Bill and Juanita, owners of Allenspark Lodge B&B, are living their dream...

running a successful business and riding as often as possible.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Very Late Winter

We woke up this morning and climbed out of our warm bed to start our day.  We had four inches of new snow on the ground and it was eighteen degrees out.

 Freshly showered and shaved I went out to start warming the car and scraping the layer of ice off the windshield.  The snow squeaked underfoot.  Went back into the lodge to feed and bank the fires, and then we went down the mountain to run some errands.

Eighteen miles down the mountain the roads were dry and it was twenty degrees warmer.  Took Juanita to physical therapy, went to the bank, went to babysit our youngest grand kids for a couple hours.  I played in the sandbox with the two year old, jumped on the trampoline with her and swung on the tire swing in the back yard.  We went to dinner with Juanita's mom , back to my MIL's house for a tour of the flower gardens and a good romp in the yard for our dog Sophie.  A hand of "rummy" or three and it was time to head home.

Driving along the foothills, we saw the winter wheat was starting to poke out of the fields, and the hay fields were having their ditches and fence lines burned.  You know, spring stuff.  It had been in the mid to upper fifty's all day.

We drove up the mountain and in eighteen miles the temperature dropped over fifteen degrees, to well below freezing.  We kicked our way through the snow drifts on the front porch and went into the lodge and fed the fires again.

When I was a kid, they told me heat travels up.



Oh yeah, and we are bringing our horses back up Friday.  Man, are they going to be peeved.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Touched Again

Juanita suggested I post a clicker story, so, being a particualy lazy butt, I cut and pasted a story from September of 2009.  You're welcome.


Last week we had a guest park his motorcycle next to the lodge where no one had parked a big bike before, and it startled my horse. Ranger smudged the saddle bags.

My mustang, Ranger, spent the first 8 or 9 years of his life running wild in northwestern Nevada. He had very little contact with people or people's "things". Then came the round-up (or "gather") and all of that changed. Helicopters, trucks, trailers, fences and pens, and people. Scary, rude people with ropes and squeeze pens and needles and sharp knives that they use to... well, as a long term stallion, I'm sure he didn't care for that too much. All things people related were bad things.

I got Ranger 1 year after his original adoption, just the minute the cowboy that got him could unload him (you must keep a BLM mustang for one year after adopting before you get title and can sell him). The horse still hadn't gotten over his fear of "people stuff", and in fact, may have gotten worse about it. During his first year of living around people he had mastered the art of "rearing and striking" to chase people off. A VERY affective technique. He spent a lot of time being left the heck alone.

The first 6-8 months we had our new-old mustangs (my wife, Juanita and I both got our mustangs at the same time), we tried the "sack 'em out" method of desensitizing the animals. You subject the horse to close contact with whatever bothers them, in the hope that they will realize that it actually isn't hurting them. With these older mustangs, all it did was convince them that "people aren't to be trusted, they just want to torture you". Months of little to no progress left us looking for other techniques. Juanita heard an ad on the radio for a BLM adoption that had trainers in attendance to help with the training. We attended several training sessions and came away with the understanding that there are other, better ways of going about training mustangs. Clicker training was one of those ways.

Clicker training is a training method first used on animals you can't use regular training techniques with, like dolphins and seals. They will just swim away if you bug them, and most training is pretty bothersome. "Why would I want to do THAT?!?" is the response to most requests. Clicker training is a way to give exact direction to the critter, without needing to touch the animal. -CLICK-means you did something right, now you get a treat. Once they figure out the rules, you can get them to do a lot!

Once Ranger understood treats (a story by its self), I used the clicker training "touch" command to get him to touch things that he might normally shy away from. I say touch, he touches with his nose, -CLICK- and treat. Over and over again. Later I would only make him touch things he actually did shy away from, and later still just flinching would cost him a "touch". He no longer got a food treat for touching, just a pat on the neck and a "good boy".

Nothing in the neighborhood was safe from Ranger nose prints. Mail boxes, signs, trash cans... but most of all, car windows. "THERE IS A HORSE IN THAT CAR!!!"... "No you moron, it's your reflection. Touch." Smudge. "THERE IS A HORSE IN THIS CAR, TOO!"..."Moron. Touch." Smudge. Every car we went past ended up with smudge marks on the windows. Moron.

Ranger finally seemed to understand that if he didn't shy away, or even finch, he wouldn't have to touch the scary thing, and that made the scary stuff less scary to him. I could feel him tense up, but he would stand his ground. He got to the point where if something caught him "unawares", he would flinch, sigh, and reach out to touch it.

We ran a riding livery a few years back, and I used Ranger to lead out some of the "kids camp" rides. As long as the lead horse is calm, the horses in the line will stay calm. Ranger had 4 years of experience dealing with people and their scary stuff by then, and was getting pretty good at staying quiet.

One day, right after crossing a narrow bridge that went over a small river swollen by spring runoff, we found the trail blocked by a pickup truck with a sign on the side, "Trophy Trout". Walking toward Ranger and me was a man carrying a 4 foot pole fishnet that had 3 or 4 fish in it. These fish were HUGE! I bet there was 30 or 40 pounds of squirming fish in that net! Ranger turned to stone, and I mean not only did he not move, but he went rigid and hard as a rock. The fellow walked right up to us, completely focused on his heavy writhing load and stuck the net almost under Ranger's nose. At this point Juanita was bringing up the rear of the ride of about a dozen 8-10 year old kids. We had stopped so that most of the kids were still on the narrow bridge, which is fairly dangerous. She couldn't see what the holdup was, so hollered up to find out why we had stopped. Ranger heard her voice and looked back at her. She later told me the look on his face fairly screamed "PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME TOUCH IT!". The fish finally ended up in the water, and the truck got moved so we could go by, but that was the day I REALLY appreciated the results of the clicker training touch command.

I'm not sure the neighbors much care for the touch command, though. I suppose I owe them an apology and a bottle of windex. Moron.


Addendum:  The best thing Bill has going for him with his clicker training, is the ability to click his tongue consistently - meaning he always has his clicker with him.  Me?  Not so much; I usually can't find my clicker.  Oh well, his horse doesn't fetch, like mine!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Clicker Training (long)

This is one of my favorite ads:
1996 Super Bowl Ad/Horse Play
When we first got our first two Mustangs, we knew NOTHING about training, and very little about horses in general, so we were making a huge fiasco out of our efforts with these two older guys (a 9 yo and a 10 yo geldings). Realizing we were not getting along well, we went to a BLM auction fairly close to us that was offering a week of pre-training for any adoptors. I talked them into letting me take my horse back for some insight. We saw all kinds of "least resistant training" methods, as the BLM calls it (instead of natural horsemanship), including the gentleman who had taught the Budweiser Clydesdales how to play football - for the 1996 Super Bowl ad above - using clicker training. I just stood and watched in amazement as he was working with a very skittish mare (who had been abused and returned to the BLM, very frightened of any human interaction), teaching her to move her feet by just pointing a finger at one. In reality, he was gaining her trust by not having to lay a hand on her or force her to do what he wanted. I ended up not having time to use this method with my first horse, as we had a tragic accident shortly after coming home, and I had to have him euthanized due to a shattered leg.

Six weeks later, Bill bought Jesse for me, as a five month old wild thing. She is not BLM, having been born on private land next to BLM land, so she does not carry the brand. As I said before, I could not keep her in any enclosure. I had won her trust and she had become my 'pocket pet', following me everywhere like a love-lost puppy. Fun, but not practical. Horses don't belong inside lodges. When I was inside, busy, she would get out and come draw on the big picture windows with her cute little wet nose (cleanest windows in town), following me around the lodge, or she would go forage in the neighbors’ yards. So when our trainer friend suggested teaching her tricks, the clicker guy came to mind. I went online and found information on various forms of clicker training, ordered a training pamphlet specifically for horses that came with a clicker and pack of treats for a reasonable price.

We started just playing with the clicker. A really important part of clicker training is "when" to click and then being really, really honest with its use. If you click the clicker, you give the treat, no matter what. If you clicked at the wrong time or accidentally, you still give the treat. The horse doesn't know if you did it wrong; they just have to ALWAYS count on getting that treat. (It's that consistency thing.) So you have to get some practice in on using that clicker proficiently. Now Bill just clicks with his tongue (which works fine if you condition your horse that way). My tongue got tired and I wasn't good at getting the same sound consistently, so I chose to use the actual clicker, which means one hand is busy with that device. This can be an issue at first, until you become adept at the silly little thing. By the way, you can purchase different sorts of clickers at any pet store for about $5, usually sitting at the checkout counter. I would suggest buying one and walking around the house practicing the motion and getting used to the sound yourself.

The first thing you have to do is condition the horse to expect a treat at the sound of the clicker. You have to know your horse well enough to know what he/she considers a treat. It is easiest to learn using food, anything they like, but some horses are actually NOT food oriented, so just a moment's graze in the grass, etc. can be used. I started with the little horsie biscuits that came with the kit, then switched to bits of carrots - cutting a large carrot into little bite size pieces. Once Jesse was conditioned, it didn't matter what I used, she knew we were 'playing the game'.

Targeting, or the TOUCH command is the first to teach. Be somewhere comfortable with your horse, usually loose. We don't have stalls or anything, so I just used our parking lot out front with a halter and lead rope, but I wound the rope around Jesse's neck and left her loose, since she followed me or came on command, anyway. Have the clicker ready and a treat in one hand, closed fist so they can't bump it and knock it out of your hand. Hold that hand where your horse would most likely 'accidentally' bump it and say, "touch". When she does touch the treat hand, click the clicker and then give her the treat. With a few repetitions, you should see the lightbulb come on in their head, so that as you say, "touch", they search for the hand with the treat. Start moving that hand around so they really 'get it'. I learned this better method at the clicker clinic I attended, several years later. Before knowing this, with Jesse, I started with a floppy frisbee, held it up where I knew she would accidentally bump into it with her head, and told her to touch. Now with her smarts, on the third command she reached for my other hand and tried to click the clicker with her teeth. LOL This is called conditioning; having the horse understand that everytime it hears that distinctive click, it will get something it wants. Underwater trainers use this exclusively for dolphins and whales. This way you can send the animal away from you to do something and return to you for its treat when it hears the click; since horses have such great hearing, you can send them pretty far. At the clinic, they taught us to keep the food treats in a pouch at our waist or somewhere on our person easy to get to, and NOT reach for the treat until after clicking, then handing the horse the treat with a closed fist turned down.

Next lesson - to teach the horse not to get grabby over the treats, or any food presented to them. This is a big misunderstanding for a lot of people, who say they don't believe in hand feeding horses because it makes them pushy. If taught correctly, it does just the opposite. Now you have to learn to WITH-HOLD the click. To start, when you give a food treat, hold it in a closed hand, fingers facing down, in front of the horse. The horse usually will start trying to lip your hand to get at the treat. Just keep your hand that way until the horse quits trying to get into the hand, then click and turn hand over, presenting the treat on an open palm. You have to be really quick with the first few treats so you don't miss that first 'try', as Mark says. The first hesitation of licking on their part gets them the treat. Do this a lot of times, in quick succession; don’t worry about them getting too many treats. (Kind of like letting kids eat their Halloween candy; one time is not going to kill them.) Soon they will hold their nose over your hand without touching you, to get their treat. Some horses get more persistent, going from lipping to teeth. At the first sign of aggressive behavior, just bop your closed fist up into their lips; not hard or mean, just enough that they figure out anything more than lipping causes them discomfort. Most horses learn this really fast. What a great lesson, though, if you teach nothing else. I can now let guests go 'treat' my horses anytime, knowing they won't get bitten. I just tell them to hold the carrot, apple chunk or grass in a closed fist, then open and both my horses very gently lip up whatever is offered, but don't try to grab stuff that smells good. By the way, once a horse has gotten really good with the idea you want, you don't have to use the clicker any more, like my guys knowing how to take food from people.

Once you have practiced these two things A LOT, you can go on to almost anything your imagination can come up with, by either clicking or not clicking. With-holding the click can be as important as clicking. You just have to break any project down into minute pieces of action, which is really difficult for me. If the horse doesn't 'get it', break it into smaller pieces. With Jesse, since I had started with a floppy frisbee, we learned to play frisbee. After she was good with touching the frisbee in my hand on command, I started tossing the frisbee on the ground near our feet. At the command, she would go to it and touch it, I would click and she would come to me for her treat. Soon, I was throwing the frisbee many feet away, with the same results. Next step, how to get her to pick it up? I threw the frisbee on the ground at my feet, but with-held the click when she touched it. She looked at me expecting the click. Nothing, so she touched it again, this time moving it just a bit with her nose. Click and treat. Soon she was pretty good at pushing that frisbee around when I would throw it farther away, until I clicked. OK, with-hold the click again, until she bites the frisbee to pick it up. She didn't have to actually pick it up yet, just get her teeth on it to hold it. Click! Continuing this way, I taught her to pick up the frisbee and bring it back to me, giving it to me on command. I also taught her voice commands at the same time. At the clinic, they insisted this was a separate step, but Jesse picked it all up together. She knows "pick-it-up", "bring it to me", "give", …and "get the frisbee" means all of the above.
Now, there is a lot more involved than just retrieving a frisbee. I would sit on her bareback and ask her to pick things up off the ground and hand them to me. Soon I was tossing my cowboy hat on the ground instead of a frisbee. She didn't care. She also learned the term “gently” just from the tone of my voice; she does NOT crunch my hat! "Pick it up" meant whatever I pointed to. The trail ride guests thought this was great! "Trash", to Jesse, means any plastic bag blowing around. When Bill and I are out riding on the mountain, I can say 'pick up trash' to her and she will look for a plastic bag stuck to or under brush and take me right to it. (She used to grab the bag and hand it to me, but one day she picked one up off the ground that tasted really, really bad. She spit it out and has refused to pick up plastic bags since, however she will still take me to them and stand rock solid so I can pick it up. Look out for smart horses!!) Also, obviously, she is never spooked by blowing plastic bags, because they mean something else to her. See all the great results you get besides the intended ones?

A funny story: when Jesse was three and I had just started her under saddle, we were visiting friends in Arizona who took out rides. I went on a ride with Jesse to get her used to being single file on trails with other horses, but I opted to follow behind in case we had issues, I didn’t want to be a problem for my wrangler friend. It was a family of four, with two smaller children who had been visiting the town of Tombstone and both kids had gotten those cute, little straw cowboy hats – that don’t fit. As we are riding along, a gust blew off the little boy’s hat and it landed at Jesse’s feet. No problem; let’s show off a little bit. I ask Jesse to pick it up. Now the hat is laying on its crown and Jesse, for some unknown reason, sticks her nose inside the hat and pushes it around. I ask her again to “pick it up”; she does. Just lifts her head with this hat on her nose, causing everybody to laugh histerically. I dismount and reach for the hat, thinking it got stuck there, and tried to pull it off her nose. No way! That hat was not coming off her nose! Finally, after one last tug, I see this laughing expression in her eyes, just over the brim of the hat, and the hat pops off her nose. I look in the hat and see a straw knot where it had been tied together. Jesse had that knot in her teeth so I couldn’t pull it off. So you see what a clown I have for a horse…and at only three years old. Never a dull moment with her.

You can just let your imagination wander. There are lots of resources available for clicker training advice. The clinics aren’t that expensive and very worth it to learn easier methods and see lots of examples of its use. I certainly don’t use it for everything; in fact, hardly at all any more, although I should get back to it. It does teach the horse good thinking skills.

Friday, March 25, 2011


     Over on Beautiful Mustang, Linda was talking about her wonderful four year old Mustang mare and how she has recently become quite attached to the herd she didn’t use to like. While in a stall run-in, she tried to climb the fence one rail at a time to get back to the main herd. Linda had posed the question to her followers about their experiences with ‘climbing horses’. This was my comment to her:

Yep, Mustangs are really, really good with their feet. Until Jesse reached her grown size, she would "climb through" our buck fence, literally, putting her feet in various places to walk right through the rails. When she got too big to do that (about 14 or so hands), she discovered she was strong enough to "pick up" the fence to get out. We had strung a hot wire around the fence to get her to quit going through, so she found the one little section by the feeder without a wire, put her head under the bottom rail, stiffened her neck and lifted, at the same time continuing to walk forward. The rail would slide down her neck onto her back as she lifted her head higher (lifting the entire fence for 3-4 sections). As she continued walking, the rail would slide along her back and drop off over the tail. Several times the neighbors called to say she was out wandering around and I would walk the fence line looking for a break in the wire or any sign of jump marks (she sails over things on a whim, also). Nothing. One slightly muddy morning I saw tracks that looked like she literally walked through the fence. How? A couple of days later, when I was out cleaning the corral, I noticed the fence 'wiggling' and turned around in time to see it thump off her butt. She looked at me like she wanted me to know how it was done; just stood there then walked over to the gate to be let back in!!! Now this is not a small fence, made up of 12 ft. poles, with posts about 8 ft. apart and 4 ft. high, crossed in and out at the center with about a 3 ft. spread at the posts - a pretty normal mountain cross-buck fence. Imagine its weight and you know how strong these guys are. Oh, and don't let the old horse guys tell you a horse can't go under something lower than its withers. If I tell Jesse to duck, she will splay out her front feet to lower her withers and wiggle forward, lowering her butt to get under just about any hitch rail we've been around. Something she learned crawling through the fence. You have to work really hard to stay ahead of the young ones.

     Now, Jesse has always been a Houdini. I had gotten her at five months old and before she was a year, she had proven difficult to keep in any enclosure. A trainer friend told me to teach her tricks. ??? He said that for every 10-15 minutes a day you work with them, they will spend the next 24 hours working the trick out in their head. Sure enough, as long as I spent time with her on a fairly daily basis, she was no longer a problem. However, when we would get extra busy at the Lodge, Jesse would be seen more and more around the neighborhood, sampling their grass. As she got older and bigger, her escape methods became more sophisticated, hence the fence “pick-up” (at about age 5 – 6 yo). I thought she was just ultra smart, however, after going to a clicker training clinic with a friend I learned that clicker training helps them to learn a sort of cognitive-type thinking. It encourages them to ‘think’ and try new methods to get the outcome they want – a treat. Now don’t just think food when you hear the word treat. In true clicker training, a treat can be anything the horse likes; some grass, a goodie, a rest from pressure, etc. I had used clicker training for Jesse and she is a thinker, so in my opinion, I have a pretty smart horse that has been trained better “learning patterns”.

     All I can say to Beautiful Mustang and her person is you have a lot of fun and challenges ahead of you.  Enjoy every minute.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Endurance Rider Wannabe

Endurance Rider Wannabe
     I just finished reading Funder’s Rides of March 2011, and it again has me fantasizing over the endurance thing. From the time we bought our first Mustangs, 11 years ago now, I have had this fantasy. Early on, I would rent videos on endurance training and watch them over and over, then dream of the rides at night. Of course, reality hits really, really hard, when your sane brain tells you that you missed the boat.
     Reality #1: we own a lodge that is 24/7, seven days a week, for all the good rideable months, namely May through mid-October. How do you possibly get enough ride time in when there is barely enough time to breathe some days? We were lucky to break away an hour here or an hour there just to get our mustangs trained.
     Reality #2: I was 50 when we got our boys in ’99 (yeah, do the math), and just re-learning to ride. I did not grow up on horses; had only had the occasional livery ride on vacations, so I was on this huge learning curve. I have still never had any riding lessons, although I would die to do that. I HAVE had some really great training horses teach me lots…and the absolute best terrain to learn riding and balance skills as a must. Hitting the ground in the good ole Rockies is not a fun thing to do especially when you have reached the stage in life where ‘bouncing’ up off the ground is not an option.
     Getting back to Funder’s ride…First off, loved the braids. My Jesse Mustang has lots of hair, too, but hates braids. She loves to have her mane brushed. You can stick any sort of pretty bands and stuff in it, but d o n‘ t braid the mane! Many mornings I have watched her stand with her head into the wind so her mane blows out behind her, like some wild stallion, and I swear, a smile on her face. It must be the feeling of freedom thing.
     My next observation was the kicking over the girth. Is this a normal thing that hasn’t been worked out yet, or was she saying she had a bit of a bellyache from all the hay/travel/stress of first ride? Maybe even a travel induced ulcer? This is always a concern of mine, as we haul our horses really long distances. It is not unusual for us to drive 15 hours at a time, to ride new areas. Yes, we stop every two hours for a horse break of at least 20 minutes, to let their legs rest and get water. All three of ours love to travel and will practically open the gate and load themselves when they hear the trailer hook up to the truck. My daughter’s horse will stress herself out on even the shortest ride. Just different personalities.
     I had many, many smiles over all the references to Robin Hood Mustang. So much of what Funder says has become ‘normal horse behavior’ to us with our Mustangs. They have a brain between those ears…and they love to use it. Once their job is learned, i.e., endurance training, trail riding, working cows, whatever, they then insert their own smarts, like Hood becoming Dixie’s self-appointed chaperone. I can be the lead wrangler on a dude trail ride and just sit backwards on Jesse, talking to the guests the whole time, because she regulates the speed of the ride (so no large gaps or crunching-together occurs) and makes sure everyone stays in line where they belong, with just a flick of an ear or the evil eye to the doer of misdeeds. I have had her stop dead in the trail, and when I would verbally ask her what was wrong, she would reach around and touch my cinch. When I got off to check my cinch, she started walking back along the line of horses until about the fourth horse back, she stopped and touched that horse’s cinch with her nose. Yep, that cinch had loosened. Maybe, because horses are so tuned in to body language, she had noticed that horse moving differently. I don’t have a clue how she would know; maybe the horses have a way of communicating among themselves, but it saved us a spill that day. I ALWAYS try to figure out what she is trying to tell me when she doesn’t want to do it my way. She has always had a reason.
     I had a really good laugh over Hood, the up-hiller. Bill’s horse, Ranger, is so such a poop to ride with on our steep hills. Like Hood, he can plow down anything and then just marches up the next hill like it doesn’t exist. At the top, he takes one deep breath, and says, “OK, let’s go!” The domestics with us are standing there sucking in deep breaths of air like it is their last. Ranger does not particularly like waiting around for them, although he has learned to be patient…mostly.
     Towards the end of the ride, Funder mentioned getting back on to ride up a particularly steep portion of the trail. Now, I am sure Funder was pretty beat by that time, too, from all the unexpected walking. One of the things in the training videos I had watched, that really intrigued me, was ‘tailing up’, or the act of dismounting and holding your horse’s tail while climbing steep grades. This gives your horse a slight break from your weight, yet you don’t have to navigate the slope on your own. I was so fascinated with the idea that I taught both of my current horses to do this. I have had really bad hips for so long, that the thought of hiking up anything of slope was not fun. It is great to be able to say, “tail up” and have your horse lift his/her tail so you can hold onto the dock. Then you just get right behind them and lift your feet in time to theirs. They furnish all the forward momentum and you just have to lift your feet up and down. It is really is a lot of fun. Jesse has hauled me up hill through some horrific snowfields this way when we have visited them on their winter mountain.
     I must say, I really enjoyed Funder’s write-up and grandly applaud her for knowing when to pull from the ride. It sounded like Dixie gave her all for as long as she could, and Funder listened when Dixie got tired. It does indeed say good things about their partnership. I hope they keep doing endurance and I will keep fantasizing about it.
Enjoying the ride our way,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Our Backyard

Can you believe we get to ride with views like this?

You can come ride these same trails with us at 2011 High Country Rendezvous.  Last year was a blast and we're looking forward to this year.  Bill and Juanita will take care of all of the little details - all you need to do is make a reservation, pack your jeans and boots and join us. 

It's only $5 to book your room and if you pay in full, you'll get a 10% discount on the weekend.  Call 303-747-2552 to book.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Going Postal

Our town isn't exactly a huge metropolis.  Juanita and I don't know a lot of our townsfolk, because during the summer we are busy with guests in the lodge, or working with our horses.  And during the winter... nope, not going out there.  One of the folks we do know around here is our postmistress.

Early on, when we first moved up here I was standing in line forever (okay, there was one person ahead of me in line) when the gal ahead of me buying stamps at the counter told the clerk "Please give me some pretty stamps."  When I got to the counter I said "Please give me the ugliest stamps you have, I hate having them feel left out."  The clerk laughed and handed me some pretty ugly stamps, and that has been the way it has gone ever since.  I'm not sure Juanita has ever forgiven me for the year our Christmas cards went out with BATS on the stamps.

It's very nice being on a first name basis with the post office folks, and has probably saved me from doing time in the federal prison system.

A couple years ago, back when I trusted my ford truck enough to pull horse trailers with it, I found myself parked on the shoulder of the road towing "GunDiva's" horse and waiting for the truck to rest enough to magically start running and travel another mile or two up the canyon before dying again.  While I was cooling my hooves and cursing Henry's company under my breath, the mail lady pulled up beside me.   "Bill, do you need any help?" she asked.  "No, this d@mn ford just quits every mile or so some days, and needs a 15 or 20 minute break before it'll run again. Been doing it for months now.  Dealer can't figure it out, and neither can I."  I replied.  "Okay." she responded, and drove on up the mountain.  After an hour of intermittent travel, I made it the last 4 miles up the mountain.

  Multiple trips to the ford dealerships service department left the problem unresolved.  After one of my many expensive and fruitless trips to the service department, the ford Motor Company customer service department sent me  a customer satisfaction survey.


I opened the letter right after pulling it out of my P.O. box and gazed at it incredulously.  Without thinking I blurted out

 "There isn't NEARLY enough room for a letter bomb in this return envelope!"

  "BILL!  YOU CAN"T EVEN JOKE LIKE THAT IN HERE!" came the shout from behind the wall of P.O.boxes.  Chagrined I said "No, no, it's okay, it's from ford."  "Oh.  Okay then." came the voice, and we all went off on our business with no call to the FBI.

Today, I walked to the post office with a hand full of thank-you cards Juanita was sending out that needed postage.  I asked for some ugly stamps, and asked the clerk if she would meter the postage on the cards and send them off.  Then I picked the up the mail from our box, and headed out the door and down the road. 

"Hey Bill!  Did you take those cards you wanted mailed out the door with you?" came a shout from the open post office door.

 "That would be dumb!  Why would I do that?"  I replied and I looked at the thank you letters held along with our mail in my hand.  I walked back to the door and mumbled my thanks at saving me another round trip.

These folks put the us in US mail.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to the Bionic Cowgirl!

Here's hoping we can keep up with you on those new hips and that you don't use your "soft support" on Bill and Sophie any more than necessary.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Miles to Go

Yesterday morning while driving Juanita to her psychotic physical therapist's appointment, we saw a HEAVY frost on the pine trees.  The morning fog had frozen onto the limbs and needles.  Pretty. 

This morning, heading into the Estes Park hospital for her blood draw, we saw a flock of elk by the road.

 We might live miles from civilization, but really, I'm okay with that.  It's worth the drive.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Somewhere Around the Rainbow

If I were single, I would hate this guy.  Women love him.  I take that back, about a third of the women he meets love him, a third are kind of irritated by him and a third look at him with the kind of fascination usually reserved for train wrecks, reality TV shows and natural disasters.  But that is not why I would hate him.  It's because he knows which is which.

He can tell.  I never could.  In school I might have known a girl, and after talking to her years later, would find she had a crush on me, and wondered why I never asked her out.  Sweetheart, it was 'cause I'm clueless.

He can tell, and he knows his odds. 

One weekend, years ago, we had a woman's hiking group staying with us at the lodge.  My buddy caught wind of the event, dusted off his cowboy hat, and came a running.  Thirty women?  He could count on at least ten fawning over him.  He could hardly get here fast enough. 

He spent an entire evening schmoozing and "working the crowd".




No hits.
Thirty strikes and you're OUT.

Late in the evening a couple of the gals put on a show they did professionally.    Life and times of Calamity Jane.  The rest of the gals, Juanita and I and my buddy were the audience.  Great show, very funny and informative.  About half way through the show, he leaned over to me and said "They are all gay, aren't they."  Wasn't a question, really.  "Yep" I replied.  He smiled, leaned back in his chair and really started to enjoy the show.

I probably should have told him that the group was a lesbian hiking club, before he spent so much time and energy, but damn.

 I thought he could tell.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Home is Where It's At

I brought Juanita home a couple days after her hip replacement. She got home day before yesterday, and not a moment too soon.  The rebellion was brewing, and I was beginning to sleep with one eye open.  The dog and our two cats were starting to give me a serious batch of "stink-eye".  Reproachful glowers abounded, and I was hearing snatches of whispered conversations.  "What did he DO with her?  Should we gang up on him and MAKE him bring her home?"

I think all is forgiven now, at least from the cats.  She is a captive lap right now, THE BEST as far as Kitten Caboodle is concerned. 

The dog is still giving me sidelong glances... "She is hurt and can't PLAY!  You BROKE her!"

Juanita is doing quite well, but she has taken almost a half dozen Ibuprofen in the last few days.  I hope she doesn't get hooked on them...


Friday, March 4, 2011

Oh Yeah, and...

Juanita and I drove by the horses yesterday.  From across the pasture Jesse looked up when I hollered "TREATS!"  She started the 1/4 mile trip across the pasture at a trot.  Then Washoe noticed what was happening, and he came to us at a long trot.  Then Ida's sorrel "Peanut"spotted us and came at a dead run.  Peanut by two lengths.

Ranger brought up the rear at a dead mosey.

Our guys and Peanut enjoyed some bread crusts and dried apple skins.

When we got into the car to leave, Jesse hung her head over fence and asked "What? Is that all?  Let's DO something!" 

Poor girl is ready for a job, it's been a while.  The rest of them were just snuffling around for missed crusts and dried apple peals when we drove off.  Good to see them again, even if it was just for a minute.

I miss those horses and can't wait to get them back home.


Oh yeah, and Juanita had her second hip replaced yesterday and is in the hospital.  She seems okay. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hears to you...

A judge, a lawyer, a cowboy and an Innkeeper went into a bar.  Then another bar. And another.  And another...

This trip consisted of four happily married men going off on an adventure, without their life partners accompanying  them.  This of course led to copious amounts of self medication at every liquor serving establishment we they passed.  Some of the establishments were driven to at days end, and some were ridden to on horseback, horses tied up out front, and left to nap while we went in for a wee nip.

The mood for the trip was set early on.  Night number one we went to a casino or 2 or 3 in Deadwood, South Dakota.  The horses were napping in their trailer after being fed and watered in the parking lot, but as we still needed to take them to our first camping area, I volunteered to be the designated driver for the evening.  By the end of the evening, the judge and lawyer were posing with the manikins in the dioramas and laying on their backs taking pictures of themselves in the mirrored ceilings in the casinos.

There is nothing like a good hangover to make folks swear off booze for... well... the next day, anyway.

Riding down the trail several days later, we spotted an old bar, and the gas station across the road had a hitch-rail.  Perfect.  In we went.  After spending some time cutting the trail dust (okay, drawing and quartering it), we had a mass hallucination.  We all thought we saw a fawn (as in baby deer) wander in the front door and walk behind the bar.  Uh...uh...ummm....  The bartender looked down, smiled and said "Oh, there you are!" and proceeded to fix the critter a drink.  Warm milk.  I'm sure he told us how he ended up being Mr. Mom to a fawn, but words weren't registering.  Just the image of a scruffy bartender holding a bottle for a baby deer, while smiling angelically, like a mom breast feeding a newborn.  Judge and Lawyer took pictures.

After paying our tab and heading down the trail, we rode by a hole in the ground next to the trail.  Suddenly a small cloud of dust poured out of the hole, obscuring our vision and startling our horses.  When the air cleared,  there was a new mound of dirt in front of the hole.  Then it blinked.  When it stood up, we realized it was what Cowboy later called "Absolutely the dirtiest human being I have ever seen".  "Well, hi fellers!" it says and after a minute we were all off our horses and a bottle was being passed around.  A small container of gold flakes was displayed, and war stories were told,  including a demonstration of how one throws ones self to the earth and fires at the enemy while rolling across the ground.  Cowboy swears the miner got up cleaner after he went down and rolled in the dirt.   Bottle was finished.  Goodbyes were said.  Judge and Lawyer took pictures.

It was around this time that Judge and Lawyer commented on this great camera they had bought for this trip.  Now, you need to remember, years ago cameras required what we called at the time, "film" and when you took a certain number of pictures, you were out of film, and the camera would let you know by not letting you "wind" any more.  "We've been taking pictures for days, and this camera STILL isn't out of film!" they gushed.  Cowboy and I looked at each other, then back at Judge and Lawyer.  "So, which one of you two put the film in the new camera?"  we asked.  No kidding.   They had spent nearly a week looking through a viewfinder and making clicky-sounds at some REALLY cool stuff.  Just clicky-sounds.  No film.  Geeze, when these guys were introduced to me as "men of letters", I hadn't realized it only meant they had mastered their ABC's.  Well, mostly any ways.

Last bar was in Keystone.  Fun place with friendly wait staff.  They had a stage with an open mic night, and the judge went up and played his guitar.  The guy is GOOD, at least he was early in the evening.  As things progressed (read drinking), the playing deteriorated some, and Lawyer took over by telling jokes.  The sign on the front of the stage read "Family Entertainment", but the lawyer had his back to it.  The most memorable jokes involved jury selection, goats and good 'ol boys, and there aren't many families that would have approved.  Funny as all get-out though.  Just about last call, as several of the cute wait staff were inviting us to a bar that stayed open much later, the judge noticed a tattoo around the belly button of the gals exposed midriffs.  "What is that?  A crab?!?" he asks at the top of his lungs so he could be heard over the bar noise.  Smooth move Ex-Lax.  Things suddenly got quieter and colder as she set him straight.  "It's a rose".   Major beer foul.  Married long enough he musta been outa practice with that "flirting" stuff.  But then again, from the point of view of the rest of us, it was REALLY funny.

I truly enjoyed the whole trip, and as designated driver for the trip, I get to remember most of it. 

But next time, I'll bring the camera.  And one of THEM can take the darn car keys.

Ride on.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Buffalo Boys

  I have told before of a horseback trip to the Black Hills four friends went on.  Judge, Lawyer, Cowboy and Innkeeper.  We spent a week riding some of the trails up there.  Meeting people, watching the scenery, and irritating the wildlife.  Okay, not ALL of us were into irritating the wildlife.  Just a couple of us.  Judge and Cowboy seemed to have a basic NEED to bug the native critters.

As an example- we were riding along minding our own business one day, and  the Cowboy spotted a LARGE rogue American Bison bull just off the trail, taking a nap and minding HIS own business  Well, nowadays there is up to a $25,000 fine for irritating the wildlife.  At that time, it seemed to  be only the chance for dismemberment and death that would keep you from p-ing off the local fauna, and I guess that was insufficient incentive to just ride on by.  Cowboy said something along the lines of "Hey guys, watch this!" and built a loop with his rope and headed for the buffalo, swinging the loop over his head. 

I don't think most people have ANY IDEA how fast a buffalo can stand up and chase something that it feels is a threat.  They can go from zero to 40mph in point Oh $#!t seconds.  Fortunately for Cowboy, he was on a good ranch horse with a lot of cow (and bull) sense, that got the heck outa Dodge and kept on a going long after the immediate danger was past.  Unfortunately for Cowboy, he was wearing his custom-100X-beaver-Gus crowned-pencil-rolled-brim $1000 cowboy hat he bought for his wedding.  Now, I can't imagine buying a $1000 hat, and if I did, there is NO WAY I would wear it on a trail ride, 'cause it might fall off your head if a rogue bull buffalo charged your horse after torquing the bull off when said bull was just taking a nap.

"Say Bill..."   I was the youngest, quickest and pretty well mounted for the ride, so I drew the short straw.  I rode around behind the buffalo, while the others held it's attention.  My horse and I tippy-toed up to the hat... OFF! ON! AND GONE!

I returned the hat to Cowboy with comments about how much unused space there must be in his skull, as it wasn't a pinhead sized hat.

It was less than 2 days later when our little group came across another lone bull buffalo.  You know, I'm pretty sure these guys are alone because they don't play well with others.  The judge and cowboy BOTH annoyed the beast until it ran blindly into a group of trees and created a one-animal dust cloud as it tried to destroy the entire grove of trees.  As we were high-tailing it up the hill at a dead run away from the enraged monster, Cowboy hollered to me "Doesn't it make you feel ALIVE!?!"  I replied "I just want to STAY alive!" and rode to the top of the hill to look down on the very localized dust storm.

Later that week, after a day on the trail, we had put the horses up and gone in search of adult beverages.  Cowboy and I were in his truck, and Judge and Lawyer were in their rental.  As we were heading down a stretch of highway outside Custer, we drove by a buffalo laying right beside the highway.  We had just passed a guy on a bicycle, so Cowboy stopped next to the resting animal to act as a buffer for the bicyclist.  As the guy rode by and thanked us, we noticed the judge had jumped out of his car, and was throwing rocks and sticks at the animal, apparently in hopes of getting it mad enough to attack Cowboys new truck.  Lucky for us the judge was a lousy aim.

By the end of the trip, I had come to the realization that if we found ourselves among a pair of buffalo bulls, and a pair of buffalo cows with their calves, we couldn't ride off, and I had only 4 bullets in my gun, I would shoot the judge and  the cowboy... twice.