Wild horses along the wagon ruts of the old Santa Fe Trail.

Wild horses along the wagon ruts of the old Santa Fe Trail.
Wild horses graze along the old ruts of the Santa Fe Trail in northeast New Mexico.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Fancy and Sombra pais.

Oh boy! It is 2017! Where did the time go? I realize it has been 2 years since I wrote anything in this blog. To be fair, in the intervening time I have built an entire adobe house... mostly single-handed! I now live in my double-adobe house (meaning double walls which are almost 2 feet thick) out on the range with my herd of horses. I will do a separate blog, perhaps, with some of the construction photos, but for now, I am going to do a brief update. The house is called "Sombra Pais," which basically means Shadowland. I am glad I have experienced building a traditional adobe house but never, ever, want to do it again! There are still numerous finishing jobs to do but it is livable and I have been living in it for almost (November 30th, 2016 was when I moved in,) a year. Some of my horses are still over at the farm in Cherry Valley (where I lived before moving out to the land in June 2016, I lived in my trailer  while I was working on the house,) but most of them are here with me on our happy 1,300 acre Shadowlands Ranch.

"Sombra Pais."

The other thing that happened in 2016 is that I bought a pinto horse. It is a long story but her name is Fancy (Fantasy was the name she came with.... which she is!) and she is a sweetheart. Originally an Amish horse who pulled wagons and was used for riding too, she was sold to a broker in Missouri and I bought her, sight unseen, off the internet. Fancy was categorized as 'bomb proof,' and for the most part, so far, she is! When I first bought her, in early 2016, we went on several rides, many of them incorporating wagon ruts from the Santa Fe Trail.... what a thrill! When I started building my house in March '16 though, the riding petered out as I got somewhat single-minded about finishing it by Christmas (which I did) and my body and energy were all used up with the construction work. Last month (October 2017) however, I got back in the saddle again! Yiipppeee! And my enthusiasm to get back to the business of my books and doing some kind of Santa Fe Trail rides has been rekindled. 

Fancy and me in costume with wagon ruts behind us.

Riding Fancy in some wagon ruts!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"My keenest regret was always that I was born too late."

I've just spent 10 fun days celebrating my birthday with visiting family. We filled the days with a variety of excursions including raspberry picking at La Cueva, near Mora and attending a wonderful Jesse Cook concert in Albuquerque. We drove the gorgeous mountain scenery around Rociada and sat listening to musicians on the plaza at Santa Fe on a beautiful fall day with golden trees shimmering around us.... we also enjoyed yummy hor d'oeuvres and cocktails with old friends at the Santacafe (which plays an important role in my book "Into the Shadowlands."). On another occasion we took a side trip to Trinidad, Colorado. Trinidad is also mentioned in my book  because it was a major stop along the Santa Fe Trail. One of Trinidad's famous citizens was an artist called Arthur Roy Mitchell who painted evocative scenes from the old West. Here is me standing in the A R Mitchell museum in Trinidad with just a few of his paintings and an Oxbow yoke used by freighters crossing the trail. Years ago I bought the book "Mitch" by Dean Krakel, a fascinating biography, filled with wonderful pictures (photos and paintings) about the artist. This quote of Mitch's words struck a very deep chord (those who know my books can guess why!):
"This region, this mountain, these pinon dotted hills, are the scene of my oldest memories. Sometimes I think they have come to mean even more to me as the years add up. Maybe what I feel now is nostalgia for these other days and ways in which many of these adventurous, characterful people came back to this spot to make their home, freighters, trappers, traders, men and women of colorful pasts. It was my good fortune, so I consider, to be born in this locality prior to 1890, and to have walked around among them when I was young and they were old. I was on good terms with many of them. They were the people I most admired. The men I liked to listen to were these people of the horseback or buckskin tradition. My keenest regret was always that I was born too late. It was my own good fortune to have moved among them in other ways, often my own leg over a horse, beside them, never dreaming at that time of the day when such a privilege would be gone forever."

If you are ever in Trinidad I highly recommend you visit the A R Mitchell Museum!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Announcing your plans...."

(Al Swearengen, photo from the TV show "Deadwood.")

Well I should have heeded Al Swearengen's (a character from the TV show "Deadwood,") words of wisdom. "Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh." Just as I was making plans and telling all who would listen that I was going to do a wagon ride/horse ride along the Santa Fe Trail this fall, a non-event riding accident has made me a bit of a cripple for the last 10 days. Needless to say, training is on hold... yet again!

I was riding Pistol out in the fields by where I live and a couple gleeful bucks (with a twist) plopped me on the ground with a very hard thump. I landed on my lower back/pelvis and I have to say I was shocked at just how hard it impacted my 50-year-old body! When I could finally breathe (it knocked the wind out of me,) I found I couldn't get up. My legs worked but I had no faith in my mid-section to support me, let alone walk back across overgrown fields holding onto a horse. Pistol didn't run off, he just stood nearby grazing. 
Thankfully, a lot of yelling got the attention of Joe and his wife Patti... the folks who own the farm where I live... and they rushed over in their truck to get me. Patti led Pistol back to his corral and Joe and their son Clay, dropped me back at my trailer.

I will not give a long winded account of injuries. Mercifully no broken bones (I don't think) but a very bruised back and pelvis and ribs on one side. A recurring hip problem I have dealt with from time to time, went into overdrive and I couldn't walk on that hip for several days, getting around slowly with a crutch. My ribs are still sore and my pelvis feels tender and 'rattly,' no other word for it. I do feel like my 'cage was rattled,' and all is undermined! I can't lift anything heavy or pull too hard (This is 10 days on from the accident.) But, each day there is some improvement although it feels so slow. I am not used to not being robust and active!

So, plans are up in the air but I still want to do a wagon ride... or several... over the next few months. Maybe a series of day rides. I will heed Al Swearengen though.... I will not announce anything from now on.... until the ride/rides are done!

Look out world, I'm in the driver's seat!

Me in the driver's seat!

I love, love, love this. What a way to see the world, clopping along the lanes, behind a sweet little horse like Sissy. Jerome has been accompanying me though as I am still not confident behind the wheel. But, I hope to soon be doing this on a regular basis, without a chaperone,  and both Sissy, Holly and I can see a lot of the Santa Fe Trail (and its landmarks) as a team from my wagon!

Sissy in training.

In mid-August I was lucky enough to have the help of Jerome (the guy who trims my horses' hooves and does fence work for me) and his family to connect Sissy to the training cart for the first time. Like I have said before, Sissy has done all this before, but I haven't. I wanted it all to be safe though and so I asked Jerome etc to act as back-up for me. Jerome and his uncle Tranquelino (Tranque) have a lot of experience driving horses and have their own team of draft horses. It all went well. A great day.... and many thanks to Jerome for bringing in the big guns (aka his family) to help! And, Sissy was a trooper. Tranque said she is a great little horse and he was very impressed.. 

Jerome and friends helping to get Sissy connected to the cart for the first time.

Tranque (driving) and Jerome with Sissy. Both of them have experience with draft horses, which I don't.

Sissy did great. Jerome's son rides out in front just incase Sissy bolts or needs the security of another horse.

Centennial Cowboy Parade.

The horse parade riding up Bridge Street in Las Vegas, New Mexico. August 1st, 2015.

Well, I didn't make it into the parade with Quick Draw and Poco.  About a week or so before the parade, my little dog Holly got trampled by two horses who were fighting in the paddock. The horses were galloping, full speed, along a fence line, one horse biting chunks out of the other as he pressured him into the fence. In the middle of that terrifying scene, I heard my dog scream, although I couldn't see her. The aggressor horse (Pistol) ran the other one, (Quick Draw,) right into the barbed wire fence at the end of the paddock. Mercifully QD mostly jumped it, although he snagged a foot on the way over and fell. He was uninjured though and got up and understandably ran off! I was so intent on catching QD and restoring safety and order to the farm herd of horses that I didn't think of Holly... at first. After I easily caught QD,  I walked him back to the paddock (I removed Pistol and put him in jail for a while!) and that is when I found my wee pup lying motionless in the grass.
      To cut a long story short, she was awake but couldn't move. I thought she had been crushed or had a broken back. I was distraught, she is my best pal and right-hand pup. When I rushed her to the vet he diagnoses a concussion and gave her meds.  She was able to walk again but was slow, quiet and subdued. After several days though, she began to return to her old tireless, effusive self. Phew!

Needless to say, training to be in the Cowboy Reunion, One-Hundreth Anniversary Parade was no longer a priority. I went to watch it though instead. It was great. About 150 horses riding through the old streets of Las Vegas!

My pup Holly, helping me with chores in the rain, much improved from her near death experience.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cowboy Reunion Parade, Las Vegas, NM!

Quick Draw and his lady love Poco.

Since I made the disappointing decision that Quick Draw (the big 16-hand mustang) may be too lame to join our Santa Fe Trail ride in the fall, I will try to give him his chance to shine in the upcoming Centennial Cowboy Reunion parade in Las Vegas, NM instead! I will also try to bring his girlfriend Poco too, (pictured here with him... they are inseparable!) Both of their stories are featured in my book "Brand Name."....

Quick Draw was originally rounded up in Nevada but Poco's origins are unknown... (I've yet to shave her neck and send a photo of her brand to the BLM so they can give me her details.) Quick Draw was used as a trail horse and for rounding up cattle before I bought him and Poco was an award winning child's barrel racer and trail riding contest winner. She was going to be put up as an item in a yard sale before I bought her in 2012. Both have lameness issues. Quick Draw has ringbone and Poco has arthritis in one knee. The parade is only 2 miles long though, on a good street, and so I think they should both be OK for one day. So, although they will neither participate in the Santa Fe Trail ride, they will have their day in the spotlight! (Fingers crossed.) Check out this wonderful event scheduled for August 2015!:

Meanwhile, I am working with Sissy to get her ready to pull the wagon (or maybe I should, get myself ready) and I am also plugging away at a first draft of the sequel to my book "Into the Shadowlands." The new book will be called "Whispers across the Plane." It will pick up where we left off with Tate and Abby, Julia and Lisa and introduce a few new characters, including Richard Szabo/Book McCready. There is also going to be a wild horse element in the new book, both past and present.  "Into the Shadowlands."