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Archive for January, 2011

OK…  it’s official.

I’ve had just about all the winter fun I can stand!

We have snow.  We have lots of snow and it keeps drifting back and forth.  Every day it’s stacked up in a new spot.  The snow can’t seem to decide where it wants to be.  I think snow likes to check out several spots before it decides to stay put.   It’s a theory I have.

Monday night after work I got stuck in our driveway – in the snow that had drifted – with my 3/4 ton, 4 wheel drive pickup –  on a cold and windy evening a half a mile from my house – I got stuck!

Here’s my ride when it’s not stuck in the snow.

I didn’t have a shovel or my Carhart coveralls or my snowboots or a hat or a decent pair of gloves.  And the worst thing was that my husband wasn’t home to dig me out.  Wahhhh!!!

So…  I cussed a little and then I walked through the herd of cows to the house, put on my coveralls, a hat, gloves and my snow boots.  I found a shovel and walked back to my pickup.  By then it was getting dark but I spent a half hour digging the truck out anyway.  I drove it about 5 feet and got stuck again!

So…  I cussed some more, then I dug some more and this time when I got the pickup moving I turned off the driveway and cut across the pasture where you could almost see a patch of bare ground once in a while if you really looked.  I followed a cow path, bounced over several frozen cow pies, hit the gas (or in this case – the diesel fuel) and finally made it to the house.

Life is an adventure – go ahead and live it!

That was Monday night.  Tuesday night I made it home just fine because Hubby had been out plowing snow all day but as we were finishing supper the phone rang – the neighbor lady was stuck and her vehicle was stuck a lot deeper than mine had been.  Hubby fired up the road grader and went to plow as close as he could.  He plowed up one side of her vehicle and down the other, leaving her cute little SUV in an island of snow.   I came with the pickup to help too.  He plowed, we shoveled and then we jump-started her vehicle because the battery was dead by then and finally we chained it to the back of the road grader and pulled her out. 

She was very happy to be on her way.

That’s the way things have been going around here.  The scary part is it continues to snow.  It just keeps coming along with the freezing rains, ground blizzards, drifting snow and frigid arctic temperatures.  You just have to love life in the midwest. 

But if you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes and it will change.

I keep telling myself spring is just around the corner – it has to be!

I’ve had just about all the winter fun I can stand.

And from the looks of it, these deer have too.  They’ve decided to spend the rest of the winter right here, in the stack yard out of the wind with all these lovely hay bales.

Pretty smart critters – aren’t they?

 

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I’ve been working on my New Years Resolution.  You should be very proud of me – it’s only taken me till the 27th of January to get started on it.  I picked just one resolution this year because it’s a big one and it will probably take me at least 37 years, 5 months and 13 days to accomplish it. 

I have vowed to organized every last photo in our house!

I know – insanity runs rampant in my family but I have resolved to do this so I must get started. 

I decided it would be smart to start with the old photos – we have a lot of them – some from my side of the family and a bunch from my husbands’ family.  When my father-in-law passed away a couple of years ago we ended up with 6 VERY LARGE boxes of photos, newspaper clippings and a variety of other documents that desperately need to be preserved so being the overachiever that I am I decided the best thing to do would be to scan them and make CDs for my hubbys’ brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, 2nd cousins twice removed and any neighbors and total strangers who want one. 

I can be so ‘Martha’ sometimes.

But tonight, before I even looked into the first box of my husbands’ family photos I found this one in my grandmothers’ old photo album.

This is the Meyer School.  It is where my grandmother – Lulu taught before she got married.  It was 6 miles from Huron, SD and these are the children who went to school there in 1934 – 1935 (at least that’s what it says on the back).  Since I was born in 1961 I don’t think I know any of these kids but I do know the school.  It was called the Meyer School because the Meyer family lived right across the road from it and I would bet real money they had a lot to do with building it.  This is where Lulu was teaching when she met my grandfather, Russell.  He was very handsome and he drove the horse-drawn road grader pulled by his team of horses back and forth in front of the school.  I’ve heard he spent a lot of time grading the road in front of the school.  In fact someone once mentioned that he just about wore that stretch of road out in front of the school.  I’m sure it was just because he took his job very, very seriously and that stretch of road must have needed work very, very badly.

Yeah – I’m sure that’s why he did it.

Here’s a photo of Grandpa Russell and Grandma Lulu on a date. 

Someone wrote on the back of the photo:  “Russell and his girl taking in his rye field.”

Exciting, isn’t it?  Grandpa really knew how to show a girl a good time.

“My, what nice rye you have, Russell…  It’s really…  tall.         Can we go now?”

Look at her.  She’s just about to throw her arms around his neck, kiss him passionately and roll around in that field of rye with him – isn’t she? 

OK – Maybe not.

But Grandma married him anyway and she moved to the sod house at the farm 1 mile from the school.  My Uncle Don and my father, Jim were raised there and eventually both were students at the Meyer School.  They married nice, young gals and raised their families next door to the home place (also 1 mile from the school).  My brother, sister and I grew up on the farm and when we got old enough to go to 1st grade this is where we went too.

I only went to country school for 2 years but I have some vivid memories of it.

My cousins were students there too along with the kids from several families near by but there were only 2 kids in my grade – a boy named Roger and myself.  He was weird.

We didn’t have running water just a cooler that was filled every day and placed on a table in the small coat room just inside the door.  It was cool.

Because there wasn’t running water we had 2 outhouses out back – one for the boys and one for the girls.  They were cool too – especially in the winter.

One day I went to the outhouse and found a huge garter snake stretched out and soaking up the sunshine in front of the door.  I just about peed my pants right then and there.  I ran back inside and told our teacher who quickly sent my big, strong and incredibly brave cousin, Marla (with a baseball bat in hand) out to take care of the snake.  The poor little snake must have been just as scared as I was because he disappeared before we got back.

We played lots of baseball during recess and rode the merry-go-round and swings too.  And we would take turns ringing the bell when it was time to come in. 

I distinctly remember a Christmas program where I had to recite a poem.  I was scared spit less but got through it without too many prompts from our teacher.  If I remember right.

I hadn’t thought about that for a long time.   Isn’t it great how old photos can bring back all those memories? 

Unfortunately, I now realize I’ve just spent the last 2 hours reminiscing and have only scanned 2 photos. 

Damn. 

I guess you better add a couple more years onto my timeline for this years’ resolution.  Help me Martha!!!

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I had to bring the ladder inside to change some light bulbs so I thought I would take a couple of pictures while I was up there.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to photograph ‘up there’ so here are some pictures of the deer heads that grace our walls. 

I’m sorry – it’s been a long winter and we’re rednecks.

Surprisingly, each deer has a pretty good story.

This is a mule deer.  He was eating hay in our stack yard on the opening day of hunting season – not a wise decision on his part.

 You probably remember this guy from a previous post. 

My husband shot this one while he was standing on the front porch in his underwear (my husband – not the deer).  I have a video of this.  You will never see stuff like this on a TV hunting show even though it was pretty darn funny.

But the best story of all belongs to the little set of horns in the center.  They came from a 4 point White-tailed buck…

and our dog, Barney got that set.

 

Now before you get all up in arms (pun intended), let me explain. 

Barney the Border Collie was a lover, not a fighter.  His greatest joy in life was baby chicks.  Barney LOVED baby chicks!  He never hurt one – in fact Barney was the best mother hen we had. 

If you’ve ever been around Border Collies you know they have to have a job.  They are working dogs.  They will herd cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, children, cats, balls and all manners of fowl.  Barney’s life revolved around baby chicks.  Every spring when our hens hatched out their babies, Barney was a nervous wreck.  He would go from one batch of chicks to the next, round and round till he was exhausted. 

He loved baby chicks so much that when our hens weren’t setting I would buy chicks just for him.  I would come home with a box of little cheepers and as soon as he heard them he would get so excited he could hardly contain himself.  He would sleep beside their pen and never leave them till they were about half-grown.

Barney was a great dog.

But I’ve gotten sidetracked – the deer horns.

One year both our boys had hunting licenses.  We lived near Custer, SD at that time right up against Custer State Park.  The park fence ran for about 3/4 of a mile along the edge of our property and both boys knew the rules of hunting – anything on the other side of the fence was off-limits.  There was no hunting in the state park! 

But that was OK.  There were usually enough deer on our property that there was no reason to even look across the fence – except for that one white-tailed buck.

He was beautiful.  Not a big rack but well-formed and both boys set their sights (so to speak) on getting him. 

But it wasn’t as easy as you’d think.  He was smart!

There was a spot in the park fence where it crossed the creek that the wire didn’t quite reach the ground leaving just enough space for the deer to duck under the fence and come onto our land and the big meadow full of tall grass. 

All season the boys tried to catch the buck on our land but no matter how quietly they snuck out of the house,  gun in hand, he heard them and would scoot back under the fence to the park where he knew he was safe. 

After a couple of weeks of failure, the boys put a tree stand up in a pine tree then spent hours waiting for the buck but not once did he pass under the fence while they were outside.

He was really smart.

So hunting season passed by and both boys finally gave up and harvested other deer to fill our freezer.  Winter turned into spring.  The snow melted and the grass turned green.  One nice spring day our oldest son, Dalton decided it was time to climb the tree and take down the tree stand.  Barney followed him out, excited to go on a walk with one of his beloved boys.  As they crossed the pasture something in the grass caught Dalton’s eye and he bent down and picked up the cutest little deer antler you ever saw.  It was just a couple small points, only about 6″ long and it had been well polished by the young buck that had shed it at the end of the mating season.  Dalton held it down for Barney to sniff and said,

“Look what I found!”

Barney was just as excited as Dalton and he wagged his tail in delight before disappearing into the tall grass, his nose to the ground.

Dalton climbed the tree, unstrapped his tree stand and lowered it to the ground.  He turned around to whistle for Barney only to find the dog standing right behind him, his tail wagging  in delight and a deer skull clenched in his teeth – the antlers coming up on either side of his face. 

It just about scared the beejeebers out of Dalton.  He was half way up the tree again before he realized it was only Barney and not some blood-crazed devil-like forest creature never before seen by human eyes.

Dalton followed Barney under the fence and back into the trees to the spot where the remains of the buck lay – obviously the site of a mountain lion kill. 

The boys couldn’t catch him but the big kitty did.

Needless to say Barney won the ‘Big Buck’ contest that year and if dogs could talk you could bet Barney would have had one thing to say.

“Tee Hee – see what I found!”

Miss you Barney.

 

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I love my job.

I work for the US Department of Agriculture and I love my job not just because they pay me and I get cool benefits like paid vacation and health insurance (which I really like) but the main thing I like about my job is that I get to visit with ranchers every day.

Ranchers come in all styles and shapes.

There are lady ranchers who are tougher and smarter than any one I’ve ever met,

little old cowboy ranchers who might be 80 years old but they’re still out there when the work needs to be done,

gussy-up’d ranchers with silverbelly hats, polished boots and shiny belt buckles

and ranchers straight off the ranch with mud and manure encrusted coveralls and 4 buckle overshoes.

Ranchers are honest, hardworking people who will give you the shirt off their back – they are good people!

Last week a rancher came in.  He really didn’t have any ‘business’ reason to come see us but just wanted to catch up and see how we were wintering.  We got to talking about a woman we all know and the tough times she’d been going through.  Even though this gal has been struggling lately, she is the type that never gives up and she knows how to get things done.  As we sat and visited at one point the rancher looked at me and said:

“She was twistin’ tail!”

“Say what?”

Now, unless you’ve worked cattle you may not understand this statement or that it is a complement.  It sounds more like something you could get arrested for at Sturgis during the motorcycle rally, but it’s not.

Twistin’ tail is what you do when your moving cattle through alleyways or chutes.  It is a delicate (Not!) maneuver that can get you kicked big time.  The first thing you need to know is you can’t do it half way – jump in with determination and no fear or don’t even attempt it.  You come up behind a calf (always practise this with calves before attempting it with full-grown cows), press your body hard against the backend, grab hold of the tail and twist it up into a furry, manure caked corkscrew and then push for all your worth.

Now when you first do this you will learn several things very quickly:

1.  You will get kicked, so stay close to the calf.  The closer you are – the less it hurts.  When your right up there ‘in their business’, so to speak, they just can’t get the right momentum to give you a good swift kick in the knee cap.  If your backed off from them, even just a little, they can reach right up with their back hooves, kick you in the jaw and drop you to the ground.

2.  Cattle, in general, have no pity.  If they see you go down they will  turn on a dime and run over the top of you to get as far away from the chute as possible.  They will even laugh at you as you wallow around in a foot of mud – they are mean that way.

3.  And finally –  sooner or later what goes into a calf must come out.  Never wear good clothes or new gloves for this and above all do not tuck your pants into your boots – take my word for this.  By the time you perfect this maneuver you will have manure down the front of you, in your face, in  your hair and down your pants. 

One word of warning – if the back-end of the calf is already covered with a slimy, yellowish substance known as scours (or diarrhea) do not attempt to twist that tail.  Use a whip, sorting stick or hot-shot to keep at least 5 feet of distance between you and the backend of that calf – take my word for this too.

“I’m out of here – I like my tail just the way it is – thank you very much!”

I challenge you to use this quote today.  Just see how many times you can work it into a conversation with your hair dresser, lawyer, priest, dentist or just the nice old lady who lives next door.  I guarantee they will either be impressed with your way with words or just walk away with a troubled look on their face.  

Either way you’ll get a good chuckle out of it.

 

“Humans are so weird!”

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My sister and I are curlers.

No – not the kind you put in your hair – the kind you find on a sheet of ice.

Look – here’s a couple of curlers now.

That’s my sister, Jenny and Jeff – the only guy on our team. 

We just started curling last year and it’s a blast!!! 

Sure, you slip and fall once in a while but nobody points and laughs because they’ve been there too.

And besides – every time I laugh I slip and fall too.

Here’s the very nice ice rink in Rapid City where we curl and some of the stones.

Here’s some really good curlers.  When I grow up I want to curl just like they do and I want a pink broom too!

A curling we will go…  A curling we will go…

There are enough people signed up this year to have 8 teams.  Most of us are beginners but there are a few who have been curling for years and they are great about helping us beginners out.

Here’s Jenny as the alternate skip (the strategic master who tells us where she wants the stone) in the house (the target on the ice where we try to put our stones).  Wow – it almost sounds like I know what I’m talking about.  This shot looks pretty good – there are lots of rocks in play but the ice was really weird that day and no matter where you tried to put the rocks they usually just went off to the left.  I’m not just making excuses – everyone on our sheet (patch of ice) was having the same problem.  It wasn’t just me.

Here’s what happens when you put your camera in your pocket and it gets all fogged over.

Adds a bit of mystery to the whole thing doesn’t it?

“It was a dark and foggy night at the curling rink…”

What do you think – it could be the beginning of a top-selling murder mystery – ‘Murder on the Rocks’ or maybe ‘Murder’s Just a Stones Throw Away’.

OK, I’ll work on it.

I love curling – it’s too much fun!

 

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When you live on a ranch Date Night could be just about anything.

Saturday night Hubby and I went out and did something I have never done before.

It was a beautiful evening with the nearly full moon adrift in a sky full of clouds.

There was mood lighting, witty conversation and I wore my favorite Carhart coveralls…

 

OK, we went out to the back yard and changed the ball joint on the old Ford pickup.

Who says romance is dead?

 

Here’s what the poor girl looked like.

Notice the mood lighting. 

This time of year you almost always run out of daylight.

The ball joint was completely trashed – there was nothing holding it together but a wish and a prayer.  You can see the shiny new one at the top of the picture. 

I love this truck.  She hauled my babies around for years and then she took my kids to school when they were old enough to drive.  In fact they started driving this pickup down to the school bus stop (a mile from the house) when Dalton was around 9 or 10 years old.  There are a few dings and dents and those wild children of mine even got in trouble a couple of times in her. 

I know your shocked that my sweet babies would ever do anything to get in trouble – but it’s true.

Overall, she’s been a great truck.  I rolled over 190,000 miles on my way to work last week.  I stopped on the side of the road, danced a little jig and whooped at the top of my lungs. 

The only ones who saw me were a couple of deer and a bald eagle flying overhead and none of them even noticed.  Makes you wonder if there aren”t more crazy ranch wives out there that do this type of thing – doesn’t it?  Still, it’s a good thing I live out here – if I did that type of thing downtown of some big city they would probably lock me up.

Here’s the jack we chose to use – not your typical handyman jack.

What’s that they say?  Go big or go home.

Why mess with those little ‘screw up’ jacks when you can hook a chain on the bucket of your handy-dandy backhoe and have an instant jack that can lift the whole front of your pickup off the ground?

And here’s Hubby putting on the nut that holds everything together.

And here’s one of the compartments on the tool truck – a masterpiece of organization (and yes, the rest of the trucks compartments looks just like this one).  Never fear – Hubby knows exactly where everything is!

(Imagine my eye balls rolling wildly into the back of my head)

A few lug nuts and she’s done.

Thank goodness – I was starting to worry about the old girl.

Now if someone would just vacuum the dog hair and 3 gallons of spilled oats out of the back seat, take the spare parts, fencing materials, baling twine and tools out of the bed, sweep out 10  years worth of dust, mud spatters, old food wrappers and dirt from the cab and use harsh chemicals to remove the black, greasy buildup on the door handles, steering wheel, seats and ceiling liner – I would drive her to work.  

And someday, if your driving through Wyoming and happen to see a crazy ranch wife dancing a jig on the edge of the road beside her red Ford F-150 pickup – just smile and wave as you pass. 

You can bet I’ve just turned over 200,000 miles.

 

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Most of our cows look like this:

Hello number 17.

And all of our bulls look like this:

“I’m a stud and I know it.”

So, needless to say, most of our calves look like this.

But every once in a while we end up with an odd colored calf. 

In 2009 we had Snowball.

As Ricky Ricardo always said,

“You got some ‘splaining to do, Lucy!”

Actually the big feed lot operation on the other side of the mountain from us runs Charolais bulls – big, white bulls.

Not even Earl, the horse knew what to think of this calf – even though he really did like the color.

Sorry, Snowball – just because you’re a little different that doesn’t mean we’re going to treat you different then the other calves.  After all, we wouldn’t want you to develop some debilitating complex where you feel singled out from the crowd and all alone.  And we really wouldn’t want you to think your special and get spoiled or anything like that.  I’m just saying – it could really ruin your life.  So it’s better if we treat you the same as everyone else.

In the chute you go. 

And look – we just happen to have a cowboy or two.

“Howdy, ma’am.  My name’s Morgan and I’ll be your Brander today.”

Snowball is laid out on our calf table.  The calf table is usually closed into a narrow alley way.  You run the calves into the little chute at the back of it and down the alley way to the three bars at the front.  With levers, you lower the bars around the side and neck of the calf, sucking the calf up to the wall.  Then you flip the wall and calf over onto its side – hence, the calf table.  It’s handy for branding, castrating, ear tagging and just general all-around working on calves.  And when your done you flip them back over onto their feet and release the bars on their side and they run out the front – back to mamma.  Sometimes we use the calf table instead of roping and dragging ’em.  It’s usually when we don’t have a lot of extra help running around. 

Snowball doesn’t look stressed at all – she’s thinking she’s going to spend the day at the spa.

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

Sorry honey, this ain’t no spa.

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!

A brand.  A shot.  All done.

Just be thankful you’re a heifer calf, Snowball.  You don’t even want to think about what we do to the bull calves.

Here’s a good look at our brand – even if it is upside down in this shot.  It really shows up on that white hide.

Just another day at the ranch.

 

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I know.

You’re wondering what happened to Houdini the Rat – you want to hear the rest of the sordid tale don’t you?  OK, I’ll tell you the sad, sad story of how Houdini finally met his maker.

As we left him last, Houdini had been forced from his home in the garage and his carefully constructed rolling compost heap had been torn apart, restoring it to the classic 1974 Cadillac DeVille that it was.  I’m sure it was very traumatic for the little guy to watch. 

Where, oh where could our fine, furry friend find a new home?

I can almost imagine the little rat stepping out of his beloved garage and taking a look around.  There was Grandpa’s house but he had already tried a house without much success.  Why not the barn across the corral? 

Why not, indeed?

Even though there wasn’t a big old Cadillac to fill with veggies there was a new source of food and shelter.  The oats for the horses and alfalfa cake for the cows is stored in the barn.  It’s also where we keep the tack for the horses.  Just think of all the great nests you could build from a sweaty old cotton horse blanket, not to mention all that great leather to chew on!

It didn’t take Houdini long to settle in and it wasn’t long at all before he made his presence known.  There were holes in the saddle blankets.  Several saddles had teeth marks and a brand new cotton cinch disappeared completely.  When we did finally find it tucked behind a barrel of oats, the only parts that were left were the brass buckles. 

At least we knew that Houdini was alive and well in the barn.

The traps and poison were moved into the barn and within a couple of days Houdini was once again staring back at us through the wire mesh of the catch-em-alive trap. 

This time Hubby didn’t take any chances.  Houdini had already cost us a lot of time, money and horse tack so Hubby had no qualms at all about shooting the rat through the sides of the cage, leaving two small holes in the metal screen and one dead rat.

Fairwell to a worthy opponent. 

We salute you.

Well, all things must come to an end – so it was with Houdini the Rat.  But just because he was dead it didn’t mean his adventures were over.

Our two sons had grown as fond as anyone to the tale of the wood rat and once they knew we had dispatched the little critter once and for all they asked to see the body when they got home from school.  They were curious – Houdini had always been moving at a pretty high rate of speed whenever they did catch a glimpse of him so they wanted to take a good look at him now that he was…  well…  a little slower.

I guess you could say Houdini had left his body to science.

At that time our family was technically living in two places.  We were working on remodeling the old house at the ranch but still owned the house 32 miles away at Custer, SD.  I would work on the ranch house all day then go home to the kids who were still in high school at Custer while Hubby took care of things at the ranch. 

That afternoon Houdini’s body was placed in the bed of the pickup and I went home to make supper for the kids.  They were thrilled to finally see the wood rat up close. 

I know – ranch kids are weird.

The next morning, for some reason that I can’t remember, we swapped vehicles and the boys drove the pickup to school, not even thinking of the dead rat in the back.

Of course, boys will be boys and the death of the infamous wood rat was a hot  topic in the parking lot before school.  Amazingly, none of their friends had ever seen a bushy-tailed wood rat so they all congregated around the back of the pickup for a close look at the native wildlife. 

One thing led to another.  One kid had an idea – another kid had a roll of duct tape and before you could say Abracadabra, Houdini was taped to the antenna of someone elses car.

Now, don’t get upset – it wasn’t done in anger or spite.  The kid who’s car they chose to’ bless’ with such an honor was actually a good friend of theirs and obviously one with a well-developed sense of humor (and another roll of duct tape) as Houdini was soon moved and thus began his tour of the parking lot. 

All day long there were comments in the halls of the school.

“Did you see that thing taped to my antenna?”

“Yeh, what was it?”

“I don’t know but it’s on (so and so’s) car now.”

No one knows for sure how many vehicles were visited that day as Houdini traveled throughout the parking lot.  There were even rumors that some of the  teachers were introduced (up close and personal) to the wood rat as the day went on. 

By late afternoon, Houdini was the talk of the school but then the body went missing.  No one knew what happened to him and to tell the truth no one really thought much of it.  More than likely, someone had finally taken the bull by the horns (or more aptly, the rat by the tape) and disposed of the body.  School let out and everyone went home with a new knowledge of the bushy-tailed wood rat.

The boys came home and shared the story of Houdini’s wild day at school with me.  Of course, I was horrified and knew for sure my beloved but slightly warped children would be expelled from school.  But they weren’t.

The next morning I needed the pickup to haul building supplies to the ranch so we swapped vehicles again.  The boys left for school and I headed to the lumber yard then on to the ranch.

It was a beautiful fall day with warmer temperatures and lots of sunshine.  As I pulled up to the house I saw my hubby working outside.  He glanced up, then did a double take, a crease furrowing his brow as I pulled to a stop beside him.

“What’s up?”  I asked.

“I don’t know.”  He answered still looking puzzled.  “What’s hanging under your truck?”

It couldn’t be.  But it was.

We both got to our hands and knees to look under the truck to find a plastic grocery bag tied to the center of the pickup frame. 

The mystery had been solved.

Houdini had come home to the ranch. 

He’s buried out in the back yard.

 

 Maybe I’ll put up a headstone someday.

 

Maybe we should have named him Boomerang.

 

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As we left our soggy rodent friend yesterday he had just escaped a watery death at the hands of his arch nemesis (I always wanted to say that) and our hero Hubby.

Houdini had scurried around the rim of the stock tank – no easy feat in itself, narrowly missed being smacked by a wildly swung shovel, raced through the garden to a small opening in the garage and disappeared in the cool, dark shadows within.

No amount of cussing, screaming or digging through the accumulation of boxes, spare parts and who know what else was in the garage produced hide nor hair of the rodent. 

Houdini had vanished once again – and in the process, he had discovered a new and exciting kingdom.

This is the real Harry Houdini – what an inspiration to our rodent friend.

 

We neither saw Houdini nor any sign of him for a couple of weeks and probably would have forgotten all bout him – allowing him to live out his days in peace if it hadn’t been for Houdini’s bad habits. 

Suddenly, Grandpa’s car started having problems.  Nothing big – just little things like the heater had quit working and the lights on the dash weren’t quite right.  Could it be that Houdini hadn’t ridden off into the sunset like we had hoped.  Had he had moved into Grandpa’s car and begun feasting on the wiring?

Yep!

So one fateful day, Hubby and Grandpa decided it was time to fix the car.  We were well into fall and the cold days of winter weren’t far behind.  Grandpa would need the heater fixed.  They opened the hood of the big old 1974 Cadillac and stepped back in amazement – their jaws slack and agape.

It was a modern marvel of ingenuity – perhaps the 8th wonder of the world right here on our very own little ranch.  Houdini had created the first mobile compost heap in history! 

Being within easy access of Grandpa’s garden had, as it turned out, given our furry little rat a ready supply of veggies which he had carefully stored away for the winter.  Every nook and crannie of the huge V-8 engine compartment in Grandpa’s big old car was packed with a variety of veggies, baling twine, corn stalks and whatever else Houdini could lay his fuzzy little fingers on.  Empty squash and zucchini shells, rotting peppers, tomatoes  and old, moldy cabbage leaves were just a few of the veggies he chose to store away with an occassional bean or onion top thrown in for a well balance diet.  Believe it or not – everything Grandpa had tossed into his compost heap had found its way under the hood of his car.

I can only imagine how many trips to town Houdini and his rolling compost heap had made and how many veggies were now scattered on the side of the road – perhaps after first being shredded by the fan of the massive engine – a giant 8 valve food processor.  And just think of poor Houdini, if he had ridden along he had probably been a nervous wreck, watching his food so lovingly stored for the winter falling to the ground below with every pothole and washboardy stretch of gravel road shaking more of his precious cargo loose. 

Oh the horror of it!  The pain and anguish!!!

And as if that wasn’t bad enough – his stash had now been discovered by the two men on earth who hated him the most.

Amid more cussing (a lot of cussing), the remains of the rolling compost heap were removed from the engine and the chewed wiring was repaired. 

Rat poison and was spread throughout the garage along with the dreaded catch-em-alive trap and several rat-sized, spring-loaded, not quite what you’d call humane traps. 

War had been declared!

But Houdini wasn’t afraid, and he wasn’t a quitter!!!  I honestly don’t think he knew the meaning of the word.

Since things had become unbearable in the garage, Houdini packed his bags (figuratively speaking) and left – headed straight for his new life…

His life in the barn.

To be continued, again…

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A couple of years ago when our house looked like this:

We had a little problem with pack rats.

Actually the critters we have are called bushy-tailed wood rats.

Neotoma cinerea if you want to get all scientific.

They’re really kind of cute in a ‘ratish’ rodent type of way.  Full grown they are roughly the size of a small rabbit only with a long furry tail and cute little rat ears.

But do not be deceived by the adorable ears and fuzzy tails.  These are not the kind of creatures you would willingly invite into your home.  They chew on everything from food to furniture and they especially love wiring and plumbing.  They generally make a mess – not to mention the shock of coming face to face with one in your home!  I think I got about 147 grey hairs over a few weeks of construction – thank you very much.

As we started work on the house we were introduced to one particularly determined wood rat who eventually came to be known as Houdini.  We would see him as we worked on the old house.  He would show up at the most inopportune times and always when you didn’t have a weapon at hand to dispatch the furry little creature.  You’d move a piece of sheet rock or a box of nails and there he’d be.  You’d see him scurrying down the staircase or climb a ladder and he’d be there amongst the rafters to greet you.  He was everywhere!!! 

We tried to be humane – really we did.  We tried for several weeks to catch the little bugger in a catch-em-alive trap but Houdini had a way of springing the trap, eating the bait and disappearing all in a matter of seconds. 

He was good!

One day we saw him zip into the old hide-a-bed sofa that had been left in the house.  We quickly drug it out the door but once we opened it up Houdini was nowhere to be seen.  The same thing happened with an old cast iron wood stove.  It took four of us to haul it outside while holding boards over the openings just to find it was empty when we all collapsed outside.

Houdini was a master of escape but his days as master of our castle were numbered. 

After several alterations to the trap, my husband did finally catch him.  With his shiny little black eyes pleading to us through the fine mesh wire of the cage he faced his defeat. 

My husband didn’t want to shoot him, not because he had feelings for the rat – he didn’t want holes in his newly improved trap nor did he wish to risk Houdini’s escape by opening the cage to get a clear shot so after a fond farewell from me (OK – it wasn’t too fond) my husband hauled the trapped rodent down to the stock tank at Grandpa’s house where Houdini would meet his watery fate.

But don’t cry for Houdini yet!  The story didn’t end here.

As the cage sank into the slimy green depths of the stock tank the latch released allowing one of the doors to float up with the rising water.  Houdini, never one to pass up an opportunity, made quick work of this last-ditch shot at freedom.  He swam out the end of the cage and amid many shouted curses and a wildly swinging shovel that nearly ended it all, Houdini climbed to the lip of the tank and ran half-way around the edge, out of reach of the long-handled shovel. 

Hubby was no match for the soggy little rodent who was spurred on by a genuine fear for his life.  Houdini cleared the tank, shot between rows of tomatoes and onions in Grandpa’s garden and darted through a small hole in the back of the garage.

Hot on his trail, Hubby tore through the garage, throwing boxes and spare parts aside but the varmint had vanished once again.

Houdini had lived up to his namesake by making an amazing (and hair-raising) escape from the claws of deaths’ icy grip.

I hear you cheering out there. 

 I know – I wanted a happy ending too – and it could have been if Houdini had moved on.  

But he didn’t and unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the story…

To be continued…

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