Nutrition Mafia Series:

One Good Eclair

Sedona O'Hala Series:

Executive Dirt

Moon Shadow Series:

Ghost Shadow

Now Available:

Soul of the Desert

ranch stories

Newfangled Things

While visiting Dad, I ordered him a pair of sweatpants. He has a lot of trouble with pain in his legs because of varicose veins. He denies that he has them because he has it in his head that they can only look a certain way. Whatever. His legs get very cold at night, but he can’t stand anything tight. So I bought him an all cotton thick pair of sweatpants in black. They are fairly loose with cuffs at the ankles–not too tight. He seemed to like them. I had him try them on before taking the tags off in case they didn’t fit.

He came out of the bedroom. “What do you think of my new pants?” he asked, looking down at the ankles and turning this way and that.

Me: “Oh good. They fit. They look good. Not too tight or loose.”

He swiveled. “These will make nice pajamas.” He stopped suddenly and frowned. “Hey!” He looked at me with accusation. “These pants don’t have a fly! They must be GIRL pants!!!”

Me: Rolls eyes. “Dad, sweatpants don’t have a fly. It doesn’t matter whether they are men’s or women’s. None have a fly.”

Dad: “I can’t wear pants without a fly! How am I supposed to go to the bathroom without a fly!”

“Dad.” I shook my head. “You will just have to work it out.”

Grumbling and harrumphing, he retreated to the bedroom to change. He likes the sweatpants. I can tell because he wears them!

Posted: December 8, 2017
Tags:, ,

From the Ranch

Mom sent greetings this morning from her walk down to the garden. I *told* her there was a snake living under that rock. She paid me no mind. When a snake leaves a calling card, you tend to notice. Especially when they are this large.

Hopefully it’s a nice bull snake and not a rattler. Mom measured the visible part of the skin and it clocked in at over 5 ft long.

Posted: September 27, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life

Life in the Country

I know that people have the impression that life in the country is peaceful and easy. Well, I’m here to dribble a little bit of reality on that hazy dream…

Last night, Dad and I went down to spray the cow for flies. The cow isn’t particularly happy about this procedure, so she runs about the pen and kicks up her heels in protest. Anything that gets in the way of those heels is toast. Of course, Dad has been at this a long time, so he was able to squirt her from a distance. For some reason, this cow likes to put her feet in the water tub during the day and rinse them off. The result is a muddy mess so instead of just refilling her water, we have to clean it out every night. Then we gave her grain and hay, checked to make sure she was eating and called it a night.

I took a nice stroll around the yard because it’s about a quarter of a mile to make a complete turn. I watched the bats come out and the sun finish going down. El Paso, the resident dog, kept me company. He even brought his toy so that I could play with him for a bit. He’s a border collie and he can sure run. He cuts back and forth as though he’s been trained to herd sheep even though he doesn’t even herd cattle. We both know I’ll never get the toy from him, but he lets me have it sometimes so that I can throw it for him after he runs away.

I went to bed shortly after dark because I’m generally pretty tired after a day around here. I hadn’t even started to fall asleep when I heard a rustling outside. I’d heard it the first night I was here too, but I was too tired to get up to look out the window. It was probably El Paso sleeping under my window. Except whatever it was wasn’t sleeping. There’s no grass or anything but sand under the window. Why would anything dig there? No food to be had.

I finally got up and peered into the darkness. It had a tail. A fluffy tail. El Paso has a fluffy tail so it was probably El Paso, but he didn’t come over to the window to say hello. His nose and face fit right at the bottom of the window. He has tried poking his nose through the screen before. When I say it’s dark here, I mean, it’s *really* dark here. Lots of stars, no street lights. Way off in the distance you can see the lights of one or two cars if they come down the mountain. The moon wasn’t helping much so I went back to bed.

I heard El Paso bark. He wasn’t anywhere near my window. Hmm.

Fifteen minutes later, the wonderful smell of skunk wafted in my window. Well, the mystery was solved. It was my lucky night. That skunk could have heard me at the window and sprayed me right in the face. Of course, now, instead of sleeping with the window open, it made more sense to shut it. See, fresh country air, is always “fresh” but some fresh smells are best left unsmelled.

In the morning, we found the skunk. El Paso had dispatched the invader. He even managed it without getting sprayed. Of course, he left it right there on the sandy track for some poor human to dispose of it. He’s a good dog, but he isn’t willing to drop the thing in the trash or cart it off into the desert where we won’t have to live with the original smell or the decaying smell.

What’s on the agenda for today? The wool carpet in the living room needs shampooing. Dad took care of the cow, Mom picked the tomatoes from the garden, so I got the rug.

Posted: September 17, 2017


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:, , ,

Down the Rabbit Hole

So, I’m visiting the parents on the ranch again. Dad and I went to look for cows on the far ranch. You know the place. Fifty miles past the middle of nowhere, no good roads. Dad decided I needed to learn to drive out there (again. You will recall the last time he decided this, he let me drive for about five minutes before declaring I was trying to kill him.) It rained recently, so many of the main dirt “roads” were full of ditches where the water had carved out a rocky path. Just remember, ladies, when you’re asking for equality, it isn’t always a boardroom job. No, we have to be equal when it comes to cows and roads too.

I was doing pretty well, bouncing us along about five miles an hour or so. I switched into high-gear 4 wheel drive when we reached the ranch part. I know the general route and know where the gates are. Hint: If you are on gate duty, the way to tell which way the gate opens is to note where the truck stops. If the truck stops with enough room to open towards the truck, it’s going to open that way. If the truck goes all the way up to the gate, it opens the other direction. There is no other obvious way to tell. If I am driving said truck, I just GUESS.) Dad didn’t complain much about the extra walks to the gates and on the bright side, I didn’t run over Dad or a gate!

When we came to the spot where the earth tank had run across the road, I asked about putting the truck into low-gear 4 wheel drive. “You don’t need it,” Dad said. “But I don’t know why you’re in drive instead of 1st gear. You drive like the neighbor. I think it’s easier in first gear.”

Well, if he’d MENTIONED that, I guess I’d have been in first gear. FINE.

We made it through the running mud puddle. I was pretty pleased.

On the other side, up an incline, we found a set of cows. “STOP!” Dad yelled.

“GAH!” No, we weren’t under attack, but apparently he had determined we were as close as we’d get before they ran off so he wanted to stop to note the ear tag numbers. It hardly seemed like an EMERGENCY stop order to me. We were only piddling along anyway. SHEESH.

We counted cows. Then the cows wandered into the road in front of us. Mind you, some of these cows stand taller than the front hood. Sometimes they stop. In the dirt road track. See, I don’t appreciate this because I like a tiny bit of momentum for the hills. “Just push them with the truck,” was Dad’s advice.

I honked the horn. The cow didn’t like that. She skittered forward three or four steps before glancing back and…stopping. I moved forward and honked. This time she decided to stand her ground and invite her calf to hang out as well. OH FOR THE LOVE OF. I tapped her with the truck grill. So far as I know, the only purpose of a truck grill is to tap cattle to get them moving. But I see a lot of these truck grills in Austin. I know all those trucks don’t have to worry about cows. Yet they all have grills. Why???

Anyway, Cow 19 decided she’d move. She took her calf along with her.

“Stay close, or she’ll stop again,” Dad advised.


That worked until we came to the bull. The bull was facing us and is larger than the cow. Less pleasant looking too. Big black face. Giant face, in fact. “Get out of the way,” Dad called out the window.

The bull looked at him and gave this kind of nod and a snort and moved aside.

We all know that if I had politely asked that bull to move, he’d still be there blocking the road into next week. Dad is the cow whisperer in this family and I can pretty much guarantee that bull would have just stood there looking at me for a week, maybe two.

This sort of searching for cows and jotting down their tag numbers continued until we arrived at the water tank an hour or so later. There, we checked the water levels and took a short break before Dad said, “You better let me drive. It gets rough from here.”

WHAT??? And those roads were what? Freeways???

If it had been anyone other than Dad, I’d have rolled my eyes and made a smart remark. I also wouldn’t have believed whoever came up with such a ridiculous sounding lie. I kept my mouth shut and got in the passenger side.

The first part wasn’t too bad if you don’t count the spinning wheels, the rocks sliding out from under the wheels and the fact that the road by the river had grass so long, we couldn’t see the actual road. When we had to cross the running creek, boulders had rolled down and there were potholes the size of the tires.

“I’m not sure I’m on the road anymore,” Dad said. “This isn’t in very good shape.”

“I guess it’s the road now,” I said.

“Yeah,” he agreed happily. “If we aren’t stuck, it’s a road.”

That pretty much sums up Dad’s definition of “road.”

We went by the cabin, still looking for more cows. There were none to be found. Past the cabin, there is a fork in the road. You can take the low road or the high road.

“With the rain, I wonder if we can make it up the high road,” Dad said. “We should be okay, but I guess we’ll slide back down if not.”

Ah, words of reassurance. Dad is such a comfort.

We started up the first rock, some sort of gate into the road from hell. The truck was working pretty hard at this road, but we weren’t moving very often. It got steeper and rockier. “I guess I should have let you drive this part so you’d learn.”

“I know how to drive up this road,” I replied through clenched teeth. “You take the low road.”

He snorted at my lack of enthusiasm.

The first time the rocks went out from under the wheels, we didn’t actually slide back. We just pedaled in place and at least one of us prayed. The rocks rolled under the wheels as if we were on some kind of churning balls. They moved, we didn’t. The tires were grinding, but they held.

The second time it happened, the truck slid sideways and then refused to continue climbing. Dad said, “You let it roll back a tiny bit until the tires grip and then you go again.” He demonstrated by easing up on the gas, letting the truck roll backwards as he worked the brakes with the other foot. It would have been more impressive if I’d heard the rest of the instructions, but I was praying too hard to actually catch whatever it was he was yelling against the sound of sliding rocks, grinding tires and revving engine.

Dad kept up this type of survival driving the rest of the way up the cliff. He had the GALL to start WHISTLING. There I was in the middle of the fourth Hail Mary and he seemed to think this was some kind of fun! Whatever, Dad.

We weren’t having much luck finding the cows. We went over a hill, across a valley, back around and to a lower road. I think it’s the other end of the low road that we should have taken instead of the high cliff road, but I’m not positive. “I guess we should take that and see if we can find the rest of the cows,” he said. “We need to brand the last four tomorrow.”

So we started on the low road, only then there was another fork in the road. Yes, of COURSE he took the high road! HMPH.

It wasn’t actually bad though, not compared to the other one. Not until he asked, ‘Is that a road there?”

“No,” I responded without bothering to look. My road philosophy differs from his. Mine is: “If you can’t see it, it isn’t a road.”

“Oh, you’re right. Here it is.”

No, it wasn’t. We just veered off into a bunch of brush that didn’t have an actual tree in the way.

“I haven’t driven down here in a long time so the road is hard to find.”

He meandered along a completely unmarked tiny rabbit trail. I just kept my mouth shut and looked for cows.

“I don’t think they’ll be down here. I don’t see any fresh tracks or cow dung.”

Well, so what? I hadn’t seen a road and that hadn’t stopped him either!!!

We went round and about and then came to a spot that seemed impassable. “I’ll turn around here. Did you see any fresh tracks on that ant mound back there?”

“No, there were no fresh tracks.” This was a true statement. I’d seen the ant mound because it was the only sandy area visible. The rest was covered in grass, weeds, trees and cacti.

“We should probably drive closer and check.”

Well, since roads weren’t a requirement, why not????

He backed up, made a circle, did this and that and we were on our way. We got over to the ant mound by driving over two small oak trees, and taking a tree branch on both windows/mirrors at the same time. Note: While watching for cows, you must also watch for trees that jab inside the window.

There were no fresh tracks and no cows and no cow dung. He drove a bit past the mound so that we could get better visibility up the side of a nearby hill, but no luck. He turned around.

We drove out a few yards and found the ant mound. Dad stopped. “Where did the road go? Is that it?”

“No.” There was a huge rock just past where he was pointing. We hadn’t gone over anything that large because we wouldn’t have made it.

He drove some more.

“Is that it?” I pointed to a small tree. “We went over a small tree or two.”

“I don’t remember that tree.” He drove up to the tree. “Yeah, this could be it, but I don’t remember that tree. Maybe this is it.”

Another few yards and suddenly a huge tree loomed. Rocks jutted out like some kind of wild graveyard. “I don’t think this is it,” Dad said.

“Look there,” I yelled. “It’s a rabbit.”

Dad gave me a surprised glance. “That’s just a jackrabbit. So what?”

“So you took a rabbit track down here. Ask the rabbit. It knows this track.”

Dad snorted. The rabbit hopped away. Dad drove to the right until we hit more trees. “This isn’t it either. There are no truck tracks from us coming down this way. Now we’re lost.”

Technically, we weren’t lost. We knew right where we were. We even knew where we wanted to be: The top of the hill. What we didn’t know was HOW TO GET THERE.

He got the truck turned around and we headed in the general direction of the ant mound. The rabbit appeared again. “Follow that rabbit,” I said. “I’m telling you this is a rabbit track!”

Since the rabbit was in front of us, Dad followed the rabbit. When it veered left into the brush, Dad stopped and looked that way. “Yup, this is right. I see the tracks.” He meant the truck tracks, not the rabbit ones, but really, what’s the difference???

Saved by a rabbit. Unbelievable.

The adventure continued as we hunted cows. At one point, Dad had to back up a very long way because we went down a road that he decided wasn’t going to lead to cows and there was no place to turn around. This didn’t even faze him. CRAP. I can barely drive half those “roads” while looking straight ahead. He backed that truck up like he was still going forward. I’d have ended down the side of the hill even on the best of the “roads.”

Yeah. I learned something all right. FOLLOW THE RABBIT!!!

Posted: September 8, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life
Tags:, , ,

Waking Hours

Dad called the other day. We chatted about this and that (yes, cows came into the conversation.) Dad mentioned that he was worried about his health because he accidentally slept all the way to six two nights ago. *headdesk* You see, Dad usually gets up at four (and this is a concession to getting up at 3, which he did in the summertime for years to beat the heat.) He gets up at four, makes breakfast and then reads his prayers. He used to be out of the house feeding animals by five, but these days, he putters and snoozes until six. Well, of all things, he didn’t wake up at four the other morning. To hear him tell it, he had one foot in the grave and the other was sure to follow shortly (as in, any minute.)

I think we had this same conversation a few years ago when he decided not to get up at 3 anymore. (He still gets up at 3 or 3:30 when he has to go up to brand, so don’t panic and start dialing 911.)

It is true that he has slowed down. He’s 79! He used to get up at 3 and be out of the house by 4, up at the far ranch by 5 or 5:30 (depending on what had to be fed at the house) and then cut wood for six hours. Well, he can’t take that kind of schedule anymore. Strangely (according to him) he can’t stay out splitting wood past nine o’clock anymore.

I’ve pointed out numerous times that he doesn’t have to split wood anymore. They do have central heat now. But he does it anyway and sells the wood to the neighbors who don’t have such heating. He says the neighbors are old and who is going to cut wood for them if he doesn’t help the one or two old widows who have always bought wood? He also claims it gives him something to do. Because yanno, a garden, feeding three cows at the house, fifteen cows at the near ranch that require watering in two locations, twenty-five cows at the far ranch, branding, keeping up with truck maintenance and yard maintenance really isn’t enough to keep a man busy…

Don’t worry. I reassured him that it was okay if he slept until six. He disagreed with me, but I told him so long as it didn’t happen more than once or twice a year, it was okay. He just grunted.

Gotta love him. What else can you do???

Posted: June 23, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life
Tags:, ,

Country Life

There’s nothing quite like hanging laundry on a cold morning before you rush off to town. I took half the clothes out and slapped the sheets across the line to spread out later. Fixed the rest of the bundle to the clothesline and went back inside for the rest. Finished fixing those on the line. My hands were freezing. By the time I went to straighten out the sheets, it was too late. They were frozen rather solid…I guess that is what happens when you try to hang laundry first thing and it’s only 32 degrees out!!!

Posted: February 25, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life


As y’all know from reading One Good Eclair, I’m very into nutrition. So when I am at the ranch, I cook my parents all kinds of…interesting dishes to make sure they are getting proper nutrition. Today as we were doing the dishes, Mom asked Dad, “Can you tell how much healthier you are with your daughter here cooking for you?”

Dad grunted.

I said, “It must be working because he’s definitely better looking than he was on Sunday.”

Dad dried the plate in his hand, looked over at me and said, “That’s only because I haven’t shaved since Sunday.”


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:, , ,

Will There Be Pie?

It’s a mystery…I’m visiting the ranch again and we decided to make blueberry pie. Mom started the crust but forgot she had already put the water in…so then there was too much water. She started over, but the crust wouldn’t hold together. Then she realized she was out of flour for the top crust. I took over doing the bottom (I’m not afraid to dump it in the bottom of the pie plate and just smash it all the way around. No one sees the bottom. And in this case, there was barely enough so I’m not even sure there was a bottom crust all the way around!) We sent Dad to the store because he was going to town to church.

Apparently Dad has never shopped for flour. First he called to ask which aisle it was in. We told him to look for the sugar/flour aisle. He found it. We told him to look for the five pound bags. He found the bags, but insisted those little bags couldn’t be five pounds. I guess when you lift hay bales all the time, those little bags don’t seem to weigh much. He finally read the label and agreed they might be five pounds, but, “It isn’t very much flour.” I agree, Dad. You don’t get much in a five pound bag, especially given the cost.

Next we sent him to find sweet potatoes. Now, mind you, the man gardens every year. He has grown sweet potatoes. So he found them readily enough, but he had to call back to find out if we wanted red sweet potatoes, yams or regular sweet potatoes. Now, had he dug them up out of the garden, he would have brought them up and said, “These are sweet potatoes or yams or something. Fix them and we’ll eat them.” But in the store, he can’t decide which ones we might want. I told him to get one of each. Mom told him to get the regular ones or the red ones. He then informed us the red ones looked the best of the lot. WELL THEN GET THOSE!

If he already knew which ones looked good, he could have saved all the questions!

When he got home, it turned out he had purchased Organic flour. Mom was speechless over the price. I thought she might swoon. Dad wanted to know what “Organic” flour was and why it was a big deal. I opened the flour before Mom could recover because sure enough, she sputtered, “But wait! I can take it back.” Too late. I want pie. Sometime today.

Mr. Snuggles is doing well. He tried to mow me over, chewed on my sleeve, drooled broccoli goop in my hair and ran around kicking up a storm. I guess that means he was glad to see me.

Posted: February 20, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life
Next Page »