December 28, 2011

Traveling Through Corn Husker Country

Lucy and I said our goodbyes the other night. She had rubbed most of the skunk smell off, so I took her for one last four wheeler ride to the top of our favorite hill to watch the sunset with me.
Monday morning it was back to work! We drove west to Billings and loaded sulfur, which was delivered Tuesday morning in Nebraska.
Western Nebraska was after dark, and mostly after midnight. But central Nebraska was after unloading on Tuesday. We reloaded 30 miles north in Lexington and headed east towards Arkansas.

Driving I-80 is always interesting, and always crowded. I-80 is one of the busiest interstates in the country, and it's busy all the way across from Boston to San Francisco!

Driving on I-80 through Nebraska, you will see many interesting things. The road pretty much follows the Platte River, which is mostly evident by the thick stands of trees that shelter it's banks.
Another common sight along the interstate are large ponds right next to the road and occasionally the active sandpits that will later be more large pond.

Nebraska is home to the world's largest aquifer, the Ogalala Aquifer. It stretches out under surrounding state boundaries. About 27% of the United States irrigated land is over this aquifer, and it yields roughly 30% of the countries ground water used for irrigation.

Another common sight along I-80 in Nebraska is land marks and historical points of interest.
Because it follows along the banks of the Platte River, it is also following the path of the California and Oregon Trails. This part of the country is rich in pioneer history! Nearly every little town along the way claims some museum or point of interest to pull in travelers. Some require a little drive off the beaten path, while others are right by the interstate. The easiest one to find is this one...
...in Kearney, NE. You can't miss it because you drive right under it.
And of course another common sight in Nebraska, something your guaranteed to see even if you don't stop at any of the tourist spots....
....cows and corn!
I like Nebraska. It's one of my favorite states. Malcolm's family ranched in western Nebraska when he was a kid, near Scott's Bluff and Chimney Rock monument. We have friends there still. Nebraska is a good state! For a few more interesting trivia facts about the Corn Husker state, you can click here.

We delivered last night in northwest Arkansas, slept for a few hours, and then this morning, our broker couldn't find anything good heading to where we wanted to go. So we're bouncing 680 miles to Chattanooga to see my family for New Years. We should be there this evening sometime.

But until we get there, we can enjoy some pretty scenery of Arkansas hills...
...and in a few more hours, we'll be back in my home state of Tennessee! Looking forward to a visit with this side of our family. We haven't seen them since April. We'll be down here till after New Years, and then I'll be back to blogging to share our travels and adventures.

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and enjoy bringing in the New Year!

December 22, 2011

Lucy's Idea of a Good Time

Y'all remember Lucy don't you? Lucy and I are big buddies. She often tags along with me where ever I go, unless there's something more important going on, like a cow to chase or a tractor to ride in. Lucy likes a good time!
Your not going to believe what she did yesterday, just for fun!
(Don't look at me that way Lucy! I don't care if your embarrassed! I'm going to tell them what you did!)
Yesterday afternoon, Lucy and I went to the corrals to play with the colts.I took everyone into one of the barns, where I was giving Gemma a lesson on how to stand quietly while tied to a post. (It was her first time, and she did pretty good if I do say so myself!) And while Gemma made friends with the post, I was helping Sky, the overgrown lap dog (he thinks), learn how to have his hooves cleaned and handled. We're working up to an overdue trimming lesson. Reba was just in there with us for moral support. She's an expert at all these things because her original human mom was on top of her job and taught these things to Reba at appropriate ages! So Reba just watched and took advantage of Sky being tied up to harass him, because she just doesn't care for his pushy friendship ways.

Lucy was with me, snuffling over in the corner of the barn, and after some time she found some delectable disgusting dehydrated thing (I think it was afterbirth from last spring's calving), and wanted to leave the barn we were working in to go enjoy it in private. NO PROBLEM! So I opened the door and let her out because I didn't really want to watch that dinner go down!

Lessons over, I led the youngsters back over to their large corral winter home, and Lucy reappeared to escort me and all my baggage (a bucket of brushes, a bucket of grain, and three halters with lead ropes attached) back to the other barn to put things away. Gee, you'd think she could carry some of the load, or at least get the gates don't you?

This is what is generally referred to as the lambing barn.
 There used to be sheep on this ranch, and this is where the ewes had their lambs. Now that the sheep are gone (temporarily I hope) this barn has become handy for storing things like...insulation for a future construction project... and all our horse tack.

By this time is was nearly dark, so I flipped the light on in the barn and proceeded to put away all my stuff. I was hanging up the last of my halter's when I heard a scuffling noise behind me.

 I turned, and was momentarily startled to find Lucy coming down the isle towards me from the opposite end of the barn, violently shaking...something...that was obvious alive and fighting back.
 My initial thought was "oh, not a cat!" because she's been known to go after the random cat in the past. And then, "OH she got a raccoon!" because they've been known to use the lambing barn as a place to nap and poop. (nice huh?)

And then....she dropped it, right about in the spot she's sitting in the picture below, and bailed out the open door.
 Imagine, if you will, my dismay, as the thus far unidentified mystery creature, quickly regained it's feet and a vividly, pristine, WHITE stripe appeared on a fluffy black background as an equally fluffy black tail shot straight up into the air!!!!

And there I was, standing in the corner of the barn, with a large, rather angry (I can't imagine why?) SKUNK between me and my only route of escape!

And all this happened without a single voice. Not mine, not Lucy's, not the skunnk, through the whole ordeal! No one made a peep or growl or squeel! Strange huh?

I suppose I was lucky. The skunk, after a moment of stumbling around, probably dizzy and dazed from his shaking experience, but with tail still erect and fluffed, trotted back down the isle from whence he'd been reluctantly hauled, and stood facing the wall, tail towards the barn (and me). I decided this was my best moment, and best opportunity to escape with the least amount of "damage," and made a dash for the door.

The odor, which I had not yet detected, was overpowering around the door. I knew I had just trotted myself right through the lingering cloud, but how else was I to get out? Lucy, bless her heart was right outside the barn, rather frantically rubbing her face, head, and body in the snow. I suppose the ole girl got a face full of spray. Probably a mouth full too judging by the amount of snow she ate between the barn and the house.

The two of us made our way to the house, Lucy stopping every few feet to rub her face in the snow and eat a few mouth fulls, and me pausing every few gasped breathes to tell her to" get away from me, for the love of roses!" My word that dog was RIPE!

When we got to the house, Lucy just kept right on going, straight into the tree row and the tall grass where she proceeded to roll and rub in the snow. I stepped inside the door to tell Malcolm there was a skunk in the lambing barn and that Lucy had attacked it while I was in there. He was in the other end of the house. I hollered my report to him from the doorway. A brief pause of silence. A response. "I can smell it on you," he said (from the other end of the house? Oh dear!)

Malcolm came back to the barn with me and spent some time banging around trying to scare the skunk out of hiding. At first we didn't think it was going to happen, but at the last minute, just before giving up, Malcolm spyed him, at the opposite end of the barn, right where I'd been standing when the whole event transpired. The culprit was quickly disposed of, and Malcolm appreciated the opportunity to use one of his new guns, though he probably would have preferred a more pleasant environment to try it out in.

Any stink that was on us seems to have washed off, and my coat and our clothes came out of the washer smelling fresh. So it must not have gotten on me too bad. Our boots are the worst, as we were both wading around in the hay. I imagine most of the musk is at ground level anyway, since that's how high the skunk is.

I wish I could say as much for the insulation being stored in the barn, my new halters, and my brand new saddle pad which I have not had opportunity to use yet. I imagine they all reek! I went down to the barn this morning to get my illustrative pictures, and even after standing all night with both doors wide open, you still have to hold your breath to go in. It's pretty pungent. I'm not sure how I escaped smelling not quite like a rose, but not like I'd slept with a skunk. It's a miracle!

As for Lucy, I'm giving her a wide berth for a while. We'll play more next time I'm home, when she's had some time to air out. Poor Zadie, who has to share a dog house with her. Must be true love, because they were curled up together and Zadie didn't seem to be complaining any.

And next time I'm home, I think I'll keep a closer eye on things, and have a little more to say about what Lucy considers to be a "good time," at least when it's going to involve me in some way. But I'll be speaking up before the good times take place, not fussing and fuming (no pun intended) after the fact.

December 13, 2011

Blocks, the Broken Leg, and a Book

Good Morning! A few odds and ends to share now that I've finished my peppermint stick hot chocolate, fresh from the vending machine at the truck stop. Hey! I got to get my holiday cheer where and when I can!

Yesterday we delivered first thing in the morning in Woodburn, OR. After we were empty, we had no where to go, so Malcolm asked the plant employees if we could park in an empty area near the back of their facility because I wanted to go for a walk rather than spend the day parked at a truck stop somewhere.
It was early and very few business were open, which was fine. I just wanted to take in the sights and stretch my legs a little. It was kind of fun having practically the whole town to myself.
One of the great things about photography while traveling, is that since you don't know any of the people and in all likely hood will never see them again, it's easier to move past your self-consciousness and do things like kneel on the sidewalk, or hang your head at an odd angle to get a picture, because who cares if these strangers think I'm weird?
There was pretty much just one strip of stores, all of which were catering to what must be a Hispanic area. It was interesting to peer into the store front windows, (and later in the morning, Malcolm and I walked back into town and ate one of the best Mexican meals I've had in a long while)! But after I'd walked main street, there wasn't anything else to see. I was turning around to go back to the truck when a glimpse down a side street changed my mind.
It seemed to call me to wonder down it, and I am so glad I did. There were holly trees galore, red berries gleaming in the morning sun.

Old homes stood behind shade tree. Gurgling fountains and singing birds could be heard as I passed by some of the fenced yards.

 And some of the Christmas decorations looked like they came out of magazine pictures.
But my favorite sight of the whole morning was this house that I stumbled upon. It sat one house down from a corner on a street I almost passed by. I would have never dreamed of painting my house mint green and then putting raspberry red trim on it. I'm glad someone else thought it would work, because it definitely does! No need for Christmas trimming in this yard, because the house is festive just as it is, and lovely the whole year through.
My stroll through Woodburn, OR was a delightful way to start the morning.

The Broken Leg:
Thought you might like an update on Paris's broken leg. It has been a bit of a thorn in our sides, our sides, not Paris's. For the most part it's gone smoothly, but when something goes wrong, it's such a frustration because I worry so much that we're going to cause her permanent damage. The splint simply would not stay in place. Over the course of the week, it would slip further down her leg, a centimeter or so at a time. And since we weren't supposed to mess with it but maybe once a week to change the wrappings, it was hard to know if it was OK to fix the slipping or not. Add to that the challenge of keeping her from getting sores beneath the splint, sores that I can't see, sores that I don't know if they're forming or not, because I can't unwrap the splint but once a week.....it was a headache.

Last weekend we were home for a couple days and since we were there, our regular vet said I could bring Paris over and she'd check the leg, etc. So Monday before we left, we went down to her house and when she saw how much Paris's splint was slipping, she laughed, literally. I guess a laugh is better than her being upset!
( I should have taken a picture, because your probably picturing Paris with one leg 6 inches longer than the other. Really it only extended her leg by maybe an inch, but I didn't know how much was too much slipping and how much was ok.)
Anyway, she called Paris's surgeon in Belle Fourche and conferenced with him on the phone, and they came to the conclusion that it would be ok to leave the splint off. Yippee!!!! We were all celebrating, especially the patient. She has been SO much happier ever since!

As I had been assured and reassured that the splint was really just a secondary support, I felt more relief than concern. The only real "warning" was that she absolutely must not jump. Of course you all know how easy  impossible that is prevent! I thought this would be my only challenge.

Paris was quick to show us that the splint  had not just been a secondary support, but also had been protecting her stitches....from herself. We were home a couple of hours and just before leaving went to dinner at Malcolm's parent's, and upon returning home, we found Paris unbandaged, with swollen, angry looking stitches. She'd been hard at work during our absence.
We bandaged her back up, hoped for the best, and headed out for eastern North Dakota.

By the following afternoon, we had delivered our load, reloaded the next one, and rebandaged Paris's leg FOUR times! She was also, by this time, missing two stitches, and absolutely delighted with herself.

Obviously this wasn't working! I was tempted to put the splint back on just for it's protection, but it was creating it's own problems, as before mentioned. The solution was found in Miles City, MT, where we stopped that evening to have dinner with Malcolm's parents who were in town running errands. Before diner, we went to the ranch supply store, to their pet supply aisle.

Things have been a whole lot simpler for me since last Monday, though not near as nice for Paris.

She'll thank me for it later, though at this moment you wouldn't have been able to convince her of that!

It has several benefits. She can't get to her leg to lick and chew the bandages, she won't sink if she decided to go for a mid-December swim, and it's a lot easier to locate her beneath the covers when she's hiding in bed.
Actually, after a few days we decided that it was ok for her to wear the inter tube necklace only when she was unsupervised, such as when we're out of the truck or asleep.

So she gets to lounge beneath the floor heater in comfort, snuggle in my lap, and she doesn't have to charge her way between the computer stand and passenger seat to force her way past. (it was rather comical in a sad sort of way to watch that). Of course the other day, during what was supposed to be a "supervised" time, the supervisor forgot to keep an eye on her, and later she was discovered curled up in the sleeper floor, with the bandage down around her ankle, two more stitches removed, and going to town on a third one.

We have an appointment next Wednesday with her surgeon for a check and xrays. I hope the rest of the stitches, the remaining 4 of the original 8, can come out honestly at that time. Fingers crossed, because it would make one less concern for me to keep track of.

And a Book:
I just finished a book I picked up over Thanksgiving weekend. And since I wanted to start saying more about what I read, rather than just put the picture in the margin, I decided this would be a good start.
It's one of those books that I picked up because the title and cover picture appealed. And then I read the synopsis on the jacket cover, and was hooked.

Set during the Roman siege at Masada, The Dovekeepers tells the story of the siege from a woman's perspective. Four women, their lives and fates intertwined, tell their stories through first person accounts, of how they came to be at Masada and what transpired there. The book is broken into four parts. The first part begins with Yael, a motherless women whose father is an assassin, telling her story of love and tragedy. In the second part, Revka, a widow who has watched her only daughter be brutally raped and murdered by Roman soldiers and now has the care of her grandsons to consider, picks up the story where Yael leaves off. Aziza, a warrior at heart who is raised as a boy, but then confined to woman's garbs, continues where Revka's part leaves off. And the stories telling is completed by Shirah, a woman who knows ancient magic and medicine, who is devoted to those she loves, even though she knows it will be their undoing,

For the full synopsis you can use the link above to go to the author's website. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's the first of Alice Hoffman's books I've read, but I plan to look into what else she has to offer. Consider adding this one to your 2012 book list. And if your in a book group, this one would be great for discussion, especially in a group with diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.

December 11, 2011

On an Icy Day in Oregon

 Crossing the Cascade range today on state route 58 in Oregon, we were heading west, from the high desert regions south of Bend, over to the balmier I-5 corridor near the coast.

At the highest point of 5000 feet, we ran into fog, though it felt almost more than fog. The mist is so heavy and damp here, it seems to want for more of a name than just fog. Maybe it has one. I don't know.
 Sunny skies from half a mile back down the mountain soon were completely obliterated by a heavy cloud of freezing mist that was doing it's best to encase everything in a frozen crust of ice.
 Further down the mountain, the fog had lifted, but the sunny skies were no more.
 We made our way down the mountain, meandering along, taking our time because we only had 200 miles to go today in order to deliver Monday morning.
About half way down the mountain I discovered that I had forgotten to keep an eye on Paris, who was lounging in the floor of the sleeper, delightedly accessing her bandaged leg and removing more stitches (another story in and of itself...these past weeks have been a test of my patience in so many ways.) The road was winding so I asked Malcolm to find somewhere to pull off so I could re bandage the leg, and we'd just go ahead and let the girls out while we were stopped since their last break had been a while.

The place he found to pull off the road.
 Leg bandaged, dogs relieved and back inside the warm truck, I told Malcolm I wanted to get out and take a few pictures.

These last days, no weeks really, have truly been a battle of wills within  myself, at the center of which has been a river of feelings, mostly centered around uselessness, unfulfilled, empty. Thus the lack of blog posts. I wake up in the morning thinking "I should blog today" and by the end of the day absolutely nothing has inspired me or felt noteworthy. The same can be said for pictures. I used to love taking pictures, but lately I see nothing worth the effort of getting the camera out and looking through the lens at.

But moss laden trees in the picture above seemed to insist that the effort be put forth for at least a few pictures.

I'm glad they put their roots down and insisted that I come out of the truck to do the job. One step forward, and a glimpse down the ravine, and a few more steps became absolutely necessary.
 The path was short, but steep and rocky, and everything was encrusted in a thin layer of ice. And as I stepped down onto the first slippery moss covered icy rock, I realized how long it's been since I did something like this. I've become afraid of falling and get nervous walking down even a grassy slope unless I have Malcolm's hand to hold. When did that happen and why?

Here I was stepping down onto cushions of icy wet leaves covering rocks I couldn't really see, feeling my feet on unsteady ground, feeling my nerves get edgy and my confidence wane and I didn't like it. I almost turned back, only one step in.
 But that's part of the problem. I'm tired of feeling like I'm not participating in life, seeing it slide by my window and not being apart of it, missing out on things. That's been a huge part of my self-inflicted misery of the past days, feeling sorry for myself because we miss out on so much. And I sit around blaming the truck and our career of choice. But realistically, I guess a great deal of the problem is not so much the truck, though it does complicate participation in many things. It's me. I have taken a truck load of things I want to do and can't really because of the position I'm currently in, and let it become a weight around my neck, holding me back. The reality is, yes I'm missing out on things, but while I sit around feeling sad for what I'm missing, I'm loosing opportunities that I only have because of what we're doing!
 I think I need to make myself get out of the truck more and climb down more icy paths more often. The reward is worth the momentary feelings of discomfort and uncertainty.
  And though I will still regret what I'm not able to do because we're on the road and not at home, I hate to think one day I'll be home instead of on the road and look back and regret not taking the opportunities I had that are no longer.
Each cautious step down that slippery path revealed one after another beckoning to take a closer look through the lens. I really should do this more often. I've missed my camera.

That 5 minutes that I was out of the truck, with my camera in my hand, with minimal road noise because the creek was drowning it out, and all by myself, creeping out onto water's edge boulders that were mossy and icy so that I could get a limb free picture of the creek...
 I felt peaceful. I should climb down those icy banks to the water's edge more often.
 I have had a dark weekend, caved up inside myself, brooding and thinking and not much of it has been positive. But out of the darkness, there are a few points of light starting to emerge.
 And one of those is a re-realization that I'm missing out on more than what I'm pouting about missing out on.
 I don't think the dark thoughts are over. I  know they aren't because I haven't finished meshing through them all yet. But those 5 minutes among the icy leaves and ferns, I realized how much I've missed blogging and my camera.
 And I really hope that I can find motivation and inspiration to participate in this activity that I love so much. It has been a creative and social outlet for me, and I need to not let it fall to the wayside.

When I felt I'd spent as much time as I should in the creek bottom, though not as much as I would have liked (I would have stayed there all day) I climbed back up the bank, and got back in the truck, and showed Malcolm one of the pictures I'd taken that I thought I'd like a lot once it was on the computer and large enough to really see. He pulled out onto the road, and I got settled and pulled up facebook on the computer to put up a picture to share. And since I was on, I scrolled down the page to see what other's had to say today. And someone had posted this:

Kind of makes me feel like looking over my shoulder to see if there was someone there reading my thoughts these past days. The thing is, I know there was Someone doing just that.