Carrot Coincidence

Carrot Coincidence

The wind was howling when I arrived at the property. Ron met me at the truck. He had found us on , a site to match people with work experiences, and we are his first experience in that system. Normally, workawayers don’t work so hard. His blue gray eyes twinkled as he told me about all the things he had finished on this project. What a god-send! Earlier in the day he had finished tying the concertina wire back to the chainlink fence so it didn’t stick out, but not without loosing a bit of blood in the process. I covered the 800 lb bale of hay in the back of the truck with a tarp and we went inside to fix some dinner. He likes to eat a ketogenic diet for the most part. Cabbage and bone broth with brewers yeast sounded good to me.

While he was frying cabbage, I started messing around with the electrical breaker box. The labels were almost illegible, but soon we had lights and power. It started snowing sidewards and we lit the catalytic heater to take the chill from the room. Here in his 58th year of life, he is on a walk-about, maybe more accurately, a van-about. He wants to live in his van and follow the weather, take some landscape shots, and generally recover from years behind a programming desk. He is really smart, funny, and kind of philosophical, so we immediately fell into a deep discussion of life. It’s like we had always been friends.

I decided that the catalytic heater was a bit fumy so I turned it off and tried opening the electric oven door. It didn’t look like the varmits had been inside the oven which immediately started heating up, but pretty soon, it started smelling like roasting rat poop, so we turned it off and retired to our own nests. My nest was in the house and the smell of cooking rat poop lingered. It smelled more like boiling rat poop to me. It kept me awake for a while and the wind covered up the sound of the incessant freight trains and the semi’s rolling westward. Neon lights over the truckstop. It could not be a bigger contrast with Largo Canyon.

Saturday morning. Last minute preparations for the arrival of the first 15 horses. I called Sandy Johnson, but she was already gone and her husband said that she was moving horses. We went down the street to CJ’s feed store and bought a water trough and picked up 10 blocks of the salt I had ordered. CJ is a really nice person. She has a flock of hens and sells eggs. I’ve been keeping in touch with her over Facebook. She is going to unload the semi of hay when it comes with her big piece of hay moving equipment. She wanted to know how things were going so I told her about the P&Z meeting. The grizzled cowboy is her neighbor too. She said, “Oh, don’t worry about him. He’ll come around.” That was welcome news. She had never heard of needing a special use permit to have animals.

Ron and I adjusted the panels on the arrival pen until it seem stronger. We unloaded the 800 lb bale onto some railroad ties and filled the water. Now we just had to wait for horses. I used the wait to do some house keeping. I looked under the rangetop burners and realized that under the burners was a sea of floating rat poop, moistened by the rain dripping through the ceiling fan. I think the range needs to be replaced after the leak is fixed.

By midday, I was wondering about the horses, so I scoured around for Sandy Johnson’s cell number. She rarely answers it, but she did. They were moving horses somewhere else and wanted us to start picking up horses on Thursday. I called John and he got a bit miffed about all the effort we had put into being ready, including the $150 water trough. Our plans require continual adjustment, it’s just a fact of life.

It took some pressure off. On Sunday, John would bring the camper trailer and have Bill pull a load of railroad ties to put under the hay. Ron and I prepped the donkey and zebra pens. I am hiding the zebra behind the sale ring to keep him from attracting walk-ins. The set tourist hour is to keep people away from the animals in training during the rest of the time. My other goal for the tours is to generate enough income that I can hire a mucking specialist. Keeping 70 horses clean will require Herculean effort without the benefit of a river to float the poo away.. I have to paint a big sign for the front yard that says, “Visitors welcome during tour hours only. All other times: No trespassing.”

By early evening, we were exhausted. Ron offered to buy me dinner at the Wow Diner. It was really good and their tea service was exceptional with a big silver pot. I drank it slowly because we were so busy talking. We lingered, happy to be sitting in a warm space that didn’t smell of rat poop soup. The weather was milder, but this chest cold was starting to set in.

Back at the property, I cleaned and arranged my office, finally falling into a fitful sleep now that the wind let me hear the trains passing every 10 minutes. I woke up to a dog barking. A truck was pulling into our yard. I peeked through the blinds. It was a big fancy truck and horse trailer. It pulled forward, then backed up, then pulled past my window. It stopped and the occupants threw out a cardboard from a case of beer and some empty blue beer cans. I think the truck pulled into the grumpy cowboy’s driveway, but I had retreated to back under the covers. It was 2 a.m. Were the bars closing or was this just a late night arrival?

At five, I gave up pretending to sleep and got up to clean the bathroom, which was mostly scraping up soaked ceiling tiles and dead baby mice. I had a bucket of water. I could now pee indoors. When Ron came in, I was mopping with clorox. Improvements happen bit by bit. Ron said it was his birthday. Born 3/10/1961, so I took him out to breakfast.

Warning: the Wow Diner does not have good green chile. It’s a Texas version or something. But again, we lingered over that giant tea pot. He had told me stories about his grandparents on the first meal out. His grandfather was a character that found ways to circumvent the dictates of his wife. Over my half-eaten burrito, he told me the story of the grandparents immigrating from the Ukraine. They went to Pennsylvania and bought some run down farm to grow carrots like they had in the old country. Ron’s grandfather was a carrot farmer!!! Ron didn’t really know the story of Milan.

This led into a discussion of synchronicity, Carl Jung, individuation, and all my favorite topics. This was new stuff for the grandson of a carrot farmer. I just love coincidences and the whole carrot theme is so perfect for positive reinforcement horse trainers. Surely, it is a good omen. I need to pay careful attention to what I learn can learn from this man who now aspires to train donkeys.

Ron cleaned the back lot of junk, we moved railroad ties to the hay area, and I hammered off sharp edges in the pens. Finally, it was time for me to go. John and Bill would meet me on the road out near Pueblo Pintado. The route between Largo and Milan goes though the eastern edge of the Navajo Nation, a spectacular drive, but I was starting to feel really sick. A fever was coming on, but there were no easy choices. I had to get home to feed the animals their evening meal. John had considerately watered and portioned the hay so I only had to deliver it. I woke up at three to the sound of rain.

The semi-load of hay was delivered this (Monday) morning and CJ’s hay loader had a problem. We’ve postponed moving the stallions until tomorrow, when John will be here to help me. Sandy Johnson has said they will haul the Placitas Wild horses and then asked us to do it. Hard to keep track but the horses have to all be in Milan by the 19th. Tomorrow might be the day when we euthanize Dasher, the laminitic pony. That plan is still flexible.

Now This

Now This

I woke this morning at 3 to the sound of rain. The covers were hot and sticky, so I just got dressed and found my way down the hall to a cup of tea to soothe my hacking cough. I’m supposed to haul the stallions out of here today. Rain is often bad news for Largo Canyon roads.

That hacking cough is something I picked up in Milan. A cold or perhaps the result of sweeping up heaps of mouse droppings. The reality is though: I feel lucky to have mouse feces to sweep.

That little road-bump John was not worried about in the last post, turned out to be a wall. John came back to Largo to send me to the Planning and Zoning special meeting after he learned that one of the commissioners was very concerned mustangs would bring communicable diseases to the community.

On the way, I had to stop by the bank to deposit the check from Placitas Wild for the first truck load of hay. The bank manager pulled me aside to discuss the paperwork I was supposed to send her. Cripes! I’ve sent that woman so much paperwork as PDFs that it would take a ream of paper to print it out. She claimed that there were still five documents she needs, but I remember sending them before I went to Florida. Luckily I was packed to move to Milan and I had my computer with me. I sat across the desk from her and re-sent the files. She watched me send them, but then when they didn’t arrive in her mailbox, she was puzzled. She called the bank IT department. They had all the files I had sent. The people at the bank are trained to be so polite that you never get bugged. I left smiling but now concerned that I might be late for the meeting. Then, with no prior history of trouble, the truck did nothing when I turned the key. Totally dead. The spring wind was howling so I am quite sure that no one in the village of Bloomfield heard me scream. “NO! THIS CAN’T HAPPEN!” But in fact, it could happen, so I got out and raised the hood. I wiggled the battery clamps and the wires going into the regulator. Luck was with me and it started. I couldn’t take a chance so I did not shut it off until I was parked in front of Village Hall in Milan.

The Village of Milan considers themselves famous for their carrots.

Inside, the walls were graced with a giant photo of men loading carrots onto a vintage truck. Milan was once the carrot capital of the United States, shipping carrots by rail. The property we had leased was on carrot growing soil. It’s a pink colored dirt that fills the sky in the spring wind. As I was driving into town, I noted that the freeway functioned as a windbreak and our field was not airborne. That would have discouraged me.

I got to Village Hall at 2:50, expecting a meeting at 3. I sat in the lobby studying the carrot farmers until the armed code enforcement officer came out and said the meeting was at 3:30. I considered whether I had time for a bite of lunch, but the truck was dead again. I looked into the toolbox to assess my capabilities (limited), selected some pliers, then opened the hood. I was repairing a loose and dirty wire when the code enforcer came out to smoke a cigarette. I started talking to him while I tightened the bolts.

It turns out that he’s just moved to Milan from Houston. Because I follow the local news, I knew that he was in the news last week for towing inoperable cars from the residential streets. I asked him how that project was going, knowing full well the residents were a little pissy on social media. He was still smoking when I closed the hood and made sure it would start. An inoperable vehicle in front of his office was unthinkable.

A Perfect Fit with our program

The meeting convened with the 3 members of the P&Z board sitting on a dais behind a bench desk, over which a cloth with the Village Seal hung at an odd angle. The code enforcer and the real estate agent sat with me at a wooden table. The members were an older Hispanic woman, a young active looking woman, and a skinny cowboy with a face of gray stubble.

It turned out he was the voice against us. He said we’d be bringing in diseases. I said wild horses are rarely sick when they come straight off the range. It was horses at shows and racetracks that spread most diseases. He asked about hay and when I said I had a semi coming on Monday, he said that wouldn’t last very long and in just a few weeks the horses world be starving. He got pretty heated about how there were going to be lots of dead horses. I replied that it was impossible to say something had no chance of happening, but that our 10 years of history was the only evidence I had to say it was not likely. The real estate agent started talking about the property’s history as a livestock auction. I learned that the grizzled cowboy lived across the street from us. The place with the cows and horses and roping arena. The real estate guy and the cowboy are recreational ropers. People hauling horses around the country, stop and rest their horses at the cowboy’s place. His concern for contagious diseases suddenly struck me as weird.

The real estate agent revealed that he has another client that is considering buying the property as a horse hotel. Suddenly the cowboy and real estate agent were yelling at each other.

I interrupted them and offered a suggestion. We didnt need a permanent zone change. We would be happy with a temporary use permit. Try it, see how we operate.

We talked about veterinary inspection and vaccinations. The cowboy resolutely held to the vision of dead horses. The realtor asked if if the feed store had a permit for her poultry. Of course.

The young woman in the middle started talking about this was a great thing for the village. Like a kind of Wolf Park. I thanked her for comparing us to an impressive institution.

They sent the real estate agent and me out while they deliberated. We sat in the lobby and talked about carrot farming until they finally came and got us. They made a formal proposal to give me a 90 day permit and then they voted on it. The code enforcer stated I had to have the paperwork before I could bring any horses but the clerk would not be in until Monday. I said that was a problem because I was expecting a shipment of horses Saturday morning. The Wolf Park fan said she did see why we had to wait. I walked out of Village Hall happy to have sweeping mouse feces as my next job.


We started out with a plan, really, we did.

The Plan

It was supposed to be easy. Lease the property, get the utilities turned on, take down the concertina wire, clean things up, move in our trailer, start welding on the fence system, get rid of the mesh, get some water hoppers, some hay, and attach the gates. Ready for horses.

But by this morning, John was starting to totally freak out. He was panicking as he reached for a cup of tea. I took the cup out of his hand, and said.”Let me do that for you. Go sit by the fire and calm down.” I filled the tea cups and grabbed my planning book as I went to join him.

Getting the property leased was no problem. The problems started right after that. We were informed it was commercially zoned and we could not have horses there. Across the street are cows and horses. It’s a Livestock Auction facility. We wrote to the mayor and the planning and zoning board. We delivered the letter to the Planning and Zoning Enforcement guy, who was wearing a gun and dressed like a state cop. Wow! They take P&Z seriously in Milan. John was not worried by this. Just a speed bump, he thinks we will get a variance.

Appreciate Utilities!

Then the water went on without a hitch. We didn’t reconnect the building because of the danger of water freezing in the pipes, but we have water. Electricity did not do so well. The electrician wanted $3,000 to put in a new meter. WHAT the hell!!! No way. The landlord said get another estimate. Second electrician said $800. We said, “Okay.” But it still is not done. They may be waiting for the electrical inspector to give them a green light.

We organized a work crew for tomorrow to clean up the property and get the pens ready. Of course a major storm is predicted. John is camping out in the building without the convenience of utilities. Luckily it’s a warm tropical storm on the way.

Concertina Wire

The State Highway Department had promised to remove the razor wire hanging from the fence on the north boundary. It is about human head high and according to the land plat, their fence is sitting on the Livestock Auction property. It’s incredibly dangerous to have around animals. It has to go. The Highway Department promised to remove it, but it is still there. My back up plan involves covering it with rags, which would be incredibly funky.

Here at home I’ve been working on the trailer. It’s very old, but serviceable. There was some kind of electrical short, so I took the electrical panel off and systematically tracked down the problem, which was an external plugin that was getting water leaking into it. If I had my life to do over again, knowing what I know now, I would have chosen to become an electrician. I like it because it follows rules meticulously. Yesterday, I started remaking some of the wood trim around the windows that had disintegrated over the years. Today I am adding some storm window material to keep the winds from sneaking through the louvers.

We sipped our tea. I opened the planning book. “Let me read you the list I made.” When I write lists, I always like to include stuff that is already done, so I don’t feel too hopeless. We started with the page titled “Stuff to Purchase”, then went to the list of Things to Prepare at Largo. My accomplishments were checked off. His main list, and the source of his anxiety, was the list of Things To Do in Milan. Reading the accomplishments calmed him down. We started adding details, like what to pack on the truck. Brooms, and mops, and beds, and blankets, and welding equipment, and buckets. A cart, some hoses. We talked about what to do if it was pouring rain when the volunteers show up (clean the building). He made some popcorn for the road and set out for the next installment of this adventure.

If ever you get scared and anxious, make a list. It helps.



Dawn on the 27th of February was supposed to be a particularly propitious moment astrologically, so I thought I would avail myself of time to start working on some much needed fundraising. I had it in my brain that I was going to initiate this campaign, come hell or high-water. The universe had a concurrent plan to use my tiny speck of determination to remind me of how everything can go wrong.

It started when I was at the Progressive Horse Behavior and Training Forum in Florida. I was given the slot as the final speaker, so, of course, I didn’t give a moments thought to my flight home that very evening and I missed the flight. Frontier Airlines only flies between Orlando and Albuquerque every other day so I had to wait until the 26th. The fight was at 9 pm, but I was compelled to go the airport very early.

I dream of airports frequently. I don’t know what the archetypal meaning of airports is, but I felt at totally at home even though I was just hanging around for 12 hours. Well, actually I was on my computer doing things like finding boot prints and hoof prints. Now airports provide electricity for computers and charging phones. How convenient! Each person that I met or talked to seemed like they could have been in a dream. I enjoyed every minute.

Finally at 9 p.m., we boarded the plane. Frontier seats are not adjustable. You try to sleep strapped to the chair of torture. Orlando flights are always full of crying babies. Landing is such a relief.

I didn’t really have a plan other than to find the truck. I knew it would be dangerous to try to drive home arriving sometime after 3 a.m., but I had plans for that propitious moment at dawn and didn’t see the point of checking into a hotel. I was supposed to pick up catfood on the way home. Where do you get catfood at midnight? Walmart of course.

There was a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the Walmart. He was wrapped in a sleeping bag and looked rather cozy. A Walmart sleeping bag is cheaper than a hotel room. I bought one, along with the catfood and a big jar of peanuts. The gas station across the street looked open, but I had to wait until 1:30 a.m. before I was allowed to fuel. Wide awake, I departed civilization up Highway 550.

At about 2:30, I decided I needed to pee and pulled over. The gear shift got stuck. The key got stuck, The steering wheel wouldn’t move. I didn’t care. I pulled out my fund-raising project and started working on it. At 4:30 a.m. it was ready to launch, but I wanted to wait for dawn. I pulled the sleeping bag around me and fell asleep.

The sky was growing light as I opened my eyes. I turned on my computer and hit the send button. Click the image to make a donation. It’s good for both the project and for you.