Sunday, October 23, 2011

'Fraidy Cat

If you’ve read some of my earlier blogs, then you already know Smokey, our resident cat-in-charge. Mornings are when Smokey is the most full of vim and vigor; he stalks the goats, climbs trees, sharpens his claws on fence posts, and races around the pond and barnyard in an apparent attempt to startle as many birds and mammals as possible.

Smokey’s morning started the same way it normally does: the little Viking scratched my favorite chair, bit my arm, and was promptly evicted from the house so he could plunder and pillage elsewhere. As usual, Smokey reappeared when Bodie (the dog) and I were doing chores. Without acknowledging our presence, the little hotshot just strode past us with that Lion King-Joe Cool swagger of his. I made mention of the mouse I’d seen in the barn the day before, but, apparently, he had more pressing business.

I’d finished chores and was headed houseward when I heard a peculiar banging sound coming from the barn. “What could that cat be up to?” I asked Bodie. Before long, I found Smokey, balanced precariously on top of a 2X10 at the top of the barn wall, eyes round, his pupils dilated with fear. Since I have a fear of heights myself, I well understood that miserable, panicky, how-will-I-ever-get-down-from-here feeling!

 “Mmrroww, mmrroww!” Smokey entreated me to rescue him. I dragged a ladder over to a large round straw bale lying near the wall, then lugged an even bigger ladder up on top of the straw and rested it on the wall close to the cat. The top of the ladder was only about 18 inches from the cat, so I was sure that he could easily climb down. I waited. I encouraged. I reassured. But, “Mmrroww, mmrroww!” was the only response.

 I remembered working on a shed roof with Hubby. When it was time to climb down the ladder, the heights-panic hit me, and suddenly it seemed as if the roof was miles from the ground instead of just feet. And the first time I went down a ski hill, the mild slope looked almost as steep as a cliff. (One definition of “fear” is False Evidence Appearing Real.) In both instances, I just froze. If people hadn’t been around to more or less force me down, I might still be up that ladder or mountain!

Well, my mountain climbing-kid was in India, and Hubby was miles away at work, so I was Smokey’s only hope. Up the ladders I went, counting on the promises of Psalm 91 (see below). Smokey stretched down to where I could grab him by the scruff of the neck and lower him to the ladder, then followed me to solid ground and the house. Temporarily deflated of pride and bravado, he slept soundly on the bed for the rest of the day.

As for me, I felt kind of proud of myself. For most people, ascending and descending that ladder would’ve been no big deal, but for me, it was a victory of faith over fear. For once, the ‘fraidy cat was actually a cat and not me!

He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they'll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling.
                                    Psalm 91:11-12

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Shining

October must be one of the most photographed and painted months of the year, and, indeed, it’s a month worth bragging about. In our little corner of Wyoming, October sets the gold standard for weather—not too hot, cold or windy—and, of course, the color gold. Gold seems to glow from nearly all of October’s best gifts:

·         The brilliant golden marigolds, black-eyed Susans, and calendulas still blooming bravely, even though the mountains in the distance are covered with snow.

·         The tawny Yukon gold potatoes that we’re digging from the garden. (We’ve got lots—want some?)

·         The honey gold haystacks concealing their green treasure troves of protein-laden, nutrient-rich alfalfa.

·         The golden orange of the buttercup squash and carrots that we’re squirreling away; added to all the sweet corn in the freezer, we’re pretty much fixed for vitamin A this winter.

·         The lemon-gold pears, my favorite fall fruit, which was not picked from our pear tree, but, hey, maybe next year.

·         The glorious shades of gold in the cottonwood, willow, and quaking aspen leaves.

·         Last but not least: the vibrant gold-and-navy of the Montana State University Bobcats, who, by the way, are having a stellar football season thus far!

Even the October sunlight seems to have a golden cast as it glistens off the early morning frosts or the shiny new winter coats of the horses and cows.

Gold-the-mineral seems to be worth a lot these days as our American dollar is singing the blues. Hubby and I don’t have any gold bars or bullion, but we are rich in carotenes, xanthophylls, Bobcat sweatshirts, and touchdowns!

“For God Who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts….”                                          (2 Corinthians 4:6 AMP)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Memorial

Jessie, our beloved and somewhat spoiled dog, passed away this week at the age of 14.

Born in a pig barn on a Montana ranch, Jessie was soon adopted by Robin, who celebrated the occasion by sticking the pup in the bathroom sink to scrub away the pig smell. Jessie didn’t care for that or any other bath, although certain skunk encounters necessitated them.

Jessie was a quiet, undemanding dog who loved walks, rides in the truck, scratches on her tummy, and food—especially people food. She also liked to haul home various pieces and parts of decayed carrion or rotten afterbirth, always depositing them on the front lawn before chewing them up.
Blue heelers are notorious for aggressively protecting their home and family; however, Jessie was an exception. A sweet soul who never bit anyone, she even served as a much-loved therapy dog at a women’s prison for a time.

Blue heelers are also known for their cattle herding prowess, but Jessie preferred to herd horses, rabbits and neighbor cats. The only cow work she volunteered for was accompanying Hubby in the tractor while he fed round bales. And one winter when Hubby calved out of a breezy cabin heated only by an old cookstove, Jessie kept him from freezing to death by cuddling next to him on the bed.

             Also known as Jessie Pig and Jessie Pooh Bear (in reference to her ravenous appetite and subsequent stature), Jessie’s only vice was stealing food from the other pets, which she did up to the day before she died.

Jessie is survived by a big brother, Zach Lentsch; her parents, Marcus and Robin; her buddy, Bodie; and the cat, Smokey. A tough but sometimes unwise dog, Jessie herself survived quite a few unfortunate events: torn ACLs from rabbit chasing, poisoning from the neighbor’s antifreeze, over-sedation from a recent veterinary school grad, several near-drownings in irrigation systems, and a vicious attack by a protective mama Angus.

Jessie was buried in the place of highest honor on the ranch, Robin’s rose bed, where two special rose bushes will be planted next spring.  She is sorely missed.

In lieu of flowers, memorials, or casseroles, just remember that life is short, especially for dogs, so don’t pass up a chance to share a table scrap, a pat, or a ride in the truck.

“In His hand is the life of every creature….”
Job 12:10

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cheer or Drear?

It’s one of the most physically demanding jobs we have here on the ranch, and today it was all mine: wrestling irrigation pipe. This particular stretch of pipeline was relatively short, but every one of those  30-foot long, 10-inch diameter PVC babies had to be hoisted out of a ditch, aligned, lubricated, pulled and pushed uphill. Gravity isn’t that big of a deal if you’re strong like Hubby or Zach, but it is for me! To complicate matters, the pipeline follows a curved burm; pipes can’t be fitted together unless they are both straight and somewhat level.
As I huffed and puffed, heaved and hoed, several whiney, toxic thoughts sprang to mind about certain unnamed persons off traveling while I was home doing jobs that most farmers around here hire illegal immigrants to do. But since I’ve learned from experience that self-pity is a drag and anger is no fun, I decided instead to fight to keep my joy and peace.
“‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’,” I grunted. “I’m thankful that at my age, I can still work this hard,” I panted. “I choose to do this with a loving attitude,” I gasped. “‘Love never fails!’” I wheezed.
At last, the mission was completed; that corner of the hayfield was now ready to irrigate. “We did it!” I exclaimed to God and my dog, who’d been lending moral support from the road. I was tempted to collapse on the ground to rest, but alfalfa stubble isn’t much more comfortable than a bed of nails.When I walked home, I had something of an epiphany: If I had given an audience to my negative thoughts, the job would have taken the same amount of time, but I would have carried my sour attitude around with me for hours afterwards. As it was, I was free to enjoy the rest of my day!
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10