Fergus-Part 1

Sometimes everything that should go right goes wrong.

Picture an ordinary mutt of a cow, black with a white face, probably a Hereford Angus cross.  In cow terms she’s old, seven, maybe eight years on this planet.  Local parlance labels her a gummer, a concise way of explaining that she no longer has many, if any, teeth left with which to chew.  Without teeth she can’t properly grind and mash up her feed, thus opening herself to malnourishment, which in turn makes her prone to sickliness.  On top of all that, she can’t see well anymore, though this is no one’s fault in particular.  Actually, she’s basically blind.  None of this is a surprise, because we bought her that way. (more…)

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Getting Back On-Part 3

Contrary to Scout’s recalcitrance in prison school, once he was at the ranch he proved adept at learning certain things extremely quickly. After he touched his nose to the electrified yellow wire around his enclosure, it took him a week before he let me lead him through the enclosure gate; in his mind, even being six feet from that wire was too close.

Not only was he perspicacious about hot wires, he figured out easily that a few surprise bucks could get me off his back in an instant. Worse, he understood that my biceps were no match for his powerful neck, that it was a simple matter to take hold of the bit and run away with me on board anytime he wanted to do something other than what I was asking. He did this in the most alarming places, such as down a rocky slope or through dense trees, or even in front of twenty other riders and trainers at a week-long clinic. I remember each of these run-aways clearly, along with the blur of landscape and my amazement at his sure-footedness.

Though these wild rides didn’t happen frequently, when they did I invariably wound up dumped at high speed on the ground. I’d lay sprawled for a good many minutes, overcome with a potent combination of adrenaline shock and giddiness that I’d survived. Invariably, Scout would stand over me, puzzled about what I was doing on the ground. Soon he’d be grazing while I patted myself down to see if anything hurt more than normal.

By all rights, in such escapades I should have gotten severely broken bones, if not snapped my neck and died. And no doubt I should have sent Scout back to the penitentiary, too. But I didn’t. And I couldn’t. Instead, I’d limp home and toss my torn, dirty jeans in the laundry before Bernard could see them. Then I’d take a handful of Advil myself, lie on the couch with some strategically placed ice packs, and try to revive myself so Bernard wouldn’t know that once again Scout had had his way with me. No sense adding his worry to my own.

Pretty near constantly, I puzzled with the Rubics Cube of how to avoid such painful outcomes next time. I twisted the squares of my riding, my horse, my life in all directions, looking for the secret. And because I knew that somehow Scout could show me the way, I climbed back on.

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Getting Back On-Part 2

What happened next, as far as Willow and Bernard are concerned, is something I have to accept on hearsay. I wasn’t there, Bernard’s mind was necessarily muddled and Willow wasn’t talking. (more…)

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Getting Back On-Part 1

We do not do well with our new horses.

Inspired with an urge to try out the prison ponies, Bernard saddled Willow that very afternoon. If I’d been asked, I would have suggested waiting a few days till she’d settled in. But I wasn’t around and Bernard arrived at his own conclusions, based loosely on the theory that here was a horse, horses are meant to be ridden, ergo Bernard would ride her. Simple as that. (more…)

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Tales from Home-Dispatch 1

It’s taken some time to settle back into the ranch life, after so many weeks on the road. I feel grateful to be home, overjoyed actually. But also jolted out of my roadtrip norm.

In the beginning it’s disconcerting not to get up and GO somewhere each day. I confess that quite often, while on the road, I rail against the forced march of a long drive, wishing that I could leave my toothbrush in its glass for just one more night, that I could get to the bottom of my suitcase and find something new to wear for a change. When I get home, the sameness of each day can be mistaken for monotony.

Here I am, eating my favorite yogurt with fruit for breakfast, going up to my lovely office with its yellow-painted walls and photographs and artwork, wandering out into the barn pasture to cajole my horse to come in so I can saddle him for a ride, catching up with much-missed friends, cooking dinners of my favorite foods. I can’t tell you how much I longed for those things while ill and gasping for breath one night at a trucker rest stop next to a garbage heap in the despairing huddle of Tuotuohe at 15,000 feet altitude in finger-cracking cold China. Yet now that I’m home and have those delights every day, how quickly I allow myself to dismiss them as ordinary.

In coming to terms with “ordinary” I’ve realized recently that where I live and what I do is just as full of eye-popping scenery and interesting stories as what I encountered in Tajikistan, Tehran or that memorably awkward hovel in Tuotuohe. Finally, after these years of travel, I have learned a valuable lesson, one which I didn’t even realize was there to be learned: that travel is wherever your eyes and mind and heart take you.

Looking at a photo like this one: of a Calcutta boy pumping water out of a street hydrant, it’s obvious that I was somewhere far away. And the tales of my travels also are obviously from places other than Walden. At least, it should be obvious!

Yet I find that the farther away I am, the more tightly I am connected to my world here at home. For me that’s a good feeling, knowing that I am so firmly rooted in a place that I can leave it… knowing that, in so doing, I commit myself to return.

Recently I have begun carving stories of my life here at the ranch. It’s the between season, no longer Fall and not quite Winter, a good time to be indoors, thinking, and remembering. In the 4-5 weeks since finishing the 9,000 mile drive from Istanbul to Calcutta, I have been spending many pleasant hours reliving experiences, small things really, which in my memory have become large. And vibrant.

I write about the aspects of life here that affect me, that make me laugh, that move me or stick in my memory for years, in the way street life in Kolkata sticks with me long after I’ve left. I tend to post notice of a new story on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/dashboarddina. I do realize, though, that not everyone uses or likes Facebook. The stories all reside here on my website. You’ll find them just by clicking on the tab that says “The Ranch” to find the latest.

Here are links to some of the stories. I’ve kept them short and divided them into sections, so you can read them as time permits.

There are more to come.

I hope you’ll check the website whenever you need a breath of fresh air, to read what’s new.

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