Monday, May 16, 2022

Always Vigilant

 Beautiful old Murphy. Last night he was dozing by the trailer while friends and I sat around the fire. Suddenly he got up, came to us, then stood fully alert staring off into the dark and growling. We saw nothing but when we threw a spotlight out there we saw it—coyote. 250 yards out. Saw it’s eyes, watched it run off. We had no idea but that old wonky dog knew and he put himself between us and it. What a magnificent animal. My friend.   

Thursday, May 05, 2022

They’re heeeere…

 I’ve seen them before, closer to town. I know they’re out here. But last night I heard the coyotes barking to each other close by. I couldn’t see them in the dark but I knew they were in my valley last night. Several of them. The dogs heard them too. Merida seemed curious at first but I think she picked up on the concern in my voice when I summoned her sharply and she made a bee-line for the trailer and leapt inside. Murphy was another matter. 

In his day I have no doubt that Murphy could have bested a coyote, probably even a pair of them. But this isn’t his day any more and he’s old and arthritic. And there was more than two of them out there  judging by the barking. Still, Murphy stood, like Horatius of old, staring down into the valley, ears back, hackles up, and letting out a long low growl as if he was ready to defend his home, his sister and me. It was all I could do to get that aged but magnificent warrior dog back to me and the safety of the trailer. His spirit was ready, of that I had no doubt. He knew they were a threat but he was game. 

And now the dogs stay in the trailer from duck until dawn, unless I’m out there with them standing overwatch with a flashlight and my Ted Stevens model Winchester 94 from Sears and Roebuck  

They were out there again tonight too, if anything even closer. I have no doubt that they know we’re here. Tonight I sat outside in the dark, beer in hand and the Winchester across my lap, and I listened to them. Primal. Awesome.  And this is their home, so I bear them no ill will. I just hope that they keep their distance for another week and a half, and if they do we’ll be gone, leaving this bit of desert to them.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Some people just exist to entertain the rest of us

This past weekend, I had a group of people come out to my property to see the mines. For a small donation to the restoration fund, I decided to show them around a bit. I agreed to meet them down by the country road and lead them up some old abandoned roads to a site. But had I realized how entertaining they were going to be, I might have donated to them. 

They came out, a group of ten, in three vehicles. When I got to the pull-out where we were meeting, one of the drivers, Simon, was inspecting the bottom of his Hyundai, which he’d just damaged by driving over a rock on the ground. 

This is the desert. We got rocks. A lot of rocks. They just lie around and most of us avoid them. But Simon took this one on and damaged his front bumper, the skirting beneath it, and the skirting inside his left rear fender well. I guess he wasn’t very good at the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Plastic” because everyone knows that rock ALWAYS beats plastic. 

But the day was fresh and everyone was excited to see the place so they decided to fret about that later and I led them three miles to the site. On the way up, Simon bottomed out again on a washed-out road section and tore a faux skid plate loose from the bottom of his car. This plate came loose because his wife Stacy, also present, had hit something with it a few months prior and some mechanic on the cheap reattached it with zip-ties as a temporary fix until she could get it properly repaired. Of course she did not get it properly repaired, because she assumed that since it was on. It was fixed for good. So she didn’t get it repaired or tell Simon. Fast forward to this morning, and now she’s fessing up, but the car is still kinda jacked out here 50 miles from the nearest shop. And then when they’re quibbling amongst themselves about this, someone else in the group “helpfully” suggests that it probably would have held longer had Simon not hit the earlier rock. Now EVERYONE jumps into this argument except me, and I’m just standing back with my donation money figuring out how best to explain my “no refunds” policy, when someone notices that the Chevrolet Equinox that Tyler drove up in is sitting on a completely shredded rear tire. Apparently it went flat some time back and NO ONE NOTICED, not even him or his passengers. So now the tire is just rubber shreds around a trashed rim. 

Yes, these are city folks. Out of Los Ángeles. Surprise. 

so now Brian, the only apparent Alpha in the group, gets everyone focused and oversees a tire change on the Equinox (yeah, have fun going back to LA on that donut) and then he jacks up the Hyundai and uses some wire from my tool kit to fix the hanging plate. He works fast and well and I’m impressed, but the whole time he’s running a monologue about people who can’t drive or maintain vehicles and he’s pissing some of the other people off. 

No refunds. 

Finally he’s done, and everyone is cross, but I start my tour intro and get most everyone focused back on why we’re here. The cars are forgotten as I take them in and lead them down what I call a “bunny trail” tour that requires no crawling or climbing. They get into it, and two hours later when we emerge, everyone is in good spirits. I get thanked and everyone gets back in their cars, but Tyler doesn’t want to descend the road on his donut so he begs Brian to drive it down to the pavement done eight miles away. Brian makes a u-turn to get out of our parking area and runs right over a stone fire circle someone had built, literally the only obstacle on a flat parcel the size of a football field. Remember how Rock beats Plastic?  Well it broke off the bottom of the SUV’s bumper and then punched in the lower section of the air conditioner condenser. Cue escaping Freon. Enjoy your drive back through Death Valley with no a/c. 

The last thing I heard as I was leaving was Brian cursing and Tyler asking him about whether or not his insurance company was going to fix that. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Little Merida is stepping up

 For years, the watchdog combo in the house was Murphy and Belle. They kept eyes on everything and barked at all threats with authority, including UPS and Fed-Ex trucks, the evil mailman, and other encroaching dogs walking by. One could be back in the bedroom with me, but if the other one looking out the window in front barked, the bedroom dog would race straight to that window too, barking all the way down the hall. They were a team like that. 

And while they warned off every possible foe, Merida remained blissfully unconcerned inside her safe house bubble. Never a bark or growl from this one unless she was going after a chicken or another small dog at the dog park, before she got banned from the dog park that is. 

Since Belle’s passing, Merida has begun to assume some of her role as back-up to Murphy, even starting to bark just a bit when people come around. She’s never done this before but she’s doing it now. Not a very authoritative bark yet, as if she’s unsure if she’s allowed, but she’s getting there. 

Yesterday she arrived. 

As many folks know—or not—I’m staying in a trailer now out on my western land. My land with several open mines, which I am in the process of securing. I do have signs up right now though, like this one atop an 800-foot incline shaft. 

I was napping in my trailer yesterday, and Murphy was napping on a rug I’d bought for the dogs out front of the trailer. Merida, being weird, was sleeping in the dirt underneath my SUV on the other side of the trailer. This trailer is about a hundred yards from the open shaft above. 

Suddenly I hear Merida, still under the SUV, going “Wuf. Wuf. Wuf. Wuf…”. It was hesitant and soft but still she was barking, so I got up to check it out. 

Three nimrods had walked up onto the site and were getting ready to rig a rope to descend that shaft. 

Murphy, bless him, doesn’t hear too well any more. He missed their approach on foot just like I did. Normally people drive up and we hear them coming half a mile out. But once he figured it out about when I did, he was big dog barking and limping his way towards them with Merida alongside him. 

I got there right after they did and had a little talk with the trespassers to make sure that they understood that this is my land now and access is restricted now, then sent them on their way. But they might have gotten right by me and Murphy had lit little Merida not stepped into Belle’s role and sounded her first real alarm since she’s been with us. 

Good girl.

Monday, April 18, 2022

We‘re doing ok. New horizons

 The sadness has passed and the other dogs are back to their regular weird normal. Murphy table-surfed a loaf of bread off the table last night and I had a hard time being too mad at him. 

And also yesterday, I took an evening walk back on my land, and for the first time both dogs followed me instead of just staying by the trailer. They walked/hopped/limped a mile, and I had to smile at the sight of two wonky dogs following their equally wonky master through the desert. 

I love these guys. I really do. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Moving forward

 I’m better now. Not good but closer. The other dogs are grieving and taking comfort in each other. They’ve always maintained a distance between themselves but since Belle left they’ve become very close and clingy to each other, and to me. 

In other news, all day today has been high winds, with gusts as high as 70mph. I don’t recommend this in a trailer but we’re getting through it. In the middle of it all though, two guys showed up in a jeep because the lady at the museum in town told them I was doing tours. So I took a respite from the wind and blowing sand and ducked underground for a bit. And I got paid. Who says there’s no more money to be made in these mines?

We miss you Belle. 

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Going forward

 I was doing ok this morning until I went out to the car and saw her empty collar lying on the seat. Then I lost it. She was my special girl  

I’ve still got Murphy though. He’s two years older than Belle and he’s been in decline for a while, hence my lack of posting about him recently. I’ve been expecting him to go for a while now. I’d been counting on Belle to help me get through that when the time came. But now she’s gone and he’s still here, helping me get through that. 
He misses his sister though, and it shows. 
But he’s still on the job, surveying his new domain out here. We just had a short walk in the desert, just the two of us, and I realize how much I love and value him too. 

Merida is here too of course, but she’s a different little dog  I love her just as much, but she’s no Shepherd defender of the realm. What she is though is a cuddler and a smuggler and I’ll admit I need that right now  

Ain’t gonna lie. Today’s hard  but I’ll get past it, just like I did when Lagniappe left  I know God just loans me these dogs for a while and eventually He’s going to take them all back.  If I’m good, I’ll see them again. Meantime I’m grateful for the nine wonderful years Belle was in my life.

And I’ll resume posting again, in her honor as well as the others  I hadn’t realized anyone was still reading these until yesterday and the outpouring of support. These are your dogs too, and I’ll do better from now on.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Miss Memphis Belle has flown

This isn't how I wanted my first post in a while to be.

Miss Memphis Belle passed away last night.

I brought all three dogs back out to the mines early this week. We were going to stay until it got too hot before going back to New Orleans.

Yesterday Belle was fine. And then suddenly she wasn't. She couldn't get up easily, couldn't walk straight, was anxious and distressed. I suspected poisoning or a stroke so I made a high-speed run to the closest emergency vet 60+ miles away. They evaluated her, decided that it was Canine Vestibular Disease, a condition affecting older dogs that would pass with rest and medication, and I brought her home. we spent the evening outside watching the sunset and then went in to bed. She slept right next to me, which she usually only did when she was scared, and I petted her and soothed her every time she stirred or whined. I was hoping the medicines would kick in and ease her discomfort but this morning she was gone. Looks like it was a brain bleed or tumor after all.

My Belle is gone.

I took her outside for a bit while I decided what to do next. Both Murphy and Merida lay down right next to her, much closer than they ever would have gotten in the past, since the dogs have always wanted their space, and they stayed with her until I took her into town for cremation.

There's a huge hole in my heart right now. But I remember that I was blessed by God with 9 wonderful years with this girl. She gave me nothing but love and obedience, and this is the first morning that I've woken up in her presence without her coming up to give me a gentle morning lick on the face. I'm going to miss those licks a lot.

Here's the first blog post from when I brought her home, end of November, 2013. That was West Virginia. Since then we've seen a lot of the country together. Michigan. New Orleans. And now, in the end, California. She was a blessing and a gift from Heaven and now there's another star in the sky, leading the way to that Rainbow Bridge where she'll be waiting with Lagniappe and Oliver until the day we're all reunited again. 

Our last sunset together.

Murphy not leaving his sister. Faithful to the last.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Travels with Belle

 Since I'd never taken Belle on a solo trip before, I took her this time so we could have some time together. Also, Murphy's too old to travel like this any more, so I left him behind and left Merida to keep him company.

Belle travels well. She always has. She sleeps and it's easy to forget she's even along. But when we got out there, she got her share of hiking and exploring in.

She was in her K-9 glory.

At night though, it was another story. It got cold, down into the 20's some nights, and Miss Priss wasn't down with that at all. So like the softie I am, I bought a new sleeping bag and gave Belle my old one, and she slept snuggled up in it every night, usually refusing to come out in the morning until the sun rose and warmed the interior of the truck up.

And if that wasn't the goofiest, twice she got up to get water during the nights, and when she realized that she couldn't get back in the bag by herself, she woke me up and I had to get out of my nice warm bag to tuck her back in again.

Spoiled? She sure is. But then she's my girl and she deserves to be spoiled.