Thursday, November 1, 2012

Florida at Last

The rest of the drive was thankfully uneventful. We couldn't wait for it to be over, as we made our way through Orlando, taking notice of the new stores that had sprung up since we were gone.

Our condo (which had been renovated slightly since we'd moved) was gorgeous, but disconcerting in it's differences. Our new roommate, J is super nice. The dogs are a bit confused (especially whenever people walk nearby) but the cats are thrilled to be out of the truck.

Though I hadn't planned on moving back to FL, and really didn't want to, I feel pretty positive about the situation. It's wondrous to have running water. And I can even shower once a day if I want!

Since we have no furniture yet, it's a bit challenging to find a place to sit, and I keep pacing, trying to find a comfortable spot. But all together, I'm planning on this being a good move. Though I can't wait till we can regroup, deal with the Mom situation and go home again.

More 280 Hell

We reached Columbia around 2:30 or 3 and couldn't find a place to pull over and park for the rest of the night. It took us until freaking 4:30 in the morning before we found somewhere safe to stop. Meanwhile we'd considered the possibility that since things tended to happen in 3's, did 3 deer in total count as 3's, or did 3 INCIDENTS of deer count as 3's?

Turns out it was the later, and another two deer ended up jumping in front of us. Fortunately, we missed hitting those. 

From Columbia and past it, the area was rural and buildings and businesses nearly nonexistant. We finally found a lone gas station with one other truck pulled over there. 

The gas station was closed and didn't seem to have bathrooms anyway, so I had to get out to pee behind our truck. Whereupon we discovered that the passenger door would no longer open. A particular bummer, since the driver's side door handle is broken and it's a pain in the butt to open that door.

Another crappy night's sleep, but at least it wasn't too cold this time.

Suicidal Deer

We kept ourselves awake by imagining blogging about our journey and then sending an email to the Shelby County fathers. "We realize that the two adjacent roads with the same numbers probably didn't occur during your administration. However not correcting the situation is highly negligent. Are you incompetent? Uncaring? Or just clueless?"

The full moon had gone behind the clouds and the road was dim in our headlights, but well maintained and unlike much of the roads we'd traveled, there were plenty of reflectors to mark the road's edge. Bubba's thrift obviously didn't apply to the guy in charge of the Reflector Committee. The stop lights had also dwindled to several miles apart and the speed limit was up to 55. Quantum commented on those items, then said, "But what is it with this county if even the deer are willing to commit suicide to get away from Rt. 280?"

Moments later we saw movement on the road ahead. Two more deer darted across the road in front of us. Quantum swerved and tried to slow. 
The first deer made it across. His buddy slammed into the side of our truck. 

There was nothing we could do but mourn. There wasn't even a nearby turn-around. And if the poor creature was alive but wounded, we didn't even have a way of putting it out of its misery.

I said a blessing on the deer's soul and we both processed the situation.
We were unhurt, if shaken. We could have rolled the truck. A vehicle behind us could have gotten involved if the road hadn't been so quiet. The dogs were okay. The cats, in their cage in the back of the pickup, would be okay, though no doubt terrified. (And already pissed off from the past few days of being stuck in the cage.)

We felt horribly guilty about the deer, though. "Gods, we were just talking about deer comitting suicide," I said.

Quantum mentioned a deer accident he and some friends had been in many years ago. "And when we went back to see what happened, the deer had gotten up and gone. And that time we were going a lot faster, so maybe this deer could have survived?"

I didn't say anything. I remembered seeing broken bits and parts scatter and fly at the impact. Though I didn't see any blood on the car in the rear-view. I'd later learn that the pieces and parts were the headlight housing smashing into oblivion, Though the headlights did still work.

The Rt. 280 Doppleganger

"Okay this is more like what I expected Birmingham to look like," Quantum said, as the city hove in sight, a mass of twisting highways, ramps, bridges and huge, ugly high-rises. Rt. 280 portended ill from the beginning. Although a well-tended 4 laner, it was studded with stop lights every quarter mile or so, for miles and miles.

"If this is going to be like that for the whole trip, maybe we should go back to 65." I studied the map. "It's the long way around, but it might be faster in the end, and prevent the radiator from overheating."

Just then, Quantum spotted a sign. "Wait, it said 280 that way!" He hung a quick right, following the sign. Within a few yards we suspected something was wrong. A few yards later, as the road narrowed and twisted ever more, with no signs for 280 in sight, we nade a u-turn and went back the way we'd come. A few minutes later Quantum said, "There it is! 280 East." We took a fast left. This time it took a bit longer to be obvious that we were on the wrong road. It narrowed to barely two lanes and the speed reduced to 45 then 30.

"This is crazy!" I said, "this can't be right. We've got about 140 miles to Colombus. At this rate we'll never get there." I turned on my flashlight and consulted the map again. "We've got to make a right here somwhere. I have no clue. Read me a road sign so I can figure out where we are."

Just then a deer darted from the woods. Quantum slammed the brakes and avoided it.

"It says Shelby Country," Quantum gave me the next few route intersections. All were too small to show up on the state map.

"Just make the next right damnit."

"If I make the next right, it'll be into someone's driveway. WTF? 20 mph?"

"Just make the next right onto a road," I growled. "That'll take us towards 65 somewhere."

We made a right, then came to a wider road and Quantum took a right onto it. No road signs told us what road it was, but it should take us back towards Birmingham and maybe even to a business where we could ask directions. But all the shops - even a gas station - were closed.

"I'm beginning to understand why Bubba hates Birmingham. Can you pull over and let me look at the map?"

"Why can't you look at the map while I'm driving?"

"Because. My glasses suck and the print's tiny and I can't read the map. And every time we hit a bump I lose my place. Will you just pull over?"

"If I do, the truck might overheat," Quantum said.

"How am I supposed to - oh crap!" The flashlight grayed and began to die. A cop sped by, lights flashing. "Maybe we should ask him," I said. "Well, if we take a left it should bring us towards 65."

Quantum made the next left onto a not nearly as wide road. "Rt. 55," he announced. 

"Argh! I can't read the map!" I shook the flashlight. Glancing in the passenger side mirror I noticed a sign that identified the road we'd just come off. "Turn around!"

We made a U-turn and looked at the sign. Rt. 280. The two of us gaped at it.

"It's weird," Quantum said. "There's two kinds of signs for the road. Some of them are white, like that one. And some of them are blue."

"Well just stay on this road. I think this is it."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Maybe. No. But it's wider than the other route 280." We passed a blue sign. "Wait! Blue signs like that?"


"Shelby County," I read. "Holy shit. THIS is State 280. That disaster back there was COUNTY Rt. 280."

"No! What idiot would name a county road the same as a state road that went right by it?"

"Yeah, cause nobody would ever get confused." I caught the next intersection number and shook the flashlight. It was 11:30 at night. We'd only made it about 20 miles from Birmingham.

Bubba's Campaign and the Missing Road Signs

Somewhere near 40 miles to Birmingham, we crossed over the border into Alabama. While we were still informed on an imperative and frequent basis that this was the future home of the I-22 corridor, signs letting us know how far it was to Birmingham (which we'd been informed of regularly back in Mississippi) seemed to go missing.

On this trip (as on our original journey to CO) we noted that Alabama had the only phonetic road sign that we'd ever heard of or seen. Apparently the residents and visitors to Guin will be unable to find the place unless a second sign spells "Gu-win".

It was about 20 miles until ANY sign notified us of the distance to ANY town. We soon "discovered" that this was the work of Bubba, the director of signage for Rt. 78 (and perhaps all of Alabama).

Bubba, it seemed, had a vendetta against the folk of Birmingham. (Which he labels "burning hamsters" or "bumming hummers" depending on his mood.) It therefore became his personal campaign to confuse and dis-enlighten travelers, especially anyone traveling from Mississippi (whom Bubba disparagingly references as "missississies" whether or not they are Mississippi natives). Bubba incidentally, was a native of Gu-win, thus the imperative for correct pronunciation.

*foreshadowing* We weren't certain what Bubba had against Birmingham, but we were soon to find out. *cue sinister laughter* "Bwahaha!" */foreshadowing*

To convince the higher-ups on the public works/roads & bridges committees to fall for his villainous plot, Bubba explained that not wasting signs on telling travelers the distance to upcoming cities would save the state money. (We in fact noticed only about 5 or 6 such signs in the entire distance between the Mississippi state line and Birmingham.)

"We don't need to know that sort of stuff," Bubba lectured. "We already know that stuff and those darn missississies will have to deal. Besides, I ain't never left Gu-win and who cares how far it is to Birmingham? It's only the state capitol, after all. Besides if we put Birmingham on the signs, that's a lot of extra letters and the signs will have to be made longer."

It wasn't until mile marker 48 (exactly half way from the border) that a sign finally announced "Birmingham 48." We assume this meant 48 miles, since the thrifty Bubba didn't spare extra lettering for the word "miles" either. This unsettled us a bit, since by our calculations Birmingham should have been at least 10 or 15 miles further. But needing gas and a rest break, our hearts were gladdened at the idea of a shorter drive.

Two more signs announced Birmingham at 28 and 21 miles to, and then a surprising "Birmingham exit 1 mile". Following this was the announcement that all traffic on Rt. 78 (presumably ALL traffic, since Rt. 78 was the only route on that highway) must exit.

And now we have documented proof that the folks at Rand McNally maps were (perhaps unwittingly) in collusion with Bubba.

On the map, Rt. 78 is shown as dead ending at Rt. 77 with eventual construction to bring it to meet Rt. 65. The exit we were forced to get off at did not jive with the map. As we left the ramp we were greeted with a tiny sign (Birmingham and an arrow to the right - no mileage, thanks to Bubba again.) on a narrow and ill-lit road. Some time later we found another tiny sign, "Birmingham 12".

"Ah ha!" I said. "There's our missing 10 or so miles." Meanwhile I scanned both the road and map trying to determine where we were. None of the roads bore any resemblance to the map, and Bubba hadn't allowed any street name signs or route markers.

Not wanting to miss our next route change, Quantum stopped at a Walmart to ask directions. As usually happens at such times, as soon as Quantum got out of eyesight, I decovered where we were. There, way off in a corner of the map (about 15 miles from where I thought we'd been let off) a tiny portion of Rt. 78 was shown. Obviously it had been nearly obscured at the prompting of Bubba.

The kind gentleman at Walmart gave Quantum excellent directions and we were now on our way to Rt. 280. We got to Birmingham around 9:30 at night and hoped to make Columbus, GA by about 11:30 or midnight. Silly us!

The Horror That Is Construction Zones

The journey to just before the border of Arkansas was long but relatively ok with the exception of tired eyes and butts that were sore from sitting on the same part of the seat for hours. We pulled into the parking lot of a gas station/truck stop/casino. Q checked the fluids and noticed that there seemed to be a major leak between where you add radiator fluid and the radiator itself.

We spent a cold and uncomfortable second night cramped in the front seat of the pickup.

Next morning we had a simple but amazing breakfast at a little diner. $5 each got us endless (and excellent) coffee, perfectly cooked eggs, oniony hash browns, toast, biscuits and southern gravy.

We spent the morning admiring western AR, possibly one of the most beautiful areas in the country. If it weren't for the rednecks and the politics...

About a half hour out of Little Rock we reached a giant clusterfuck. Some major moron in charge of roadworks had decided to allow construction to route a 4 lane highway into two narrow lanes (one each way) with concrete barriers on either side and no emergency exits. Quantum watched the engine temp climb as we drove at near standstill and wondered what we'd do if the truck overheated.

As we finally passed through we saw that the opposite side traffic was backed up about 10 miles and also near standstill. One trucker was even out of his truck, walking along the road. No doubt every trucker there (at least several hundred) was cursung the amount of gas he was using and worrying over his schedule. 

Think about that when you complain about the high prices at the grocery. Just about everything in your store is shipped on a truck.

All's Not OK in Oklahoma

Waking up at 5:30, we warmed up the car. Suddenly, Quantum noticed smoke billowng up from the engine.

An hour or so later it was determined it was the water pump. We called around and found that one guy could order a new pump for us. We could have it Tuesday! ACK! Today was Saturday. Fortunately another place had the pump in stock - a bit more expensive, but we couldn't afford to wait till Tuesday. Quantum called the local "taxi" (who generally just delivered take-out food) and set off. By noon, Quantum still couldn't get the water pump (and all the associated parts) off. He called the taxi back and went back to town for an 11mm wrenc

Just before the taxi arrived, Quantum realized that the part that had siezed up earlier wasn't the water pump, but the AC compressor. Even though we didn't need AC, the whole thing was in line with the same belt that drove the fan and water pump, so it had to be replaced.

Then we had the joy of figuring out how to take the fan and fan housing off. For an allegedly quality manual, the Chilton has crappy instructions and their pics are abominable. And of course NEITHER of the belts that the CarQuest folks had sold us back in Walsenburg were the right ones. Fortunately the truly damaged belt was replaced by the one Quantum had bought at the local store.

Behind the truck stop I met a couple of horses and a burro that was sooo sweet. She wanted to nuzzle me and let me pet her for ages, and followed me when I walked alongside her fence. Her muzzle was velvet soft. I want a burro someday!

We were finally on the road by 5pm.Hopefully (and $300 later) the truck runs now.

The Drive Begins

The first day of the journey passed easily enough.

Quantum and I joked about the "historical markers" (which we never did seem but which signs for appeared every several miles or so) and the trend of some of the farmers to purchase the same maddening color of red paint. We figured some enterprising salesman had a huge vat of paint to sell. In Texas we also took note of the lack of actual "rules based" (speed limits) and informational signs (route numbers). Meanwhile there was plenty of signage for the darn historical markers and whatever group had adopted the roads. We went an entire 30 miles between two towns without a single pointer as to what the speed limit was. Quantum was sure it was a speed-trap setup.

At 2am we pulled into a truck stop parking lot and got a few hours of cold, cramped sleep.

 So far things were going too easy, and both of us suspected that was going to end soon, but didn't want to voice it. There's a reason hobbits don't like adventures.


Quantum arrived in Denver around 8 Tuesday night and I picked him up at the Loaf & Jug at 6:30 the next morning. (The bus didn't get into town till nearly 4am and he didn't want me driving in the dark.) He'd been gone an entire month, and it occurred to me that we'd had Karma longer with him away than with him there.

Our first job was to get the cap on the pickup. The thing weighed a ton! We pulled and shoved at it. I could barely budge it.

"We've got to get this on," Quantum said. "It's starting to snow.

After a good half hour of lifting and tugging, we got it up onto the pickup bed, but couldn't maneuver the heavy piece of crap onto the edges of the bed, Just as we gave a final heave, the cap's weight shifted and it went flying past my head to land like an upside down turtle in the driveway.
"Why didn't we bring CK back with us?" I asked for the fifth or so time. (The plan had originally been for CK to drive out with us so he and Quantum could tow the Blazer (which we'd gifted to CK. Why that had changed, I wasn't sure.)

It took us about two more hours to get the darn cap on. We stacked straw bales and lifted it a bale at a time. Several times the bales toppled and the cap nearly went with them. Finally it was on.

We took a break. The cold had followed Quantum from Denver, where it was snowing the previous night. Quantum drilled holes to bolt it to the bed and went to town to get CK (and test the bolts on the driveway) while I continued packing.

Next morning we woke to a thin blanket of snow. "Told you the weather forecast called for it," Quantum said. I hadn't seen a newscast in at least 3 or 4 months.

We spent the morning loading the truck and hoping we'd be able to get up the driveway.

"It's not going to fit," Quantum said. 

"I'll make it fit," I said. In the end most everything did. Last o be loaded were the cats in the PVC framed cage CK had made to bring his cats to CO, and which he and I had spent a long night re-covering with chicken wire.

The snow was kind enough to melt, and at 2 pm we were on the road at last. We drove into town to fill up on gas, noticing RY & S sitting by a light. We'd hoped to make it without running into them, but the managed to snag us at the gas station.

S insisted on coming around to my window and telling me how much she loved me (a crock - she loves herself) and whining about her electric nearly being shut off. I realize they've got financial hardships like the rest of us at times, but compounding it by causing trouble?

At 2:48 we pulled onto the highway and left our beloved Walsenburg behind.

Good Bye Yak Girls

After having contacted several places, we finally found a home for the yaks. Grateful as we were to find them a new home, and not have to feed them anymore (since we were seriously running out of funds) it was heartbreaking letting them go.

Sean, their new owner has about 250 head of yak in Alamosa. He's a sweet guy and they should have a good home with him. He wanted to learn their names, and invited me to visit any time we wanted, so I know he's got no plans of turning them into hamburger.

It was one of the windiest days I'd experienced there when he arrived.  The girls were reacting to it, and didn't want to go into the trailer. Well they did, but then they wanted to dance out of it immediately again. We couldn't get his trailer close enough to the fence, so we had to hold a piece of plywood to cover the gap between the gate of their corral and the gate of the trailer. That, of course, was whipping in the breeze and wanted to fly out of my hands.

I'd purposely saved part of the bag of Horse Candy (the yaks love the stuff) to get them into the trailer, but it had disappeared. After several in and outs, we finally got Yonkers, Zoozoo and baby Ferdie trapped in the front half of the trailer. Yeti wasn't having any part of that, preferring to do her yak dance, with her tail lifted in the breeze. I suddenly realized - it was only Yeti. I'm not afraid to get in the corral with her. I went in and she came right over to me and followed me into the trailer.

I cried after they left. I'm going to miss our ladies. The only compensation is knowing they're going to be in a good place.

Cursing out RY

I'm not proud of myself about this incident, but such is life.

With little money left to feed the yaks, we were selling everything we owned that we didn't absolutely need to take with us. Unfortunately very little of what we had was actually sales worthy. I managed to get $100 for the water tanks, $75 for the auger and $100 for the propane tanks. Way below what everything was worth, but we needed to sell it fast.

The a day or two after selling the propane tanks (which had taken up a huge piece of real-estate in the back of the pickup) CK wanted to get the last of his items from RY's house.

"I've been thinking I'd take back my water tank too." CK said. Everyone had wanted to buy my watertanks, and CK figured he could make a few bucks.

"One of RY/s water tanks is yours?"

"Yeah, and it'll really tick him off too." (RY hauls and sells water - which has actually become highly illegal lately, as the town wants to be the only ones in the water business..)

I arranged to help him haul it and borrow it for a few days, since now that I'd sold mine, I needed some way of bringing water up to the yaks.

After the deal with the landlady, RY was on my list of not-favorite-people. He wasn't there when we showed up, and his daughter P made the mistake of asking how I was doing. "Pretty bad," I told her. "I've got four yaks that are starving and RY owes me %650 and hay as well, and then he starts making harassing phone calls. Since P was one of the people who'd borrowed part of the money from Quantum.

Later that afternoon I ran up to the store and when I came back to CK's house, he told me, "RY called and he's really pissed off."

"Good. So am I."

"Then S called and she was crying and telling me, 'All the stuff we did for them, was worth more than $650."

"She seems to have amnesia'd all the stuff we've done for them, however."

"He says why are you telling P this stuff instead of telling him to his face."

I dialed. "You wanted to tell me to your face, I'm telling you to your face. I'm ticked off."

"What's this about owing you money?"

"You borrowed $400 from Quantum, S borrowed $200 and P borrowed $50. That was over a year ago, and then there's all the hay Quantum paid for that we never got.

RY had the balls to tell me, "Quantum told me I didn't have to pay you back."

If so, that was news to Quantum, since we'd already discussed that RY owed us the money and was probably never going to pay us back. "Umm no. If anything, Quantum told you not to worry about paying him back RIGHT THEN."

I then told him I was ticked off about the whole situation and if he wasn't going to hold to his word, then I really didn't have phone minutes to waste on him and that I really didn't appreciate him calling the landlady either.
Naturally he once again denied that.

Well I got it off my chest anyway. Even if I don't suspect it'll do any good.

Dogs Must Pee

After I ran out of gasoline for the heater and internet, M (and CK) had been nice enough to put me up "for two weeks," M said. A week into it, I was losing my mind. Besides our spending a day and a half hiding from the landlady, M had an enormously bad attitude

He has an elderly (14 years old) dog, Bear, and he obviously had some fantasy that my dogs were sort of like his - laid back, barely able to move because of the aches in her hips and quiet all the time. Well my dogs aren't like that. Zen and Bushi are four, and Karma's only one-and-a-half, and they're all used to being able to run loose and get out their enormous font of energy.

Living at M's they were forced to stay in a tiny 8x10 bedroom and could only be walked on leashes about three or four times a day.

To add to that, Zen is both a super alert-dog whenever something's going on, and has some seperation anxiety issues. He can't stand being away from either Quantum or I leave the place without him and is known to go into conniptions whenever Quantum goes off in the truck.

And they were in a strange place with strange people moving around, strange dog smells and noises from the other room. The dog's weren't allowed to interact with Bear. At first the story was, "she'll attack them". It later became "they'll attack her." Neither was likely. Especially if properly introduced, dogs (including pit bulls, folks!) tend to get along. 

And my particular dogs happen to like other dogs. Had they been allowed to meet, I'm confident that all four of them would have gotten along well. 

Then there's the fact that dogs (like most of us) do have to pee on a regular basis. Gods forbid that happen at say, 7 in the morning.
Also, walking three big dogs (only one of which (Zen) has learned not to pull on a leash, since I so rarely need to walk them on one, and since Karma is new) is no easy task. That meant any time I had to walk them it'd take CK and I together.
Here's how that generally works: In the morning, I wait till I hear noises that suggest CK is up and moving around. Meanwhile my dogs are bouncing and making, "I wanna go pee," noises. Eventually, I give up on waiting, since the dogs desperately have to go. I poke my head out of the door and whisper for CK or open the closet that divides our bedrooms and knock on his side.

Invariably, CK will wait until I've given up on him and then knock or call at the door. Zen (and possibly the other dogs, but usually just Zen) will be confused/alerted by someone on the other side of the door and will jump at it and scratch it with his nails. At this, M will growl and curse, I'll leap to grab Zen's collar, but generally too late.

By now, Zen's getting "bunctious" and the other dogs are starting to as well. CK asks what I want. (Umm duh, it's morning - dogs need to pee, what do you think I want? Yes they do that on a regular basis, I realize it's odd.) CK comes into the bedroom as I'm trying to leap for the dogs' collars. CK has to put Bear out on her chain before we can let the dogs out of the bedroom. By now they REALLY have to pee. Their claws are scrambling at the floor as they race for the door. (One day Karma didn't make it all the way, which led to M cursing up a storm while I cleaned the puddle from the rug.)

Even if it's not morning,the cycle's pretty much the same. Someone knocks at my door without warning, Zen goes nuts.
It finally occurred to me that I'd actually trained my dogs to scratch lightly at the door when they needed to go out. That may have been part of the trouble, but the real problem was that all the dogs were feeling displaced, and Zen especially, was concerned for his turf.

By the second day of this nonsense I asked, begged and pleaded CK not to knock at or yell to me through the door.

"How am I supposed to get ahold of you?"

 "Instant message me." It's simple, it's silent. It doesn't alert the dogs. I can grab their collars before they have a chance to scratch the door. A week later I'd made that request at least once per day. The day before I finally left, I said, "Please CK, I'm begging you. Don't knock on the door or yell to me through it. It pisses M off, the dogs freak out and I get in trouble."

"Well how am I supposed to get ahold of you?"

"IM me."

"Wow, I haven't even turned my computer on in a week."


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In the Safeway Parking Lot

As if the the incident with the dogs wasn't enough, RY again called up CK's landlady and this time told her about the fact that there were three cats living there. At least we're pretty sure it was RY, since CK's cats stayed in his room, and no one but RY knew that they even existed except me and M, the roomie.

CK's roomie had not informed the landlady about the cats. This didn't sit well with her, and she told M the roomie that she'd be showing up Monday morning to do an inspection. CK and I spent all Sunday afternoon cleaning the house in preparation for that. M didn't do diddly squat of course, other than order the two of us around.

M wanted us (not just me and my own dogs and cats, but CK and his cats as well) out of the house while she was there. Personally, I thought it was in bad form to chase CK out of what's allegedly his own house, but heck, that's CK's problem if he wants to let M push him around.

Realizing we had two cat carriers and five cats between us, CK and I decided to use one of the cages he'd made to ship the cats out to Colorado two years ago. The plastic webbing he'd used to cover the PVC frame was mostly gone, but I had a bit of chicken wire left over. With the new skills we'd learned while dog-proofing the yak pen, CK and I spent several hours - until 11 at night, wiring the frame with the chicken wire.
Up before dawn we finished cleaning and re-vacuumed and packed the cats and dogs into the truck. Having little elsewhere to go (there's not much to do in Walsenburg) we sat in the parking lot and waited for the landlady to come and go.
At 11, CK called his roommate (figuring the landlady had been there and gone by then). "She still hasn't shown up," CK informed me. "M will call me back when she's there and gone."

We watched folks pull in and out of the parking lot, watched trucks go past with huge bales of hay ("My house is that way," I'd yell to them.) walked the dogs a few times and in general spent the day bored silly.

Meanwhile I'd needed to go to town and water/feed the yaks that morning, but we were selling the propane tanks and I had to wait for the woman who was buying them, since it didn't make sense to waste gas driving out there twice.

At 3, Quantum (who was handling the phone/internet part of the sale) called to let me know that the woman wouldn't be able to make it that day. CK and I were heading out to the farm when M finally called.

"Is she gone?" CK asked

"No," M informed him. "The reason she was coming was to inspect the job that was done on the roof. Since the roofers aren't finished she said she'd be here tomorrow."

While we were there at the farm we decided to grab the propane tanks anyway. This way the woman who was buying them could pick them up in town without me driving out a second time. Since I was filling the yak's water and giving them a new bale of hay on an every other day basis, we figured it might save me from an extra trip.

Next day was a repeat of the last. Up at dawn, vacuum the rugs, pack angry cats into boxes AGAIN, and then sit around in the damn parking lot. 

Fortunately M called only a few hours later to let us know that the landlady's hubby had come and done the inspection.

The Miracle of the Silver - Or Not

Back before we moved to CO, we'd had a jewelry making business, and as part of that had purchased a few hundred dollars worth of silver casting grain. During the fire, we lost it (along with everything else). We often talked about where it might be, but somehow, we had never braved the pile of ash, broken glass and twisted metal to look for it. As broke as we were, I needed to find the stuff. Besides, it wouldn't do us much good if it was in CO while we were in FL. 

Plus there was (and still is) the danger that RY would scour our land for scrap metal to sell while we were gone, despite that we'd told him we didn't want the burned trailer's carcass disturbed. (Specifically because we wanted to find the silver before that happened.)

CK and I also half-joked that we'd return to find out that RY was using our corral and grazing his critters on our land. (Our neighbor now has permission to have him arrested for trespassing if he shows up there - or preferably, shoot at him.

I went out to feed the yaks and while I was there I decided to try finding the silver. I grabbed some gloves, a shovel, a sieve and a couple of buckets to put the broken glass in.
Only twenty minutes or a half hour later I found a big rectangular piece of metal. It sure looked like the silver. It even had the remains of a cardboard stuck to it.

Calling Quantum as soon as I got back to town, I announced the happy news. He found a metal reclaiming company and Monday morning I shipped the stuff out. I nearly fainted at the $25 for postage, more than half of which was for insurance. But we calculated by the weight that it would come to near a thousand dollars at today's silver prices. Enough to pay for a ticket for Quantum to fly back to CO and drive me and the dogs/cats back to Florida.

So imagine my surprise when a week later, I was talking to Quantum and told him I planned to spend the next day up at the farm, packing our stuff..."Actually, I'd rather you spend the day looking for the silver."

Pulling the phone from my ear I looked at it, wondering if it had suddenly started translating to a foreign language. "The silver? I mailed that last week!"

"The company told me they assayed it and it was only base metal."

"I spent $25 mailing base metal? But...I really thought it was the silver. It looked like the silver."

It took me several hours of digging, but eventually I found what is hopefully the REAL silver. Argh! I'm really hoping that I didn't end up mailing base metal again.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Help Keep our Yaks From Being Slaughtered! Please!

We thought we had found a home for the yaks. In fact it sounded so good that we let the guy lead us on for a full week. (He seemed to be having trouble with his phone.)

So I finally got ahold of him and here's what he wanted: We give him all four of our yaks. He "takes care of them" then keeps two of them. The two he wanted were our breedable females, Yazoo and Yeti. Which would have been negotiable if he wanted to breed them.

Yeti: "Please send hay."
 He wanted to slaughter them. For meat.

Before I get into my personal feelings on this, let me say that these are beautiful yak cows at their breeding prime, and from excellent bloodlines. Turning them into meat would be a sheer waste.

On the personal level, I love all my yaks even the irascible Yonkers. The idea of selling them to be killed for their meat horrifies me.

But here's the big problem. Right now I have enough money for one, maybe two bales of hay. That'll last about 3 days if I stretch it. I've tried cutting grass (by hand), but at the rate it's going, it'll take me 2 days to cut one day's food for them.

I also barely have gas in the truck to go out and buy hay. We've sold every item we own of worth: Our auger, our propane tanks, even our water tanks (which means I now have to haul water for them in small batches, thus creating more challenges).

Please help us. The way we're going, the yaks are either going to starve or have to be sold to "just anybody" so they won't starve. And if you know anybody who wants yaks and will love and care for them, PLEASE let us know.

Any small amount you can contribute would be a great help. If you can't help financially, please help by passing on the word.

More info here: Save the Critter Project and here: A Sad Intermission for the Critter Project

Friday, October 12, 2012

Puppy Pics

Left to right, here's Zen, Karma and Bushi, sacked out on the bed. The biggest danger here is being licked to death or getting sleep deprived because of Karma's snoring.

Thank you @KellyRipa for suggesting that I'm a gangster because I have three of the most wonderful, gentle and sweet dogs in creation.

Now Raz here (ignoring the evil giant pit bull, Karma) just MIGHT be considered dangerous.

Working Dogs at Children's hospital

Working Dogs Show Off at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

The dogs at the expo included police dogs, guide dogs for the blind and a one-eyed therapy dog who visits sick children at a hospital.

Nice to see a program that teaches kids respect and love for animals.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What the Heck Is RY's Motive?

This isn't the first time RY's done wacky stuff. It's just the first time he's been caught flat out.

Last winter our yaks got loose, and were missing for a few days. They went up to A's a rancher acquaintance (who we met because of the first time the girls got escaped) but in the meanwhile RY shows up saying that someone had called him around midnight sounding drunk and saying "this is Quantum! Where's my expletive deleted yaks?"

The fact that they claimed to believe it was us was pretty funny. Quantum drinks a bit on occasion, but never to the point where he actually gets drunk, and they know that. Moreover, our choices for cell reception are on top of the roof of the trailer (dangerous to get to, especially in winter, and we only rarely get reception there anyway) or drive 10 minutes/walk 30 to an area that we can make calls from. At the time RY did have a grandson visiting with him, a pretty messed up kid, so we thought maybe the kid had something to do with it. Later I began to suspect it was a lie RY had cooked up himself.

A couple days later when the yaks finally made it up to A's place, Quantum needed some help herding them into the corral and then needed to borrow RY's trailer to get them home. RY didn't want to help for some reason. Quantum tried herding them alone, with little luck. The next day RY promised to show.

RY arrived at A's ranch without the trailer and with a police escort. "Someone reported that your yaks were starving and maltreated," RY said.

"That's ridiculous," Quantum said. "Look at them, they're fat and glossy in their winter coats. Who would say that? For that matter who even knows they were missing? And who's even seen them way out here?" Our land is pretty secluded so most people in town don't know we have yaks, and less still have ever set eyes on them. A's land is equally remote.

The police looked at the yaks, concluded they looked quite healthy and left. But by that time the snow was falling and it was too late to capture the yaks. Especially since RY hadn't even bothered bringing his trailer.

That meant the yaks had to stay at A's for two weeks until the snow cleared enough to haul them home. Which also meant that we had to pay A for boarding them during that time.

I suspected RY on the police call for quite some time, but Quantum wouldn't believe it for quite a while, and we had no proof.

When they finally loaded the yaks up, a couple weeks after, RY got impatient with Yonkers and wacked her over the head with a metal pipe. I was highly gratified when Yonkers turned around and gored him right in the butt.

Over the past couple years there've been other similar incidents, though none as bad and none as memorable.

So what's RY's deal on complaining to M's landlord about my allegedly loose pit bulls?

It's possible that he's mad at CK for having moved out. CK and I had a falling out about a year ago and CK moved to RY's place and into a trailer. Where RY and his wife proceeded to skin CK for every penny they could get out of him. Now that he's moved out of there, maybe they're mad at having lost the golden-egged goose.

It's possible they resent Quantum and I because of the fact that they owe us money and hay. Some people get like that, I guess.

Over the last few months, as RY and his wife have been becoming more and more annoying/nasty to us, I've been avoiding them. Not to mention they're nosy buggers. Just today (before we found out who'd made the call about my dogs, his wife S called because she wanted to know what our sleeping arrangements were here. I'm not sleeping with CK and I'm not sleeping with M, but if I was, it isn't HER business. (M was quite affronted!) So maybe they're resentful that I wasn't coming around more. Truth is I rarely come to town, since when Quantum goes out I usually stay to be with the dogs. Bushi doesn't like the truck and taking all 3 into town is a handful. Until this last couple of weeks I'd been to town all of 4 times since January.

Its possible they resented us because it started to become clear that we were no longer letting them drain us of resources the way they do most of the folks they come into contact with.

No matter the answer, I'm ticked.

Spoof Calls Blaming Pit Bulls

Is this how some pit bulls get bad press?

I really hadn't wanted to talk about RY but...

Because I can't afford gas for the generator right now, and the nights have been freezing cold, I've been staying with CK (our former roommate) and his new roommate M at their house in town. It's challenging being here with 3 dogs and 2 cats and I've had to go back and care for the yaks every other day as well.

M (the person who signed the lease and the "lead" roommate) had called his landlady, informed her that my dogs would be staying with me, informed her that they were pit bulls and received permission for us to stay here.

Zen in the bedroom. Note the leash.
Today M got a phone call from the landlady. Someone said that a pit bull was running around loose and it was one of mine. CK and I were astonished. I'd never let my dogs off leash in town. And certainly not within a block of a train that goes by on a regular basis. Since Zen's been confused at being here and scratches on the door to "my" bedroom when folks pass by, I've even had him on leash IN the bedroom.

The landlady was unhappy about this report, as was M when he heard it. All I could think was that some other dog (possibly not even a pit bull) was running around the neighborhood.

Later the landlady called back with the phone number of the person who'd called her with this report. CK plugs the number into his phone, and who should pop up, but our "buddy" RY.

Now we've got an interesting history with RY. Two years ago when we had the fire, he and his wife were kind enough to give us a tiny pick-up back camping trailer to live in. We certainly appreciated it, having lost every dime and every possession we owned and with winter coming on.

Sadly it was a gift that came with strings. Not only did we have to listen to his wife S congratulate herself on what a wonderful Christian she was, but we were now beholden to them. For a while that wasn't a big deal. We were able to return the favor by helping them do some major work on their farm (and even dragged in a crew of our friends to help).

RY also talked us into going in on some hay purchases with him. He'd store the hay and we'd pick our share up as needed. Except we never seemed to get our hay (and often had to buy from the local feed store). And every time he wanted to make a new hay purchase, he'd say he didn't have enough to cover it, and we'd end up pitching in more money - after all, we needed the hay! (Which BTW he was making money on us with, charging us $2 or more/bale than the actual cost.)

Then one of our trucks broke down. We couldn't fix it and ended up buying RY's pickup. He wanted to buy our old truck to fix up and sell. We made the foolish mistake of trading it for more hay.

At this point he's into us for about 100 bales. But we felt grateful to them. Felt sorry for them because his wife has Alzheimer's and a host of other problems, and between the fact that they are animal hoarders, and her trips to the doctor, they were generally broke.

RY also hauled water out to our place, since we didn't have a convenient way of hauling it ourselves, for which we paid him $30/load. Even after he owed us money (more re that in a sec) we'd still pay him because he claimed he couldn't afford the gas to get there otherwise.

About a year and a half ago, and within the space of a month, he and his wife and their daughter borrowed $650 from us in cash. Now there've been times since when we could have desperately used the money. And the hay. This is possibly the most desperate time of all, with us flat broke and trying to feed the yaks and get me back to Florida.

So can you guess that I was a little shocked when I found out that the complaint about the loose pit bull came from RY's phone?

M called him up, and he was masterly, "I don't know why you're doing this to these good people." Of course RY completely denied it. "It wasn't me! I didn't make that call."

Five minutes later he called CK back and said, "I just remembered. There was this guy down by the car wash named Junior. He asked to borrow my cell phone to call his mother."

Astounding that he'd believe anyone would fall for this garbage.

Meanwhile I have to wonder what percentage of nuisance calls against pits are vindictive nastiness such as this.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yaks Return and Dogs vs. Yaks Round 1

I haven't even had a chance to write a post introducing our 3rd rescue pit bull, Karma. (I'' do that soon.) She's a wonderful sweet puppy, and we adore her, but one thing we found out...she doesn't like yaks.

Karma the instigator. *sigh*
The yaks had been on walkabout for about a month, so Karma had never met them. The coyotes were howling one night and we saw SOMETHING flash past in the dark, approximately coyote-sized, so we figure that was the impetus for them breaking down one of the boards in their pen and hiking off to who-knows where. We'd been searching for them everywhere, with no luck. The other times they escaped we'd found them at the home of a nearby rancher. This time they were seen near there but by the time someone contacted us (we don't have phone at our place) and Quantum got up there, the girls were off somewhere again.

The Return

Last week, while Quantum was in FL dealing with his mom, the dogs were running about doing their usual roughhousing when I heard one of them barking. I looked out and there at the curve of the driveway and there they were. Amazingly they'd found their way home.

They looked beautifully fit, if a bit muddy. I leaped outside, called the dogs in and spent a half hour coaxing the girls into the pen. The weren't the least bit interested in hay. Not with all the gorgeous grass in the fields, but water they wanted. Yeti was the first to follow my water bucket and Zoozoo and baby Ferdie followed her. Yonkers wasn't impressed. She's wary of most people, and even though she likes me more than most, her affection for me is grudging at best. I let her roam around for a while, knowing she wouldn't stray far from her herd, and eventually she came right up to the gate. She was hoping the other girls would come out and join her, but instead I talked her into going in with them.

Things were okay for a couple of days, although Ferdie found an escape route (she's a little Houdini) and Yazoo managed to follow her. Another couple hours with the dogs locked in the trailer and me wandering around trying to get them back in the pen. And then an hour later they were standing by the gate, asking to be let back in.

Round One

Then the trouble started. Zen and Bushi had never bothered the yaks while they were in their pen, though Zen was apt to flip out a bit when Ferdie got out. He's very concerned about "everything in its place" and knows the yaks belong inside their fence. It hadn't occurred to me that the addition of a third dog would change the equation.

I was outside doing some cleanup when Karma started barking at the yaks. I shushed her a few times. Suddenly she dove under one of the fence rails and into the pen. The yaks charged. Bushi, hearing her pack-mate in distress, ran in after her. Zen raced back and forth outside the pen and then plunged into the fray as well.

The yaks all clustered together. Bushi and Karma ran right into the center of them, nipping their heels. Zen ran in circles coming back and forth to snipe. I don't know how long it lasted. Probably only 10 minutes or so. It felt like hours. One of those times when life goes into slow-mo. Bushi got picked up by a set of horns and tossed through the air. Karma and Bushi both were trampled and pushed around. Then Bushi was hanging from a yak's ear (so much going on that I couldn't tell which) as if she were an earring. She managed to rip out BOTH Yonkers' and Yazoo's ear tags.

For myself, I was screaming for the dogs to stop and to come to me. They're usually relatively obedient but not with this massacre going on. I'm running around trying to catch Zen as he darts in and out, and each time I almost had him, he barrels into me and my glasses (one earpiece is broken) keep falling off. I finally managed to grab Zen as he raced around. Threw him into our trailer. That broke the fight up and after a harrowing few more minutes, the other two left the pen.

Both Bushi and Karma were covered with yak blood, but there wasn't a scratch on any of the three dogs. The yaks were okay other than their ear tags.

As horrified as I was with the fight itself, I can't help but be amazed with three dogs that were able to stand up to three adult yaks (about 700 pounds each) and come out relatively unscathed. I was sure that one of the dogs would end up with broken bones, or worse a broken spine or something else devastating and fatal. It was one of the scariest moments of my entire adult life. And there was more to come.

Bushi's Boo-Boo

As if trying to rehome the yaks wasn't traumatic enough, out dog Bushi developed a large hematoma (blood blister) as a result of last week's inadvertent yak vs. dog fight. (I'll post about THAT trauma in a future post.)

Bushi really prefers to wear hot pink.
This morning I spent my waking-up-should-be-drinking-coffee time attempting for about the 5th time in18 hours, to make one of CK's XXXL t-shirts into a suitable covering. (Any of Quantum or my t-shirts are back home and probably need the laundry before I can use them.) The t-shirt is so that she doesn't bleed all over the place, since the wound is draining, and will be for gods-know how long.

With Bushi's Lady Gagaesque makeup, she's always been a fashion queen, but this is ridiculous!

Bushi's hematoma lump pre-surgery.
The lump showed up Sunday morning. Maybe I hadn't noticed it earlier because CK and I spent 4 days straight, dawn to dusk working on securing the yak pen. I woke up Sunday, looked at her chest and had a panic moment. The lump was the size of a tennis ball.

Our wonderful vet, Doc Roberts had to cut the lump open to drain. I'm always terrified when my dogs have to have anesthesia, since Zen nearly died on the operating table when he was neutered as a puppy.

Today I get the exquisite joy of taking her into the bathroom and flushing it out, first with peroxide, then with a chlorhexidine solution. The peroxide flush is only for the first few days, but the chlorhexidine flush goes on until I can no longer get the syringe into the wound. Oh what fun!

The hematoma itself didn't seem to hurt. Despite my attempts to keep her quiet until I could take her to the vet (and of all weeks to have a Monday holiday!) she wanted to bounce around, chase rabbits and cause her usual trouble.

The surgery seems to have left her a bit sore though. She spent half the night on the floor, probably because getting up on the bed was uncomfortable. Last night I'd helped her onto the bed and she decided to get down for water and some crunchies. She let out a tiny heart-rending little yelp and before I could reach her, the other dogs were circling her, sniffing and consoling. They hate it when any of their pack is in pain.

At this point, when we're scrambling for money for hay, $80 wasn't really something that we could afford. Many thanks to the kind person who contributed to our Save the Critter Project fund and made it possible to bring her to the vet.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Help Save the Critter Project!

As I said in my last post, we were trying to sell the yaks. We're devastated by this. But now it's worse.

We'd contacted the breeder who got Yazoo pregnant with Ferdie and hoped he could help us. He thought he could find a home for Yeti and Yonkers and would keep Yazoo and Ferdie himself. (And we'd hoped we could buy back at least those two once we return to Colorado.

Yonkers with Yeti as a baby
Now things are more dire.

I have enough gasoline for the generator (so that I can stay here and feed them) and enough hay to feed them on for only TWO DAYS. The breeder says it may take a month or so. It's not safe to let them roam (I'll write a post about that in the near future).

Please if you can donate a little money for hay and gasoline so that I can stay here and feed them - or enough to help us find someone to board them, I'd be entirely grateful.

Please I beg you. If you can post this on Facebook or Tweet it or pass it along in any other manner, please let others know.

A Sad Intermission for the Critter Project

Just when things were starting to go well...

I haven't been updating this blog because the changes have been coming too fast and we're still reeling with the punches.

This May or so, Quantum's mom, "J" started exhibiting the symptoms of Alzheimer's related dementia.

J lives in Florida, and since we moved here, the plan was for her to come out and be with us. She didn't have much keeping her in FL (no relatives, few friends who hadn't passed). She was looking forward to gardening, canning and other country/farm pursuits, not to mention the company of myself and her son. All we needed to do was build the house and she'd be here. She's elderly and wouldn't adapt well to the rough life we've had till now (living in a trailer with no plumbing). The plan had been to start building next spring. (We would have started earlier, but the fire when we first moved and bare survival, set us back a bit.)

Then we noticed the dementia. I won't go into all the details but at one point the neighbors found her with all doors and windows open and lying on the tile floor to stay cool. Her AC had broken - in FLORIDA in JULY and she couldn't figure out how to call the air conditioning people to get it fixed - and didn't tell us about it until two weeks had gone by. That was just one incident of many.

We found a house for sale in the area. Unlike our land, it was connected to the grid, had plumbing, a bedroom for her and one for us, and was right outside of town. (I haven't had the opportunity to write much about it, but in winter it's near impossible for us to get to town from here - sometimes for weeks at a time.)

We talked with her about the place and she seemed excited to move here. Then a few more incidents occurred (including J losing her car insurance because she forgot to pay the bill - since she's 86 the ins. company leapt at the chance to get rid of her, and wouldn't reinstate) and Quantum realized he'd better do something sooner rather than later.

He flew down to Florida with the plan of bringing her back with him. Everything was fine for the first couple days he was down there. Then two things happened. First J fell and hit her head and had to be rushed to the emergency room. That may or may not have contributed to what happened next, but it solidified Quantum's feeling that she needed someone to take care of her 24/7/

Then her "caretaker" (a woman who helped her clean, pay bills and drove her around to stores) asked for J's car in partial payment. As soon as the car was signed over to her, things suddenly changed.

Suddenly, J was becoming ambivalent about the move (egged on by the caretaker who wanted to keep her job, we believe). The caretaker told J that she didn't have to move and actually called the police on Quantum.

Next the caretaker brought in a court-ordered "decision maker"/advocate for J.

With all this, we have no choice but to move back to Orlando to be near Quantum's mom and to make sure that she's cared for and to fight for Quantum's right to do so. 

We've already rescued 3 wonderful dogs. However it will be 6 months to a year before we can return here, so the bulk of our rescue project is now on hold.

Heartbreakingly this also means we're going to have to sell the yaks. We have no money to board them and no ability to stay here and care for them.

I'm trying not to cry.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Letter to PETA - about Pitbulls

A correspondence between PETA and a woman who had planned (that's past tense, thank goodness) to leave her fortune to them when she passed.

A Letter to PETA is a well-put answer to PETA's (imo) despicable treatment and villification of Pit Bulls and pitbull-like breeds.

Friends don't let friends support PETA.

Friday, August 31, 2012

NEW Pit Bull Links

Just added a page of Pit Bull Related links to our blog. If you know a website, rescue center, video news item or other positive pitbull related page that should be on our list, comment and let us know!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quantum's Mom and Alzheimers

Thanks for taking a moment to find out about my mom. Over the last 10-12 weeks, she's been suddenly forgetting things even in mid-sentence. It's clear enough that this is some kind of mental deterioration, sadly not uncommon in folks her age (which is 86).

My wife and I moved to Colorado 2 years ago to build a new home away from the hurricanes and crime back in Florida. In the country outside this little town of 4,000 people.  As well as a place for my mom's latter years. I'm the only child, and I knew either I took care of her in her later years or nobody would.

Eight weeks after my wife and I moved here, we had an electrical fire that destroyed virtual every possession we had with us, which included all of our professional equipment, tools, and materials.  And there went our interim means of employment. (If you've been reading our blog, you probably know about fire.) Our only remaining resources all being tied up in our property in Colorado, and our old place back in Florida.

We've been renting the place through a management company for most of our monthly income, but these last couple months mom has been becoming confused, forgetful to an extreme, and afraid to even leave her condo back in Florida. She would get the rent check for our place mailed to her, then deposit it in our bank there in Florida. Our bank there is really good, and the ones here are lousy. But she's misplaced the rent check 2 months in a row, and now she's forgetting that she ever even received these checks. Which obviously really messed up our limited income. I've also received highly concerned emails from her financial advisor, and my 88 yr old aunt up in Montana, concerning mom's behavior and lack of communication.

Now, I need to fly back to Florida and sort out mom's affairs. And sell our property back there to pay for moving mom out with us. She is gonna need daily social contact and supervision, for her well being and health. She's been living alone for 2 years, and it's clearly not been good for her.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Herd Transitions

Sometimes things come along and make you readjust your attitude and your priorities. Ferdie's birth has been one of those. Not just for us, but for the yaks as well.

We've now spent two near-sleepless nights perking our ears for the stealthy approach of large critters. We live in cougar, bear and coyote territory, so that's not much of a surprise. Unfortunately, Ferdie has decided that her favorite space in the corral is right up against the edge of the fence, where she could be vulnerable. On the good side, the dogs are constantly alert for anything roaming in the night. Of course that includes racoons, possums and potentially mice. Welcome to being awakened at 2 a.m. Because the dogs smelled...something.

Quantum and I have spent the last two days with perma-grin. Watching Ferdie's antics has been...just blow-away. We are convinced that she is the cutest little animal since the gods first created cute little animals.

We spent the first dozen or so hours of her birth worried because she wasn't nursing. Within the first few hours, Zoozoo kicked (gently) at her. As a first time mommy heifer, she wasn't used to someone trying to nuzzle at her underparts. I'm sure her thoughts were something along the line of, "What the heck! That tickles." Just before Quantum was ready to go to the feed store next morning for colostrum formula, Zoozoo started letting her nurse without kicking her away. Gods, the relief!

The change in the herd dynamics has been profound. Before this, Yonkers was the undisputed Queen of the corral. Bitchy, defensive, and never having had a good relationship with humans, we've been challenged in dealing with her from the start. We got her at age nine, and it was clear that she'd never been tractable, and never liked people very much. We've got the impression that the folks we bought her from figured, "sell her to some schmuck or make her into hamburger." Her purpose, before we got her was breeding babies and more babies, without much care or interest in helping her to be gentle.

Quantum has done a world of work with her in the nearly two years that she's been ours. She went from, "approach at your peril" to a creature who though not easily handle-able was at least respectful when we entered the corral. And for the last 6 months she's been eating out of our hands, even though she will still charge the corral fence when I or strangers approach.

This winter when the girls escaped for the third time, Yonkers managed to put a huge gouge in our friend RY's butt. It wasn't her fault. He got tired of waiting for her to get in the trailer (he's impatient) and wacked her over the head with a metal pipe. So I thought Yonk was fully justified in turning around and burying one of her horns in his butt-cheek. Good thing he wasn't facing the other direction!

Knowing how nasty Yonkers can be, we thought we' d need to separate her from Zoozoo and the baby once it was born.

As part of her job as Corral Queen, Yonkers has the idea that her time should be spent convincing her two daughters that humans are evil and not to be trusted. However her yak-mommy instincts turned against her in a way. It's the natural instinct of most mommy animals to wean their older children in favor of their younger babies. That meant that Yazoo (the older daughter) was getting chased from the hay piles and the water bucket on a regular basis. Which left our Zoozoo open to the wiles of my husband, who would make sure that Zoo had her own special pile of hay when Yonkers tried to chase her away from the food. Despite that ZooZoo has been told by Momma that humans were evil, it was humans who were making sure she had enough to eat.

Meanwhile 2-yr old Yeti is just on the verge of being weaned. I saw her nursing only a few months ago, and that might still be going on when I'm not looking. Yeti has taken up her Mom's stance of "people are scary" and doesn't let us touch her.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, that all changed.

Within moments of Ferdie's birth, Zoozoo, who had been somewhat "on the fence" regarding human involvement in her life, has come a bare step away from total acceptance. We are both (and the both part is a surprise, since she likes Quantum a heck of a lot more than she likes me) allowed to touch and handle the baby, get in the corral and push the baby towards her. In fact, when baby Ferdie gets herself somewhere between the wood and the electric wiring (now turned off) of the corral, I get the feeling that she's actually happy that someone is there and ready to push her baby towards her.

Yeti has gone from shy sibling to doting aunt. She's fascinated by anything the baby does and posts herself in guard position near baby Ferdie.

But the biggest change has been with Yonkers. Suddenly she doesn't act like she's the biggest and most important yak in the corral. After a few times of pushing off Ferdie (who wanted to nurse and couldn't figure out who to turn to for that) Yonkers is now quietly following the other yaks around.

And being pleasant and gentle to the point where Quantum has crawled into the yak pen stark naked (hey it's hot here!) without the slightest worry or challenge to his various man-parts.

Less than 24 hours from the miracle birth of our grandbaby, and it's somehow changed the herd dynamics to allow us to be accepted.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's a Baby Yak!

Born 7/2/2012 7:14pm

OMG it's happening!
We're trying to relax after a rough day in town and car breakdowns. I look over at Yazoo and notice that she's at the far side of the corral, lying flat on the ground in a rather unusual way. The baby bump is getting bigger every day.

"I think it's going to be soon," I tell Quantum. "Maybe in the next couple days." The other two girls are chowing down and I figure I should bring her some hay of her own. Yonkers chases her away from the food sometimes.

Just as I get back inside, Quantum looks out the window. "Oh my god! It's happening! It's happening NOW!"

Zoozoo (that's still Yazoo - our pet name for her) has her tail up and there's a pink bubble forming there.

I run for the camera. (Thanks again, Mom!) "Her water broke," Quantum says.

Absolute terror sets into both of our hearts. Neither of us has ever helped a critter give birth. We're miles from the nearest large animal vet, miles from town, and we're not even sure the truck will run. It had vapor-lock before, and we barely made it home. Besides that, even though Zoozoo has become relatively accepting of Quantum (and me to a lesser degree) we doubt she'll let us help if she needs it. She doesn't like to be touched. We've read that yaks are easy birthers, but as first time grandparents, we're trembling.

Yonkers and Yeti are curious, but Zoozoo makes it clear that she wants to be left alone, so Quantum climbs into the corral and keeps them away from her.

We watch, helpless, as Zoozoo grunts and strains and the bubble gets bigger and bigger. We can see tiny white hooves inside the veil of the birth sack. And then it slips out, landing on the ground, a tiny, motionless form of black and white.

Moments after birth.
"It's alive! It's breathing!" Quantum says. Both of us slump with relief.

Zoozoo starts licking the baby and eating the birth sack away. It's already clear she's going to be a doting mother. We watch, enthralled, as the baby makes several attempts to get to her (at least it might be a her, we're still not positive) feet.

"You can do it, Ferdie," Quantum says.

This morning. 10 hours old.
"You do realize that whether it's a boy or a girl, that's it's name." I say

He smiles over at me, his face alight.

We'd actually hoped for a bull-calf, because we had considered studding him out. We'd like to get the local ranchers interested in cow-yak hybrids. So if it was a boy, we planned on naming it Ferdinand. We hadn't picked a girl name yet.

It's so tiny and perfect and fragile. We don't care what its sex is. We're already deeply in love.Zoozoo keeps licking away and Ferdie struggles to rise and plops back down in the dirt several times.

Then she's up, tottering on the very tips of her hooves. She can't seem to figure out how to use them yet. She falls down again then finally rises and take a few wobbly steps forward. Straight towards me. Zoozoo stands alongside her, but doesn't protest Ferdie's interest in me.

Still a little wobbly.
I put my hand through the fence and she comes over to me, her pink nose just inches from my hand. She sniffs and gives a little baby yak grunt.

The two of us are stuck halfway between laughter and tears.

The other yaks are very curious, especially Yeti, but Quantum and Zoozoo make sure they keep their distance.

We're surprised by her coloring. Both of her parents are black Imperials with a white patch on their foreheads and white socks. Ferdie is a Royal, like her grandfather Sherpa, black in the front, white in the back, with spots and patches, here and there, white legs and a wide blaze down her nose.

We go inside, and let them be, feeling high and exhausted. It's going to be a long night, because neither of us are going to get much sleep, especially with the coyotes living so close.