Friday, March 29, 2013

The Turquoise Bead

Friday March 29 2013

It's rather ironic that a person who's deathly afraid of lightning can't hear thunder. When I can hear thunder, it's already too late and I am much too close to the lightning. (And I can't always depend on my riding partners… they know I'm afraid of lightning, so they don't always mention it when they hear thunder, thinking they might be doing me a favor.)

With the absence of one sense, however, I have learned to use my senses of sight and intuition to recognize thunderstorms by interpreting the aspirations of clouds: by the color, the size, the shape, the intent.

Even the slightest inkling of a section of a poofy cloud of a possible thunderstorm, and my neck hairs are alert and ready to stand on end, and the cloud is guilty before proven innocent. I can now sniff out and spot a thunderstorm and its direction of travel two states away.

Knowing I like to read, and knowing I'm afraid of lightning, my aunt Carolyn sent me a lovely book, The Anthropology of Turquoise, and pointed out a part mentioning that traditionally the Navajo wore a turquoise bead in their hair to protect them from lightning.


Seeing that I have been caught out totally exposed in half a dozen terrifying (to me) lightning storms, and seeing that I still can't seem to avoid encountering lightning storms here in Owyhee on horseback, I contacted my friend PJ, who just happened to have some real turquoise beads, and she sent a handful to me and Jose.

I tied a tiny turquoise bead onto Jose's bridle, so that we never go on a ride without it.

But after riding Mac yesterday with 2 very suspicious-looking dark rain clouds near the end of our ride (but no turquoise bead on Mac's bridle), and after riding Jose today into another almost-suspicious rain shower cloud (with a forecast of 20% chance of scattered thundershowers), I got to thinking.

I wondered if a bead tied to the bridle would even work, or does it have to be tied to hair? If it does work tied to Jose's bridle, will the turquoise bead protect us both? Does the bead have to be in my hair? Does Jose have to wear one in his hair too? Or does it even work for white people anyway? (Or at least white people interested in and respectful of the Navajo culture?)

Further investigation says a turquoise bead was fastened to a lock of hair to safeguard against snakebite (which would also be handy here… I was almost bitten by a baby rattlesnake in Brown's Creek Canyon last fall, and I encountered a record 10 or so rattlesnakes last year).

It's already that time of the year with the unpredictable spring weather - wind, rain showers, heat, freezing temperatures, spitting snow, and thunderstorms.

I think to be on the safe side, I'll just dig out those other turquoise beads and add two more to my daily riding gear - one for my hair, one for Jose's hair. Between those 2 turquoise beads and the one permanently attached to his bridle, we might stay safe. Can't hurt, and it might help!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Southern Racehorse: March/April Cover

Wednesday March 27 2013

My photo of a horse jogging on the racetrack in the morning fog is on the cover of the March/April 2013 issue of the Southern Racehorse.

I relish shooting many horse disciplines. This summer my goal is rodeos - so appropriate here in the West, and cutting - a discipline I'd like to try in the saddle, though I expect I'd fall off a good cutting horse! I should probably stick to staying behind the lens there.

More samples of my published work are here:

Thanks again, editor Denis Blake!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Grumpy Old Men

Monday March 25 2013

Well, they might look grumpy, but really the 20+ 'old' boys Stormy and Krusty are playing, going at it hard.

My horse Stormy the Thoroughbred (the lighter one with the long blaze) is learning the art of ferocity from Mighty Mouth, or Bitey Mouth, Krusty the Olov Trotter.

No mercy, and no crying Uncle!

[slide show here]

or link

Friday, March 22, 2013

Owyhee Spring

Friday March 22 2013

With the Owyhee spring comes the unpredictable weather: heat, cold, rain, wind, and the surprise snowfall.

It's a treat to wake up to the unexpected white stuff on the ground.

But, oh, that cold wind! Its roaring grates on your nerves, sets your teeth to gnashing, and stands your goosebumps on alert and your neck hairs on end.

The horses turn tail to the blusterous gales, and I hunker down inside, watching the snow evaporate and listening to the howls.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Get Well - Say It With Stormy!

Wednesday March 20 2013

This Stormy The Horse greeting card was inspired by our endurance riding friend Dave Rabe, who cracked his head at a ride in December. Dave was getting better, then had to have surgery, and he's slowly getting better again. He wasn't wearing a helmet, but he promises he will wear one once he gets back to riding!

Stormy and I wanted to send him an appropriate Get Well card, so Stormy designed this one.

More Stormy the Horse greeting cards can be seen and ordered here, and don't forget, you can get your own horse customized on these cards!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stick It

Sunday March 176 2013

You'd be hard pressed to find cactus around here in Owyhee. It exists, but not so's you'd find enough to stick your nose in it.

Except for Bodie. He found it, and stuck it where it hurts - his nose, which he uses for just about everything - eating, sniffing, feeling.

Even if the horse held still, you obviously don't want to try pulling it out with your bare hands, because the other spines will stick in your skin. You don't want to try pulling it out with gloves, because even if you get a grip on it, you'll probably poke it further in, or poke other spines in his nose.

Best is to use a comb, and rake it over the area quickly, flipping the whole cactus piece out. Fortunately I haven't found any single cactus spines in any of the horses. These can be a nightmare to remove, often requiring veterinary sedation and subsequent treatment, as many people living in Arizona have probably learned.

Bodie hardly knew what happened, and right after I swept the cactus off his nose, I gave him a good (much appreciated) scratch.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Punching Cows

Saturday March 16 2013

Originally, a 'cowpuncher' referred to a man prodding or punching a walking steak (i.e. beef cow) with an iron-spiked pole up a chute into a railroad car bound for slaughter. Eventually, 'cowpuncher' came to mean cowboys in general, and cowpunching referred to the work cowboys do.

But I know now why they really call it Punching Cows.

When your horse wants the sloooooow moooooo-ving tired little calves to get along, he punches them in the butt. Sometimes he bites them in the butt to hurry them along.

Jose punched this little calf along the wash on our cattle drive today. More on this adventure soon!

[video here]

or link

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Stagecoach Etiquette #2: Spit With the Wind

Thursday March 14 2013

Stagecoach Etiquette #2

This one may be obvious to most of us, but then… the Wild West does have some unruly characters, and heaven forbid we Gentle Sex (ladies, I presume) might be offended… or spattered.

"If ladies are present gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the Gentle Sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted but spit WITH the wind, not against it."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stagecoach Etiquette #1: Selfish and Un-neighborly

Monday March 11 2013

Confession: I am addicted to Bonanza re-runs. And seeing as it looks like everybody's going to return to the Wild West and start wearing their six-shooters on their hips again like those glory days of old (actually we have a neighbor who does regularly, and I spent a lunch at a local small-town burger joint sitting beside a rancher with one on his hip), I think it's time we start getting ready for a return to horses for transportation, with buggies, wagons, and stagecoaches.

Preparing for the time we'll be traveling those long distances by stagecoach, we will be reviewing, from time to time, proper stagecoach etiquette. That way,

"Adherence to the rules will insure a pleasant trip for all."

#1. "Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and un-neighborly."

To Be Continued...

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Saturday March 2 2013

The logging road is like a magnet, sucking me higher uphill, though the going is difficult. Traversing the snow is like wading through a giant 7-11 slurpy. Heavy, pulling back on your leg with every step that you sink to your knees. It was reasonable to walk on a few days ago but above-freezing temperatures has drastically changed it. Finding a meal - or escaping from being one - must be difficult now for the creatures who endure this winter landscape.

I was asked if I'm watching out for bears and cougars. Sure, I always look over my shoulders as I'm hiking, but here bears ought to be hibernating still (right??), and no cougar in his right mind would be lurching through this deep snow, wasting precious winter energy chasing prey. I hope so anyway, because I wouldn't escape anywhere fast. The term sitting duck comes to mind.

I come across large footprints, but they are difficult to decipher in this slush. They are larger than my feet - but the snow is now soft enough that the tracks could have been made by a deer many days ago, just denting the hard packed snow, but they have now melted to Bigfoot-sized platters a foot deep. From the distance between strides, I suspect elk; I discount cougar. But I still look over my shoulder as I struggle ever upward.

I'm ever hopeful of finding a barred owl feather, a treasure from the company I've been keeping at night; but I find something even more amazing.

The tracks in the snow are of a predator and prey - a bird of prey predator and prey.

There has been a struggle here. The yellow is where the pounce happened. The owl was facing toward 11:00 in the photo. The red are strokes from spread wingtips. An owl will often stand over its gripped prey, wings outstretched, covering it for a while before flying away. The green are toe prints where the owl turned to walk, moving with the prey in his mouth, stepping away from the battle scene, before he took off.

3 front toes and a back toe can clearly be seen in these 2 prints.

2 more bird foot prints, sunk deeper in the snow, probably from the owl pushing off to take to the air. In front of him are a few pieces of fur from the prey he held in his beak.

Feather prints.

A closeup of the 3 front toes and hind toe, with a clear imprint of the sharp hind talon.

I'm convinced it must have been one of the owls I heard in this very area the night before.

I find the tracks in the morning; by evening even the site of the clash has melted away.

*No, I'm not in Idaho
*The light was dull, poor for showing contrast in the tracks.
* And I think I'm right. I'm really no tracker. But I have a good imagination, and… what else could it be?