Wedding Plans!

It’s been a rough week. Without going into detail, I’m exhausted from dealing with people.

So, I thought today’s post should be something fun and positive.

Cyris and Regan set a date a couple of weeks ago. They are getting married next summer, on August 3. I had thought they might wait another year or so, but this is good. They’ve been dating for enough years, that marrying next year is a logical progression. Cyris will graduate in May, and there’s really no reason to wait. This is a bright event to focus on when days seem drab or too intense.

I got to go with Regan and her mom, Jamie, to look at venues a couple of weeks ago. We went to two barns, which offered wedding packages. The first one wasn’t quite ready to market their place. It was beautiful, and in a year or two, if they do all the improvements they want, it will be a coveted wedding spot. But all three of us were concerned that it wouldn’t be completely finished before the wedding.

The second spot was just about perfect. It’s outside of Pony, one of Montana’s smallest towns. And the views are breathtaking. Mountains surround the venue, and in one direction is a lake. The barn itself is situated with large doors on both ends. It’s a simple layout – just a big, empty barn.

But there are strings of lights already hung, which offer a soft alternative to full-on lighting. They offer the option of renting tables and chairs. They have some ‘glamping’ options of cabins and tents. Beyond that, they pretty much let the wedding party do any decorating and set up that they want. Their biggest rule? Don’t drive on the lawn!

It is elegantly simple. And a perfect fit for this couple. I’m so proud of them. They have a budget for each aspect of the wedding. They are paying for a lot of it themselves. Regan’s parents are helping with parts. I offered to help with parts (photographer and hair). If these kids were going overboard and insisting on spending tens of thousands of dollars, then I wouldn’t pay for anything. But they are being smart and practical.

Regan has a modest budget for a dress. They’re going to have friends supply music, both live and a playlist. They’re keeping the wedding party simple, only three bridesmaids and three groomsmen. The men will wear jeans and nice jackets. Their plan is to hire someone to smoke some meat, and then have family bring in sides for a pot luck buffet. In all, a very doable event.

Their biggest expense will be the venue itself, and then the pictures. And the reason I want to help them pay for those is because it’s one of the biggest moments of their lives. They only get one wedding together, and I want them to have all the pictures they want, so they can look back on their memories of that day. And share those pictures someday with their kids.

One of the most awesome parts of that day? Finding out that the owner of the barn is a woman that I worked with about eight years ago. We were both Upward Bound coaches in our respective schools. We roomed together several times when we took kids on out of town trips. And we were easy friends during those years. Once the program was eliminated from our schools, we lost touch with each other, but I’ve thought about her often and wondered what she was doing. It was delightful to see her, reconnect, and catch up a bit on our lives. We now have current contact information for one another and plan to meet for lunch when we can. Seeing her again made the choice of venue even more special.

I’m thrilled for the kids. I’m looking forward to the wedding, but I’m also happy I have several months to get myself ready! I’ve been battling with some hormonal issues and am currently working on getting them under control with some medication. But it’s going to take a few months to get everything adjusted as it should be. August gives me enough time to lose some weight, get into better shape, and really prepare myself to be ‘mother of the groom’ in front of a couple hundred people.

So, during weeks like this past one, where every day another snafu appeared, I go into my thoughts and remind myself that these days will pass. Eventually. And I have a joyous occasion to celebrate next year. It will be a day to remember!

Me Not

With all the uproar recently about the #MeToo movement, it isn’t surprising that a woman suddenly came forward to claim Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school. She’s vague on details. Her story keeps changing. And she didn’t want to testify. But the liberals expect everyone to take her word as gospel, even though this is the first time anyone has ever heard this story.

As the mother of three boys, this terrifies me.

I don’t believe this woman. Not because I’m a conservative. But because it’s too convenient. She’s had over three decades to talk about this alleged assault. This man has had a storied career. At any point during his life, she could have come forward and told her story. But she waits until he’s poised to sit on the Supreme Court. Why?

I worry about my boys’ futures. They are good men. Two are in college. One is a sophomore in high school. None of my boys are ‘players’. I have taught them respect. But what guarantee do they have that some random girl they dated once or twice will show up later in their lives to claim they did something that they didn’t. If this kind of nonsense is allowed to play out, and if this woman successfully derails Kavanaugh’s nomination, a floodgate will be opened for other women to exploit hazy and untruthful ‘memories’.

That’s the danger of this movement. This whole debacle is a disgraceful overreach of power. It is an obvious tactic by one party to control the other party. And frankly, I’m so tired of all the games and posturing. I watched a small portion of the hearing, and this woman did not strike me as someone telling the truth. She appeared to be acting like a victim. She was able to make her voice quiver. She was able to summon up tears. It was all just too contrived.

Don’t get me wrong. Sexual assault is not okay. Ever.

But neither are false accusations.

I understand women not wanting to come forward when they are young or when the person who assaulted them has power over their lives. I get it. But I also believe that unless you’re willing to make those accusations in a timely manner, when the situation can be proven or disproved, then you must be willing to live with your silence.

When I was in high school, a band teacher did and said inappropriate things. At the time, I was uncomfortable around him. But I didn’t see what he did as assault.

When we went to tournaments or out of town competitions, he came into the girls’ rooms after lights out, when we were all in our pajamas, and he would threaten us with disciplinary action. (For what, we never figured out, because, let’s face it, we were band geeks.) He never touched any of us, but he was creepy. Another time, he told me I had to take private lessons with him or I would get an F in band class. During one of those lessons, he took my saxophone, licked my reed and played it, then handed it back to me. After that incident, I did tell my parents that he was creepy, and the vice principal stepped in so that I didn’t have to be alone with this man anymore. But I never told my parents exactly what he did. Looking back, he was probably a predator. But that was 34 years ago. A similar timeline to this woman’s charge against Kavanaugh. I’m not going to go back and accuse this teacher. I don’t know if he’s even still alive. At this point, I’ve had to accept that he was a pervert. That I should have said more than I did. But I can’t change what happened.

I’ve been groped in bars. At parties. At dances. I’ve had my butt pinched. I’ve had my boobs grabbed. But I dealt with that, at the time. In all those instances, I was in a party situation, where there was drinking and where other people were engaging in amorous activity. More than once, I kneed a guy in the groin. He got the idea. More than once, I slapped a guy’s hand away and told him not to touch me. He got the idea. And when I felt I was in a situation beyond my control, I left. And to be clear, I never got falling down drunk so that I was vulnerable. I never went to a situation like those parties alone. And I did not engage in behavior that could be construed as sexual flirting.

I do think there should be a statute of limitations on accusing someone of sexual assault. I don’t have the best answer, but I don’t think it’s fair to the men who are accused decades after an alleged assault. Especially when there is no evidence. And when the accuser admits that she was drinking heavily. How do we know that she didn’t dream up this assault while she was in a state of alcohol-induced stupor?

And we may as go here: are all these claims truly assault?

I would bet that in a lot of these cases, the females were active partners in whatever took place. Afterward, they regret their decision and decide to cry assault. Remorse for agreeing to have sex is not the same thing as someone assaulting you. And that should not be a valid way for women to ‘get back’ at males with whom they slept.

Women have a degree of responsibility in this issue, not just men. Again, I’m not saying every woman making claims is lying. I’m saying that not every claim of assault is valid. And it shouldn’t be taken as truth unless it can be proved. Isn’t that what our justice system is supposed to be based on?

Females can’t put themselves in situations where they get drunk or high and flirt with males, then cry foul. If females are offering themselves, males are going to take them up on that offer. In a party situation, where there is drinking and sex and nudity, responsibility falls on both the male and female. If females don’t want to be assaulted, then they need to take themselves out of situations that are volatile. They can’t expect males to always be boy scouts if the females are acting like tramps.

Some feminists will disagree. They will insist that men must be hands-off at all times. Even if the women aren’t. I say that’s unfair. Women want to be treated as equals. Fine. But then an equal amount of responsibility falls on women in regards to sex. Some women seem to want all the perks of being on equal footing, but then also want to be treated like fragile creatures when it comes to sex.

I’ve been at parties where women are dressed provocatively and are drinking heavily. They dance around and gyrate their hips and move against men. Well, what man isn’t going to touch a woman who’s grinding against his leg? To me, as an observer, that’s an invitation. And if the woman doesn’t object then, she sure as hell shouldn’t be allowed to object later, after the fact.

There can’t be a double standard. If women don’t want to be touched. If they don’t want to have sex with a man. Then they need to say no before they have sex! And they need to act with some decorum.

Now, I’m not talking about the casting couches of Hollywood. Or of the celebrity crap that is constantly going on. I’m talking about real-life. I’m talking about regular people and about growing up.

As far as underage females being with older males. That isn’t always the guy’s fault. Look at how young teens dress and apply makeup. They are trying to look older to attract older guys. When these young girls go to parties where predominantly older males are going to be, they are putting themselves in a situation that they may not be able to control. That is on them. That is not on the boys. Boys are not going to check IDs. When a girl is willing to get in bed with them, they’re not going to ask if she’s legal. And why should he have to?

Which brings up another wrinkle to this. Why are minor girls at parties like this to begin with? Where are the parents? Where are the chaperones, if it’s a school-endorsed party? I’ve heard one accuser say that there were gang rapes at every party, every week. Then why in hell did she continue going to those parties?

And when females agree to make out with strangers, then they are part of whatever actions are taking place. They are not dissolved from responsibility. They can’t act promiscuous and then have the right to act pious.

Most men I’ve known are going to stop if they’re told no. And men can say no. But to be fair, women can be prick teases. They can make out, do what feels good to them, and then they suddenly want to stop. They think that empowers them. But it doesn’t.

Maybe what these females should be doing is avoiding situations where they might be assaulted. Don’t go out drinking with strangers. Don’t go to parties alone. Don’t make out with males that you just met. Live your life with some self-respect. And by doing that, women won’t become victims.

So, in the case of Brett Kavanaugh. Who truly knows what happened thirty years ago? I’m guessing there was a party that both of these people attended. But beyond that, what proof does she have that anything more happened? And if both of them were drinking, how clear are her memories. She has admitted that she was drunk, to the point of not knowing where she was or who she was with. That statement alone casts enough doubt on her claims for me. In the three decades since that supposed incident, there hasn’t been one whisper of inappropriate behavior on his part. I find it hard to believe that if he was the person she’s accusing him of being that he could hide that aspect of his life for that long.

And then suddenly, thirty years later, she suddenly remembers? With the ‘help’ of a therapist? The timing is suspect to me. I can’t remember every party I went to when I was 15. I can’t remember who was at those parties or who was drinking, etc. I have a hard time believing that this woman can. Especially when she admits to drinking.

Democrats want to pounce on Kavanaugh’s past drinking exploits, when he was a teenager. Then why isn’t anyone looking at Ford’s drinking history? Her sexual history? Why isn’t she being investigated right along with him? Because she’s the accuser? If every woman is afforded the right to accuse any man without evidence, where does that end? Shouldn’t every man’s denial then be believed without question? Remember, everything needs to be equal and fair between the sexes.

She claims that that ‘assault’ had a lasting impact on her life. But she went on and is now a college professor. And if an assault took place, she would have told someone about it. A best friend. In the past thirty years, someone would have heard the story. But the most damning thing is that instead of going to the police with her accusation, she went to her politician. This hearing should not have even taken place. Someone circumvented proper channels.

The best advice I ever gave my boys – repeatedly – was to ‘keep it in their pants’. At the time I was thinking more along the lines of an unexpected pregnancy and how that might derail their future plans. But now, I’m thinking more about the danger of a girl claiming sexual assault later in their lives. That is scary. That is unfair. That is unfortunately the world we live in. And I am appalled that our society is allowing such blatant manipulation of the truth. This ‘hearing’ was an embarrassment to me, as a woman.

For the women who were truly assaulted, I am sorry that happened to them. As I said, sexual assault is never acceptable.

For the women who are making false claims, for whatever the reason, shame on you. It is women like you that are taking us backwards. You are actually hurting the process of holding men accountable when they have raped or molested women. Because the more false accusations that are made, the less people are going to believe the true reports. And the more likely it is that women won’t file reports at all.

And frankly, women who are guilty of filing false rape accusations should be held legally liable. They should go to prison and have to pay a settlement to the person they unjustly accused. Without consequences, these lies will continue.

For the women rallying behind this accusation: be careful. The men in your life are not safe. No man is, if these types of unfounded accusations are upheld. Do your research. Don’t jump on someone else’s claim of assault without discovering whether or not it’s true. And think about how you would feel if your husband, or brother, or son, or father, was the target of a smear or revenge accusation.

I’m tired of politicians saying that a woman should be believed, simply because she’s a woman. Really? How about the women who accused Bill Clinton of assaulting them? Oh, I forgot, those women don’t count because they were accusing a Democrat and a liberal.

The MeToo movement is a blight. It is doing nothing but ramping up lies. It isn’t fair that a female can dredge up decades-old resentment, package it as an accusation of assault, and go on living her life while she destroys a man’s. So, don’t include me in the support for this movement. Liberals have done nothing in the last ten years but use divisiveness and hatred to drive wedges between facets of American society.

Just look at what they’ve done to this hearing. Shameful. Hopefully voters will remember that in a few weeks.

Something to Believe In

Nike sure divided their customers on this latest ad campaign.

It’s no secret that I am a conservative. So it should be no secret that I cannot support Nike. I will not buy another pair of shoes. I will not buy any more Nike clothing. And frankly, what I do have is either going to the garbage or to the donation pile.

Let me tell you why. It may not be what you think.

I believe in our Constitution. I believe that everyone has the right to feel in whatever way is best for them. I believe that anyone can speak freely, provided that speech is not hateful or divisive. I believe in this country and for everything that we have always embraced.

When this kneeling started, I will admit I was offended. The flag is a symbol of everything good and decent about America. I get choked up every time I watch it fly while the anthem is played. My kids rodeo, so almost every weekend, I watch a kid bring the flag into an arena and run it around during the anthem. Even as I’m writing this, I feel a tear slide down my cheek.

I was offended because I have had friends and family serve in the military. I’ve gotten news that friends died while serving. And some of my friends who have come back didn’t come back the same. But they willingly sacrificed to ensure that all of us living in this country would continue to live free.

Once the kneeling spread, I refused to watch any more football games, to the despair of my youngest son. But we talking, and I explained my reasoning. I cannot support an organization that will not support the very foundation of what this country is about.

The NFL refused to let Tim Tebow kneel down to pray. They refused to let him put a Bible verse in the eye black. Now, I’m not a religious person. I’m not vested in Tebow’s life at all. But this seemed odd to me, even at the time.

Then the NFL refused to allow players to honor fallen police officers. They refused to allow players to honor those who died on 9/11. They refused to allow a lot of things that players wanted to do, because it ‘didn’t comply with NFL ideals’.                  ‘

But they will allow players to kneel during the National anthem?

This smacks of hypocrisy so loudly that it’s almost funny.

Don’t these players sign contracts? Aren’t they employees of the NFL? If so, then why are they allowed to ‘protest’ during working time?

But the biggest issue for me is that these players who kneel claim to be doing so to draw attention to social issues: racial inequality, police corruption, oppression. I’m not saying that those things don’t exist. They do. But number one, I don’t think they exist at the level that these players would like you to believe. Number two, kneeling during the playing of the national anthem isn’t going to change anything.

If these people truly wanted to help. If they truly wanted to change social injustice, then they would get off their knees and go into their communities. They would use some of the millions of dollars they have been paid to help their communities. But few, if any, have done anything but make a spectacle of what used to be a solemn part of the game of football.

I don’t have any respect for the athletes who choose to kneel. These are millionaires who PLAY A GAME for a living. They have everything in the world. And they’re going to lecture me about oppression? About injustice?

The original kneeler was adopted and grew up in a very privileged household. He knew nothing of hard times. Or injustice. His kneeling was simply a way to gain attention. Not to mention the fact that he is a Muslim and doesn’t care about this country. So when Nike uses him as symbol for ‘standing up for something’, I have to wonder what exactly did he stand up for? And what exactly has he lost in his life?

Similarly, any celebrity who has the audacity to lecture others about income inequality (a billionaire former TV hostess), gun control (countless celebrities who are guarded by armed security), police brutality (a singer who advocates the killing of police officers). You get the point. These people live in a completely different world than most of us. They are insulated from the issues of poverty, safety, and hunger. Very few of them use their ample resources to help others in need.

I don’t need celebrities, athletes, singers, etc., or politicians telling me what I should or shouldn’t think or how I should believe.

Nike got this wrong. Their sales are increased right now. And that doesn’t surprise me. Liberals will order Nike products and jump their sales for a short time. But they can’t sustain that. In time, Nike will see the error in their bottom line. There are too many people like me who just can’t stomach the support of someone who chooses not to honor the very country that gave him such a privileged life. To me that is the greatest hypocrisy about this entire situation. None of these athletes or singers or actors would have achieved such fame or such fortune in any other country in this world.

This athlete hasn’t sacrificed anything. He hasn’t lifted a finger to help anyone but himself. And isn’t that the whole point of his protest? That others are in need of help. Then, why doesn’t he help them? He has the means. He certainly has the time, since no NFL team is going anywhere near him.

That’s why I cannot respect any of these screeching celebrities, preaching to us what we should or shouldn’t do. In general, they haven’t done anything to help anyone, unless it involves a sound bite or media attention. And in my life, these people really don’t matter. In fact, it’s people like me who have allowed these celebrities to live in their fantasy worlds. And if they offend enough of us, then they may find out what hardship looks like.

Look at what some the other athletes and celebrities have chosen to do with their resources: J.J. Watt, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthew, Larry Fitzgerald; Chris Pratt, John Cena. These men use their time and resources to help others, in particular children. There are many more rich and famous folk who do use their fortunes for good, in good and decent ways. They aren’t doing this for attention or to be on the news. They’re doing this because they want to help. Protesters might want to ‘take a knee’ and think about that.

This kneeling crap is coming to a head. And it needs to. There has been irreparable damage done to the reputation of the NFL, of its athletes. And it’s creeping into other sports, like NBA, which I also refuse to watch. It may turn out that these athletes are going to knee cap themselves. Fans like me aren’t going to forgive easily.

If they were truly doing this as a sign of true concern, I’d respect them for it. But that isn’t what this is. These people are simply looking for attention.

My dad used to tell me all the time, the people who scream the loudest are usually the ones you shouldn’t listen to.

There is a growing list of athletes, sports team, singers, actors, etc. that I simply won’t support again. I can disagree with someone who has differing political views. I know that not everyone is going to see things the same way that I do. But when someone insists that I believe in their agenda, without even listening to mine, I walk away. I am strong in my convictions. I’m not going to change who I am or what I believe in simply because someone uses a megaphone to yell. Or because someone is crude enough to wear body parts as hats. Or because someone disrespects what I believe in.

Let’s be clear: Nike has the right to advertise however they see fit. Athletes have the right to kneel during the national anthem. Celebrities have the right to spout any nonsense they want while in the spotlight.

But I have rights as well. I have the right to express my beliefs in the form of monetary spending. I can choose whether or not to support a company or sports team or singer/actor based on whether or not I agree with them. I have the right to turn off the tv during football (or basketball or baseball) season. I have the right to leave movies and CDs on store shelves. I have the right to stay home and not watch a new movie at the theater. I have the right to buy products from companies that support and agree with my definition of patriotism, sportsmanship, and decency.

I don’t advocate boycotting everyone. I know not everyone else shares my strong beliefs. But there are a lot of us who quietly but decidedly make our opinions clear. I doubt I will ever return to being a sports fan, not with the same intensity or care that I once had. Of course, athletes aren’t in the same class as they were thirty years ago.

Today, most of the elite athletes – pick any sport – are overpaid, under talented, and spoiled. They aren’t grateful for the lives they have. They, as a group, are arrogant, demanding, and entitled. Too many of today’s athletes are part of the problems we have as a society. Same goes for actors who receive millions of dollars for mediocre performances. Or singers who all sound alike.

It used to be there were heroes among the celebrity. There were classy, honorable people that a parent could point out their children and hold us as role models. Sadly, that is all but gone. There are only a handful of celebrities in that category. Too many are just too focused on themselves to care about anyone else. Or to recognize their good fortune.

No. I can’t support people or companies who can’t support our flag. Because, after all, if they can’t recognize how fortunate they are to live here, then I have to wonder why they are still in this country. Isn’t that what is boils down to? If things are so bad here, and this country is so awful to live in, then all of those celebrities and athletes and anyone else can take their money and go live somewhere else.

Why haven’t they?

My guess is they’ve realized that with all of our problem, America is still the best place to live. I still believe in her. I still honor the flag. I still get teary when I hear the anthem. When that changes, I will know that things truly are dismal. Until then, I’ll keep standing for the anthem. I’ll keep crying silently when I hear those words. And I’ll keep true to what I believe.

I may be only one. But there are a lot of us ‘ones’ who will add up.

Stolen Innocence

Last week, news broke that an athletic trainer at Custer County High School abused at least a hundred boys over the twenty years he was at the school. Some estimates are two hundred victims.

This man has admitted that he concocted an elaborate training program, targeting the younger and smaller boys in the school. He groomed them by saying he would help them boost their testosterone. He would help them build muscle.

But all he was doing was sexually molesting these boys. He started with naked massages and invasive prostrate checks. He insisted that these boys remove all clothing, regardless of what their injury was. He would stroke them, bring them to ejaculation. He would perform oral sex on them. And I believe he engaged in sodomy. Sometimes at school. Sometimes in his home. He provided porn and alcohol to the boys.

I’m stunned.

I am truly sick to my stomach. I grew up in Miles City. This was my high school. With the number of boys he molested, I’m sure some of my friends were victimized by this man. I do not remember him at all. In all my years participating in sports, I never had to see the trainer. None of my guy friends ever said anything to me about ‘funny business’ in the locker room. Neither did my older brother. I didn’t hear any rumors or whispers when I was a student there. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

But today, I’m angry. I’m angry that so many boys had to go through this. Teachers are supposed to shape kids and protect them. Not prey on them.

I’m angry because this man had no medical background whatsoever. And he was allowed to do hernia checks. He was allowed to do the boys physicals. He was allowed to keep the training room in the boys locker room. That alone should have been a huge red flag.

I’m angry because this taints part of my childhood. I wasn’t directly affected by this man. But I’m sure some of my friends were. I’m sure most of the population of Miles City has a connection to at least one of this man’s victims.

Where was the oversight in this program? Coaches had to know that this man was seeing kids after practice. They had to hear about the training program. Didn’t anyone think to check it out?

And out of that many boys, there had to be at least one who told someone what this man was doing. For those boys who did seek help, why were they ignored?

I have three boys, and from the time they could understand what ‘private parts’ meant, I told them that no one was allowed to touch them, for any reason. I told them to come to me if anyone ever tried to touch them, even if it was a family member or a teacher, etc. I told them this a lot. I told them this to protect them.

So many times, parents worry about their girls. And rightfully so. But I worried about my boys. Pedophiles, like this trainer, are everywhere. I hated to ruin my kids’ innocence too early in life, but I felt that was better than having their lives ruined by molestation.

As a parent, I’m curious why these boys were allowed to go to this man’s home alone. I would question any trainer who kept a treatment room at home and encouraged boys to come over outside of school hours. I know sometimes my kids have thought I was too protective. But when stories like this come out, I know I have done the right thing for my boys.

This past year, Garris went out of town with some older boys, with his dad’s blessing. Garris was a freshman, in a car with upper classmen, driving thirty miles to another town on a two lane highway. I hit the roof. I insisted that Garris had to get my permission as well before he took any more road trips. Same thing for riding with new drivers.

Garris wanted to go to a friend’s house after a rodeo last year. The rodeo was in Boulder and the friend lives in Helena. I told Garris I had to talk to this boy’s mom first. So, at the next rodeo, she and I talked. I asked her who would be driving if Garris went home with them. At first, she looked at me, then she said either she or her husband would be driving. Then she put her hand up for a high five. She said I was the first mom who had ever checked with her. Garris and his friend were both standing there. They both heard this other mom say exactly what I had said: brand new drivers aren’t ready for passengers. Especially when those drivers are 15 year old boys.

The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes I feel like I’m square. I feel like I’m the party pooper. I have to know who my kids are out with, where they’re going, and what time they’re going to be home. And in today’s world, with cell phones, it’s easy to keep track of your kids. I don’t intrude into their social lives, as long as they are with who they’re supposed to be, where they’re supposed to be, and they come home on time.

I just have to wonder at how much of a dis-connect was happening during this trainer’s time at the high school. How could so many boys be abused without someone noticing?

The only good thing about this is that more protective policies will surely be implemented by schools. No more ‘good ‘ole boy’ type hiring. No more unqualified or un-vetted people in the schools. At least I hope so.

If any of my high school friends happen to read this, just know my heart aches for you. This man stripped away your dignity and your faith. And I’m sorry that he wasn’t stopped.

 

Only One Sails

We buried a horse today.

Not a random knot head. But a favorite horse. A part of the family. So, my world changed today with his passing.

My folks bought Sails five years ago, thinking he would make a good heeling prospect for my older boys. Sylvis didn’t really get along with Sails, because Sylvis was too impatient. Sails bucked him off during their first ride.

Cyris did some heeling with the horse, and really liked him. But he seemed tentative to get into the steer on the turn. We came to the conclusion that at some point in his life, he had had a bad wreck. So, Cy switched ends and started heading. That worked out much better. He tried to start him on calf roping, but he just didn’t like the rope in his face. Again, I think he had been in a roping wreck.

Sails was a big, deep gelding, with plenty of power to turn a steer. At first glance, there really wasn’t anything special about this horse. He was a red roan, with tri color mane and an expressive face. He was a gorgeous specimen. But physicality doesn’t determine more than beauty to me. It doesn’t factor into my criteria for becoming a favorite horse.

Those go beyond what is visible. And he had plenty of those traits.

He was a gentle creature, never at the top of the pecking order. Usually at the bottom. He didn’t stand up for himself. But in the last year, he started defending his favorite pen-mate, Whiskey. He and she were buddies. Inseparable. In fact, he was a hit with all the ladies. I think it was because he was so mellow. But he did get protective of his little harem and didn’t want the other geldings around the girls.

Sails had heart. Before my folks bought him, he had several owners, most only for a few months. I never could figure out why so many people gave up on him so quickly. When he got to our family, he was underweight by about a hundred pounds. And he had a defeated look to his eyes, almost as if he expected to be shuttled somewhere else in a few weeks. Within a few months, he had gained what he needed, and then some, thanks to my dad. And he was perkier. The whole time we had him, he gave his all any time we asked him to do something. About three years ago, he ended up with an abscessed tooth, which had to be removed surgically. It took about a year for him to recover.

Sails was a big chicken. That may seem odd to count that as a reason to make a horse a favorite, but for such a big guy, he was scared of everything. And then, after he spooked, he seemed to laugh at himself for being so silly.

I loved riding this horse. I felt safe on top of him. And was he smooth. His trot barely moved you in the saddle. And his lope was like a rocking horse. He was the one I took to my breakaway clinic in March. You could run reining patterns on him, chase cattle, or rope. Garris was getting him ready for reined cow horse events for this fall. Their last lesson was awesome, and Garris is now questioning if he wants to pursue that event without Sails.

You might be wondering what caused his death. A belly ache. That’s a simplistic answer, but it’s true. Saturday afternoon, I noticed him lying down, getting up, and kicking at his belly. I watched him for a little while, then gave him some Prevail (banamine). I waited an hour, and he went back to eating. So, I figured it was just some gas and didn’t worry about it. I put him in his stall that night, because it was supposed to rain. Then next morning, his stall was devoid of any fresh manure. And he had pawed a trench in front of the door.

Sunday morning, eight a.m., I called the vet clinic, knowing I would get the machine. I left my message, set my time for half an hour, and waited. And watched my horse.

If my vet didn’t call within thirty minutes, I’d call his cell phone. Having that number is something I appreciate, so I don’t abuse it. I have only called him on his cell once before, for a cut-foot emergency. Just as I was dialing, he called. I explained the situation, and he said he’d be right out.

He did a rectal exam and found him severely impacted. His turds were terribly dry. But he had gut sounds. So, he tubed the horse with water then oil then more water, all he could tolerate. But there was an obstruction somewhere. He did what he could, offered medicine with strict instructions, and basically told me if he didn’t get unbound by the morning the only option was surgery. To the tune of about $12,000.

Now, I loved this horse. But I can’t justify spending $12, 000 on a surgery that MIGHT relieve the problem. There is only about a 60 percent chance of it working, and whether your horse survives the surgery or not, you still pay the fee. And there is no guarantee that the surgery will return a horse to its previous level of performance.

So, I followed the instructions. I medicated him as directed. I offered him water every time I went the barn – every two hours all night. And I prayed for a bowel movement. I never thought I’d ever want to smell or see fresh horse turds. But in those hours, I would have wept to see him lift his tail and push out some poo.

It didn’t happen. At five a.m., he was standing up, his head alert and he drank. I was so sure he was turning the corner. When we went out an hour later, he was stretched out and groaning. I gave him the last dose of xylzine and ace, then I texted the vet. I wanted to chat with him before he got to the clinic. In my heart, I knew what needed to be done, but I wasn’t ready to actual say it.

He came out within the hour.

The harder phone call was to my parents. I hadn’t mentioned the belly ache, because I was sure he was going to survive it. They didn’t make it over in time to say goodbye to Sails. It took them about two hours to get to my house, about a half hour after the vet had already left.

We won’t know what actually caused Sails’ death. It could have been a twisted gut from something as simple as rolling in the dirt to get flies off his back. It could have been a fatty tumor on his intestines that caused a bowl to form, making it hard, then impossible, to move grass and hay through. It could have been something else, like a cancer. Or he could have swallowed a piece of twine from the pasture.

No, I don’t throw my twine on the ground. But previous owners did. Not just the big orange kind, but the tiny little strings from round bales. We are forever picking them up, but they are embedded in the ground. It would be easy for a horse to eat some strands of that and have it bind everything up.

All we know is that he couldn’t move his bowel. Ultimately bacteria built up and started leaking into his gut. He wasn’t bloated yet, but it was a matter of time. The craziest part of this whole thing was that he had gurgling gut sounds even this morning. Nothing about this presented as it should have.

I asked the vet if I should have called him Saturday night. He told me, based on what I explained, that he wouldn’t have come out. It sound like a generic case of colic that resolved itself.

I stayed hopeful until this morning, when I looked into Sails’ eyes. He was fading away. He was grinding his teeth, a sign of pain, and his back legs were twitching. His body was breaking down. He was giving up. It was time for me to let him go with as much dignity as we could allow him. Any faithful companion deserves that much.

So, Garris and I hugged each other as we nodded for the vet to give Sails some pain medication. We needed to get him out of the barn and to the big pasture, if possible. It was asking a tremendous task of this horse. But he did it. Did I mention this horse had heart? He walked himself to his final resting place. He chose where to stop once we got to the pasture, because he wanted a few bites of grass. Even in his last moments, he gave us a laugh. And the vet allowed Sails a few minutes to munch. He explained what would happen, and he asked if we were ready.

I nodded, of course, but I wasn’t ready. I had said my goodbyes to Sails before the vet arrived, because I knew. But it wasn’t enough. I kissed his forehead, told him he was a good boy and that I loved him. And I told him it was okay. Garris hugged him, said goodbye, then we stepped back and hung onto each other.

 

Putting down a horse is not an easy task. You have a thousand pound animal who is in pain and dying. You have to get that animal from standing to lying. It isn’t gentle. It isn’t graceful. Frankly, it’s a shocking and awful thing to have to witness. In fact, it’s heart wrenching. I’ve watched it before, and I really didn’t want to this time. But Garris needed to. It was part of his process of saying goodbye. So, I watched the vet give the first shot, which dropped Sails to the ground with a thud. I watched as he gave the second shot, to ultimately end the life of this beautiful animal that I loved so deeply.

I had hoped he would just lie down in the grass so that it wouldn’t be scary or traumatic for him. Sails was already dying. His gums were turning black. He hadn’t drank in hours. And he hadn’t passed any bowel for over a day. Something was fatally wrong. Short of an ungodly expensive surgery, he was out of options. But I think he knew we were trying to help him. He seemed resigned to his fate and didn’t fight anything. I only hope he didn’t have any fear when the shot hit his system.

I held Garris and let him cry. I told him that it was okay. That Sails was okay. We heard the sucking sound that horses make when they are releasing the last air in their lungs. An awful sound that you never want to hear. I told Garris it was okay. It was normal. I told him when the sound stopped that Sails wasn’t in pain any longer. And he had been in pain for two days.

When I looked at my Sails, he was dead. His eyes were still open, staring vacant into the sun. His big body was still, only his mane moving with the wind. I told him again that I was sorry and I would miss him. And then my stomach lurched, and I threw up. Wretched. I couldn’t believe he had to die.

Then I called Joe, who has a back hoe, and asked if he could bury my horse. Luckily, on this day, he was able to come right over. Within an hour and a half, Sails was beneath the ground. He was at peace.

Garris piled some big rocks on top of his grave and is planning on etching a stone for him. I’m so thankful Sails was able to walk far enough that we could bury him in the pasture, within sight of the house and the arena. It feels like he’s still with us this way. Some might think that morbid, but this way he’s close enough for me to walk out and sit and talk to him when I’m feeling lonely for him.

I couldn’t watch the actual burial. Garris needed to. But I just couldn’t. So, my dad and I sat on the front step and just talked until it was done.

I’ve cried all day. I can’t stop. This is the part that sucks about loving your animals. When you have to let them go, it tears out a part of your heart. In time, it will get easier. The numbing pain in my chest will get better. The hole in the corrals will start to feel normal. And I’ll start riding someone else.

But for now, I’m allowing myself, and Garris, to wallow a bit in our grief.

He didn’t want to do anything today. But I gentle forced him to ride the two young ones. Remy is two and bucked me off last week. Hard. So, she needed another ride. And Cougar is four.

Garris fought me a bit, but once he was horseback on Remy, I watched his mood lighten. He had a good ride on her, and on Cougar. And it was good for both of us to get out of the house. It was a gloomy day, to suit our moods. And it’s finally raining.

I didn’t force too many tasks or chores today. Frankly, I didn’t feel like doing anything either. Tomorrow, life will have to return to some form of normal.

Even the horses know something isn’t right. Earlier, when Sails was lying down, two of the mares refused to come into the barn. And Whiskey is looking for him. She actually looks sad. Some people say that animals don’t feel but I disagree. She is looking for her friend. Tonight, when I went out to check everybody, Peppy sniffed my coat. Then she kept sniffing it, licking it gently, then rubbed her lips on it. I realized that I was wearing that coat earlier in the day with Sails. I’m sure she could smell him on the jacket. And then the tears started all over again.

As I turn out the lights in the house tonight, a type of peace settles over my thoughts. Although I hate the outcome of the day, I know Sails couldn’t have lasted on his own for more than a few hours. Those hours would have been brutally painful for him as his body shut down and he struggled to breathe. As it was, with pain meds, his stomach muscles twitched. His legs moved. It was agony watching him.

I will always wonder if I made the right decision to forego surgery. I will always wonder if I should have called on Saturday. I will always wonder exactly what caused this in a vital and healthy horse.

But Sails knew we loved him. The last five years, he had a home, not just a temporary living arrangement. I made sure to brush him and comb out that gorgeous tail and mane before the vet arrived. And we kept part of his tail, to put with a picture of him. I took pictures of him. We told him how handsome he was. And how much we were going to miss him. I hope he took some comfort in our actions.

The corrals are little less colorful tonight. They are a little less quirky. And a lot less Sails. After all, there’s only one of him, and the world is a little less without him in it.

 

My Bucking Horse

I got bucked off today. Hard. The two year old I was riding didn’t appreciate having to work BEFORE breakfast. She let me know just how hard and efficiently she can buck.

Normally, she is a doll. I’ve been riding her for several weeks. And sometimes I forget that she’s young and green. Today, she reminded me.

I wanted to ride before the heat settled in like it’s been doing in the afternoons. So, I climbed on the first horse shortly after eight. He did fine. And the two year old, Remy, watched from the fence. She seemed calm where she was tied, waiting for her turn.

I could tell she wanted to go to the grass, so I just kept trotting her until her head dropped and I felt her body relax. When I asked her for a lope, she kicked up a bit, but that didn’t worry me. I got after her, and boy did she bury her head. The jumps got bigger and stronger.

I stayed on for about six jumps, but by the time the reins were out of my hands, I was way out of the saddle. I hit my tail bone on the horn twice. My legs are covered in bruises and welts from slamming against the saddle, which happens to be my dad’s old saddle, from about 1960.

My biggest worry was getting kicked by her on my way down. I landed face first, wrenching my back and shoulders, and I think I hit my head. I’m still spitting sand out of my mouth, 12 hours later.

When I caught my breath, I looked at the corner of the arena, and Remy was calmly eating grass. She got what she wanted, so she was happy. I wasn’t.

I crawled over to my hat, picked it up, then slowly stood up. My hands shook. My legs screamed. And my pride was gone. Not to mention, my courage. When I thought about it, I realized that had I gotten severely hurt, no one would have looked for me until Sunday, when Garris gets back to my house. I could have laid in that arena for days and no one would have known.

The last time I got dumped by a horse was several years ago, a few months after back surgery. Cy’s calf horse decided to test me, and I ended up breaking a couple of ribs. It was a couple of years before I climbed back on a horse after that one.

Today, I’m more disappointed than mad. I’ve been working toward a goal: trying to get myself ready to compete in breakaway next summer. This feels like a sign that I need to step aside. Quit riding the horses and just be happy being mom.

I’m not sure I want to ride by myself anymore. And I won’t be riding the young horses. I’ll leave them for the boys to deal with. I may even get a couple ready to sell.

It was a long, slow walk to the corner of the arena. I grabbed Remy’s reins, gave her a couple of good smacks with the ends, then walked back to Fritz. I didn’t try to get back on. I could barely walk. Did I mention I think I broke my thumb? Even if I could have gotten back in that saddle, I’m afraid if she had bucked again, I would have gotten hurt.

I texted Garris and Cyris and let them know. Then I tied Remy up, saddled, inside the barn. She stood there the rest of the day. She didn’t get turned out when the other horses did. She went without food all day, and I turned her into a pen about four o’clock so she could drink.

As the day has gone on, my body has stiffened up and ached more each hour. The bruises on my legs are getting more purple and bigger. The welts are turning into hard lumps.

I am thankful that all I have are some bumps and bruises. But now my confidence with the horses is gone again. I had been building it up all summer. I felt good on Remy, and the other horses. I felt like some of the old ‘me’ was returning. Now, I’m ready to accept being a spectator.

 

Brotherly Love

Garris spent last week in Dillon with Cyris and Regan. Cy called a few weeks ago and asked if Garris could spend some time with them. He wanted to show Garris some of the things he’s learned and experienced while living over there: doctoring cows in the Big Hole, riding colts, floating the river. Basically, he wanted to give Garris a few days of what life might be like in a few years for him.

So, we made arrangements. Cy and Regan picked up Garris on their way home from Manhattan. Garris checked in with me every couple of days. I cut him some slack. He’s normally supposed to call me every night, but a few nights were late ones, without cell service. When he did call, he sounded happy and excited.

He did some different kinds of riding than he normally does. He rides horses almost every day, but mostly in an arena, keeping his horses in shape for either roping events or reined cow horse. The riding he did with Cy had a different purpose. They rode their horses to get someplace. Or to train young ones.

Of course, they did some roping too. In fact, the first day Garris was over there, the two of them went to a local jackpot. Garris ended up winning his #5 roping and had the fast time of the day. He bought dinner that night!

As a mom, I was so happy that Cy extended the invitation. There is such a big age difference between Garris and his brothers (6 and 8 years), that for most of his childhood, he was just the annoying little brother. He tried to tag along with his brothers, and they tried to get away from him. His brothers had other friends and were able to do things he couldn’t, and that frustrated Garris. I always thought we should have had one more child, so that Garris had a sibling close in age to him. I think that he would have been a more content child. But I couldn’t talk my ex into my logic.

Now that Garris had turned 16, he’s definitely entering the ‘young man’ phase of his life. Cyris is 22. They have more in common now than they did when Cy was living at home. Both of them enjoy horses, roping, and hunting. They have similar goals in life. Similar senses of humor. And similar social skills.

It doesn’t hurt that Garris looks up to Cy. He minds his brother better than he does me.

When I drove over on Sunday to pick Garris up, Cy told me it had been a good week. He said that Garris had been quiet, almost silent for a lot of the week. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or serious. Normally, Garris can’t be quiet to save his soul. But Cy said he was a big help to him riding horses. And doctoring cows. Regan told me it was nice to have someone around who pitched in on chores. Without asking. If only I could get him to do that at home!

By the end of the week, Cyris told Garris that if he decided to go to Dillon for college, he’d be welcome to live with them. He’d have a place for his horses and a safe place to live. That makes a mom’s heart burst.

Just yesterday, Garris told me that he and Cy had a lot of talks while he was over there. Just hanging out kind of talks. About college. About rodeo. About life in general. And I’m sure they talked about things that neither one of them is going to tell his mother. That’s okay. I’m happy just knowing that as brothers, they are both maturing to a level that they like being around each other. Cy actually wanted Garris to stay longer, but it just didn’t work right now for that to happen.

Garris starts high school rodeos next weekend, so his practicing has to step up a bit this week. Plus, I’ve only got him another full week before school starts. My list of summer to-do’s barely has a dent in it. Maybe next summer he can spend a little more time with his brother, depending on what he’s got going on in terms of a job.

Yesterday, I had to go to Bozeman for a doctor’s appointment. I asked Sylvis ahead of time if he’d like to take Garris out to lunch. My treat. He said sure, so we found his new apartment, I left them with some money, and crossed my fingers they wouldn’t kill each other.

Sylvis hasn’t had the greatest amount of patience with either of his brothers, but especially with Garris. Part of that is the age difference. Eight years is a lot of time to forge a sibling bond. Part of that is their personalities. Sylvis is a perfectionist. Always has been. He wants things his way and gets very upset if other people do things differently or skirt the rules. Garris is more laid back. He gets by with what he has to do and tries to avoid perfection in most things. Neither way is better than the other, but it’s tough to find middle ground.

For a lot of years, Sylvis was very tough on his brother. When he helped Garris practice his roping, Sylvis was militant about form and style. When he had an opportunity, Sylvis would take cheap shots at Garris about anything and everything: clothes, jokes, weight. It got to a point where Garris really didn’t want to be around Sylvis because of the way he treated him.

Yesterday, however, was a different situation. I was gone for about two hours. And when I picked Garris up, both brothers were kidding around. They were smiling and laughing. Garris told me on the way home that he had fun. They had gone to a Japanese restaurant that Sylvis likes. Then they drove around Bozeman, with Sylvis showing Garris some places he likes to go. And Garris said that Sylvis was trying to just be a brother.

So, this mom is feeling very good about where each of her boys are, and how they are interacting with each other. They may never be best friends. I know they won’t always see eye-to-eye or get along. But at least they are each trying to move past child hood pettiness and jealousies. Because Garris has grown up and matured over this past year, each of his brothers is starting to see him as a person and not a pest.

That can only bring good things for these three brothers.

 

 

Remy the reined cow horse

 

This past weekend, Garris showed our new two year old, Remy, in a reined cow horse show in Townsend. He has been riding her almost every day for about three weeks, and she’s been doing awesome. She’s so chill and willing to do whatever is asked of her.

He’s been chasing the calf dummy on her – at a lope. She hasn’t quite figured out when she needs to stop after he throws, but she’s tracking it well and isn’t afraid of the four wheeler. The one thing I had to say ‘no’ to was when he dallied up. I explained to him that we are taking things really slowly with Remy. She’s only two and she’s still growing. I don’t want to damage her legs by pushing her too fast too quickly. So, for now, he only gets to do breakaway. By next summer, maybe he can begin the process of training her for tie down.

A lot of what he’s been doing is just loping lots of circles on her, getting her comfortable at different speeds. At first, he just let her run as fast as she wanted. Then, the week he was gone, I rode her. She was like a runaway train. She charged into the corners without any control. So, we had to have a talk about speed and gait control, especially with young horses. After an initial pout on his end, he accepted my advice, and now she’s a treat to ride.

She stops well, especially for a two year old. She collects her back end and tucks up under herself. She backs up nicely. And he’s been doing all sorts of obstacles and different maneuvers with her: sidepassing over a log, forehand turns in a small box of logs, pulling a log with a rope, draping a slicker over her head and shoulders, and opening a gate.

By the time she’s four, she is going to be absolutely amazing.

But back to the show. We weren’t sure if we were going to haul her over to Townsend. Right now, I am still waiting on my trailer, which won’t be here until the end of August. We had two otpoins: a 1964 Krabo two horse trailer or a 1978 WW steel stock trailer. The two horse is a great little trailer, but most horses won’t step into it, unless they’ve been used to small trailers. We got Remy in it once, but the morning of the show, she refused.

I asked Garris how badly he wanted to go. If we were going, we would have to take the stock trailer. Now, I don’t have an issue with stock trailers. This particular one was the trailer my folks pulled when I was growing up. But at the moment, it has no jack and the coupler is held together with a steel pin. We have to jack it up using a car jack. I didn’t really want to use; I don’t think it’s safe in its current condition. (I have parts ordered and someone to work on it, but I’m still waiting.)

Garris said he wanted to show her, so it took us about a half hour to get the trailer hooked up to the pickup and everything transferred from the two horse to the stock trailer. Remy loaded right up, and we were off. Garris drove the whole way to Townsend and did a great job.

Once there, I got him entered, he warmed up Remy, and we watched while my folks showed in their classes. The two year old class was one of the last classes, and there was one other horse entered, shown by a professional trainer.

About five minutes before he had to go in, Garris was told he had to box a cow. Up until then, we thought he only had to track one. He wasn’t worried, but he hadn’t worked any cows on her.

In the RMBA club, each class consists of a reining pattern, trail work, and cow work. Each part is judged and the person with the most points at the end is the winner for that day.

Garris ran a good pattern. Remy didn’t lead into the arena well or pick up her feet very well, so that cost him points in trail. But every other obstacles was outstanding. The cow work turned out decent. For never having worked a cow on her, Garris took her through those few turns like a pro.

For those who don’t know, boxing a cow means taking it across the short ends of the arena, turning it at the corners, under control. It’s the simplest task in reined cow horse and is reserved for young horses, green horses, and novice riders. Basically, for anyone who is learning how to do the event.

At the end of the day, the trainer had more points – but only three. They had the same score on the cow work. The other horse beat Remy on the lead in and with his feet.

Sunday, Remy was the only horse in the class, and she improved overnight in all three areas.

Garris was very pleased with how they did and is even more excited about competing in reined cow horse events this fall. He wants to get Remy into some lessons with his favorite trainer, Tye McDonald.

He won’t be using Remy for high school events, because the kids have to box a cow, run them down the long end of the arena, and circle them both directions. Remy’s not mature enough for all that. But Garris has a couple of options of horses he can use.

For a spur of the moment decision to compete, the team did very well indeed.

 

Check out some of the videos from the show

 

Happy Birthday America!

On July Fourth, we celebrated the birth of this country with a family cook out. Garris was with me this year for the Fourth, and even though it fell on a Wednesday, he wanted to celebrate the day on the actual holiday, not on one of the weekends. Like he said, it just isn’t the same. He and I spent several days getting things ready.

He ran the weed eater, cutting down grass and weeds, and making a nice spot for the fire pit and lawn chairs. He picked up dog poop. We moved tables and chairs from the barn to the fire. We cut down tree branches.

And I spent a good day in the kitchen, making potato salad, devilled eggs (a must whenever Cy comes for a meal), baked beans, and fruit salad. I even made ‘weaved’ bacon so we could try a new s’more recipe, using those bacon weaves instead of graham crackers. I baked cookies.

Thankfully all three of my boys were able to make it. Cy and Syl both arrived at the same time. When Cy and Regan drove in, the Lee Greenwood song, ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ was blaring from the radio. They made quite the appropriate entrance. My folks drove over. Regan’s folks drove over. And Colleen and Johne made it. In all, we had about a dozen people chilling around the fire.

Garris had chosen his outfit with great care. He had on an American flag-themed tank top, with a short sleeved button shirt, also adorned with flags. We had found a pair of red, white, and blue flag swimming trunks and he had a flag bandana wrapped around this camo bucket hat. No one could claim he was anything but patriotic.

We had hoped to get his pool up by the cookout, but with his still-healing wrist, we just weren’t able to get it out of the barn in time.

Once the fire was ready, folks started roasting hot dogs and sausages. The smell of searing meat filled the air. And the sound of easy conversation and laughter completed the dinner. Everyone loaded up on their favorite foods. Helped themselves to drinks – both adult and kid friendly. It was an easy way to get us all together.

As we sat in the late afternoon sunshine, I felt a peace wash over me. A thankfulness about the life I am so fortunate to live. Not only do I have a beautiful home, with stunning views of the Tobacco Root mountains, but I am free.

Sure, I complain about taxes and about the less-than-perfect situation of the world. But I can do pretty much anything I want with my life.

And I don’t know anywhere else in this world where that statement is true.

While many Americans look at this day as an excuse to miss work, or to have an extended weekend, or to over drink, I have made a point with my kids to stress the reason for this day. We celebrate our independence, and the sacrifices made by men a couple hundred years ago to ensure that independence.

Some years, we spend this day at a rodeo, another tradition in my part of the world. It’s considered ‘cowboy Christmas’ during this first part of July, where rodeo cowboys can win a considerable amount of money, due to the sheer number of rodeos available to enter. But, I have always preferred staying home on the Fourth. We avoid the crazy drunken drivers. We avoid the over-zealous crowds. And it’s just a way to reconnect with everyone, especially since my older boys are no longer at home.

We weren’t able to shoot any fireworks last night; too much wind. And since everyone left by nine o’clock, Garris didn’t want to do the fireworks with just the two of us. Can’t say that hurt my feelings any. I always get a bit nervous shooting exploding, flammable things off. I worry about unintended sparks starting a fire. And after last year’s lightning strike, I was more than happy to forego the fireworks this year.

One of the best parts of the evening was seeing all three of the boys goofing off together. They were having a roping contest in the barn, and I think that’s the first time in about four years Sylvis has picked up a rope. Then, Cy pulled Sylvis around in a big feeding sled, while Sylvis tried to ‘surf’. Of course, he flew out of the sled on a turn and scraped up his arm on the gravel. That’s when the game ended.

And, of course, the three of them had to wrestle, with the two older boys picking on Garris. But now, size wise, Garris can pretty much hold his own.

I hated to see the evening end, but it had to. I was just grateful for the time spent with everyone and for the opportunity to host the cookout. And for my annual gratitude prayer to the powers that be for seeing fit to place me in this gracious country. Despite the political climate and turmoil currently boiling in our nation, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

Every year, when I listen to a patriotic song list and get a refresher course in the history of our nation, and our flag, I tear up. I think about so many generations of men dying for their right to independence. Dying for a new country’s birth. Dying so that future Americans could live free.

For me, the Fourth of July isn’t about fireworks or partying. It isn’t about snagging an extra day off work. This day is about remembering where this nation started and the sacrifices freely given to ensure this nation would survive. It’s about the promise of a country where everyone is created equal and everyone has the same opportunities to achieve their dreams.

And I am proud to be an American. For one day, there was no talk of politics. There was no debate over hot-button issues currently happening. There was no conflict between any of us. We simply enjoyed a beautiful day together, celebrating the fact that we all could.

Happy Fourth of July 2018!

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Cookout chat with Dad and Johne
Cookout
Cookout

 

Check out a few more pictures of the party prep at Twitter: @jodiicenoggle

 

All Dogs Go To The Neighbors

I recently had to stop at a neighbor’s house and talk to him about his dogs.

Now, understand, I love dogs. I have four of them: a border collie, a Saint Bernard, an American Staffordshire terrier (small pit bull), and Garris’ beagle. Yes, it’s an eclectic pack of canines, but they are each part of my family.

When I bought this place, we only had the beagle. He has a habit of running off when he has the chance. And, being a hound, his nose gets him in trouble. Before we had a pen for him, he would escape. I could tell when he was going to run. I’d let him outside to do his business, and he’d turn around and give me this look. Then, his little legs would start churning and a god-awful mix of howling and baying would come out of his throat.

No matter how hard or how long we called, he would be gone for hours. More than once, I figured he was dead: hit by a car or shot by someone. But so far, he has always gotten home. About a year ago, I started a new rule. Any time Cody has to go outside, he has to be on a cable. He can’t be in the pen with Brees, our Saint, because she beats him up. There is just something about him that sets her off. Twice, I thought she was going to kill him.

But I digress.

The day we started moving into this house, late 2014, an older black lab dog showed up at the back door, wagging her tail and acting like she belonged there. She didn’t have any tags. And she really wasn’t causing any problems. But I didn’t need someone’s dog around. So, I shooed her away and watched her waddle to the nearest neighbor to the north.

Day after day, she showed up. And day after day, we ran her home. Then her visits started becoming more sporadic, and I figured the neighbor finally clued in on the fact that his dog was becoming a pain.

Then, about a year ago, a second dog started showing up. Every morning. A black and white mix would be running through our pasture, or into our barn, or through the horse pens. Once, I even saw him clear over at our arena.

So many times, I started to call the neighbors about the dogs. But I didn’t want to cause a stink. I tried very hard to be neighborly. Until about two weeks ago.

Every morning, there is fresh dog poop at the door to my Quonset barn. I either have to step around the fresh pile of poo or scoop it up and get rid of it. Did I mention we already have four dogs? Have you cleaned up after four dogs, one being a large Saint Bernard?

The other day, I had had enough. In one week, the male dog had come into my barn, chasing my cats; he had gone into the grain room and pilfered a bag of treats, which he ate and left the bag outside the barn; he was in the horse pens. Again.

The same day, the old black dog was back at the house, doing her evacuations at my front door.

I had to go to town that day, so I stopped at the neighbor’s house on my way. He met me at the driveway. I’m guessing he heard me yelling at his dogs earlier, and he definitely was on the defensive.

But I smiled and kept the opening friendly. I told him I needed to talk about his dogs. I asked, “Were you aware that your dogs at my house all the time?”

He fired back with, “Were you aware that Garris throws rocks at my horse?”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed. The horse he was speaking about is an old horse that was given to them by some friends. He’s very friendly and hangs out over the fence with our horses. In fact, when our horses go to the pasture to eat, this white horse cries and runs his pasture because he’s so lonely. Both Garris and I sneak him horse treats. And Garris even thought we should give him hay during the winter. I didn’t go that far, but my point is that Garris has always liked the horse and been concerned that he isn’t cared for very well.

I know my son is not perfect. But the idea of him throwing rocks at a horse just didn’t jive with who he is. He is a rodeo kid. His horses are his partners. And besides, there was no reason for him to throw rocks at this old horse.

But, after I regained my composure, I told the neighbor that I would talk to Garris. And if he did, indeed, throw rocks, I would put a stop to it. He told me he had video of the rock throwing and that his sons had both seen Garris doing that. I did tell him it didn’t sound like something Garris would do, but I said again I’d ask him and talk to him about it.

He then accused us of dumping things over the fence. Things like tin and fencing supplies and twine. He said he took pictures every time he had to ‘clean up our messes’. I reminded him that those things were on his property when we bought the place – three and a half years ago. I thought at the time, who would put a horse out in a pasture with rebar and tin and all sorts of garbage lying around. My horses would cut their feet in a heartbeat. And the ‘piles’ of garbage have sat on his property the entire time we’ve lived here. I probably have pictures of the garbage in the background of shots of the horses.

I don’t dump anything on my neighbors’ properties. And I get after my boys for leaving twine on the ground. We always hang up the twine we cut in the barn. And the weekend before I stopped, Garris and I had spent an entire afternoon picking up twine in one pasture that the previous renters had left. I always worry about horses eating bits of twine and getting an obstruction in their colons.And every month, something else pops up from under the ground. Something that we didn’t throw there. And I’m sure that’s what is happening at the neighbors: things are making their way up from the ground. Things that have been buried for possibly years. But it’s easier to blame someone else, especially if your dogs are being naughty and you want to shift the focus onto something else.

But I re-directed our conversation back to his dogs. I told him that his dogs were at my house, in my barn, and in with my animals. I told him that some of my horses were very expensive, letting him come to the conclusion that if his dogs caused any injury or death, he’d be shelling out a huge pile of money. Anyone who has ever bought a performance or rodeo horse knows just how much money goes into their training, feed, transportation, let alone the initial purchase price.

I asked him, nicely, to please keep his dogs at home.

Of course, he claimed that his dogs never left the place, ‘unless they’re chasing cats’. When I told him that they chased cats inside my barn, he just shrugged. And he claimed that the male dog ‘always’ went with him. And he asked me specifically when the dogs were at my place.

When I told him around ten o’clock that morning, he blamed his kids for not keeping an eye on the dogs. I really don’t care whose ‘fault’ it is that the dogs are wandering to my place. I just don’t want them there. I should explain that I have about 30 acres. He must have around 20 – plenty of room for his dogs to stay on his property.

He also said his dogs ‘would never chase horses’. Well, if they chase cats, they’ll chase horses. And once dogs start, it’s almost impossible to get them to stop chasing other animals. And I will not sit back and allow anyone’s dogs to run my horses around their pens or through the fence.

Then, he went into a ramble about how he and his wife had just divorced and how he was struggling. For a half hour, I listened to him tell me WAY more information about his life than I ever needed to know.

He promised he’d keep his dogs home, and I left. I honestly felt good about the stop. I hate confrontation and was dreading having to talk about the dogs. But I felt once he got his hackles smoothed back down, that it was a productive talk.

Four days later, both dogs were back at my place. The female was doing her duties. The male chased cats directly in front of me and into my barn. I picked up the biggest rock I could find and pelted him with it, yelling at him to get.

Now, I’m marking down on the calendar every time I see his dogs on my place. And I told Garris to start taking pictures if he sees them here.

I really don’t want a neighbor battle over this, but I really am tired of his apathetic attitude about his dogs. Too many people move out of town, buy a few acres, and then think everyone’s property is part of their dogs’ right to roam.

I don’t allow my dogs to run. I had a dog pen built the summer after I bought this house. By that time, we had the border collie and the beagle, and they needed to be outside. I spent money, hired a fencing company to put up a secure pen, and I have kept my dogs at home. (With the exception of our wayward beagle.) But the difference is, I don’t knowingly allow him to run free. And when he does escape, he gets his little hiney beat when he comes home.

Once, last summer, Brees and Hooey broke the chain on the dog pen gate. They got out while I was gone, but were in my field when I pulled in. As soon as they saw the truck, they ran to me. We fixed the gate, and they have not been out since.

One of the neighbor’s arguments was that my dogs were over at his house all the time. LIE. If Brees ever got out when his dogs were at my place, he would have dead dogs. She is very protective of her property and her people. Hooey goes out with me for chores, but he doesn’t leave my side. And Stella, the pit bull, doesn’t stray more than a few feet from the patio. (Her eyesight is compromised so she sticks close to her safety zone.)

I am done being neighborly about dogs. We are putting extra wire up along the fence this weekend, filling in the holes that his dogs keep sneaking through. And I’m contemplating getting a camera for the barn. But I know the next time I see his dogs in my horse pens, the sheriff will get a phone call. I’ve given the neighbor fair warning. I’ve been accommodating. I’ve been more than fair about this situation. When it comes to protecting my animals, I will be ruthless.

I do understand that dogs can get out. They can run off. They can get distracted. Like Cody. And if his dogs’ visits were simply occasional mistakes, I wouldn’t have said anything. But they are at my house on a daily basis. I’m within my rights to expect him to keep his dogs on his property.

There is a nuisance law in Montana that, in a nutshell, gives property and livestock owners the right to defend against nuisance dogs. Dogs that chase, harass, worry, or injure livestock can be killed by the livestock owner.

Now, I’m not a violent person. I have a gun, but I rarely shoot. I don’t like inflicting pain on anyone else – person or animal. But I will defend my horses against a nuisance dog. If I don’t, then who will? Most of my horses don’t like dogs and will strike at them. If they connect, my guess is that dog would end up dead.

And who knows? Maybe Brees will suddenly find her way outside the pen the next time one or both of these dogs visit. She might take care of the situation for me. Either those dogs will finally learn to stay home, or they might never make it home again.