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Soul of the Desert

Walks in Life

A Walk in the Park

We walk every day, but we don’t go anywhere. That is to say, we don’t hike much anymore because it’s hard to take the time off. There’s a small hiking area about twenty minutes from where we live (Not counting the woods where we usually walk. We saw a GORGEOUS owl in the woods the other morning.) Anyway, we finally decided we should go to the other hiking area and walk around. It was a beautiful day and I took some nice pictures of the wild flowers. Down by the water, it often smelled of Jasmine to me. I think the perfume was from the white flower, but I’m not sure. If you hike here in the summer, the smell is more swampish, damp, alligator. This time of year the water was clear and low. Because of the drought we were actually able to cross the river in spots that used to be well underwater.

IMG_1740 We crossed this at a low point. Usually we have to go around and walk across the road/bridge. The turtles weren’t out yet.

IMG_1741 In the summer the water smells of mud and humidity with flashes of fresh air. Today it was all fresh and smelled of plumeria or jasmine.

IMG_1745 These bell shaped flowers were waaaay up on the hillside growing on a vine. I have no idea what they are. If anyone knows, tell us!




It was a beautiful day and a nice one for walking. I may have gleaned some book ideas from the walk, but they also might be half baked! It’s starting to be springtime in many areas. Get out. Get some sunshine and fresh air. It’s worth the walk.

Posted: May 1, 2015
Filed in Walks in Life

Always the Animals

I know the real reason y’all visit me here. It’s not the books (mine or anyone else’s.) It sure as heck better not be the sewing tips or y’all are gonna end up naked or in rags. You like the garden, but the truth is, most of you aren’t about to dig down into that soil and see if it will grow anything. It’s way easier to laugh at me as I try. Now and then, you’re tempted by a recipe or two. But in the end, the star of the show is really…Junior. Scamper. Lynx. And now, we have Oreo and Indian Hat.

Welcome to the show. I hope you stay awhile.

I love grain!

Did someone say “apples?”

You are not getting any of my hay!

I’m not waiting for you. You’re slow.

Posted: October 24, 2012
Filed in Walks in Life
Tags:, ,

Am I the Only One?

When I went through security at the airport, my backpack was marked for special checking. I had to FIND an agent and ask when I could get my bag because it was sitting behind a special plastic partition, waiting.

The agent told me it had been selected because I was carrying something that wasn’t allowed in the airport.

I couldn’t imagine what that might be. It’s a brand new pack so it was highly unlikely that I had left hiking supplies in it. When I hike, I sometimes have odd items. (And back in the good old travel days I used to carry all kinds of tools in case of an emergency. One of those was a neat Leatherman knife that had all kinds of gadgets on there to save my life!)

The agent put my pack on a machine where the contents were viewable by his x-ray machine. He picked up some kind of a special wand thingie. He questioned me while he opened the main compartment:

Are you traveling with anything sharp?

“Not that I know of.”

Out came my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“I brought my lunch,” I said helpfully. “I don’t think there is enough jelly on there to tip the “too many liquid ounces.'”

“No, there was just something in here they didn’t recognize on the main pass.” Out came an apple. Followed by an 6 ounce round of Edam. Or maybe it’s 8 ounces, but it’s not like I was planning on eating the whole thing in one sitting. Next came a package of home made sugar cookies, 6, if you must know.

“Wow,” the agent said.

He started to put his wand in and it hit the other bag of cookies. He pulled those out too. His eyebrows had left his face. He then peered inside as if he expected more!! HMPH.

“Food is expensive in the airport,” he acknowledged.

And apparently not readily recognized on x-ray. Am I the only one who travels with food??? He had to have help getting it all back in there. Not a very efficient packer, if you ask me.


Y’all know what life is like on the ranch because you read the blog. When I fly to visit my parents, it’s a 3 hour drive from the airport to the ranch. There are often stops and delays for projects no one told me about. We’re crossing miles of open desert. What if Dad suddenly decided to just go rock hunting or something??? Of course I carry food. You never know what might happen when you’re with my family–or how long it might take. Good thing he didn’t have to go through my suitcases. There’s food in there too.

Posted: December 13, 2016
Filed in New Mexico, Travel, Walks in Life

An Owl and Flowers

We had delightful company this week so we took a trip down to Lady Byrd Johnson Wild Flower Center. It’s a great place for a stroll. Since most of the flowers and trees are marked, it’s a great place to identify flowers too.

We had a great time and the flowers were beautiful. Not only were there flowers, we also saw a turtle and an owl! How serendipitous–another reminder of Fairy Bite! It was very difficult to get a good owl pictures, but we tried!

Here’s some pictures for you to enjoy. Click for larger views of each.


Scenic view

Wine cup flower (MUST buy some seeds!)

scenic view

crabby owl

zoomed owl

scenic view


Posted: April 30, 2017
Filed in Walks in Life

Another Walk

So we took our usual walk this morning. It was threatening rain so we were hurrying along. So was the teenager coming towards us on his bicycle. He was coming up the slight incline in that half-standing-to-pedal-better mode. All of a sudden he slammed on the brakes and stopped. He had to stop quickly because his pants were falling off. Yup, ye old fashion of the day had left his ass not only hanging out, but also put him in imminent danger of falling off his bike because it’s hard to pedal with your pants around your knees. There’s a *reason* belts and suspenders were invented. Couldn’t you at least wear suspenders and tighten them for the ride home? How often do you have to stop on your way? Does it take you an extra half hour of stop time just to adjust your clothing??? And I thought high heels were stupid.

As he took off again, I looked back. Yup, I was mooned by his underwear. I thought he was pedaling fast to make it home before the rain, but as fast as his pants were falling off, I’m guessing he has to get in as many rotations as he can before stopping to pull them up again.

Come on, people! This is not rocket science. PUT YOUR PANTS ON. There’s a “waist” for a reason. The general idea, in case you’ve missed it, is that you pull the pants OVER your butt so that you can KEEP THEM ON and still walk or ride your bike. And we do not want to see your underwear, no we do not. They are called UNDERwear for a reason. Yes, really–they are to be worn UNDER your other clothes! WHO KNEW????

Husband’s take on the situation: “That does not inspire confidence in our leaders of tomorrow. Not even smart enough to figure out how to keep his pants on!” He paused. “Then again, that seems to be a large problem with our leaders of today too, doesn’t it?”

Yeeeah. You could say that. And now you know where it all starts. Not even smart enough to pull up your pants to ride your bike home in the rain.

Posted: May 10, 2012
Filed in Walks in Life

Article: Mary Walker US Medal of Honor

I didn’t realize that Mary Walker was the only female to be awarded the US Medal of Honor. Apparently she is also one of the reasons I am allowed to wear pants (shorts and/or sweat pants) today. I’m very grateful.

When I was an exchange student in high school, I went to Japan my senior year. We had to wear uniforms to school, and they happened to be skirt/dresses that look similar to the dress Mary Walker has on in the picture (they were a bit longer). Because of the absolutely freezing cold during Japan’s winter, I often wore jeans underneath the uniform. It was prohibited to do so, and I was told several times not to do it. BUT I WAS COLD so I continued to do it, using various excuses of not understanding the rules, not understanding the language, NOT CARING A WHIT and so on. We had round belly stoves in the classrooms. Only those sitting close to the stoves were anywhere close to warm. When we arrived in the morning, we would huddle around the stoves. Because I had pants on underneath my skirt, when my skirt caught fire, I didn’t realize it at first. 🙂 No harm done other than the hole that burned through the skirt. The other girls were quite mortified. A kind soul patched it for me (even then my sewing skills were quite legendary. We won’t go into details.)

Posted: October 6, 2017
Filed in Walks in Life

Best Soap

All righty then. I went down to take Mr. Snuggles an apple this afternoon. Mind you, I know he planned on chewing on ME rather than the apple, but I’m on to his wily ways. I gave him the apple BEFORE entering the pen. Then when he turned to nip me, I grabbed his halter. I told him VERY clearly, “There will be no biting and no drooling.” He understood.

I washed his eyes (he has allergies) and kept hold of his halter. He didn’t fuss. I swear he’s easier to handle than Leo the Cat. There is no handling Junior the Cat so I know he’s easier than Junior. Eventually, he wanted to finish his apple pieces, so I released his head while I gave him a bit of a brushing. He ate his apple and instead of grabbing my arm, he went for the bottom of my pants, smearing in a good bit of apple juice. “MR. SNUGGLES.”

His teeth firmly on my sweatpants, his eyes rolled back to watch me. I am surprised he did not laugh out loud. I retrieved his head/halter. When I went to his other side, that horse tried to kiss me! YES, HE DID. RIGHT IN THE FACE. I am a horse lover, but that is SERIOUSLY taking things too far. “NO!!!!!” GAH. ICK. GAH.

We had another discussion about his bad habits. He understood me quite well, I assure you. Horses are very smart. I could also tell by the look in his eyes that he was biding his time.

I finished all his checks and brushing and slid out of the pen. He had dropped his apple on the ground when he went for my pant leg so I slithered one arm in to put it in his tray. GAH. With a huge slurping noise, he left horse drool ALL OVER MY SLEEVE. It is utterly disgusting. Some sort of mix of hay, apple and horse drool. DISGUSTING. When I asked my mother what was the best laundry soap to clean horse drool, she laughed. Couldn’t even speak. Yeah, just you wait. Mr. Snuggles will get you.

I told Dad about the horse trying to kiss me. Do you know what he said? Can you even imagine? “Oh yeah. I’ve been teaching him that. I make horse blowing noises at him and lean in like I’m going to let him kiss me. But I’m too fast. I get out of the way.” ARE YOU CRAZY?? Of course he is. Who teaches a baby horse that kind of disgusting trick???? UGH.

So now I have a perfectly good shirt with horse drool all over one arm. I don’t know how to get the stain out. Gross.

Posted: February 22, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life
Tags:, , ,


I was just finishing up watering the cow this morning when Dad drove up. “Want to come and check the water at the Noonday with me? I need to see if the bull is there.”

“Sure.” I had my shit kicker boots on because to water the cow you have to enter the pen. I did have my nicer sweat pants on because I was only planning on watering the cow and the garden. I hadn’t had breakfast either.

Off we went. The bull was not at the tanks. Why would it be so helpful? That meant we counted cows and headed over to the other side of the mountain pass to check the other side. There are really two sets of mountains here (this is the nearby range, not the far ranch). The bull wasn’t at the water tank on the other side of the mountains, either. This side is fairly steep, but don’t despair. What follows are Dad’s comments as we searched.

“I made a half-ass road to get up this hill.”


“I’m not sure if the road goes to the right or left of this tree.”

DOES IT MATTER??? If you can’t see it, what is the point???

“I’m going to build out this road on the end to go all the way down to the arroyo. I won’t be able to drive back up it, but I can get the truck down it.”

That should give you an idea of just how steep some of these hills are. One way–because sliding down is always easier if you can see what you’re going to hit.

Up on the next ridge:

“I’ll drive as close to the edge as possible so you can see down into the canyon better.”

Gosh, Dad. Favors like that simply aren’t necessary. I’ll just walk.

“I don’t know where that bull is. I’ve never gone over the top of this hill with the truck. I wonder if we can make it. It looks clear.”

Not that we could see OVER the top. Noooo, that doesn’t happen until we actually top it and the truck points DOWN. I thought it didn’t go too badly, though. Not until we had to go back UP the downside. Going down the truck didn’t slip. Going up was all about grinding rocks and slipping sideways. Even Dad said, ‘Shit” twice. That was followed by:

“I used to enjoy riding up here in the truck. Now that I’m old I feel every bump and every rock.”

That’s not because you’re old, Dad. I can feel them too because there is nothing but bumps, rocks and banging into the door and window as you try to hold on.

“Oh Shit,” Dad said again. “I just went over fresh cow shit with the back wheel. Now the bumper and tire is going to be full of cow shit. I’m going to have to wash the truck.”

Whatever, Dad.

We did not find the bull. So we’ll have to go back out again when it cools off. Cows and bulls sit under trees in the midday heat, which makes them impossible to see. They are merely dark shadows in the shadows off in the distance. Sometimes you get lucky and they are along the dry riverbeds where we take the truck, but it’s not worth driving out there much past 11. We looked for over two hours. We counted cows three times because we overcounted at one spot and had to go back to verify the actual number at the first tank after double checking the ones in the sandy riverbed.

When we got home, since I’d already showered first thing in the morning (fool) and then hiked about looking for a bull, I gave El Paso his bath. Then I took another shower. If we go out again tonight, I’ll be taking a third. It’s not that I have to be pristine all the time, but I was hot, sticky and smelled like cows and dog. It’s also impossible to get a comb through your hair after driving around for two hours looking for a sneaky bull.

Posted: September 13, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life
Tags:, , ,

Careful: My Neighbor is Armed

Lately, we’ve been helping one of our neighbors get ready to move. She mainly needs help selling her furniture. Part of this involves dismantling it for pickup. The other day we went over to help her dismantle her bed. The woman had more weapons on her bedside table than Amelia Peabody could carry in her skirt AND umbrella! She had the obvious things like her car keys, which sported an alarm button. She also had a separate alarm device that when activated did some sort of screaming bells and whistles with flashing lights. One quarter of the table was taken up by a large bull horn. I’m not sure what she thought she would do with that–yell at the intruder? Start giving orders? Scream into it in order to be heard over the other alarms?

As we moved pillows off the bed, I found a taser under one of the pillows. Good GRIEF. I’m not sure why you need ANY of the other alarms if you own a taser. As she moved each item to the other bedroom, we were treated to a test of each one, including the high-voltage crackle of the taser. GOOD GRIEF, WOMAN. Put that thing down before you accidentally taser yourself! And don’t POINT anything at me!!!

When the neighbor spoke into the bullhorn the electronics in the device magnified her voice by enough decibels that Amelia Peabody could probably hear her in Egypt. Well, until the batteries fell out the bottom. I suppose that would be useful if they fell on the toes of the no doubt stunned and now deaf robber.

And yes. She has a whole house alarm. I hope she feels safe with all that noise potential. I also hope she doesn’t read my blog. She might come over here with that taser!!!

Posted: May 1, 2016
Filed in Walks in Life

Cattle Prod – Back on the Ranch

I recently visited my parents in NM. There were the usual chores, but on Friday, it was supposed to rain or snow–a much needed event in what has been a terrible drought. Unfortunately as it started to threaten rain, Dad remembered he had left his welder uncovered out on the ranch. The drive out there is about one and a half hours each way.

Well, it’s never good for him to go alone, so in the truck we went. The roads aren’t paved and a lot of the time the term “road” is very questionable. There are 3 gates to get into the property and then two more used to separate the grazing pastures. In NM, grazing even 20 cows on a thousand acres has been a trick. There hasn’t been rain, which means no grass grows. Trees are dying. Many ranchers are getting out of the business entirely. It’s expensive to feed cattle when you can’t graze them at least a little bit. Dad goes up twice a week to check on the cattle and to pump water. We have two main water tanks. We have earth tanks too, but they have been completely dry this year and last. There wasn’t even mud on the bottom.

When we arrived at the corral, Dad said, “This is GREAT! The cows are coming in there. I need to take two calves back. We’ll have to go back and get the trailer!”

Wait a minute. Did we just drive and hour and a half to get here, and now you’re telling me we have to drive back to get the trailer?

Yes, that is exactly what he was telling me. Argh.

“I’ve been trying to get the cows to the corral for over a week without bringing the horse up here.”


We drove over to the welder and covered it. Rain spit on us now and then, and it was cold, about 35 to 40 degrees out.

We went back to the corral to separate the two calves from the other cows. Dad told me to guard the gate. This means I stand with it open, and he herds the cows he doesn’t want out the gate. In theory. Getting just the ones you want out is trickier than you might think. I asked Dad, “What is the plan?”

“You just stand there. I’ll herd them out.”

“Okay.” This seemed sharply lacking in detail to me. I am a planner by nature. I want to know exactly what is happening so that I can form contingencies, plan A through plan F and so on. Maybe this really would be that simple. I didn’t remember it being that simple growing up, but maybe the cows were smarter now.

The first two went out easily. The next was a bull, and he was more than suspicious of me. He headed for the opening, but along came a calf, one we wanted. I ran with the gate to close it. This is not a small gate so when you want to shut it you have to move FAST. Faster than a running bull.

“Let the bull out, but not the calf!”

They were right together and the calf ran faster. I clapped at the calf to get him back and closed the gate. Silly guy ran right into the fence and bounced off.

Rather loud cursing followed. “I told you to let the bull out! Do just what I tell you! Don’t start thinking and getting fancy ideas! And don’t be making loud noises!” The man was yelling at the top of his lungs. This means that people in Utah probably heard him.

Dad chased cows around the pen and eventually separated the two calves. “SHUT THE GATE!” he yelled. “HURRY UP! Both of them! Can’t you do any thinking on your own? DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU EVERY LITTLE THING??”

Wait just a minute…I thought I wasn’t supposed to be Miss Idea over here…and what second gate? I don’t see a second gate…you never mentioned a second gate in the ‘plan.” Oh, THAT gate. Now WHY didn’t you tell me you were chasing them in there? I thought the plan was to LEAVE them in here and get all the others out. I didn’t even KNOW there was a narrow pen over there!!! He had added the entire corral since the last time I was up here.

Dad may be old, but he is used to moving fast. He jumped after the calves and shut the other gate. “I thought you knew what you were doing,” Dad muttered.

I could have pointed out that I didn’t need to know what *I* was doing, I needed to know what *he* was doing. Hmph.

Dad eyeballed the truck, wondering if he could convince the calves to stay in the back. It has high sides added, but no top. Calves that get spooked might try to jump out. In the end, we decided to head back and get the trailer.

It wasn’t terrible; just a long drive home and back. My job was to manage the gates, put the truck in four wheel drive (this is a manual operation involving turning a dial on the front wheels) and guide the truck to the cow ramp. Getting the trailer in place was the lengthiest operation because it had rained some and was getting muddy. Dad jackknifed the trailer once, but we were lucky. No damage.

Eventually we got the little guys on. I put away a side gate we had used to close a gap on one side between the trailer and the ramp (This prevents them from trying to squeeze their way to freedom). “Side gate” means we rigged a spare ladder that was at the water pump station. Because I was carrying this long ladder, I was not watching where I put my feet and managed to step directly in a fresh cow paddy. Just lovely.

The weather was worsening. What had been spitting snow was now a mix of sleet, occasional rain and wind.

On the drive back, I got out at the first gate, and my hat blew off. The truck grill caught it. Good thing. It was really Dad’s cap, and I borrowed it from his other truck for this event. I recall some sort of instruction about, “Make sure you put it back. I need to have it in there for when I need it.”

At the next gate, it started hailing the very second I got out of the truck. It stopped almost as soon as I was back in. The third gate–the wind blew it open as we approached!!! Too bad that it hit the sandy hillside and bounced back before we could actually get through the gate. The fourth gate, a wind gust took that hat and blew it to Utah or maybe Mexico. I was busy with the lock and never even saw it leave.

“What happened to my hat?” Dad said as I climbed in the cab. “You lost it this time, didn’t you?”

“No, the wind took it. I had nothing to say about it.”


True story. I couldn’t have caught that hat. I never saw it leave.

We made it safely home and Dad installed the calves in their new corral. As I cleaned my boots, I realized I had mud all down one pant leg. I washed up and started on dinner. Just another day at the ranch, but I’m really glad I had those boots on. Wear your boots people. Life is often full of shit that is unavoidable even when you know it is there.

Possible related book: Soul of the Desert Soul of the Desert is a novel about survival, hope and overcoming impossible adversity.
(Click on the tag “ranch stories” in the lower right of this post for more stories about Dad and the ranch!)

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