebra. In Iceland, on the New Year, the locals eat seal blubber shish-ka-bobs, jump naked into the hot springs, and try not to kill themselves because the days are 3 hours long.

The Greeks play music on lutes and accordians, have the least attractive persons in the village dance together, and feast on octopus, barbequed goat, and a seasonal salad gleaned from the dead sticks of the olive trees. They make a super strong drink (made from fermented fennel juice, olive pits and clams) to choke that mess down! Meanwhile, in South Africa, things get really wild. They have giant raves at the soccer field, and they enjoy not just shrimp on the barbie, but kangaroo, giant squid, monitor lizard, blowfish, python, dwarf Rhodesian monkey burgers and deep fried hibiscus flowers! Wow, not a breadfruit in sight for this bunch.

In Saudia Arabia and Kuwait, the men groom their camels in preparation for the winter’s solstice, while the women play bridge and shop on QVC. Later the entire family – which can number into the hundreds with all the wives, offspring and assorted in laws – gets together in the family vault and counts their gold bars. The annual tally is toasted with the milk of peacocks. Chinese holidays are celebrated by lots of tremendous fireworks. Whosoever gets his hand blown off is considered lucky. They get a complete government pension, free health care and all the noodles he can eat, for life.

In Japan, the racing with the dolphins is a winter tradition. The most fit young men and women water ski with the “People of the Sea” for days as the migrating dolphins pass the islands. Then they recite poetry, eat sushi and drink hot chocolate. Farther into the Pacific, on the remote island of Tuhunga, the natives have pizza delivered on Christmas Eve, and open every single present. Before Christmas Day! They don’t even save the stockings. They eat huge, extra large pizzas, with tons of extra cheese and toppings, then gorge on candy and oranges from their stockings, then open every gift, eat every cheese ball and drink every single bottle of Smart Water. Then they play Scrabble until dawn. The next morning they attend church, which luckily, is open to the sea breezes.

It certainly was fascinating researching the world’s holiday traditions. But I think I like the best of our American traditions the best. Like giving the gifts of time, listening, service, doing, caring. I also dig good Christmas cookies. As long as they don’t smell like licorice.

Happy Holidays

The Mountain Mouth

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2011 by Kate MacDonald

The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only.The countries, nations, and governments and peoples listed above; the author, her relatives, friends, photographers and contributors; and all other humans no matter who they are will not be responsible for any use or misuse of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program.


Random Play July 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 1:49 am

Reno the Keiger mustang toughs out the fire!  “Hey- I’m ok, are you??”

Dear Neighbors,

July already. And baby, it’s hot! – today the car thermometer said 106. This kind of hot is perfect for swimming in the lake or the river, driving with all the windows down and the hot breeze whipping your hair; shades, shorts and flip flops; laughs and music and beers in the shade of the patio as the day gives way to dark, the inevitable barbeques; a sweaty, slather-on-the-sunscreen horseback ride along the lake. I know I say it every year, but I love summer! I feel more myself without heavy boots, seven layers of clothing and frozen toes. I love the long days and the Yoo-Hoo bottle rolling on the floorboards.

Of course, summer equals fire season, and just a week after Rosie, Captain Call and Reno, plus the two roosters and six red hens moved to the Lane Ranch – fire!

Why is it, just when you think you finally have stuff all dialed in, chaos ensues? I had mistakenly assumed that by moving away from my on-the-edge, off-the-grid, challenging. exciting and dangerous mountain lifestyle, that Life would become more… well, normal? I suppose the answer to that is no matter where you go stuff happens. I heard about the fire on the radio – thanks, Scott, you radio legend – and the good part was I could get there so quickly.

The Cove Fire started at the lakeshore just one hill from the ranch and by the time I got there it was burning through. The wind was fierce, blasting sand and ash and spreading nasty little spotting fires everywhere. A bunch of volunteers and Nadia and Joe had to move all the horses into the safety of the arena from the back pastures as the fire began to burn the fences. That was somewhat hectic! – but afterwards we could only marvel how the fire burned right around the perimeter of the ranch but nothing was burned up except the pasture fences and some fence panels, and all horses were okay except one minor injury when a ranch horse (not even a mustang) ran into a post – and he’s healing fine now.

Fire burning right at ranch perimeter

So the Lanes could really use any donations of cash or materials to replace the pasture fences… railroad ties, no-climb wire, panels…

Then, a week ago, another surprise. This one a lot happier, though. A mare that had been returned to the ranch from training suddenly dropped a perfect filly. It was like the horse version of an episode from “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”.


Even with all this I have been riding Reno, the Keiger mustang ,quite a lot. The other day we rode with Nadia on Chaparro across the burned pasture to the lake, past the ranch and up and around. It was like crossing a moonscape. Hot and a little creepy, almost. Reno is taking stuff in stride: rabbits bursting out from underfoot, a scary gate with horse figures, dogs, sprinklers. We had a little rodeo the other day, but I stuck on, and he settled, and I walked him a little then rode home. Only one bruise! But it is a good one. Next I want to take him for a good gallop, then into the lake, and explore that big hill… and go to Rabbit Island…

I realized that having adventures on a mustang was something I forgot to add to the Bucket List. First I thought I would have those adventures with Jackson, the first mustang I adopted. Then it would be Captain Call, who is great but grew too damn huge. Now there is this horse, Reno, who seems to  want to go places with me. And how lucky am I to be able to ride, and in this cool place, on this beautiful little mustang?

Meanwhile, I am still looking for my Town home. Will it be the place on the lake with five acres, just minutes from work? Or the place on the creek, up the canyon, just a few minutes from the BF’s? Or someplace I haven’t conjured up yet? I have a hard time making big decisions, yet I know if I am too passive, something will be decided for me!

Maybe I’ll post photos on my FB and let all my friends vote… LOL!

Happy Fourth, and enjoy your Summer!

The Mountain Mouth

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2011 Kate MacDonald

*The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only. The Fence Post, its affiliates and assigns, the Rankin Ranch, the Lane Ranch, the makers of sunglasses, patios, flip-flops, beer, and the inventors of the modern barbeque;  as well as the author, her relatives, friends, and contributors, and all other humans no matter who they are will not be responsible for any use or misuse of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program don’t forget the sunscreen. You too, Bucketmouth.



All New June 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 1:58 am

Dear Neighbors,

Before I forget, Happy Birthday to Carol, Mike and Rob, and… me! I’m grateful to turn 56 and have all my parts still working, sort of. A not-so-nice part of aging is that every year there are scary new things that happen. Which makes me think of a friend who is even younger than me who recently bemoaned: “I found wrinkles in my cleavage!” But I still manage to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. I did have a brush with mortality last month, even though it was mostly in my mind. I found a lump in a place that was previously lump-less and of course, I immediately assumed it was the big C. I wondered: if I was dying soon, what did I still want to accomplish? I realized I didn’t even have a Bucket List. I decided I want to go to Africa and visit the baby elephant sanctuary, camp in a super-sweet Out of Africa-like tent and wear white linen while eating a gourmet meal to the music of lions roaring and monkeys howling. I would love to see my books published …. and I would love to see some old friends again. And I wanted my sister around. And that was about all I could come up with. I have had an adventurous life, lived in many places, seen a bit of America and a handful of other countries; I’ve saddle-started a wild mustang and had a fun career in the movie biz; and I have been in love (still am!). Not having kids was a regret until I reconciled myself with it. And almost as soon as I did, I found myself with two girls to mother. After all that, the tests turned out to show I am completely ok. I couldn’t believe it. I kept saying, “Are you sure?”  Yes, they were sure. Whew! And time to work on that List, and start saving for Africa.

Last month I wrote about leaving the mountain. I knew the first step was moving the mustangs. Being without a truck or horse trailer, I was obliged to ask my friends for help. Nadia and Joe Lane from High Sierra Wild Horse Sanctuary in Southlake brought the trailer and wranglers, Rob Lambert and son Billy were there (Rob and Monica are adopting Rosie and Captain Call) and Tami Barkley, rancher and cool gal extrordinaire, who got those bad ponies loaded up in about ten minutes. Thank you to all! It was a heart wrenching moment watching the horses drive off, but the adventure wasn’t even over. As I cried up at Red Lodge, on the way down our treacherous road the trailer slid off the bank, the horses had to be unloaded and walked, the trailer unstuck, and horses loaded back. Happily, everyone survived without a scratch and the horses settled into their new digs in Southlake.

I rode Reno down there again today, with Nadia and another mustang along. It’s going to be fun exploring all the trails and it’s just gorgeous riding along the lake. Today Reno met the burros: he went “Huh!” What are those things?” But after he got over the shock there was some sweet nose kisses. Nadia and Joe have saved 150 horses from slaughter over the years, and I’m so grateful they have made a place for Reno until I find my new horse-friendly house.

I swear I feel like I just got dropped off from another planet. Everything’s different now that I am spending time In Town. When I get off work, the afternoon stretches before me like a big candy shop. Go check out the river? Read? A lovely, drooly afternoon snooze? Catch up on phone calls? Take Lily* for a hike? We explored the hill above the house which led to a dirt road which led to the serene top of a hill with views and waving grasses and butterflies and a perfect rock for sitting and thinking and praying. I am discovering Town is not bad. I even get to go places at night! I get to go to hear the band** play. I discovered I dig the coconut shrimp at Ewing’s. The chef salad, ham on the side, at Nelda’s. Tofu Kung Pao at Lok’s.

I have even watched some TV!***

When we experience major life changes it can be an opportunity to grow. I won’t be the same person here as I was on the mountain, but maybe I can strive to be a better person. A new job, a new relationship, a new problem, a new baby, a new horse, a new house… life is always giving us something new. Why should we stay the same?

Six of the Red Lodge chickens are in the backyard here; there are four dogs; there are often two girls, one boyfriend, his brother, next door best friends, friends from the mountain, band members past and present, and others. So I am still in many ways in the midst of a menagerie just like up at Red Lodge, but different. It’s all new, but it’s all good.

And I am still

the Mountain Mouth

* my Lab mix dog, a.k.a. The Wild One

** White Lightning

*** NOT on the Bucket List

The Mountain Mouth has a blog!

Friend me, Neighbor: Kate MacDonald (Caliente, CA) on Facebook

Or E-mail the Mouth at

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2011 Kate MacDonald

*The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only. The Fence Post, its affiliates and assigns, the Rankin Ranch, the High Sierra Wild Horse Sanctuary, the cities of Bodfish, Lake Isabella, Havilah, and “Woffo”;  the author, her relatives, friends, and contributors, as well as anyone mentioned or not mentioned will not be responsible for any use, non-use, or mis-use of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program and eat least six servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day. This still means YOU, Carol!



Goodbye, my mountain May 27, 2011

Filed under: Blogging,Food,Gardening,Horses,Nature,Off the Grid,Outdoor Adventure,Wildlife,Writing — themountainmouth @ 4:16 am

                                                             Find my house in this picture!

Dear Neighbors,

Writing’s a tricky thing. Writing, especially about one’s life, becomes more challenging as Life itself becomes more challenging. I always want to report good news and fun times, and I even aspire to make you chuckle once in a while, if not LOL. But there are times I struggle with finding the humor, the message, the uplifting, and the significant in my daily grind. With amazing swiftness four weeks go by and it appears there is nothing to report but the latest Daily Disaster. We are talking failing equipment, falling fences and escaping equines, unexpected expenses, dangerous weather and yada yada. And so sometimes I feel “if you can’t say something nice, it is better to say nothing at all”.

But that’s not the real reason I didn’t write last month. It’s because I didn’t really want to tell you the news. Which is: I am leaving.

Yep, the Mountain Mouth is going to move to town. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you can bet your sweet corn it will be before next winter. I am feeling very good about this decision which will put me within reasonable distance from my job. And since cheese (that ever reliable economic indicator) has not been free in a while, I figure I better keep my job. Please don’t think I wimped out after only nine years off the grid. It’s not the effort required to make power. It’s not the lack of phone service – no cell, no land line. It’s not getting up in the dark and wiping a foot of snow off the car and getting  down in the mud messing with tire chains. It’s not even the road, which has deteriorated to the point of absurdity.

It’s none of these things. It’s just time to move on!

Things I am going to miss: the solitude, the silence. The incredible views. The chickens running to greet me, the horses lifting their heads and nickering when I come into view. Riding down the mountain road on my mustang. Letting the dogs have their run of wherever. The flawless night skies; the full moons rising over the mountain. Jumping into the pond at the end of a hot summer day. Red Lodge filled with friends, laughing, eating, loving life. The color of my walls.  My gardens. The smell of summer rain. The way the mountain critters and I have a perfect truce.

“It’s a magical place”, Rockford Jim said as he left a couple of weeks ago. He’s right. People are drawn here and there are few things I love more than making them feel at home. People who come here want to come back. We’ll all remember this place. Overrun with dogs cats chickens and horses, clean, messy, growing, beautiful.

It’s not easy to let go.

I have lived in many amazing places. I have lived at Muir Beach with gardens stretching to the Pacific, on a high hill in San Francisco, in a classic greystone building one block from Central Park in New York City. In a little hut on the beach on the Carribean Sea. In a quaint farmhouse in Ashland, Oregon and in an old schoolhouse in upstate New York. On a big old wooden boat in LA. In a strange, beautiful old house with lush gardens across from a river: where I grew up in Illinois. Of all these, and more, once I was someplace new I have never wished to go back. Fish don’t swim backward. Neither should humans. I soothe my soul with this mantra.

But letting go of a house, even one this amazing, is not really hard. It’s letting go of the lifestyle. Which, for me, has been one of such freedom. If you want to have a rock band in your yard, if you want to laugh loud into the night, if you want to run around in your birthday suit there is no one to object. I worry whether Lily the “Wild Girl” and I can adjust to the social confines of having neighbors that are closer than a couple of miles. But we will. Because to do so means we grow.

The hardest part of letting go is of course, the mustangs. The chickens can easily be sold and maybe my best girl Sookie will raise a few for FFA. The three remaining cats are all spayed and can come to town where they will be just as demanding as they are now. But the horses! Even thinking about it made me cry; it still makes me cry.

Mustangs leaving the mountain... forever

When I adopted my first mustang Jackson and brought him up here it just changed my life. What a great thing! The realization of a childhood dream, to have a horse in my front yard! And the years since, with five more mustangs and two mules, has been as tragic as it has been rewarding and ecstatic. Frankly I don’t know who I am if I don’t wake up and go outside and see my horses. It is exactly like having to give away your children. It does not even matter – well, yes it does, but it doesn’t help – that they are going to a good home. It is not my home. Our home. But I can feel ok about the horses I’ve adopted and saved and who have lived here. I took pretty good care of them, I think. And I’ll continue to be an advocate for horses and for mustangs. For all time.

Red Lodge, this mountain home, was not even my idea, but it has become part of me. It has shaped who I am. I have seen things I never expected and met people I never imagined. I have made so many absolutely angelic, outlandish friends (and you know who you are!).

I have even met a great man, who is my rock, and also my roll! So all I can say folks, is, it’s all good. Life goes on. As do we.

Meanwhile I am absolutely loving this well-deserved Spring on the mountain. It is simply breathtaking.


Your Mountain Mouth

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2010 Kate MacDonald

*The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only. The Fence Post, its affiliates and assigns, the Rankin Ranch, the Ford Motor Corporation, the cities of Rockford, Illinois, New York, San Francisco, Puerto Viejo Costa Rica;  the author, her relatives, friends, and contributors, and anyone mentioned or not mentioned will not be responsible for any use, non-use, or mis-use of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program and eat least six servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day. This means YOU Carol!