The wind was howling when I arrived at the property. Ron met me at the truck. He had found us on Workaway.info , 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.