Sunday, February 19, 2012


This Could Have Been Very Serious

Yesterday started out as usual, but just a little earlier. I was in the barns by 5am to hook and feed and adjust horse blankets for the day. You see, I needed to be on the road by 8am this particular Saturday morning or I was going to miss a series of appointments that I had arranged for the day. Appointments and meetings all the way until 6pm Saturday evening. So there was no time for dallying with the horses. I topped off the stock tanks while they ate, changed litter boxes, fed the house cats, and then turned The Herd loose and collected their buckets and ties.

By 8:13am I was heading north on Highway 128 to retrieve an elderly little mare who needed some cares. Her teeth were bad, you could tell by her breath that she had at least one infected pocket in that mouth of her. Her feet? Well, have you ever seen pictures of one of Santa's elves? And looked at their feet to see their curled up elf slippers? This little mare's feet were as deformed as those elf slippers yet she managed to walk and get herself around. She was thin, yes, but I attributed that to the fact that her mouth was painful and she was given hay to eat. She needed soaked hay cubes and a pelleted feed to help her sustain her strength until her mouth healed.

The plan was that the owner would have the mare on a lead rope at the end of their driveway when I arrived. So, as planned, I called when I was fifteen minutes out. "Yes, we're here," they said. Assuming they meant they were at the end of the driveway, I pushed on. Upon arriving it was another story.

The mare was in her pasture. And to the far west of that pasture. The family was in the house and the mother came to the door to hand me the halter and lead rope. "She's out there," she said, pointing to the mare. "She won't come to us so you'll have to go out and get her." The door closed. And once again, I found myself thinking that I've never had a problem with a horse. Never met a horse I couldn't get along with and didn't respect at some level. But humans? Oh, please! Don't get me started . . .

I walked right up to the mare and she loaded with ease. I had buted her and given her the first round of vaccinations right there in the pasture. When she entered the trailer she went to the pile of fresh hay and smelled it. And then she looked to her left. On the floor I had one of those huge black tubs with a hefty portion of pelleted feed in it. The mare spotted the feed and turned her head to look me right in the eye. Gratitude poured out of her weary eyes. I told her she would be cared for now and that she would not have to eat in pain anymore.

The drive to the east side of Black River Falls was uneventful. The sun was shining and the roads were bare. The trailer was carrying a deserving horse to her new home and I had confidence in the woman who was accepting the mare. She knew how to "bring 'em back", as she called it. This mare would be just fine and I had a happy heart.

Returning home, I found I was only running about 45 minutes later than planned and so I set about dropping the trailer so that I could run my next errand. Now, I've put this particular trailer on this particular truck and taken it off this particular truck hundreds of times in the past ten years. It is almost automatic. But at the beginning and the end of the process, I always stop to check the doors, check the chains, and check the cable. I take a moment to really look at the rig and make sure it is complete and correct before I move. This day was no different.

Before I began cranking the trailer up I did my review check. Hitch was unlocked. Chains were gathered up. Tailgate was down. Cable was disconnected. Emergency pull wire was disconnected. Timber blocks were centered and under the jack stand. I believed it was okay to crank. Fifty turns of the the crank. Change legs at turn number twenty-six. Crank. Let your mind wander for this part. Just keep cranking.


I heard it after I saw it. The timbers under the jack stand had shifted and the trailer dropped with a thud to the ground. Standing next to it, I had no time to move. Just to look down at my feet to see if they would be under the trailer or not. Thankfully, they were not. And I was off to the side of the trailer and not under the neck of the trailer. Had I been there it would have been an entirely different story posted this morning.

Moving back, I began to tremble. I made my way over to the porch steps and sat myself down. I was shaking and crying. Madder than a wet hen and yet grateful. I was angry for the inconvenience of having to take the time to get the trailer back up again but so very, very happy that only the front of the trailer was damaged. Grateful that no one else was standing with me or coiling up a chain or a cable and standing under that neck when it came slamming into the earth and dropping over four feet. It could have been an entirely different story posted this morning.

Once I gathered myself, I went back to look at the trailer. Every single weld spot that holds the jack stand onto the trailer is broken. The jack stand itself is jammed up with the gears, I expect, broken to pieces. The plate that holds the jack stand onto the front wall of the trailer is in the shape of a "V". And the bolts that hold that plate onto the trailer have snapped off. As I looked over the situation and the trailer, I wondered what was holding the jack stand onto the trailer? What was holding the trailer those two inches off the ground? I don't know, actually. I don't know.

Inside the trailer, the front wall is bowed but nothing else appears damaged. I will want the frame checked, however. Having that trailer sound is vital to the safe transport of our precious cargo. And so the review of the trailer will be full even though the accident was minor compared to what could have been.

The remainder of the day went about pretty much as planned. Except for the time I took to contact my insurance agent and express my disgust with the entire event. His reponse set me straight, though. "At least you are alright, Sandy. This could have been very serious."

This morning I walked around the trailer to see if anything else showed signs of stress from the slam into the frozen ground that the trailer took. It appears safe, but again, the spot welds and the beams of the trailer must be checked. The neck is what holds the entire rig together. I won't pull a mouse in that trailer until I've seen with my own eyes that the damage was limited to the jack area. I only hope the innocent and unknowing Service Manager that I am about to meet will be tolerant of me!

What were my plans for the week? I had many. But now, my Monday will be spent getting the trailer onto the truck, somehow. Don't quite know how yet. It will have something to do with the skid loader, some jacks, some timbers, and a lot of care and precaution. Once the trailer is hooked onto the truck, then I'll get it to the dealer and impress upon them the importance of getting this trailer back on the road this week. You see, two little ponies go to their new home and Helen comes to us next week. No time for dallying. Once again - or should I stay still? - no time for dallying!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day (and be safe!),
Sandy and The Herd

Sunday, February 05, 2012


Good Thing I'm Not a Cat Person!

As you come to know me, you will hear me say, repeatedly, "I am not a cat person." Every once in a while, it just comes out of my mouth. Perhaps it is when I'm changing litter boxes. Or cleaning up a hairball. Or trying to find a place to sit without getting my jeans covered in cat hair. "I'm not a cat person," I keep saying. Repeatedly.

I'll tell you, "I'm not a cat person", as I describe my area rugs which sit rolled up, and waiting, in the upstairs hallway. Area rugs that I'll put down on these floors someday. Or, I may describe to you the screen door that I've put on the doorway to my bedroom in an attempt to have one room in the house without cat hair! (Ask me how that has worked out!)

My childhood was a country life. We had a dog and a huge yard. No neighbors for a quarter mile and big birch trees in the yard. A swing set and a teeter-totter and an old chicken coop that my Dad made into a playhouse for me. I was never idle and never, ever bored. The dog lived outside. And there were no cats. Anywhere. My Mother's house was too tidy and I never knew their presence so I had no need or desire to ask for a cat. I never knew a cat and so I never missed one.

Fast forward forty years and I am opening the truck door to drive to work one morning. There in the driver's seat is a kitten. A little grey fur ball. Playing with his own tail. I brought him into the house and settled him for the day while I went to work and tried to come up with a placement for him. I did find a placement, but it was almost three weeks later. Too late. Kidd and I were too close for me to give him up. He could join the others.

"The others?" you ask. Yes, the others.

I have Patches, Andy's cat whom he loved dearly. Patches is a bit cranky and hard to please but she is an affectionate little girl - when she wants to be. The best way to describe Patches is to say she is "pissy". And I say that with a smile.

There is also Miss Kitty. A little mama cat - just hours from delivering - that was dropped off at the end of my driveway one wonderful summer evening when I just happened to be sitting in my Sister's swing enjoying the stars. I found good homes for the kittens and Miss Kitty became a member of my family. She is a loner and approaches for attention very rarely. If she were a horse, I would tell you she is an "easy keeper". Grateful best describes her.

Opey-Dopey is usually the first to greet you when you enter the house. That's because he lives on the counter! For eighteen years I worked with that cat to keep him off the counters. Eighteen years! And then he was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and requires special food. So how do I segregate his food and give him the time he needs to eat it? I put him up on the counter! And then, to make him comfortable, Aunt Colleen gifted Opey a bed so he could snooze next to his food. So, there is no longer a counter in my kitchen. Instead there is "Opey's bed" and the sink. Hah!

And do you remember how I put a screen door on my bedroom to keep one room in my house without cat hair? Well, that's where Little Girl lives. Yes, I have a cat living in my bedroom. She is a barn cat from the very first summer I lived here. Her mother was playing with her in the driveway one spring day and I stood in horror as I watched a car come speeding into the driveway, run over Squeak, her mother, and then continue around the circular driveway and take off. The little girl cat needed help and so I provided that help. In return, she provides me with companionship and an occasional hug.

This past year, you have heard me tell you that as these cats cross I will not be replacing them. I will let them live out their lives and care for them but someday, I will be catless. I will put my area rugs down, take the screen door down, and put the litter boxes in storage. I will take the kitchen counter back and remove the throws from all the furniture. Someday.

And then this past October, on a Sunday late afternoon, I heard the cries of an animal in need. Persistent, loud, desperate cries. I went into the old barn thinking a barn cat was stuck somehow and quickly figured out that the cries were not coming from the old barn. They seemed to be coming from the road!

Oh, no . . . . I could just picture an animal that had been hit and was on the side of the road in pain. As I approached the highway, I was following the noise and it took me, surprisingly, to my mailbox. Opening the mailbox, I found a little kitten. So young its eyes weren't even open yet. Shivering and huddled in the center of the metal mailbox. And screaming its head off!

I cared for the little guy and he was sent to a cat rescue. This particular rescue had a mama cat who was still nursing her young and, happily, she accepted this little guy into her litter. Whew! I was so relieved and so happy to have found the little guy. Who would leave a newborn kitten in a metal mailbox on a Sunday?

After the first kitten, I started checking my mailbox every 2 to 3 hours. The box was opened and checked the last thing every day and I began going to the mailbox on the way to the barn early in the morning. It was Veteran's Day - a day when there was no mail delivery. There in the mailbox was yet another little kitten. The eyes were open but still black and not seeing. Shivering and so frightened. When I opened the mailbox she tried to hide by facing the inside wall of the mailbox. I still smile when I think of how darling that behavior was. "If I can't see you then you can't see me". Now, how special is that!

The little kitty was weak and so very cold. I used a little syringe and gave her some warmed kitten milk replacer (which I now keep on hand!) and bundled her in some warm, dry bath towels. I tucked her into a little carrier and placed her right in front of the pellet stove. Leaving her for the night, I asked that she either just go to sleep or be waiting for me in the morning.

Early the next morning, like a little kid on Christmas morning, I went to the carrier to find a little white paw trying to get out of the carrier. And we have not looked back!

Peanut, as I call her, grew strong and has a big appetite! She took milk replacer for about a month and then I began to introduce moist food. At first, of course, she crawled right into the food bowl. But soon, her little legs were long enough that she could stand on the floor and eat out of the bowl. I had a special water bowl for her as she would have had to crawl into the big cat water bowl in order to reach the water.

I never really seriously pondered placing Peanut. There was an attachment from the moment she hid her face in my mailbox. So, all of us are getting used to having a kitten in the house. I've moved the house plants and I am never surprised to find her, for instance, climbing the clothes drying rack like a jungle gym! Kidd seems to be Peanut's favorite play thing. And I've got to say that Kidd is doing fine with her! He just lays on his side and lets her pounce and jump and roll around on him. When he's finally had enough, he puts out one paw and takes her down to calm her. He holds her there for a second and then releases her. And usually, Peanut starts pestering him all over again!

Recently, I've noticed Peanut is maturing a bit - for a few seconds! There are brief moments during the day when she sleeps instead of tearing around the house. And lately, I've also noticed her favorite place to sleep is with Opey-Dopey. Once again, the sight is so darling I cannot break it up. The way I figure, Opey-Dopey will not be with me for too much longer and when he crosses I will remove the bed and feeding from the counter. And then Peanut should move down, as well. Somebody write that down!!!

My hours at the desk are livened up by her antics in the wastebasket. Peanut finds her way into the wastebasket and then dozes. Each time I toss something into the wastebasket a flurry of activity is started and she thoroughly destroys what it was that I just threw away. And what else has changed at the desk? The paper clips are now in a drawer. The pens are in the top drawer. The tape dispenser is behind the printer. And I'm typically moving her off the top of the desk so I can work.

So, we are in transition in this household. We are still feeding Peanut in her carrier with a closed door and she has learned that if she pushes, she can escape the kennel when her tummy is full. The big cats are learning that she is high energy and not always as willing to snooze as they are. But that is changing, too.

And yes, I will still tell you, "I'm not a cat person". Yes, I will still tell you of my area rugs all rolled up and stored upstairs. And when it is time to sit in the living room, I will still be turning the throws over to try to minimize the cat hair that transfers to your clothing.

But now, I will tell you the story of the tiny kittens left in my mailbox. And how I believe that Peanut was meant to be here. In this house. With me. How this little kitten will be the one cat in my lap when I am seventy years old. And how it is still true that I am not a cat person.

But as long as you are here . . . Do you have time? Let me call her and you can meet my newest little kitty, Peanut!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and Peanut!

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