Friday, June 23, 2017

Taffy's Family Tree

I have had a request to make a Family Tree similar to Andi's Family Tree. I will post it here in Photo Fridays but also over on the Fan Fiction blog, where the request came in. Enjoy! For those of you who used to believe that Sebastian was a liver chestnut, well, his coloring has been changed to buckskin. Why, you may ask? Well, because I can do anything I want. LOL And I wanted to put a buckskin on the family tree.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dusty the Unloveable

A while back, somebody asked me about that bag of bones I got stuck with during the cattle drive (the drive I begged to go on for my quinceaƱera). They wanted to see a picture of "Dusty." I finally dug up a picture of him. Even after we'd been stuck with each other's company for three weeks, he and I don't get along too well.

See those ears? A little flicked back? That's Dusty in a happy mood. He is tolerating me standing next to him and gripping his halter. This is about as mellow as he gets.

Most times his ears stay pinned back so flat against his head that it looks like he's earless. And I am not kidding. At least his mouth is closed for the picture. Usually it's open, teeth showing, ready to nip an unsuspecting cow, horse, or human. Dusty got a taste of our poor wrangler, Flint, more than once during the three-week drive.

Luckily, I stayed out of range of those teeth most days. The only scary time was when I had to slip the bit in his mouth. But I'm fast! By the time Dusty bared his teeth to me, the bit was in, he was bridled and I was slamming a saddle down on his bony back.

No, I will never love Dusty. That dusty-brown gelding is completely unlovable. But I do respect him. He knows how to nip a stubborn cow and get it back with the herd. I've heard that Flint has taken a cautious liking to the ornery jug head. I showed him a few tricks about how to manage Dusty, and it appears that on the next cattle drive, Flint wants Dusty as part of his string (of horses).

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Slice of Life - 15

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that sometimes the family in your life who are the most difficult to be with are the ones who love you the most. Or at least, a great deal more than you’d ever imagine.
Today was the day to polish the furniture. A chore I still tend to despise. But I’d put it off as long as possible, and it was sorely needing to be done.
And so, as soon as the breakfast dishes were done and Riley headed out to the range, I resigned myself to the chore and collected the rag and a bowl of warm water. Soap wouldn’t do on the wood, as it would roughen it. But a damp cloth worked wonders. I started with the hutch in the dining room, the one that held all the dishes. It took me awhile to get into every nook and cranny, but I was determined that if I was going to tackle the job, I was going to do it right. That way I wouldn't have to do it again soon.
Once I was started, I realized it would probably be the hardest piece of furniture. The tables wouldn’t be too hard, nor would Riley’s desk and the headboard on the beds. But this… it was taking some doing.
When I finished at last, I decided to start in the living room next. Quickly, I started and finished both side tables.
By now, I could hear the animals outside as they came to life. The horses galloping across the pasture, kicking up dirt behind their hooves. No doubt the sun was warming the earth and drying the dew.
Oh, how I longed to be out there!
After I finished the table, I moved on to the cedar chest. It sat up against the far window across from the settee. Mother had filled it with all my childhood things, and ever since I had married, it had sat here. Unmoved and unopened.
Perhaps it was because I wanted to taste those days again, or perhaps it was because I only wanted to put off finishing the chore. Whatever the reason, I set the rag aside and opened the chest.
A flood of memories overwhelmed me as I saw a fluffy, huge hat sitting atop the neatly stacked blankets, hair ribbons, overalls, and photographs that had filled my childhood. I gently picked up the hat. It was nothing like the cowboy hat that normally sat on my head. No, this was a lady’s hat. It was white and big, with foo-foos on top. And came with a large muff.
Aunt Rebecca had brought it all the way from San Francisco. I remember how I despised that thing—and Aunt Rebecca—for insisting I wear it. It seemed horrid and ugly to my eleven-year-old mind. Worse even than the hat she’d brought when I was eight. What was it about Aunt Rebecca and hats?
This one was not fit for a ranch in my estimation.
And it was true. This fancy hat would never have lasted more than a day with me. Mother tucked it away and kept it safe. I only wore it to Sunday services whenever Aunt Rebecca visited in the wintertime—which wasn’t often, thank goodness. Auntie puffed up in pride when she saw that hat on me and my too-hot hands stuff into the muff. Heaven only knows why.  
Now, looking at the hat, I wish I had gotten to know Aunt Rebecca better. I mean really know her. After the letter from her that I opened on my wedding day, I realized there was a part of her I had never seen, a part I had never really cared to see. But now? What I wouldn’t give for one more day with her.
Why had I been so dad-blasted stubborn about keeping my distance? The three long weeks I spent with her in San Francisco the year of the scarlet fever outbreak was partly the reason I tried to avoid her after that. I’d had about enough of her bossing ways, even though my big sister Melinda kept telling me “Be patient. Don’t let Auntie rile you.” Clearly, Melinda was much wiser than I.
I blinked hard, keeping back the tears that sprang to my eyes. Why does it often take something like death to make us realize just how much a person means to us?
I put the hat back inside and gently closed the lid. That was enough memories for one day. I could never go back, so there was no use wishing. And I am happy with where God had led me in my life. Really, I am. It’s just that sometimes I get a pinch of longing for how things used to be.
Well, after that, it didn’t take long to finish the furniture. In fact, it took less time than I had expected. I headed outdoors to spend some time with the horses before it was time to start laundry.
The sun greeted my face as I stepped off the stairs, and I smiled. I couldn’t go back, but I could make every new day count. Starting with today. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Slice of Life - 14

       I have promised myself that this will be the final entry in my journal about Riley’s secret hideaway. Honestly, I had no idea I was such an author. But I couldn’t help myself and wrote my entry as though I were writing a book. Hmmm . . . a book about my life and my adventures. Now, there’s a thought.
       Maybe someday when I’m old and gray and have plenty of time to compile my journal entries into a book. But for now . . .
       I crawled through the rocky tunnel and stood up, but I was unprepared for what I saw. A few feet away, a cold, gushing spring bubbled up from under the rocks and swiftly flowed toward a glade that seemed surreal.
       Truly, the California foothills are anything but lush in the fall. The Golden State is golden because of the yellowish-brown (dead) grass for miles and miles all up and down the Sierras. Only at the higher elevations, where the source of water has not been completely depleted, are the trees tall and cool, and the undergrowth still green.
       Not here. Not when it hasn’t rained for weeks and weeks.
       This glade didn’t seem to notice the lack of summer rains.
       The water emptied into a small pond, which was surrounded by a thick, clover carpet. Wildflowers that I had not seen since last spring grew in bunches near the pond. Aspens and poplars grew thickly.
       I heard a “ribbit—ribbit” and the sound caught me off guard. Frogs? In September? Birds of all kinds—probably the only creatures who could easily access this place—flew in and out. Swallows snapped up insects mid-air. The birds looked plump and well fed.
       I stood speechless with wonder. I suddenly didn’t care if Riley had been right and I had been wrong. This place was indeed a secret hideaway. My eyes couldn’t drink in the beauty fast enough.
       I looked around to get my bearings. The entire glade was surrounded by tall rock “guards.” Just above the eastern edge, the highest peaks of the Sierra peeked out.
       Now I know why Cory and I had never found this place. We'd gone around the whole rock formation. I was pretty sure we had stood just on the other side of the eastern formation and never knew what lay so close. But completely impossible to get to.
       Until Riley found it.
       Riley came up from behind and put his arms around me. “Well, what do you think?”
       I turned and looked up into his smiling face. “Oh, Riley. I never dreamed of anything like this. How did you ever find it?”
       He pushed back his hat. “By accident. I was after a pesky coyote—”
        I scowled.
       “Yeah, I’m afraid this hideaway is not perfect. Anyway, I followed it into the rocks and lo and behold, it eventually ducked through the tunnel, and when I came out . . .” He waved his arm. “I saws this. Oh, and I got the coyote, by the way.” He took my hand. “Come on.”
       This time I followed gladly. We made our way along the bubbling creek and to the pond. The grass felt like velvet when I sat down. I crawled to the edge of the water. For a wonder, the pond was clear as glass. The sun shone down on the surface, and I saw the Banded Rocks reflected back picture-perfect.
       The sun wouldn’t be around for long, though. The entire glade wasn’t very large. Too soon the sun would slip behind the western cliffs and this special hideaway would be cast into shadows.
       By the looks of it, we had a couple of hours to enjoy this place. No fish lived in the pond, but plenty of other critters did—water bugs, dragonflies, frogs.
Riley laid a hand on my shoulder and pointed. A rabbit doe with a litter of late-season bunnies hopped into the clover and began munching. I sat perfectly still. The little ones scampered and chased each other, but the mama rabbit looked nervous. Every few seconds she sat high on her haunches and looked around. I’m pretty sure she scented us.
We watched the rabbits for probably ten minutes, when suddenly a large shadow appeared overhead. I knew what it was, and so did the rabbits. A hawk swooped low, and the bunnies scattered.
I held my breath. Please, not the bunnies!
It was silly, I know. Hawks have to eat and feed their babies too, but I couldn’t help letting out a sigh of relief when the hawk's intended targets ducked into a clump of bushes. The bird missed them by a whisker.
The rest of our time there passed in such a way that I will always keep this adventure high on my “best ever” list. Riley and I talked and talked and talked. I can’t remember all the details. There was something about this secret hideaway that made both of us feel lazy and restful. Maybe it was the sound of trickling water, or maybe the smell of something fresh and green and wet in the middle of the usual California fall drought. Whatever it was, I really didn’t want to leave.
Too late I remembered our lunch. I had left it tied to Shasta's saddle horn. Oh, well! Riley and I forgot about the time until the shadow of the rocks cut off the sunshine.
“We’d best get back,” Riley finally said. He too sounded loath to go. “The horses have not had such a nice time as we have had.”
Shasta and Dakota were tied to an old scrub pine in the middle of a rock pile. No, not a nice time at all. But they would be fine. It was cool and shady there and we’d watered them not long before we’d reached the Banded Rocks.
As we retraced our steps—through the tunnel, crisscrossing a number of turns in the rock maze, and finally stumbling out to the sound of welcoming whinnies—I tried to memorize the route.
Riley knew what I was thinking. “I want your promise not to come here alone.”
I furrowed my brow. It wasn’t dangerous, so why—
“Mostly I want this to be our special spot," he explained. "The other one was yours alone. This was mine, but I’m sharing it with you.”
When Riley put it that way, I was in total agreement. Yes, this was our special spot. Nobody else would ever, ever find out about it. Someday we would bring our children here, and wouldn’t they have a jolly time!
I saw in my mind’s eye four or five giggling children, one shouting from Riley’s shoulders. They were building camps and scattering the wildlife from one end of the glade to the other. Drinking gallons of lemonade and eating sandwiches and cookies on a Sunday afternoon outing.
Riley and I would be resting on the blanket, keeping watch so a baby didn’t toddle into the pond.
      My heart swelled in expectation. I can’t wait . . .        

Friday, June 9, 2017

Photo Friday: Real life palomino twins

(Thanks to Anna C. for posting this article link on my Circle C Adventures Facebook Group Page.)
These rare twin palomino foals were born May 11, 2017, to their palomino mare mother in Texas. You can read the full article and watch the video of the two little foals with their mom.
They are named Bonnie and Clyde, and their personalities reflect Sunny and Shasta to a T. (One foal is rambunctious, and the other laid back.). One had a harder start in life (like Sunny). I love it when fiction is a reflection of real life. Enjoy! Read all about it and see more picture at the above link.
This mare looks a lot like Taffy, i.e. her white blaze and her four white socks. Amazing!

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Slice of Life - 13

       I don’t remember ever being more excited about anything than finding this secret hideaway today. I’m sure there are other things that have sent me flying high above the clouds—like when Chad first gave me this spot where Riley and my house now stands. Or especially when I saw Taffy for the first time.
       But those are all little-girl excitements. Thinking I found gold with Cory one spring when I was nine was the most exciting thing that had ever happened.  
       But I’m grown up now (so my birth certificate tells me. Way past eighteen years old). And I’m sure having my own little baby someday will outshine any new foal or a few gold nuggets. It will be the most exciting and happy moment ever, but right now, this adventure with Riley is high on my list.
       For one thing, the idea that he knows a spot on a ranch when I feel I know every inch doesn’t sit well with me. I need him to prove it to me. It might—but unlikely—be someplace beyond our borders in open range. Then I could save face.
       Yeah, I doubt Riley is confused by ranch borders.
       I tied our lunch bundle to Shasta's saddle horn and climbed aboard. For a wonder, Riley told Tucker to stay home. That's a first. Riley's small, loyal collie is always at his heels. But I didn't question it, although Tucker looked mighty forlorn lying down on the porch with his head on his paws. Poor, lonely thing. 
       "We'll be back soon," I promised the dog, but he didn't even wag his tail at my words. 
       We rode for a long, long time. For most of the way I recognized markers—a tree once zapped by lightning and now blackened and dead. A rocky outcropping in the shape of a giant ants’ nest. The huge log lying over a now-dry creek bed (the end of September is a time of dry creeks and springs all over the foothills).
       I knew these landmarks well and told Riley so. And I smirked a little to myself too.
       But he kept Dakota at a steady pace. I nudged Shasta to keep up.
        Pretty soon Riley pulled Dakota to a stop and pointed toward the northeast. “See that row of striated rocks a few miles away?”
       Sure I saw them. “Those the Banded Rocks,” I said. “I always wanted to see what was on the other side, but there’s no way through them. You have to go around. Cory and I did it once a long time ago.”
       Riley’s lips twitched. “And?”
       I rolled my eyes. “There’s nothing beyond that row of towering rock formations than more foothills. And dull ones too.”
       My tone told my sweet husband that I’d been there already. Nothing new here that I haven’t explored to the last pebble.
       Riley didn’t say anything. Instead, he nudged Dakota into a lope and headed straight for the Banded Rocks. I followed along on Shasta, but some of the sunshine had gone out of this adventure. Even the possibility of “I told you so” didn’t make me feel very happy. I had been looking forward to a truly secret place I had never explored.
       We finally came to the row of rocks standing like a tall, broken fence. I looked up. Yep, same rocks.
       Riley dismounted. So did I. There was no shade here, and I didn’t see any trees nearby. Good thing we'd watered the horses a short time ago. “Where are you going?”
       “You’ll see. Follow me.”
       Puzzled, I grabbed Shasta's reins and urged him along.
       Instead of taking an old animal trail that circled around to the back—a fair distance and one I was not looking forward to, especially since I knew what was on the other side—Riley headed straight for a narrow gap between two of the enormous, striped boulders.
       He passed by the gap and ducked behind a third boulder. Where in the world was he taking us? This trail went nowhere. Cory and I had once spent a full day poking our noses into and around the piles and piles of rocks, to no satisfying end.
       But I followed him. The gap went several yards and then bang! There we were staring at a rock face. “Riley,” I began. “I told you. These trails lead—”
       “Oh, ye of little faith.” Riley chuckled and tied Dakota to the half-dead branch of a scrawny pine tree that seemed to be growing straight out of the boulder.
It wasn’t. The tree grew between the cracks, but there was barely enough dirt to hold its meager roots in place.
“Tie up Shasta and come along, my doubting Thomasina.”
I laughed at the way he turned Doubting Thomas into a girl’s name and did what he said.
Riley grasped my hand and led me past the horses. He took a sharp left that looked like it went to another dead end. Actually, it really was a dead end. But just before we bumped into another rock face, Riley turned right.
By now I was hanging on to his hand for life. This was a rock maze, a labyrinth suited for the Minotaur of the old Greek myths. Where was my ball of string when I needed it? For the first time, I had an inkling that perhaps Riley was telling the truth.
For sure I had never explored the innards of this rock jungle. And I would not have been doing so now if Riley wasn't giving my hand a tug every few minutes.
It was cool as an autumn evening in the shadow of the Banded Rocks. Scattered droppings along the way told me that rodents and small creatures claimed this place, but chances are that nobody but Riley had entered here since the Creation.
All of a sudden, Riley let go of my hand and dropped to all fours. “It’s a tight squeeze,” he told me, “but it’s not far.”
Whatever that meant.
Riley vanished into a narrow, rocky tunnel. Did I want to follow? Absolutely not! But neither did I want to be left behind with shadows and animal scat.
I went down on my hands and knees and gingerly followed my brave leader through the narrow, natural opening through the rocks. I admit my breath was coming in short little gasps. I don’t like tight, enclosed spaces.
It wasn’t dark. As soon as Riley passed through, light poured into my face. A dozen crawling steps and my head emerged. Riley reached out and helped me stand up.
I gasped in wonder and delight . . .

Well, again this entry took up four or five pages. And as fast as I scribble, it’s not fast enough. The light’s gone and Riley’s asleep. I’ll have to finish up my journal account in another entry.