Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Long Morning

Up before dawn is not regular territory for a working musician. I used to tell people "I don't get up before the banks are closed." Of course, banker's hours ain't what they used to be. But there I was in the wee hours this morning, pouring coffee down and venturing out to help my nieghbor bring in the five remaining goats of his that were holed up in a small draw not to far from here. We each took a large horse trailer and a horse in case the critters didn't want to just load up and ride themselves home.

We arrived right as dawn was breaking, or would have been breaking if there wasn't a bunch of clouds blocking the view of the sunrise. There was also a slight, warm rain falling which was actually pretty nice. We tried enticement first. Goats love dry dog food and since I spoil all of mine we trotted out the high test Purina multi colored kibble. The goats were buying it. They knew we were planning something so they stayed away from the food.

I checked my tack again (always a good idea) and climbed aboard. My neighbor mounted his and off we went into the chapparal. This is rural Arizona, every plant out there sticks, scratches, grabs, or has some other kind of vicious defense. At times like this I trust the instinct for self preservation my horse has.

I was riding my Arabian mare Rosalita. She's a dream. Smooth, agile, smart as you can expect from a horse. She figured the game out right away. It's time to chase goats. The system we worked was for me to hit the brush behind them and shoot them out into the clear where hopefully they would recognise my neighbor and become a bit more trusting, and then clamber up into the trailer and off we'd go.

Herding is something that plays into the natural instincts of the target animals. They have a powerful safety in numbers drive that when they are under stress brings them together. I was still riding quietly and deliberately. No sense in riling things up I figure. I'm watching the little knot of goats and trying to anticipate their next move so that I can be in position to cut that off while leaving what I hope is an attractive path to where we would like them to be. My neighbor is doing the same, but staying mostly in the clear area of the wash.

At one point we got three of them almost into the trailer but the two that stayed away must have been the herd leaders and as soon as we turned to work with them the others ran right to them and there we were. Right back at the beginning.

Then my neigbor has this bright idea. He say "Why not just drop a loop on that lead one and see if we can bring him in so the others will follow?" I tell him that it's mainly because I am nobody's roper. I much more of the dismount and tie a knot kind of guy. He looks at me in wonder, "You never roped nothing?" I say not so anyone would notice. He shakes his head but seems to drop the subject.

After about an hour and a half which produce only a couple instances of close and almost, we decide that it's time to call it for the morning and for him to see if he can get somebody with a stock dog or roping expertise. I get the tack off my mare and am brushing and wiping her down while she drinks deeply from a bucket of high tech horsey gatorade I mixed up for her. She walks into the trailer and sticks her head down into the molasses and oats mixture I have for her and is munching away happily. My neighbor is about to lead his horse up into his trailer when lead goat scampers out of the weeds and trots up into the trailer. The other four follow right along. He slams the gate and laughs. I tell him to load his horse into my rig and we'll meet him at his place.

When we get there his wife has lots of black coffee and a big mess of chilaquiles cooked up with a stack of fresh tortillas. We tear into breakfast like Halliburton execs on a no bid contract. My neighbor has his wife laughing when he describes how hard we were working to be real cowboys (or goatboys but no matter) and how, in the end, the goats simply decided that it was time to come home.

After breakfast I'm getting ready to get along home and as I'm going out to the truck my neighbor's wife says "Thank you for your help, that was real Christian of you." I smile and say "I'm not a Christian, but I try to be a good neighbor." She looks very worried and says "You're not one of those Jews are you?" I say "No, it's even worse than that. I believe we should be good and decent to each other because it's right. Not because the big gunfighter in the sky is going to send us all to hell." My neighbor steps in and puts his arm around my shoulder, guiding me out to the truck and says "Never mind her, she never misses a chance to beat the Jesus drum. You are a good neighbor and you are always welcome at my place. Anytime I can help you just holler." I invite them both to dinner sometime and he volunteers to bring his tractor over to help me haul some more fallen brush around my place.

I am, at this point, planning to get my mare put up all comfy and spoiled and stick my ass in the jacuzzi for the rest of the morning. When I get home, my sister's car is in the driveway. When I get into the house she's there with my 10 year old niece who has a slight fever and doesn't feel up to school today. I put her on the couch, and tell her if she needs anything to give me a shout and head off to the shower.

That's how we do it out here in the unsophisticated hills. If somebody needs help, you help them. If somebody's sick you nurse them. We'll be mending fences this afternoon if the rain doesn't come again.


Blogger pissed off patricia said...

I have no idea how I found your blog, but I sure am glad I did. I love the goat story. I just love animals and when they sort of out smart people I love them all the more. It would have been so much easier if you guys would have just asked the goats if they were ready to go home and if not how long would it be until they were. :)

Your life and your attitude are almost like something in a novel. Sounds so nice and so pure. Watch the lady beating the Jesus drum, I don't think she's finished her song yet.

9:35 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

One of the things that has always amused me when I talk to my friends from the cities is when they realize that we actually do have that whole Western hospitality and good neighbor ethic going on out here. We are fucking John Wayne when we're doing it right. Yeah, the goats decided it was time to come home when we quit playing with them. Now I have a pretty steady supply of goat's milk for my yoghurt making. works out pretty cool huh?

9:51 AM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Yes indeed, very cool. I too choose my creatures over most humans. Hate crowds and hate more having to make small talk with people I could give a rat's ass about.

I told Mr Pop all about your post last night and how I couldn't believe there were still places like where and how you live. It's so nice to think about when everything else is going to hell in a designer hand basket.

5:52 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

that's the main reason i was glad when the internet (which may go out any second here, we've had over 2" rain in the last two hours) technology allowed me to work from home. no more endless freeway hours traveling from studio to studio, now, i can stay with the critters, and my son (the girls have flown the nest) and enjoy the natural rythyms of country life. the lightening show we're having right now is gorgeous. just wish it didn't spook two dogs. the horses are pretty cool with it today so we don't have to worry there. the wind isn't whipping like it did the other day so any damage would have to come from a direct strike.

8:41 AM  
Blogger trog69 said...

Good morning from Tucson, minstel boy. Wow, an urbane cowboy; who'd a thunk it. As a transplanted Chicagoan(18 years in AZ) I still miss the big city life, and I don't envy the desert cowboy lifestyle. I have friends that have roping corrals in their backyards, but it's not for me. Just call me Zsa Zsa, I guess. I did live on a farm when I was @ 13yo, for about a year and a half when my father was hospitalized, so I can saddle and ride a horse and milk a cow, but a lot of things were fun as a kid that you could'nt pay for me to do now. Having said all that, your life sounds wonderful, and I hope it only improves with age.

3:36 AM  
Blogger trog69 said...

Sheet lightning. First time I saw it here in AZ, I called off work to watch the show.

3:40 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

monsoon is my favorite season here. i was glad that i moved back at the perfect time.

8:43 AM  

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