Monday, December 26, 2011

news article

this article ran in the supplement section of our newspaper on Christmas day. The writer did a nice job. She made a few minor errors like number of surgeries (more) and when certain surgeries occurred, but nothing was majorly wrong. She called out of the blue, saying she had seen my bio on the transplant registry and wanted to do a story on me, and Excy took the call and said there we are..there are photos to accompany it, but they weren't available for the online version. The photographer was here two hours for what will probably be two shots, but at least we all had a good time, and I hope to get a new picture out of it to put out on the blog...

RIVER VALLEY and OZARK AREA — Amy Gray Light has a rare cancer - you won’t see ribbons displayed for it - but she also has a rare friend.
One willing to donate a kidney.
“I always wanted to help somebody, and I can’t imagine a better honor than me to share something with someone and know it’s going to change their life or better it in some way,” said Cathy May, 53, Light’s neighbor on Wye Mountain and future kidney donor.

It’s not a cup of sugar. A ladder. A shovel for the walk.

May makes it sound as if it’s not a big deal, although she knows it is.
If not for a crazy thing call Von Hippel-Lindau disease, or VHL, Light’s life would seem charmed.
She’s talented - she’s been a freelance writer for national publications; she’s a former model (that was a lifetime ago,” she said); and is adored by her husband - he married her after she had cancer.
Light, 53, has been dealing with this demon disease since 1984.
VHL inhibits the body’s tumor suppresser, so cancerous tumors pop up throughout her body.
She has had three brain surgeries, five kidney surgeries, a pancreatic surgery, an eye surgery and two spinal surgeries. “Twelve so far,” she said, pausing to count.

Light has only the remnant of one kidney, thus the need for a transplant.
“It’s life or death for me. If I don’t get it, I won’t live very long,” she said.
Light said 10,000 people in the United States have VHL, and only 32,000 worldwide.

“I laugh, because The New Yorker magazine had a cartoon - there was a lady in the waiting room, saying, ‘Well, my cancer’s so rare, we don’t even have a spokesperson.’ That’s kind of how I feel.”
Light first had to persuade a doctor that she had a brain tumor.
The Little Rock native was 23 and living in Washington, D.C.

“It was really kind of weird. I had just moved to D.C. and gotten my dream job,” she said.
Light was writing for an American Institute of Architects publication.
“I started to get sick, then I’d feel OK. This went on for months and months and months, and I was beginning to get frustrated,” she said.
“I went to this doctor and said, ‘OK, I’ve got a brain tumor.’”
He asked her why she thought that.
“I said, ‘I think everything going on with me is neurological — I’m walking funny, my handwriting is funny,’” and she was throwing up in his office while explaining this to him.
The doctor told her that 70 percent of his female patients were psychosomatic.
He made a deal with her — if she’d go see a psychiatrist, he’d give her a CAT scan.
So she did.
Light recalled that the psychiatrist said, “You seem welladjusted, but are you aware you’re walking sideways?”
She decided to go to the emergency room — and she vividly remembers that the movie Dark Victory with Bette Davis — about a woman with a brain tumor — was on TV.
“I turned off the TV, put on my jogging clothes and called a taxi,” she said.
The taxi driver asked if she was going jogging in the park.
“I said, ‘No, I have a brain tumor.’”
And she did.
The doctor recognized it was VHL, and she has been closely monitored and has undergone surgeries, ever since.

Light’s husband, Excy Johnston, is a retired architect, and she was his editor for the architecture magazine when they met through her job in Washington.
They married in 1991. She told him about her disorder, and he was nonplused. “My marriage counseling was with her brain surgeon,” he said, laughing. “I took her out, and that was that. She’s pretty special.” It’s a mutual admiration society. “Boy, he stepped up,” Light said. “I would not be here if it were not for Excy — he would research it; he handles the doctors. All I have to do is get well. “He’s just a blessing — he’s just been there for me.” Soon after they married, the couple decided to move closer to her family in Arkansas, and they wanted land to have horses, which is how they came to live on Wye Mountain.

Johnston started a nonprofit wild-horse sanctuary, Wing Spur, just across the road from their home.
Light worked as the public relations officer and editor of publications for Winrock International from 1991-97.
A third brain surgery in 1997 forced her to retire. She had to relearn how to walk and write, and she now drives with hand controls.

She still enjoys life; it’s just “a new normal,” she said.
Once a year, she co-facilitates grief counseling at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock.
“I always feel better when I can reach out and help other people; it gets my mind off what’s going on with me,” she said.

She said two women’s groups that each meet once a month serve as a great support system for her. One is the Willows. “We’ve gotten very close. It’s a safe haven. We just share everything going on in our lives,” Light said. Light gets together with her female neighbors, too, who call themselves WOW — Women of Wye. That’s where Light met May. May and her husband, Bob, who is on the writing faculty at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, wanted an older home to refurbish. When one deal fell through, she saw an ad for a home on Wye Mountain. They pulled up, Bob saw the barn, and he said, “I want it,” she said. May suggested they at least look inside the house. The property fits their lifestyle — they have miniature donkeys and horses, along with cats and dogs.

As they walked the road they live on, May met a neighbor who invited her to the WOW dinners.

“She said, ‘You’ll really like these women; we just get together once a month,’” May said. “We’ve all formed these really strong bonds. I just think it’s so important for women to have female friends.”
She said she recently read that women who have longterm friendships have better health as they age.
“One of the women had breast cancer. ... We’ve all been together through thick and thin,” she said.
“I knew that Amy was sick and had a rare disease, and I looked it up because I’m a very curious person, and I’m fascinated by how people deal with things,” May said.

It was about 2 1/2 years ago that Light told her WOW friends that she needed a kidney transplant.
May is on the national organ-donor registry and the bone-marrow registry.
Giving a kidney to her friend wasn’t a snap decision, though.
“I did a lot of research before I even opened my mouth,” she said.
She read a lot of articles about people who have donated a kidney.
“That allayed a lot of my fears,” she said.
“People can live with one kidney, you just have to be careful with contact sports. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be out on the soccer field,” she said, laughing.
“Yes, I’m going to be nervous,and I’m going to be afraid, but usually, the fear is worse than the actual event.”

May didn’t get a positive reaction when she told her husband.
“Bob wasn’t real happy; my family wasn’t real happy, just because they’re afraid,” she said.
Light didn’t jump up and down when May told her the news, either.
Light had a close relative who declined to be tested as a potential donor.
“It hurt me so much,” she said, emphasizing each word. “I kept hearing stories of people who had a donor, and then the donor backed out. I said, ‘Oh, please, this is nothing to be taken lightly.’
“Cathy kept saying, ‘I feel like this is something I should do.’”

Light gave May a DVD from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta about donating a kidney, and it didn’t change May’s mind.
“She said, ‘I am not going to back out on you,’” Light said.
May said she’s just that stubborn.
“Bob knows when I set my mind to something, that’s it,” she said.
May was tested at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center in Little Rock and went to Emory for two days of physical and psychological tests.
“They’re very, very thorough,” May said. “They watch out for you as much or more than they’re watching out for the recipient.”
After May had matched in almost every way, there was one more test for a urine enzyme.
She failed the test.
Light said her husband sat her down and told her it looked like the transplant was off, and she recalled how devastated May was.
“She cried more than I did,” Light said.
May asked the lab to rerun the test.
“They said, ‘It won’t matter,’” May said, but when it was retested, she was a match.

It will likely be this summer when the women go to Emory for the surgery.

Light is a patient at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., but it lost funding, and her transplant surgeon moved to Emory.
The surgery doesn’t cost the donor anything, May said.
The recipient is a different story.
“Of course, all the WOWs were wonderful, and they rallied and started my National Foundation of Transplant, a nonprofit account for me when they learned I needed to have a certain amount of money,” Light said. “Through their initial efforts, I was able to raise $32,000.”
The cost to Light was going to be $100,000 - plus $6,000 a month out of pocket for medication - but Light learned some upsetting news last week.
She was notified that the National Institutes of Health center isn’t set up for the dialysis she’ll need as soon as the remnant of her one kidney is removed.

“If I can’t go there, it’s going to end up costing $200,000,” Light said. “We’re still waiting to hear.”
Donations can be made online at by searching for Light’s name, or mailed to NFT Arkansas Kidney Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119, with “in honor of Amy Gray Light” on the check memo line.

May said one of the questions a doctor asked her is, ‘How are you going to feel if she loses the kidney?’
“I will just feel devastated, not because of the loss of my kidney, because it will be hers, just because of what she’s going to be facing, health wise,” May said.
She brushes off the enormity of the unselfish gift.
“Every time I would look at her, knowing that she was feeling better, that’s the gift to me,” May said.

May said Light and Johnston are really good people.
“That’s part of the reason that motivated me - I really care about both of them,” May said.
“She’s my angel in a lot of ways,” Light said. “She’s a kindred spirit.”

It is not surprising to May that she and Light both found Wye Mountain and each other, and are on this journey together.
“I’m a firm believer that everything in your life happens for a reason - you may not realize what it is at the time;you may not like what it is at the time,” May said.

“It is like the greatest honor in my life to be able to do this.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Spice Up Your Holidays

This is the season to run around like a crazed person, apparently. Unless you choose to opt out of the whole celebrating-the- holiday thing, it seems everyone is going 90 to nothing, sitting in unavoidable traffic, shopping, writing cards, making gifts,wrapping presents, cooking and baking, not to mention getting the house ready for parties, people and/or guests.

I wasn't going to put up a tree this year but Excy wanted one, so we got a small 5-footer, and I trimmed it yesterday. The collection of nutcrackers is on the mantle. Most of the cooking and baking is done. I have managed to watch a few of my favorite holiday movies, and this year a friend came by for our 10th annual viewing of Christmas in Connecticut, giving me a break with a few hours off my feet from baking up a storm.

If my dad can't eat or drink it, he probably doesn't want it, so every year I make his favorite chocolate-pecan fudge and various other candies and cookies, which I also give out to our neighbor and newspaper carrier and postman. Excy always has more than enough to nosh on, but he always complains that we don't have enough left over. One recipe I tried this year that was a hit is this sweet and spicy pecan treat. It was easy to make and we love things spicy in this house, so I know I'll be making it again. We get tons of fresh pecans as a gift from the wonderful man we buy our hay from. He is a saint who is willing to wait for a check whenever we fall short, knowing about the Sanctuary and wishing the horses well.

Happy holidays to all of you.

Sweet and Spicy Pecans
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp each salt and chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch cayenne
1 egg white
2 cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray.
Mix the sugar and spices together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl beat the egg white lightly with a fork until very frothy. Toss in the pecans and stir to coat. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the pecans and stir to coat pecans evenly. Using your fingers, one by one lift the pecans out of the bowl and transfer to the baking sheet, separating them as best you can. Discard any left-over sugar-egg mix. Bake 30 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to another cooking sheet, breaking pecans apart as necessary. Let cool completely. Pecans will stay fresh for 5 days if kept covered in a dry place. (They probably won't last that long, however).
Serves 8. 240 calories per serving, for those who care about such things. No cholesterol. 17 g carbs, 3 g protein, 20 g fat.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Important Anniversary

Today was the 40th anniversary of the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act. Then-President Nixon signed it into law December 15, 1971. The act protected the animals and their range land. All this happened through the efforts of Velma 'Wild Horse Annie' Johnston (no relation to Excy) and one of the largest letter writing campaigns ever instituted.

By the late '70s, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), had been given the job of managing the mustang and burro herds. Shortly after, large gathers, adoptions, and horses placed in holding facilities began - and herd management areas began to grow smaller or phased out altogether. I have taken to calling the BLM the Bureau of MIS-management.

In 2004, the Burns Amendment was slipped into a large omnibus bill. The Montana Senator saw to it that all wild horses and burros over the age of 10, or having been to three adoptions, were to be sold. Many being sold to killer buyers.

So today across the country, many mustang and burro advocates celebrated the Protection Act by lighting candles in commemoration, also lamenting the fact there are now only a tiny percentage of the number of free horses roaming their range lands that existed in 1971.

Excy and I put 19 luminaries along the front of the fence line - one for each of our wild ones, plus one for our burro, Pompeii, who died 2 years ago - and said a prayer for their light to illuminate the injustices occurring against so many of their brothers and sisters, and for that light to rectify those injustices perpetuated against them by humankind. I made mulled cider and cookies in anticipation of others coming out, but the weather didn't cooperate - it was cold and raining cats and dogs - so no one else came (don't blame them) - but as we stood in the rain and gazed at the candles - amazingly holding up against the rain - all the mustangs came up to the gate to watch us. RedMan, the lead stallion, commented a lot, no doubt wondering what strangeness we were up to now!!

This article is well worth the read.
excerpts from

What was it in Nixon, that brought about his defense of wild horses? Clearly there was much more to the story than the sweaty, paranoid guy who hated Eastern elites and didn't look good on television. .....And it wasn't just that he signed the bill and then quoted Thoreau, which would have been more than enough; as I document in my book, he actually went further, much further, and this is the rest of what Nixon said when he signed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971: “In the past 70 years, civilization and economics have brought the wild horse to 99 percent extinction. They are a living link with the conquistadors, through the heroic times of the western Indians and pioneers to our own day. … More than that, they merit protection as a matter of ecological right—as anyone knows who has stood awed at the indomitable spirit and sheer energy of a mustang running free.”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fundraiser Fatigue

The Wing Spur fundraiser is finally over as of Thursday night and we are still EX-HAUST-ED. It will be great to get our life back. After more than 10 weeks planning and the stressors of coordinating a very public event where you don't know how many people will show up, so you aren't sure how much food to order, and the crates of wine don't come through until noon the day of the event, and the thank-you poster you need to make and laminate can't be finished until all the sponsor logos come through and they don't, so we must search them out on-line, and on and on and on...

Family tragedy prevented us from hosting our picnic in the spring, summer was too hot and miserable, and my surgery demands prevented anything early fall, and this is the week we picked based on every board member's schedule as well as ours. But I missed our sweet relatively easy picnic. Despite a ton of media coverage -- TV, radio, print, internet -- with another TV station coming this week to follow-up -- we were disheartened by the turn-out.

We sent hundreds of snail mail and internet invites and our board members sent some as well, and we had hoped to interest people who learned of the Sanctuary through the media coverage...but the grand number for the night was 50. We were shooting for 100. More than that would have exceeded expectations. Most who came had come to our picnics and were faithful supporters and a few were new and curious after hearing about it. We owe them all a huge thank you.

The night was a lot of fun. The venue was fantastic, the bartender was efficient. HK, our friend, is an accomplished guitar player, writer, and artist, and truly a soulful person who graciously supplied light musical accompaniment to the reception as people grazed the catered food, which was delicious, and the caterers gave us a real bargain as a contribution to the cause. The theater is new, clean, and beautiful. The slide show and our video were both well received, and the documentary film wonderful, if hard to watch. Excy gave a short speech before and answered questions after.

We gambled and went out on a limb in the hopes of generating more community involvement and donors, and despite media input it just didn't work out. So now we know. The costs involved in putting it on put us behind what we need to get through the winter, but we can pay the hay bill off in full, even if we can't get them through the entire winter. Our hay man will be running out shortly and that means buying grain and alfalfa and we don't have the money. We need meds for vaccinations. So we will still need to put on the fundraiser this spring.

The picnic is special. It is a lot of work for the cooks (usually me with a few helpers if we can't get the Redneck Gourmets to cook their fantastic Dutch oven cooking) -- and it's always fun to eat under the Pavilion and watch the wild ones come right up to us and put on a show.

AR has a lot of wealthy horse people, but they just don't seem to care about mustangs. Some people have sniffed that they are 'undistinguished.' Mustangs may not be thoroughbreds or race horses, many are small in stature, and I guess you could argue they are plain, but to a one, they are guileless, smart, strong, and loyal to their band.

What is happening to them is a painful reminder of one of the darkest chapters in this nation's history.The way these horses are being hunted down and removed from their land, with many taken to slaughter and the protection bill under repeal to open US slaughter-houses, and females being sterilized, means that some day, probably in just a decade or so, the last true vestige of the American west will be a side-show or a memory. Some child not yet born but in the not-to-distant future will ask their parent what the Mustang car is named for and they will be told there were once wild horses that roamed the west and changed the lives of the Plains Indians until they, too, were beaten down and almost eradicated because people and the government wanted the land that was once their home.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rectifying Injustices

This is the story Excy and I worked on that he told on 'Tales From the South' last night. It was very well received. We all had fun.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

We had slipped into ‘Nigerian time,’ – which is a cross between regular time and the Twilight Zone. As we sat in a booth at the Cheesecake Factory in Kansas City, my friend Nola waved over the restaurant manager, a short, balding man in his fifties. I shifted uneasily in my seat as he made his way towards us through the crowded restaurant. We had met Nola and her husband Ade and their son Seun for dinner on our 800-mile road trip, and, knowing her as I had for the past ten years, I knew this was going to be good.

Nola had just ferreted out from our waiter, who had done an exceptional job of serving our party of five, that it was company policy he would have to share his substantial tip with the other waiters. And, when he was given a break to grab a bite, he was expected to eat in the employee’s lounge, but pay full price for the food just like any other customer.

As we ate our dessert, cheesecake, of course, Nola talked with the manager about how he could correct these injustices to their wait-staff.

Sitting in the restaurant parking lot was an empty 30-foot gooseneck stock trailer attached to a super-duty truck primed to go to Lawler, Iowa, to rectify another injustice of an entirely different nature.

Two years before, I adopted two mustangs through a program run by the Bureau of Land Management. A friend who works for the BLM Colorado office handpicked these two special wild horses for me. I drove to Canon City, Colorado, to pick them up at the BLM holding facility, which is interestingly enough located in the Colorado State Prison. The prisoner who helped load the horses was named Coronado, who was so kind it made me wonder why he was there in the first place, though you aren’t allowed to ask. Coronado, not lacking a sense of humor, suggested I just leave him in the trailer and he would come home to Arkansas as a hired hand. The armed guard standing beside me thought less of the idea

Those two mustangs came back to Arkansas to live on the land my wife and a partner and I had set up for a horse facility. Since wild horses have a different attitude, a different nature, than domestic horses, my friend Lona from Colorado said if I needed any pointers dealing with them I should contact a group in Nevada with the very unlikely (but highly descriptive) name of Least Resistance Training Concepts (LRTC). I did get lots of pointers from them, but also learned of two large horse herds in the Reno area that have no federal protection and are controlled by the State of Nevada. The State was removing horses from these lands on a regular basis and the LRTC folks helped try to find homes for those captured mustangs.

Ironically, those two herds, the Comstock and Virginia Range, were the horses best known to Annie Johnston (no relation), the woman most responsible for wild horses and burros on federal lands being protected. Known as ‘Wild Horse Annie Johnston,’ she was famous in the ‘60s and ‘70s for her diligence in protecting these animals, spearheading one of the largest letter-writing campaigns on record to get legislation passed to protect the mustang and their rangeland.

The call came less than two years after the first two mustangs came back to Arkansas. The folks at LRTC asked if I’d take in some wild horses from the Comstock that were in a particularly perilous situation. These horses had already been picked up by a ‘killer buyer,’ – a buyer who pays for a horse based on its weight and what he can sell it for to a slaughterhouse. At the time there were three slaughterhouses operating in the US. They have subsequently been shut down, largely due to public pressure, but as of just a few days ago, the US House passed legislation that would allow the return of slaughterhouses in this country. For now, though, the trade has simply moved on to Canada and Mexico. The horses are killed for human consumption, the meat mostly going to parts of Europe and Asia. This particular buyer had already taken the horses to his farm in Iowa, but agreed not to take them to slaughter right away as long as he was compensated for feeding them.

After hearing the hard-luck plea from the LRTC, I said yes to rescue as many as our pasture would support. It seemed natural to turn our place on Wye Mt. outside of Little Rock into a sanctuary for wild horses. We named it WING SPUR after my family crest, which is a flying spur. WING SPUR WILD HORSES also has a nice ring to it, as well as a sense of freedom. We were ready to take in some horses.

The one positive note in all this was that through capture records we could determine which families (also called bands), each horse was in. Although they had been separated by sex and age, we were able to reunite the ones we could take, and it was a real joy to watch them as they came together again.

My friend Jacque, who shares my love of all things horse, agreed to make the trip, along with Alicia, a gal who then worked for me caring for the mustangs we had and our recently adopted wild burro. (Taking my wife Amy to a BLM adoption to help a friend pick some horses ended up in our adopting a burro she befriended from across a corral panel).

And that’s how we ended up at the Cheesecake Factory in Kansas City as our friend Nola outlined the staff injustices to the manager.
The manager looked sheepish as we finally stood to leave. He obviously didn’t know what he had walked into. We finally said our goodbyes to the Adebos and piled back into our truck. The plan was to drive straight through to northern Iowa, and it was already 9 p.m.

We arrived at Lawler about 1 a.m. (You know you’re in a little German hamlet when the hardware, lumber, and feed store is called Teissens, you know, like the chicken folks, but spelled TEISSENS).

By mid-morning the next day we were at the farm to pick up the horses. When Jacque discovered this farmer was a killer buyer (no, I had not told her), she immediately got into the cab of the pickup and stayed there until we left. Normally friendly and outgoing, Jacque does not talk to killer buyers.

It didn’t take very long before the farmer, his wife, and Alicia and I loaded 13 wild horses – more accurately – two wild horse bands – and one extra male into the trailer. The trip back was a little slower and lasted through the night, as plenty of stops were necessary to give the horses a break, and us too.

Sometime around mid-morning the next day, the horses arrived at WING SPUR, their new home. Their families were intact, and they had free run of the place, with a large pond to splash in and mud to roll in to escape the flies and heat of the summer. However, it took months for them to feel secure and to calm down. Slowly, you could tell they looked less nervous as they settled into the idea that no one was going to mistreat them.

It’s been seven years since that trip to Lawler. The oirginal 13 are now 15 horses They are much calmer, though they still get ‘flighty’ at times. At roundup when they are vaccinated and wormed each year, they seem to think they are being mistreated. But no one is going to eat them.

Each morning I walk over to the pasture and lean on the fence, and thank God we were able to rectify that injustice. Safe and protected for the rest of their days, they are home.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back with a Warning...Not a Vengeance

Goodness, has it really been one month shy of a day?? Quite the bloggie break.

I no sooner began to recover from fistula surgery, than I (thought) I sprained my ankle, but it has gotten worse over the weeks and the usual MO wasn't working. I ended up at the damn ER yesterday after my whole foot swelled and turned red and wouldn't go back down, and the chronic pain grew unbearable, despite pulling out 'big gun painkillers' and after bouts of acupuncture. It turns out the drs and I suspect pathologic neuropathy -- I had this pain when I developed RSD after spinal surgery and it was becoming eerily familiar. Don't know if it's from a tumor or the disabilities accumulated from the way I walk, until we delve into it further. Hell'va way to delay cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Excy's daughter and our grand daughter are driving here from Austin this week, but since her BF can't join us until Sat., to allow him to join the feast (and give myself more time to slowly make dishes), I made the executive decision our 'big meal' will occur Saturday afternoon.

I have also been busy with the fundraiser. Excy wrote his story for 'Tales from the South,' taping this Tuesday evening, about how we came to start the Sanctuary. He was interviewed by the local NPR last week for a 4-minute spot to be aired soon. He will also be interviewed on a local TV station this week. Two local magazines will write up the fundraiser after it occurs (because of their long lead times for deadlines). We are writing a video segment to accompany the footage of our wild ones, to be narrated by a local celebrity. The catering and a guitar player for 'background music wallpaper' is in place. Our wine guy fell through so we are still working on that. To make sure that it was a good copy, we watched the documentary we will premiere, 'Wild Horses & Renegades.' It's rough viewing. Excy never cries, and even HE was in tears at the end. U2's song, Who's Going to Ride Your Wild Horses didn't help matters. Though it's lovely and perfect for the film. The documentary is showing at film festivals around the country. I urge you all to try to see it.

With dramatic footage, Wild Horses & Renegades documents how the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is using millions of taxpayer dollars to corral the few remaining American wild horses left in the west through aerial roundup. These wild horses are separated from their band (families), underfed, and forced into inhumane and diseased conditions. Captured horses are either sold for adoption, illegally sold to slaughterhouses, or held in long-term holding facilities. Too many of them are going to killer buyers. Slaughterhouses were shut down in the US (though there is legislation to reopen them), but the horses are easily slipped into Canada and Mexico. The BLM won't be satisfied until every wild horse is off the land. They are falsely stating the horses are detrimental to cattle grazing.

The film lays bare the corporate benefits of the inhumane roundups, including clearing land for uranium mining claims, oil and gas pipelines, and corporate cattle grazing. The BLM estimates it has more than 40,000 wild horses in holding facilities at a cost to taxpayers of $120,000 a day. People suspect the numbers are inflated as to how many wild horses actually remain in the wild, but the BLM is trying to prohibit people from monitoring them as well as the roundups so numbers vary. One reviewer of the film says one of the best things about it is how the director lets the BLM shoot themselves in the foot by their weak actions and explanations. Even harder to stomach is seeing frightened, hurt horses in corrals, and actually viewing a horse at slaughter (with gleeful shouting in the background as the horse is repeatedly stabbed in the neck). Most older horses and the young ones don't survive the roundups, which force them to run wildly for miles over tough terrain. One roundup proved disastrous when the BLM forgot about them and the trapped horses died an agonizing death of starvation without food and water. Another BLM employee, who quit in frustration, was reprimanded for taking matters into his own hands and having a water tank and trough installed after discovering no water at another holding facility.

The roundups threaten one of the most beautiful US-specific natural living resources in the world.

The film features cameos by Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Viggo Mortensen, Daryl Hannah, and other literary and government celebrities. It has been awarded Honorable Mention in Cinematography, Investigative Journalism, and Music Editing/Sound Track at the International Wildlife Film Festival in May. In addition to its screenings, it has received notable national press from Horse Back magazine and Outside magazine. The film’s director, James Anaquad-Kleinert, has made several environmental films including Spirit Riders, an award-winning documentary that aired in part on
It's also a great film. For more information, visit web site:

If you'd like to make a donation to Wing Spur bless you! We could really use it. Not only do we have a huge hay bill (and winter hay bills to come), we are trying to find more land to help out more horses. Wing Spur is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and all donations are 100% towards the horses.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fistulas and Fundraising

On the plus side: this fistula surgery was just in time for Halloween. My arm is still swollen (not twice as large as my other arm anymore, but I still look like I have a man's arm), and the bruises are spectacular. The incision runs across the bend inside my arm and makes it appear my lower arm has been badly sewn on, and I have a egg-sized bump there that accents the gruesome. The glue (instead of stitching it up) from the cut is yellow and peeling.

I can finally start typing, but that's about it.

On the minus side, it still hurts. I am a prisoner to a foam cast from shoulder to wrist, and can't bend my left arm, which makes things like pushing my hair back and putting it in a ponytail for washing my face, or putting on contacts, or earrings, impossible, not to mention taking a shower or adjusting a bed pillow. It's been hellish. Five more days to go for a check-up and hopefully, a green light to resume my life. I have to check the flow with a stethoscope four times a day to make sure the fistula is forming and not closing up.

Because we were dealing with Be's surgeries and death this spring, we were unable to have our annual Wing Spur fundraiser for the mustangs. This summer was too hot. So we are having a fundraiser Dec. 1 that is quite a departure from anything we have done previously. We are showing a new documentary in a downtown theater.

The film is just out and already receiving wide acclaim and awards. It's called 'Wild Horses@Renegades,' (Our showing will be the AR premiere of the film), to be followed by a video of our wild ones. Catering will be by one of the 'hot' restaurants, fortunately, owned and operated by good friends of ours. We will have a live band.

Leading up to this, Excy and I will read stories for the Nov. 22 show 'Tales of the South' that is on the local NPR and now syndicated throughout the country. Excy will tell a story about starting the sanctuary and getting the two bands (families) together. I don't know what my 'tale' will be yet, but I'm leaning towards Francis the fox and the 'coons. Kinky Friedman has signed on as our fifth and newest board member. He has a tour so can't come or do anything at this relatively quick notice, but he says in the future he can get some of his singer friends to perform at future events (yea!), and he's been interested and open to making time to come visit.

So in the midst of a lot of darkness and health gloom, it's certainly nice that this is coming together.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Finished two projects recently. The hound dogs are recently deceased and were companions of a friend who helped us out with Be and Be's funeral and I wanted to thank him...

The Christmas stocking is for our now-two-year-old grand daughter...

I am working on a tiger for myself (for a change). I am having surgery to have a fistula in my arm, and will be getting ready for it (surgery's next Tuesday). It takes from 3 to 6 months to form and needs to be ready before surgery to have the kidney remnant removed, and will be used for future dialysis. I may post this week but may not if it gets crazy. I will get back to the blogging and blog visiting soon. Blessings...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fabulous Finds Friday: Natural Stress Relief

I haven't done one of these in a long time. I grabbed this off the shelf today and thought, huh. So here goes:


In a cherry yellow bottle, RR can be found at most stores that carry homeopathic meds and organic food. It is pricy -- a tall bottle costs $17.99 -- but will last a few months (if you're a daily user like me) or longer.

I have been using RR since I first starting using homeopathic meds and starting acupuncture back in 1985. I was seeking a kinder way to handle chronic pain and to buck up my immune system from cancer (vHL). RR sort of fell into my path.

RR is a flower essence you take by dropping it directly on your tongue, or by dropping it and diluting it in a glass of water. It also comes in a spray. I have done all three but prefer it in water. It tastes lovely, as one could imagine, since it uses the essences of flowers and tree blossoms, such as wild clematis, rock rose, impatiens, cherry plum, and star of bethlehem, among others.

It reduces stress and anxiety and leaves no lingering side-effects. It won't work against allopathic meds. It's very subtle, but, it works for me. I take it every day, and also before leaving the house when I do something like speak in public or go out to dinner or a party. It gives me a little 'lift' and some mental 'armor.'

A few years ago, I read in a Whole Living pet column that it was recommended for animals having problems. My male, Lenny, was beating up my timid older cat, Togo, so I called my vet and he said it'd be fine, so now the cats get some in their water dish every day. Total harmony does not reign, but they are much better and we notice more squabbling when I've run out and they haven't gotten any. It just makes them a bit mellower.

I recommend it to friends on occasion when they are confiding to feeling stressed or anxious, and am a little surprised it isn't very well known. There are 36 different kinds of essences for all kinds of emotional states, and I've tried about a half-dozen others. But I keep returning to RR. If you try it and don't like it, I'll buy if from you~!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Once in MY Lifetime!

When Excy and I lived back east, we were invited to dinner one night at the parent's house of one of his childhood friends. This couple were 'upper-crust,' related in fact, to the Kennedy's, so had a bit of that blue-blood pedigree. I was looking forward to the evening, because Excy had told me a few fun stories. He described how it had felt as a kid to shoot an 'elephant gun,' that the elder man had kept from safaris, and described their mushroom farm. If nothing else, I felt these people, my parent's age, would be delightfully eccentric.

Little did I know I was about to enter into the play/movie Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, whereas I was unfortunately to be cast as the Sandy Dennis character. We arrived at the appointed time and were ushered into the living room. They had a drink tray full of old-fashions and whisky sours, both noticably strong. Excy and Mr & Mrs commenced with the small talk, catching up on the goings-on, and of their son (Mrs saying in no uncertain terms he wasn't living up to her wishes for his potential). As we chatted on the sofa, she proceeded to pass a tray of saltines with pate on top...I declined and was about to pass them along to Mr, seated at my right, who had extended his hand, saying, "Well, I'd like..."
Mrs slapped his hand away. "They're NOT for you!" She snapped.
I took the tray and offered it to him before handing it on to Excy.

After more dull talk where Mrs droned on, I turned towards Mr and asked what his interests were, now that they were retired. He perked up and began describing an eleborate train set and miniature landscape he had set up in the basement when Mrs cut him off sharply: "NO ONE is INTERESTED in your TOY trains!"
"Oh, no, it sounds great," I protested. "My dad and brother ran trains in our basement and it was a lot of fun!"
Mrs sniffed and turned away. "Don't let him bore you," she warned.

We continued to talk, and drink, and talk, and drink, until finally in desparation I ate some of those awful saltine things, and as time marched well beyond the cocktail hour(s) I began to think we had misunderstood the invitation and weren't expected for dinner after all. I'm not much of a drinker, and two of anything is my limit regardless, and I noticed Mrs getting more and more red-faced and belligerant and elaborate in her insults towards Mr.

Just as I was considering grabbing Excy and making a tackful exit, Mrs trudged away. Fifteen minutes later, she reappeared in the doorway and said dinner was 'on the table.' I asked her how I could help and she flicked her hand. Walking into the dining room I saw four small TV trays ringing the walls with various hot-plates on them. On each bubbled some interesting-looking stuff. I'm not sure what we ate, really. It wasn't very edible. I've been in situations where the food has been horrid, but the company made up for it by far, so it didn't matter; I just ate a bit and pushed things around the plate. The company this time? Needless to say, this wasn't one of those times.

Halfway through this seemingly endless meal, the son made an appearance, but from the way Mrs lit into him, I'm pretty certain he regretted making the effort. Finally, finally, five and a half hours after we arrived, we found an opening and left them imbibing some after-dinner liquor. We stumbled out the door.

I am a big believer in writing thank-you notes, but this time, I told Excy I was afraid to, because I'd rather have her think me uncouth and not invite me back! The next day Excy's cousin heard of our evening and shook his head in resignation, saying he and his wife had a disasterous dinner there, too. He looked at me knowingly.
"I never want to go back," I said.
"I know, so did we," he replied.
"So what did you do?"
"I was so drunk and quesy from the food, I took two steps out their front door and threw up in the bushes."

As horrifying as this sounds, we understood immediately how it would happen, and agreed it had actually been a rather brilliant solution.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Horror Story

Because of the unusually dry season we've had a bunch of very unwanted visitors.

Ants invaded our home beginning the middle of the summer, burrowing into the insulation of the bedroom addition roof, and making it trickle down like tiny snowflake-like drifts in a few places. No sooner than Excy sprays the area outside, getting it under control, than they start anew on some other area. It seems a bad game. I will be ready for the cooler weather, which seems to make them disappear.

The 'coons shed their fleas under the screened-in porch, apparently, and no amount of spraying there has seemed to eradicate them for good. The cats are strictly indoors, but love their porch. We're on the second round of frontline, soon to be the third, and though the fleas aren't in the house anymore and activity seems to be more under control, it's still annoying. Using the flea comb on them can continue to be an unpleasant surprise, and only Lenny likes it, seeming to think of it as a grooming treat.

The latest, and most dramatic, of the creepy-crawlies, however, made its appearance two weeks ago and we have had four in the house the past two weeks. Not sure what is going on. The last time we saw them was eight years ago when we were building the addition and the ground was disturbed, which drives them up.

Brace yourselves: scorpions.

Freak. Me. Out. SCORPIONS. Even the name sounds aggresive.

They are so primitive, strutting along with those pinchers and cocked tail, ready to sting with that dangling stinger. So ugly.

#1 was dead in the utility room, so the location didn't freak me out too much.
#2 did freak me out, since I was watching TV when I spied Lenny batting at something in the hallway and when I examined the find, I was afraid he'd get stung. Plus, it's a scorpionn...euuwww...
#3 was the scariest find, because I was barefoot in the bedroom addition, and the floor is stained black tile, and it was night, so dark, when I caught a movement inches from my bare toes. Boy did I scream. The boys didn't come running. I don't make a habit of screaming, so what does that say?? Excy finally came when I called in a shaky voice, to his credit.
#4 was in the kitchen, last night, and Excy saw it when he wandered in to see why all four cats were hanging around.

It's Excy's job, by the way, to kill all creepy-crawlies. Mine is to freak and scream like a little girl.

I don't mind bugs outdoors, but when they are in my house, they must die. Unless they are 'good' bugs, like walking sticks or a praying mantis...they seem to have the good sense to remain outside, anyway.

I thought I had the motherlode of horror until my SIL told me this weekend she had been stung by a scorpion IN BED recently. They find them in their shower on occasion, and a few nights before she was in bed and stretched out her leg and something stung her on the foot! When she threw the covers back and saw what it was she said she hobbled down the hall to get Steve to come kill it. The real kicker, to me, is she got back in bed and went to sleep!
Burrrrr.....I would've been flinching and throwing back the sheets every 10 minutes. Happy dreams...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

ARUGGG. I seldom eat out and have just returned from spending an afternoon with a friend. We were in sore need of a quiet conversation and met for lunch at a restaurant I remembered as quiet and intimate. It was anything but.

We were seated in a too-full room with tables thisclose together, and so noisy we HAD TO SHOUT to be heard the entire time.

I don't raise my voice; this actually strained my throat muscles.
It was unnerving to be shouting personal revelations to one another, even knowing otherwise we wouldn't hear one another, and regardless of whether or not anyone else would hear (there was no way).

Why, oh why, do restaurants insist on concrete and hard floors, blaring TVs, and tables so close together one has to apologize for disturbing other patrons when they are getting to their seats?


Despite the wonderful food, I will never eat there again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's Your Line?

In honor of Labor Day...hope everyone is enjoying their 'day off...'

I met a new friend for lunch and a movie the other day. She has a law degree and a degree in social work, and went from being a guidance councilor at one of our most prestigious liberal state colleges for most of her working life to a hospice worker. She said as rewarding as the past three years have been, she is feeling very burnt out - as one could imagine. She said her life-long interest and what she wants to do now is...wait for it...interior decorating. She's taken many classes in the field, and hopes to work at a shop where she can take her life in this new direction. Wowzer. Talk about a sea-change. I didn't see that coming.

It got me thinking of all the job changes I've made and jobs I've held through the years, and how most of them have been in a similar field, except for when I was a kid, of course.

Here is my work history:
A babysitter during high school years. Then an office assistant over the summer for a photography outfit that took those school photos that everybody gets. After that, a part time job (on holidays) working for a woman's clothing shop. I then worked off and on in college and when I came home from Utah to prepare for a move East, as a receptionist for my dad's architecture firm. In my junior year of college I also began modeling for print and media advertising and in fashion shows, and kept that up through age 24, still modeling after moving to UT to work for a ski resort (as a waitress -- started out in the office but waitresses got better ski hours). I wanted to learn to ski and live out west for awhile. After the resort, I lived in Salt Lake City for 18 months more and modeled and waitressed part-time. I entered the 'face of the '80s' contest, and got an offer to meet with Eileen Ford of the Ford Agency in NY but -- (this is my big bone-headed move, but then again, who is to say, really?) coming from AR and UT, I didn't feel comfortable in NY, and took the train to DC instead of making my appointment.** I got off and saw the green space and low buildings and thought yeah, I can live here... The move was also influenced by the fact my college boyfriend was working for one of our Senators and was making a push for us to get back together.

At the time, I also really wanted to do something with my English/Journalism degree before future employers commented that all I had done writing-wise at that point was write for college papers, and mocking the big gap in my resume. I had to temp a few months, but ended up being hired as the second person in a three-person office to start a new architecture journal. Perfect place at the perfect time.

I learned so much on that job. The editor-in-chief left before the first issue was out, and the acting editor and I -- two young women -- put out the quarterly for two years, relying on freelancers to flesh out the staff. My boss was a SUNY grad, accomplished in the field, and brilliant despite her young age (mid-30s to my mid-20s), and we became very close, working in the fox-hole in a 'good 'ole boys' world. She was fired (she sued for discremination and it was settled out of court). The next boss was a brash young man also from NY with major drive and hutzpah. He hired 4 other editors and a graphic artist (who he later married), and took the magazine even further. When it became even more popular than the established 'official' journal of the AIA (American Institute of Architects), at that time #1 of three top architecture magazines, he was fired, and it was folded into the official journal, and my job expanded yet again.

And when it was sold two years later to a NY publishing group, and my then editor in chief was fired (a huge scandal, as he had been the editor for several decades), my job expanded again yet again. Unfortunately, that's when I met up with the 'boss from hell' who proceeded to fire everybody on staff but myself and one other associate editor (guess we were low enough on the totem pole to be 'molded,'), and hired all 'her' people. She then made life so unbearable we all quit eventually when it became clear we couldn't outlast her. I will do a post on some of the things she did, as they were remarkable.

The publishing business is a small world, and during those heady years I loved my job, I was offered jobs with TIME and with INTERIORS magazines, both in NY, and maybe I should have considered the offers more closely, but my intutition (and then-marriage), kept me in DC.

When I quit the magazine, I worked freelance as an editor for a small construction magazine, and as a features writer for my old magazine and a half-dozen other publications. By then I had divorced and met and married Excy, who was floating around as an architect in several states, having closed his Austin practice after a horse fell on him and broke his back. Eventually I wanted to move us home, and Excy was willing, more or less, so I interviewed with WINROCK Int'l, a nonprofit that works in 147 countries, and they moved us here, where I was the editor/public relations officer 7 years.

After going on disability, I have freelanced for various publications and publishing houses. I have begun writing my stories and essays more and more; so I haven't really deviated all that much from my first love, which has always been writing, since grade school. I have veered off to become a facilitator for grief-berevement and chronically ill groups, but that's not what I consider a job or career.

I don't really look back and regret my career moves (or non-moves, as they were), for they brought me to some directions that were highly important to my life. But ah, those roads not taken...they are interesting to ponder on a quiet afternoon...

though as I grow older, I find myself less and less interested in that kind of introspection and more and more interested in looking ahead...

**acronyms, acronyms...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Best Friends Forever

The second story I told on 'Tales of the South:'

One of my close friends on the mountain where my husband and I live was a woman in her 80s, frail from emphysema, but still feisty and great fun. Before she died, Flo and I enjoyed one another’s company for a number of years. Despite our more than thirty-year age difference, we formed a bond: a love of the outdoors and gardening, animals, bird watching, reading, classic movies, discussions of current events and politics, and an appreciation for the absurdities of life and laughter. Flo liked a good party and enjoyed dressing up. She came in costume to our Halloween parties, and was once elaborately arrayed for a Mardi Gras party in a tiered, veiled, costume and tiara. At 80, she was the belle of the ball at that dinner-dance; despite shortness of breath, she didn’t let it prevent her from ‘cutting a rug.’ When she gradually grew too frail to venture out and relied on an oxygen tank at home, I’d go over on the occasional afternoon with my needlepoint and we’d talk or watch an old movie from her extensive collection, which was piled high on a teetering wooden shelving unit that bulged from overuse. Though Flo loved all animals in general, her particular fondness was for dogs. She had them all her life, and would tell me stories about all the dogs she had growing up while she lived in Japan and Hawaii. Yellow Labradors were her favorites.

When her last one died, after a period of mourning, Flo decided she was ready to adopt again. I had heard about a cute puppy that needed a home, and one weekend the foster caretaker and I took the dog over for a visit. Flo delighted in its exuberance and warm wriggly body. But once I saw how much work would be involved in training and how quickly it scampered around, I grew concerned the puppy might knock her down or tangle up her oxygen lines, which snaked throughout the house. Flo apparently shared my concern, though, and regretfully turned the puppy down, declaring she needed a quiet, mature companion that didn’t require housebreaking. And she decided the only breed she really wanted was another Yellow Lab, explaining, “This is the last dog I’ll ever have.” We started trolling the animal rescue sites, asking at veterinary offices, and watching for one in the newspapers. Then a mutual friend heard of a Yellow Lab that needed a new home. Its owners were older and their kids had grown and were out of the house. They were moving into a smaller house nearby but had decided the dog was too much trouble to bother with. So he brought “Nugget” over to Flo, and a match was instantly made.

Flo promptly renamed the dog “Sweetie” for her disposition. Even after so many years of responding to “Nugget,” the new name was quickly adopted and the dog never seemed confused. Perhaps she was pleased to finally be truly ‘recognized.’ From the first instant of mutual love and appreciation, the two ‘little old ladies’ got along splendidly. They mostly sat around, Sweetie gently snoring and farting, sleeping on the carpet at Flo’s feet as she read or watched her movies – just keeping one another company. Sweetie was a polite dog who never missed an opportunity for a head-rub, but when you moved your hand away she sensed it was time to move on, and never got obnoxious about attention. She was strict only about meal times, and she did not tolerate or appreciate any deviation to her eating schedule. Fortunately, Flo was acutely aware of Sweetie’s concerns, and Sweetie didn’t have to work too hard to train Flo to drop whatever she was doing or interrupt a visitor to attend to Sweetie’s bowl.

Sweetie also enjoyed her twice-daily constitutions outside, but she didn’t roam far and Flo never had to worry about her straying down to the road. When Sweetie developed shortness of breath, you’d hear the two ladies huffing and puffing as they gently labored to breathe while they puttered around their living room and kitchen, side-stepping one another as necessary. Sweetie’s health seemed to dovetail Flo’s. After a few close calls, we weren’t sure who was going to die sooner, Sweetie or Flo, who was growing more anxious for Sweetie. After her hospitalizations, she’d mostly talk about Sweetie, and what would happen to her when she was gone. A friend volunteered to take Sweetie in if that happened, but Flo frequently forgot the offer and would lament about it until reminded. In the back of her mind, though, I think she worried because she knew no one would love Sweetie as she did. I wondered if the two of them weren’t just hanging on for the other. Sweetie often seemed on the brink of disaster and would then rebound miraculously; and Flo seemed as close to the edge.

The sad call that Sweetie died finally came on an early spring day. Despite Sweetie’s health ailments, Flo wondered aloud why she died, and her already-frail voice trembled and sounded beyond sad. “I don’t think I can live without my Sweetie,” she wailed. I think all her friends knew what was coming, and weren’t surprised when she died days later. We knew the end of Sweetie meant the end of Flo, too.

Flo had planned a memorial service as unique as she had been. We gathered in her cozy house and trooped out into the back yard to say the Eucharist, read prayers, and walk around the front where her ashes were scattered with Sweetie’s in her dog cemetery. The air seemed soft and still and full of birdsong as we said goodbye to our two old friends.

Before she died, I had dug up some ‘Star of Bethlehem’ bulbs from her garden. They are among the first flowers to bloom as the season moves towards early spring, which always reminds me of Flo and her Sweetie, now walking together outside somewhere, breathing easily again.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

blah, blah, blah...

Sometimes I'm a real 'chatty Cathy.' When I'm among my WOWs or WILLOWS, or close other friends, I keep up with the best of them.* I tend to interject when Excy is 'holding court,' because, frankly, he can talk too much or too long (Seriously. Ask anybody).

One thing I won't do is dominate the conversation or go on too long -- underneath it all, I am a bit of an introvert. I can only fully articulate my feelings on the written page. And arguments make me 'shut down.' I am getting better with age at speaking up. I wouldn't call myself a door-mat, by any means, but sometimes it takes an effort when it's a touchy subject.

In the '90s when I was at my last full-time job, I spent all my working days in meetings, interviewing people, on the phone, and writing and editing on the page and for videos. When I needed to write (newsletter, scripts, speeches, brochures, etc.), I was frustrated by constant interruptions. I finally made a sign and tried to establish guidelines of when I didn't mind being interrupted and when I'd be checking email, that kind of thing...of course, it didn't work that well. It's amazing how many people don't think a sign applies to them. They want what they want when they want it. "I saw your sign, and know you're working, but I just need to ask...."

My director was the worst. I guess she thought she had to " pop in for a sec" just to make sure I wasn't face-down on the desk catching a few ZZZZZs or cruising the internet.

The last thing I felt like doing when I got home was talking on the phone. So I started to take 'vows of silence' and refusing phone calls. A ringing phone never bothers me, anyway. I usually let 'the electronic butler' take a message and get back to the caller later. That can drive Excy crazy, since he can not NOT answer a ringing phone. Not to mention a friend who insists on calling just to 'chat' while out running errands. Drives me insane...but most of my friends respect my 'phone phobia,' and I don't mind a good long conversation if it's been awhile since I've seen someone.

Sometimes I spend a whole day not talking at all. No set day, just when I feel I need to refuel from a hectic pace. Honestly, with email and a writing tablet, it's not that difficult to go one day without talking. Excy doesn't mind, knowing I will go at least one full day without interrupting, and I am a captive audience. Unless you call a hastily scratched note an interruption...

* sometimes I catch myself interrupting, which I hate to do, but it's the only way to get a word in edge-wise, at times, with a group of excitable women (particularly ones with wineglasses in their hands)...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Animal Observations

We went to my parent's house for Sunday supper. Not only was it fun to visit with them, I got to see the turtle mom's been talking about for a few weeks. She keeps a bowl of scraps by the kitchen porch for various critters and, in her words, "an army helmet showed up at the back door." Now, every day, the turtle lumbers onto the porch to eat his fill of strawberries, lettuce, stale bread, and whatever else mom puts out. They learned the turtle was a 'he' when they saw him en flagellate with a lady tortoise, who trapped him when she snapped the shell closed on his toes! Dad splashed cold water over her shell and she released him and 'sped' away. (They can really speed when they want to). A chipmunk also seems to be the turtle's companion, hanging out on the porch with him. But maybe he just likes the daily buffet.

For the past two weeks, a red-headed woodpecker has been on the 'bird tree' (a cedar stob we hang the feeders from), feeding one of her kids (who is as big as she is) by plucking out a sunflower seed, prying it open, and feeding him the meat. She is also demonstrating how to peck holes in the stob. The kid waits patiently for his meal and practices his holes under the watchful eye of the parent. I'd love to put suet out, but the 'coons even steal all the suet that they supposedly will not eat (guess they didn't get the memo).

Speaking of 'coons, we still have the two mommas and the five babies between them. Three and two. One mom and two of the little ones were eating the dog food in the yard, and the third wandered onto the terrace to drink from the koi pond. When he realized he was alone, he began to whine. Hearing it, the mama ushered the other siblings underneath the screen porch and then hustled up to the terrace. Seeing that the baby was fine, just alone and disoriented, she kinda brushed his fur and urged him on. If there had been a thought bubble over her head, I swear it would've read, "Oh my're fine....come on, dummy..."

On a most sad note, we lost our 17 yr old domestic horse a few weeks ago. Leroy came from Santa Fe, and we rescued him after he had spent a life in hard service in a working cowboy's string of horses. He hadn't been well cared for. He helped Excy round up the 'wild ones' for a few years, but when a stallion challenged him, he apparently decided he was getting too old for the work, and so he was retired to the corral where he lived with our two adopted mustangs and they all were close friends. Apparently he got kicked hard in the upper shoulder during some rough-housing. The vet confirmed the leg wasn't broken, and so for a week he was dosed, and since he couldn't walk or move to keep the flies off we aimed a fan into his space. Excy checked on him every few hours. Towards the end of the week he seemed to be a bit more comfortable, but by the time he was checked on and we watched a movie, he had fallen and died, and rigor mortis had set in. The vet said it was probably the pain and shock of the fall that killed him. It took Excy and a helpful neighbor 8 hours to get him out of the corral and down a hill and buried the following day. The two boys in the corral seem to be better now but they sure missed him at first.

This has been a sad year....not just with the loss of human loved ones, but with the loss of two beloved cats, one raccoon, Francis the Fox and her family MIA, and now the horse...I am hoping that's all...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Menagerie

Two of my 'essay/tales' are being published in a book from Temnous Publishing for 'Tales of the South.' The only stipulation is the stories be true. I thought you'd enjoy reading them, so here is #1...

One afternoon this summer I stepped into a jewelry store and ran into an acquaintance from high school. I was embarrassed she remembered me, calling out my name, because while she looked familiar, I couldn’t quite place where I knew her. But she had been in a different graduation class, and we had never known one another well, so I didn’t feel too awkward when she re-introduced herself. Besides, high school was more years ago now than I care to remember. We passed the time chatting about this and that, and then I told her about the ‘wild bunch.’ My husband and I live on Wye Mountain, in the countryside near Little Rock. We are caregivers to a small herd of mustangs across the road, having saved them from slaughter, and we starting a nonprofit sanctuary for their care. When I tell people this, they are invariably curious, and want to come see for themselves. When my old high school acquaintance heard about the mustangs, she let out a whoop -- “My son loves horses!” she trilled, “he’s absolutely crazy about them; we’d just love to come out!” She seemed so eager we consulted the calendar on the spot, and made a date for the first available afternoon.

I was raking leaves the afternoon the car pulled in the drive. ‘T’ jumped out, crying greetings, followed by a young boy and then yet another boy. I was a bit startled by the sudden on-rush of bodies pouring forth, and noticed more passengers still in the car. My mind flashed to those clown cars at the circus. “This is Braxton, my son, and his friend, Jack Russell. When Jack found out where we were going, he insisted on coming along.” “Hi,” I said, walking towards them. “Jack, you’re named after one of my favorite dogs.” I cringed when I heard the words come out of my mouth, but since Jack Russell stared at me blankly I assumed he didn’t know the breed.

“What’s that smell? I’m allergic to hay!” whined Braxton. ‘T’ whirled around towards him. “Stop it!” she said. “We’ve heard it driving out here four times now; you’re allergic, you’re allergic! You’ve had Benadryl, you’ll be fine!” she glanced towards me with an apologetic shrug. Just then, I noticed a woman climbing out of the driver’s side of the car. She trudged forward, glaring at me. I wondered briefly if I knew her, as she seemed to know – and disapprove -- of me – but her face didn’t ring any bells. “This is my friend, ‘T,’” said the first Ms. ‘T,’ “and she brought out her friend, Mimi, who wanted to get out of the nursing home for the afternoon,” said the first ‘T.’ By now I really was thinking this was a clown car. The passenger door cracked open and a wizened woman with a deficit of teeth popped her head out. “Hello,” I said, walking over to her side. “So glad you could join us…” “SHE CAN’T HEAR YOU!” shouted the second Ms. ‘T.’ I took a step backward. Mimi couldn’t walk, either, and a wheelchair was hauled out of the trunk. “Sorry about the gravel, but you can drive the car across the street to see the horses in the pasture,” I said. “That’s fine, I’ll just walk her around the corrals over here,” said ‘T-too’. Mimi settled into the wheelchair. She glanced towards ‘T’. “Who’re you?” she asked. “Why, you know me, Mimi, I rode out here with you,” replied ‘T.’ “You’re FAT,” Mimi said. ‘T’ stood shock-still. “I’m fat?” she echoed in a small voice.

“Do you have any other animals?” asked the boys. I told them we had three cats in the house, and they asked to see them. ‘T’ said she also wanted to see the house, so we left Mimi and T-squared on their walk to the corrals and went inside. Once in the house, however, the boys proceeded to run through the rooms, down the hallways, and into the master bedroom, racing after one of my now-terrified cats, which had been dozing peacefully on the couch in the living room. By the time ‘T’ and I walked back to the bedroom, all three cats were cornered on the screened porch, teeth bared and claws extended. Fearing for their safety, as well as the boy’s skin, I quickly suggested we go back outside.

By this time, my husband, Excy, had driven up in our 6-wheeler. “Hello, boys,” he called out, “Who wants to load a bale of hay and go see some horses?” “Oh, boy!” crowed Jack Russell. “I’m allergic to hay!” whined Braxton. Braxton eyed the 6-wheeler dolefully. “I wanna ride in the car with you, mom!” The two Ts climbed in the car where Mimi had been deposited, having seen the horses in the corrals over here and gotten back in the car while we were still inside the house. “I’ll just stay here,” I said weakly, glad of the opportunity to be alone again. Excy and Jack Russell led the way across the street and through the first gate. But the car had stopped and sat at the gate. And sat. And sat. And sat. Finally, Braxton and his mother climbed out of the car and strolled back towards the house. “I have ‘ta use the bathroom!” shouted Braxton. I gave them directions to the hall bathroom and continued raking yard debris. Fifteen minutes rolled by. Just as I was considering going in to see if they needed anything, they came out the front door. “We’re just like a circus!” ‘T’ sang out merrily as she and Braxton joined the others. “Uhm,” I replied.

They were across the street a long time. Then I saw the car exit the pasture lane and drive off. Guess they had to get back to town, I thought, not at all upset they were unable to say goodbye. Shortly afterwards, though, Excy drove up with Jack Russell, Braxton, and ‘T.’ “What happened?” I asked. “Mimi had some ‘health issues,’ and she didn’t want to miss dinner at the home. They serve at five,” said ‘T.’ “But don’t worry; she’ll be right back.” “Right back,” being a 45-minute trip one way to the edge of west Little Rock. I quickly calculated another hour-and-a-half of visiting. “Can we see your horses over here?” she asked. We walked over to the corrals by the house. Excy dropped the boys off, and without saying a word, drove down to his studio, where he disappeared for the rest of the visit. ‘T’ and I sat on the porch of the tack room and watched the boys toss a rubber ball from the horse corral back and forth, dirt rising like mushroom clouds that enveloped them in greater circles with each throw. “I’m thirsty!” said Braxton, as he walked over to grab a ‘Big Gulp’ cup out of ‘T’s hand. “Where’s your drink, mother?” he added sweetly, taking long sips through the straw. ‘T’ ignored the query.

“I’m bored,” wailed Jack Russell. “Can we go watch cartoons inside your house?” “No,” I said. “I just had the house cleaned yesterday, and ya’ll are filthy; besides, you freaked my cats out.” Both boys frowned. “What if we take our shoes off?” said Jack Russell. “What good would that do?” replied ‘T,’ saving me the trouble. “I don’t know,” he grumbled. “I’m sorry…” I began. “Don’t worry about it!” replied ‘T.’ “I make Braxton strip before he can come inside the house all the time!”

“Let’s go sit on the back terrace,” I suggested, leading the way through the yard. Braxton plopped on the chaise lounge beside us. “Look,” said ‘T,’ “I’ll give you $50 dollars if you catch a lizard – but you have to show it to me.” “Geez, ‘T,’” I said. “For $50 dollars I’ll find a lizard!” Jack Russell jumped off the terrace wall. “I’m gonna go find me $50 dollars,” he said, ambling off. Braxton didn’t move. Ten minutes later, Jack Russell was back. “Couldn’t find one,” he said, his voice trailing off weakly. “What??” I said. “I just saw three sitting here!” He went off to try again, this time with Braxton in tow. But they were soon back, having exhausted all possibilities of capturing an allusive lizard. “What’s in there?” asked Jack Russell, pointing to the goldfish pond, and he and Braxton, without waiting for a reply, were soon merrily trying to capture the fish with their hands, splashing and dislodging plants and the filter. Relieved they were briefly preoccupied, I didn’t bother telling them to stop, though I know the fish were mighty disturbed, and that Excy would be spending the early evening putting the plants and equipment to rights again.

Just then, ‘T-too’ drove up and joined us, and some the foursome were on their way back towards the car. “Thanks a lot,” said ‘T,’ as the boys huddled together and giggled, no-doubt complaining to each other about what a Nazi I had been about not allowing them back inside the house. Without saying a word to me, they climbed into the car. Without a further word by anybody, the car disappeared down the road. When I told the story to a friend, she laughed so hard she snorted. Wiping tears from her eyes, she said, “Braxton? Are you sure it was Braxton? Maybe his name is Brat-son.. You were a free afternoon’s entertainment!” I laughed, and made a mental note to find a different jewelry store to frequent.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paper Trails and Trials

I read in the August issue of Real Simple magazine that 83% of human-resource managers feel that the state of an employee's office affects their perception of his/her's professionalism. I think that's trite, but since I heard once that it takes about 10 seconds for someone to size you up before forming an opinion, I guess it's not that surprising.

I knew someone who was fired for her disheveled office. J was a good friend and a solid (though slow-working) graphic artist. She was creative and hard-working. Incidentally, she was also a hoarder. You couldn't walk in her house easily, and even then, in a single-file path, as 'things' were stacked from floor to ceiling. She had two metal racks full of costumes in her dining room, for some reason never fully explained when I asked. You couldn't see the furniture for the junk. She also had a crammed-to-the brim storage unit, and she had a layaway tag on so many items in antique stores in the state that a fellow worker and I used to joke to one another about how we knew it was 'J' before we turned a tag over on an item we wanted.

This was before the TV shows on hoarders, so we didn't know quite how (or if) we should approach the issue. I felt as long as she wasn't affecting anybody and it didn't interfere with her work, it wasn't our place to intervene, other than to let her know we'd help should she want to have a garage sale (!) I went as far as to suggest we might team up to tackle each other's houses for any 'daunting' cleaning projects or painting chores, but she didn't seem interested. I let it go. Unfortunately, our bosses didn't feel that way. I heard raised voices one afternoon and our 'head' boss from DC was loudly inquiring how he was supposed to walk into her office without stepping on 'something important,' and that she 'couldn't possibly be efficient and organized in a mess like this.'

I tried to talk with her a few times after that to let her know people were talking, and whether or not I could help her organize. She insisted everything had to stay in place and everything was necessary for work, despite my picking through stuff like 4 rough drafts of edited papers that had long been published...

Well, you know where this is going...she was fired after being put on probation a few months. She went back to school and is in a totally new career and much happier. Sadly we don't get together too often anymore, and when we do we go to a restaurant. So I haven't seen the inside of her house.

Every time I sigh over the 'trail' Excy leaves throughout the house, I remember J and don't feel quite as bad. But I have had to 'surrender' the library over to Be (his dad's) paper until he gets all the mess sorted out. He's promised to let me have a bonfire this fall.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Alternate Realities

Life has been so terribly difficult and depressing. I never consider 'things can't get worse,' as invariably life then conspires to show me how yes, it truly can. I am almost to the point of going back to Mayberry: my fallback decompression mode for when life gets so suck as to be nonexistent --retreating into the simple pleasures of Andy Griffith tapes. (Blog post 'Back to Mayberry' was written 9/25/09. How do you make a link?).

People who know me well will be shocked to hear I am finally resorting to considering meds until I can regain a will to continue. I hate to take anything, and resist 'feel-good' drugs--it would be odd not to be depressed at this point - but it's time to pull out bigger guns...

Lately I have been reading even more than usual -- which is a lot, anyway. And the books I am grabbing off the shelf are true-life accounts of people who have lived through harrowing times. Reading of their hardship and perseverance and strength of spirit gives me some measure of strength and will power.

The first book I highly recommend is finally out in paperback: Empire of the Summer Moon. As related on the cover, it is about the rise and fall of the Commanche nation and also the account of Quanah Parker, who was the son of a white captive and a tribesman chief. Parker became the 'last' Commanche chief who never surrendered but acquiesced and became a leader in helping his people live and adapt once they moved to a reservation. The book is full of fascinating stories about Mexico and Texas from the 1600s on, the rise of the Plains Indians and the mustang, the beginnings of the frontier and the Texas Rangers, range wars and horrific battles between Indians pushed to the warpath, and white settlers trying to claim a stake...I think I highlighted every page and poured over the notes and bibliography for more books to read.

The second book is Unbroken. The true account of a poverty-stricken kid who was a real juvenile delinquent who was saved from no-doubt a criminal life when he discovered running, and became an Olympic athlete whose career was cut short by WWII. He was a bombardier whose plane ditched in the ocean and he and two other survivors broke a record of drifting 47 days in a life raft, fending off sharks with no food or water. When they were found by the Japanese and interred in a POW camp they missed the raft. He was imprisoned 2 1/2 years in conditions and treatment I don't know how he endured. The book has a happy ending - thus the title - but it's a heart-rending read.

I received Same Kind of Different as Me, about the relationship between a modern-day sharecropper slave turned homeless man and a millionaire and his wife, and it's also a diverting read.

I have tons of others stacked on the bedside. So many books, so little time. It helps me when I have no energy for anything else.

What are you enjoying reading?

Monday, August 1, 2011

I (Heart) Myrna!

I share my birthday (August 2) with my favorite movie star: Myrna Loy.

I couldn't believe it when I first found out.

Born in 1905, the fabulous Myrna died age 88 in 1993. She never received an Oscar for a single performance, but did receive an honorary Oscar in 1991. Acknowledging the recognition was her last public appearance.

I first became enamored with Myrna watching the entire Thin Man series -- Nick and Nora Charles and their dog, Asta, are so cosmopolitan and suave as they solve crimes. They have a fabulous life; watching it just makes you want to be a part of it.

In every film, Myrna is poised, witty, sophisticated, funny, pretty without being distractingly gorgeous, and, while always a lady, she can be disarmingly down-to-earth and bawdy. She treated everyone equally, getting along with everybody no matter who they were.

She was miscast when she first began in films, playing exotic roles, femme fetales, and vamps. She came into her own in the '30s when she got scripts where she was allowed to be witty and showcase her comic timing. She was an excellent comedienne -- and her slight air of ditziness and clumsiness further endeared her to me, since I seem to share both traits.

Some of my favorite films are the Thin Man series, as mentioned, as well as Libeled Lady (one of my favorite screwball comedies), Test Pilot, Wife vs. Secretary, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House. She worked with them all: Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, William Powell -- and held her own with all of them. Her most frequent co-star with the debonair Powell. They were in 14 films together.

She was rumored to have affairs with Spencer Tracy, Leslie Howard, and William Powell.

Personally, she sounds as awesome as I would have hoped she would be. She all but quit acting during WWII to concentrate on raising funds for the war effort and to work with the Red Cross.
She spoke out against Hitler so vehemently she was on his blacklist. She was an advocate for equal rights. She supported black performers when it wasn't popular to do so.

She married four times but the marriages just didn't work out. She never had kids, but was close to the step-kids she had. She was a breast cancer survivor in her later years. Sadly, she died during an operation.

Myrna Loy was class. There will never be another like her, and more's the pity.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What's Bugging You?

WARNING: this post contains graphic descriptions of creepy-crawlies and may result in headscratching

Bugs rule the world. Okay, maybe not. It just seems that way when they overwhelm your world and make your life miserable.

For being so small they have such sneaky, steadfast ways.

Living in the country holds many advantages, but what really 'bugs' me about it are 'bugs.' Even if they come with the territory. The 'plus' side of enjoying our wildlife are the 'down side' of the bugs that accompany them.

Last September we had a tick epidemic some creative soul could make into a real spine-tingler. Francis Fox had taken to sleeping under my car and hanging out in the gravel drive. She dug a smooth shallow trench to keep cool and sheltered, away from the kits but close enough and within eye-distance of the tack room to keep a wary eye on them. They were too young to venture down the drive. At first I thought it was cute. It certainly was clever. On a 'good' week, I only drive to town once or twice, so the car doesn't move that often. Then -- disaster. I was driving and noticed small brown spots on the windshield. Then the dash. Then the side windows. Then the roof of the car. My god - it was a horror movie -- a tick epidemic of crisis proportions. When I got to my destination I dashed in the bathroom to do a quick 'tick-check.' Found quite a few on my jeans. Hours later had to drive home. Repeated the tick-check and threw all my clothes in the washer. Checking the shoes showed more ticks. Yuck and double-yuck.

Excy got super-duty spray bomb for inside the car and then tackled the drive. When he came back in, we must've picked a hundred ticks off his clothes and off him. It was incredible. We had to bomb the car three times. Excy developed tick-fever. Fortunately we caught it right away, but with his heart issues and the meds he was already taking, it was a worry.

Finally, I could get in the car and not start jerking at every sensation. Francis didn't seem to mind the inconvenience, she just moved into the tall pampas grass.

This year, it's ants in the roof of the addition of the house. And it's a metal roof - somehow they got in the insulation. White flakes of insulation drift down gently like tiny snowflakes, coating the walls and the floors. Every time Excy conquers one spot they just move to another. It seems to be slowing down, but maybe it's my optimism.

I learned the hard way not to use Orkin type outfits -- yes they 'killed bugs dead,' but they also killed the 'good' bugs that kept most of the 'bad' ones at bay. We had more of the horrible spiders and others I won't freak you out with than we ever did before -- fortunately outside, but still...

Now we are encountering a problem we haven't had since the cats became strictly indoor cats in '99. FLEAS. Mama 'coon and her three babies hang out underneath the screen porch, which is the cat's 'outdoor room.' They lounge out there hours at a time. Last week I noticed an inordinate amount of scratching going on with our three and Dixie, our semi-permanent houseguest. Then I trapped one on the bed. Eeewwwwwhhh...

A thorough flea-combing revealed it was a problem of epic proportions. They all got treated three days ago, and there's been a lot of unpleasant side-effects, and it's still not resolved. I'm afraid I'll be bathing them and giving them another dose in a week or so. Excy sprayed the ground.

BAD BUGS. The bane of my country existence. You 'city folks' can thank your lucky stars.

On another note, though, a walking stick the size of an asparagus stalk has been providing entertainment for days -- I've never seen one as big before...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Final Run-in with a Whack-a-do

part two of the story:

About eight months after we moved in, I found myself back in DC having my second brain surgery (nine years after the first - also discovering I had VHL, a chronic disease that would require kidney surgery that year, once I recovered from the brain surgery). It was a rough surgery and I needed to stay up there to go into PT and OT to relearn how to walk and write. They figured we'd be away from AR about 4 weeks, maybe five.

The end of the first week Ms Thing the landlord called my room. I was not expecting to hear from her, and I was definitely unprepared to hear the real reason she called.
"Hey. Sorry to hear about your operation. I wanted you to know, I sold the house."
me, slightly panicked: "You what?! The house you said we could live in for four years?"
Cuckoo-batshit-crazee: "Yeah, well, I changed my mind. But don't worry: you have 6 to 8 weeks."
me: "Well, gee, that's just great, since I'm in the hospital up here for two weeks and then in rehab two weeks after that -- leaving about two weeks or maybe if we're lucky, four, to find a house and move when we get home, in addition to continuing my therapy so I CAN WALK AND WRITE and go back to work. Thanks soooo much -- you're a real gem, and your timing is incredible." CLICK

When we got back to AR, we drew a circle around my work place and decided we wouldn't look at anything outside the circumference. Not buying a house wasn't an option. I never again wanted to be at the mercy of a landlord. We saw a lot of dismal prospects. We wanted to live close enough to commute to town and my work within 30 minutes, and ideally, have room for Excy's studio, and land for future horses.

We were down to the last two weeks when we were aimlessly driving the backroads yet again, when I spied a 'for-sale-by-owner' sign in front of a ranch house. "Pull in, pull in!" I shouted. The house and yard were a real mess, but I saw the possibilities right away. It was a decent house (good bones), had 7 acres, and a detached shed Excy could use for a studio, now being used as the owner's carpentry studio (he built lawn swings).

It was one of the quickest sales in history -- amazing when I think about it. They promised they could move out and we could move in even when the final papers were still being filed. We had all of a week to pack, move, clean the rental and clean the new house and pull up the disgusting wall-to-wall carpet and paint everything. Luckily (!), I was still out on medical leave from work. Excy also had to patch nail holes and repaint walls in the rental. I cleaned the rental and scrubbed the bathrooms as well as I could, but the water stains were permanent. But we left that place spotless -- which it hadn't been when we moved in. Then we worked like dogs on the new house. Thank the goddess for friends and family, who were enlisted to help. Because this place was horrid. It was like instead of cleaning a plate, they'd toss it into the yard. One bathtub took all afternoon to clean and the pumice stone my friend started with looked like a pebble when she was through. (And I swear to you, I like things clean, but I am not a neat-freak by any means).

So when Ms Cuckoo called and proceeded to berate us on how "filthy" she had heard from the new owner (her friend and former hairdresser) we had left her house, I lost my mind. Anyone who knows me well knows I seldom go ape-shit. I avoid confrontation. I swallow disappointment. I turn the other cheek. And when you finally punch that last nerve, you better hope you have a plane ticket out of the country, because I will make you regret you ever heard my name. Back away slowly because there will be a smack down and you will not be the one left standing.

After vomiting all over her punk ass on the phone, I proceeded to follow this up with a two-page, single-spaced letter. Then I made sure everyone at Winrock (her former work place) heard the whole story. And then I found the hair stylist and told him how great I thought he was, and how I'd definitely recommend his services to everyone.* Finally I made sure his only neighbors (who adored us, and are friends to this day) knew how Mr Wonderful treated us via Ms Cuckoo.

Never heard from her again. At least she was smart enough to do that much.

Months later, a mutual friend ventured that Ms Cuckoo was "really a good person."

I gave her a long look. Silence. "Are you friggen' kidding me?! You saw what we went through..." I made her promise not to say the name again.

* I told you I can summon my mean-streak...

Friday, July 22, 2011

AR is Not in a Third World Country

This drought reminds me of a story. After we moved to AR in 1991 we needed to rent a house while we debated our options. One of the scientists at Winrock was preparing to go to Harvard for a PhD and said she'd rent her house to us for 4 years. When we went to discuss it I fell in love - the house was darling, newly designed by an architect, barely lived in, nestled into a wooded lot on the edge of town....tiny, but we could make it work. Excy was concerned that the only water was from a well, and asked her many questions about it and whether or not she had ever had a problem. She assured us she never ran out of water.

After she left town we moved in. The house may have been new but it was filthy. After cleaning two days and moving in, and running two loads of laundry - You guessed it - we ran out of water. Zip. Nada. Excy primed the well pump and did all the voodoo one has to do and concluded we were out of luck. Driving to friends who also worked at Winrock so we could fill bottles of water from their tap (they were in the city limits) that night, they told us that this happened to X "all the time," and she had been to their house for water or had heard about it happening at least 2-3 times a week. On the second day Excy ruined his truck's transmission hauling a heavy water tank up to the house, and livid, called X yet again -- she wasn't returning the messages -- this time telling her she had until the end of the week to make a decision: we were moving and canceling the rent check if we didn't hear from her within the afternoon.

When she called, she said she had no intention of paying for another well, and thought what we should do is put up devices on the roof and rain barrels so we could catch run-off and use that. She had "discussed it with another employee at Winrock and he agreed it would be a sensible solution." Okay, I knew she was odd, but BSC??? Number 1) AR doesn't tend to have much rain in the summer. This didn't solve our immediate problem. Of. No. Water.

Number 2) I didn't really see the necessity of living like we were in a third world country when we were not in a third world country.* She hemmed and hawed. We stewed and argued -- then we realized there wasn't a way to bring a person back to earth when she was so far-out of range. So we told her we'd be moving on Monday, having lived there for seven miserable days (well, five, since the first two days were fine).

Sunday night she called and said she'd pay for another well on the property. Duh, she'd have to do it anyway regardless of who moved in. This 'ole boy came and witched it and taught me how to witch, too, and we found a spot and it was a great well. Never ran out of water again, though it did turn brown at times and stained the porcelain in the bathroom, but her well did that, too.

We paid the rent on time and never contacted her again - thankfully never had reason to -- but this left a bad taste in everyone's mouth and she really got back at us. I'll tell you part two in another post.

*yes, I know it's correct to say 'developing country' now - then it was accurate lingo.