Life on an Arabian breeding farm in Capitan, NM.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Fairgrounds…

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.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This is how it began…

Well not exactly, the photo is actually from a few days after the fire started. They call it the Little Bear fire only it isn’t very little. It went from a fully contained 1/4 acre fire to a 38,000 acre fire last I heard, and it’s still not fully contained. The one fear Rudy has always had out here is of fire. So far over 240 homes have been lost. The fire started on a Monday, and the photo is from Friday. That night it seemed that the whole mountain was on fire, and it very nearly was. I tried to take photos, but my little camera, wasn’t up to the task. Saturday the air was full of smoke, and for the most part obliterated the mountains. I went about my usual routine, and then went to town for a few things. On my way back the road was blocked but we were in no danger. I went to April’s and they were already packing up. I wasn’t really worried for in spite of the smoke there were three ridges I could see between us, and Copper Canyon. It would take time for the fire to get across the canyon, and up the first of the ridges so no matter what we still had time.

My greatest concern was for my parents. After going home I went back to talk to the fire marshal to see about getting an ambulance to take them out. Mother was still recovering from the meds that didn’t work, and could not even get into a wheel chair. The fire marshal said the best thing would be for them to take her to the hospital so that’s what the plan was. When I started back to the house (sometime later) the ambulance showed up, and I told them to just to follow me. They were great getting my mother, and my father out, but they had to have a reason for her to be taken to the hospital. She had already begun wheezing from the smoke, and the bad reaction to the meds was good enough for us to get her in. The only bad part was they couldn’t go to Ruidoso, but had to take her to Roswell. Great, they were going back where they came from. Father gave me all the “papers he couldn’t live w/o” and off they went.

That was the easy part. I had four horses in pasture, and eleven more in stalls. Some are really good about loading, and some have never even seen a trailer. Ser-Haat I can’t even get a halter on. With three stallions I have to be careful about who I put with who. Our trailer, an old four-horse straight hasn’t been moved for three or four years, and a lot of things are rusted in place. I also have seven dogs, two cats, and two parrots that have to be moved. Yes, I’m slightly daft just in case you were wondering. April’s new boyfriend was there so at the very least I had an extra driver (I can’t trailer remember), and some brawn. We tried to use our trailer not too long ago, and I couldn’t get the ball out. After some more oil, and some heavy pounding it came out, and Robert was able to hook it up. Again that was the easy part. Katy’s stock trailer was also a four horse so maybe this would work. I am such an optimist, it borders on the insane. I have no idea who we loaded first except for Jeri. Our trailer has a stallion stall, and he’s an easy load. Actually no one was a completely easy load, and horses that I thought I would have no problem with suddenly acted like idiots. I know because of the smoke they were all panicky, but still, just because none of them had been in a trailer since we moved here, and they could smell the fire that doesn’t mean they can’t behave themselves. They of course had a different opinion.

After we got the two trailers loaded with some of the horses, I told April to get help from someone at the fairgrounds our final destination, otherwise we’d never leave. I still had young’uns I had no clue how I was going to get into a trailer. Robert came back with one of the trailers, and said help was coming. Thank you Lord, He does come through in a pinch. I’m trying to decide what my next move will be when Mike Hernandez, and Johnny (from Ski Apache) shows up. Rudy knows Mike, and I recognize Johnny. I pick, and choose who I will put with who. Everyone is panicky, and some won’t load except for me. Some need some extra encouragement from behind, but finally we have another trailer load. Johnny decides we need to set up a weanling chute for the ones that have never been trailered. Sounds good to me so we start with Ibn, but for the life of me I can’t remember who we put with him, Little Big Man or Ser-Haat. I think we put Ibn, and Little Big Man together. Ser-Haat went in the arena with the rest of the horses, and Ibn, and LBM went in the big red barn with Jeri. Stallions you know, no one wanted any issues or surprises. Anyway LBM, and Ser-Haat went through he chute we created as well as could be expected. Stormy was the problem child. They didn’t have the trailer close enough to the barn gate, and wouldn’t you know Stormy skinnied through scraping his hip all to you know what, and gone.

Off he goes, and off we go on foot trying to catch him. Johnny was ready to skin him alive after about an hour or so. I could have rounded him up with Marina, but she was in the front portion of the 4-horse stock trailer. We went everywhere around the front of the property. I closed off the gates to the house (and freedom), but scared as he was he wasn’t about to go too far. Finally we herded him into the pasture, and loaded the rest of the horses save two.

We took all the partitions out of my trailer, and made a very narrow chute for Stormy to go through, but now we had to get him out of the pasture, and herded into one of the stalls so we opened all the gates. Of course first we had to find him, ten acres is a lot of land full of trees. I took the gator and went all over only to discover (after I went everywhere) that they had him up in the front of the pasture. They got him out of the pasture and over towards the two mares that were left. Slowly, quietly we coaxed him towards (of all places) his stall. Yes we did it, he was in his stall now all we had to do was get a halter on him. By this time he is pretty well played out, and I’m able to herd him to the front of the stall in a corner. He’s tired, scared, and finally wanting some reassurances. Once I can get close, and start petting him he gives in, and hugs me so tight I thought he’d never let go. I ask for a halter, and lead, and Johnny very slowly approaches, and is able to hand me the halter w/o panicking Stormy. Stormy for his part is quite willing to accept the halter, and I easily lead him through the stalls into the barn.

Now I just have to get him in the trailer. How I did it I can’t remember but I get him in, and Johnny ties him in while I get the butt bar on. Poor thing he was trembling all over. This was just too much for him. The last two mares go into the stock trailer w/o too much trouble, and off they go. It’s almost dark, and I still have to get the rest of the animals loaded into my truck along with the computers, and paperwork I can’t live w/o. I get two small birdcages from the barn, and put the parrots in those. The cats go in cat carriers, and the small dogs in the large dog crate. It’s at this time I discover that the reason Sky didn’t eat his breakfast was that he had a large lump on his throat. I checked his teeth, and it wasn’t an abscess so the only thing I can think of is that something bit him. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do at the time, but put him in the crate. I gather food for everyone, get a sheet to cover the birds, and cats with, throw in a few dog dishes along with the computers, and the two kitchen bags with paperwork. The cops had come sometime before telling me to leave, and I of course said we were working on it. I was holding LBM at the time who freaked at the lights from the police cars. They tried to tell me to leave the animals, but of course that was never an option. It was almost dark by now, and the fire had not gotten to the ridge so I figured I could probably have stayed, and almost did, but I had the truck loaded so I might as well leave. I couldn’t take the chickens (no more room, and no more crates, so I stuffed the four big dogs in the front seat, and off I went.

I was too tired to be scared, nor did I ever have a sense of danger. I told Rudy I had all the animals, the computers, paperwork, and my wedding ring, so we were good. Poor thing he was 1600 miles away with a broken down truck, and a load he wasn’t going to be able to deliver. At least he could stop worrying about me, and the animals, and like I said the rest didn’t matter.

To be continued…

Monday, June 4, 2012

Oh my…

Is it just me, or are there fewer hours in every day? Who said life in the country was boring? I don’t have time to get bored. By the end of the day I’m so exhausted I can’t wait to crawl into bed. Ergo I haven’t kept up to date on life on the ranch. I’m filthy dirty, how’s that for an update? Not quite what you expected? Ok here goes.

There really hasn’t been much to talk about, my father’s doing great, my mother not so much. The new medication the neurologist put mother on had side effects that were too severe, and after several phone calls (which were never returned), I just took her off them. I finally got her to Doc Si, and he too agreed that she has Parkinson’s. He put her back on one of the meds only on a much lower dose. Tomorrow I will start another med, which should take care of the uncontrollable tremors allowing me to get her in a wheel chair again. Unfortunately the med that was getting her to talk again, and helping to restore at the very least fragmented memories, was the one with the worst of the side effects. Poor thing was terrified that she was falling when she was in bed. Because the uncontrollable tremors are not localized to one side of her body, Doc Si believes the cause is in the spinal column. If this new med doesn’t do anything then he has to re-think his diagnosis. Her pain is actually subsiding some, and he’s not concerned with the amount of Tylenol I’m giving her, so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

My father had the cataract removed from his other eye on Friday, and has to see a laser surgeon about removing some film remaining on his first eye. He had some chest pains evidently Saturday night most likely because he was off his blood thinners because of the surgery. His PT/INR is, as expected low, but we are to keep him on a 5/2 day regime, and we will check it again in a week. Other than that he’s doing great. The scary part is that once his vision is back to normal he has every intention of starting to drive again. His driving scared me as a kid, he’s now 87 (almost 88), he has some form of dementia, and he wants to drive? We may have to have some discussions on that. Hopefully one of his doctors will discourage him, as I probably won’t have anything to say about it. Thank God we live in a very small town. Maybe they won’t give him a NM driver’s license, hum, I wonder who I can bribe!

The only down side in this entire mother, father invasion stuff is that I’ve put on half of the weight I had lost. My answer to temptation is to remove it from the premises. If it’s not there you can’t eat it. Now there’s ice cream, brownies, cookies, and all sorts of things in the house. On top of which because I’m spending so much time taking care of them I don’t have time to spend outside doing that wonderful manual labor that has kept my weight in check. I was not pleased to see that scale go up, and up. The last two days, I have spent much time trying to convince a round of hay that it really does want to move. That helped a bit. Then yesterday I put up mothers bird feeder, and a week ago or so (no idea when) I did finish my chicken run. I also lost two babies, one of each. I thought they were big enough so they couldn’t skinny through the fencing, but I guess not. First I lost one, and then a couple of days later I came home to half a dozen chicks where they’re not supposed to be. As I scurried them through the gate, I saw one find a hole that was just big enough for her to squirm through. Luckily the dogs are so used to the chickens, that they totally ignored the fact that they were out of the hen house. The two I lost I am assuming wandered too far, and ended up as hawk bait. They have to eat too you know. One of my hens also died. The babies were just too much for her. The other one has gotten over her fear of the babies, and now has no problem pecking at them to get her way. That’s why I wanted the big run. I have some chicken wire left over from doing the dogs yard, and tomorrow or the next day (who knows when) I’ll put it up around the fencing. Maybe that will work a couple more pounds off. I’m desperate here.

The horses have been sorely neglected during all this. I have brushed them a bit, but they need it again. I also need to worm everyone. The ones that get goodies are easy, the rest of them are sure to be a pain. No matter what flavor you get they know it’s wormer, and they insist that it is horrible stuff that is sure to kill them. Almost everyone needs their feet done, manes combed, and just plain attention. I had to rearrange the barn again to allow for the round bales (photos coming soon), giving me room to store more hay if, and when the price goes down. We finally got some rain, and wouldn’t you know a big nasty storm hit after the first cutting, and before a lot of farmers could get it all baled. Needless to say hay is still at a premium. What a mess we’re in. One good thing it looks like I might actually start working soon. It means time away from mother, and the horses, but it also means I might be able to start paying some bills again. I don’t mind not having money to spend, I hate having bills I can’t pay. This is the first time in my life that I have been in this situation, and I don’t like it one bit. As St. Therese always said, “this too will pass”. I just wish it would hurry up so we can get on with our life.

That’s about it except for all the pretties, I have been buying, and planting for mother. I bought more chocolate mint too. I have three plants sitting on the porch to plant. I thought possibly our neighbors were back or someone was turning the pump on for them so their dirt tank could fill. Sadly when I put the dogs to bed tonight, I found the carpet wet all around the water softener that hasn’t been used in years. Tomorrow I guess I get to crawl under the house to try, and figure out where exactly the leak is, and how I can possibly fix it. Anyway there hasn’t been enough water to plant anything. I did plant the rhubarb plant I bought for father. He loves rhubarb pie, doesn’t everybody? See what I mean, how can I possibly keep my weight in check??? It will take two years for it to mature, but it is well worth the wait. I know it can take the cold, and where I planted it there is lots of runoff from the roof. The daylilies I have there are always big and green even when we haven’t had much rain. My house is ever so slowly getting rearranged to accommodate added furniture. Today I will called Dish to set up an appointment to get cable run to both mother, and father’s rooms. Father insisted that they didn’t need TV’s in their rooms (I knew better), and now he keeps asking when I’m going to call, and get their TV’s set up. He really is too cute. The older they get the more I love my parents. In so many ways I’m so very thankful that I will have them with me in their last days. Not everyone is so blessed, I am grateful that I am.