Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Leg bone is Connected to the ASS Bone, the Ass Bone is connected to the...

No one wants to be a Lame Ass. Especially Rusty. At the beginning of November, Rusty, my prize Jack, got pretty limpy on his Right front foot. The hoof, leg and joints all seemed normal and I couldn't figure out why he was sore. My good friends Dennis and Karen Miller thought maybe he had an abscess in the hoof that needed to work itself out. A few days later, it went away and he was back to normal. But over the next two months, he occasionally seemed to favor the leg. It never lasted very long, or seemed very noteworthy.

Then 4 days ago, he went completely off of his Right front foot. This time when I palpated his leg and joints, he had obvious swelling from the top of the fetlock, along the tendon, almost up to the knee. And pain. Jackasses can take a lot of pain, but Rusty was showing it from the back of his hoof to the bottom of his knee. I've had him on 2 grams Bute, administered orally, bid (that's twice a day in Latin) for the past 4 days and he is slowly feeling better. That heavy swelling in the tendon behind his leg is about a half to a third of what it was Sunday.

This morning, Dr. Barton and Dr. King from the Washington Family Veterinary Clinic came by with their X-ray machine to see if we can figure out why Rusty is so sore. They are thinking it might be an injury of some sort. Maybe he jacked his leg in the fence or something. As a trained, experienced diagnostician (albeit for eyes), I'm puzzled over the intermittent, variable leg pain and the one day last week that he went off feed, while his leg wasn't sore. Is his sick day just a coincidence? Or is there some systemic problem? In the human world, inflamed eyes can indicate arthritis or even stem from an old back injury--and the eye bone ain't connected to the back bone or finger bones, as we eye doctors say.

Rusty was so happy to be done with the X-ray, he bellowed and growled all the way back to his stall. I'm hopeful. He seems spunkier than he has for months since I've had him on that Bute.

PS. The nice sepia toned photo at the top is the natural lighting captured by my Photographer sis--no photoshopping or alteration. Nice SHOT sis!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Frosted Mule Tarts

My sister who lives in Mesa, Arizona has gone pro with her fancy camera. Her family drove up to visit us for my birthday and she got so excited by the morning frost, that she shot off some megs of Compact Flash out in the corrals. I guess they don't see much frost, or mule biscuits down in them parts...

I'm a little worried that photographin' mules might taint her a bit. Everyone's better lookin' on a mule! Look how much it helped me. She might need to get her own half-assed horse (or is it half -horsed ass?) to improve the looks of some of her uglier clients.

She's one of them artistic geniouses. These are probably the only freebies you'll get outa' her, so click and save while the gettin's good.

Its called Head First Photo. If you're down her way, or she's up yours, call her. (Now don't forget that commission check when you get famous sis.)

That's all Folks!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Global Warming my ASS!

Snow Canyon State Park wasn't named for the white stuff. It was named after Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, two prominent Mormon pioneers who settled in Utah's Dixie. Snow in Dixie is a pretty rare phenomenon, and we got a bunch the past couple of weeks. Of course, Christmas was white for the entire state, and half the country this year. Brother Mike and I broke trail in the crusted snow across the Red Mountain Trail to the Snow Canyon overlook today. The mules got a workout--it was tough.

Cold, another scarce visitor, came to Dixie too. It is unusually brisk for a place that boasts an average high of 54 degrees for its two coldest months, December and January. Even November and February see 60-64 degrees for an average high. In this cold, Rusty, my Jackass, got a bit ill and went off his feed for a day earlier this week. If he could talk, I know what he'd say about Global Warming...

(UPDATE: 1/19/2009) Has anyone noticed the sharp contrast in the "news" about global warming lately? Apparently, we may actually be entering a new Ice Age! (click here)

Compare that to this article reported the same day claiming Obama only has 4 years to save the Earth from global warming. Are we being set up for a self fulfilling prophecy? Hmmmnnn...

(UPDATE: 2/5/2009) Click on this interesting article about Al Gore's Venus comparison--junk science at its finest. Of course, no one questions Gore on his conflict of interest in his Global Warming Hysteria--making our lawmakers complicit in the hoax.

Compare that to this news from Buffalo this morning, Or this OP ED compilation of interesting trends.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mules in the Mist

With a climate like Las Vegas, snow in St George is pretty rare. We have this saying, "You might go to bed with snow, but you'll never have lunch with her." It used to be so warm here that snow wouldn't last more than a few minutes, on the rare occasions that it reached the ground. We got some five days ago, and its still on the ground. It is the most snow in 30 years, and with global-warming induced cooling, it hasn't melted yet, which is an even bigger record. I wish they would do something about this global-warming which seems to be plunging the world into a new ice-age. We have a real freeze on, and I'm tired of shoveling snow, which is what I moved here to avoid.

So yesterday, I took the kids on the upper Snow Canyon trail to show them where they got the idea for Winter Wonder Fantasy Land. How can you not believe in Santa after seeing this?! It felt a little like Heaven as we rode up into the clouds--brilliant white everywhere, interrupted by the beauty of Mules in the Mist.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

High Octane Mule on the Dad-Trail

Of all the trails a man rides in this world, the Dad-trail ain't for sissies. Show-horses or pleasure boats need not apply. The Dad-trail is a technical and treacherous ascent through some ledges that appear impossible to navigate from below. Falling down on the Dad-trail in some places could mean a plunge to the boulder-strewn valley below. For this steep pull, you better have a solid, High-Octane Mule under saddle that knows where to put its feet. And you better have a steady heart that can stand having its fear of heights tickled.

Raising kids, especially girl-kids, terrifies the alert parent. Unless you live in a cave, the strident din of exploitative and seductive messages aimed at our daughters is unavoidable. Add that to the busy noise of well meaning experts and you face an importunate quest. So take this daughter of mine. She's the older of two girl-kids, and she has three brothers. At the age of 13, we are only two thirds up the Dad-trail. AND she is AMAZING! Such hyperbolic platitude is all the descriptive power I can muster to lay bare the swell I feel in my heart for her. I've used all the Dad-tools I know to help her get a proper start in life: Godly love, music, curiosity and the desire for learning, firm discipline, horse-sense, and chores without the possibility of parole.

Imagine the surge of systemic shock that burned through my veins this past week when I learned that Child Protective Services had taken her from the middle of a test in class for an unexpected interview. Some anonymous soul had filed a complaint with the State. After some very personal questions about the people who live in my home, he finally asked my sweet girl-kid if she ever felt afraid around me.

"Pshshshaw! You kiddin'? If you saw the places we go together on mules, you'd never ask that question!" Apparently we passed the official inquisition with flying colors...

(These photos were taken today on the Haslem trail. My 13 year old girl-kid skinned this 2 year old mule all by her self.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jerimiah Johnson's Snow Canyon

Several years have past since I watched Robert Redford's classic "Jeremiah Johnson." Released in 1972, I always considered it a favorite for its gritty portrayal of mountain man life and for its cinematography depicting Mt Timpanogos. We all enjoy watching movies that happen in places we recognize, and seeing the back side of Timp in the movies excited my cool-factor. I spent a lot of time exploring, skiing, and even did a little work on Robert Redford's pool on Timp's East side during the first half of my life. Timpanogos has an Alpine beauty second to none.

Only part of Jeremiah Johnson was filmed behind Mount Timpanogos. They filmed most of the rest of it in Snow Canyon State Park, around Zion National Park, near Hop Valley, and around Ivins reservior in what is now the Kayenta development. I hadn't watched the movie since moving the Utah's Dixie 11 years ago, until last night.

Brother Mike and I took a couple of our kids riding through Snow Canyon on Saturday with the Back Country Horsemen. While there, Larry Dunn reminded me of the famous scene where Jeremiah Johnson stumbles upon Del Gue (played by Stephan Gierasch) who is buried up to his chin in sand. The dialogue follows:

Jeremiah Johnson: Are you all right? Del Gue: Sure, sure, I got a fine horse under me! [sneezes] Del Gue: Got one of them feathers in my nose. Jeremiah Johnson: You keep sneezing, it'll come out all right. Haven't seen anyone pass by recent, have you? Del Gue: Nobody's gone in front of me. Can't say what's happened behind me, though. Jeremiah Johnson: The Injuns put you here? Del Gue: T'weren't Mormons. A Chief, name of Mad Wolf. Nice fella, don't talk a hell of a lot. Say, you wouldn't have an extra hat on you, would you? Shade's getting' scarce in these parts. Jeremiah Johnson: What'd you shave your head for? Del Gue: Mad Wolf figures like every other Injun I know. Says this scalp isn't fit for no decent man's lodgepole. Ain't the first time I've protected my head in such a way. Name's Del Gue, with an "e".

While we watched Jeremiah Johnson last night, I became struck by the cinematographic portrayal of Red Rock country. This movie is a where's where of Southern Utah's beautiful places! Our Cool-factors got excited over and over as we realized that we recognized nearly every single location in the film. Its a great movie. Full of classic lines and an amazing catalogue of Utah's diverse beauty, Jeremiah Johnson is a fun watch for the whole family.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Mules of San Juan, Deer!

SouthEast Utah is likely the most remote area you will ever find in the lower 48 states. This rugged heart of the Colorado Plateau is far away from everything--even the things that are close to it. The tangled geography of throne and slot-canyon disturbs the hope of linear travel for all without wings. From St George, a good round trip through San Juan County can cost about 1,000 miles, yet never will the traveler be more than 229 Crow-air miles from home. It reminds me of the famous expression born in the state of Maine, "you just can't get they-uh from he-uh." Often, a few hundred yards in San Juan country might as well be hundreds of miles away, if at all.

Traveling through San Juan's labyrinth of beauty stuns the senses. There just isn't enough time to recover from the last beauty before the next one assaults your visual cortex. For example, near the front end of Lake Powell, you can stand in one place, turn around in a circle, and see nearly every fascinating type of scenery that Utah offers: from Zion style formations, to Escalante type slot canyons, Lake Powell waters, high desert meadows, Poplar Grove pastures, Monument Valley monuments, Robbers Roost hideouts, and Alpine peaks. If that litany of geographical treats isn't enough... imagine what lies hidden from view beyond the highway's ribbon. Nobody gets a lifetime long enough to see it all.

It was a lark. Other plans for this weekend suddenly lost their importance when life's stressors mounted and we decided to take a retreat. "Vegas for a show, a California theme park, or a drive out through Monument Valley and the Bad Lands?" I asked. She chose unscripted adventure.

Without itinerary, we left Friday afternoon headed for San Juan County and a thousand miles of highway without a boring horizon. We stopped whenever it tickled our fancy, and ate only local food along the way. At night, we got as far off the already deserted highway as the 4-wheel drive would take us, camping among the star-lit ledges of the lower elevations.

Let us not forget the mules or we'll be off blogtopic. Not ours, though. We left the trailer home. But we saw dozens of Muleys--trophy Muleys! They were all over the place--on and off the highway. I was lucky enough to be ready with the camera before this one got away, after I nearly ran over it. And there were a few half-mules here and there--from a band of wild asses to the sorry Jack we saw on the reservation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ride Heck out of Her

Colic. Its a small word that strikes big fear into the hearts of all equine owners. Its a broad term that means "stomach pain," and it is the leading natural killer of horses. The danger of colic goes to the stomach of the matter--Equines have a small stomach and nearly 85 feet of intestine. Designed for non-stop feeding as the horse moves about grazing, movement in the system is continuous and uni-directional (they can't throw up). Horses are big, one way, inefficient poop factories. When the factory gets plugged, it can be agonizing to the horse, and deadly. The upside of the system can bulge and burst, or the horse in pain can roll and get its guts twisted or kinked--all of which are a final death sentence without immediate surgery.

At 5:00 am Saturday morning, I opened the trailer at the Lee Pass trail head in Zion Nat'l Park to unload the mules and mustangs for a fall-colors trip into Bear Trap Canyon. Oddly, Mona Molly was laying on the floor in a different compartment than where I loaded her (Houdini couldn't have done it better.) She stood up and came out, but I noticed immediately that something was wrong. She had been fine at 3:45 am when I loaded her. Now she showed signs of obvious pain and wanted to lay down over and over again on the hard red pavement where we parked. I repeatedly got her back up, and tried to keep her moving, afraid for her life. After each few steps she would hunch up and collapse. At one point, she laid lifeless, limp and unresponsive, leading me to think I had just witnessed her expiration. Suddenly she was back on her feet. Mules can take a lot of pain, so it must be bad.

What a pickle! Its 5 a.m. and I'm a long way from anywhere. Loading Mona Molly back up for a trip back to town could be dangerous and I have no pain meds to settle her down. She's lucky she didn't hurt herself or the other animals while she thrashed about on the way to the trail head. A real long shot, but worth a try, I dialed my vet on the cell. He answered, (Sorry for the early wake up, Jace.) While we talked, Kimball Harmon and his wife JoAnna took turns walking her in the dark. After discussing my predicament and Molly's signs, he sighed, "Well, saddle her up and Ride Heck out of Her. If she keeps trying to buckle and fall down on the trail, then call me back."

Meteors streaked across the moonless morning sky, some disappearing behind Kolob's blackened fingers which cut a toothy smile in the starry canvas overhead. With some work, my son Tyler and I got everybody saddled up, and we descended into the mouth of the canyon. Molly moved with effort but didn't try to lay down--her gut gurgling loudly while the first traces of light sharpened Kolob's looming silhouette above our left shoulder. Gradually, black turned to fiery red as the sun cast its early light on the towering sandstone, and a cascade of fall colors emerged from night's firm grasp. Mona Molly lumbered along with increasing ease. Fall's morning chill smelled earthy and fresh, offering the promise of a brilliant day. By the time we had entered the narrowed bowels of Bear Trap Canyon, refrigerated beauty overwhelmed the senses and Molly was back to her old self.

The return trail was warm and we shed our layers against the full strength of a perpendicular sun. Fall's afternoon warmth smelled musky and rejuvinating, the promise of a brilliant day fulfilled. Molly's pace was the typical glad-to-be-headed-back sprint that I remember--she always knows when her compass points back to the trailer.

She carried me 20 magnificent miles that day. Ride Heck out of Her? indeed...