I really should have taken pictures of the fairgrounds, but I didn’t even though I had grabbed my camera. By the time I got there it was quite dark, the air was filled with smoke, and the sounds of animals unsure of their new surroundings. There were trucks, cars, and trailers everywhere. April had gotten some dinner for me, but I wasn’t that hungry. I had to distribute animals, and of course I forgot leads for the dogs. I put the small dogs, the cats, and the birds in the sleeper portion of the horse trailer. Bear I left in the truck with me, Taggot outside tied to the trailer with a lead rope, and Bree, and Pena I put in the horse portion of the trailer. I had no bales of hay for the horses (remember I’ve been buying rolls), and no water buckets. Evidently April got a lot of grief over that. They put all my horses, Doc Sei’s mare, and April’s four horses in the arena. I was the only one with that many horses. The stallions were in a big red barn at the back of the fairgrounds missing their girls. The fairground was full with horses, cattle, goats, and one pig. I never saw him. One of the mares had a new foal at her side, and there were others that were due to foal.
We were all exhausted, with bumps, and bruises from frantic horses. April, and Robert slept in his truck, and George, and Patti slept at the church across the street. I snuggled in with Bear. It took a while, but he finally settled down while I tried to sleep. Needless to say I didn’t get much of it. I had plenty of Advil (which I took about every hour), but that did nothing to keep me warm. Finally I remembered the sheet I brought to cover the birds with on the way over. After that I think I simply passed out.
At one point I went in to check on Sky who I found limp on the floor of the trailer. I had gotten a baby aspirin from George, and had given him some Benadryl, but I knew it was no use. The poison was traveling down his chest, and he could barely breath. I said my good-by’s, and told him I was sorry. After that he curled up in the back of the truck, and I knew he wouldn’t make it through the night. As fast as he went, even if I had been able to get him to a vet, it wouldn’t have done any good. I don’t know what bit him but the poison was too much for his little body. He’s in a better place now even though he was as happy as he could be while we had him. He never really got over whatever trauma landed him in the Humane Society. I was forever trying to put weight on him, which is why it wasn’t unusual for him to skip a meal. It never did any good he would run in circles for hours outside. He was a smart little cuss, and managed to find me down at the barn when he would escape from the back yard. I finally had to put chicken wire all along the fencing to keep him inside. He didn’t understand that he was hawk, or coyote bait outside the safety of the house, and yard. That doesn’t even count the snakes that would find him just slightly too large a morsel to eat, but too much of a threat to ignore. I miss him dearly, but that is the way of things, and the circle of life.
My circle of life became the truck, the red barn, the arena, and the little church across the street. After feeding the dogs, cats, birds, and making a few re-arrangements (Bear went in with Bree, and Pena) I made my way to the church for breakfast. I cannot say enough about them. They fed all of us morning, noon, and night, provided showers (including shampoos, towels etc.), and even a change of clothes for the likes of people like me. At breakfast I saw a few neighbors, met a few I didn’t know, and found out that Brian was going to open the Mercantile for about an hour for those needing feed. I went back to feed the horses to find that the barn manager had fed them. It’s in times like these that communities’ pull together to ensure everyone is taken care of.
It was at the church that we got most of our news of the fire. You couldn’t see the mountains from the fairgrounds because of a few little mountain peaks, but we couldn’t help but see the black plumes of smoke coming ever closer. Alto, Nogal, Bonita, and Angus were hit hard. There were people there that had lost everything. One woman couldn’t stop crying. A friend of mine was told her house burned to the ground only to be told later that they were trying to save her house. I believe her house was spared finally, but it was very hard for her for a while. They did let some people in our area go back to feed livestock, and one friend would go home at night despite the roadblock. Her animals were safely at friends, but she refused to leave her house as long as possible. Doc Sei refused to leave his house at all, and made the rounds to ensure that our homes were all safe. Mind you he sent Brenda off, and of course his mare came with us. His mini bull stayed with him only because there was no way to move him. April, George, and Patti all went to Roswell after finding a place to bury Sky for me. I tried to keep tabs on my parents, who eventually ended up at one of the retirement facilities in Roswell. Mother was released from the hospital only to be taken back the next day because they discovered she had a urinary tract infection. Why they couldn’t wait for the results of the tests to come back before they released her is beyond me.
On Sunday the National Hot Shot team came to town, and set up meetings both in Ruidoso, and Capitan to update people on the fire, their progress, and the next day’s efforts. The firefighters that came from all over the country eventually swelled to 1,200 firefighters, high altitude helio’s, two planes, and a DC10. Fighting fires in the NM Mountains is unlike fighting any other fire. It was after all our unpredictable canyon winds that that took a small well contained fire to a now 43,000-acre fire. There was a lot of anger at the meetings from those who lost so much because of one bad decision. There was also jubilation when it was announced that they would not evacuate Capitan. The winds were changing yet again, and they had stopped the northward advance of the fire. That also meant that Ruidoso itself was now in danger.
For my part, life followed a pretty simple routine. Big Jim (I’ve never met the man) after feeding his horses one day rolled the better part of a roll of wheat hay in the arena for our horses. Someone was going to introduce me to him but it didn’t come to pass. He lost everything except his barns I found out later. I discovered a friend of his was in a trailer next to me. I went over to make sure that they gave Big Jim my thanks for feeding my horses. It was from them that I discovered that his barns had escaped the fire. It is hard to imagine such a kindness from someone who had lost so much, but that’s the kind of man he is I am told.
I still had to make sure everyone had water, and feed the stallions, dogs, and cats. I had to reassure everyone that they had not been deserted, but that I was still there. Ser-Haat attached himself to Sadie, and would not leave her side. Stormy would seek me out wanting hugs, and reassurance that all would be well. A lot of the girls were skittish, and there were plenty of pecking order squeals with everyone thrown together. I don’t think anyone escaped some sort of scrape, scratch or bite. Everyone also lost weight. They had more than enough feed it was just the stress of it all. The kids have never been away from home, and the rest haven’t gone anywhere for over six years. Needless to say we’re going to have to make some changes in that respect, just not today. There was a guy there when I was roaming around talking to everyone, who felt he had to warn me to beware. I informed him that these were my horses, and of course he had to say that in all his years of experience with horses, I had to be careful because basically it was a dangerous situation. I think Ser-Haat was kicking up his heals at the time. I let it go because there was no use disputing him. I also kept on talking to my kids much to his dismay.
Slowly people found places for their animals, and the fairgrounds started to empty out. I was very glad when the Appy in the stall directly behind the arena went. He was a young stallion, and Doc Sei’s mare had to be put in a stall across from him because she was in season, and he kept trying to get to her over the wall. I had no fear of him actually getting to her, but was afraid he would hurt himself. Once he’d gone, I put Doc Sei’s mare back with the others. She seemed to be happy to be back with the herd.
Thus it went for several days. Tuesday we were told that Laughing Horse was safe, and we could go home. I called George, and Brian said he would help bring the horses home, but that’s for another post.